Tag Archives: Ant-Man

Best and Worst Films of 2018

This is a run-through of all the films I have watched that were released this year – and a quick comment about each one, plus the rating I would give it. Films are ordered from worst to best. Needless to say, this isn’t a definitive list – there’s various films I haven’t seen this year (Aquaman, Venom, Into the Spider-verse etc.) but it includes all the ones I have managed to catch – either in cinemas or on Amazon/Netflix.

The Death of Stalin: I expected better from Armando Iannucci. I really can’t work out this film’s intended audience or why critics loved it so much. Its not funny enough to be a comedy, not cutting enough to be a satire and not believable enough to be historically accurate. The thing is wonderfully shot and well-directed, but ultimately that isn’t a big comfort. The cast by and large try their best, but Jeffrey Tambor is a total waste of space and the whole thing is just dull and uncomfortable.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: You know, after watching this, I’m glad Star Wars fired Colin Trevorrow. The film is pretty much your standard B-Movie: entertaining, but utterly ridiculous and so, SO STUPID in places. Still not the worst Jurassic Park Sequel (III will always be the series nadir – at least you’d hope so) but it came close. Its cast keep things watchable and the special effects are good, but the villains are way too cartoonish, the script laughable and the direction flat. Talk about a fall from grace.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Deadpool 2: Oh dear. I really wanted to like this one. In places, it’s up their with the first movie. Josh Brolin is great as cable and Zazie Beetz perfect if underused as Domino. But the rest of the cast are not on form – Firefist is a very forgettable villain, Morena Baccarin is wasted in a thankless and predictable role and TJ Miller is still the biggest waste of space in acting. It makes an effort to have a less predictable (if still cliched) plot than the first movie, but isn’t anywhere near as funny. The action sequences are better, but honestly, I’m not sure I’ll bother with the inevitable third film.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Slaughterhouse Rulez: The latest Pegg/Frost film gives the duo less screen time than normal, but the young cast by and large make up for it, particularly the wonderful Asa Butterfield. The script isn’t their best, but its still involving and funnier than some of their previous efforts (looking at you World’s End) if nowhere near their best work (Paul and Hot Fuzz).

Rating: 3 out of 5

Solo: A Star Wars Story: Once it stops pandering to its intended audience with on-the-nose fan service, this actually becomes quite an involving heist/action film. The cast are good value and the direction and soundtrack work well, but ultimately, it’s all a bit too predictable and lightweight. Alden does the impossible in actually playing Han Solo in a way that feels plausible but not a parody of Harrison Ford. Donald Glover nails Lando (who really should have been the main star in a spin-off) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge has a nice role as a comedic, rebellious droid companion of Lando’s.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: An entertaining if convoluted film. The cast all perform well, but the variable direction and an overpacked script let things down a bit. Depp and Jude Law are the standouts as Grindelwald and Dumbledore, and the final act is worth waiting for. Not bad by any means, but not one of JK’s best either.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Black Panther: A milestone for cinema, but a very overrated one. While the script was quite good, its execution could have been a lot better. With a forgettable soundtrack, predictable plotline and some of the worst CGI we’ve ever seen in a Marvel film, Black Panther was entertaining and thought-provoking, but nowhere near the classic some reviewers seem to have tried to frame it as.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Tomb Raider: While this didn’t prove video game films are good, it did prove they aren’t universally terrible. Alicia Vikander is perfect in the role of Lara Croft, and the film is well-structed and shot beautifully. That said, the script isn’t the most original, and the dialogue could definitely be better in places. Still a pleasant surprise though.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Avengers: Infinity War: Probably the most ambitious superhero film ever made, Infinity War is a bombastic crowd pleaser that mixes Marvel’s first truly great villain Thanos with tons of fan-service and excellent action sequences. Its still a Marvel film though, and pulls its punches too much and is hampered by very much being ‘part 1’ of 2, whatever the film’s title says.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Incredibles 2: It doesn’t match the original, but boy, they gave it a good go. Incredibles 2 features some of the best animation I’ve seen in a long time, and is a very engaging, slick ride. Its humour is on-point throughout, and while the villain doesn’t match Syndrome, the films plot and script have few flaws. Very entertaining stuff.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Top of the pile again? Ant-man remains the best and most undervalued of Marvel’s franchises, with this funny, heartfelt sequel. Like the original, it takes 45 minutes to really get going, but once it gets there, its utterly brilliant. Paul Rudd remains an extremely likeable lead, and Evangeline Lilly is ever bit his equal. The villains aren’t that memorable, but for once, I didn’t really care.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Overall, I think its fair to say this hasn’t been a classic year for cinema. Most films I’ve seen have been underwhelming or distinctly average. The rule of increasingly inferior sequels has definitely reared its head again (aside from the odd exception like Avengers and Ant-Man). Here’s hoping for better in 2019. To finish off, here’s my awards for the standout actors, actresses, soundtracks and direction from films this year.

My Film Awards 2018:

Best Actor: Josh Brolin (Thanos/Cable)

Best Actress: Alicia Vikander (Tomb Raider)

Best Supporting Actor: Asa Butterfield (Slaughterhouse Rulez)

Best Supporting Actress: Letitia Wright (Black Panther)

Best Animated Film: Incredibles 2

Best Film: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Best Script: Black Panther

Best Director: Ron Howard (Solo: A Star Wars Story)

Best Special Effects: Infinity War

Best Soundtrack: James Newton Howard (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald)

Best Hero: Iron Man

Best Villain: Thanos

Worst Actor: Rafe Spall (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom)

Worst Actress: Amber Heard (Aquaman) – I haven’t seen this yet, but given her performance in the trailer, it seems like a sure fire bet. Also – I couldn’t think of anyone in the films I have seen who deserves it.

Worst Supporting Actor: TJ Miller (Deadpool 2)

Worst Supporting Actress: Brianna Hildebrand (Deadpool 2)

Worst Film: The Death of Stalin

Worst Script: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Worst Director: David Leitch (Deadpool 2)

Worst Special Effects: Black Panther

Worst Soundtrack: Avengers: Infinity War (Alan Silvestri)

Coming up next, my look at 2018’s TV highs and lows before I sign off the year with my take on the hit Video Games of 2018.

 

 

 

Ant-Man and the Wasp Review

Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Hannah Jon-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas.

Minor Spoilers Only. But this is Ant-Man – you’re here to be entertained, not to be surprised by the plot!

The first Ant-Man was a surprise highlight of Marvel’s Phase Two. It was the least known and one of the least financially successful Marvel films, but its unique blend of humour, zany powers and Paul Rudd’s sublime turn as likeable lead Scott Lang meant it was very well received by critics (noticeably better than Age of Ultron, which came out the same year). It’s also my favourite Marvel film for a variety of reasons, as it succeeds on virtually every level (its funny, the story’s good, the characters are likeable and the fight scenes are actually memorable). So I had high hopes for the sequel.

The good news: not only is it great fun, but it surpasses Black Panther and Infinity War.

Ant-Man and the Wasp has perhaps the lowest stakes of any Marvel film – there’s no world or universe ending threat here. The main villain is simply trying to survive at any cost, and the secondary villain is a glorified thief/gangster who’s merely after Pym’s technology for its value. While this does mean neither villain is particularly memorable, it’s a very smart direction for the film to take, as any antagonists and their plan were going to be anticlimactic after Thanos’ Infinity Snap, so telling a small scale, more personal story is a wise choice. Oh, and in case you were wondering, this is set before Infinity War, not after, so don’t expect any fallout from that film here.

That’s not to say the film lacks ambition. The set pieces are very high quality (an extended car chase is arguably the highlight) and the sequences in the quantum realm are memorably rendered. Ghost’s phase-shifting abilities coupled with Ant-Man and Wasps size-changing antics make for some very inventive fight scenes. There’s none of the shaky CGI that blighted Black Panther’s third act either. The simple plot allows for a much-more character-driven entry in the franchise, and Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are easily the best pair of leads in the MCU (maybe only matched by Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana), so you won’t complain. The acting in general is of a high standard, and its nice to see Michelle Pfeiffer back in a superhero film after her winning turn as Catwoman in the Tim Burton Batman films.

There aren’t really any massive drawbacks here. The soundtrack isn’t memorable, but it serves its purpose well enough (like every bloody Marvel film score except Guardians). Hannah Jon-Kamen’s Ghost is well acted and somewhat sympathetic, even if her impact is lessened by a lack of real menace or screentime. Her fights with Ant-Man and Wasp are engaging though, and her powers are something we haven’t really seen before, so I’ll give Ghost some points for that and being one of the few female villains in Superhero films. Some of the dialogue feels a bit by the numbers and could be funnier, but the visual gags and the big jokes all land, so I’ll not criticise. Like the first Ant-Man, it takes 40 minutes to really get going, but once it hits its stride, its consistently great fun.

As to whether it beats the first movie… I’m unsure – the effects are better, but the villain is a bit weaker. The script and the acting are pretty much equal, and both films have great (and hilarious) action scenes. Overall, I think the jokes worked slightly better in the first one, so I wouldn’t put this above the original, but its still easily in the MCU’s top 3 or 4 films.

Overall Ant-Man and the Wasp is a funny, charming, touching film that brings a refreshing levity after the bombastic, shocking epicness of Infinity War. Not every punchline lands, but its still easily the best Marvel film since Civil War.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Oh, and without going into spoilers, stay for the mid-credits scene. Its gonna have an impact on Avengers 4. Equally, the 2nd is not really worth staying for – just catch it on youtube in a couple of months.

If you’d told me in 2012 that the four best Marvel movies would be 2 Captain America sequels and 2 Ant-Man films I would have laughed. What a thing hindsight is eh? Marvel’s sheer variety of offerings is what makes success stories like this possible. I hope audiences turn out for this one. It really deserves more recognition that its predecessor got.

Final thought: can we get the guy who directed this to take over Guardians of the Galaxy 3? He might be the only person who could replace Gunn and still deliver a great film.

Movie Review: Ant-Man

Ant-Man starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lily and Corey Stoll.

As anyone who regularly reads this blog will know, I’m more of a DC fan than Marvel. DC won the war on TV with the superb Arrow and Flash combination, and Marvel’s films have never (in my opinion) reached the highs of the Dark Knight Trilogy or Man of Steel. Marvel films are always entertaining. They rarely make serious errors (Iron Man 2 and 3 are still the only major letdowns) but never quite achieve true greatness. But with their best known superheroes already used they’ve had to take some massive gambles. Guardians of the Galaxy shocked everyone by how good it was. But surely Marvel couldn’t pull the same trick twice? I mean Ant-Man? A superhero with the power to shrink? Basically the same power as seen on kid’s show Ben 10? Who is taken even less seriously by the average fan than Aquaman is for DC? A movie that had several script rewrites, changed director and composer during production – surely Marvel had to finally stumble?

They haven’t. Ironically the film i half expected to break Marvel’s run of quality films in phase two might just be the best of the lot. Yeah you read that right – but surely i don’t prefer Ant-Man to The Winter Soldier, Age of Ultron or Guardians of the Galaxy? Actually… i think i might. It’s certainly the funniest of the lot – it uses the Guardians formula of putting a bunch of misfits together in a superhero film that doubles as a comedy with the occasional moment of heartful emotion. But the humour outdoes Guardians – and crucially the film has a better villain and a more complex plot. The villain in question is Darren Cross/Yellowjacket (played by Corey Stoll off House of Cards) who is both a credible threat to Ant-Man (the Yellowjacket being a militarised version of the Ant-Man suit) and more interesting than the usual human villain (he’s a kind of cross between Alexander Pierce from Cap 2 and Arnim Zola from The First Avenger) as a misguided scientist who becomes obsessed with developing the Ant-Man technology that his former mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, tried to conceal from him and SHIELD because he feared it’s potential as a weapon.

Apart from Cross, the main cast includes Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a thief seeking redemption, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man who chooses Scott to be the new Ant-Man and stop Cross, and Hope (Evangeline Lilly), Pym’s estranged daughter who helps train Scott to master the Ant-Man suit. The interplay between the three is brilliant, with Douglas ideally cast in the role of mentor, and Rudd giving Chris Pratt a run for his money as a wise-cracking charismatic lead. Not to say Scott Lang is a carbon-copy of Star-Lord, the two have their differences and Scott is definitely more moral, trying desperately to redeem himself and (in his divorced wife’s words) ‘make himself into the hero his young daughter already believes him to be’. Hope is a love-interest Marvel fans will be familiar with: the badass (i.e. Black Widow/Gamora)/business-like lady (Pepper Potts/Agent Carter) who initially isn’t interested in the hero only to eventually be won over by his heroism. However Lilly takes what could be an all too familiar role and stamps her own mark on it.

In a way, the film has only two problems: predictability and suspension of disbelief. There weren’t too many moments you don’t see coming (mind you, The Winter Soldier is the only Marvel film with a truly great plot twist so i won’t penalise this film for that), whether this is a problem is down to the viewer. The second problem is whether things get far too silly for you. Don’t go in expecting a serious superhero film, go in expecting a comedy, cause that’s what you’re going to get. I won’t spoil any of the laugh out loud moments but lets just say some discs Scott has which can shrink or grow anything they touch lead to some hilarious moments in the midst of the action scenes. As for the science involved i wouldn’t try to think too hard about it (given we have quantum realms, shrinking and growing and mind controlled ants – yes you read that right – its best just to go with the flow in this film). Scott’s heist crew are also brilliant comedy value, with the over-excitable Luis (Michael Pena), the smooth talking Dave (Tip Harris) and Russian Hacker Kurt (who is a bit like Drax as he gets most of the punchlines) and the banter between the four is brilliant. Scott’s daughter Cassie also gets her share of punchlines, managing to be adorable and hilarious in equal measure without becoming irritating like some child actors can.

Does the film link into the avengers films much? Yes, Peggy Carter and Howard Stark get cameos, Hydra make another appearance (they really are a persistent bunch) and there’s a great battle between Sam Wilson (Falcon from Cap 2) and Ant-Man as Scott attempts to steal some tech from the Avengers base. It also looks like Ant-Man might be back in a future film a bit sooner than i expected he would… There are also TWO post-credits scenes, so don’t leave after the mid-credits one, as the post credit scene has a brief teaser for Civil War…

Overall its ludricous, far too silly and hilarious all at the same time. But it was so entertaining i didn’t care. Comedy of the year? It’s got my vote! DC would never make a movie like this – only Marvel would have taken such a risk – and for that reason if nothing else…

Rating: 5 out of 5! They’ve finally done it. Got a perfect score off me. Well Done Marvel!

Later in the week I’ll publish my list of Marvel films, ranking them in order of quality – you can all guess which one is coming first after this review, and everyone knows what’s coming last, but there might be a few surprises in the rest of the order…