Black Panther (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Black Panther (2018)

Film: Now even though this is technically a rewatched film, I’m going to label it a To Watch Piler… why? Well I received a free ticket to see this at the cinema, and unfortunately it was a Mum’s and Bubs session, which means the house lights were on the whole time, so any scene that takes place at night is almost unseeable, especially when the lead cast member is wearing all black!

Black Panther is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, which all join together in a story ten years in the making which will all be resolved in 2019’s sequel to Avengers: Infinity War. Black Panther has been an important character in the Marvel comics universe since his first appearance in Fantastic Four comics in 1966, and has been an important member of not just that team, but also the Avengers as well as having several impressive comics series’ himself.

The film was directed by Creed director Ryan Coogler from a script that he co-wrote with Amber Lake’s Joe Robert Cole, and what they created caused a massive bag of excitement for its positive role models.

Black Panther tells of the country of Wakanda’s new King T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), who has ascended to the throne after the death of his father (in the film Captain America: Civil War) but the road to his regency isn’t smooth.

First, whilst being watched by his people, including his mother Ramona (Angela Bassett), potential wife Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and sister Shuri (Letitia Wright – the real revelation of this film), he must prove his worth as a leader in battle, but all the while, machinations are happening outside of Wakanda that may still threaten his rule.

A man calling himself Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) has teamed up with arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) but what is there nefarious plan, and how does it effect the rule of the Black Panther.

This film initially reminds me of a superheroic version of a James Bond film, much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier did. It has exotic locations, improbable inventions and a wry sense of humour as Boseman performs his African James Bond alongside Wright’s ‘Q’ and Forrest Whitaker’s ‘M’ as they face off against an eccentric bad guy with a sidekick with a bizarre weapon, not to mention a bevy of women, all of whom are defined by their skill, brains and asskickery rather than their looks.

The design of the film is magnificent: quite possibly the best a Marvel film to date has to offer, and the colours jump from the screen and are a nice tribute to the beauty of many African cultures, but occasionally the CGI effects fail. Ok, they don’t actually fail, but there is a standard of effects that some blockbuster films seem to think is ok which occasionally don’t sit right, due to the physics of gravity or the extension limits the human body has. I get it’s a movie based on a comic, but if you are selling it as real, it shouldn’t look like a comic. Also, there is some CGI animals that just don’t look quite right.

Ultimately, the one thing I find about this film that doesn’t work is it’s just an introduction. The Black Panther storyline is reminiscent of the first Iron Man’s story of the rights of ascension in a technological world, and serves really as just frosting on the cake that is actually film that could be called Wakanda: A Prelude to Infinity War, as it sets up one of the battlefields for the next Avengers movie, just as the first Thor and Captain America films were really just a way of getting the punter ready for a more complete film experience with the first Avengers film.

In saying that though, I don’t want to discount the amazing work it did with having a sympathetic bad guy and a great set of role models for various groups that in pop culture don’t get as many as the white male population.

This film, even though it is a fun film, in 100% sticking to the Marvel formula so if you are expecting TOO much different from the stations that the hype train stopped at whilst this film was at the cinemas, you will be disappointed.

Score: ***

Format: This film is presented in an impeccable 16:9 image with a matching DTS-HDMA 7.1 audio which is absolutely amazing.

Score: *****

Extras: As one expects with Marvel films, they have a pack of extras ready to role, some about this film, and others to advertise other product, but why wouldn’t you do that with a captured audience?

There is a Featurettes section which contains 4 parts: Crowning a New King which looks at the character of Black Panther and his world, The Hidden Kingdom Revealed is an introduction to the fictional African nation of Wakanda and making it a ‘real’ place, The Warriors Within looks at the actors who play the various Wakandans throughout the film and finally, Wakanda Tevealed: Exploring the Technology looks at the cool toys in the film.

The usual Marvel Gag Reel is present which seem to get less and less funny each time, as the actors seem to almost be acting the gags.

There is four Deleted Scenes which, like the rest of the film, are quite charming, and honestly, whilst I normally think most deleted scenes are better off deleted, there are a couple of bits here that have some heart that would not have hurt the film at all.

From Page to Screen: A Roundtable Discussion is a really cool look at all the writers of the character, including not just the movie creators, but also comic writers like Don McGregor, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Christopher Priest.

Marvel Studios:The First Ten Years – Connecting The Universe is the first of the Marvel sales pitches on this disc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is no doubt it is extraordinarily clever and it is pretty cool when any series of films have a linking world, like Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse and more importantly, Universal’s monster movies of the 40s that had multiple crossovers in the form of House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein. This is a fine albeit short celebration and for a moment, you look at all these separate movies as one big story, rather than a series of films with a, to date, continually unresolved plot device as it’s connective tissue.

Exclusive Sneak Peek at Antman and the Wasp is another one of those aforementioned self-promotional pieces that shows off the next attraction coming to the ci emas, in this case, Antman and the Wasp. The first movie was so charming that I actually am really looking more forward to this that either the sequel to Infinity War or my beloved Captain Marvel movie (in which I believe the main character has been miscast, but prove me wrong, Marvel).

There is also an Audio Commentary by writer/ director Coogler and production designer Hannah Beachler is fascinating as it doesn’t talk about the usual writer/ director stuff, it also explores the design of the entire world of Black Panther and Wakanda.

Score: *****

WISIA: As it is a part of the greater world of the Marvel movies, I will watch it again, but it’s not a top tier Marvel movie for me.

Black Widow: The Name of the Rose comic review

BLACK WIDOW: THE NAME OF THE ROSE



I have always been more of a fan of the low or no powered superheroes who tell low key crime stories: I like my heroes grounded a little. Subsequently, I really like characters like Batman, The Punisher, Captain America, Robin, Catwoman and their ilk… and yes, I know some of them are ‘enhanced’ but those with powers still have a gravity effect to them: no flying, invisibility, they can’t burst into flames etc etc. At the end of the day, if you fire enough bullets into these guys, they are going to die, and I like that sense of vulnerability. Don’t get me wrong, the galaxy spanning stories of Superman or Silver Surfer can be exiting, but I like to think that these guys are defending my neighbourhood, or country.

In amongst these characters is the wonderful Black Widow, aka Natasha Romanov, whom I have been a fan of since I first saw her in Daredevil comics in the 70s when she was ol’ Hornhead’s main squeeze. Thankfully since those days of the female hero not being of any use unless they are the girlfriend of a hero are gone, and the Widow has become a major player in the Marvel Universe, not just due to the many mini-series’ and regular series’ that have been released, but also due to the excellent portrayal by Scarlett Johansson in the various Marvel movies.
*sigh* Scarlett…
This review is of the hardcover collection of the story The Name of the Rose, which collects Black Widow Issues 1 to 5, with some additional bits and pieces from Enter the Heroic Age issue 1.

Story: There is essentially two stories in this collection. The first, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s story Coppélia, is little more than a throwaway introduction to the character, which name drops Captain America and displays an ineffective origin of Black Widow in 8 pages, told through actions rather than rehashing the story we have seen a hundred times over, but essentially, if you don’t know her origin, it appears a little vague. It’s generic, and the art does it no favours, but more on that later.

The main story, The Name of the Rose, is written by New York Times best selling fantasy author Marjorie Liu, who won a comics industry Eisner award for her work on Image Comics’ Monstress.

The story tells of Black Widow meeting up with an old acquaintance name Black Rose, but after the meeting she is assaulted and cut open. She is returned to Avengers HQ where Tony Stark (Iron Man), Logan (Wolverine) and James Buchanan Barnes (the Winter Soldier) watch over her whilst she recovers, but soon, rumours start spreading about Black Widow having files on all her friends, and she she will eventually use them to destroy their lives. Is this true, or is she being manipulated by someone from her past…

It feels to me like this story is one that writers only lend to heroines: the story ends up being about love, and loves lost, instead of just telling a good spy story. It seems to me it’s rare that a spy story would have a tender core to it, and for me it doesn’t quite sit well with Black Widow, who, let’s face it, is a reformed killer.

To her credit though, Widow is shown as a scrappy fighter with a streak of cruelty that leans her more towards the bad guy side of the Marvel Universe than the whit hat brigade!

It’s well written, but I would have preferred a straight spy story a lá James Bond or some of the Bendis/ Maleev stories that in recent years have been told through Daredevil or even the Death of Captain America tale delivered by Ed Brubaker.

The last few pages of this book are dedicated to an illustrated text history of Black Widow as well, me the alternate covers the the individual issues of the comic that came out on release.

Score: ***

Art: Spanish artist Daniel Acuña’s art in this is amazing, as his work mostly is. His work looks like it is done with something like Copic markers and has very few black lines on the interior surface of a subject, instead using darker shades of the main colour to provide those lines. He sites John Romita and Jack Kirby as influences and they are definitely present, along with Hal Foster and Kevin Nolan. 

This being a more realistic spy story than a straight up superhero one, his style suits it perfectly and is a pleasure to look at. A special note has to go to the cover of this collection as the Widow looks a little like Kat Von D, upon whom I have somewhat of a crush.

Unfortunately, the introduction to the story, from the aforementioned ‘Enter the Heroic Age’ comic, is done by far lesser artists Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson, provide a lacklustre first few pages to this collection. Their artistic efforts feel little more than a by-the-numbers ‘how to draw comics’ experience. If you overlook those pages, you’ll certainly enjoy the rest. The whole book loses a point for their efforts.

Score: ****

WIRIA: It’s a cool spy story, with only a touch of superheroics in it, illustrated beautifully… you’ll return to this for sure!

Countdown to Halloween Review #5: Hocus Pocus (1993)

One from the re watch pile…
Hocus Pocus (1993)


Film: As much as us horror fans keep Halloween as ‘our’ holiday, we do have another group that we have to share it with… kids!!

My daughter, now an adult, was brought up on horror films. Now I don’t mean I started her on Last House on the Left: no, we started with things like Casper, Addams Family, The Witches, various Scooby Doo movies, and this film, Hocus Pocus, before moving into not-quite age appropriate things like Dawn of the Dead at age ten.

Hocus Pocus tells the tale of three witches from Salem, the Sanderson Sisters: Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) who way back when used to draw the life-force out of kids to restore their youth. Of course they are caught and executed, but not before casting a spell…

Hocus Pocus: the Sanderson Sisters, Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker


Several centuries later, Max (Omri Katz), his little sister, Dani (Thora Birch) and their parents move to Salem from California to find the town, at Halloween, have reduced the story of the Sanderson Sisters to little more than a myth. On Halloween night, Max manages to convince local hottie Alison (Vinessa Shaw) to take him and his sister up to the abandoned Sanderson museum, but he accidentally brings the sisters back to life by casting their long dormant spell.

As one would expect from a Disney film, the rest is spent in an attempt to defeat the witches, and many shenanigans take place, and maybe a song as well…

… and that song is to be expected. This film is directed by Kenny Ortega, who is probably best known for the Grease remake series of High School Musical films, and it’s a beautiful and fun set of visuals with some great performances, especially from Midler, Najimy and Parker (as a side note, Parker never looked better than in this film!)

Hocus Pocus: Omri Katz and Thora Birch


The screenplay is also brilliant. Written by long-time Stephen King collaborator Mick Garris and Neil Cuthbert, who wrote Return of the Swamp Thing, from a story by Garris and David Kirschner, who created the American Tale series of animated films. Like any good PG film, it has heaps of funny stuff for the kids, but there is a lot of sly innuendos aimed directly in the laps of the adults as well.

If I have to fault this film at all, it is in the casting of the school bullies, Ice (Larry Bagby) and Jay (Tobias Jelinek). Yes, I appreciate that this is a Disney film, but these two overact to the point of distraction. They are more cartoon characters than anything else, and their performances stand out as a low point of the film.

Hocus Pocus: Vinessa Shaw as Allison


Is it possible I have affection for this film from the aforementioned daddy/ daughter days? Possibly, but the film is still fun and funny and a better example of Disney’s live-action stuff. It also has a great deal of fun with horror tropes like zombies and witches without actually poking fun AT them. Of course it does end up getting a little schmaltzy at the end, but that’s what The House of the Mouse wants, isn’t it?

Score: ****

Hocus Pocus DVD Menu Screen


Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Disney DVD release from several years ago. The feature runs for approximately 92 minutes and is presented in a slightly grainy and artefact-y 16:9 video with a 2.0 audio.

Score: ***

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a fun and easy to watch family film that my adult daughter and I STILL like to watch together, even though we both possibly should have grown out of it.

Hocus Pocus: Doug Jones as Billy

Captain America Civil War (2016) Review

Occasionally the To Watch Pile allows me a small freedom to go and see a film from somewhere other than in front of the old flatscreen, and today is one of those days! This review will receive an addendum in the future when the BD is released and all the extras come into play.
So here is a bonus review, one from the cinema watch pile…
Captain America: Civil War (2016)


Film: Marvel comics have certainly taken the reigns of cinema superheroes from DC over the last few years. After DC’s domination for so long, with multiple Superman and Batman films, not to mention other stuff like Watchmen, and as far as I am concerned, the underrated The Losers, Marvel pulled their socks up and have created a cinema sourced universe like that of which hasn’t been seen since the multi-monster based Universal horror movies of the old days.

Sure, the comic related stuff like Spider-Man and X-Men films have done well, but they aren’t MADE by Marvel themselves like the ‘Avengers’ related films that have been deliberately tied in since 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, (well, it was once mentioned that George Lucas’ Howard the Duck is officially part of it too… But we may ignore that even though he does appear at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy) and bravo to the collective writers, directors and actors for managing to create an essentially cohesive cinematic universe, that tells a continuing story with returning actors as regular players!

Now as a kid, Captain America was my favourite comic character, without fail. I first read his stuff with the second Marvel run that Jack Kirby did during the late 70s, which started a love of Kirby’s art as well that remains to this day (even my daughter is named after him), but when Mick Zeck took over the art and Cap’s association with SHIELD really kicked in, I was hooked, and remained that way until comic art turned to crap in the nineties when every man and his dog wanted to be either the next Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld or Jim Lee.


I did however return to Cap’s fold during the early part of this century, and the writer and artists of that period really got him (during the Winter Soldier storylines and thereabouts), and made the perfect stories for him, that is, James Bond stories starring a man in tights.

Captain America shouldn’t work in international cinema though. Here in Australia almost every film reviewer criticises when a film is full of too much American rah-rah, like ID4, and all those disaster films where ‘MERICA stands supreme at the end and everyone bows to the Christian/ democratic/ capitalistic way that is celebrated by what it seemingly stands for, and here is a character who is the physical embodiment of all those ideas: more truth, justice and the American Way than Superman could ever hope to represent… He’s dressed in a freaking American flag, for Clinton’s sake!

Anyway, Captain America starts with Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) foiling a terrorist plot in Lagos, which unfortunately results in much collateral damage.

After this devastating event, UN representative, Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) informs Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) that the UN have decided that the Avengers need to register themselves and act only as emissaries of their will.

This doesn’t sit well with Captain America and he refuses to sign the document. During the UN meeting to ratify the policy, a explosion goes off killing the King of African nation Wakanda, who’s son, T’Challa (Cahdwick Boseman) swears vengeance on whomever caused the explosion, and it would appear it is Captain America’s childhood friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) under his guise of The Winter Soldier!

Cap doesn’t believe it though and very quickly lines are drawn in the sand, and heroes pick sides to defend their beliefs. On one side, Cap’s heroes consist of The Falcon, The Winter Soldier, Scarlett Witch, Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Ant-man (Paul Rudd). Stark’s side consist of Black Widow, T’Challa in his Black Panther costume, War Machine (Don Cheadle), Vision (Paul Bettany) and…. You ready for it, the new improved amazing Spider-man (Tom Holland).

Yep, you read that right…. Or saw it in the Internet like 3 months ago…


A big battle ensues, but there is a real villain behind the scenes pulling all the strings, but what are his motives?

Watch the damned movie and find out!

The movie hits all the right notes as far as popcorn action is concerned, and the effects are bang on. I must also say the production design and the costumes of the characters are awesome, and those who have make-up effects, like The Vision, are really well realised. Unfortunately all those big budget sound effects though mean the score just sat in the background as mood music and really didn’t get a proper hearing until the end credits.

Whilst I enjoyed all the superhero hullabaloo in this film, it did commit one crime that is almost unforgivable. The bad guy’s reason for all the devastation and planning and death didn’t come across as valid. I get that grief can change a person, but the lengths of effort didn’t seem to have any resonance at all, and he came across like a terribly conceived James Bond villain.

Also, the comic fan in me thinks the Captain America bad guy name they used was wasted, as that particular bad guy is just as important in Captain America comics as the Red Skull.

On the plus side, the characters who have played before by their actors are well into the roles and the fit like a bunch of great friends at the pub on a Friday night, but this doesn’t detract from actors playing newcomers either, who immediately seem to fit perfectly… though I still don’t quite think that Sebastian Stan is the greatest choice for the character of Bucky: I just feel that he and Evans have little or no chemistry for a pair of guys who were supposed to have grown up together. I get that that may be the point, but he just leaves me a little flat. 

It brings me though to two problems with these movies. The problem with superhero films has always been the need for the makers to apply some fan-service within the film, be that to keep them onside or to get them to buy more toys and more t-shirts and more books. 

This has that in spades, oh boy! At some point I think the makers of these films need to wind back how much they enjoy throwing extra characters in for those of us who are comic fans, and need to just concentrate on a smaller story. It worked for Ant-man, and should work for other characters they intend on introducing.

The other is the weight of the overall tale and how all the films tie in so much they are almost a 40s styled serial. My wife, who is a casual watcher of genre stuff, unless it’s disaster or alien invasion films in with case she is all-in, hadn’t watched the last three or four films in their entirety, and had to ask me several times who some of the players were. You can’t start midway in these films, no, The Avengers films require a solid investment of seeing all the films mention from the Incredible Hulk as I mentioned above. Even though Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four was miserable and far too short, at least it didn’t have to carry the trailer load of support material that goes along with these films. 

Back to my wife though, the highlight for her was the appearance of Spider-man, he was definitely one of the positives for a few reasons. We didn’t have to see his origin again. Surely the four most famous origins must be, in order, Batman, Spider-man, Superman and Jesus, and doing films of any of them don’t require a revisiting of the origin. It was sure nice just to see the film say: ‘ this is a new guy playing Spider-man and a new woman (Marisa Tomei) playing Aunt May. Deal with it.’ His introduction lent itself well to the type of films these have become, and Stark’s knowledge of his existence played well to his character and his obsession with knowledge. The other was how the appearance of him, and Ant-man, brought a levity that the film desperately needed.

I must admit, and I won’t spoil it, but the appearance of one character’s new abilities made me sit up and smile so wide my ears almost fell off, and when ‘it’ happens, it’s played with so much fun that you can’t help but totally freak out over it.

Of course, don’t for get to sit through the credits for not one, but two epilogues, both of which lead themselves into future Marvel films.

I liked this film a little bit less than Captain America The Winter Soldier, which is my favourite of all the Marvel films. This film, at times, had me sitting on the edge of my seat like a kid whose been collecting comics since he was 4 years old. Sometimes, nostalgia makes me wish I could have seen these films as that kid… But that’s what nostalgia is all about, isn’t it.

Score: ****

Format: I saw this movie at Westfield Miranda’s Event cinemas in Cinema 1, which is one of their Vmax Cinemas. The film went for 2 hours and 27 minutes and the picture was amazing and presented in 2.35:1 and has the totally ear blitzing Dolby Atmos sound. If I am to criticise the experience though, I ordered my tickets online which cost $78, and then three drinks and a medium popcorn cost another $26.50: if I am paying over $100 Australian for three people to see a film, which I don’t mind, I do expect the cinema itself to be the height of cleanliness. We were in the second session of the day, and it wasn’t.


Score: ****

Extras: N/A

Score: N/A

WISIA: Honestly, I just can’t wait for the bluray release so I can see it again just for the big fight scene in the middle. The comics fan in me nerd-jaculated all over the seat in front.