Archive for the ‘Action’ Category

deadpool 2

After two years of working as a mercenary, and killing many bad guys, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) decides to start a family with girlfriend Vanessa. (Morena Baccarin)  When those plans are interrupted, Deadpool is convinced by Colossus (Stefan Kapcic) to join the X-men as a trainee.  His first mission is to rescue a teen boy named Russell (Julian Dennison) from a home for orphaned mutants, Russell is causing damage with his powers and the police are called, but Deadpool screws up the mission and both he and Russell  go to the Icebox, a mutant prison where their powers are controlled by collars around their necks.  While in prison, Russell seeks revenge on the headmaster(Edde Marsan)  of the orphanage and enlists the aid of Juggernaut,(himself)  the biggest prisoner in the Icebox.

From out of the blue, a soldier named Cable (Josh Brolin) breaks into the Icebox and attacks Russell, but Russell escapes Cable with his new friend Juggernaut, and heads for the orphanage to get his revenge on the headmaster,  Cable follows Russell, and Deadpool with his new ‘family’ the X-Force, which mainly consists of Domino (Zazie Beetz) and they go to find Russell.  Can Deadpool and Domino stop Russell before he and Juggernaut exact their revenge?  Can Deadpool stop Cable from killing Russell.

Deadpool 2 is a mix of a great deal of violence, scatological teenage anatomy humor, both disturbing and derivative plot elements, and what Hollywood does best, explosions substituting for plot.  There’s a joke in the film that refers to Ryan Reynolds saying. “He doesn’t like sharing the screen with others” which is basically wish fulfillment for the rest of the film.  This is Ryan Reynolds’ film, and he chooses to carry the load mostly on his own.  The mood alternates between frathouse humor and some very disturbing allegations at the orphanage, and the film doesn’t know if it wants to be a serious film about serious issues, or Animal House with mutants, and that is part of the problem .  The mood shifts are so sudden and violent that any viewer would suffer from being whipsawed between laughter and angst  It doesn’t make the X-men look very good either, sending a trainee on a mission they should be handling.  The ending is not surprising, because it’s a Marvel movie, and endings don’t matter in Marvel movies.

The acting s ok, just ok, Ryan Reynolds is not a great actor, he’s as average actor, maybe below average.  So maybe,  sarcastic, snide, comic book superhero Is the best he can do for himself.  His best movies are Van Wilder, and Definitely, Maybe, frathouse comedy romantic comedy.  Deadpool weirdly combines both genres, so no wonder he feels comfortable.   Josh Brolin was a serious actor, he was good in No Country For Old Men, he did a good job as George W Bush in W.  But now he’s not in one but two Marvel movies, playing the heavy, Thanos on The Avengers, but playing a more complex role, as Cable.  Since Brolin is not known for comedy, he plays Cable as a straight man.  Here’s a suggestion, how about Larry the Cable Guy plays Cable?  Need an assassin?  Larry would Get ‘er done!  All kidding aside Brolin is quite good in this role.  Zazie Beetz was a breath of fresh air as Domino, she added snark, and a woman’s perspective to the testosterone dominated cast  She almost steals the movie from the incessantly mugging Reynolds. .  Julian Dennison was a bit too whiny, as Russell, he was boxed in by bad writing.  This was not the comic book Russell’s origin story.

The direction was good, pacing was fast, not an over reliance on special effects,  the pacing is good, a few too many explosions.  He gets mostly good performances from the cast.  And the guy is a stuntman, which makes sense for a movie like this which involves big action scenes and lots of stunts.   He directed  Atomic Blonde too, which I did not like.

Deadpool 2:  Not quite dead in the water.

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Fahrenheit 451

Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan) is a firefighter in the future in Cleveland Ohio.  In this America, firefighters don’t put out fires, they start them.  Specifically they start fires to burn books that are deemed offensive by the government.  The government allows people to read the Bible, In the Lighthouse and Moby Dick, but bans all other literature.  There is a group of people that are fighting this censorship, derisively called Eels by the government and the firefighters.  Under pressure by Captain Beatty (Michael Shannon) a young Eel named Clarisse McClellan ( Sophia Boutella) gives Beatty information on one of her fellow resistors, an old woman with a vast library.  When Montag and Beatty get to the location, the old woman burns herself and the library.  Before she burns herself, she yells the word, “Omnis !” The old lady burning herself has a profound effect on Montag.  How does he change?  What is Omnis?

This is not a faithful adaptation of the classic book by Ray Bradbury, and that is not a good thing for viewers of this film.  The central premise of the book involves people turning away from reading books, in favor of other forms of entertainment.  This premise should be more prescient today with the advent of social media, online shopping, and streaming movies, but somehow this adaptation concentrates more on style than substance.  It changes substantial plot points until almost nothing remains of the original book but the title.  This new adaptation adds a meaningless romance to the story and changes the ending to make it look like every other action movie that Hollywood churns out today.  Do yourself a favor, read the book and skip this movie, it will make Ray Bradbury happy and save you the time of comparing this version of the movie to the book.  The book is vastly better anyway.

The acting is above average, for the most part.  Michael B. Jordan is convincing as the conflicted firefighter, where does his loyalty lie, to Beatty or to his conscience? He is boxed in by a script that doesn’t allow for character or plot development Michael Shannon is once again excellent, and turns the intensity up to 11 as Beatty.  He wants to find those eels and stomp out this movement.  Once again, the character is not allowed to develop, and seems one-dimensional.  Sofia Boutella is again hired for her looks and doesn’t even get a chance to show any range in her acting skills.

The direction is more interested in making this a fast-paced glossy image of a movie rather than conveying any big ideas.  So the viewer moves from chase scene to chase scene and images projected on sides of a building.  It’s all style over substance.  The pacing is surprisingly slow for a movie that purports to be an action film.

Fahrenheit 451:  Not So Hot

Avengers-Infinity-War

Thanos wants to steal all the Infinity Stones and kill half the universe’s population.  On the planet Asgard, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is searching for the Space Stone, encased in the tesseract , Thanos battles Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom  Hiddleston) on Asgard.  While the battle rages, Heimdall (Idris Elba) sends the The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to Earth where Bruce Banner warns Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) that Thanos wants the Time Stone and already has the Power Stone.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) tries to take the Time Stone from Dr. Strange, but he refuses to give it up.

Some of Thanos’ minions attack Vision (Paul Bethany) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) but they are repelled by Steve Rogers (Chris Evans)  Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)   Thanos wants the Mind Stone from Vision, Vision wants to sacrifice himself, and destroy the Mind Stone.

The Guardians of the Galaxy rescue Thor from outer space after Asgard is destroyed,  Thor wants to go to Nioavillir tobuild the Strormbreaker an ax capable of killing Thanos, he is accompanied by Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot. (Vin Diesel)  Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)  and the rest of the Guardians go to Knowhere, where Thanos seeks the Reality Stone.  Gamora  (Zoe Saldana) knows a secret about the Soul Stone, that she effuses to tell Thanos.  Will Thanos learn the secret of the Soul Stone?  Will Thanos collect all the Infinity Stones?  Or will Thor build the Stormbreaker Ax and kill Thanos?

Infinity War does one thing well, and that is to give each character enough lines to make each character contribute an important piece of the film.  The premise of killing half the population of the universe is a dumb one, because repopulation  is a continual thing.  The humor is well-placed, but then becomes overdone, and completely contradicts the stark nature of the ending.  The ending is jarring, it left me depressed and angry, hardly feelings that I expected to have coming out of a superhero action film.  I didn’t expect to have such a visceral reaction to this film, but I’ve spent 18 years watching these Marvel films and suffered through a few bad ones, Thor 1 &2, the first Guardians, the first Avengers, and this is my reward?  The fate of these characters seems random and capricious, and any attempt to write a revision to this movie in the next Avengers movie should be met with loud displeasure.  I, for one will not watch the next Avengers movie, why should I reward such shameless manipulation?

The acting is very good.  At the head of this very big class is Josh Brolin, he is decidedly cruel, but he is also conflicted about killing, and he displays that dichotomy very well.  Robert Downey Jr. plays the snarky Mr. Stark to perfection, like Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, no one should ever play Tony Stark other than Downey Jr. because no one can play Stark better.  Benedict Cumberbatch does a nice job as Dr. Strange.  Chris Hemsworth is finally comfortable as Thor.  He is funny and having fun as the Norse god. And Zoe Saldana packs an emotional punch as Gamora.  She is fantastic.

The direction by the Russo Brothers is over the top.  Pacing to them is getting the audience from one action sequence to another, and jamming as many special effects into one movie as possible, which is fine if that’s all the viewer demands, but there is little time for plot development, character development or backstory, despite its 2 ½ hour running time.  They get good performances, but sometimes the special effects overwhelm the acting.

Avengers:  Infinity War: Thor-oughly unfortunate ending.

 

the-foreigner

An overprotective Chinese immigrant father named Quan (Jackie Chan) is living in London. He loses his daughter , Fan (Katie Leung) to an IRA terrorist bombing.  Despondent, he searches for answers.  He finds ex-IRA terrorist, Ian Hennessy. (Pierce Brosnan) Hennessy is now a British government official, who is trying to keep the 20 year peace accord between Northern Ireland and England.  Hennessy at first says he knows nothing about the bombing that killed Fan.  Quan doesn’t believe him, at first he is a nuisance calling Hennessy and staying in his office.  Quan then tries to blackmail Hennessy by taking pictures of Hennessy and his mistress, Maggie. (Charlie Murphy) Little does Hennessy know that Quan trained with the Americans during the Vietnam war, and will not give up fighting to find out what happened to his daughter.  What tactics does Quan use next?  How much does Hennessy know about the bombing that killed Fan.  Are there more bombings to come?

Why in the world would Jackie Chan and 3 Chinese media companies resurrect the Irish Republican Army to make them the central plot point of a fictional movie?  The IRA hasn’t been active in almost twenty years and the peace accords are holding strong.  With so many trouble spots around the world, why would Chan, and his fellow producers re-ignite a dormant war?  He could have picked Thailand to be living in and gone after an offshoot of ISIS or Al-Qaeda, he could shave been living in America and exposed an American cover-up about some group, Chan could have picked any locale and made the story more current and resonant.   Instead, the story seems dated, and filled with clichés.  There are also some sensationalistic aspects of the film that the story could have done without.

The acting is a mixed bag.  Jackie Chan is at his best in light comedic roles, like Drunken Master,  or the Rush Hour movies. His personality lends itself to those roles, he’s a likeable guy, who plays likeable characters.  Chan does not have the skill to play characters beyond that comic range.  But he attempts to play a laconic, non-verbal Rambo role and walks around in a stupor, until he gets his mission done.  It’s not a welcome change.  On the other hand, Pierce Brosnan is very good as a guy facing pressures from many sides, the viewer does not know where his loyalties lie, and Brosnan does a good job of keeping the viewers guessing.  He made this movie worth watching.

The directing is also a mixed bag.  The pacing is very slow at times, and that doesn’t help the movie at all. The director doesn’t use many visual flourishes, and he doesn’t get much of a performance from Chan.

The Foreigner:  Brosnan pierces the fog of formulaic writing.

 

 

Atomic Blonde

In November 1989, in East Germany, a British agent with MI6, named James Gascione,(Sam Hargrave) is shot by KGB Agent Yuri Bakhtin. (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson)   Gascione, kept a list of allied spies in his watch and the list was stolen by Bakhtin.  Another MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton, (Charlese Theron) is brought in to find the list and get out of East Germany alive.  She knew Gascione before he was killed and he told her there was a double agent working for the Soviets.  While trying to track down Bakhtin, she meets another British spy, David Percival (James McEvoy) who has an East German defector named Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) with him. Spyglass says he has committed the names of the spies to memory.  The other secret agent is a French novice, Delphine Lasalle (Sophia Boutella) who Lorraine feels protective about. But in a place, where she can trust no one, and where someone is a double agent, can Lorraine afford to develop feelings for anyone?

Atomic Blonde is a standard issue spy movie, with all the elements of all the other spy movies, from Bond to Bourne.  There’s action, sex and even a double agent.  But there is too much violence, not just shooting, but fist fights so intense that the participants end up bloody beyond recognition.  If the difference is that Lorraine is a female spy, there is a vastly better female spy movie called Salt.  The difference is, with Bond and Bourne and Salt, the audience cares about what happens to their characters, Lorraine Broughton is written in such a hard-edged way that it was hard to care for her.  The identity double agent was obvious, and the ending was predictable.

The acting is mixed.  Charlize Theron continues to try to prove she can act and fails again.  She tries speaking with a British accent and it sounds like an odd mix of British and American, which is odd, because she’s South African. Theron apparently thinks that if there’s enough fight scenes in a movie, that’s a substitute for actual acting. This was a movie made for Angelina Jolie, but it seems like she’s been blacklisted.  James McEvoy, who is usually likable in his films, plays such a unlikable character in this movie, that means his acting was good, but it didn’t really matter, because it’s Charlize Theron’s movie.   Sophia Boutella is just eye candy for the men in the audience, and didn’t have much of a character to play. John Goodman is good, he plays a no-nonsense CIA agent.

Atomic Blonde seems to be a movie interested in style over substance.  The whole movie wants to convince the audience that it takes place in the 80’s.  The movie looks like a bad 80’s music video and there’s a soundtrack filled with 80’s songs.  In fact, sometimes the songs overpower the movie.  Sometimes, the visuals overpower the plot.  The sequencing of the movie is shot in such a way that it gives away the fate of the hero in a matter of minutes.  Why make a spy film and give away the main spy’s fate?  The pacing is slow, and the performances are mixed.

Atomic Blonde:  A bomb of nuclear proportions.

 

the tick

Episode 1: Pilot

Arthur Everett  (Kyle Catlett, Griffin Newman) is obsessed with the arch villain, The Terror. (Jackie Earle Haley) The terror was responsible for the death of Arthur’s dad. (Richie Moriarty) And now, heavily medicated, Arthur tracks down the Terror’s henchmen to an abandoned warehouse.  But the police mistakenly arrest Arthur, and threaten to lock him up.  All this time, Arthur has been seeing a large man in a blue Tick costume, and he wants Arthur to join him as his sidekick, and find and stop the Terror.  Arthur is just trying to stay out of jail, and he’s not even sure if The Tick (Peter Serafinowicz ) is real. Arthur just wants to get out of jail.

I liked this episode.  The story was darker than I remember the animated series ever being, Arthur was a lot more obsessive than I remember but the Tick is really funny, and that saves the episode.  Peter Serafinowicz really seems to understand the nature of the Tick the satirical catchphrases flow out of his mouth like a waterfall.  Griffin Newman does a good job as the slightly unstable Arthur, the unwilling sidekick. Valorie Curry is pleasant as Arthur’s sister, Dot.

Episode 2:  Where Is My Mind

The Tick has a battle with Ms. Lint (Yara Martinez) but Arthur still thinks that The Tick may be a figment of his imagination, until his sister, Dot (Valorie Curry) sees The Tick too.  Arthur is still ready to give his costume to Ms. Lint and her henchmen, until the police come to arrest him, then what happens?  Why does the Tick disappear when Arthur needs him most?

This was not a great episode.  It’s full of exposition and backstory, rather than moving the plot forward, some new characters were introduced, like Rameses the IV, but not much more than that. I’d hate to think of this as filler, so early in the season, but that’s what it seems like.

Episode 3: Secret/Identity

Arthur wants to give up the sidekick business and return to his cozy accounting job after being hunted down by Overkill (Scott Speizer) a former government assassin.  But Arthur is still haunted by visions of The Terror and pursued by Ms. Lint.  The Tick also wants Arthur to rejoin him as his sidekick, as he is having some memory lapses.  What does Arthur do?

This is a good episode, Overkill adds a new wrinkle to the storyline, the established characters are interesting, the dialogue is interesting and funny, and there’s a bit of a cliffhanger at the end.

Episode 4:  Party Crashers

Arthur goes to his stepfather Walter’s (Francois Chau) 60th birthday.  Ms. Lint has trouble activating the suit she stole from Arthur, so she shows up at the party.  And, of course the Tick shows up, and Walter likes the Tick.  Lint gives the suit to Arthur, does he activate it?  Overkill is still lurking, whose side is he on?  Who is a V-L-M?

I like this episode because even the tangential characters are making me laugh now, and that’s always a good sign.

Episode 5:  Fear of Flying

Arthur tries to fly in his suit, but doesn’t know how to land.  He is being pursued by the Tick, who is riding with Dot.  Also chasing Arthur is Overkill and Rameses IV.  (Michael Cerveris)  Why do they want the suit?  Does Arthur land safely?

The viewer finally finds out who Ramses IV is, and why Overkill wants the suit, and there’s a surprise ending to this episode involving Ms. Lint. What I like about this episode is that the laughs aren’t coming from only The Tick but all the characters.  And the characters’ roles are coming more sharply into focus.

Episode 6:  Rising

The Tick and Arthur are on the trail of The Terror, with Ramses IV in tow.  In a bid to escape Ramses fires a missile at a city bus, forcing the Tick and Arthur to save the passengers.  Ms. Lint takes the advice of an old cohort.  After savoring their victory in saving the passengers, Arthur is kidnapped, but by whom?

I like this episode because it builds on the plot, further develops the characters, and keeps the laughs coming.  It also ends on a cliffhanger, which makes the viewer want to see the next episode.

Episode 7: Tale From The Crypt

Arthur knows who kidnapped him, and he has company, Dr. Karamozof (John PInkus) has also been kidnapped.  The Tick is coming to rescue him with the help of Dot, Overkill, and Dangerboat.

The episode shows that the show is just hitting its stride, very funny, laugh out loud funny, and the plot is coming together too.

Episode 8:  After Midnight

Arthur escapes his kidnapping and wants Overkill to track down Midnight.  Midnight and Overkill don’t get along.  Overkill’s true identity is revealed, who is he?

The dialogue between Midnight and Overkill is funny, and the plot is really starting to gel.

Episode 9: My Dinner With Android

Arthur and the Tick try to find Dr. Karamazov before Sonja, (Jaqueline Antaramian) a diplomat from his country and her sidekick, an android named Bakkup (Dan Castiglione) The Tick, who’s having an identity crisis, thinks that Backkup is his doppelganger.

The show continues to be funny, and the viewers are getting to learn a little more about the characters, and the plot is continuing to take shape.  It’s a very well-constructed, well-written show.

 

Episode 10: Risky Bismuth

Superian is feeling ill, and Dr. Karamazov knows why, he developed a chemical compound called Bismuth that has a deleterious effect on Superian, and there’s more to the plan, that includes the VLM.  Can the Tick and Arthur stop the plan? Dot and Overkill take on Ms. Lint, how does that turn out?

There was more exposition than jokes in this episode, but that’s ok it was still funny.

Episode 11:  The Beginning of The End

Dr. Karamazov  has come up with a way to counteract the Bismuth, now The Tick and Arthur are on their way to confront The VLM.  Meanwhile, Ms. Lint is still torturing Overkill and he seems to be enjoying it.  Can Dot make Lint stop?  Does Overkill want her to stop?

The bi-play between Lint and Overkill is funny.  The dialogue between Arthur and his stepfather is funny.

Episode 12:  The End of The Beginning

Arthur confronts the VLM with Dr. Karamazov’s new formula, what happens?   The Tick confronts the man who started it all, how does that confrontation turn out?

I like the way this show ended, Arthur got his confrontation, the Tick got his, and they both got to retain their low-key hero status.

 

The Tick is an outstanding show.  This iteration of The Tick is darker than the cartoon series, while maintaining its campy sense of humor. Think of a mashup of The Dark Knight It is consistently funny, while keeping the plotline going.  Most of the characters are funny, and interesting.  The Tick has an identity crisis all throughout, Arthur is a reluctant hero, Dot is a badass, with a day job that she hates Overkill is a heartbroken anti-hero.  Superion is a Superman  ripoff, I wanted more from this character.  Ms. Lint is evil, and loving it.

Amazon has ordered a season 2 of The Tick, and I am happy about that.  Very few shows make me laugh as much as the Tick did, I’m unhappy that Amazon split twelve episodes into two seasons, and made viewers wait for months to find out what happened.  BEZOS!!!! (See Star Trek Wrath of Khan for reference)

 

black panther

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is preparing to ascend to the crown to Wakanda.  T’Challa failed to stop the murder of his father, T’Chaka (John Cani) and now has to prepare to fight  M’baku (Winston Duke) from the rival Jabari tribe to complete the traditional rites and claim the crown for himself,  T’challa wins the contest. T’Challa drinks a potion made from a purple herb to give him the strength to be the Black Panther.

Unbeknownst to the outside world, Wakanda has the has the world’s largest supply of vibranium, the world’s strongest metal , which the Wakandans use in everything including their cutting edge technology.  Wakanda has chosen not to share the vibranium or the technology with the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the world isn’t interested in Wakanda and their vibranium.

In England, Erik Stevens, (Michael B. Jordan) and Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) steal a Wakandan artifact from the British National Museum, and plan to sell the artifact to a buyer in South Korea.  T’Challa is alerted to  the sale and plans to stop it.  He takes along, Nakia (Lupita N’yongo) aWakandan spy, and social worker, Okoye, (Danai Gurira) head of the palace guard, and T’challa’s former lover, and Shuri, (Letitia Wright) N’challa’s sister, and gadget whiz. As Stevens and Klaue meet up with CIA agent, Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) T’challa and his entourage try to break up the deal and fail.   Later Erik comes to Wakanda, and he has a surprise for T’challa and the ruling family in Wakanda. What is it?

Black Panther is a good but flawed movie that has a lot of good going for it and some not so good going for it. The idea of an African nation being at the forefront of wealth and technological expertise is a fantastic one and it was fully explored in this movie like none before or since.  This movie was also a platform for black grievances as voiced by Erik Stevens, his solutions might have been radical, but the frustrations with establishment politicians or rulers, even if they rule beneficently, are very real. Again, this was a first for a major studio movie.  It also deals with abandonment issues and how the person affected deals with it.  This is unfortunately an issue that many children are forced to deal with. The four strong women taking a central role in this film is a major step forward for women, and women of color in film.  There were also some references to the current administration in Washington DC, which were done subtly enough to not cause a stir.

The movie did have its flaws.  The movie was undoubtedly trying to pay homage to African culture, but sometimes it wandered into territory where it might have reinforced some negative African stereotypes. Was it really necessary to show a character wearing a lip plate so prominently? I’ve seen lip plates on Africans in cartoons from the 1930’s and those aren’t the most culturally sensitive portrayals of Africans.  It wasn’t necessary to show Wakandan warriors riding rhinos either.  The denouement is also disappointing, this would have been a great time to show an ending of reconciliation, which played an important role in the healing of tensions in countries like South Africa, and still eludes Zimbabwe, but Black Panther settles for a traditional resolution of conflict.  There is also a conventional overreliance on violence which is growing tiresome in this genre.

Despite any shortcomings in the script, the acting is superb.  Chadwick Boseman plays T-challa with an understated grace that befits a head of state.  He continues to have a growing list of really well played roles, Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get On Up and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall.  Lupita N’yongo was also understated in her performance as T’challa’s love interest and spy Nakia   She has a strong presence in this role, if not a lot of lines. She is also piling up the interesting character roles.  12 Years A Slave, the underrated Queen of Katwe, the latest star Wars films and now Black Panther. Danai Gurira steals the movie as the headstrong and physically strong head of the palace guard, she wants to protect the newly crowned king, but also is jealous of Nakia, there’s a lot of complexity in her role and she pulls it off. Michael B. Jordan plays the antagonist with the urgency of an instant gratification loving American, he doesn’t want incremental change, he wants change right away.  And he will do whatever it takes to get it, it was a surprisingly strong performance.  Andy Serkis plays another bad guy, and has a ball doing it.  Martin Freeman plays a dull character and doesn’t add much to him, except a passable American accent.  This cast makes a good movie better.

The director Ryan Coogler, directed Fruitvale Station, which I liked a lot, and Creed, which I have not seen, did a really good job with the pacing, This is a 2 hour 14 minute movie, that did not lag, drag or slow down at all. The first scene should have been placed later in the movie to add to the suspense but other than that the direction was first rate.  Coogler also got great performances from a very talented cast.

Black Panther One cool cat.