‘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: Office Christmas Party, Nocturnal Animals, and La La Land

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, it’s more of a mixed than it was last time. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Office Christmas Party

Directors: Josh Gordon and Will Speck

Writers: Justin Malen, Laura Solon, and Dan Mazer

Cast: Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Courtney B. Vance, Rob Corddry, Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Sam Richardson, Karan Soni, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and Jillian Bell.

Synopsis: When his uptight CEO sister threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager throws an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of the hand…

 

Tis the season for Christmas films, and what better film than an office Christmas party movie where things go wrong, right? While Office Christmas Party does have some saving moment scattered throughout, the film falls flat on a lot of areas, which is a shame considering the pretty good cast the film fills out.

Office Christmas Party follows a tech company, Zenotech, that is threaten to be shut down by the company CEO Carol (Aniston). However, her brother Clay (Miller), who happens to have had the branch inherited to him by his father, intends to keeping the branch alive at any means. Along with his CTO Josh (Bateman) and programmer Tracy (Munn), Clay thinks they can save the branch by signing a big wig in Walter Davis (B. Vance). Carol seeing it as impossible gives them two days to get it done. Seeing their hopes slips, they decide to throw a massive office Christmas party to impressive him, get the deal and save the branch. Of course, things get out of hand.

The idea of an office Christmas party going crazy isn’t all the exciting, but you would think with a great cast like this, they would be able to conjure something worthwhile and better than average. Unfortunately, the film barely does that and fails to really connect to most of the core characters.

T.J. Miller plays pretty much the same character he’s done before, while Jason Bateman plays the straight-laced character and Kate McKinnon, who plays the head of HR, is a wacky and out-there character that has one big moment to shine. Jennifer Aniston playing the cut-throat CEO seems to a perfect fit for her. The rest of the cast have their moments to shine, but when the film takes time to focus on the main three characters in their respected stories, it fails to get us invested in them.

Bateman’s character goes through a divorce at the beginning of the film, but we don’t really see him affected by it or see his ex-wife. Olivia Munn’s character has her own arc that only serves the plot when it needs to, and there’s an interesting plot point with Jillian Bell that comes out of left field, but doesn’t really go anywhere. Also, seeing Courtney B. Vance break loose is a sight to see.

All in all, Office Christmas Party does have some great laughs scattered throughout, but the film doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.

Office Christmas Party

3 out of 5

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Nocturnal Animals

Director: Tom Ford

Writer: Tom Ford

Cast: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Armie Hammer, Karl Glusman, Michael Sheen, and Laura Linney

Synopsis: An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

 

Based on the novel by Austin Wright and directed by former designer Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals follows Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is an art dealer, who is not happy with her life, suddenly gets a package from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). The package contains a novel he wrote called Nocturnal Animals, which he dedicated to her – and something he once called her. Susan begins to read the book, seeing the lead character of Tony, as Edward, and follows a family driving through middle of nowhere Texas that end up getting attacked by three individuals lead by Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Tony manages to get away as his wife and daughter (played by Isla Fisher and Ellie Bamber) are kidnapped and gets help from Officer Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon).

During all this, Susan also starts getting flashbacks of former her life with Edward as her current husband (Armie Hammer) is away on business. There we see how her marriage failed, and we get enthralled in a haunting, tense thriller drama from beginning to end.

It’s not hard to see the parallels between the real-life story of Susan and Edward’s novel, and flows together rather nicely once everything picks up. However, there are some things that get lost in the shuffle. Even though the film is about Amy Adams’ Susan and Edward’s novel, it would have been nice to see more of Armie Hammer’s character fleshed out instead of just being Susan’s husband – they only shared about three scenes together. There is another character that random pops up and is never mentioned ever again, but for the sake of keeping my non-spoiler tag I won’t mention it here.

Despite some of the flaws, Nocturnal Animals is held together by the cast and the gripping novel plotline. Amy Adams is always reliable, and seeing her as this somewhat broken character is something she handles very well. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is mostly that of Tony, but watching Tony’s story is arguably the best part of the film. That being said, that also works as a bit of a negative. The fact that the story within a story works more and is more interesting than the “real” story is a bit of a shame, but that could be just me. Going back to the cast, Michael Shannon also continues his string of reliable and great characters with Andes, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson fines a great line of sadistic redneck and playing dumb.

All in all, Nocturnal Animals has all the elements to keep the film entertaining and keep you invested, but most of it relies on the story within the story. It’s not a bad thing overall, but when it parallels to Susan’s story it takes you out just a bit.

Nocturnal Animals

4 out of 5

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La La Land

Director: Damien Chazelle

Writer: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, Callie Hernandez, Jessica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno, Finn Wittrock, and J.K. Simmons

Synopsis: A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.

 

Damien Chazelle made waves with his last feature film, Whiplash, so people were really looking forward to what he had in store with La La Land. Turns out, it was another great story with great leads, an amazing score, awesome set-pieces and more importantly, a very old timey Hollywood feel.

The film follows Mia (Emma Stone), a struggling actress trying to keep her head above water, and works as a barista on the Warner Bros. studio backlot. She keeps meeting Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist with dreams of his own: he wants to open his own club. The two eventually end up together and what follows is their relationship as it goes through ups and downs in Hollywood.

La La Land takes a bit to find its tempo – I’m not even sorry for the bad music pun – but once it does, the film instantly becomes a whole new animal. The film does fall into musical territory, just so you know, but the soundtrack and music by Justin Hurwitz works so well that you’ll be nodding your head and trying to sing along with the music. You combine that with the great looking set-designs and you’ll fully embrace the vivid colorful world La La Land brings to the table.

It also helps that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are – once again – great as the leads. The two obviously have great chemistry together (this is the third film together), and their leads are likeable dreamers that fall for each other in a nontraditional way, which was nice to see, and seeing their relationship smoothly transition is what makes us emotionally invested in their story from beginning to end. Also, each of them have their own story arcs that don’t need the other to hang get involved in any real way. Mia struggles with her acting on her own, and Sebastian needs to decide on he wants to move forward with his passion. Both storylines feel real, and once we see the resolution it makes sense why they would choose what they do.

All in all, La La Land is a film that feels like an old timey Hollywood film that pays huge homage to the musicals of old, but also enough to set itself apart and pave its own way. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling carry the film from beginning to end, but it’s the music with the sets – or in many cases, real-life locations – and cinematography that makes the film work on multiple levels. Do yourself a favor and go watch La La Land as soon as you can.

La La Land

4.5 out of 5

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