Ant-Man and the Wasp

antman_and_the_wasp_ver2_xlgThe sequel to the highly successful 2015 movie Ant-Man and the twentieth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a highly entertaining and creative film that takes itself less seriously than a majority of the other superhero movies and thereby is filled with much more humor and fun. The story takes place several years after the original in which the protagonist Scott Lang, played by the humorous Paul Rudd, is under house arrest after a mission as his superhero alter ego Ant-Man. He is a more sympathetic and well-rounded superhero because of his poignant relationship with his young daughter and having fairly usual problems in real life. Just days before his house arrest is over, he is in clear violation by getting in contact with the brilliant inventor of the Ant-Man outfit Hank Pym, played by Oscar winner Michael Douglas, and his smart and beautiful daughter Hope van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly, whose superhero alter ego is the Wasp. Hank discovers there may be a way to rescue his wife Janet, played by Golden Globe winner Michelle Pfeiffer, who is stuck in the subatomic quantum realm, and he must enlist Scott to become Ant-Man again to help develop a device to enter the quantum realm. However, the trio find themselves in trouble after trying to broker a deal with the black-market dealer Sonny Burch, played by the villainous Walton Goggins, who double-crosses them in order to steal Hank’s advanced technology. To complicate things even further, they encounter the mysterious Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen, who is suffering from quantum and molecular instability and is desperate to find the technology to alleviate her problem. Throughout the movie as the characters engage in the typical action sequences of any comic book superhero production, Scott along with his buddies, especially Michael Peña’s character Luis, bring a certain levity to the story through their often ridiculous and hilarious antics. Much of the humor derives from the conceit of the film: the filmmakers play around with the ability of the characters to shrink and enlarge themselves and everyday objects, including an entire building shrunk down to the size of a briefcase and a life-size Pez dispenser that becomes a weapon. Overall, I found it to be one of the more enjoyable cinematic experiences found in the innumerable Marvel superhero movies as a result of its lighthearted approach while still retaining thrilling CGI-enhanced action scenes.

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise which started with the release of the original in 1993 and was rebooted in 2015 with the first Jurassic World movie, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a fairly typical popcorn summer blockbuster that provides some over-the-top thrills but ultimately feels unnecessary and obviously cannot rise to the occasion like the original Jurassic Park directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg. Following on the heels of Jurassic World in which the revamped amusement park featuring live dinosaurs closes under disasterous conditions, a rescue operation to save the dinosaurs is underway by a team of mercenaries under the guidance of Jurassic Park’s co-founder Benjamin Lockwood, played by Oscar nominee James Cromwell, and the head of Lockwood’s foundation Eli Mills, played by the conniving Rafe Spall. Eventually, former head of the park Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, and Velociraptor wrangler Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt, are brought in to help track down the remaining dinosaurs before the island where they are kept is destroyed by a massive volcanic eruption. Like the other films, there are a few action sequences in which the characters are running away from gigantic fearsome dinosaurs and this time is further intensified as the humans try to escape as the island literally explodes in stunning CGI sequences. Towards the middle of the movie, Claire and Owen along with a small team of dinosaur advocates realize that their objective in rescuing the dinosaurs is not for entirely altruistic aims as they were initially promised. Much of the action transitions to Lockwood’s large estate in Northern California where the protagonists must fight once again to save their lives and protect the dinosaurs. As a desperate attempt to bring back nostalgia for 1993’s Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum’s iconic character pops up in a superfluous Congressional hearing about the dinosaur’s fate. Overall, I did find it a fairly entertaining cinematic experience that brought back memories of the original that was released during my childhood; unfortunately, it did not add much to the first film’s originality and thereby the Jurassic Park series feels like it has run its course.

Incredibles 2

The long-awaited sequel of the wildly successful 2004 animated superhero movie The Incredibles, Incredibles 2 is yet another excellent Pixar Disney movie that comes close to the original with its unique retro style and family-friendly fun. Set shortly after the first movie, the story follows the Parr family in which each family member has a superpower but have not been able to publicly remain superheroes since they have recently been outlawed. In a publicity ploy to help legalize superheroes by the wealthy tech entrepreneur Winston Deavor, voiced by Emmy winner Bob Odenkirk, along with his brilliant sister Evelyn, voiced by Oscar nominee Catherine Keener, Helen who is the superhero Elastigirl, voiced by Oscar winner Holly Hunter, is recruited to serve as a positive image of a superhero saving lives. Her husband Bob who is the superhero Mr. Incredible, voiced by Emmy winner Craig T. Nelson, begrudgingly becomes a stay-at-home dad and is unable to use his superhuman strength in public because it is deemed too destructive. He is depicted as a stereotypical father who is in over-his-head while also dealing with three kids who happen to have superpowers. Violet, voiced by comedian and writer Sarah Vowell, is your typical teenage daughter with the exception that she can become invisible and project a protective force field. The middle son nicknamed Dash is a rebellious middle schooler who has superhuman speed. The most entertaining and funny moments occur with the baby Jack-Jack who we find out has some fairly unusual superpowers that are both cute and dangerous. Eventually, Elastigirl heroically fights off a new supervillain named Screenslaver who is hypnotizing citizens and ultimately other superheroes to commit crimes. Towards the end of the movie, we discover that the true villain is actually somebody completely unexpected. Overall, I found it to be a highly entertaining computer animated family movie that appeals to both kids and adults alike as a result of its exciting and sometimes funny action coupled with creative writing and look.

Adrift

Based on a remarkable true story, Adrift is a fairly typical survival movie that is enhanced by terrific acting performances and realistic and beautiful cinematography. The film follows the 23-year-old Tami Oldham, played by Golden Globe nominee Shailene Woodley, who travels the world away from her hometown of San Diego and finds herself on the island of Tahiti where she meets the handsome 34-year-old British sailor Richard Sharp, played by Sam Claflin. Through a series of flashbacks, they fall in love and enjoy sailing around the South Pacific Islands on his small sailboat that he built himself. Eventually, a couple who are friends with Richard ask Richard and Tami to take their 44-foot sailboat over 4,000 miles back to San Diego. They set out for their journey in October 1983, but tragedy strikes when their boat is heavily damaged by an unexpected Category 4 hurricane in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Richard is severely injured so Tami must take on the duties to try and survive with the sailboat missing its sails and all navigation and radio equipment inoperable. As the days progress, Tami is in an increasingly dire situation as food begins to run low and the boat is many miles away from land. She decides that the best hope for survival is to head for Hawai’i and must navigate only using the primitive tools of the sextant and following the stars. At some point, the audience realizes the extent that her mental state and hallucinations impact her ability to think properly and ultimately survive the ordeal. Overall, I found it to be a somewhat compelling survival adventure movie that differentiates itself from the rather generic formula of the genre by having a dynamic and raw performance from the talented young actress Shailene Woodley.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

15271994927256606803560990010701.jpgDirected by critically acclaimed filmmaker Ron Howard who won the Academy Award for 2002’s A Beautiful Mind, Solo: A Star Wars Story is an entertaining movie in the Star Wars saga with plenty of adventure and CGI-enhanced action sequences but underwhelms compared to the original and most recent installments. As the second standalone anthology film in the series, the movie is more of a origin story that follows the early exploits of Han Solo, played by the up-and-coming charismatic Alden Ehrenreich, and how he evolved into the famous character portrayed by Harrison Ford in the original trilogy. We first meet Han trying to escape a criminal organization with his girlfriend Qi’ra, played by Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones fame, and travel to another planet where he can pursue his dream of becoming a pilot. For a time, he is a soldier for the Empire, but he eventually becomes a deserter to join forces with a group of criminals led by Tobias Beckett, played by Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson. He also meets his future famous copilot Chewbacca, and they enter in their friendly rapport with humorous back-and-forth as depicted in the first movies. The rest of the movie follows the formula of a heist film in which Han and his new outlaw friends must steal the valuable so-called hyperfuel coaxium for yet another criminal syndicate known as the Crimson Dawn led by Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bettany. Things get increasingly complicated for Han, and he must team up with the notorious smuggler Lando Calrissian, played by Emmy winner Donald Glover, who provides him the means of piloting the well-known Millennium Falcon spaceship. Towards the end of the film, there are a few plot twists and not all of the characters are as they appeared in the beginning. The story appeases Star Wars fans with the appearance of characters and new details that refer to the nine other installments and may not have as much significance for general audiences. Overall, I found it to be a satisfying cinematic experience that had enough excitement to make up for the shortcomings of being sometimes too formulaic and not adding much depth to the already complex Star Wars franchise.

Deadpool 2

The sequel to the widely successful 2016 original Deadpool and the eleventh installment in the X-Men movie franchise first released in 2000, Deadpool 2 is a very unconventional comic book superhero movie that is filled to the brim with self-referential and irreverent humor and is brought to life by the charismatic performance of Ryan Reynolds. Taking place several years after the first film, Deadpool whose real name is Wade Wilson, played by the hilarious Ryan Reynolds, suffers a personal tragedy at the beginning and is in a very low place. After an attempted suicide, his superhero friend Colossus helps to bring him back to life and takes him to the X-Men mansion to recover. Eventually, he confronts a time-traveling cybernetic solider named Cable, played by Oscar nominee Josh Brolin, who wants to kill the young mutant Firefist whose real name is Russell Collins, played by the terrific young actor Julian Dennison who is best known for his outstanding role in 2016’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Deadpool decides to protect the seemingly innocent Collins from Cable whose intentions are at first mysterious to the audience. In one of many references to X-Men, Deadpool forms the team X-Force in which several of the members suffer ridiculously bad luck, and he uses them to prevent a deadly clash between Collins and Cable. Although it sounds like a rather straightforward comic book story, the film takes a much less serious approach with Deadpool constantly making fun of X-Men and Marvel Comics in quite hilarious and silly ways and often breaking the fourth wall by directly addressing the audience. A majority of the humor is comprised of inside jokes in which the audience really needs to be somewhat familiar with superhero characters and the previous comic book movies. There are also even references to Barbra Streisand movies as well as other rather cheesy elements of pop culture. Finally, it is very much an R-rated experience as a result of the gratuitous amount of violence and gore and the overabundance of vulgar comedy. Overall, I found it be an extremely entertaining movie as good as the original because of its creative and zany antics and dazzling array of meta humor; however, it is definitely not for all tastes as a result of its lewdness.

Avengers: Infinity War

The nineteenth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that started with 2008’s Iron Man and the third film in The Avengers franchise since 2012, Avengers: Infinity War is an entertaining comic book superhero movie whose title is particularly apt as a result of the seemingly infinite number of Marvel characters all appearing in their greatest war yet. The plot revolves around the appearance of the most threatening villain Thanos, played by Josh Brolin, and his quest to capture all six Infinity Stones, mystical stones imbued with great magical powers, in order to control the universe and remake his own planet. Practically all of the superheroes who have had their own Marvel film seek to prevent the god-like Thanos from destroying half of humanity in his ploy to solve overpopulation. The ensemble cast is jam-packed and features Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Mark Ruffalo as Hulk, Chris Evans as Captain America, Tom Holland as Spider-Man, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, and Chris Pratt as Star-Lord. Although the plethora of superheroes and storylines is at times over-the-top and complicated to a casual viewer, the filmmakers are able to present a somewhat surprising cohesive story by having several of the characters grouped together and involved in separate parts of the film. When the superheroes do all come together, the audience is in for spectacular CGI-enhanced action sequences that can be best described as comic book porn. The movie also has aspects of a drama in which the powerful protagonists display raw human emotions, including grief over fallen comrades. However, there are several moments of trademark tongue-in-cheek humor for a comic book movie, especially when it comes to the characters from the more comedic Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. Overall, I was impressed by the sheer amount of superheroes assembled for a motion picture and found it to be a largely enjoyable experience despite probably jamming a little too much into one bloated comic book lovefest.