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

The Game


Viewed – 22 August 2017  Blu-ray

20th Anniversary Edition

As an admirer of director David Fincher, this thriller from 1997 was one of those movies I’d forgotten he’d actually made.  At the time still riding high after the success of Seven, this rather high-concept but somewhat under-the-radar effort proved an obvious follow up; throwing in all the traits we’d come to expect from the director – bags of style, a twisting narrative and an attention to detail that has him often compared to Stanley Kubrick.

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Michael Douglas stars as wealthy businessman Nicholas Van Orton, a guy who seemingly has it all but is ultimately cold and miserable.  That is until on the day of his birthday, his brother, played by Sean Penn gives him the gift of ‘the game’.  Baffled and intrigued at the same time, Nicholas agrees to attend an interview at the organization responsible … and so sets into motion a unique thriller that clearly borrows from the likes of Hitchcock as Nicholas struggles to stay one step ahead of an increasingly bizarre series of events.

I’ve always liked Michael Douglas and he’s very good here, proving complex and likable for a character that is otherwise mean spirited and selfish.  Penn hams it up a little bit but proves enjoyable and Deborah Kara Unger is also decent.  The idea itself is great but ultimately isn’t fully realised and despite Fincher’s assured direction and best intentions … it could have gone further, been more elaborate but sticks rigidly to plausibility for the most part (despite throwing all that out the window for the final act).  Not one of Fincher’s best but still worth a look or revisiting for the concept or if you’re a fan of either Douglas or Fincher.

The Blu-ray boasts a quality image despite the occasionally soft-looking exterior or wide angle shots.  Close-up detail is good and dark scenes offer plenty of detail.  The movie is delivered in DTS Master Audio 5.1 and is for the most part punchy and immersive, even if in certain scenes dialogue gets a little lost in the atmospherics.  Extras consist of merely a couple of trailers – very poor, but perhaps not surprising for one of the director’s more over-looked movies.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray) 3 /5

Last Vegas


Viewed – 05 March 2015  Netflix

I like how Hollywood occasionally dusts off some of our older veteran actors and throws them together in one movie.  When it works it can work well (Bucket List, The Heist) and when it doesn’t it can be uncomfortable (The Expendables).  Thankfully this is the former.  Marketed as kind of a senior citizen version of The Hangover we have Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline as life long friends who come together to go on Michael Douglas’s bachelor party in Vegas.  You see much like Douglas in real life, he has a young girlfriend who he plans on marrying, but at the same time there’s some unresolved issues between him and DeNiro that a weekend together may just bring up again.

last vegas

This is enjoyable stuff.  It has some good observations of getting older, life and love and is actually rather heart-warming.  It sensibly avoids the toilet humour adult comedy of the aforementioned Hangover, and as these guys are a bit fish out of water, they naturally look awkward attending clubs and chatting up the scantily clad girls…but then that’s kind of the point.  This does have some good jokes (most at Douglas’ expense) and several great sight gags, and works best when the four seasoned actors are sparring off against each other.  Mary Steenburgen appears as a love interest and helps this movie develop a bit more meaning and depth than it might have.  Director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) has played his cards well, and treats the actors with respect whilst still poking a little fun at the situation.  DeNiro is especially good as the grumpier of the foursome yet each actor gets a moment in the spotlight and goes on a bit of a journey.

It’s predictable in places and rather cringy at times, but never out stays it’s welcome.  I’d have swapped the casting of Kline for someone on the same level as the others (sorry) … yet overall, this still worked very well.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Ant Man


Viewed – 16 January 2016  online rental

Yes it’s taken me a while to get around to this one and perhaps my slight fatigue with the amount of comic book movies being churned out was a factor, but I can’t argue with the quality of the output and this latest is no exception.  Paul Rudd plays a down on his luck former cat burglar newly released from prison and trying to rebuild his relationship with his young daughter and ex-wife.  However the lure of the criminal world is always in the background thanks to a trio of never-do-well friends he’s forced to shack up with.  At the same time a high-tech company is on the verge of a breakthrough to create a suit that can shrink a man down to the size of an insect, but are missing that key formula that only former company boss Michael Douglas knows.

Ant-Man

This was a fun movie, with Paul Rudd mostly known for comedies on fine form with a few good one liners and suits the character well.  An ageing Douglas also adds some acting weight to proceedings and we also get Lost’s Evangeline Lilly looking hot in a black haired bob as Douglas’ daughter.  With thoughts back to Honey I Shrunk The Kids I got a buzz out of the shrunken perspective, to the point I wish the movie had stayed in that mode for the majority of the run time.  However that would not make for much variety and so we get an army of ants at Ant Man’s command and a villain out to create his own suit.  Casting of the main bad guy could have been better (what is he out of again?) and the three friends are little more than annoyances rather than being particularly likeable.  Ant-Man’s circumstances leading up to becoming a hero, are also pretty contrived, which ultimately stops this becoming a classic.

AntMan Douglas

But the action is very well done, the jumps from a shrunken Ant Man to full size and different plays with that are very well realised and the effects were state-of-the-art.  Above all I still had a good time with this.  One of Marvel’s more obscure creations, granted – but I was left thirsty for more.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Haywire


Viewed – 15 February 2013 DVD

Has to be said, director Steven Soderbergh has been one of the more prolific film makers of recent years, sometimes churning out several movies a year.  He is also one of the most versatile, now dipping his toe in the espionage thriller sub-genre with this latest offering.

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Newcomer and former MMA (mixed martial arts) champion Gina Carano stars as a highly skilled Government agent who during a mission in Barcelona is set up by her own people, and is soon out seeking revenge.  Nothing all that original but for a cool-as-ice performance from the very sexy Carano, showcasing some impressive skills in several gritty and realistically-shot fights.  Realism is the key word here and Soderbergh delivers a very well made movie that shoots the action like a documentary film maker but sprinkles events in an assured, stylish sheen.  It’s a unique approach but helps this movie gain its own identity.

Support from the likes of Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas are good but nothing all that special.  Clearly this is a showcase for Carano who proves herself not only a believable action star but also a likable screen presence, and I for one will be keeping my eye on her.  Fast, slick and very enjoyable.

Verdict:  3.5 /5