Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Essentially, the concept for Ant-Man and the Wasp was derived from the first Ant-Man feature.

In the last film, Scott Lang had to shrink down to microscopic size and unintentionally entered the Quantum Realm. His mentor, and the original Ant-Man, Dr. Hank Pym originally theorized that there was no coming back from the Quantum Realm but that theory was shattered when Scott returned to full-size.

The last person to shrink between the molecules before Scott, was Janet Van Dyne, Hank Pym’s wife, Hope’s mother and the original Wasp and she was lost to the Quantum Realm and never returned but if Scott could come back, perhaps she could be saved.

antman

Image by Marvel Studios

The events of this film pick up two years after Civil War and perhaps days or weeks prior to the events of Infinity War. Ant-Man and the Wasp essentially answers the question of where Scott was while Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were clashing with the Mad Titan and what he was up to.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is essentially a race against time rescue flick. If Hank, Hope and Scott are to enter the Quantum Realm to rescue Janet, they have to evade the FBI, the ruthless Sonny Burch and a mysterious adversary with indirect ties to Hank’s past called The Ghost before the opportunity to save her expires.

This film isn’t the best work under Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it is enough to be likable. Payton Reed crawls the fine line between superhero feature and comedy well enough but the plot is crammed with so many subplots and characters, it’s hard to keep track of what is going on and the feel of the film shifts so uncomfortably between the tones of serious and funny.

I was also disappointed that this film walked away from the appealing heist film elements of the first film but I can see why because Reed wanted to allow Evangeline Lily’s character to flourish with a plot that is more connected to her character than Paul Rudd’s.

The writing team of Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari and star Paul Rudd do a good job at taking from previous features to shape this story while incorporating new and creative ideas into the texture of the film but I honestly feel that the film is more funny than anything. Outside of the comedy, I believe this film’s greatest strength is its ability to play to the strengths of its stars.

Paul Rudd is well into his comfort zone as Ant-Man and Evangeline Lily is finally allowed to grow into the badass audiences saw glimpses of in the first Ant-Man and she shines as the Wasp. Other strong performers include Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie and Michael Peña as Luis. Hannah John-Kamen isn’t the best villain Marvel has produced but she doesn’t do a bad job. The rest of the cast including Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Randall Park, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer and Michelle Pfieffer are either completely underutilized as characters or completely awkward to watch.

The visual effects are sharp, Dante Spinotti’s cinematography is good, Dan Lebental and Craig Wood’s editing is good, Christophe Beck’s music is rather generic compared to other Marvel scores, Shepherd Frankel’s production design is rather safe, the art direction is pretty solid, Gene Serdena and Christopher J. Wood’s set decoration is impressive here and there, and Louise Frogley’s costume design is good when you really get down to it.

I liked the first Ant-Man well enough and I can say that I liked Ant-Man and the Wasp well enough as well but when you compare it to the slate of films in the Phase Three lineup of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it doesn’t exactly measure up to the high caliber of work Marvel Studios has produced in the past.

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Movie of the Week: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Has anyone else recovered from Infinity War? No? Me neither. If anything, this week’s feature film will take me and millions back to the blissful time before the….trauma. This Independence Day weekend we roll on with Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we check in on what happened to Scott Lang after most of the Avengers went to a supermax after Civil War. An entity from the Quantum Realm has escaped to Earth and this Ghost plans to unleash chaos unless she is stopped. Ant-Man and the Wasp appear to be the world’s only hope.

Director: Payton Reed

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

Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily, Michael Douglas, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Hannah John-Kamen, Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Walton Goggins, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park, Laurence Fishburne and Michelle Pfeiffer.

What am I expecting to see?: Right now, Phase Three of the MCU has been damn near perfect and I fully expect Ant-Man and the Wasp to carry on the streak of excellence. I remember being satisfied with the first Ant-Man and I think that with Payton Reed coming back, more settled in his role as director compared to the first film, Ant-Man and the Wasp seems destined to be more entertaining than the first one. Fireworks and superheroes this week? What more could a man want in his Fourth of July weekend!

Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

To be honest, I was going into War for the Planet of the Apes with an idea of what I was in for. Based on what I’ve read, what I’ve seen and heard about the film up to that point, I thought audiences were going into a film where Caesar would be leading his species in an all out assault to preserve their survival against what is left of mankind, yet I was unprepared for what really was in store.

apesposter

Image by 20th Century Fox

Essentially, War occurs two years post-Dawn and well distant from the events that transpired in Rise but not totally disconnected. After Caesar suffers an unimaginable loss that rocks him to his core, he takes it on himself to journey across the wintery wilds to find a man called The Colonel and kill him. Caesar is aided by his most trusted simian companions, Maurice, Luca and Rocket and pick up a few stragglers along the way in the peculiar Bad Ape and a mute girl who is later dubbed Nova; this journey to find the Colonel fills Caesar with inner turmoil to hold on to the principles he held so dear to him or embrace the darkness within himself to exact his vengeance, like Koba did. This inner battle within the first super ape is the War that takes center stage in the film.

Matt Reeves, the director and co-writer of the film, impressed me in bringing Caesar grand story to a stirring finish in the fashion that he did. Reeves and Mark Bomback have crafted a story with heavy biblical references to allow their protagonist to shine in the brightest way they could and truly cement his legacy as his story comes full circle.

Essentially, the Planet of the Apes franchise in its entirety is a story about hubris; how living creatures create their own undoing and there is a success in how this story, Caesar’s story, was told. In War, Caesar wrestles with his darkness brought on by immense grief, he suffers like Christ suffers, he led his species to freedom as Moses did, every action he takes in this movie, shapes the course of his future and the future of his apes and this story leaves a profound and thought-provoking experience with audiences and it resonates when they leave the theater.

I especially took pleasure in how the film handled Caesar’s relationship with Nova. Before the two meet, Caesar dives right into his inner demons to the point where he is almost apathetic, remorseless and bloodthirsty but Nova reminds him of the humanity inside him and how that humanity has kept him from becoming Koba; in a way that theme of humanity and hubris tied all of the films together.

Andy Serkis’ performance is once again, high caliber! The CGI visual effects are just a costume but he breathes life into his characters and audiences are taken for an emotional ride with his performance as Caesar. From the moment, Caesar makes his presence known in the picture, everyone becomes invested; Serkis commands the screen as this character and doesn’t let up for an instant!

Woody Harrelson is as good as I’ve ever seen him as the vicious and bloodthirsty Colonel. Steve Zahn is a hoot as Bad Ape, Amiah Miller is terrific as Nova, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Michael Adamthwaite, Gabriel Chavarria, Judy Greer, Ty Olsson, Sara Canning, Aleks Paunovic, Devyn Dalton, Max Lloyd-Jones, Alessandro Juiliani and Toby Kebbell were all outstanding in the roles they played.

Michael Giacchino’s score, Michael Seresin’s cinematography, James Chinlund’s production design, William Hoy and Stan Salfas’ editing were all very satisfying. The visual effects were as elite as you might see all year.

I went into War for the Planet of the Apes expecting something totally different but I was completely washed away by how emotionally resonating, thought-provoking and creatively assembled this movie was. You won’t be flat out excited by it, but you will be immersed in how Caesar cements his legacy and how his tale comes to a close.

The Planet of the Apes franchise finishes on a very strong note.

Movie of the Week: War For the Planet of the Apes

The epic conclusion to the legend that is Caesar is coming to a close this weekend. The first of the super-apes has inherited the sins of the wicked Koba and now what is left of mankind has dispatched a military force to quell the threat the apes possess. Caesar led his species to freedom in Rise, he did all that he could to maintain that peace in Dawn, but now that seems so long ago. For his home, his family, his future, Caesar has finally embraced the fact that now is the time to fight for his future and this is War. This is the war that will determine who is the superior species on Earth. This is the war that will shape the course of the future going forward. The War For the Planet of the Apes has begun!

Director: Matt Reeves

Screenwriters: Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Toby Kebbell, Judy Greer, Terry Notary, Max Lloyd-Jones, Gabriel Chavarria, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite and Devyn Dalton.

What am I expecting to see?: I have enjoyed this rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise thus far and from what I’ve heard regarding this film in the past few weeks, is that War For the Planet of the Apes is the best one yet and could be the best film to come out this summer! I expect this movie to do what every final installment in a trilogy should do: tie everything together and turn up the intensity another notch. I expect Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson to command the screen and this movie to be technically elite in every aspect. I’ve been looking forward to War for the Planet of the Apes for a long time.

Ant-Man Sequel is in the Works!

Image by Marvel

It was only a matter of time. Considering how well-received it was, how much money it made to date and-not to toot my own horn-how much I personally enjoyed it, it shouldn’t truly stretch the imagination that Ant-Man is going to get a sequel. The Insect of the Avengers Initiative Marvel Cinematic Universe starred Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a thief who is recruited by prominent scientist Dr. Henry Pym, played by Michael Douglas to pull off a heist of size-shifting proportions. Peyton Reed’s summer superhero blockbuster was a HUGE hit thus Kevin Feige and the creative team of Marvel decided that the Scott and his Pym Particles was worthy enough to have an Ant-Man 2 or as it will be dubbed, Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Judging by the title, it’s safe to say that Rudd and Evangeline Lily will be reprising their roles as Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne. Details are somewhat scarce regarding who else will return for the sequel though.

The studio has no details regarding whether director Peyton Reed will be returning

There is also no word if anyone else from the cast will return to Ant-Man and the Wasp, including Michael Douglas, T.I., Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña or Judy Greer. There is also news regarding the schedule of the Phase Three lineup as films are being shifted around.

Additionally, Ant-Man’s second adventure will lead to a couple of other films shifting their dates, with Marvel’s Black Panther moving up to February 16, 2018 and Marvel’s Captain Marvel landing on March 8, 2019.

Finally, three untitled Marvel Studios films will premiere on May 1, 2020, July 10, 2020, and November 6, 2020.

Ant-Man and the Wasp will arrive in theaters on July 6, 2018.

Review: Ant-Man

Image by Marvel

Marvel can officially close the books on Phase Two of its Avengers Initiative now that “The Insect” has come and gone with his installment. Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd as the title character, a thief who is recruited by a prominent scientist to steal dangerous technology that could propel the world down a chaotic spiral, using a suit powered by particles capable of reducing his size but augmenting his strength.

Ant-Man may seem clumsy and tad bit sloppy in terms of it’s narrative storytelling but there is no denying that this is perhaps the slickest superhero movie since Iron Man. This had heart, humor, the action was very sturdy, it was visually splendid and I enjoyed Ant-Man from start to finish.

Director Peyton Reed was asked to step in after Edgar Wright walked away from the project due to creative differences with Marvel, but Reed truly held on to the integrity that Wright was working to achieve and kept the foundation of Wright’s vision intact through the screenplay, co-written by Wright, Adam McKay, Joe Cornish and star Paul Rudd.

What I truly enjoyed about Ant-Man: continuity. This movie knows where it stands in the Avengers Universe, post-Age of Ultron yet left enough Easter Eggs for what is to come in Phase Three, even though I felt this was worthy enough to be the primary installment of Phase Three; I also liked the fact that Michael Douglas’ character Hank Pym is given his proper due with this franchise as his character was the original Ant-Man and one of the founding members of the Avengers in the comics, but in this movie he was an integral member of S.H.I.E.L.D. in his early days until he left to keep his tech from falling into the wrong hands.

By Red Carpet Report on Mingle Media TV from Culver City, USA, via Wikimedia Commons

Rudd’s character Scott Lang, is not only just the hero but he’s a hero you can actually relate to and root for. He just out of prison only to have a rough time trying to get his life together, find a job, reconnect with his daughter, try and avoid a life of crime, I just related to his character somehow because I’m trying to make out here myself and it isn’t easy.

Then you have the characters that I’m not really certain to feel about, in this case the characters of Hope, played by Evangeline Lily, and Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll. Hope is Pym’s daughter who bears resentment towards her father because of the circumstances of her mother’s death and Cross is Pym’s former protege determined to take everything away from his former mentor no matter the cost. Hope has her strong points, but her character seems so vapid and there doesn’t appear to be much to her except her daddy issues and Cross is just a cheap excuse for a bad guy who doesn’t really get interesting until he puts on the Yellowjacket suit.

The rest of the cast including Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Michael Peña, T.I., Martin Donovan, David Dastmalchian, were either characters who were reduced to props with no discernible dimension of their own or characters that I didn’t much care for. Abby Ryder Forston, who played Lang’s daughter, was cute considering the material she was given, but still falls under that category. In fact, I think some of the CGI ants in this movie were more significant and lively than most of the actors in this movie.

Will I say Ant-Man is the best superhero movie released this year? Unfortunately, no. Age of Ultron will not be dethroned yet, but I will say that the savvy that went into the production of this picture was fresh enough to make me see past the blemishes and say that this is one of the most enjoyable films released to date.

When it comes to heist movies, don’t expect anything on a sophisticated scale a la Inception or American Hustle. Ant-Man‘s premise to use an army of ants to steal the Yellowjacket suit before it falls into the wrong hands is a premise that you know that you can’t take seriously but it seems like a stretch in of itself. Maybe because of the film’s genre or the fact that it doesn’t feel as if the stakes aren’t raised high enough; it’s just a touch shallow in the wrong places.

Peyton Reed had to step in after the fallout between Marvel and Edgar Wright, but he gave a solid effort directing this movie; I truly thought the film was paced nicely and he allowed the action to take the spotlight when the action needed to and the same could be said for the humor.

I liked the screenplay, I liked the visual effects, I thought Russell Carpenter’s cinematography and camera effects fit what this movie and what moviegoers were looking for when it comes to a superhero who can change his size, Dan Lebental and Colby Parker Jr.’s editing wasn’t world class but it was convincing for this movie.

There’s a saying:

It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the dog.

-Sidenote: I do not condone animal cruelty in any way, shape or form

Ant-Man may be the Insect of the Avengers Initiative, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in strength. Not overwhelming strength but respectable. After all, he embarrassed a new Avenger in a fight. That’s respectable.

Movies of the week: Mr. Holmes & Ant-Man

It’s a double feature for this week. The subjects: a dignified period piece featuring a distinguished leading man cast as the world’s most famous detective and a big-budget superhero spectacle where size doesn’t matter. Retired detective Sherlock Holmes is well into the twilight years of his prestigious and distinguished life and reconnects with the one that got away; a case involving beautiful woman was left unsolved, and there is no way the brilliant detective is going to let that mar his illustrative career. Sir Ian McKellan stars in Mr. Holmes.

What am I expecting to see?: For once it’s good to see Ian McKellan not play Magneto or Gandalf the Grey/White and the lure of him taking on the role of Sherlock Holmes is undeniable. I believe Bill Condon, with Mitch Cullin’s screenplay, has crafted a beautiful story for McKellan to flex his acting muscles and deliver a brimming performance, with Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada, Patrick Kennedy and Phillip Davis supporting him. I’ve been quite taken with the allure of Mr. Holmes and I feel it would be quite a treat.

Phase Two of the Avengers Initiative has come to a close and now the epilogue feature is on the horizon. Scott Lang is a former thief who has just left “da joint” and he has been offered a chance at redemption by renowned scientist Dr. Henry Pym. Pym believes Lang’s talents as a thief could be a great asset to pull off a heist that could be of a great help to the world at large. Lang must embrace his inner hero and stop Darren Cross from unleashing a devastating horror upon the world. Scott Lang must become Ant-Man.

What am I expecting to see?: I found Age of Ultron a tough act to follow but I’ve heard great things about Ant-Man. Peyton Reed had to fill in as director since Edgar Wright stepped away due to creative differences, but early reviews on Ant-Man have been glowing! The cast of Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña, Bobby Canavale, Judy Greer, T.I. is diverse and look as if they can bring depth to this film. I think a hero as small as Ant-Man can become a big hit.