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.

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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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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

The Shape of Water


Viewed – 07 July 2018  Online rental

I’ve been really looking forward to this.  Having been a long time admirer of visionary director Guillermo Del Toro since his fantastically ingenious debut ‘Cronos‘, we come to this, the Oscar winning movie that finally after so many years, recognised Del Toro for the master that he is. Telling the story of Elise, a young mute woman working as a cleaner at a military base during Cold War era 60’s America … we discover that a new ‘asset’ has come to the base for further experimentation and investigation by a team of scientists headed by Michael Shannon’s unhinged Government Agent.  Said asset is a amphibious humanoid creature who Elise forms a unique bond with that gradually turns into love.

The Shape of Water

A gothic romance, a dark fantasy … hallmarks of what Del Toro does best and this takes some of the most interesting aspects of his earlier work and weaves them together into probably the best thing he’s done since Hellboy 2.  The performances are first rate, with a scenery chewing Michael Shannon, although no stretch for an actor used to playing intense characters, on brilliant form.  Also the often underrated Doug Jones who has appeared in several of the director’s works always underneath a wealth of prosthetics is mesmerising as the creature.  Yet it’s the breakout turn from relative unknown stage actress Sally Hawkins that impresses most, bringing incredible depth and emotion to a character who can not speak.

The romance at the centre of the story did feel a little rushed however, with Elise too easily attracted to a creature-from-the-black-lagoon looking monster, although her urge to help it was more understandable.  Also how the movie doesn’t exactly treat the creature as anything all that unusual considering it’s like nothing anyone had ever seen up until that point, is puzzling.  Of course it would be remiss of me not to mention Del Toro’s direction and eye for darkly beautiful imagery; macabre and at times weirdly erotic.  A true master of his art whose movies always look stunning – this is no exception as the set design, the slightly exaggerated 60’s Americana and the often cartoonish characters all create a tone and atmosphere uniquely his own and it’s a real joy.  Del Toro has put together a movie that is both heart-breaking and touching yet thrilling, funny and magical.  Although not quite up to the standard of Pan’s Labyrinth for me due to an undeveloped villain who’s motives are unclear and a little too much mystery to the creature … this was still a captivating watch from beginning to end.

Verdict:  4 /5

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle


Viewed – 12 June 2018  online-rental

I find myself liking Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson more and more with every movie I see him in, and this sort-of sequel to the Robin Williams original has him on fine, comedic and action hero form joined by a colourful cast.  He plays the videogame counterpart of a nerdy kid who along with a bunch of high school misfits, gets transported into the world of Jumanji after unwittingly powering up a videogame console.

jumanji-welcome-to-the-jungle

By attempting to bring the board game comes to life idea of the first movie, up-to-date by making Jumanji a videogame, some of the charm is lost but replaced by a unique twist of the usual high school teen movie formula, and I certainly enjoyed seeing actors like Jack Black and Karen Gillan play somewhat the opposite of how they look for some great fun moments.  Jack Black eyeing up The Rock, anyone?

I’d have liked to learn more about the world and what makes Jumanji what it is and it’s rules etc, but we get nothing.  This goes hand in hand with the thin characterisation, that although playing on clichés, are still clichés regardless.  Yet we do get some decent action and the people transported into a world with videogame logic works every bit as well (if not a little better) than it did in Ready Player One.  So yes, this is easy watching and a lot of fun.  However it’s not much more.

Verdict:  3 /5

Deadpool 2


Viewed – 23 May 2018  Cinema

I think most of us knew that the sequel to the unexpected hit that was Deadpool, would be bigger and better,   A movie that was basically a one trick pony first time around, that of Ryan Reynolds’ wise-cracking, self-aware ‘merc with the mouth’ didn’t have a great deal more going for it as far as plot or an interesting villain.  So coming into this I was hoping for more.  Step up to the task Josh Brolin, fresh off his movie-stealing turn in the latest Avengers, he plays Terminator-like bad-guy ‘Cable’, sent from the future to kill some acting-out mutant kid who wants to blow up an orphanage and those that govern over him.  Deadpool see’s some injustice in the kids plight and offers to help, along with his band of reluctant friends he awkwardly names ‘X-Force’.

Deadpool-2

Reynolds is on brilliant form and his wealth of one liners, observations and fourth-wall breaking piss-takes are often hilarious.  Thankfully this time around he’s not the only pull this movie has, because Brolin is again brilliant and there’s also a few other colourful characters to keep things interesting (personal fave:  Domino).  Yet the child actor at the centre of the plot is somewhat lacking, has poor line-delivery and stands out compared to his more seasoned and entertaining co-stars.  Yet we do get a wealth of at times very violent, bloody action that is utterly unrestrained but skilfully executed, showing director David Leitch is an assured replacement for the original’s Tim Miller. 

Some rather cheap-looking CGI doesn’t look all that much better than the first movie (especially Colossus) and not all the gags hit home runs.  However, this matters little when what’s presented is just so infectious.  I haven’t had as much at the cinema in a long time as I had watching this funny, exciting and crazy ride … which may play to the juvenile kid in all of us, but sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed.  Just go see it already.

Verdict:  4 /5