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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John Wick: Chapter 2


Viewed – 27 June 2017  Blu-ray

The first John Wick was one of my favourite movies of 2015; a stylish, frenetic yet simple tale of revenge and bullets with an iconic turn from the king of cool, Keanu Reeves as the most feared assassin in the world.  This follow-up begins almost immediately after the last movie with Wick visited by an old mobster associate who decides to cash in a ‘blood oath’ asking the ’trying once again to be retired’ assassin for one more job.  However with reluctance Wick is forced to pick up his gun and take on an army of henchmen that could just start a war. 

John Wick 2

This plays out similarly to Wick #1 with the killer’s reputation proceeding him wherever he goes, although this time its not about a vendetta but more about trying to survive following double cross after double cross.  It’s packed with uber-violent, stunningly choreographed fist fights, gun fights and showdowns; all filmed with no end of style and panache.  However with the revenge storyline replaced with all out action, I felt less invested in proceedings, especially with the movie feeling rather stretched out, with some unnecessary padding.  We learn a little more of the international scale of the organization Wick works for, and some colourful characters do pop up, including a return appearance from Ian McShane, a mute Ruby Rose and also a reunion of sorts with Keanu’s Matrix co-star Lawrence Fishburn.

If you go into this wanting the same level of style, violence and action as Wick #1 you’ll be fully satisfied.  However if like me you were hoping for any progression of characters or the world they inhabit; maybe you’ll need to wait for the inevitable Chapter 3.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Passengers


Viewed – 16 May 2017  online-rental

I don’t think it can be argued that Chris Pratt is currently on a role.  He’s pretty much the darling of Hollywood right now and has delivered enjoyable performance after enjoyable performance, most notably in his two Guardians of the Galaxy outings.  The same can probably also be said of Jennifer Lawrence who also seems to do no wrong.  Both are charming, good looking stars so sitting down to this space-set adventure was an easy prospect, helped I must add by my love of all things sci-fi.

Passengers

A space station on a 90 year journey to reach an earth-like planet suddenly starts to malfunction, and one ‘passenger’ on board (Pratt) wakes up decades too soon, and quickly realises he might be doomed to a life of solitude and possible madness.  However as time progresses, he’s joined by fellow passenger Aurora (Lawrence) and together they try to exist and adjust to their potentially grim fate.

This is a great premise and I was easily absorbed into both character’s plight.  Think Robinson Crusoe in space and you get what this one’s going for, whilst also throwing in some heart-breaking dilemmas and powerful emotional drama that really surprised and pulled me in.  Pratt is excellent as is Lawrence who are supported well by an android Michael Sheen who brings his inimitable style and class to proceedings.  Helps also that Pratt & Lawrence have convincing chemistry, which made later scenes even more effective.  However amongst the drama there is also a lot of fun to be had, especially with the amusing ways Pratt initially tries to cope (although thankfully Pratt’s gratuitous butt shots are counter-balanced by a couple of lingering Lawrence swimsuit moments) … and with some superb CGI and an epic, at times ominous setting I really got a lot out of this.

The only real issue is pacing, as the story tends to drag its heels a little here and there.  For such a large space station too, it failed to really develop as a setting you haven’t seen a dozen times before, perhaps in need of a bit more eeriness.  However, with solid performances and a thrilling final act … I just have to recommend this one.

Verdict:  4 /5

Contagion


Viewed – 09 May 2012  DVD

This was compelling.  With the memory of virus outbreaks like bird flu, swine flu etc causing much furor at the time, the idea of a virus that spreads across the globe, quickly infecting and killing millions seems wholly believable, and to be honest … terrifying.  Yet this is not a horror movie, more so a convincing portrayal of an epidemic and the people whose lives it affects, some tragically.

Directed by the acclaimed Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Oceans Eleven) this has an ensemble cast of recognizable names including Kate Winslett, Jude Law and Matt Damon that all deliver very real performances, and is shot in a semi-documentary fashion, that replaces Hollywood glitz and action with human drama and emotion.  I especially liked how it not only showed the government and scientists tackling the outbreak, but also how the general public can turn on each other in their desperation.  And although it could be easily compared to Dustin Hoffman hit ‘Outbreak’, this proved the more earnest and thought-provoking.  Granted the pace drops a bit in the middle, and the ‘vaccine’ seems to come out of nowhere … but overall this has it where it counts.

So to conclude, this was a refreshing drama that didn’t need to rely on thrills and spills to tell an absorbing story filled with character and social commentary … and I thought it was very good indeed.

Verdict:  4 /5

The King Of New York


Viewed – 30 September 2008  DVD

I thought this kicked all kinds of ass when I watched it once on late night television.  Who can argue with the set up of a respected, feared gang boss (Christopher Walken on electrifying form) who is released from prison and goes about taking over New York City by any means necessary.  Dirty, seedy, sexy and very violent – result!

Yet having sat down and watched it again now – it hasn’t aged well.  Walken of course is superb, but the story and the situations all feel so over-dramatic with little tension or believable atmosphere – it kinda feels like a very bloody comic book – of which I don’t have a problem with…but you can tell this film is taking itself very seriously, and frankly…at times it began to look a bit juvenile.  Scarface would have crapped all over these guys.

The cops (headed by David Caruso and Wesley Snipes) are very unlikable (especially hot shot dick-head Caruso) and the dead-faced Walken is unstoppable…leading to a very weak ending.  Yet saying hat, its still all tits, guns, coke and attitude to spare – and Walken is always worthy of your time.

Verdict:  3 /5