Action & adventure
‘Black Panther’ (2018)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s unceasing expansion reached Africa in 2017 with Black Panther, which explored the fictional, super high-tech country of Wakanda following the events of Captain America: Civil War. Following the death of his father, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) takes the throne of Wakanda — a nation built over the world’s only source of the quasi-magical metal vibranium — following a ceremonial duel. Although he is now a political leader, T’Challa prefers to get his hands dirty, and sets out to capture the arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), who stole vibranium from Wakanda during his father’s reign. T’Challa’s focus on the world outside Wakanda makes some of his isolationist allies uneasy, and when his long-lost cousin Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) returns and asserts his own claim to the throne, T’Challa’s reign may be in danger. Although its third act devolves into the typical CGI chaos of most Marvel movies, Black Panther is an entertaining action movie with gorgeous costume design and a talented cast.
‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (2017)
As superhero movies swarm theaters in such great numbers that they block out everything else, it can be hard to tell one from the other. Thor: Ragnarok, directed by comedy auteur Taika Waititi, stands out with aplomb, embracing the Thor series’ outlandish nature. After introductory table setting to tie Ragnarok in with the larger Marvel cinematic universe, the film knocks Thor (Chris Hemsworth), its eponymous, cocksure hero down a few pegs. His older sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, returns from a long imprisonment, smashes Thor’s hammer, and kicks him out of Asgard, realm of the gods, over which she claims dominion. Thor ends up on a planet called Sakaar, sold as a slave to the planet’s ruler, the hedonistic, scenery-chewing Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who forces Thor to fight in his gladiatorial games. With the help of some unexpected friends, Thor must escape the Grandmaster’s clutches, return to Asgard, and overthrow Hela. Thor: Ragnarok pulses with energy, moving through a variety of colorful locales and amping up the comedy, with particularly delightful performances from Hemsworth and Goldblum.
‘Kill Bill Vol. 1‘ and ‘Vol. 2‘ (2003)
Quentin Tarantino’s two-part bloodbath is a masterful pastiche of various genres (martial arts films, Westerns, and more) and arguably his best work. The story concerns a woman known as The Bride (Uma Thurman). A former assassin, The Bride tried to get out of the business, but her former comrades, led by her mentor and lover, Bill (David Carradine), decided not to let her walk away, murdering her entire wedding party and putting a bullet in her head. Years later, she wakes up from a coma, with one thing on her mind: Revenge. Spanning roughly four hours and a few continents over its two parts, Kill Bill shows Tarantino’s style in all its glory and excesses. It’s a film with hyperstylized action, sharp dialogue, and a soundtrack that samples classic film scores, country music, and more.
’13 Assassins’ (2010)
A remake of a classic Japanese film, 13 Assassins is set in 19th-century Japan, where the shogun’s half-brother, Lord Matsudaira Naritsugu (Gorō Inagaki), rules his province with cruelty. Deciding that Matsudaira must die, a government official enlists veteran samurai Shimada Shinzaemon (Kōji Yakusho) to assemble a team of samurai to assassinate the lord. They convert a remote village into a giant death trap and lead Matsudaira and his personal army there for a bloody confrontation. Director Takashi Miike is known for outlandish violence, but here he exercises restraint, taking time to establish the characters and their relationships before tossing them into the fray. For those who enjoy historical drama and bloody battles, 13 Assassins is sure to please.
‘Doctor Strange’ (2016)
In this unique outing in the Marvel cinematic universe, renowned surgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), whose hands suffered nerve damage in a car crash, turns to magic to try and recover. He travels to Kathmandu, Nepal to meet the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a sorcerer who demonstrates the mystic arts to Strange and agrees to train him as a sorcerer. There, Strange learns that Earth is under constant threat from supernatural forces, including the Ancient One’s renegade former pupil, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen). Doctor Strange is a mind-bending superhero film, one that uses special effects to create bizarre, Escher-esque set pieces, as even city streets bend and rearrange themselves at Strange’s command.