Tag Archives: Angela Bassett

Into the Void

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

The shocking news of Chadwick Boseman’s death brought plenty of feelings. One of them was curiosity about the future. How would the Black Panther franchise – newly launched via Marvel’s most impressive feature – move forward?

Wakanda Forever does it with respect, love and reverence, in a worthy second effort that’s anchored by loss, grief and perseverance.

One year after King T’Challa’s death, Princess Shuri (Letitia Wright) is wondering if the idea of a “Black Panther” is outdated and Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) is facing increased pressure to share vibranium with other world powers.

The world powers, of course, aren’t just asking. And their efforts to take are aided by a new device that can detect vibranium in the environment, which brings the powerful “Feathered Serpent God” Namor (Tenoch Huerta from The Forever Purge and Sin Nombre) out of hiding.

Vibranium is also the resource vital to his undersea world of Talukan. Namor views the detection device as a threat to his nation and demands that Ramonda and Shuri turn over the scientist responsible. If they do not, Wakanda will have a formidable new enemy.

Hannah Beachler’s production design rivals that of her Oscar-winning work in Ryan Coogler’s 2018 original. Wakanda itself is as stunning and fully realized as ever, while Namor’s undersea realm becomes a lush waterworld that puts Aquaman to shame.

But after the defiant, often furious adventure of Black Panther, the most striking aspect of Wakanda Forever is the way it embraces the void left by the loss of both T’Challa and Boseman.

Coogler, writing again with Joe Robert Cole, delivers a more contemplative film this time around. Characters wrestle with loss and power, tradition and progress, rage and mercy. The depth of the script allows Basset and Lupita Nyong’o to really shine, while Winston Duke steals many scenes with a meatier, more layered take on M’Baku.

There is room for action aplenty, equally impressive whether massive seafaring attacks or intimate one-on-one battles (much thanks to the forever badass Danai Gurira).

The introduction of young M.I.T. phenom Riri (Dominique Thorne) is a well-intentioned mirror to Shuri’s technical genius, but the thread ultimately lands as a bit light and superfluous next to the complexities being pondered here. Still, Coogler’s skill with both emotion and spectacle never allows the two-and-a-half hour plus running time to feel bloated, and the film soars highest when the rush to war plays out against a backdrop of immense, intimate grief.

Have the tissues handy for the mid-credits coda. It’s a touching toast to an absent friend, and it cements Wakanda Forever‘s beautiful commitment to looking forward with cherished memories intact.

Girl Gone

 

White Bird in a Blizzard

by George Wolf

Ready for a pulpy mess of lust and mystery? Gregg Araki’s White Bird in Blizzard serves it up with mixed results, buoyed by another terrific performance from Shailene Woodley.

Woodley is Kat, a 17 year-old high schooler in LA. It is 1988, and just as Kat is blossoming into womanhood, her mother Eve (Eva Green) is withdrawing into a bitter, vindictive drunk. When Eve suddenly vanishes, Kat appears unconcerned, even while her father Brook (Christopher Meloni) is reporting the disappearance to police and hanging “missing” flyers all over town.

Kat’s boyfriend (Shiloh Fernandez), her two best friends (Gabourey Sidibe, Mark Indelicato) and her therapist (Angela Bassett) all try to comfort her during the stressful time, but Kat insists she is fine. Frequent, vivid dreams about her mother suggest otherwise.

Director Araki, who also wrote the screenplay, adapts Laura Kasische’s novel with wildly shifting tones, anchoring the film with the solid portrayal of a sensitive young woman while surrounding her with surreal dreamscapes and over-hyped dramatics.

We hear a marriage described as “a lone drink of water from a frozen fountain,” and watch a character walk slowly away before turning on heel to proclaim, “I will tell you one thing’!” amid set-pieces bursting with kitsch.

And there’s Green, in manic Mommie Dearest mode, vamping it up in skimpy attire for her daughter’s boyfriend, then leaning back to release a condescending guffaw in her husband’s face. Green’s performance is can’t-look-away hypnotic, even as it crashes headlong into her young co-star’s authenticity.

Woodley continues to show the chops of a future Oscar winner, and she makes Kat’s complex emotions ring true, no matter what noir trash is going on around her. As Kat screams “What is wrong with you? Are you insane?” at her mother’s antics, the outburst cuts deeper than it has a right to.

The erratic flashbacks and anticlimactic ending add to a temptation to the label the entire project as simply amateurish, but Araki’s resume (Mysterious Skin/Kaboom) suggests otherwise. He’s got a vision for White Bird in a Blizzard and he sees it through in so many ways, some of them can’t help but feel right.

 

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