‘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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‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Review (Please Read the Reviewer Note)

Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Danai Gurira, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Letitia Wright, William Hurt and Josh Brolin

Synopsis: The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

 

*Reviewer Note: This review is going to work differently than others. The first half will be the usual way my reviews work aka non-spoiler. The second half, which will be labeled properly, will be filled with spoilers galore. Also, I have left things out, and probably forgot a few things too, so if something is not here, that’s the reason. I do highly recommend you watch the movie before seeing any kind of spoilers. Do yourself that favor.*

 

10 years and eight-teen movies in the making, Avengers: Infinity War is a true culmination of what Marvel has created with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Starting with Iron Man in 2008, Marvel has given us a slew of characters we’ve come to care about and all of that is put to the ultimate test here. Not only do we see almost of these characters in one movie, we finally get to see some dream combinations play off. But, more importantly, we finally to get see the big bad that’s been in the shadows since the very first Avengers movie, Thanos.

Avengers: Infinity War is a very busy movie, but the main story finds Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his henchmen, The Black Order – Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), Crovus Glaive (Michael James Shaw) and Cull Obsidian – on a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones. The reason? To put them on the Infinity Gauntlet so he can become the strongest person in the universe, and wipe out half of the universe to create balance. This puts him on a collision course with the now disbanded Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange who must stop Thanos and The Black Order from gathering them all.

That’s the basic premise of Infinity War, but as you can tell from the trailers, the characters aren’t all together. The characters are broken into groups pretty quickly, and they’re all pretty fun to watch unfold. Tony/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) finally meet, and it is everything you thought it would be. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is mixed up with the Guardians, mostly Rocket and Groot, and is on his own mission. Then there’s Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) who end up having to protect Vision (Paul Bettany) from the Black Order, with a little help from Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Wakanda.

Surprisingly, Infinity War puts into full throttle right at the start. You know where everyone is and what part they are playing in the grand scheme of everything. Could that have been seen as an oversight and lack of character development? Sure, but at the same time, we’ve seen pretty much all of these characters already. The only difference here is that they are finally together, and for the first time, it does feel like they are facing a genuine threat that they may not be able to win. It’s also rather surprising that one particular character, who has been a prime focus in these other team-ups, is kind of just a background character, especially with all the hype surrounding the movie.

Thanos and the Black Order pull no punches whatsoever. Thanos has a twisted way of looking at balance, and even though he knows its extreme, he thinks he’s the only one able to actually see it all the way through. We also get a descent amount of Thanos too. His character is rather interesting because of his ideals. I mean, once you get passed the killing half of humanity to create balance bit, Thanos has a lot more to him in this movie that I’ll get to in the spoiler section of the podcast. Let’s just say, Thanos is the villain we’ve been waiting for, as a threat and as an actual character.

As for the Black Order, they serve the role of henchmen to a tee, with Proxima Midnight being the more physical standout, but Ebony Maw being the more in-depth standout, and helps explain to others why they are people conquered. And if that sounds evil to you, that’s the way it comes out.

The heroes are great, but they are a mixed bag – I mean look at the cast list. Cumberbatch gets to play a lot more with Doctor Strange, Chris Pratt’s Peter/Star-Lord is a little more cocky than usual, which does play a role later in the film, Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillian as Gamora and Nebula aka the daughters of Thanos do play a big role in this, although one of them has a bigger role than the other that hits hard. I’ll leave the other cast members in the spoilers section.

All that said, despite me nerding out hard throughout the movie, and believe me there is a lot to nerd out over, Infinity War does suffer from being a bit too bloated. Wakanda is a massive set-piece in the movie, but that’s it. T’Challa, Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) are glorified cameos at best, and that could be seen as a bit disappointing especially after Black Panther came out not too long ago. Some characters aren’t given enough time to breath, and one particular big character is just kind of there – again, more on that in the spoiler section.

All in all – for the spoiler-free section – Avengers: Infinity War is the movie fans have been waiting for since the Marvel Cinematic Universe started. There are important things that happen and moments that will stick with you as you drive home or talk about it with your friends or co-workers. Ten years in the making, and now, nineteen movies in, Marvel has done not just the most ambitious Marvel movie to date, but the most ambitious superhero movie of all time. You are definitely not ready for this. The humor – which is top notch – really helps, but please, PLEASE, do yourself a favor and don’t read any spoilers before watching this.

Avengers: Infinity War

4.5 out of 5

 

 

FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, I WILL BE TALKING SOME SERIOUS SPOILERS. SO STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE. SERIOUSLY, BACK AWAY….I SEE YOU TIMMY, STOP IT.

 

Okay, let’s dig in to this beast of a movie. First of all, WHAT THE HELL?! No, seriously, what the actual hell Marvel. Yes, Kevin Feige, the cast and the Russo Brothers warned us that we wouldn’t be ready for this, but damn I was not expecting that.

Let’s start at the beginning. Infinity War starts right where Thor: Ragnarok left off. Thanos and his Black Order boarded the ship and have pretty much killed all of Asgard (Valkyrie and Korg boldly missing). Ebony Maw says they are “saved,” which doesn’t really make sense, since it looks like everyone is already DEAD. Regardless, Loki hands over the Tesseract aka the Space Stone to Thanos, but not before he gives a great callback to The Avengers. This leads to pretty much our first look of how much Thanos is a threat when he, basically, beats the shit out of the Hulk. Seeing the massive threat on the way, Heimdall sends Hulk to Earth, and is promptly killed by Thanos himself.

And you would think that’s the first big death of the movie, right? NOPE, Loki has one last moment of redemption in him – calling himself Odinson was a nice touch – before trying to kill Thanos. Of course, Thanos saw it coming and literally chocked the life out of him, leaving all(?) of Asgard and Thor behind.

We then jump to several different locations, and where the teams will be set up.

Group A: Doctor Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) are warned by Bruce (Mark Ruffalo), which leads to our first scene between Strange and Tony, which a nice Pepper Potts cameo. Tony, and us, get a breakdown of the Infinity Stones by Wong before Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian comes to Earth and get we our first big action piece with Spider-Man included. Strange does get caught by Maw, and Tony and Spider-Man, now with the Iron Spider suit which was teased in Spider-Man: Homecoming go into space toward Titan.

Group B: the very beginning of the movie, we hear a distress call being made, and guess who answers the call? The Guardians of the Galaxy. Of course, Rocket doesn’t see the point, but Peter/Star-Lord hopes to get some money out of it. Once they get there, they see what’s left and bring in Thor, who’s still alive. After some hilarity with Thor’s unconscious body, Thor is woken up and off-camera tells them what happen. Gamora then tells us what would happen if Thanos does in fact gets all the Infinity Stones. We then get some Star-Lord-y humor with Thor, which isn’t completely out of character, but I found a little too much, even for him.

Thor, then takes Rocket and Groot to Nidavellir so Thor can get a weapon powerful enough to kill Thanos. Which he does get later on in the movie, which is a battle axe called Strombreaker. Which sounds like a Game of Thrones sword, and something I find funny, since we get a great cameo by Peter Dinklage playing Eitri, the Giant Dwarf. Anyway, Star-Lord, Gamora, Mantis and Drax head to Knowhere to get the Reality Stone aka the Aether from The Collector.

Group C: Here is where things get interesting, and rough. Our third grouping is everyone else. It starts off by showing Vision and Wanda away in Scotland together. Apparently, in the two years after Captain America: Civil War, the two have been secretly meeting to see if they can start an actual relationship, and right as they think they can, they see the attack on New York, and Vision gets attacked by Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight. A fight occurs and the two are saved by the returning Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon, which put up a pretty good fight, before the two villains beam away. The heroes end up back at the Avengers compound to meet up with Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Bruce, who blows off Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt).

They run down their options to get the Mind Stone out of Vision, and that leads to them going to Wakanda. We quickly cut there to see T’Challa give Bucky, or The White Wolf, his new arm, so he can be ready for the fight.

I say rough because this almost feels like a C-storyline, which it shouldn’t because not only Captain America here, but so is Vision, who is important to this part of the story. Cap, Black Widow and Falcon just kind of show up and don’t really do too much. Which is to be expected with everyone else on the board, but still. Hell, even T’Challa, who just had his own BILLION-dollar movie come out feels like a throwaway character.

Back to Group B, Quill, Gamora, Drax and Mantis get to Knowhere where Thanos has already gotten the Reality Stone, and puts on a trick for them which involves him torturing The Collector for the stone and leaving him open for Gamora to kill him. Thanos appears and shockingly turns Drax into pieces of stone and Mantis into rubber bands – not permanently, but the imagery is still shocking to see. Thanos gets a hold of Gamora and then Quill is left with a decision.

Earlier, Gamora made Quill promise her if Thanos got a hold her to kill her. It’s a rather big scene because it puts both of them in tough position. Does Quill keep his promise, while also killing the woman he loves? Or does he let Thanos get away? Well, Quill goes to actually shoot, but Thanos turns his gun into bubbles and disappears. And since we’re on Thanos and Gamora, let’s talk about that scene.

One of the major questions coming into Infinity War was where the Soul Stone was. Of course, everyone had their speculations and all of them were wrong. Turns out Gamora knew were the Soul Stone was this entire time, and didn’t tell Thanos. When Gamora finally does tell Thanos were the Soul Stone is, they arrive and find out to get the Soul Stone, they need a soul, and that’s not all they find. No, because apparently the keeper to the Soul Stone is someone I’m not going to mention, because that is something you should experience for yourself. However, a little FYI, the StoneKeeper (as people with the Stone are called by the Black Order), is not played by the original actor, but Ross Marquand (Aaron from The Walking Dead).

This also leads to one of the best scenes in the whole movie, and one that I’m not ashamed to say, bought a tear to my eye. It’s a scene that humanizes Thanos a bit, because we hear Gamora say that Thanos has never loved anything or anyone. Of course, we can see the anguish on Thanos’ face as he throws Gamora down the cliff, and since he gets the Soul Stone, yes, he did love Gamora. Which is twisted in its own right, and makes Thanos a tragic figure in his own way, so I guess it’s up to the viewer to decide if Thanos is that or not.

We then get to Wakanda where Shuri leads the charge to get the Mind Stone out of Vision, but it will take time. Of course, the fight comes to the heroes when an alien race charges toward Wakanda with Proxima Midnight and Cull Obsidian leading the charge. Here we get, arguably, the biggest fight of the Marvel films with all the tribes of Wakanda, Cap, War Machine, Falcon, Black Widow, Bucky and Bruce in the Hulkbuster. Yes, because that epic hero shot in the trailers and TV spots ISN’T IN THE MOVIE. Which is fine, really, since Marvel is known for including scenes in their trailer that don’t make it into the movie. Also, the fact that Bruce is constantly trying to get Hulk out to fight and can’t is a nice added layer to the Hulk, which we don’t see often. That’s also probably because Hulk got his assed kicked, which doesn’t happen often or at all. It would also fit the idea that Hulk is his own being now.

So for the sake of ending his massive post, let’s take about that ending. The ending of ending, especially for a Marvel movie. After a great fight sequence between Thanos versus Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis and Nebula, Thanos gets the Time Stone, in what a knee-jerk reaction would be, “what the hell.” Throughout the movie, Strange constantly tells Tony that he’s not giving up the Time Stone, even saying at one point if it comes down to saving Tony, Spider-Man or the Time Stone, he’s picking the Time Stone. Then at the end of that fight, when we get blue-balled with Tony dying, but Strange ends up giving up the Time Stone…what?

Yup, Strange gives Thanos the time, presumably to save Tony’s life. However, if you remember, Strange uses the Time Stone before the fight to see over a million possible outcomes, and only ONE goes in their favor. Was that one of them? I guess we’ll find out in Avengers 4.

After that, we go back to Wakanda where Vision sees Thanos beating down the last line of defense, tells Wanda to destroy the stone so Thanos can’t get. This is the other scene that was rather touching and emotional, although it could have been more, if we saw more Wanda and Vision together. It’s also a scene that comes out of nowhere. But, the jist is that Wanda is powerful enough to destroy the Infinity Stones, which I don’t remember being discussed or even mentioned beforehand.

Either way, Thanos makes his way to Vision but Wanda is able to destroy the stone, which in turn destroys Vision as well. BUT, Thanos uses the Time Stone and revives Vision only to kill him again (poor Vision) and collect all the stones. As Thanos basks in his glory, Thor throws Stormbreaker into Thanos, but Thanos snaps his fingers! Then, the most ambitious ending to a Marvel movie yet happens: characters start to fade into ash.

Bucky, T’Challa, Falcon, and Wanda fade away in front of allies who left in confusion as to what is happening. We then go back to Nowhere and see Mantis, Drax and Star-Lord go. Doctor Strange is next, but not before telling Tony “there was no other way.” But the most heartbreaking one is Peter/Spider-Man. Peter goes over to Tony and breaks down saying he doesn’t want to go. This one got to me too, and kudos to Tom Holland for absolutely nailing that scene.

And just like that, half of the characters we’ve been following for the last ten years and the whole movie are gone. Captain America, Black Widow, Bruce Banner, Thor, Rhody and Okoye are left in Wakanda dumbfounded. Tony is stuck on Titan with Nebula distract knowing he’s lost. Then to top it off, the movie ends with Thanos is some unknown planet in the mountains sitting down to watch the sun rise – which he mentions earlier in the movie – smiling that his work is done.

It’s an ending that is both effective and has you questioning what comes next. The bad guy won, and he didn’t just win, he wiped half of humanity out. Seriously, where do we go from here? How do The Avengers bounce back and potentially beat Thanos who still has all the Infinity Stones, but what looks like a damaged Infinity Gauntlet. How does Tony get back to Earth? And how does the Captain Marvel, who was teased at the end-credits, play into everything?

These are the kind of questions and wonderment we should have after watching this. You know, after we pick ourselves up from the fetal position and stop crying. Is Avengers: Infinity War, the best Marvel movie? Well, that’s up for you to decide. Personally, I wouldn’t say it is, but you bet your ass I’d put it up there. Idea and balls wise, it is. Who else has the balls to “kill” off their characters like that? (Besides Game of Thrones, get out of here you)?

 

‘Black Panther’ Review

Director: Ryan Coogler

Writers: Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Andy Serkis, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker

Synopsis: T’Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.

 

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

 

The eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is one fans have been waiting for, and one that fans have been making a good uproar about. For the first time, there is a superhero movie – at least in the modern age of superhero movies – with a predominate black cast, and one that’s actually good and doesn’t rely on stereotypes. While the race element is something someone can talk about more clearly than I can, Black Panther is without a doubt something special and different than we have gotten before.

Black Panther starts off with a brief history of how the fictional country of Wakanda and the Black Panther came to be, and from there we jump to a brief scene in 1992 with a young King T’Chaka. However, we then jump to the present day and see T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), as he takes the throne in his home country with the people closest to him by his side. His mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett), his youngest sister and head of the science/weapons division Shuri (Letitia Wright), the Dora Milaje general and friend Okoye (Danai Gurira) and his former lover Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o).

However, T’Challa reign doesn’t go too smoothly as Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) comes back into the picture, along with some help from the mysterious Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). T’Challa must now decide what kind of king he wants to be, and stop threats from all around him.

Like I mentioned, Black Panther is something special and different. The movie doesn’t strive away from touching on the racial issue unlike other Marvel films. They usually touch on them and move on to the bombastic action scenes, which is fine for me, but Black Panther doesn’t shy away from at all. In fact, it doesn’t even try to hide them and hits them all on the head without sounding preachy or forcing it upon us. Everything touched on makes sense, and when you take a step back, you start to realize what the message is coming from a superhero film of all places.

There there’s Wakanda itself. The technologically advanced country is a sight to see, with technology that doesn’t yet exist, but also with African tribal touches everywhere you go. Speaking of that, there is a lot of African tribal touches throughout the movie that just make Black Panther more authentic to its roots and gives it the extra touch above other films, especially in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

When it comes to everything else about the movie, well, it’s still pretty damn good. The cast are all fantastic from top to bottom. Of course, we already saw Boseman as T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War, but his character here really gives us a better sense at what to expect of him in the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On the other hand, Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is arguably one of Marvel’s best villains to date. He reasoning is sound and most importantly, he’s well-written to the point that I wish there was more of him in the movie.

The other men fair well with Martin Freeman returning as Everett Ross in a bigger role than I thought he’d have. Get Out breakout Daniel Kaluuya has a small, but hopefully bigger part in the future, role as W’Kabi, T’Challa’s friend that takes an interesting turn. Andy Serkis’ Klaue returns in a hammed up approach that surprisingly works and is a ton of fun to watch. Finally, Winston Duke, who plays rival M’Baku is definitely one of the breakout stars here acting in a way that you wouldn’t believe he would at times.

But let’s talk about the women. The women in Black Panther are freaking badass! Danai Gurira as Okoye, the general of the Dora Milaje, is a force to be reckoned with anytime there’s a fight. Letitia Wright’s Shuri brings a spark of energy and fun every time she’s onscreen, and Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia acts like a bit of a moral compass for T’Challa, but also brings up the concept of what would you do for your country versus what should be done. Finally, Angela Bassett just commands the scenes every time she’s on because, well, she’s Angela Bassett.

Now, the movie does have a few faults. It does fall into the Marvel final battle cliché of being a bit too CGI-heavy with the final fight between T’Challa and Killmonger. Also, while we get to see Wakanda and its interesting history, along with its traditions, I would have liked to see a little more of the actual city.

All in all, Black Panther is an important movie no matter which way you look at it. Not only is it a superhero movie with an all black cast, but one of Marvel’s best films to date. With well written characters, a story that isn’t all over the place, and a deep and personal message and theme, Black Panther is a movie you should go watch as soon as possible.

 

Black Panther

4.5 out of 5

Spider-Man: Homecoming Spoiler Review

The spoiler-filled review of Spider-Man: Homecoming is up!

Give it a listen, and if Youtube is too inconvenient for you, the podcast is up on ITunes now right here (id1249582608?mt=2)

‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ Review

Director: Jon Watts

Writers: Jon Watts, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna, and Erik Sommers

Cast: Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr., Michael Keaton, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Tony Revolori, Bokeem Woodbine, Donald Glover and Marisa Tomei

Synopsis: Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture, emerges.

 

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

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

 

The second reboot of Spider-Man in the last 15 years is here, and dare I say, it might be the best one yet. Jon Watts has bought the real teenage aspect of Peter Parker which not only makes him a desperate young hero trying to prove himself, but also trying make it through the difficulties of high school. There other nice thing, there’s no origin story. Although the film does act as a pseudo-origin story given that Peter is finally becoming the Spider-Man we all know and love from the comics.

The film begins with, surprisingly, Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes with his clean-up crew after what looks like the Battle of New York from The Avengers, and suddenly getting kicked out, but not before taking some alien technology with them. We then jump forward to Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in a home movie-like video recapping the events of Captain America: Civil War, including some shots from the airport battle. After getting to keep the suit, we cut forward yet again a few months with Peter feeling left out and antsy to get back into the real action. That comes to fruition when he discovers a gang selling alien tech weapons lead by Adrian aka The Vulture. Peter then tries to take down Adrian and his crew, while also dealing with his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) who knows his secret, dealing with his crush from afar in Liz (Laura Harrier) and keeping his identity from his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei).

While on paper, Spider-Man: Homecoming sounds like it has a lot going on, but what Jon Watts and the writers were able to do here is nothing short of great. The film is actually over two hours along, but it never feels long. Homecoming moves at a brisk pace, all while being enjoyable and fun, but more importantly, it’s funny. The humor is top notch and while the film never goes full comedy, the humor is one of the many things that makes the film great.

The other nice thing about Homecoming is that it’s small stakes movie. There’s no end of the world or portal opening in the middle of the sky scenario. It’s Peter trying to stop a gang from selling alien tech weapons. Sure he fights a guy in an alien tech suit, with his super-suit and superpowers but it’s not like he’s a demigod or Iron Man. We see Peter as Spider-Man swinging around the city doing some things like stopping a guy from stealing a bike or even when he’s just being Peter, we see him go to a bodega to get a bite to eat. He really is, as cheesy as it sounds, a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

The reason why this works is simply because of Tom Holland. Holland is great as Peter and Spider-Man. He has the sensibility and humor a Peter Parker/Spider-Man needs and makes the role his own. Nothing against Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield, but Holland is of the right age for the character and has a personality that we can easily follow and root for. He’s also still learning everything as he goes, and we see him fail, which is what we’ve been really missing from the previous installments. Sure he has the heart of a hero and is always trying to do the right thing, but he still doesn’t know when to step in and when to step away.

The rest of the cast is pretty great too. Let’s start off with the obvious – Robert Downey Jr. once again playing Tony Stark/Iron Man. While he’s in almost every promotion spot we’ve seen, he’s actually not in the movie that much, so if you had the fear that Iron Man/Stark would take over the film, he doesn’t. Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes, since they never actually call him the Vulture, is okay as the villain. His reasoning does leave something to be desired, but you can see where he’s coming from, but I think it helps that he’s damn terrifying when he needs to be.

Jacob Batalon as Ned, Peter’s best friend and the only friend that knows he’s Spider-Man, is great here and his chemistry with Holland is fantastic. Zendaya as the deadpan schoolmate Michelle has her moments that are welcomed humorous moments. Laura Harrier as Peter’s love interest, Liz, doesn’t have much to do other than be something Peter can’t really have because of his alter-ego Jon Favreau once again plays Happy Hogan, who acts like a watch dog to Peter, although he struggles him off every chance he gets. Tony Revolori plays Flash Thompson, a high school rival/bully to Peter, and Bokeem Woodbine plays Shocker, the secondary villain that Peter/Spider-Man has to deal with.

Donald Glover appears as Aaron Davis, someone Spider-Man comes across for help. Unfortunately, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May is a little underwritten for me. Yes, the fact that she’s younger does play a funny little role in the film, but she doesn’t really give Peter a wise speech about being a kid or anything like that, she does have one moment like that, but I kind of wish they played her up more. Instead she is played as an over-protective aunt who tells Peter to run the other way when danger is put in front of him. However, this new attitude does get a nice payoff, but I still would have loved to see more of her.

Of course, there are many Easter Eggs for fans to fine, some are right in your face, while others fans may need to keep an eye out for it. Thankfully, Sony doesn’t overstuff the movie with them or try to force the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the film itself keeping everything Spider-Man related and watching him grow as the character that we all love and know.

All in all, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a hell of a lot of fun. From start to finish you are bound to love this movie. Tom Holland has solidified himself as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and I for one can’t wait to see where he takes the character next. The Easter Eggs to the history of the character do make the film all the more great consider where the potential can go, and I’m sure one particular one will get fans talking. However, I would highly recommend everyone to go watch Homecoming. It’s not a reboot for reboot stake or for Sony to make more money, it’s a Spider-Man movie that we’ve been waiting for.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

4.5 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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‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Review

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Dir: James Gunn

Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Gleen Close and Benicio Del Toro

Synopsis: In the far reaches of space, an American pilot named Peter Quill finds himself the object of a manhunt after stealing an orb coveted by the villainous Ronan

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will have minor spoilers but nothing that will spoil the movie itself.*

 

 

When Marvel announced they would be doing a movie based on relatively unknown characters in Guardians of the Galaxy, pretty much everyone voiced an opinion on the matter. Was it going to be good? Bad? Would it be too weird? However, what everyone agreed on was this would be one of the Marvel’s biggest risks. So was the start of Phase 2 and the so called “Cosmic Era” the hit Marvel expected it to be? Yes, yes it was.

 

The movie starts off with a strong emotional scene set in the 80s of a young Peter Quill in the hospital. After a strong goodbye to a family member he runs out and gets scooped by a ship. Fast forward 20-something years later and Peter Quill (Pratt) is all grown up and now goes by the moniker “Star-Lord” although it’s almost only to himself and goes around the galaxy gather things to sell.

 

The movie than opens with Quill retrieving a silver orb that everyone wants. The orb puts him in the crosshairs of the assassin Gamora (Saldana), who is working for a Kree religious fanatic Ronan (Pace).  Ronan wants to wipe out the Xandarians, which is the home planet of the Nova’s – an intergalactic police force – for commissioning a peace treaty with the Kree, and will get help from Gamora’s father Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) in exchange for the orb.

 

While all that is going on, Quill gets a bounty placed on his head and that is where we get introduced to the duo of Rocket (voiced by Cooper), an angry, talking raccoon, and Groot (voiced by Diesel), a walking tree who can only say, “I am Groot.”  The four eventually end up on Xandar and end up getting thrown in jail. It’s in the jail where we meet Drax, who wants to avenge his family’s death by killing Ronan and Thanos. They eventually decide to put some of their differences aside, and even with their own agendas, to escape the prison and find out why Thanos and Ronan want to the orb.

 

The movie is a bit plot-heavy, which isn’t a bad thing, but it really doesn’t feel that way. It’s a bit slow at the beginning – what movie isn’t – but it picks up as it progress. But even with everything going on, like the universe being threaten or the beautiful landscapes and designs, it’s all about the characters. Each character has their own moments, whether it’s individually or together, and probably one of the best scenes of the movie is when they finally decide to be an actual team. Kudos has to be given to director James Gunn for making this team up work in a little over two hours as oppose to The Avengers where we had the foundation of that team up being laid out by several movies over years.

 

What? A picture in my review?

What? A picture in my review?

 

But next to Gunn’s direction, the movie is bought together by it’s impressive cast, which is lead by Chris Pratt, who is almost perfectly cast as Star-Lord. He’s cocky, heroic and can also deliver a hero’s speech as he is also coming up with one-liners. Being a child of the 80s, his references are usually themed to that era but they don’t seemed dated or cheesy and they actually work.

 

Zoe Saldana is already use to playing strong kick ass female characters and Gamora no different. She’s determined, deadly and at times feels like she’s the compass of the group, which is weird considering she is one of the daughters of “The Mad Titan” Thanos. Equally as deadly is Drax, played by Dave Bautista. Although it would seem like he’s the muscle of the group, although he does have some great action moments, Drax will definitely be a favorite for some. He has some of the funniest lines and moments in the movie and does so with great timing and deadpan wit.

 

But of course we have to talk about Rocket and Groot. Both characters were done by motion-capture and CGI, but while it seems so simple to put in a walking, talking, machine gun touting, genetically modified raccoon and a walking tree that only says three words, the character provide the team with some, even more, comic relief and warmth. Bradley Cooper brings a great sarcastic tone to Rocket and without spoiling anything also brings some great emotional scenes. Diesel, who already has a limited talking character under his belt with The Iron Giant, does it yet again. Who knew that “I am Groot” can be said so many different ways and when said can mean something entirely different.

 

The villains are also pretty great here, Ronan the Accuser, played by Lee Pace has a great menacing look to him and is almost unstoppable, although some might see him as one-dimensional, which I can see but Pace does a great job every time he’s on screen. Karen Gillan’s Nebula, the other daughter of Thanos and least favorite, is also pretty cool although it would have been nice to see a little more of her. Even Korath (Hounsou) who has a great look to him isn’t really anything more than glorified henchmen. Of course, the ever so reliable Michael Rooker as Yondu has a standout moment.

 

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Finally, John C. Reilly and Glenn Close make the most of their supporting roles, as part of the Nova Cop. However, comic book fans already know, and as I stated earlier, Josh Brolin voices Thanos. Thanos does show up and I wouldn’t be a fan if I didn’t mention him. He only has one real scene and then shows up on screens and is talked about a lot. One shot in particular should be recognizable to comic book fans when we see Thanos as a whole character, it might be fan service but its welcomed fan service.

 

While the movie is a “Marvel” movie, it also feels like a James Gunn movie. It’s sarcastic, humorous, some dark humor (especially one that involves bodily fluids) and pushes its PG-13 rating but never really feels that way. More importantly, this is Gunn’s first big budgeted film and you can tell by the set-pieces and how much everything feels someone was let loose to create something from the ground up. The other nice thing is although this will eventually fall into the Marvel Cinematic Universe – there are elements from the already set MCU – Guardians feels like it could be set in it’s own universe, which seems odd to say since it’s set in the Galaxy.

 

All in all, Guardians of the Galaxy is fun, funny, has sly dialogue and is action-packed. The design and set-pieces are great to look at (even in 3D) and the music choices are great and fit very well into the movie as a whole. Marvel’s big risk, for me, wasn’t a big risk at all. Yes, it takes risks but it is those risks that make the movie what it is and what makes it so fun. The movie’s connective pieces to the MCU are great to see and to see Thanos have some screen time is really awesome to see (also the mention of the Kree!). Is it the best Marvel movie yet? I’d say it is up there.

 

 

Guardians of the Galaxy

5 out of 5