Ant-Man and The Wasp


Viewed – 08 August 2018  Cinema

I really enjoyed the first Ant Man movie and thought it was a fun concept with some excellent effects and comedy.  This follow up has Paul Rudd’s Ant Man under house arrest following his actions during Captain America: Civil War and when Michael Douglas’ scientist and his daughter discover a way to possibly retrieve Douglas’ wife from the Quantum Realm, they turn to Ant Man for assistance.

ant-man-and-the-wasp

Not the deepest of storylines and one of the failings of this sequel which is mostly surface level entertainment more interested in gags and some slick action than having anything new to say that wasn’t already covered by the last movie.  The house arrest subplot also seemed shoe-horned in to tie-up loose ends from other movies.  I’d also add the pointless appearance from Walton Goggins (in his unending quest to be forgettable in every movie he appears in), and that motor-mouthed friend who like last time balances awkwardly between funny and annoying … even if he still gets some of the movie’s best lines.

Thankfully then, this energetic romp is bolstered by plenty of memorable sequences and welcome support from Lawrence Fishburn who plays a rival to Douglas.  The relationship between Ant-Man and his little daughter is also really charming (if underdeveloped since last movie).  I should also mention the mysterious, bad-ass character of ‘Ghost’ – an assassin who can phase in and out of form, enabling them to walk through walls etc who nearly steals the movie.  For such a concept Ant Man never stayed in shrunken tiny perspective for long enough for my liking, preferring to jump in and out of sizes … but usually to great comedic effect (the school sequence).  So quibbles aside this was still a solid follow up, but hopefully for the inevitable Ant Man 3 we’ll get something with a little more ahem… scale.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout


Viewed – 31 July 2018  Cinema

By the time the sixth entry in a popular franchise rolls around, you’d be forgiven for expecting things to get a bit lazy.  Tom Cruise has now cemented himself as the biggest action star since Schwarzeneggar with a does-his-own-stunts calling card to rival Jackie Chan, but can another outing keep on upping the anti? Let’s see… Cruise returns as super agent Ethan Hunt who this time is given the job of tracking down three nuclear bombs that have fallen into the hands of black market dealers.  He must stop them falling into the hands of The Apostles, what remains of Rogue Nation’s The Syndicate to prevent a global catastrophe.  However when a mission takes an unexpected turn, Hunt and his team (including series regulars Simon Pegg & Ving Rhames) find the odds stacked against them – just how it should be.

Mission Impossible Fallout

Ok so having to stop nuclear bombs falling into the wrong hands is probably as generic a plot as it gets and with the return of Rogue Nation’s sleepy-talking villain, this initially felt like it was going through the motions.  Yet it soon dawned on me that this time it was less about the mission and more about Ethan Hunt; the man, his methods and his dilemmas, constantly haunted by that fateful decision he made three movies back to send his wife (Michelle Monaghan) into hiding.  The story handles this aspect that’s only ever been hinted at in previous movies, very well indeed and proves the movie’s beating heart in place of set piece after set piece.  Yet along with the return of Rebecca Ferguson’s assassin ‘Elsa’ we still get tons of action, car chases, roof top chases, fights and a helicopter chase sequence that has to be seen to be believed.

The pacing stumbles occasionally, not helped by some copy and paste sequences that aren’t quite as good as we’ve seen before (another bike chase?), yet the movie makes up for this in strong performances and memorable character moments that made me love the camaraderie between Hunt and his agents.  Six movies into the franchise this may be a different kind of Mission Impossible but by this stage that’s a good thing.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Lady Bird


Viewed – 28 July 2018  online rental

Saoirse Ronan has become one of those go-to names for me.  This chameleon-like actress sometimes delivers roles that aren’t simply a recognisable name in a movie, but far more method for someone of her years.  She has one of those faces that isn’t Hollywood starlet and can absorb a character fully.  So we come to this coming of age drama about semi-rebellious Christine, who has given herself the name ‘Lady Bird’ as a way of standing out from the crowd and rebelling against a controlling but loving mother.  Yeah she’s a typical teenager trying to find her place in the world and as we follow this story, ‘boys’ come in and out of her life, friendships are formed and lost and she grows to learn a lot about herself along the way.

lady-bird

I really love these kind of small town America dramas, and although the premise is fairly typical, it’s all done with a whimsical charm, realism and quirky sense of humour that proved utterly absorbing.  Ronan is excellent as a young girl who is immediately likeable even if some of her actions made me want to shake her.  Surrounding characters like a nerdy friend,  an out of work dad and her mother (a brilliant Laurie Metcalf) also added to the movie’s personality.  Lady Bird’s story and her journey tugged at the heart strings in places and felt very relatable … with those typical high school teenage yearnings and mistakes we’ve likely all made.  I have to say that the movie gave me a sense that a big dramatic event was going to happen, such is par of the course for these kind of movies, but it never did … and somehow the movie is all the better for avoiding such a cliché.

As the directorial debut from Greta Gerwig this is nothing short of amazing … capturing a convincing portrayal of adolescence whilst at the same time being a love letter to her home town of Sacramento.  Despite it’s general familiarity there’s a real effortless joy to behold in spending time in this setting and with these characters.  Highly recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Tomb Raider


Viewed – 18 July 2018  Online rental

I’d say it’s more than reasonable to approach videogame adaptations with a degree of trepidation, as many an attempt in the past has resulting in underwhelming or terrible interpretations of a much loved past-time.  This latest offering, a sort of reboot after the Angelina Jolie movies … stars Ex-Machina’s Alicia Vikander as the plucky adventurer.  Following the disappearance of her father Richard Croft, Lara Croft is leaned on by her father’s company to sign papers regarding the family business and her inheritance.  However this leads Lara to launch her own trip to an uncharted island in a hope of solving the mystery of what her father was up to.

Tomb Raider

The story borrows to an extent from the first game in the recently rebooted franchise which gave us a refreshingly mature take on a character who in the past had become more famous for her polygon tits & ass than the games she was starring in.  Despite the source material however, this movie chooses to take it’s own path, leaving behind much of the personality and depth of story-telling in favour of a rather brainless Indiana Jones rip-off.  Sigh.

Vikander, so nuanced in the aforementioned Ex-Machina and potentially a rising star in the making is only passable as Lara despite those ripped abs and overall likeability.  The movie fails to do anything with her character that we haven’t seen before (rich girl hiding her richness?).  Add to this a terrible villain (Walton Goggins) who seems to do every movie villain stupid thing in the book (like choosing never to actually kill Lara or her Chinese deposable friend (Daniel Wu) even when they’re of no more use to him).  Also with an ending that is all sequel-bate with little to no justification for shady organization ‘Trinity’ being on the island …  I came away disappointed that still, Hollywood failed to deliver the care, respect or talent when it came  to a videogame adaptation.

Avoid – unless you’re a total Tomb Raider obsessive … and even then you deserve better.

Verdict:  2 /5

Tau


Viewed – 14 July 2018  Netflix

Another Netflix original movie that caught my eye.  This sci-fi thriller is about a girl named Julia, who goes about earning money by pick-pocketing and swiping goods off  people in night clubs then selling them to the local dodgy backstreet dealer for a small cash return.  However, one night she is kidnapped from her apartment, and wakes up strapped to a chair inside an elaborate high-tech house, run by a genius yet unhinged scientist and his advanced A.I.

Tau

Mika Monroe is an actress with the typical Hollywood good looks but often brings a vulnerability to her performances, which worked well in movies like The Guest and especially It Follows.  Here she’s initially all attitude, but delivers a more complex character arc on realising the best way to deal with her situation is to befriend ‘Tau’ the house’s A.I. (voiced recognisably by Gary Oldman).  It’s this relationship that forms the heart of the movie and less the battle of wits between Julia and the scientist, mostly because it doesn’t bring much to the table and that troubled-genius-shtick was done far better in Ex Machina.

The movie has some hit and miss effects, with the robotic security guard pretty well done, but some A.I. drones that look a little naff.  Add to this some alarming jumps in narrative that come out of nowhere towards the end (hand surgery…) and an ending that leaves far too many questions.  Yet I was still impressed how affected I was with the character of Tau to the point of really feeling sorry for it, and yes the movie borrows heavily from better movies but still manages to create an enjoyable 90 minutes regardless.

Verdict:  3 /5