Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Ant-Man and the Wasp

It turns out size does matter.

When compared to Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp seems like a step back to for us to catch our breath. It is not as good as the previously mentioned films, but it is still another hit for the titan Marvel team (and an improvement from the first film back in 2015).

It is such an improvement that I am willing to sit through the original again to make sure I did not miss anything (I was not a fan). It is required to see before hand, as Ant-Man and the Wasp is one of those sequels where you will be too confused going into without prior knowledge. We pick up a few years after Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, who is ideally cast) had helped in Civil War. He is on house arrest, but is still able to spend some time with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). Lang is only a few days away from getting rid of the ankle bracelet before he is kidnapped by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), now known as the Wasp. Once it is discovered that Scott had a dream linked to Hank’s long-lost wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), there is the possibility of bringing her back.

Other characters return such as Scott’s ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new hubby Paxton (Bobby Cannavale), who no longer hate Scott. There is also the return of Scott’s friend Luis (Michael Pena), who gets more into the action scenes than before.

The new characters include Hank’s old work associate/rival Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) with his own hidden agendas, and the mysterious Ava (Hannah John-Kamen), also known as Ghost. While she is not the most memorable villain, she does become more than a match for the two title heroes. There is also Walton Goggins as Sonny, a mob man after Pym’s lab (Ghost is as well, but for other reasons).

I forgot to mention about the lab. By now, we know Hank has made the technology to change the size of any object, and his lab is no exception. How convenient it is to just carry literally not only your work, but the location as well wherever you want! He also has a collection of cars he can pick from to drive at his leisure (now that I think of it, he should have had a tank, but oh well).

The movie clearly has a lot of laugh out loud moments (most of which go to Rudd, but everyone has their fair share). Some of the moments, however, are the negative reactions I felt. The main includes Michael Pena (who is undoubtably talented). While he has many scenes with laughs, it is his one that involves “truth serum” that stretches beyond the breaking point.

Director Peyton Reed clearly knows how to meld the action with the comedy (such as the scene where Ant-Man and Wasp need to get a memento from Cassie while she is in school). We hardly think of things like special effects when they happen, because they are so good we are left only to care for the characters, which is what we should do in the first place.

Parents, as stated before, this is a much lighter movie than other Marvel films. There is swearing, action, and some kissing (one scene of extreme making out), but that is it. Middle school and above are totally fine, and even maybe down to age seven or eight.

I end by saying how Marvel movies never get enough credit for their casting choices. Very few (if any) of the casting choices have been wrong for Marvel in the past ten years (who would have thought replacing an actor like Edward Norton with Mark Ruffalo would be the better move?!) In this film, we get the sense of how much fun it was for the elder Pym’s to have been the original Ant-Man and Wasp (obviously, due to thespians like Douglas and Pfieffer). Add in Rudd, Lilly, and the others I won’t mention in the other films, and you see only a glimpse of why this universe has been so dominate, and will continue to do so.

 

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

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Thor Ragnarok

Despite the loss of his hammer (and some hair), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still ready for battle.

Marvel is now just one or two movies away from me actually picking up a comic.

The Thor trilogy ends, as the other two trilogies Marvel has provided (Iron Man and Captain America) ended, with a blast. Thor: Ragnarok is not only the best Thor movie, but one of the top four or five best Marvel has ever given us to date.

After the events of Thor: The Dark World (which is shown to us in a play on Asgard) and a battle against evil beings set to Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song”, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his half brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) set out to find their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), only to discover that he is being pursued by a secret sister of Thor, Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett, who, as of this reading, I have yet to see give a bad performance).

The God of Thunder escapes, only to be marooned on a far away planet run by the Grandmaster (a role that could only be played by Jeff Goldblum). It is here where he reunites with his old “friend from work”, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

From his first lines, I have finally began to realize how much of a sense of humor Thor has gained since he first hit the big screen back in 2009. This third film delivers some of the best humor any Marvel film has delivered (or any comic book movie, for that matter). I won’t go spoiling anything, except to say I never saw a movie I can remember that had the term “The Devil’s Anus” before. Yeah, you heard me.

Parents, there is one part in the movie that I felt was a little bit on the queasy side. We learn that the Grandmaster’s space ship is used mainly for orgies (“Don’t touch anything,” Thor orders). Yes, it is funny, but a little awkward. Nevertheless, if your kid has seen a marvel movie, they will like this one.

Even with grand special effects and wise cracking dialogue, the most enduring thing about Thor: Ragnarok is the sense of fun. You can tell all the actors (including the very welcoming Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and director Taika Waititi as the heartfelt Korg) are having a blast. It is no wonder why so many actors in Hollywood are jumping on the Marvel express.

Overall: Four Stars ****

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

Baby Groot

I have stated before that I never grew up reading a single comic book. My childhood knowledge of Marvel (as well as DC) came from movies and TV shows. Perhaps this maybe the reason why Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 did not appeal to me as much as the first (though it is still worth watching).

GOTG V2 starts off with all the Guardians (Peter/Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot) defending a battery source from a giant monster. This is all done as Groot dances to ELOs “Mr. Blue Sky”, providing one of the movies many pleasant scenes.

Eventually, the Guardians are persued by a group of Golden people called the Sovereigns, led by their High Priestess Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki). They are after batteries stolen from them by Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper, who gives us an even deeper character this time around). The Guardians are forced to crash-land, and are met by Peter’s (Chris Pratt) long-lost father Ego (Kurt Russell).

Ego takes Peter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), and Drax (Dave Bautista, who gives the film some of its most immortal quotes) to his home planet with his assistant Mantis (Pom Klementieff). Staying with the ship is Rocket and (the ever cute) Baby Groot (still voiced by Vin Diesel) as they watch over Gamora’s sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). Eventually, they are tracked down by the familiar face of Yondu (the always underappreciated Michael Rooker). He is still after Quill, after being denounced by Stakar Ogord (Sylvester Stallone).

What made the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie so endearing was the humor, and Vol. 2 is no different (the same can also be said for the immaculate soundtrack). I won’t ruin any moments, except to say the scene stealing belongs (again) to Groot. When sent to find an item, what he returns with goes from hilarious to even a bit disturbing.

My main issue with the movie is the villain. Without saying who it is (thought it will become rather obvious), the actor is indeed a far talented one. It just seems like the Guardians have more than enough character and spunk to deserve a much menacing villian. In Vol. 2, the villian is downright forgettable.

Parents, if you kids have seen the first movie, they are fine with this one. There is some action/violence (mild), swearing, and one awkward (though funny) scene about where babies come from.

I know there are probably a lot of nods to the comics that would make GOTG V2 very appreciated by comic book fans. Good for them. I am more of a movie fan. That being said, the movie does give us some good slow moments of reflection (especially at the end, which took me off guard).

While it is not as good as the first one, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has certainly started the 2017 movie season with a bang.

 

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