Ant-Man and the Wasp

Directed by Peyton ReedAnt-Man and the Wasp Movie Poster

Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Randall Park, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Michael Douglas.

Backstory

Despite a very troubled production, the first Ant-Man turned out to be a bit of a sleeper hit for Marvel, so much though that a sequel was quickly added to Marvel’s Phase III.  When the title was revealed to be Ant-Man and the Wasp, people agreed with Hope van Dyne in Ant-Man‘s post-credits stinger:  “About damn time.”  But, would the sequel be as fun as the first film?

Plot

Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, is under house arrest, as part of a plea bargain for being on Team Cap in Captain America: Civil War.  He’s no longer on speaking terms with Hank Pym and his daughter Hope for swiping their tech and going off to fight alongside Captain America.  But then, one night, he has a vision of Hank’s wife Janet trapped in that subatomic world known as the Quantum Realm.  This brings him back together with Hank and Hope, who’ve been trying to get to the Quantum Realm to find Janet.  But it turns out their are lots of people after Hank’s tech, including corrupt FBI agents, crime lords, and a new villain known as the Ghost, who can phase through solid objects.  It’s now up to Ant-Man and the Wasp to fight off these villains while Hank frantically works to rescue Janet.  Will they be able to pull it off?

What I Liked

They get very creative this time out with the shrinking and growing effects and how it can be used for combat…especially when you start applying it to car chases.  The actors all seem to be having fun, and Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are a delightful duo as Ant-Man and the Wasp.  And it’s nice to see a villain that doesn’t have the same powers as the heroes, which is a trap a lot of Marvel Studios films fall into.

What I Didn’t Like

Can’t say there was much I didn’t like.  Maybe there were one too many villains, and they could have cut out a few characters and sub-plots.

Final Verdict

It’s nice to get superhero films that are fun and breezy, instead of always being about the end of the world.

3 Nibs

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Directed by J.A. Bayona

Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Jurassic World:  Fallen KingdomDaniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, B.D. Wong, and Jeff Goldbum

Backstory

I love the Jurassic Park films, ever since I saw the first one on my 16th birthday.  Sadly, though, most of the sequels have just been OK.  With the exception of Jurassic World.  I thought Jurassic World was a tasty slice of nostalgia pie.  “Now THAT’S the sequel I wanted in 1993!” I exclaimed.  I guess lots of others thought so, as Jurassic World was a monster hit and spawned a sequel.  Now, I greeted the first trailer with a shrug, as it looked like they would just be remaking the first sequel, The Lost World.  But the second trailer, featuring dinosaurs creeping around a mansion, got me hooked.  Did they finally find something better to do than “People go to an island full of dinosaurs and get attacked by said dinosaurs?”

Plot

Claire Dearing, the former manager of Jurassic World, now heads up a charity dedicated to preserving the surviving dinosaurs and letting them live in peace.  But, it’s kind of tough, because the volcano on Isla Nublar is about to erupt and kill the remaining dinosaurs, and the government shows no interest in relocating them.  But, Claire soon gets some help in the form of Eli Mills, who represents Benjamin Lockwood.  Lockwood was one of the original investors in Jurassic Park, and wants to save the dinosaurs.  But, for mysterious reasons, they need Blue, the last surviving velociraptor.  Which means Claire needs to bring in Owen Grady, the raptor trainer, to help find Blue.  But, as soon as they arrive on the island, Mills’ men turn on Owen and Claire.  Turns out Mills has his own sinister agenda for the surviving dinosaurs.  Will and Owen and Claire escape to the mainland and stop Mills before he unleashes horror on the world?

What I Liked

Yay, more dinosaur action!  There’s one particularly poignant scene involving a dinosaur’s death that was very emotional.  Any worries that they were going to just redo The Lost World was scrubbed away, as most of that stuff is saved for the first act of the film.  Probably the most horror-oriented of the Jurassic films, as I sure fell for a lot of jump-scares.  Owen and Claire, again played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, are a delightful pair of heroes.  And the ending.  SPOILER WARNING.  If they stick to the ending, looks like the next film will be the “dinosaurs lose on the mainland” film they’ve been teasing since Spielberg turned the T-rex lose on downtown San Diego in The Lost World.

What I Didn’t Like

Don’t know if it was just this particular screening, but holy crap was it loud.  Lots of jump scares makes for lots of screaming characters, and big booming explosions from the volcano.

Final Verdict

A fun new entry in the Jurassic franchise, but dude, you think after all this time, they would have learned their lesson, and stopped going to the island full of dinosaurs.

3 Nibs

Incredibles 2

Directed by Brad BirdIncredibles 2 Poster

Starring the voices of Craig T. Nelson,  Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Samuel L. Jackson, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Sophia Bush, and Brad Bird

Backstory

When this decade began, and Pixar began cranking out sequels left and right, right at the top of everyone’s wish list was a sequel to The Incredibles.  When Monsters University and Finding Dory all came along, people would always go, “Yeah, but what about Incredibles 2?”  Which is why it’s cute that a certain amount of Incredibles 2 marketing has an apologetic tone, as they apologize for taking so long.  Besides, writer/director Brad Bird had his dalliances with live-action films and gave us Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol and Tomorrowland.  Well, now that it’s finally here, the question is, was it worth the wait?

Plot

Picking up immediately where the first film left of, the film opens with the Parr family (aka the Incredibles) being…promptly detained by the authorities for their heroics, because superheroes are still outlawed in this universe.  The Parr family seems up the creek, until they get an invitation from billionaire brother and sister Winston and Evelyn Deavor.  Turns out they’re big superhero fans, and they want to start lobbying to legalize superheroes again.  Their strategy:  mount a massive PR campaign, and send Elastigirl (aka Helen Parr) back out doing heroics.  Our heroes readily accept, with Elastigirl back on the streets, and Mr. Incredible (aka Bob Parr) becoming a stay-at-home dad to look after the kids.  While Elastigirl begins contending with a new supervillain called the Screenslaver, who can hypnotize people through any TV screen, Mr. Incredible faces his greatest challenges  yet:  battling his daughter Violet’s teen angst, tutoring his son Dash in math, and helping infant Jack-Jack learn his emerging superpowers.  Will they come together to fight as the Incredibles once again?

What I Liked

Wow, Brad Bird really ramps up the action with some truly amazing action set pieces, proving once again that animation is the perfect medium for superhero films.  Michael Giacchino once again brings it with another spectacular score, owing much to the classic James Bond scores of the 1960s.  But at the end of the day, it’s all about the characters, and once again, Bird nails the family dynamics that made the first film so appealing.  Voice acting, again, is top notch.  Really, high marks across the board.

What I Didn’t Like

As I’ve lamented with the last crop of animated films I’ve seen, can we please retire the big plot twist of, “Trusted ally is the REAL villain!”  because it’s really starting to wear out its welcome.  And Winston Deavor is voiced by Bob Odenkirk, and they decided to make the character design a caricature of Odenkirk.  I hate it when they make the characters a caricature of the voice actor…I find it distracting and it pulls me out of the film.

Final Verdict

Incredibles 2 is a very worthy sequel and a wonderful expanding of the Pixar superhero universe.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.

3.5 Nibs