Saturday, February 17, 2018

Black Panther - Review

Black Panther

Director Ryan Coogler whose previous works include “Fruitvale Station” and the impressive reboot of the Rocky Balboa franchise “Creed”, takes on the challenge of one of Marvel Comic’s many superhero character in the way of the highly anticipated “Black Panther”. Coogler cast includes versatile actor Chadwick Boseman, Oscar winners Forrest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) and Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave), Oscar nominated Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do With It”) and Michael B. Jordan.

The “Black Panther” story delves in two time periods. The first very briefly in 1992 Oakland, California with the rest of the bulk of the film’s 2:05 minute running time in the fictional nation of Wakanda in contemporary time. And it’s here in the current time frame we discover the mysterious Wakanda African country that we are introduced to its young new leader named  “T'Challa” (Boseman) who is ready to ascend to his rightful place as king after the death of his father which occurred in the previous 2016 Marvel Comic film titled “Captain America: Civil War”.

But shortly after “T'Challa” has taken the throne a powerful old enemy named “Klaw” suddenly reappears testing T'Challa's mettle as its king and as Black Panther. “Klaw” is a mercenary looking to get control of a rare, powerful and healing substance called Vibranium that fell to earth centuries ago and is only found in their native country. “T'Challa” also discovers a family secret that his father took to his grave that will also come to beset terror on his land with it potentially leading to global conflict with nations both friend and foe. With the fate of his beloved Wakanda at risk the new king uses his powers as Black Panther to rally his nation and allies to fight off treachery and personal conflicts to hopefully defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

REVIEW: “Black Panther” is marvelous, stunning, spectacular, magical, mystical and a lot, lot more. Figuratively speaking it’s less about brute strength and superhero capabilities and more of an original complex masterpiece of reimagining of the super hero character’s composition. A new super hero genre if you will with more recognizable, believable and appreciated qualities of human decency and human intellectual prowess that are adroitly interwoven into displays of physical strength and cutting edge special effects. Director Coogler has skillfully stripped away the typical format of showcasing the latest Marvel Super hero’s story line of endless destruction without any consequence.  No more one note one man wrecking crew of indomitable strength conquering enemies for some greater good. Instead Coogler has infuse his “Black Panther” character with real human virtues and real human depth with subplots dealing with morality, ethics, decency, integrity and goodness. All it tightly crafted into a truly imaginative new cinematic universe where the look and feel of this film stands solely on it’s on as a game changing piece of work like no other. Think of a film that is at intersection of previous films like Star Wars, Avatar and Braveheart all meet. It’s a complete new story line approach of telling the tale of good versus evil.

Yes, it’s a unique transcendent film who’s plot lies in the integrated crossroads of a futurist modern technological society and also where that same society maintains a respectful celebration of one’s ancient heritage, cultural traditions, tribal clothing and the transcendent lessons learned from parents who have moved on to the hereafter. A wonderful land of sweeping vistas of uninhabited open spaces, cascading waterfalls and high majestic mountains that share the same space of a city scape filled with electro magnet trains, hover crafts and modern technology.

As the performances go all of the actors have equal time on the screen to great effect. But one of the more surprising and enjoyable elements of “BP” was the development and realization of the women characters in the film. Collectively they are all smart, appropriately funny, endearing, fearless, intelligent and on par with their male counterparts in every way to the core of the film’s overall plot. Especially the characters “Shuri” played by Letitia Wright who was the chief science officer of Wakanda and “Okoye” played by Danaid Gurira who is also on the acclaimed “The Walking Dead” as the dreadlock sword wheeling “Michonne”. Both of them give genuinely fine performances as women of intelligence, some humor, physical strength and complete modern womanliness.

Going forward I cannot imagine you will see ten better films for all of 2018. And while the film is largely an ensemble effort cast, Director Coogler is truly deserving of some Best Director considerations in 2019, as well as Best Picture and a boat load of technical categories considerations in Special Effects, Production Design, Lighting, Editing, Costume Design and Makeup and Hairstyling.

On the subsurface Black Panther delves mildly into issues of modern colonialism, mercenary exploitation and institutional systems of corruption. But it’s much larger, broader and more redeemable themes are about the importance of preserving ways of life. A way of life that is more about the pursuit of peace and personal harmony while moving forward with the use of science and technology. A way of life that looks at the first option being quality over any concerns of quantity. A way of life where the importance of acquiring knowledge for the greater good and human healing take precedent over seductive pursuit of profits and material conquest. A way of life where the responsibilities of leadership should be filtered through a prism of modesty and humility verses personal ambition and greed.

While I am certain that Director Ryan Coogler will be a force in film making for decades to come it maybe a little too early to make any similar proclamation about his “Black Panther” and how it will eventually settle out with its obvious 2 sequels to come. But at a minimum something tells me from a cultural point of view this film may end up being remembered the day both the consciousness and the collective appetites of film fans and Hollywood producers changed for generations to come. Maybe, just maybe even in the same triumphant changing way Star Wars did 40 years ago with its array of actors we didn’t know much about with a story that was refreshingly new.

Yes, just maybe “Black Panther“ will have the same impact of Star Wars offering something refreshingly new for generations to come that is joyfully, groundbreaking, dazzling, cool, modern, thrilling, epic, formidable, beautiful and a lot, lot more.

"Don't freeze"............................SEE THIS.

4.00 Stars

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lester’s 2018 Oscar Predictions

Lester’s 2018 Oscar Predictions

Best Supporting Actor – Will Win - Sam Rockwell *
Best Supporting Actor – Should Win  - Willem DaFoe
Best Supporting Actor – Upset Win - Only A Two Way Race 

Best Supporting Actress – Will Win - Allison Janney *
Best Supporting Actress – Should Win - Allison Janney
Best Supporting Actress – Upset Win - Laurie Metcalf

Best Actor – Will Win - Gary Oldman
Best Actor – Should Win - Gary Oldman - 100% Lock
Best Actor – Upset Win  - None  

Best Actress – Will Win - Frances McDormand *
Best Actress – Should Win - Frances McDormand - Almost A Lock
Best Actress – Upset Win - Sally Hawkins

Best Director – Will Win - Guillermo Del Toro *
Best Director – Should Win - Martin McDonagh - Not Nominated
Best Director – Upset Win - Christopher Nolan

Best Picture – Will Win - Three Billboards, Ebbing Mo *
Best Picture – Should Win - Three Billboards, Ebbing, Mo
Best Picture – Upset Win -  Razor Close - T. Billboards vs. S.Water

  • Best Adapted Screenplay –  “Call Me By Your Name”
  • Best Original Screen Play –  “Get Out” (Close)
  • Best Animated Feature – "Coco" Lock
  • Best Cinematography – “Blade Runner 2049” 
  • Best Costumes Design – “Phantom Thread” Lock
  • Best Documentary - “Faces Places” 
  • Best Documentary Short Subject – “Edith + Eddie”
  • Best Film Editing – “Dunkirk
  • Best Foreign Film – “A Fantastic Woman
  • Best Make Up / Hairstyle – “Darkest Hour” Lock
  • Best Production Design – “The Shape of Water”
  • Best Original Song – “This is Me" - The Greatest Showman
  • Best Original Score – “The Shape of Water”
  • Best Sound Editing – “Dunkirk”
  • Best Sound Mixing –  Dunkirk”
  • Best Visual Special Effects - “War Planet Apes" (Close)
  • Best Animated Short Film  – “Dear Basketball” (Kobe Bryant Wins) 
  • Best Live Action Short Film – “DeKalb Elementary"

    Saturday, February 10, 2018

    The 15:17 to Paris - Review

    The 15:17 to Paris

    From legendary Actor – Oscar winning Director Clint Eastwood comes “The 15:17 to Paris,” which tells the real-life story of three a typical men from Sacramento, California whose lives changed in an instant second from obscurity to internationally known famed heroes by their brave acts during a high-speed railway ride in Europe.

    In the early evening of August 21, 2015, the world watched in stunned silence as the media reported a thwarted terrorist attack on the German Thalys train #9364 bound for Paris. The three courageous young Americans on board that day who were also lifelong friends from their adolescent days when they met in a private Christian schools were traveling through Europe on holiday when a terrorist attack occurred. The film follows the course of the friends’ lives from the early days of their struggles of childhood to finding somewhat their footing in life in the military and college, to the unlikely events that coincidentally lead up to the attack.

    Throughout the harrowing ordeal, their friendship never wavers, making it their greatest weapon and allowing them to save the lives of the more than 500 passengers on board that day. The story tells the heroic trio story of best friend Anthony Sadler, best friend Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and best friend U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone (who was severely wounded but survived) who are all playing themselves in the film.

    REVIEW: First I went to see this film mostly for the reputation of Clint Eastwood to deliver some of the finest films over the past 25+ years (Changeling, Mystic River, Unforgiven, Letters from Iwo Jima, American Sniper, Sully, Million Dollar Baby, The Bridges of Madison County, Invictus, High Plains Drifter, Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Rider, Gran Torino, The Gauntlet and A Perfect World). I also saw this film because I thought the story of these three men saving lives was potentially a compelling story.

    So, what was my take?  Well, “The 15:17 to Paris”….Ah, hold on while I take a sip of my Tanqueray gin, tonic and lime………………………..aaaaaaaaaaaaah nothing like a tasty beverage. OK where was I………….Oh yeah…………..Hold on, hold on, just one more sip of my Tanqueray gin, tonic and lime………………..aaaaaaaaaaah, man that is a smooth Saturday afternoon drink. I needed that.

    OK,  where was I again? Oh yeah “The 15:17 to Paris”'s not good. It is also not the worst film I have ever seen. The problem with the film besides the three real life characters playing themselves who can’t really act, is the film is less a cinematic dramatic movie about their lives that lead up to life changing events and more of 1:34 minute film with a production budget of $30 million dollar of an ordinary home video of three goof offs who did a great thing.

    For 1 hour and 15 minutes we watch these three men get in trouble in school, drink beer, and eat pizza. Then they get older, get in minor trouble, drink beer, eat pizza and talk about girls. Then we watch them a bit older taking somewhat charge of their lives by two of three young men choosing the military as careers and the other enrolling into college and then again we watch them (only in Europe now) drink beer, eat pizza, eat gelato, talk and date girls, ride tourist boats, take lots of selfies and have hangovers. It’s only in the last 15 minutes does the film resemble anything being a dramatic story worth seeing in the theater.

    Look, I applaud the brave act these three young American men and one other man from Germany did on that day. Trust me when the terrorist struck on the train those three men at great peril to their lives gave him a “Grade A South Central Los Angeles good old fashion American ass kicking”. This scene was truly dramatic and remarkable to say the least. But my criticism and my role (such as it is) is to review not their lives but review the film and while it is not unwatchable it is simply not very good at all.

    Their three back stories are not compelling enough overall story to make it a feature film. It’s a mile wide and one inch worth of material that Director Eastwood was working with here and man oh man did he stretch the hell of this film for 75 minutes with some dialogue and screenplay so poorly written it felt like it was done less on Microsoft Word and more on Mattel’s Etch a Sketch. And while the three young men tried their best given their lack of professional training in acting, they worked hard trying to get the audience to like them (and generally you do) but in the long hall all you really remember is their acting or lack thereof.

    “The 15:17 to Paris” with obvious limitations wants to be a story of real-life heroism under lethal and deadly circumstance. It also wants to be a transformative film about what makes American’s notably proud, gutsy and brave. But in the end, all it is, is a home video of 15 minutes of some extraordinary heroism that should be recognized and acknowledged by all but not nearly enough for you to drop $20+ dollars just to see it in the theater.

    Watch the film's trailer 3 or 4 times, it delivers a better story.

    1.75 Stars 

    Saturday, January 27, 2018

    Hostiles - Review


    Academy Award winner Christian Bale hooks up with Director Scott Cooper again (Out of the Furnace) to tell a Western tale in the film “Hostiles”.

    Set in 1892 New Mexico and Montana, Hostiles tells the story of a legendary Army Captain named Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale), a soldier’s soldier, firmly committed to doing his duty at all cost, of which largely involved ridding the American SW region of “savages” who frequently marauded White settlers home and ranches.

    One day upon the return to his fort with a captive Native American in tow, Captain Blocker is summed to his Colonel’s Office to discuss his new orders. He quickly realizes that for once in his life he cannot comply with a direct order as it involves taking a sworn enemy of his named Chief Yellow Hawk (West Studi) after 7 years in the fort’s prison, back to his home land of Montana…………He’s dying and wishes to die and be cremated there in the way of his ancestors.

    Captain Blocker firmly resists in taking the Chief back, mostly because he hates him with every fiber of his being for killing his best friend when they captured him seven years ago. But even after stern resistance, he reluctantly agrees to escort the dying Cheyenne war chief and his captive family back to tribal lands.

    Realizing this is his list official duty before retiring Captain Blocker honorably takes out on his perilous journey from Fort Berringer, NM to the grasslands of Montana. Still he is filled with raw bitterness and seeks comfort on his journey from his devout belief in God and the words in his bible in the hope it helps him get past some of his hatred towards the Chief as he escorts him to his final resting place. Little does he know his last mission will take both himself and the Chief down a path of personal redemption for the pain they both have inflicted on each other.

    REVIEW: Running 2:15 minutes, “Hostiles” is eerily similar in construct to Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘The Revenant”, with its obvious story line of solemnest, melancholy, isolation and brutality but also in its powerful soul searching undertones on issues of morality, redemption, mourning and death. And it’s with these combined qualities that ‘Hostiles” as a western feels abundantly fresh, vibrant and in the moment authentic, all the while filled with deadly intensity and consequences lurking around each frame of the film itself.

    Actors Bale and Rosemund Pike give genuinely splendid performances, both nuance and dramatic, of two well intended good people who are now both broken souls by the impact of death. Broken either by the suddenness of death in their lives or as a result of a life time killing people because that was “their job”. Director Cooper makes sure this theme runs throughout the entire film without it ever being boring or ever cheapen it with jocular moments that would come across as inappropriate or silly. Cooper keeps the film seriously focused on the burdensome toll killing people has on a person’s conscious as well as the death of someone who is dear to them has on the human soul unlike any earthly experience.    
    I highly recommend seeing this film in a theater now, not only for its portrayal of the Western genre world with a persistent powerful story about mourning and sorrow, but for its splendid telling of that story through the prism of tears, blood and beauty. Yes beauty as “Hostiles” is also stunningly and exquisitely filmed by cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi. This film is so gorgeous filmed each and every frame, that if the tourism and or home sales go up in either New Mexico and Montana over the next 12 months, they will owe it to this film. I sincerely hope the Academy will remember “Hostiles” next year in 2019 when they hand out Oscar nominations for Best Cinematography. Trust me this is one of the most beautiful looking films I have ever seen.

    For so early in the 2018 year “Hostiles” is a very rare and superb film of the likes you don’t normally see until after Labor Day. So, if you like Westerns as I do, I implore you if you have the time, please see it on the big screen now as an assemble of both great acting and storytelling in the latest Christian Bale’s effort, who once again showcases himself as one of the best actor’s working year after year.

    3.75 Stars

    Monday, January 22, 2018

    Lester’s Top Films 2017

    Lester’s Top Films 2017
    “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”              
    “The Post”     
    “Lady MacBeth”       
    “Darkest Hour”         
    “The Florida Project”          
    “I, Tonya”       
    “The Founder”          
    “Molly’s Game”         
    “Last Flag Flying”    

    11. Gifted – 4.00 Stars – Drama – Comedy – Chris Evans – McKenna Grace – Octavia Spencer
    12. Wind River– 4.00 Stars – Drama – Jeremy Renner - Jon Bernthal - Julia Jones 
    13. Blade Runner 2049 – 4.00 Stars – Drama – Sci Fi – Ryan Gosling – Harrison Ford
    14. Get Out – 4.00 Stars – Drama - Thriller - Daniel Kaluuya - Allison Williams
    15. Baby Driver– 4.00 Stars – Action – Thriller - Ansel Elgort – Kevin Spacey - Jamie Foxx 
    16. American Made – 3.75 Stars – Light Comedy - Drama – True Story – Tom Cruise
    17. Stronger – 3.75 Stars – Drama – True Story – Jake Gyllenhaal
    18. Frantz – 3.75 Stars – Drama – English Subtitles (German – French) – Paula Beer
    19. Phantom Thread – 3.75 Stars – Drama – Daniel Day-Lewis
    20. Ingrid Goes West– 3.75 Stars – Drama – Comedy - Aubrey Plaza - Elizabeth Olsen
    21. War for the Planet of the Apes – 3.75 Stars – Drama Sci-Fi – Woody Harrelson
    22. Land of Mine – 3.75 Stars – Drama – English Subtitles (German Speaking) - Roland Møller
    23. Detroit– 3.75 Stars – Drama – True Story - John Boyega - Will Poulter - Anthony Mackie
    24. Logan - 3.75 Stars – Drama – Action - Hugh Jackman – Patrick Stewart
    25. I am Not Your Negro – 3.75 Stars – James Baldwin Documentary
    26. The Disaster Artist - 3.50 Stars – Drama - True Story – Satire – James Franco  
    27. All the Money in the World -3.50 Stars – Drama - True Story – Michelle Williams 
    28. Maudie – 3.50 Stars – Drama - True Story – Sally Hawkins – Ethan Hawke
    29. Call Me By Your Name– 3.50 Stars – Drama - Armie Hammer - Timothée Chalamet 
    30. Marshall – 3.50 Stars – Drama - True Story - Chadwick Boseman - Josh Gad 
    31. Battle of the Sexes – 3.50 Stars – Drama – Light Comedy – True Story - Emma Stone 
    32. The Big Sick– 3.50 Stars – Comedy - Drama – True Story - Kumail Nanjiani – Zoe Kazan 
    33. Lady Bird – 3.50 Stars – Drama Comedy - Saoirse Ronan
    34. Alien Covenant – 3.50 Stars – Drama – Thriller – Michael Fassbender
    35. The Lost City of Z – 3.50 Stars – Drama – True Story – Charlie Hunnam - Robert Pattison 
    36. T2 Trainspotting 3.50 Stars – Drama – Ewan McGregor – Jonny Lee Miller 
    37. Sweet Virginia – 3.50 Stars – Drama - Noir Thriller – Jon Bernthal - Rosemarie DeWitt
    38. Split – 3.50 Stars – Drama – Thriller – James McAvoy
    39. John Wick - 3.50 Stars – – Drama – Thriller - Keanu Reeves
    40. Megan Leavey - 3.50 Stars – Drama – True Story – Kate Mara – Common
    41. Wonder Woman – 3.50 Stars – Action Adventure – Gal Gadot – Chris Pine
    42. Thor Ragnorak– 3.50 Stars – Drama – Fantasy – Comedy Thriller –
    43. Brawl in Cell Block 99 - 3.25 Stars – Drama – Vince Vaughn
    44. The Hero - 3.25 Stars – Drama – Sam Elliott - Nick Offerman
    45. The Greatest Showman - 3.25 Stars – Musical – True Story – Hugh Jackman 
    46. Girls Trip - 3.25 Stars – Comedy - Queen Latifa – Jada Pinkett 
    47. It Comes At Night - 3.25 Stars – Drama - Thriller - Joel Edgerton - Carmen Ejogo
    48. Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer - 3.25 Stars – Drama 
    49. The Zookeeper’s Wife - 3.25 Stars – Drama True Story – Jessica Chastain – Daniel Bruhl
    50. A United Kingdom - 3.25 Stars – Drama True Story - David Oyelowo - Rosamund Pike
    51. Only the Brave - 3.25 Stars – Drama True Story – Josh Brolin – Miles Teller
    52. Wonder - 3.25 Stars – Drama – Julie Roberts – Owen Wilson - Jacob Tremblay
    53. The Salesman - 3.25 Stars – Drama – (Iran – Subtitles) Won 2016 Academy Award 
    54. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women- 3.00 Stars – Drama True Story – Luke Evan 
    55. Thank You for Your Service - 3.00 Stars – Drama True Story – Miles Teller – Haley Bennett
    56. In a Valley of Violence - - 3.00 Stars – Drama – Western – Ethan Hawke – John Travolta
    57. The Shape of Water- 3.00 Stars – Romantic Fantasy – Sally Hawkins - Octavia Spencer – 
    58. Atomic Blonde - 3.00 Stars – Drama – Charlize Theron
    59. Star Wars: The Last Jedi - 3.00 Stars – Drama – Daisy Ridley - Adam Driver
    60. Everything, Everything - 3.00 Stars – Drama – Romance - Amanhdla Stenberg 
    61. Murder on the Orient Express - 3.00 Stars – Drama – Michelle Pfeiffer – Willem Dafoe
    62. The Wall - 3.00 Stars – Drama – John Cena - Aaron Taylor-Johnson
    63. A Ghost Story 3.00 Stars – Drama - Casey Affleck - Rooney Mara
    64. Their Finest – 3.00 Stars – Drama - Gemma Arterton - Sam Claflin - Bill Nighy
    65. Colossal – 3.00 Stars – Drama – Comedy – Ann Hathaway
    66. Paterson – 3.00 Stars – Drama - Adam Driver
    67. Ghost in the Shell – 3.00 Stars – Science Fiction - Drama – Scarlett Johansson
    68. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales– 3.00 Stars – Adventure – Johnny Depp -
    69. Lucky– 3.00 Stars – Drama – Harry Dean Stanton – Tom Skerritt – James Daren  
    70. Chuck – 3.00 Stars – Drama – Liev Schreiber – Naomi Watts
    71. The Beguiled – 2.75 Stars – Drama _ Nicole Kidman – Colin Farrell
    72. Logan Lucky 2.75 Stars – Comedy - Drama – Channing Tatum -  Daniel Craig 
    73. LIFE – 2.75 Stars – Science Fiction Drama – Jake Gyllenhaal – Ryan Reynolds
    74. Personal Shopper– 2.75 Stars – Drama – Horror – Kirsten Stewart
    75. Kong: Skull Island – 2.75 Stars – Action – Adventure - Samuel L. Jackson – Brie Larson
    76. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – 2.50 Stars – Action Thriller – Comedy - Chris Pratt 
    77. Krisha – 2.50 Stars – Drama – Krisha Fairchild
    78. Downsizing – 2.50 Stars – Drama – Satire - Matt Damon
    79. 47 Meters Down - 2.50 Stars – Action - Thriller – Mandy Moore
    80. The Lovers - 2.50 Stars – Drama – Debra Winger - Tracy Letts
    81. Roman J. Israel ESQ - 2.25 Stars – Drama –Denel Washington – Colin Farrell
    82. My Cousin Rachel - 2.25 Stars – Drama – Rachel Weisz
    83. Toni Erdmann - 2.00 Stars – Drama – (Germany - Subtitles)
    84. Mother - 2.00 Stars – Drama – Psychological Thriller – Jennifer Lawrence – Javier Bardem 
    85. IT - 1.75 Stars – Drama – Horror - Bill Skarsgård
    86. Good Time - 1.75 Stars – Drama - Robert Pattinson
    87. Free Fire- 1.50 Stars – Drama – Brie Larson – Armie Hammer
    88. The Dinner - 1.25 Stars – Drama – Richard Gere- Laura Linney
    89. The Mummy - 1.25 Stars – Action Adventure – Tom Cruise _ Russell Crowe
    90. Rough Night - 1.00 Stars – Comedy – Scarlett Johansson
    91. Snatched - 1.00 Stars – Comedy – Amy Schumer – Goldie Hawn