Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) – Movie Review

antman and wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp is yet one more milestone in Marvel’s lucrative super-powered saga – one more feather to add to CEO Kevin Feige’s cap. Now would seem like a suitable moment to marvel (get it?) at the unprecedented feat this man’s studio has accomplished – that of producing twenty distinct, sequential, feature-length movies in a single decade – as we rest for a spell in this juncture between epics, and await the end of the MCU (for better or worse) as we know it. Who knows what Phase 4 will bring?

Tonally, most would liken the sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man, and rightly so. Here you have a unique corner of the comic-book world – one which hits upon a very light, very comedic note, which characteristically involves plenty of action, albeit of an especially breezy, upbeat nature. Egotistic quips and visual gags are vastly popular staples across the family of Marvel instalments, yet rarely do they let slip the more urgent themes so as to embrace the comedy so wholeheartedly as Ant-Man and the Wasp, loaded with laughs aplenty as it is. In my opinion, the sequel improves on the original, scaling up the jokes and gimics of the first, while shrinking its’ defects (whatever those were, as my comment was naturally played entirely for effect!). In any case, a fresher feel sets this newer movie a step ahead of the original. That being said, it shares minimum involvement with the greater goings-on in the general world-stage of the MCU. Hearkening back to its’ predecessor once again, one may expect a neat, isolated adventure set largely in its’ own, friendly little (or sometimes rather giant!) world, which, after a ponderous opening and surprisingly action-lacking mid-section, brings us to a really fun climax that includes most of the movie’s action, and certainly the most satisfying part overall. One of the harsher (and perhaps unfair) adjectives I could cruelly suggest concerning the plot would be the word “meaningless”. The story is fine – it just doesn’t impact anyone or anything else very much. This may irk some; it may leave others nonplussed. Only mind that this tale shares precious few links to the greater scheme which stupified fans earlier this year.

Two words on characters and acting: Michael Peña! This man truely does steal the show – definitely a highlight of the fun. Yet although the casting is mostly spot-on, the characters typically lack a depth and moral and emotional quality that, were it to exist, would elevate the film to a new level (I’m looking at you, Marvel). Here I blame the writers more for incompetency in forming characters with meaning and personality than I blame the actors. In our age of sequels, tonnes of characters are played only to a “satisfactory” level, filling shoes without bringing anything more than the bare necessities to the role. Certainly in this movie, but also all over the MCU, shallow villains and heroes alike too often dominate the screen. The characters are good – but not outstanding.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself humming that catchy little Ant-Man theme incessantly days in a row after seeing this movie. Christopher Beck’s score encapsulates perfectly the quirky silliness of the movie’s antics at all the right times, yet also displays a thorough command of the more serious-spirited side of things when needed.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is probably best described as a real “fun” time. Laughs and action in abundance make popular crowd-pleasers as the movie opts for a conventional approach which is likely to please everybody all round to a degree. While iffy on the morals, it doesn’t stint on smooth (and often amusing) effects and a catchy score. Other setbacks (depending on your opinion) may include some weak stunts and unimagintive scriptwriting. Nevertheless, Marvel continues to rule the box office and the hearts of fans world-wide with an ever-increasing roster of quality entertainment, which, given its’ size and complexity, approaches something like television show status. If my cinema attendance is indicative of the larger audience, then it’s proof that our favourite big-screen superheroes are not going away anytime soon.

 

7 out of 10 stars

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John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) – Movie Review

john wick 2

Back in 2014, John Wick breathed an air of freshness into the Hollywood action category after the industry hadn’t produced a single memorable action flick in years. Everything about that action thriller was downright invigorating, plus it oozed with so much style, charisma & energy that every action aficionado embraced it with open arms, not to mention that it marked a welcome return to form for Keanu Reeves and revitalised his career.

John Wick: Chapter 2 continues the relentless journey of the eponymous assassin as he ties up all the loose ends and settles all disputes that were put into motion in the first film and returns home, back to his retired life. But his violent history catches up with him once again when Wick is visited by an Italian crime lord who asks for his services but when John refuses to repay the debt he owes him, his house is blown to bits thus forcing him to return to the world he left behind.

Directed by Chad Stahelski, this second chapter opens with a sequence that may as well qualify as an epilogue of the last film. Stahelski capitalises on the solid platform provided by its predecessor and sets up the premise real quick, and then launches an all-out assault on the senses by throwing one sumptuously choreographed sequence after another which seamlessly weave in-n-out of the drama and keeps escalating the stakes before wrapping it all up with a memorable high.

Written by Derek Kolstad, the plot outline has a very simple structure but the otherworldly setting that was envisioned from scratch previously & played a vital role in imbuing a sense of uniqueness to its world is exquisitely detailed in this sequel. It also offers a deeper insight into the strict codes that’s followed in the criminal underworld, the privileges its members have access to, and a couple of unbreakable rules. Also magnified is the aura of the man, the myth & the legend John Wick and shows why he’s so feared by everyone.

The technical aspects showcase massive improvements in the minutest of areas, which gives this picture a heavily refined look & feel. Production design team chips in with meticulously detailed & gorgeously rendered set pieces that add to its distinctive iconography. Cinematography was a key highlight of its predecessor, capturing all its action in clear, concise fashion. And it’s even better in this sequel, for the images retain their sharpness & clarity despite the aggressive operation of the camera and are further uplifted by its neon lighting & vibrant colour tones.

Its expertly staged, ingeniously choreographed & precisely photographed gun-fu sequences are even more evolved, more barbaric & more breathtaking when compared to the original. Editing is tight and paces its 122 minutes story at breakneck speed. Costume design stands out again with its sleek & stylish attires, Visual & Sound effects work in perfect harmony and greatly amplify the desired effect of several moments, while both Tyler Bates & Joel J. Richard intensify the overall experience by contributing with another dynamic score.

Coming to the performances, John Wick: Chapter 2 is Keanu Reeves’ show all the way as the 52- year old veteran once again steals every single moment with the role he was born to play, and his swashbuckling performance in this instalment is even better than his last outing. The role is more physically demanding than last time, however, Reeves is able to fill the shoes with startling ease and utilises his charismatic on-screen flair to perfection to illustrate his Boogeyman persona with unerring discipline. The supporting cast, both new & reprising, contribute in with fabulous inputs amongst whom Ian McShane impresses the most.

On an overall scale, John Wick: Chapter 2 is such an exceptional upgrade over its predecessor that it ends up decimating the original in all filmmaking departments and effortlessly exceeds all hype & expectations to cement its spot amongst the greatest sequels & action extravaganzas of all time. An insanely slick, smart, sophisticated & stunning fusion of ingenious direction, astounding action, excellent writing, outstanding camera-work, tight editing & faultless score that’s steered by Keanu Reeves’ stellar show, this latest chapter in the John Wick saga is a brutal, barbaric & breathtaking entry that’s crafted with passion, narrated with confidence & executed with flamboyance, and is an action masterpiece for the ages.

 

9 out of 10 stars

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Man of Steel (2013) – Movie Review

man of steel

I was afraid that this movie would be crushed by the weight of the marketing effort from Warner Brothers and the resultant raised expectations. I mean 3 trailers and 9 TV spots which contained approximately 15 minutes of the film, plus the Gillette, Twizzler and Mr Clean commercials, and OKAY I get it Warner Brothers! You want us to see your movie!!

Fortunately, it doesn’t disappoint. The marriage between David Goyer’s character driven storytelling and Zach Snyder’s signature visual style works perfectly, as I hoped it would. I thought Snyder in particular out did himself with rich visuals that carried through the muted tones and darker colour palette of the film. Goyer’s story can almost be described as ‘Superman Begins’ as it uses the same approach and story structure as Batman Begins, but ultimately finds its own voice and tone which prevents it from feeling too much like the first Nolan Batman film. As a result, a lot of time is spent exploring the journey of Clark/Kal-el with the supporting characters present only to inform the audience of the protagonist, which also means they are not fully developed and therefore come across as one dimensional. This is not meant as criticism, and I’m not surprised that other reviewers found character development to be lacking because of this. The story is not designed to have rich supporting characters, it’s about Clark’s character, his journey and growth, and that’s it. The exception to this is Lois Lane who is present enough in the film to give us a good feel for the character, which is a true reflection of the comic book, and I’m really looking forward to her being developed even further in future installments.

The acting itself is solid which is what you would expect from a cast of this caliber, yet no one performance outshines the other and there was never a moment for me where I thought the actor cast for a particular role was the wrong choice. Henry Cavill, in particular, IS Superman. This film, however, is not perfect. There are a few head-scratching and perhaps WTF moments, BUT the good parts in the movie far, far outweigh the bad, so I’m willing to turn a blind eye to these bad moments and embrace this film in aggregate as a brilliant, outstanding effort. My nipples stiffen just thinking about it.

All that being said, if you are of the opinion that the Christopher Reeve films, and Bryan Singer’s love letter to Donner, is the true version of Superman, then you’ll likely have a hard time embracing this version. Also, if you are one of those who habitually “multi-task” and split your attention between a psychoactive mobile device and what’s happening on the big screen (and unfortunately there were many of you in the theatre last night), I’m afraid you aren’t going to enjoy it very much either. This film has just enough story that if you miss a bit while held hostage to your devices’ virtual delights, you’ll become lost and all that will remain are the film’s action sequences. But, maybe that’s all you want.

 

10 out of 10