Movie Review: Black Panther (SPOILERS AHEAD)

When you see something like this, with a $200 million budget, it really makes you think… why can’t DC get this right? They supposedly spent $300 million on Justice League and somewhere between $250-300 million on Batman vs Superman. Now, I didn’t hate Justice League, although it definitely had some major issues that bring me back to my first question; why can’t DC get this right?

I’m not talking about critical acclaim; let’s put the Tomatometer and Oscar nominations aside. I’m not talking about box office numbers; let’s ignore what it pulled in both domestically and internationally. I’m talking about creating a movie that is simply beautiful, in the most objective way possible. At the surface, Justice League clearly had some moments where you felt like it was the year 2000. No one thought Steppenwolf look good, right? No one thought there were any instances where anything in Black Panther looked that unpolished, right?

But this isn’t about DC, although it is so much easier to explain why a superhero movie is good when you compare it to ones that failed in certain areas. With that being said, let’s start at the beginning of the film… at the origin. I know a lot of people who didn’t read the comics or recent TV series, who had a lot of problems with Justice League because they didn’t know enough about the main characters.

It really makes you think about the planning they must have put into the Marvel Cinematic Universe all those years ago, and just how many secrets are being kept behind closed doors. For those of you who didn’t notice, we were first introduced to Wakanda back in Avengers: Age of Ultron. While we didn’t see the Black Panther himself until Captain America: Civil War, comic book readers immediately knew that Klaw (Ulysses Klaue, Andy Serkis’ character) stole the vibranium that he gave to Ultron from Wakanda. Fast forward to this film and everyone knows that this was the case, since it was clearly explained in this movie, but even if you didn’t see any of the other MCU films, this movie provided you a beautiful (and more importantly quick!) depiction of the history of Wakanda and the Black Panther.

So, here we are, watching a film that has (through two other films) created a villain and the titular hero, whom we are already familiar with. Within the first few minutes, it gives you a bigger picture of the history of Wakanda and introduces you to the other villain in the film. This brings up my only creative issue with this film. They didn’t do either of these two justice. Klaw is Black Panther’s archenemy, but they turned this genius scientist in a smuggling thug. Now, this wasn’t Ryan Coogler’s doing, this was done movies ago. The creative team behind this film did, however, seemingly decide to kill off this supervillain without letting him ever flourish. That could prove to be a lost opportunity in Black Panther sequels, at least for comic book fans.

Instead, they focused on making Killmonger the archenemy of this film, which is a fair move since his only nemesis was Black Panther. (Klaw was the Fantastic Four’s enemy first.) It also, I think, served the overall narrative that Coogler was trying to create in a much more significant way. Marvel comics are ridiculously complicated in many instances; I can’t tell you how many times Killmonger died. Instead of picking away at all of the finer details, I decided to appreciate the story that the creative team was trying to tell, since it was so meaningful. This, however, is much more open to interpretation than anything that has been said thus far.

Killmonger was raised in Harlem, but they decided to bring him to Oakland. Both of these places are extremely important locations when it comes to the development of modern black culture, but Coogler (who was born in Oakland) was surely trying to pay homage to his home. I was thoroughly impressed by Coogler’s Creed, so I was sure that he’d be able to tell a moving story, and he did, although I’m still trying to decipher all of his messages. Their was so much depth in this narrative, a lot of which was created by modernizing Killmonger. There was this juxtaposition throughout the film that set the perfect tone: incredible technology and ancient rituals, futuristic weapons and hand-to-hand combat, etc. A man, or a monster rather, who was created by the mistakes of an entity that had the power to change the world but chose not to for self-preservation. It spoke volumes of the world we live in.

At some points, you even questioned whether Killmonger was a villain at all. A leader of a Wakandan tribe, including other elders, seemed to agree with his point of view that the oppressed deserved the opportunity to topple the corruption that brought about such inequality, although I don’t think that word was ever used in the film. Overall, his methods were far too extreme, but his influence and place in the end was unquestionable. Not only did his story, and his existence, push T’Challa to the point that he decided to spread Wakanda’s wealth and power, but he also had one of the most powerful lines that I’ve heard.

“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from ships, cause they knew death was better than bondage.”

I’ve tried to avoid reading reviews of the movie and social media in general, but Jordan’s character and performance are already, clearly, the most controversial part of this film. I can’t relate to this line the way so many can, but if the meaning behind these words doesn’t mean something to you… if you can’t make an effort to understand where it’s coming from, then you’re the reason that inequality still exists to the extent that it does. I’m not saying that you need to go out there and do anything extreme or change your way of living, but start to think about the way you act. Well, we’ll save all that for another time.

But again, can we just show some appreciation for a beautifully made film. The soundtrack, the editing, the visual effects, the casting, the writing, the acting, the sets, the costumes… they were all so well conceived and incredibly executed. Black Panther was a work of art and a social narrative. Coogler managed to integrate every emotion seamlessly, while developing characters enough to satisfy the audience and keeping the film short enough to leave you wanting more. And while we could talk about this forever, let’s end on an incredibly satisfying note. Who else loved the chemistry in the scene between Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman? I’m sure they couldn’t wait to recreate some of the tension between Bilbo and Gollum. Also, who else couldn’t help but grin during that first post credit scene? Only time will tell!



Is it Okay to Smoke at a Restaurant?

If you answered yes to this question, please explain why in the comment section below. Clearly, if your answer was yes, I do not know about your culture or society and I’d love to learn more about it. It’s important for us to realize how ignorant we all are, but bringing us back on track, my answer is an emphatic, no!

Obviously, you can break this question down to make it a lot more specific. What do you mean by okay? What exactly are you smoking? Where in or around the restaurant are you smoking? No matter what loophole you want to try to pull, however, the answer is still no. 

A restaurant is a place where meals are served. People pay for their food, and no matter how they got their money or why they are eating at that restaurant, they deserve to enjoy that meal.¬†Except you if you’re smoking or having a greater negative than positive impact. By smoking anything, you’re most likely having a negative impact on their and everyone else’s experience, but let’s get even more back on track.

In the picture above, these two individuals stood up and walked away from their table to smoke (what I believe were cigarettes) in the corner of the deck/patio where our table also was. This was at a high(er) end Italian restaurant called Ferro in Idyllwild, CA. The servers and staff did not say anything to stop them, so we politely asked to sit in the back of the restaurant instead.

I’m not knowledgeable of the laws in Idyllwild, but I’m fairly certain you can’t smoke within 50 feet of the building, by law. If you have any manners whatsoever, you wouldn’t smoke within a distance that could carry the smoke via wind to where people are eating.

But they clearly lacked manners, common sense, or are from a cave in a very isolated part of the world. I love smoked food, but I prefer applewood to cigarettes. Thanks for taking care of these guys, Ferro! Also, thanks for taking care of the party of eight screaming throughout our whole meal in the back patio. Great customer service.

Don’t be a jerk at a restaurant. If you’re going to be a jerk, invite your jerk friends over instead and don’t grace us with your miserable presence. Cigarettes, ugh.

The Problem with Yelp Elite

This really doesn’t have all this much to do with Yelp itself. This is more about the “Elite” and even though it is a system created by and facilitated through Yelp, they can’t take responsibility for these monsters.

I probably know or have dealt with the person in the one image in this post. I operated a large facility in West Los Angeles, not too far from this recycling center, and we probably crossed paths. Fortunately, I don’t remember her being overly entitled, if we ever did, which would have been nothing more than sheer luck.

Why? Well, for one, she is clearly entitled to a certain degree. Just look at the line that I highlighted. If you know anything about Yelp that really explains it all. Then you can look at her stats and see that her contribution really isn’t that significant. 124 reviews and 57 photos… that’s it? Sure, she admittedly hasn’t been Yelping for very long at all (although she was making the opposite point), but those numbers are hardly worthy of Yelp Elite status.

After writing over 900 reviews on Yelp, while there might have been one that looked something like her review here or there, my goal is actually serving the community. She should have put that review on her blog that I know she has; she is clearly a blogger because she loves to hear herself think, write, talk, etc. My reviews might be boring, but they get to the point and tell someone who is debating using a service what they need to know to make an objective decision. This is just wrong.

Now, I’m sure this woman is absolutely lovely in real life. She’s just trying to build a persona online like so many others do, but this really isn’t about her. It is about the low standards and issues with the Yelp Elite system. You can have pitiful stats on Yelp and still earn Elite status. Then you can “abuse” and flaunt that status to try to bring others down. Or you could just not be a jerk. Don’t automatically listen to the Yelp Elite because they applied for it themselves. Don’t feed the monster.

Disclaimer: There are tons of great Yelp Elite users out there and I will continue to use Yelp for my own good and to help the community.