‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ Review

Director: Peyton Reed

Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari and Paul Rudd

Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Hannah John-Kamen, Walton Goggins, Randall Park, David Dastmalchian, Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, Abby Ryder Fortson, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer

Synopsis: As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review. There is also a mid-credit and post-credit scene.*

 

The twentieth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man and the Wasp, is a nice change of pace from the shattering conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War. The sequel not only doesn’t take itself too seriously, it’s a low stakes movie that is a hell of a lot of fun.

The movie follows Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), who has been on house arrest for two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War. He’s also been cut off by Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) after going off to fight without telling them. The daughter-father duo are also trying to find Hope’s mother Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and bring her back from the Quantum Realm, which is realized more after an incident with Scott.

What follows is Hope and Hank getting Scott to help them get Janet out, but also dealing with the mysterious Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who tries to steal a vital piece of technology, and a black market businessman Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) trying to profit off Pym’s technology.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a bit all over the place. We have the main plot which is trying to rescue Janet from the Quantum Realm, which is connected to Ghost’s arc and Burch. We have Scott’s story of almost ending his house arrest, with pesky FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), and trying to still prove he can be a good dad to his adorable daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). Then you have random high jinks with some sight gags or Luis (Michael Pena) doing what made him so popular in the first movie.

Everyone is also on the top of their game here. Paul Rudd continues to bring his trademark charisma and excellent timing. Evangeline Lilly thankfully has a lot more to do here, and seeing her play The Wasp is a ton of fun to watch. Also, watching her and Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym trying to rescue Janet leads to one of the more emotional moments – there are quite a few – of the movie. Pena’s Luis is once again a scene-stealer, but he has some competition in Abby Ryder-Fortson’s Cassie.

We then have the new cast members starring with villain Sonny Burch, played by the always reliable Walton Goggins. The character could have easily been one-note, but Goggins just adds something to the character. Ghost played by Hannah John-Kamen does have a more rounded out story than you would think, and she’s played excellently by John-Kamen (who plays one of the leads in the SYFY channel show Killjoys, which I highly recommend). Randall Park has a small role as Agent Woo, but he plays it up with Rudd, and the two have great chemistry.

Finally, the two big additions to the MCU are Dr. Bill Foster, played by Laurence Fishburne, who hopefully we get to see more of, because he doesn’t get too much to do here, but it’s a nice addition for comic book fans. Then we have Michelle Pfeiffer has Janet Van Dyne aka the original Wasp, who sadly isn’t in the movie a lot, even though she plays an important part to the story. Regardless of that, her scenes are where most of the emotional core comes from, and the scenes she does have were great to watch.

All in all, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a hell of a lot of fun, and thoroughly enjoyable from beginning to end. It’s a more self-contained story, even though the events of Civil War are brought up, which helps the movie and the audience breathe a little bit. The action is beefed up, and cast is on top of their game. If you want to have a fun time at the theater, Ant-Man and the Wasp is your movie.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

4.5 out of 5

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Mini-Reviews: CHIPS, The Belko Experiment & Life

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

CHIPS

Director: Dax Shepard

Writer: Dax Shepard

Cast: Dax Shepard, Michael Pena, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rosa Salazar, Jessica McNamee, Kristen Bell, Adam Brody, Richard T. Jones, Jane Kaczmarek, Isiah Whitlock Jr. Justin Chatwin and Maya Rudolph

Synopsis: A rookie officer is teamed with a hardened pro at the California Highway Patrol, though the newbie soon learns his partner is really an undercover Fed investigating a heist that may involve some crooked cops.

 

Loosely based off the popular show from the late 70s, CHIPS ups the ante on the comedy and raunchiness. Basically taking the Jump Street-like tone and making it fit its overtly over-the-top comedy and a very thin plot. Needless to say, this isn’t your parents’ CHiPs.

The film follows Jon Baker (Dax Shepard), reimagined as an ex-motocross rider who is down on his luck, addicted to pain medication from his injuries and trying to repair his broken marriage with his wife (played by Shepard’s real-life wife Kristen Bell) becomes a California Highway Patrol officer. He is then partnered up with undercover FBI agent Castillo (Michael Pena), renamed Francis Llewellyn Poncherello or “Ponch” who goes undercover when a heist involving potential corrupt cops is pulled off. The two have to find a way to work together as the threat becomes more real for the both of them.

As you can see Shepard not only starred in the film, he also wrote and directed the film. I’ve personally never seen a Shepard-directed film, so this was my first exposure to him as both. The humor is a bit over the top, but exactly what you’d expect in a raunchy R-rated comedy. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t so the humor will be something that you are either on board with or not, and if you’re not then you’re in for a long ride.

However, one of the biggest highlights – and probably the main one – is the chemistry between Shepard and Michael Pena. The two start off bickering at each other non-stop but eventually, of course, find a mutual respect. Although, I’ll admit Shepard’s Baker came off as annoying at the first, while Pena is impatience came out as dick-ish. The rest of the cast don’t really standout too much, but do they best they can do with the material their given.

Vincent D’Onofrio plays the villain, but other than one scene with Pena and Shepard, he’s really just there. Rosa Salazar plays a cop that may or may not be into Shepard’s Baker, Adam Brody plays Ponch/Castillo’s FBI partner who hates him – for a comedic/reasonable reason – while Isiah Whitlock Jr. plays the head of the FBI division Castillo/Ponch belongs to and constantly is yelling at him. Finally, Kirsten Bell doesn’t do too much to make an impact.

All in all, CHIPS is definitely not for everyone. Its best scenes are way too far apart and its humor is all over the place and sometimes outright offensive. While I wasn’t overly impressed, CHIPS is a passable enough comedy that you won’t hate yourself for watching. Maybe.

CHIPS

3 out of 5

 

 

The Belko Experiment

Director: Greg McLean

Writer: James Gunn

Cast: John Gallagher Jr., Adria Arjona, Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Brent Sexton, Owain Yeoman, James Earl, Rusty Schwimmer, Sean Gunn, David Dastmalchian, Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry

Synopsis: In a twisted social experiment, 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogota, Columbia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.

 

The Belko Experiment is, you can say, loosely based on the cult classic Battle Royale where it forces innocent people by mysterious forces to kill each other. The difference in this film is it takes it to an office space in a foreign country, and has a script by James Gunn. So, of course the question becomes does it do anything to keep itself separated from the herd? Somewhat.

The film follows employees of Belko Industries in Bogota, Columbia who are literally locked and sealed in their complex and told through the intercom that they need to kill their follow employees and friends or they will be killed themselves. To prove their point, they have installed “trackers” into their heads when they took the job which ends up actually being explosives. Of course, at first they think it’s a prank, but eventually they find out its real – and they need to kill 30 people or the voice will kill 60 at random.

As you see the set-up is rather simple, and the film doesn’t really waste too much time setting everything up, along with some of the characters. Our main leads are Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) and his girlfriend Leandra (Adria Arjona) who are still in the early stages of their relationship. We then have Tony Goldwyn as the COO in that branch, Barry Norris, who eventually becomes our “villain,” and I put villain in quotes, because obviously good and evil are blurred in these kind of situations and that something that Barry comes to terms with, but Mike struggles with even though he’s pushed by Leandra to come to a decision.

The rest of the cast is fine, but they only have small moments and it’s easy to sometimes remember who’s alive and not. John C. McGinley is easily the second villain in the film, and one that you see coming from the beginning, Sean Gunn has a small but somewhat funny comic relief role, Melonie Diaz plays new worker at Belko, Dany Wilkins, who feels like she could play a big role, but doesn’t really. Finally David Dastmalchian and Michael Rooker play technicians who try to find a way out their own way.

A movie like this will always make us, the viewer, decide what we’d do in a situation like this. The film also doesn’t hold back on the violence, because besides the explosives going off that literally blow the back of someone’s head, once the free-for-all starts, it doesn’t let up. It’s a dark, brutal and grizzly outlook of everything. So if gore isn’t your thing, you should probably pass on this.

All in all, The Belko Experiment isn’t anything new to this particular sub-genre. While the cast does fine with what they’re given, we already know that most of these characters are going to die, so we probably hold off on making a strong connection to any of them, which is in some ways a negative aspect for the film. However, if you want to watch a bloodbath in an office, then this is your film.

The Belko Experiment

3 out of 5

 

 

Life

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Writers: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare and Ryan Reynolds

Synopsis: A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

 

One of the things I dislike about sci-fi space films with something mysterious onboard a spaceship is that it immediately gets compares to Alien. Which I guess is fair, but also not for whatever the film is because you have that thought in your mind and will not judge whatever film that is fairly. So the moment the first trailer for Life came out, everyone said it was Alien ripoff, or if you wanted to believe the crazy fan theory, a secret Venom prequel (it isn’t by the way). While Life is a genre changer, it is a pretty great tension filled thriller that keeps you engaged from start to finish.

The film follows the astronauts on the International Space Station that have discovered organic life from a sample recovered from Mars. The crew includes a CDC representative Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), doctor and long time inhabitant of the ISS David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), engineer Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds), scientist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), pilot Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada) and captain Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya). Once they get the organism and study it, they discover that its, as Hugh puts it, “all muscle, all brain” they end up nicknaming Calvin, based off a contest on Earth. Of course, Calvin breaks frees and starts causing chaos on the ship.

Life immediately makes it known how tense this movie will be putting us inside the ship as the crew attempt to grab a probe that has Calvin in it. It never really lets up until right before the last attempt to kill Calvin where characters talk about why they came to space. It’s a good scene, but it takes some of the (no pun intended) air out of the film.

But, what makes Life great is the cast. You can clearly see they all had a great time working together, as they all have great chemistry together and their characters are fleshed out enough to make us care of them once Calvin starts moving around the ISS. Speaking of Calvin, the design of Calvin is pretty interesting and one that I would love to see more of. However, when it comes to his – its? – movement it is pretty scary to imagine that thing coming at you, especially considering how smart it really is.

All in all, Life isn’t a game changer to the subgenre, but it is a tension filled ride from start to finish that has a great cast and a formidable and scary villain.

Life

4 out of 5

‘Ant-Man’ Review

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Dir: Peyton Reed

Writer(s): Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, & Paul Rudd

Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian, T.I., Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Abby Ryder Fortson, Hayley Atwell, and John Slattery

Synopsis: Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Land must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There are two post-credit scenes*

Marvel finally released Ant-Man. Yes, Marvel has been working on an Ant-Man film for years now. For those that don’t know, Ant-Man was one of the first films announced back at Comic Con during the very first Iron Man movie. Edgar Wright was attached and working on it for so long, and of course, the big thing was that Wright left due to creative reasons, which is why Peyton Reed came onboard. Thankfully – and rightfully – Marvel kept some of the story details from Wright and Joe Cornish’s script. So, does this long awaited movie work? Or do we feel the delay in the final product? Let’s shrink and see what’s inside.

Ant-Man starts off rather interestingly in that it starts off in the past with a young Hank Pym – played by Michael Douglas in the best looking “de-aging” effect I’ve ever seen – coming into the board of what was once S.H.I.E.L.D and says he’s leaving, for reasons that I won’t obviously get into because of spoilers. The movie then jumps ahead to the present to show Scott Lang (Rudd) getting out of prison after serving serious time after he hacked into his old job’s network to right a wrong. He reunites with his old cellmate Luis (Pena) and tells him about a job, but Scott doesn’t want to do it.

Scott wants to turn a new leaf and go clean so he can be a better father to his daughter, Cassie (the damn adorable Abby Ryder Fortson). It turns out to be harder when his ex-wife, played by Judy Greer, wants him to be a better person and her new husband (Cannavale) is a cop that doesn’t like Scott too much. Scott being an ex-con has a hard time finding a new job and turns to Luis, who says he has an “easy job” for Scott and their crew –Dave (T.I.) and Kurt (Dastmalchian)– little do they know, the easy job happens to be connected to Hank Pym.

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Meanwhile, Hank is dealing with his mentor Darren Cross (Stoll), who has taken over his company and is on the brink of breaking his tech to create the Yellowjacket suit. To make matters worse his estranged daughter Hope (Lilly) is by his side. Or at least it would seem that way. While Hope and Hank don’t get along, they know that if Darren succeeds in getting his suit working, it could cause total chaos. The two work together with Scott, although Hope at first doesn’t believe in him, to help Scott learn how to use the Ant-Man suit and stop Darren at all costs.

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I know that’s pretty vague and comic book fans will probably read over that and say why aren’t telling us everything. Here’s the thing. Ant-Man is a pretty much lesser known property. Yes, there are fans out there, but to the “mainstream” audiences Ant-Man is at the very bottom of list. One of the things that I liked about the movie is that is works a bit as an origin story, but also a passing of the torch story. In the comics, Hank Pym is the original Ant-Man and the mantle of the character has been passed on to others, with Scott Lang being one of them. Here, we see Scott Lang not only becoming the Ant-Man, but also go through a journey that takes him from low-level criminal to a man looking to do good by his daughter and become a hero. I guess you can also call Ant-Man a bit of a redemption story, although it more about Scott finding redemption in the eyes of his ex-wife – in terms that he can be a good father and has left the past behind him.

But it doesn’t start off that way. Ant-Man starts off and keeps the beats of a heist film. Hank and Hope want Scott to go in and “steal some shit.” You have the crew each with their own unique skill set and quirk. They lay out the plan and have to overcome an unexpected obstacle during the plan. More importantly, they all have their part to play and they look after each other. However, it’s not the perfect heist film, and some of the other aspects and themes overpower the heist film arch that you sometimes forget that is one the main points of the movie.

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However, if I was going to let you guys know what to expect from Ant-Man is, and you can probably tell from reading so far, is that this is different kind of Marvel movie. The movie is set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe – with an Avenger showing up in what is easily one of the best scenes in the movie – and makes a reference to the future of the MCU. But, director Peyton Reed, who deserves a hell of a lot of credit for pulling this off, does manage to make this movie a smaller (pun intended) movie. Yes, the action sequences are awesome – more on that in a moment – but the people of the movie are what stands out. The relationships they all have with each other matter and play a role in not just the movie, but with who they are and what they will become.

Now the action in the movie is pretty damn cool. The first time we see Scott use the suit is a pretty great wild ride. But it’s when Scott starts to learn how to use the suit and is able to communicate with the ants is when it becomes even better. There is one highlight for me when Scott is dodging bullets and it sounds like he’s in war zone. Honestly, anything with the ants was great. I almost don’t want to give anything away just so you can enjoy it yourself. But, I will say the heavily promoted Thomas the Train Engine sequence is fun to watch. It’s not just the action that great, it’s the humor. I didn’t think I would laugh as much as I did, but I did. The great thing is that Ant-Man isn’t cracking jokes every second, as one would assume since Peyton Reed is known as a comedy director. The humor comes naturally and doesn’t feel forced.

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However, Ant-Man wouldn’t work without its cast. Rudd is likeable and someone you can root for in the movie. Michael Douglas doesn’t phone it in but brings some levity to Hank Pym, a man that is dealt with a lot and finally has a chance of his own redemption. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne is pretty feisty and her relationship with Douglas’ Hank is one of – if not –the emotional core of Ant-Man. The supporting cast of T.I., David Dastmalchian and Michael Pena was fantastic and Pena is easily the scene stealer of the movie. Seriously, Pena is a highly underrated actor and if people didn’t know about him before, they will now.

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As for Cory Stoll’s Darren Cross/Yellowjacket, Stoll does the best he can with what he has. It’s been said by many that with exception of Loki, Marvel’s movie villains don’t work or are lackluster. Personally, they are only half right. Marvel nailed it when they casted Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Stoll, however, isn’t a close second, but is pretty unnerving in his own way. There is one scene, early on, that shows you who Darren is and how far he is willing to go to get what he wants. His motivation and actions are somewhat clear, but Darren is more of threat and menacing before he puts on the Yellowjacket suit. Don’t get me wrong, if I saw someone in the Yellowjacket suit and using it, I’d run in the opposite direction as fast as I could. But by the end, Yellowjacket is just there for Ant-Man get fight.

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All in all, Ant-Man is a different kind of Marvel movie. Instead of the jam-packed action – there are some of those in here – we get a more grounded and human story with great relationships. Ant-Man won’t be for everybody, but it shouldn’t take away how great and different it is, especially after all the trouble it took to get it made.

Ant-Man

4.5 out of 5

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