“You Can Do It. You Can Do Anything. You’re The World’s Greatest Grandma…”
Tasked with being the first Marvel release to follow on from the universally accepted awesomeness of Avengers: Infinity War, Peyton Reed’s second instalment of Scott Lang/Ant-Man’s own MCU journey hits cinemas this week, reuniting audiences with a large proportion of characters from 2015’s excellent origin story as it delves deeper into the notion of the quantum realm and the hopeful return of Michelle Pfeiffer’s (mother!) Janet van Dyne, the original embodiment of The Wasp who was lost many years ago in order to save the world from nuclear disaster. With a zippy pace and a childish playfulness which parallels completely with the two preceding Marvel releases within 2018, Ant-Man and the Wasp undoubtedly falls into the MCU category of “great fun but not particularly necessary” alongside previous examples such as Thor: Ragnarok and Spider-Man: Homecoming, and whilst come the closing credits Reed’s movie falls down under the weight of much better entries within the ever-expanding Marvel Universe, the razor-sharp comedy and fundamentally likeable characters at the heart of the drama all succeed in making Ant-Man and the Wasp a thoroughly enjoyable throwaway superhero ride.
With the Bond-esque sensibility of Black Panther and the gargantuan epic space opera of Infinity War proving to be two of the strongest entries within the MCU so far, it’s fair to say that Reed’s latest follows closest to that of a down-and-out comedy, one which stays well away from the R-rated expletives of Deadpool to keep within the remit of 12A rated family friendliness, but also one which feels comfortable poking fun at not only its’ titular character’s fundamental absurdity but the genre itself, with a bundle of well constructed gags eager to please casual and die-hard MCU fans alike. With each of the primary cast all thoroughly enjoying themselves, the dryness of Michael Douglas’ aged Hank Pym mixed in with the brilliance of a Paul Rudd who seems to have been born for the leading role offers the chance for constant giggles, a feat not undone when the movie switches to a more dramatic tone in order to introduce not one, but two leading villains in the form of Hannah John-Karmen’s (Ready Player One) Ghost and Walton Goggins’ (The Hateful Eight) excellent arms-dealing criminal, Sonny Burch. With the action and spectacle offering a much more expansive usage of the shrinking technology utilised by the movies’ heroes, a concluding car chase wraps the film up nicely, leaving the tone of the film within the up-beast positivity in which it began, and even with a post-credits sequence which ties into the mould of the universe set up within Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp is an MCU movie which is undoubtedly great fun, but one which too feels oddly irrelevant considering the dramatic turn the franchise has taken in wait for next year’s concluding arc to the MCU as we know it.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Nineteen Men Attacked Our Country. The Twelve Of You Will Be The First To Fight Back…”
Growing up throughout the late 1990’s and the early 20th century, whenever the name, Jerry Bruckheimer, appeared on the opening credits of a movie, my action loving, adrenaline fuelled teenage mind would jump in extended joy at the knowledge that what lay ahead was an eye-watering level of action and adventure which had me sold from the word, go. Whether it be The Rock, Bad Boys or Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, the standardised Bruckheimer release tends to consist of hyperbolic explosions, rugged leading heroes, and of course, guns, lots of guns, and what we have with 12 Strong, the directorial debut of Swedish filmmaker, Nicolai Fuglsig, is indeed a movie which confines strictly to such a model with a steady degree of success. Set directly after the events of 9/11, 12 Strong follows Chris Hemsworth’s (Thor) inexperienced Captain Mitch Nelson as he leads his titular team of warriors into the heart of Afghanistan in order to broaden alliances with Navid Negahban’s (American Assassin) General Abdul Rashid Dostum and strike back against the threat of the Taliban, personified by Numan Acar’s (The Great Wall) murderous leader, Razzan.
Based upon Doug Stanton’s non-fiction book “Horse Soldiers”, Fuglsig’s movie is full to the brim with mechanical, macho mayhem with notions about the price of war and the effect of 9/11 on the wider world simply glanced at in favour of endless action set pieces and somewhat cliched, emotionally manipulative character development. Thankfully for the first-time director however, the sheer spectacle and scale of the aforementioned action presented on-screen is surprisingly well done, with the mixture of well-tempered violence and sound design managing to inflict a rigorous amount of tension, and even when it becomes somewhat easy to giggle at witnessing a tight muscled Chris Hemsworth riding into battle upon a horse in a War for the Planet of the Apes-esque manner, 12 Strong doesn’t ever become too mindless to lose its’ audience completely. With a ensemble cast featuring the likes of Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals), Michael Peña (End of Watch) and Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes, the chemistry between the band of brothers is solidly captured, and whilst the film does seem at least twenty minutes too long, with a sense of familiarity and repetitiveness hanging over it come the concluding act, Fuglsig’s first shot at Hollywood is entertaining enough, and even with a ridiculously bald William Fichtner, 12 Strong is the type of Bruckheimer release I would have drooled over as a child, explosions and all. Bring the popcorn.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Go Undercover Within The Department? That’s Awesome…!”
Burdening themselves with the prospect of attempting to distinguish themselves from simply being yet another terrible excuse of a film which classifies itself as a comedy, CHiPs, written, directed and starring Dax Shephard, is based primarily upon the American television drama series of the same name which aired on NBC between the years of 1977 and 1983, and within a week in which Power Rangers has surprisingly succeeded in whinging a modern-day adaptation too, the penultimate week of March can only be classed as the week in which two of the most pointless and utterly undesired methods of entertainment have somehow had the 21st century treatment and had the nerve to grace the big-screen. All negative preconceptions aside, CHiPs, co-starring the undeniably likeable Michael Peña, whose back catalogue includes End of Watch and Ant-Man, as well as the most recent incarnation of Wilson Fisk from Netflix’s Daredevil, Vincent D’Onofrio, CHiPs is indeed the type of movie in which you begin to wonder about the mindset of those who have played a part in creating it, with the main driving force in the form of Dax Shephard being primarily to blame in successfully creating one of the most vulgar, idiotic, mindless and utterly offensive movies in recent memory.
Featuring a supposed array of so-called jokes which offend everyone and everything from the professionalism of the police community to the LGBT community and the disabled, CHiPs is a textbook example of one man attempting to boost his egoistic capabilities by taking hold of a TV blueprint and throwing as much awfully constructed action and comedic set pieces at it as possible in order to overshadow how poor the movie actually is. Unfortunately for Shephard, the ridiculously unfunny narrative and sloppy direction only enhance the shoddiness of the overall finished picture, a picture which shares similar elements with the vile back catalogue of Adam Sandler in regards to how retrograde it comes across towards sex and the treatment of females in a “I can’t believe they actually made this” kind of fashion. Whilst the response from fans of the original show has reportedly been less than positive, I would go as far to say that everyone who goes to see CHiPs will come out smiting the air in a retrospective feeling of contempt towards a film which is just so, so awful from start to finish. AVOID.
Overall Score: 2/10
DAN – With the release of Peyton Reed’s Ant Man this week, the mammoth of a machine that is Marvel continues to ever-grow and seemingly swallow everything in its’ path, regardless of the competition at hand. With Comic Con last week seemingly handing the hype trophy over to DC due in part to the explosion of Batman and TV related goodness, cast interviews and movie trailers, particularly that of the eagerly anticipated Suicide Squad, it seems obvious that DC are staging an attempt to sway the Marvel machine off its’ course for the time being even though they still hold the award for best comic-related movie ever in the form of The Dark Knight. So with DC winning the hype-race at Comic Con, Marvel have seemingly decided to take a seat back from the fire-fight for the time being and allow us to revel in the formation of a new Avenger in the form of Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, the incarcerated criminal who unwillingly undertakes the role of Ant Man under the guidance of Micheal Douglas’s Hank Pym, a retired former S.H.I.E.L.D agent who had once previously been the occupier of the famous Ant Man suit. Where before Marvel films have seemed to undertake a very similar, formulaic layout, Ant Man points more towards the spectrum of Guardians of the Galaxy, particularly in terms of its’ high comedic value, something of which makes Ant Man one of the most enjoyable Marvel entries so far, and ultimately concludes Phase Two of the MCU in a rather cool and collective fashion.
The entire reason for why Guardians of the Galaxy succeeded so well last year was the unexpected turn it took from the rather similar and over-used Marvel film blueprint for almost all entries in the MCU up to its’ release, with it combining a underlying comedic element and self-mockery to the fundamental questionable concept of a team of heroes that combined a tree and a talking raccoon. Add in a scorching soundtrack and a well-chosen cast, Guardians of the Galaxy truly was one of the highlights of last year, let alone in its’ own expandable universe, and Ant Man swiftly follows suit by once again being another Marvel related success which combines a huge riff of comedy, due in part to the influence of Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish who left half-way through production, and a wonderful cast, strongly spearheaded by the one-two of both Rudd and Douglas. Compared to the spectacle of most MCU-related movies, it was actually quite refreshing to see Ant Man take more of a low-key approach, with the action only really taking place in the final act of the film after some interesting and highly enjoyable character development in the first two-thirds, with scenes in which the miniaturisation was used in a hugely comical manner being one of the many highlights of the film.
Other highlights of the film included Ant Man’s accidental meeting with a fully-formed Avenger and the way the film included Easter Eggs and references to the MCU, particularly its’ attempt to signify its’ move away from the Avengers with Pym’s statement of them being busy “toppling a city somewhere”, rather tongue-in-cheek at the destruction caused in Age of Ultron. Such levels of destruction thankfully cannot be attributed to Ant Man however with the biggest moment of chaos being caused by an enlargement of Thomas the Tank Engine in a scene with produced chuckles from the entire screening audience. In terms of the problems, Ant Man does seem to bear resemblance to Guardians a bit too much resulting in a lack of freshness from Marvel’s POV, particularly when the latter was only released last year, whilst the plot thread of the Quantum Realm seemed a bit too rushed and jack-hammered in to be truly interesting. All in all however, Ant Man succeeds in being a rather entertaining and much welcomed entry into the MCU, and in my opinion beats Age of Ultron for best Marvel film so far this year. Up next, Fantastic Four. What a time to be alive.
Dan’s Score: 8/10
PETE – Dan has hit the nail on the head. Ant-Man was another one of the MCU’s films that honestly looked a bit naff. The trailers were lacking and it felt like the whole movie was pretty much summed up within them, yet like Guardians of the Galaxy, it was a huge surprise. The journey of an ex-con turned superhero was fantastic. Instead of dropping you into a story with characters who know their powers, their limits and strengths, we actually see a someone become a hero who doesn’t have infinite wealth or training to begin with.
The story was great fun. Ant-Man always seemed a but dull to me but Marvel have the uncanny ability to create characters that are so likeable and fun that make me want to run down to the comic store and dig into the back catalogue for a little more. Now as I haven’t seen anything involving Ant-Man, I can only say that I enjoyed the portrayal I saw, whether it is accurate or not. Paul Rudd simply doesn’t age and I’m sure for many years to come we could see him playing this role because he was great fun. His comedic wrap sheet means that he can execute lines on a whim and be extremely convincing doing so. Its the character that he can embody. Yet, considering Ant-Man is supposed to have a master degree, we really don’t see much about this at all but hopefully we can see it in his next outing.
It makes me wonder how people become evil in the Marvel world. The claims of righteous acts aren’t enough to justify it for me. When you watch a massive city/town lifted into the sky and the Avengers destroying this giant threat, why would you honestly think that your squishy body has any sort of chance. The ending for said villain was rather quick and honestly it felt a little rushed. The sequence was fantastic fun but it was to short compared to the entirety of the movie but nevertheless, it isn’t the typical way we see Marvel villains go and is rather liberating to see it so.
Marvel are great when it comes to visuals but it does feel as if Ant-Man’s budget was a little smaller in the CGI department as all the backgrounds in the miniature scenes lacked fidelity as looked very fuzzy. As for the rest, the ants look awesome and the giant scenes tended to uphold the general trend set by Marvel. The music was on point and the action was explosive and funny all at once. Is it better than Guardians? No. Is it worth your time? Hell yes. Its great and I really can’t wait until he makes an appearance in other instalments and we get a lot more cameos. PS – That SHIELD cameo was pretty damn epic! 8/10!
Overall Score – 8/10
In December of last year when I worked on the list of stuff I shall be keeping an eye out for, I noticed an unnamed David Ayer project featuring Brad Pitt, Shia Labeouth, Jon Berthnal, Logan Lerman and Michael Peña as a five man tank team during world war 2 in Nazi German towards the tail end of the conflict. Seeing we haven’t had a great war film in many years, the concept of approaching the conflict from the tank teams perspective was rather intriguing. As my love for Brad Pitt kept growing, my excitement for little titbits of news and information was building huge expectations in my mind. The trailer alone helped solidify what I was going to think of this film and to put it simply, the film was great.
During WW2, Nazi weaponry was typically far more advanced and their tanks were tearing into US units with ease. The tale doesn’t have a narrative that drives the movie like an action movie. Documentation springs to mind with its portrayal of the lives of those who fought in these tanks and the hardships they went through. After loosing their machine gunner, the Fury team were given Norman (Logan Lerman), a young man with no combat experience, 8 weeks in boot camp, never been in a tank and never killed before. Quite common in the time but we follow him as he is forced into the deep end with a crew of hardened fighters who don’t take kindly to having a weakness in the armour. The main character appears to be Norman. Over the 2 hours his character changes vastly and to see the conflict and infighting that gets him to where he needs to be is really engaging towards the audience. In this short period of time, we follow a boy become and man and what it makes of good men and the pain they went through to do their job. The final act is where the real action sets in with a convoy of tanks making their way too hold off a possible German advance but soon gets whittled down by a German tank. Upon defeating it, Fury stands on its own and carries its orders out until they hit a mine and lose one of the tracks. During repairs its found that Nazi forces are moving down the road and the final decision to fight or run is made. If I were to spoil it here, I don’t feel that would be fair. It ends rather dramatically with a blaze of glory and a barrage of emotions which I can only describe as epic. With its character driven story, it can feel a little slow towards the beginning when Norman is reluctant to do much but it grows even bigger with each step he takes.
From what I’m aware, the tanks used for filming were genuine vehicles and a great addition when you consider the over saturation of CGI in modern media. Visually the movie was great. I didn’t see any CGI that wasn’t the obvious blood splatter and shots on the tanks. Everything was fantastic in the visual department. The only issues that I do have were a few of the goofs. More down to the cutting and editing but switching from day to night in one cut was rather jarring. With the ringing of bullets and the roars of engines, the sound was clear and crisp. Enough to excite but not to deafen. Although with excitement we normally have music to help ramp the scene up. I don’t remember any of the songs and nothing really captured me enough to return home and search for whatever song was used (although I now probably will) like I enjoy and that’s a real shame for a movie that has prided itself on great cinematography and prop work.
There really isn’t much to talk about in the case of acting. We have a group of actors that have already proven themselves as adequate in many of their other appearances. Although Logan stands as the main, Brad Pitt steals it from him with a far superior performance and Shia was rather good. With his recent outbursts and nutty-ness, his career was in real turmoil but he has certainly managed to pick it up and be a part of something to really be proud of. The rest of the cast were brilliant too. There’s really no fault on their part. So my overall conclusion is that the movie is brilliant. The goofs can be forgiven but they are rather drastic and shows sloppiness by the cutting crews and there were some rather lengthy chunks of space that felt rather empty that didn’t achieve much for the flow. I seriously think the movie deserves all of the praise it is getting and I look forward to getting it on DVD with a few little extras and maybe a directors cut. My score for Fury is 8/10