2018 Half Time Report

halftimereport1

 

I am rather surprised that the first half of 2018 has had a rather good share of quality films, nearly breaking the tradition of having mainly bad films in the first half of a year. It actually made me realize that while I can make a top five of the year so far, I could not do a bottom five (for it would include films I actually enjoy).

That being said, such good movies like Deadpool 2, A Quiet Place, Incredibles 2, Ready Player One, and Set it Up did not make the list.

First, the bottom three…

 

3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

After the nice revival of the series in 2015, we are given this let down. Nice visuals, but way too many plot turns and clichés that make you shake your head rather than nod.

2. Irreplaceable you

It is rather sad when there is a romantic movie that tries hard to bring the tears and fails. Too many characters making choices that are really difficult to relate to, let alone agree with.

1. The Cloverfield Paradox

Credit to the film makers for keeping this project a secret up until the release right after the Superbowl. That is really the only positive I can think of. I have not seen any of the other Cloverfield films, but it still does not hide what a waste of time and money this was.

 

Note: The last two films mentioned star actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I point this out because I wish to say she is talented, and I hope she gets better material soon.)

 

Now the best so far…

5. Isle of Dogs

Leave it to Wes Anderson to, as always, give us as fresh an original movie as possible. It is weird, quirky, funny, touching, and has Bill Murray. So, you know, a basic Wes Anderson film.

4. Black Panther

Easily one of Marvel’s top films, the kingdom of Wakanda gives us some of the best action, grit, and realism we have seen in any action film. All the cast is wonderful.

3. Avengers: Infinity War

As if the previous film were not enough, Marvel then proceeded to give us the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight. Seriously, think of how bad this movie could have been, and yet there is hardly a fault. Regardless of how you feel, there is no doubt of the wonderful, terrifying screen presence of Thanos (Josh Brolin is definitely having a good 2018).

2. Hereditary

This horror thriller reminded me a lot of 2016’s unseen gem The Witch. With a stellar cast (mainly Toni Colette), this film leaves a taste that I have still not fully gotten out of my system. I don’t think I want to either.

1. Won’t you be my Neighbor?

We still have more action packed films (comic book or otherwise) to endure this year, but they did not come much more humble and respected than Fred Rogers (who took me years to realize his first name). A documentary that is sure to bring tears and cheers, it is as necessary a film as the world needs these days. Like Hereditary, it will leave a taste (albeit a much warmer and comfortable one) in your bones and soul that will not leave you (not to mention make you feel somewhat guilty for the parodies Rogers had to suffer).

 

Now to the second half of 2018…

 

 

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Deadpool 2

Wind Advisory: The super-duper group is formed.

 

Obviously, there are too many quips and jokes and one liners to list in a review of Deadpool 2, and would be redundant. As was the case with the original, the sequel has Ryan Reynolds at the core of its cinematic power. While it is not a masterpiece, it is an upgrade from its predesceor.

The film starts (with a nod to Scorsese’s Casino) with Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Reynolds) right where we left him: fighting crime and coming home to his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Caccarin). In fact, one of the best things about this film is that it stands by itself, not requiring you to know much about the first film (though there are some inside jokes you would miss). After a tragic event, Deadpool tries his hand with the X-Men , as they try to help a young mutant named Firefist (a well casted Julian Dennison). They soon find out he is being hunted down by Cable (Josh Brolin), who has traveled back in time after the future Firefist has killed his wife and daughter.

What happens from there is for you to discover. There is more than a fair share of crude humor and fourth wall breaking, as well as other film references such as Say Anything. It is yet to be half way through 2018, and Josh Brolin is already set with this as well as Infinity War, giving two performances of impressive strength. Other returning actors include T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams, and Karan Soni as Deadpool’s friends. New characters include Zazie Beetz as Domino (who, despite Deadpool’s unbelief, is lucky), Shioli Kutsuna as Yukio, and a surprise mutant who the credits say plays himself.

The biggest mistake I made was looking at the cast on IMDB before I saw the film. There are a good amount of cameos that I found out about too soon. Don’t look until after the film. Personally, I know there are a few I missed and need to seek out the second time.

Parents, it should be no surprise that you should know this is not a family film (though Deadpool does disagree on that perspective). There is no nudity (aside from some obscure male nudity) or strong sexual content as there was in the first film. There is, however, a lot of swearing and violence. A whole lot. High School and above.

Despite the film’s flaws (the sentimental scene at the end, though funny, does go long), there is no doubt that the credit scenes (which you would expect) are the funniest scenes in the whole film. They are better than any credit scenes in any film of the past decade. They almost make the price worth paying to see the movie itself, which is not to say the movie is bad. Rather the contrary.

Now if you excuse me, I need to watch Yentl.

 

Overall: Four Stars ****

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers Infinity War

Thanos (Josh Brolin) shakes the Avengers to their core, as well as the audience.

For the past ten years, Marvel has made (for the most part) solid entertaining movies. It has also been that long since The Dark Knight, which has always been the best superhero movie. Few movies have been any kind of a threat (Iron Man, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther). Now comes the cream of the crop, Avengers: Infinity War. In my mind, The Dark Knight is still number one, but it has been shaken by a solid silver place finisher.

I will be brief, for I would fear of any form of spoilers (there will be none here). If you have seen any of the Marvel films (I know you have), you know there have been six infinity stones in the universe. They are being hunted by Thanos (Josh Brolin), in his quest to bring balance to the cosmos. This is done with the infinity gauntlet, which he can use to wipe out half of all living things, with a snap of his fingers.

That is as far as I will go. Standing in his way are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Captain America (Chris Evans),….ok, basically everyone in every Marvel movie except for Ant-Man and Hawkeye (that was easier).

Remember Spider-Man 3, when there were too many characters and story lines? Well, Infinity War has only one real story line and one villain. Nevertheless, all the star players are not only here, but needed. Afterall, that is how hard it is to defeat a guy like Thanos. The first ten minutes alone prove my point.

Credit also must be given to directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Each character is given same amount of screen time, but the right amount of it. Kudos to the actors for remembering the old rule: no small parts, only small actors.

Speaking of which, there is even a role for Peter Dinklage. I mean that transition not as a put down joke, but from the heart. There is no doubting the man’s talent.

Parents, I was about to say it is like any Marvel movie, but, to be fair, there are a lot of darker moments. That is all I will say. Middle School and above.

That is all I will say, because this is not a movie to read about. It is one to experience. And what an experience.

 

Overall: Five Stars *****

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Captain America Civil War

The Captain leads Falcon, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, Scarlett Witch, and the Winter Soldier.

After the disappointing two plus hours of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Marvel comes out swinging with Captain America: Civil War. Well, more than swinging. Let’s just say swinging, flying, pulse ray blasting,…you get the idea.

This is easily the best superhero flick since Guardians of the Galaxy. Like that film, Captain America: Civil War was a film I was not expecting much from (the first two films were good, but not great). Star Anthony Mackie, who plays Sam Wilson/Falcon, descibed it best when he said it is like “The Avengers 2.5”.

Sure, the movie runs at 2 hours and 26 minutes (the longest Marvel film to date), but even that was not a big hinderence for me. The film starts off with Steve Rodgers/Captain America (Chris Evans) and a few of the Avengers accidently causing damage again to innocent lives while pursuing the evildoers. Enter the Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), who tells the Avengers they must now be under control by the U.N. or to “retire”. This leads to certain Avengers going one way and some the other way. It basically becomes team Captain versus Team Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., who proves again here he may be the best cast actor for any superhero in movie history).

Eventually, the Captain realizes he may still be able to save his old friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who is also the winter soldier. He is being controlled by Zemo (Daniel Bruhl). While that storyline is nicely done (and surprisingly easy to follow), the best part of the film is the conflict between the good guys, and there are a lot of them. Missing from the action this time is the Hulk and Thor, but we still have characters such as Black Widow (Scarlett Johanson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Vision (Paul Bettany) Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Ant-Man (the always lovable Paul Rudd), and new comer Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).

Everyone will have their favorite to root for, and mine was such a clear favorite I feel he deserves his own paragraph. For the third time, we have another actor playing Spider-Man, but this time, it is a very young one. Tom Holland (who I became a fan of the moment I saw him in 2012’s The Impossible), in an all star cast including a good amount of past Oscar nominees, is the scene stealer. The new Spider-Man film can’t come soon enough.

Parents, the movie is long, and a little violent (though not as violent/dark as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was). Still, if your kids have seen at least one other Marvel flick, they should be fine with this one.

I am aware some people may be making references to the politics of today. I personally did not really care to do so (that is a whole matter by itself). I said the loser of the fight of Batman against Superman was the audience. In Captain America: Civil War, the audience is the clear winner. This is one of the best films of the year.

Overall: Four Stars ****

Ant-Man (2015)

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014

Paul Rudd discovers his future in “Ant-Man”

Back in 5th grade, I was told to do a poem based off of an animal that I was like. My pre-teen, short stature self decided on an ant, who was small, but a hard worker. I thought of this poem while entering “Ant-Man”, hoping for a sleeper of a film to be entertaining and possibly more. Sadly, it was not the case.

Paul Rudd, one of Hollywood’s most charming actors, stars as Scott Lang, a recently released cat-burglar trying to make ends meat and pay child support so he can see his young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). His ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) is now dating a cop (Bobby Cannavale), who (surprise!) does not like Scott.

Eventually, Scott steals the Ant-Man suit, only to realize it was planned for him to do so by its creator Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, who can never make a role boring to watch). He is wanting Scott to help steal a piece of armor from Hank’s former partner Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). While I am sure he is a talented actor, Stoll gives us one of the most forgettable villains in recent super hero films, and when a super hero film has a sub par villain, you are in trouble.

Other characters include Hank’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly, recently returned from Middle-Earth), who is, of course, opposed to Scott but eventually likes him, and Luis (Michael Pena), a kind hearted friend but, to me, annoying at the end of it all.

Of course, we expect the action (or is it ANTtion?) scenes to be stellar, and they do for the most part. Fighting scenes vary from the inside of a suitcase to a toy train set. We also get a quick cameo from an Avenger, which was nice in its own way.

Paul Rudd does fine as the title character (mainly because there are enough times for him to be Paul Rudd), and Douglas succeeds because, well, he is Michael Douglas for crying out loud! The problem with the film, mainly, is the script. For example, the time to train Scott in the Ant-Man suit is limited (according to Hope) to days, yet the montage (and there has to be one of those, of course) seems to suggest they train for weeks.

Parents, there is some swearing, and action, but nothing else. If your kids have seen any of the other Marvel movies, they would be fine seeing this. I would argue, however, that it is not one of Marvel’s best efforts.

Overall: Two and a Half Stars **1/2

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

The Avengers are back.

The Avengers are back.

Like most great comic book movies, Avengers: Age of Ultron had me wishing I read comics more as a child. After seeing this film, I went straight to the web to gain more knowledge on the super heroes.

The movie starts out, quite literally, with a bang. It does not build up to any action scene, but drops you right in the middle of it. Like the first film, Avengers: Age of Ultron does not require you to see all of the heroes in their original movies (although some of them don’t have them). We still have Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man (played as uncannily as always by Robert Downey Jr.). He has tried to make a peacekeeping program with the help of Bruce Banner (the Hulk, played by Mark Ruffalo). Things take a turn for the worst when Ultron becomes convinced the only way to get peace in the world is by the Avengers extinction. His voice is deliciously played by the great James Spader. Others in the all star cast include Chris Evans of Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, and (in a more showier role than last time around) Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye.

There are two new additions as well. After staring as a married couple in last year’s Godzilla, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen now play twins Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, better known, respectively, as Quicksilver and Scarlett Witch. Other minor roles are still played well by Don Cheadle as War Machine, Anthony Mackie as The Falcon, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.

Like the last movie, each actor takes his/her role seriously but still has a lot of fun with it. It results in having one of the year’s funniest movies (the film starts off with a swearing gag that is hilarious). All of the dialogue is crisp, blunt, and totally authentic. If there were no action scenes, the movie would still be worth watching (it could even play as an audio book at times). There are even some scenes of romance, between two characters I would not have thought of.

The film is not perfect: It does run long, especially the last action scene, but that is a minor negative. Parents, there is some swearing, and some innuendo, but that is really it. The last minutes of this film will have you waiting franctically for the next film (especially when you see the short clip in the credits.

The 2015 Summer Movie season has started out on a big positive note.

Overall: Three and a Half Stars *** 1/2