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Tag Archive: Cheo Hodari Coker


Review by C.J. Bunce

Marvel has diversified its creations on film and television so much that anyone can find a series or film that grabs them and surprises them with action, drama, strong characters, superheroics and great storytelling.  It’s going to be a subjective call for anyone, but the depth of every storytelling component in two seasons of Marvel’s Luke Cage makes it our nomination for the best superhero series yet.  With all that a comic book fan could want (except maybe supersuits), Season Two of Marvel’s Luke Cage, now on Netflix, rises to the occasion again.  The writers, actors, and other creators of Luke, his partners, and the crimelords of Harlem, could hold their own against any of the entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  A “best of” list of the villains of Marvel adaptations will no doubt have Loki and Killmonger from the movies fighting for top spots, but it also must now have Season One’s Cottonmouth Stokes, and this season’s trifecta of villains:  Bushmaster McIver, Shades Alvarez, and Mariah Stokes.

We compared Season One–which was borg.com’s Best TV Superhero Series of 2016 along with Cage actor Mike Colter and Misty Knight actor Simone Missick taking top acting kudos for the year–to Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, and again, Season Two is worthy of that comparison.  All the key social and cultural issues affecting every-day people inside or outside New York City neighborhoods, from the 1960s and today, work their way into the storytelling of the series.  The season kept its fresh approach with a new director at the helm of nearly every episode, while maintaining its focus thanks to Cheo Hodari Coker penning the overall story and leading the series as showrunner.  The show’s style is unique.  Even more than in Season One, nearly each episode featured the setting of the nightclub Harlem’s Paradise with an incredible performer on-stage with a relevant song to the episode.  Where a modern take on 20th century Speakeasy-inspired jazz and blues was the background for Season One, music derived from the roots of hip-hop and the heritage of key show characters in Jamaica defines the style this time.  This was topped off in the last episode with a song performed by Rakim that echoed Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s 1970s retro-funk series theme.

Family roots and legacies left behind top the season’s themes.  Along with the drama, the superheroics were present in Cage’s Power Man persona and new villain Bushmaster’s exquisitely choreographed battle scenes.  Charismatic actor Mustafa Shakir, who isn’t Jamaican, is perfectly convincing with the accent as Johnny “Bushmaster” McIver, and like Lou Ferrigno in The Incredible Hulk and series star Colter, Shakir looks like a superhuman with no need for any superhero costume.  And yes, Shakir performed most of the fabulous stunt fights with Colter, with training incorporating capoeira fighting, aptly selected for the series from its focus on power, speed, kicks, and spins.  Looking for the best superhero genre one-on-one battles at the movies or on television?  They can be found in Season Two of Marvel’s Luke Cage.  It’s even more refreshing because the series casts aside the current lazy trope in cinema of slow-motion action sequences, which can pull you out of the momentum of the action every time.

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We know Sylvester Stallone more for his action movies than any acting prowess.  Yet he is Oscar material.  Rocky, the movie and role that made him a household name, earned him Academy Award nominations for both acting and his screenplay.  The latest Rocky movie, Creed, was his seventh film as boxer–now retired boxer–Rocky Balboa.  His performance in that film and the first trailer for the eighth film in the franchise, Creed II, proves he still has the acting chops, and can give as emotional a performance as ever, and maybe one that could garner him another Oscar nod for the same role he created more than 40 years ago in 1976.  And after his success in Black Panther, everyone is watching the career of star Michael B. Jordan, too.  Has there been a bad Rocky movie?  The first garnered ten Oscar nominations and three wins, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing.  Stallone wrote each of Rocky II, III, IV, V, and Rocky Balboa in 2006.  That changed with Creed, and the film proved the change-up was just fine with contributions from writers Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington (check out our borg.com review here).

Like the first Creed film, Creed II looks more like a character-driven drama than just another boxing movie.  This time Creed director Ryan Coogler hands the directing duties over to Steven Caple, Jr. with a script by Luke Cage’s Cheo Hodari Coker.  Will this be as good as the last film without Black Panther director Coogler at the helm?  An intriguing plus for this film is the re-emergence of the name Drago.  The original Drago played by Dolph Lundgren killed Adonis Creed’s father Apollo in Rocky IV.   Now his son, played by Florian Munteanu, seems to be back for a repeat performance.

The Rocky universe has turned into a “Who’s Who of the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” with Black Panther co-lead Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger) back as Creed, Thor: Ragnarok co-star Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) as his new wife, and Guardians of the Galaxy II’s Stallone (Stakar Ogord) back as Rocky.  Check out the first official poster for the film (above), and here’s the first trailer for Creed II:

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