Monday, August 6, 2018

Jinn - Review


 
JINN

Written and Directed by Directed by Nijla Mu'min

Produced by Elton Brand, Angela Harvey, Jason Kampf, Mike C. Manning, Shandra L. McDonald, Amy McGary, Kristen McGary, Billy Mulligan and Tommy Oliver.

Cinematography by Bruce Francis Cole

Starring: Zoe Renee, Simone Missick, Hisham Tawfiq, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Dorian Missick.

Summary: Summer is a 17-year old carefree black girl, whose world is turned upside down when her mother, a popular meteorologist named Jade Jennings, abruptly converts to Islam and becomes a different person, prompting Summer to reevaluate her identity.

REVIEW: What a wonderful coming of age story featuring a brown girl as its lead. It’s not often I see an intelligent, heartwarming story about young black people that’s not about inner city crime and or its residual effects on black life. This film is about another aspect of black life, one that isn’t often explored in film and a religion that isn’t often politicized and or ‘weaponized” as a storytelling device in a spy/action movie–Islam.

Left to right: Zoe Renee and Simone Missick
I’m not a Muslim, but having many close family members of the faith, I know a lot about it and this film captured it perfectly. All the tenets are there and it’s not heavy handed or watered down. If there ever was a perfect blend of the faith with an everyday relatable story this is it.

Zoe Renee (center) and Kelvin Harrison Jr. (right)
The performances by the cast are great including the lead Zoe Renee who plays 17-year old Summer to perfection. She is instantly relatable, lovable and real. You never think she’s a perfect angel, but she isn’t a miscreant either. She’s the perfect blend of what adolescents usually are–evolving. Also great is Kelvin Harrison Jr. as her love interest in the film "Tahir". Their chemistry comes off as sweet and sincere without being saccharine.

Simone Missick (known as “Misty Knight” from Luke Cage, pictured below) as her mother is also great and gives a really heartfelt performance as a woman and mom who is evolving herself.

Everything about this picture succeeds because of the wonderful tone by writer/director Nijla Mu'min. This picture have really been heavy handed and trite or really maudlin, but never was. Beautifully shot by cinematographer Bruce Francis Cole, every scene, every shot perfectly escalated the story in a natural organic way.

This film is an achievement in every aspect and one of the best independent films I’ve seen this year!

Notes: I saw this film this past weekend at the 7th Annual Blackstar Film Festival in Philadelphia where this happened.

And previously
No word yet on when this film will be widely released, but I'll be sure to update this review with those details. Until then you can watch the trailer below and below that visit the film's website.

UPDATE AUGUST 14, 2018
Orion Classics announced today [August 14, 2018] that they have acquired the North American and Latin American rights to Jinn. Orion Classics has set a theatrical release for the drama on Nov. 15 followed by a Nov. 16 release on VOD and Digital HD.–Deadline



VISIT THE FILM'S WEBSITE
by clicking the graphic below

Friday, March 9, 2018

Black Panther - Review

BLACK PANTHER

Directed by Ryan Coogler
Produced by Kevin Feige

Written by
Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole

Starring
Chadwick Boseman
Michael B. Jordan
Lupita Nyong'o
Danai Gurira
Martin Freeman
Daniel Kaluuya
Letitia Wright
Winston Duke
Angela Bassett
Forest Whitaker
Andy Serkis

Cinematography by Rachel Morrison

Production Design by Hannah Beachler

Costume Design by Ruth E. Carter

Release Date: February 16, 2018 (USA)

Summary: After the death of his father, T'Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T'Challa's mettle as king -- and as Black Panther -- gets tested when he's drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

REVIEW: I never thought that I would see a superhero movie so entrenched in black/African culture on a scale such as this. It is also one of the best origin stories in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).

If you didn’t know before, you certainly will after watching this film, that Black Panther is a BLACK superhero. Thankfully we now have other black heroes currently in media (Luke Cage, Black Lightning), but while those are television series and urban, this film is definitely something else.

Black Panther is a hugely a self-contained origin story. By “self-contained” I mean that unlike the origin story of Thor (2011), which spread its story between two locales, Asgard and Earth, this film takes place, for the most part in Wakanda.

Wakanda in Black Panther


It’s a film about a hero that’s steeped in family, tradition and honor. While Wakanda is a fictional African country you can see the filmmakers took every chance they could to interline African cultural nuances (I’ll explain more on that later). Wakanda is a futuristic country that was never colonized by outsiders because it thrived in secrecy. That tradition of secrecy is the engine that drives the entire story.

Having established the culture of the story, this is STILL a superhero movie and the action never disappoints! The new king quickly goes on an undercover mission to recover a precious Wakandian export as well as confront an old adversary named Ulysses Klaue. What the king and his cohort discover on that mission is that they have a new even more menacing adversary in Erik Killmonger.

Without giving anything away it is from that point that everything moves fast in the movie and that’s really the only problem I had–it moved too fast. Certain events happen and before you know it–the end.

The star-studded cast in the film never disappoints from the king T’Challa himself Chadwick Boseman, who brings all the regality and statesmanship we saw in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and expands upon it. We also get to see some of his more personal side as he deals with the many challenges of his new throne.

Left to Right: Winston Duke, Andy Serkis, Michael B. Jordan character posters


The “challenges” in the movie come from a great trio, Winston Duke as M'Baku steals a lot of the scenes he’s in and the other two Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue and Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger pose the greatest challenge to the new king. Serkis had a lot of fun with his role and you can see his Klaue’s main goal is to expose the hidden country that is Wakanda and pillage it.

Michael B. Jordan as Killmonger
Killmonger’s goal is aligned with Klaue’s–until it’s not. That’s all I’m going to say except, all three pose worthy adversaries to T’Challa.

The other supporting characters Zuri played by Forest Whitaker and Ramonda played by Angela Bassett lent grace and presence to their characters. Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross was good too and as one of the only non-black cast members did not overshadow the larger story. Lupita Nyong'o as Nakia was good as well as a spy operative for Wakanda who also happens to be T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend.

Dora Milaje 


The other women in the film standout though. From the awesome Dora Milaje to Princess Shuri, they were terrific.


left to right: Chadwick Boseman and Letitia Wright in Black Panther

Letitia Wright
as Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister and the head of Wakandian tech, was an effervescent delight in every scene she was in. She brought genuine laughs without coming off silly as well as projecting that she is also a scientific genius. The Dora Milaje statuesque and magnificent were led by the ever capable Danai Gurira as Okoye.
Danai Gurrira as Okoye
Gurrira as Okoye was my favorite character in the film and when you see it, you’ll see why.

The entire cast were perfect in their roles regardless if the role was major or minor. Each played a part in fully realizing this origin story.

I can’t end this review without giving props–Mad Props to the filmmakers.

Ryan Coogler and Chadwick Boseman on the set of Black Panther
First and foremost I have to mention the director Ryan Coogler, who not only directed, but co-wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole. Coogler proves once again that he is a force to reckon with in Hollywood. He is aided by great cinematography work by recent Oscar nominee Rachel Morrison.

Hannah Beachler
The wonderful and interlined African influence I spoke of earlier was definitely realized through the amazing work of Production Designer Hannah Beachler. In case you don’t know, in film and television, a Production Designer is the person responsible for the overall visual look of the production. Meaning they control the look of everything you see on screen. The look of every set in the film. Even if it's an existing location, the Production Designer may have things added or taken away to suit the film.

As she stated, Beachler wanted to honor the comics with her designs, and then fill in the gaps with research concentrated on Sub-Saharan Africa, pulling inspiration from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia, as well as the designs of Zaha Hadid.

Ruth E. Carter
Aided in the rich, bold look of the film was Oscar nominated Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter. The Costume Designer is responsible for every item of clothes worn in the film. Even before the movie premiered people were “cos playing” her designs. (You can see an excellent example of that below in the “Bonus Features”).

For Black Panther Carter referenced the Maasai, Himba, Dogon, Basotho, Tuareg, Turkana, Xhosa, Zulu, Suri and Dinka people in her designs for Wakanda. Both Beachler and Carter wonderfully brought to life this “afro-futuristic” country with real world exuberance.(VIDEO of her talking about the designs is below in the "Bonus Features" as well.)

As you can see the filmmakers painstakingly not only created an entertaining superhero movie, but went through great lengths to make sure that even though this is a fictional African country, it still retains a lot of real life African culture and to me that is the real success of the film. Black Panther is a film overflowing with African legacy, pride and tradition–that also happens to be a great superhero film. It indeed makes you think about Wakanda now and “Wakanda forever”.

UPDATES

JANUARY 21, 2019
I LIVE TWEETED the Feature Commentary in a Twitter thread linked below

JANUARY 22, 2019
Read more about Black Panther's Academy Awards nominations at  ‘Black Panther’ Becomes 1st Superhero Movie Nominated for Best Picture


BONUS FEATURES

Below are a TON of bonus features about the film as well as links to the other posts about the filmmakers right here on the blog


BLOG POST:  What Does a Production Designer Do? [featuring Hannah Beachler]

REVIEWS of previous films by Ryan Coogler [Fruitvale Station (2013) and Creed (2015) ] at the link HERE

Stories on our TWITTER about the filmmaking of the film


From our FACEBOOK page VIDEO of Costume Designer Ruth E. Carter talking about the costumes of Black Panther



Excellent example of Black Panther CosPlay Published two days before the movie premiered in theaters.
Read more about these photos HERE 


ARTICLE:  'Black Panther' Costume Designer Talks Tribal-Tech Inspirations

ARTICLE: The Costume, Hair And Makeup In Marvel's 'Black Panther' Are A Celebration Of Black Culture And Heritage: From the new Black Panther supersuit to Lupita Nyong'o's Wakanda-honoring knots.