“Wakanda Forever” Has the Narrative Power of a Modern-Day Epic (Spoiler-Free Review)
When you settle into your reclining theater seat with your favorite movie snacks to watch the anticipated Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (preferably in an IMAX theater, which is definitely worth the extra dollars), you can expect a strong story brought to life by a dedicated cast. While the movie honors the late Chadwick Boseman and the character he brought to the screen in the first Black Panther movie (2018), Wakanda Forever isn’t stuck in the past. Nor is it a sluggish transitional sequel, as the second installments in film franchises often are. It’s an exciting, emotionally gripping, aurally immersive, and visually impressive Marvel movie that is, on every level, a modern-day epic. It follows the stylistic and aesthetic patterns set by its predecessor, keeping director Ryan Coogler’s vision for Wakanda alive. It also introduces a few new characters to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Namor (Tenoch Huerta Mejía), the ruler of a stunning underwater kingdom. But the glue that holds the colorful costumes, otherworldly sets, and epic fight scenes together is Shuri (Letitia Wright), princess of Wakanda and sister to the late King T’Challa. Her story and development are what make Wakanda Forever, the second longest movie in the MCU, worth every minute.
Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder is far removed from Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearian take on the comic book series in Thor (2011). The fourth Thor film in the MCU is even more wacky and bizarre than Thor: Ragnarok (2017), which was also directed by Waititi. Perhaps the difference is that this time, Waititi was also responsible for the story and co-wrote the script with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. The good news is, Thor: Love and Thunder features the same cast and characters we’ve come to know and love over the last decade. Throughout the three directorial changes of the Thor films and the many stylistic shifts of the other MCU films featuring Thor, Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Natalie Portman (Jane Foster) have remained consistent in their performances, developing characters that can stand the test of time. The question is, can those characters withstand yet another attack on the universe by a new, menacing villain? In Love and Thunder, Thor’s strength is tested once again as he faces Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), a dark and devilish figure who’s hellbent on destroying all gods. King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (voiced by Waititi) are there to help, but Thor is at a disadvantage because he can’t bring his trusty hammer, Mjolnir, into battle. This time, the legendary weapon has decided to lend its powers to a new warrior: Mighty Thor, aka, Dr. Jane Foster.
“Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers” Has Its Chipmunk Cheeks Stuffed With Nostalgic References to Classic Cartoons
In 1943, Disney introduced the world to a pair of chipmunks, Chip and Dale, in the cartoon short, “Private Pluto.” The delightful duo made appearances in a number of other shorts over the years, and in 1988 they finally landed their own show. But what happened to Chip and Dale after that show ended in 1990? After three decades out of the spotlight, the classic cartoon characters have returned in an all-new movie, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. Even though the new film seeks to introduce the beloved characters to a new generation, it’s just as much for the parents in the audience as it is for the kids. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers is a hilarious feature-length running joke about the evolution of animation, and it’s got its chipmunk cheeks packed full of references to nostalgic cartoon characters.
April 22, 2022 marks the 52nd Earth Day, an event that began in America in 1970 and is now celebrated in over 190 countries. Disneynature is celebrating by releasing a new documentary that gives voice to a lovable and vulnerable animal: the polar bear. Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, who collaborated on Disneynature’s Penguins (2019), Polar Bear takes us on a grand and enlightening journey with a young female polar bear as she learns how to hunt, play, survive, and eventually, take care of a cub of her own (of course, the filmmakers did not actually follow one particular bear from her cub years to adulthood, but the narration is written to make it seem that way). While the overall structure of Polar Bear isn’t that different from the average nature documentary, it has a heartwarming and personal tone that you might not expect from this kind of movie.
An Old Tale for a New Time: “Belle” Fuses a High-Tech Adventure With a Classic Fairytale
When it comes to fairy tales, setting is key. Fairy tales don’t have to take place in the past or in distant kingdoms, but their settings should invoke a sense of wonder and enchantment. The setting of a fairy tale should work alongside the other thematic elements to draw out and challenge the hero’s best and worst character traits. And if there’s any place where we’ve seen the best and worst of people over the past few years, it’s been right here on the internet. Therefore, it’s no surprise that writer/director Mamoru Hosoda chose to set his 21st-century adaptation of a classic fairytale in a bustling and vibrant virtual world. With a little help from VR technology, the heroine of the story, Belle, can be whoever she wants to be — and her counterpart, “the beast,” can hide his true identity behind a curated “tough guy” internet persona. Belle is a rich, detailed, and ambitious film that’s part fairy tale, part coming-of-age story, and part VR adventure.
At the beginning of the 2021, Chloé Zhao became the second woman in history to win the Oscar for best director. She now rounds out the year by joining the ranks of filmmakers who have made their mark on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Zhao makes her Marvel debut directing Eternals, a fast-paced, action-packed, big-budget, CGI-infused Hollywood spectacular that’s vastly different from the slow-burning film for which she won the Oscar, Nomadland. We can catch glimpses of Zhao’s directorial expertise, respect for nature, and reverence for human connection in Eternals — but in the end, the movie is still characterized by the same distinctive style, themes, and humor that define all films in the MCU (how many jokes can you make about non-human beings trying to figure out human technology?). After Avengers: Endgame, Eternals feels a bit like an all-or-nothing attempt to get a new superhero group together as quickly as possible. Fans should buckle up, because there’s a lot going on in this latest addition to the MCU.
“Follow The Light (Hikariwooikakete)” paints a beautiful picture of adolescence with romance, family drama… and a crop circle [Fantasia International Film Festival]
Originally published on Elements of Madness.
For most people, the teen years come with a myriad of confusing emotions, drastic life changes, and embarrassing incidents. For Akira and Maki, the young protagonists of Yoichi Narita’s Follow The Light, those formative years also bring a number of upsetting changes to their small farming community, including a UFO and crop circle. These bizarre occurrences not only set them on intersecting paths, but symbolically carry the weight of their strange and explosive teenage emotions. Follow the Light, an official selection at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival, is a wistful romance that ponders the many conflicts and emotions of adolescence.
Disney’s “Jungle Cruise” is packed with thrilling twists and turns, recreating classic adventure flicks for a new generation of young cinemagoers.
If you’ve ever stood in an hour-long line just to take your kids on a 10-minute amusement park ride, you’re probably wondering how anyone could transform the brief thrills of that attraction into an engaging feature-length movie. But, in 2003, Disney did it as only Disney can, releasing the first of five Pirates of the Caribbean movies that, together, would bring in billions at the box office. Disney has taken another stab at theme park-inspired films with Jungle Cruise, which is based on the Disneyland attraction of the same name. The ride itself was inspired by Disney’s “True Life Adventure” documentaries and has been around since the park opened in 1955. Decades later, Disney now gives the “jungle cruise” concept a new twist under the direction of Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, 2016; Run All Night 2015).
"Black Widow" brings the action, talent, drama and laughs… as all Marvel movies do.
Before she was saving the world with Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, and Captain America, founding Avenger and kick-ass spy Black Widow (aka Natasha Romanoff) was…well, what was she doing? It’s a question that Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fans have been asking since Black Widow made her franchise debut in Iron Man 2 (2010). Her past was shrouded in mystery, making her the ideal character for a solo spin off movie, and Scarlett Johansson brought such strength and emotional depth to the character that we couldn’t help but ask for more. A Black Widow movie couldn’t just be an exposition on the character’s past. It needed to give her the chance to stand in the spotlight and get some much-deserved screen time. It needed to be unique, action-packed, and emotionally satisfying. It needed to add meaning to the character and allow fans to appreciate Black Widow’s role in other MCU movies even more. As fans waited years for such a movie, these expectations only grew. After one extra year of waiting due to the pandemic, MCU fans will finally get what they’ve been waiting for on July 9, 2021. The question is, does Black Widow live up to years of fan expectations?
Dazzling fantasy “The True Adventures of Wolfboy” brings a thrilling journey of self-acceptance to life
When it comes to fantasy, I’ve always been most drawn to stories that emphasize the element of escape; stories in which the setting is not just a magical world, but a world that is within reach of our own reality. There’s something almost seductive about stories like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Peter Pan, or A Wrinkle in Time in which the characters just happen to stumble upon a wondrous world that’s only a flight away or behind the thin wooden back of a wardrobe. The idea that Narnia and Neverland could exist alongside reality endows my own world with a rich and thrilling potential energy. This is the sort of thrill I experienced while watching Martin Krejcí’s feature directorial debut, The True Adventures of Wolfboy, a delightful coming-of-age drama that combines the fantastical visual style of Tim Burton’s Big Fish (2003) with the adventurousness of timeless teen classics like Stand by Me (1986). Although the hero of the story, Paul, (Jaeden Martell) never actually crosses over into another world, and all of his adventures could, in theory, take place in our present reality, his journey exudes such heroic grandeur and wide-eyed fantastical wonder that it captures the thrill of a fantasyland just waiting to be discovered behind a door or down a rabbit hole.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."