Up first is Red Sparrow.
The draw for me was Jennifer Lawrence. Her dancing performance went on too long, an error in direction, not Ms. Lawrence. She is not convincing as a Bolshoi prima ballerina. Not saying that she did a bad job, but that it takes many years to become a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi caliber. This flaw bothered me more than the graphic sex, purposely grim and shocking, which was more acceptable than expecting anyone interested in ballet to believe that a mediocre dancer, who wouldn’t get an audition for the Bolshoi corps de ballet, could be viewed as a national treasure. Why am I harping on this? The wasted time could/should have been used to advance/enrich the story, to illustrate how the loss of career and years of study devastated Dominika. All we got was her anger. Not enough to draw us to empathize. The script is so-so. Figured out the end early on, which means it was a bit of a letdown. (A blatant spoiler was slapped right at the beginning of the movie like a big red arrow flashing “this is a clue” when she got revenge on the pair who ruined her career.) It wasn’t a waste of money because Lawrence is always interesting.
The only interest I had in seeing A Wrinkle in Time was because of Chris Pine. The trailers didn’t spark a need to see this film and that’s not a good sign. The art design was merely OK. The make-up and hair, a disaster. I liked the kids a lot, especially Levi Miller and Deric McCabe. And the pacing was so slow I caught myself falling asleep. A lot.
Saved the best for last, Black Panther. Originally, I wasn’t hot to see this film because it was hyped and I avoid films with rap. But…it’s a remarkable movie and a refreshing change from the usual grim, superhero violence that screams “see how fabulous I am with the CGI stuff.”
Wow factor is off the chart for some of the characters. Andy Serkis is deliciously nuts as Klaue. Danai Gurira as Okoye, the General, is commanding, gorgeous and just plain-ole breathtaking. Chadwick Boseman made excellent use of his expressive eyes. I’ve always liked Martin Freeman and he didn’t fail my admiration with a well done American accent. Not easy for Brits and he did it while carrying off the token white guy role with subtle authority.
Script always gets my attention and this one had plenty of twists that wove nicely into the story arc and were skillfully placed. The graceful celebration of African cultures and a score inspired by haunting African Folk music enhanced what was happening on the screen and never detracted.
As I said earlier, I didn’t plan to go to see this film when it opened because I can’t tolerate rap in any form of the genre. I usually wait until it’s available to rent and mute the sound. As it was, I hustled out of the theater when the credits started to roll, overlaid with rap. I will confess that it sounded a higher quality than the usual hostile and monotonous monotone. Rap is essentially a form of poetry, and I ‘ve always wished the writers of this stuff would frame it without the childish backbeat. Even though simplistic and often vulgar, what they are expressing is important.
But what I loved most about this film was its groundbreaking adherence to the themes of ethics, honor, and duty. Movies of this type, superheroes saving the world, are crammed with and rely on loud, meaningless, glorified violence (with the exception of Ragnarok, which supplied some much-needed humor). The digital work in Black Panther was never glaringly obvious and gracefully enhanced the fantasy rather than slamming it in the viewer’s face. Granted, many film-goers like this sort of action, and that’s their proverbial bag. I reveled in this film’s elegance and celebration of African cultures. It may have been meant to be making a statement, but as I watched, I could only view it as splendid and exactly what a superhero movie should be.
P.S. Doing a blog tour this month. If interested, info is on the Julia Donner Facebook (see below) for a chance to win an Amazon GC.
M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
Follow on Twitter @RigdonML