Tag Archives: michael b. jordan

Black Panther

MLD-01496_R.JPGThe Marvel Cinematic Universe is so bloated at this point that Marvel usually crams as many superheroes as possible into the “solo” movies in between Avengers instalments.  For example, Iron Man pops up in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Falcon briefly gets in Ant-Man‘s way, and everyone other than Cap and Bucky in Captain America: Civil War are clearly uninvited guests.  The result is that every movie is more or lScrooge-McDuck-Money-Biness the same movie.  Clearly, that’s Marvel’s goal with a shared universe as that way, we movie-loving rubes have to see them all, and throw even more cash into Disney’s money bin (which by now must be bigger than Scrooge McDuck’s).

Black Panther is different than those other movies.  It feels fresh.  This is a side of the Marvel Universe we have not seen, with new characters, new challenges, and new disputes.  There are no distractions in the form of random heroes from other movies (full disclosure: there are two supporting characters we’ve seen before but I am willing to overlook that, because both felt like they belonged).  Instead, we are introduced to a whole host of new characters who we quickly feel like we’ve always known, thanks to director/co-writer Ryan Coogler’s stellar work (he’s now three for three in his young career, having already giving us Fruitvale Station and Creed).  Refreshingly, none of these new characters are white, and the female characters are just as important as the men (and maybe even more so).

Best of all, this part of the MCU is not based on good versus evil.  Most of the “bad guys” aren’t bad at all, and the biggest bad, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, is one of the most complex villains we’ve ever seen in a superhero movie.  I’d put him second only to Sir Ian McKellen’s Magneto (and that’s a largely unfair comparison because Magneto has been both hero and villain throughout his 55 year career) and well ahead of Heath Ledger’s Joker (who for all his awesomeness is essentially one-dimensional in that his goal was simply to destroy everything). Rather than having a standard comic-book focus, the conflict in Black Panther stems from a substantial philosophical and political question, the answer to which shapes your view of the world.  This is nationalism versus globalism, superhero style, which means that rather than choosing and lobbying elected officials who then debate and vote on these important issues, these weighblack-panther-comic-con-25jul16-02ty disputes in Black Panther are resolved through lots of punching and kicking (which, for all its flaws, is clearly a more efficient political system than the one the USA is currently using).

Black Panther does absolutely everything right.  This is essential viewing and, along with Wonder Woman, shows why diversity in Hollywood is so valuable.  It’s not about political correctness at all.  It’s because a fresh perspective and cultural diversity makes the movie-going experience that much more real and, moreover, provides vitality and energy to a genre that otherwise has been beating the same horse for the last ten years.

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That Awkward Moment

Last night at the BET Awards, Michael B. Jordan won best actor for Creed. Last night during the BET Awards I watched a movie starring Michael B. Jordan called That Awkward Moment, a mistitled piece of cinema if I’ve ever seen one because at 1h34m, you can pack in hundreds of awkward moments, and they did.

That Awkward Moment stars two promising young actors, and Zac Efron. Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan have been in dozens of movies between them these past two or three years, some exceptional, some exceptionally bad. And I get it: you’re young, new to Hollywood, new to money. Make bank! Dolla dolla dolla bills, y’all. I get it. But there’s a limit, I think, to what an audience will tolerate before turning its back, and Miles Teller is dangerously close.

Miles Teller just starred in the Oscar-nominated Whiplash in 2014, so how can he have already wracked up so much ill-will? Well, besides this movie, he’s starred in 3 increasingly apathetic Brody-Whiplash-1200Divergent movies, the critically-panned Fantastic Four, and an embarrassingly poor attempt at comedy called Get A Job. He’s been in 8 films since Whiplash and not one of them reminds us that this kid had a good thing going. He’s got a new one coming out with Jonah Hill called War Dogs and we’re all hoping it’ll be a return to form, probably no one more so than his agent, because while they’re both earning money, Teller is decided not earning praise (or success at the box office), and Hollywood has a pretty short memory for little movies like Whiplash.

Michael B. Jordan, you may note, also has that Fantastic Four atrocity under his own belt. And he’s also got a really great indie movie to his name in Fruitvale Station. If you haven’t seen it, you really must. It was robbed at the Oscars and was nominated for nothing but it was one of fruitvale-station-main1the best in 2013, recounting the true story and final hours of a young man who is erroneously gunned down by police. Jordan, who’d mostly done TV up until then  (I knew him as a kid on The Wire but he was also in Friday Night Lights and Parenthood), really proved himself on screen but has had only a small handful of films since then, unlike his frequent co-star, Miles Teller. In fact, the only one  he did without him is the only one worth mentioning: Creed. Reunited with Fruitvale Station’s writer\director Ryan Coogler, Creed was an enormous success. It honoured the Rocky legacy while establishing its own dynasty. It had important champions in Sylvester Stallone and Carl Weathers but quickly won over audiences everywhere. It’s rumoured that Jordan will be joining the cast of Marvel’s Black Panther movie, but that’s all he’s got on the horizon. Besides War Dogs, Miles Teller has another one in the bank, something in post-production and 2 in pre-production. So tell me: what the hell is the difference? Two handsome young dudes with great roles in their back pockets. One is working back to back to back, and the other very little.

So I’ll ask again: what is the difference? Because I can see one glaring difference, and I hate how it sounds. I hate it.

Creed

This is shaping up to be a rough movie season for Jay.  First, she got dragged to SPECTRE (which by all accounts is a spectacular movie).   Second, she’s been dreading Star Wars: The Force Awakens since it was a twinkle in J.J. Abrams’ eye.  And third, a whole other Sean-approved franchise makes a return and potentially gets rebooted into a whole new series of movies.  Dun Na NAAAAAA, Dun Na NAAAAAA!

That’s right, Rocky is back again, for the seventh time.  It seemed over after IV, V, and VI, but some studio exec decided we could handle more!  And it was clearly the right decision because I think MGM/Warner Brothers now has a whole new franchise on its hands, featuring Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed (Apollo Creed’s son).

I have always loved this franchise.  From the moment I saw Rocky III, I was hooked (yes, I started with III and have never regretted it – as recently discussed in my defence of SPECTRE, plot and character are pretty much unnecessary in franchises and here’s more proof that’s a good thing).  Based on my love for the franchise, I had high hopes for this movie but I was also nervous at how this would all turn out.  After seeing Creed, I am happy to report that this franchise’s record is still unblemished as long as we agree that Rocky V never happened.

One of my favourite things about Rocky VI (a.k.a. Rocky Balboa) was how much love it showed to the franchise as a whole.  Creed takes the same approach.  There are a number of nods to the past and they’re great to see.  The best part is that Rocky, as trainer, takes all that history and imbues Adonis with the style of boxing we’ve grown to love in these movies, namely trading head shots until both boxers’ faces look like ground beef.  Head trauma be damned, these boxers just have so much heart that they have to leave it all in the ring.  And do they ever!

As for the cast, Michael B. Jordan is great as Creed and Stallone is better than ever as Rocky.  The two characters come together naturally and it’s a great relationship to see play out, as uncle and nephew take on the world together and give us some classic Rocky moments along the way.  Especially Stallone, who really plays the old man well the whole way through (although at this point he’s almost 70 so it may not even be acting).  Either way there are some very funny moments to be found as the two leads interact with each other.
CARL

Overall, the only way this movie could have been any better is if they had worked in some Carl Weathers flashbacks where he got his stew on. I can see how that was tricky to work in to Creed since Apollo died before Adonis was born, but still, it would have been a nice touch.

Rocky-III

Want to know who won this fight?  Creed has the answer!

Other than that one shortcoming, Creed is perfect.  It delivers a great story, feels like a natural extension of the Rocky franchise, gives us a ton of nice call-backs to past events, and even answers some burning questions (including who wins the fight at the end of Rocky III).  Those fan-service moments were definitely my favourite aspect of the movie and they added so much to it.  They’re not just winks and nods, they are tools used successfully to remind us of Rocky’s mindset as he tries to pass on his winning ways to a new contender.

As the credits rolled, I reminisced about all the other great Rocky moments (see my list HERE but be warned, it contains tons of spoilers) and at the same time was excited for Creed II.  And mark it down, there will be a Creed II.  The seeds are sown here for at least two more movies and I hope they come to pass, because Creed is not just a great addition to the Rocky franchise, it is an excellent movie in its own right.

Creed scores a knockout: ten triumphant underdogs out of ten.