Friday, November 11, 2022

'Wakanda' might play forever; 'Oppy' and fellow robot keep on ticking, too

At a tad more than 160 minutes, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" delivers much for diehard fans of the action-packed Marvel Universe and, of course, a few sleep-mode moments for the rest of us. Those latter ones arrive during lengthy water, water everywhere sequences, when the magical if powerful villain of the piece (portrayed by Indigenous-Mexican star Tenoch Huerta) shows off the world from whence he came by sporting wings on his ankles, of all things.

To these old eyes, though, the brilliance of the piece comes in how co-writer and director Ryan Coogler, back from 2018's epic (in every way imaginable) screen original, manages to fill in the somber blanks left by the sad absence of his legitimate bright light, Chadwick Boseman.

There are nice tributes galore to the young "Black Panther" actor, whose quiet and shocking death from cancer two years ago left Coogler to come up with special sequel plot possibilities -- from the lavish funeral for Boseman's King T'jalla dominating the first act to a sweetly touching segment during the end credits, virtually assuring how Wakanda seriously and truly just might live forever. 

That last moment shares time with a worthy closing ballad, "Lift Me Up," sung by Rihanna and already 2022's frontrunner for a Best Original Song Oscar.

Speaking of awards, don't be surprised if Angela Bassett, who kinda goes all Shakespearian on us as the dazzling Queen Ramonda, earns some acting mentions for her energetic work here. Meanwhile, even if lithe and lovely Letitia Wright doesn't yet project the heft of her motherly co-star, her own moments of both sadness and strength, as T'jalla's sister Shuri, certainly promise to serve the future of the franchise well.

Rated "PG-13" by MPAA: sequences of strong violence, action and some language; 2:41; $ $ $ out of $5

("Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is playing at theaters everywhere -- and then some.)

Angela Bassett, once again showing off more of her singular versatility, narrates another new movie today, "Good Night Oppy," an offering about rover robots on Mars that's scintillating enough to have been among the pacesetters for Sunday night's Critics Choice (Association) Documentary Awards. 

In fact, Bassett's vocal delivery earned her one of the film's six nominations, which include Best Feature and possible Best Director honors for Ryan White. (Find the complete list of CCA nominees (then victors) here. Winners will be announced during a New York ceremony, which will stream live on Facebook and Instagram.) 

If "Oppy" does drag home a big haul Sunday, it will be because of its warmth, spirit and seeming humanity, an odd combination for an inspiring bucket of bolts that roamed the Red Planet for 15 years after expectations "to live" just 90 days.  

That makes for often fascinating and unexpectedly touching stuff, even if some of the affection looks a bit long in the tooth by the time "Opportunity," the real name of the title gizmo, has paid its geological dues.

Rated "PG" by MPAA: some mild language; 1:45; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

("Good Night Oppy" is now in select theaters, including northeast Ohio's Cedar Lee, before its Nov. 23 streaming debut, exclusively on Prime Video.)

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