Black Panther

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Black Panther

Black Panther is technically superb. It is also uninterruptedly violent. With apologies to the gifted team that made this movie, I’m troubled by the degree of physical violence that will be seen by millions of people. Here’s to the first person who makes a movie as good as this one where enemies outwit each other with their brains instead of their weapons.

Consider the strengths. Wakanda is a small nation of rock canyons, water, fields, and trees. Beneath that natural cover the small nation conceals a culture unknown to the world. How did this happen? Long ago, a meteorite made of Vibranium crashed into Wakanda and left rich ore that would allow it to develop the extraordinary vehicles and weaponry the citizenry has kept secret from the world.

The movie opens with the notification to T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) that his father has been killed and he, the son, will become King of Wakanda. This is complicated by the appearance of Erik Killmonger (Michael Jordan), a villain who challenges T’Challa for the throne. Their rivalry becomes the battle line for the violence that follows as the story works its way toward crowning T’Challa.
Killmonger intends to win the throne with the high tech weapons in the hands of his revolutionaries.

That’s the background for a nearly uninterrupted explosion of violence in the air and on the ground by all the weaponry the Wakandans have invented that the world has yet to see. What saves things – at least almost – are the threads of talk that represent honest disagreement and genuine searching for a better world on the part of some of the Wakandans who don’t want to use their wonderful inventions for killing. Imagine a world where new technologies are used for fun instead of war.

Throughout, we hear sparks of the debates of today as they sizzle among the players. They ask, “Do advanced nations have a duty to share their discoveries to build bridges rather than erecting barriers?”

There is a wonderful scene here of the Black Panther riding atop a spiraling vehicle controlled remotely by Shuri (Letitia Wright) in her lab in Wakanda. Nokia (Lupita Nyong’o) wants to help the less fortunate. The narrow misses, the colorful battles – all are delivered in extraordinary technology. The women have the good ideas here and they begin to lead their new king in the right direction.

Murderous violence is born in the minds of men who then manufacture it and use it, but what if the country who had the tools refused to use them for killing? What if brains instead of brutality won the war? That twist could have been set against the glorious costumes, visual joy, and extreme action delivered in five languages by the genuinely fine actors in this movie. Imagine using these superb special effects to celebrate a country built on that kind of leadership at a time when the world is threatened – as it is now – by men like Killmonger.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Black Panther
Word Count: 496
Running Time: 2:14
Rating: PG-13
Date: 2 March 2018


The Circle

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

The Circle

The Circle is perfectly timed for this moment. To dismiss its premise as impossible is to ignore history. While every decade can be identified by its primary thrust, the one that has changed the professional, business, and personal lives of the world is surely the Internet. Rooted in that change, this movie shows us the problems that often follow enormous transitions. The good comes first, the bad often follows. We can already see and sense the growing erosion of privacy that this movie envisions.

The Circle is the name of a spectacular new city where people live and work in a culture of sharing their lives. Privacy is eliminated (“bad things happen in privacy”) and all people live in the dream world of friendship, luxury, sports, social gatherings, and work as they create a new culture that travels round the world on the Internet. Everyone is proud to be hired to live and work in The Circle. They have become passionate adherents of a new culture wrapped in a deceptive coating of progress, friendship, and caring.

Mae (Emma Watson) and Circle boss Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) show us what might happen in the future. Initially, new hire Mae has simmering doubts, especially when she meets Ty (John Boyega) the disaffected original founder of The Circle. Bailey has wrapped Ty’s original concept in fine sounding theories and sold it to millions around the world as open caring, open sharing. He announces at a packed meeting the company’s new product: a marble size glass ball that can be attached to any person or any building. He has put forty of these in a European city where no human detail escapes observation.

Bailey’s goal? Everyone will wear a marble, every detail of their lives will be automatically shared with the world. After two tough happenings in her own life, Mae squashes her suspicions and embraces Bailey’s “full transparency.” He preaches that lost children will be found in eight minutes, that dictators can’t thrive in public life and democracy will be strengthened. Privacy is the enemy. Everyone will thrive. It is “the chaos of the world made elegant.” Bailey assures his thousands of followers that his plans will cure disease, end hunger. Everyone will know everything. If you are laughing by now, reconsider.

In her usual understated way, Emma Watson plays it straight and effectively. Tom Hanks creates a convincing deceiver covered in his phony good intentions. If you think the big picture here is extreme, what is your reaction when you remember the world without the Internet? We have already learned that in its few decades the Internet has already allowed the computer to rule the communication and behavior of the world. Before you laugh, remember that enormous world change is always open to selfish misuse. The fine casting of Emma Watson and Tom Hanks reminds us to continue asking ourselves the central question of the movie: Where is the Internet’s erosion of our privacy taking us?

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Circle
Word Count : 502
Running time: 1:50
Rating : PG-13
Date : May 7, 2017