2018 Summer Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Scott (Paul Rudd) and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) suit up in Ant-Man and the Wasp. (Source: IMDb)

Ant-Man was one of the funniest films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite the ordeal with filmmaker Edgar Wright. It features one of the funniest actors in Paul Rudd as an awkward criminal fighting crime wearing a suit that makes him become the size of an ant. While the narrative brings little to nothing new to the table, its fast-paced humor, wonderful action, and funny characters makes it such a sleeper hit.

Rudd and co-stars Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, and Michael Peña reunite with director Peyton Reed to give another hilarious, fun ride in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

After the events of Civil War, former criminal Scott Lang (Rudd) struggles to be a good father to his fearless daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). One day, he reunites with Hope van Dyne (Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Douglas). They learn about how Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) disappeared in the quantum realm in 1987. They help together to create a quantum tunnel to save her. With the help of Luis (Peña) and his security crew, the tiny heroes suit up while the “Ghost” (Hannah John-Kamen) and black market tech dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) are on their tails.

I cannot picture a better duo than Ant-Man and the Wasp (the first MCU film to feature a female character’s name in a title). Rudd and Lilly play off each other’s roles almost to perfection. Their interactions are almost impossible to hold in your laughter. Not to mention when Luis tells his stories with the funny narration (some of the best parts of the first film). It’s definitely not without its heart and wall-to-wall action. The chase through San Francisco showcases the breathtaking and funny special effects. Since 2008, these movies have gotten better with its visuals. Ant-Man and the Wasp is a great follow-up to Infinity War. It will be a quick eight months once Captain Marvel arrives.

3.5/4

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Movie Review: Black Panther

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Long live, King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman)! (Source: IMDb)

T’Challa–otherwise known as the Black Panther–made his MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War. He is such a cool superhero! Dressing up in his black suit and panther mask, he grants super speed, strength, stamina. It was great to see him kick ass at the airport with Iron Man, Captain America, among others. Two years later, we finally get to see Black Panther’s solo feature. I can’t picture a better time to see it!

Black Panther is the first big-budget extravaganza from director Ryan Coogler. From the overlooked indie film Fruitvale Station to Creed, the miraculous entry in the Rocky franchise, he is becoming one of the greatest filmmakers of this generation.

After the events of Civil War, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his African homeland of the technologically advanced Wakanda. He takes the throne as the new king who wants to keep his people safe. However, Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan, Coogler’s frequent collaborator) and his ally Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), a South African arms dealer, seek to overthrow him. While putting his country’s fate over the edge, he suits up and joins forces with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira, The Walking Dead), Shuri (a scene-stealing Letitia Wright), and CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman). Together, they must prevent the two from annihilation.

If I ramble on about this movie, I’ll spoil it for everyone. With a screenplay written by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, this contains the humor and thrills as expected in an MCU film, as well as morals, politics, and visual wonder (great cinematography by Mudbound‘s Rachel Morrison!). Boseman is the perfect choice to play Black Panther, and he leads a marvelous cast featuring Jordan (as MCU’s best villain), Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya, and the legendary Forest Whitaker. Black Panther is officially my favorite film in the MCU, surpassing Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok. This is destined to be a classic!

4/4

Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarok

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Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) join to save the world in Thor: Ragnarok. (Source: Crave Online)

I enjoy Thor a lot as a character in the MCU. His first outing in 2011, directed by Kenneth Branagh (known for adapting some of William Shakespeare’s plays), had the right amount of fish-out-of-water humor, mythology, and action. While not perfect in any way, there is no doubt Chris Hemsworth was the perfect choice for Thor. The sequel, Thor: The Dark World, was quite underwhelming and, in my opinion, the weakest entry in the MCU. This time, there is no Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, and Stellan Skarsgård. New Zealand director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) is the perfect choice to direct Thor: Ragnarok, in which it never takes itself seriously.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back with a new haircut, new group, and a new motivation.. He finds himself on the planet Sakaar, ruled by the deadpan Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Without his trusty hammer Mjolnir, he must fight to the death against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in a duel, which excites him (“We know each other! He’s a friend from work!”). Why does he do it? It’s the only way for him to return to his homeland to prevent Ragnarok, destroying Asgardian civilization. Thor and Bruce Banner join Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and Korg (Taika Waititi) to stop the evil Hela (Cate Blanchett) and save Asgard.

Thor: Ragnarok has a Guardians of the Galaxy vibe. Not only is it visually stunning and action-packed (how can you not smile when Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” is playing during the opening scene?), it’s also really funny (probably just as funny as Guardians). Waititi also does a great job expanding Norse mythology. Hemsworth proves he still has it; succeeding the physicality and emotional gravity of the story. The supporting cast is memorable. Waititi is known for starring in his own movies. Thor: Ragnarok is no exception. He provides some really funny lines as Korg, a rock warrior imprisoned on Sakaar. Blanchett is downright awesome as Hela, who plans on taking over Asgard. Great stuff!

4/4

2017 Summer Movie Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming

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Spider-Man (Tom Holland) swings into action in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the latest in the MCU. (Source: Den of Geek!)

Who doesn’t love Spider-Man? The friendly neighborhood superhero who swings into action to stop crime in New York City? He’s one of the wittiest superheroes in the Marvel comics. He made his theatrical debut in 2002, starring Tobey Maguire, and has rebooted ten years later, starring Andrew Garfield. Spider-Man is rebooted yet again so he can show the Marvel Cinematic Universe whose boss.

He might have been brought in at the last minute. But—he exceeded everyone’s expectations in Captain America: Civil War. What worked was the authenticity of Spider-Man being played by an actual teenager. Tom Holland—who was 19 at the time—got the character right on the money.

It’s hard not to look forward to seeing him on the verge of becoming an Avenger. Spider-Man: Homecoming proves MCU is stepping up its A-game.

After Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) returns to living with his aunt May (Marisa Tomei) at his home in Queens. He goes to a private high school, where he is one of the smartest kids there. Not to mention being on the academic decathlon. However, school is getting rough, particularly with his frequent encounters with his bully Flash (Tony Revolori).

While Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) is moving the Avengers Headquarters upstate, they remain his mentor. Things get worse when Spider-Man must face against Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), or the Vulture, who has plans of his own to take over the Stark’s business.

There is plenty to like here. One of the best action set pieces in the movie takes place on the Staten Island Ferry where Spider-Man saves the people on board after a weapon malfunctions. One problem, however, is that the ferry doesn’t allow cars after the 9/11 attacks.

Holland is the definitive Peter Parker/Spider-Man. He gets every one-liner and every web-slinging action pitch perfect! Keaton’s Vulture feels more like a real person than the previous Spider-Man villains. In terms of the MCU, he joins the ranks of Loki and Zemo as one of the best villains. But—in terms of the Spider-Man movies, he’s not quite as menacing as Alfred Molina’s portrayal of Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2. John Batalon steals the show as Ned, Peter’s awkwardly funny best friend. It’s hard not to get a laugh out of him.

2017 has been full of surprises thus far. Spider-Man: Homecoming is another great addition to the MCU, and easily one of the best high school movies of all-time.

3.5/4

Movie Review: Doctor Strange

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Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) walks out in style in Doctor Strange, Marvel’s latest entry in its ongoing film franchise. (Source: IMDb)

No other actor looked so cool putting on a cape than Benedict Cumberbatch.

Captain America: Civil War started this past summer with a bang. Not only was it a wonderful conclusion to the greatest film trilogy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also leaves the door open for one of the longest running film franchises; going on since 2008 with Iron Man. The audience introduces more characters leading up to—what might be—the biggest battle in film history (The Avengers: Infinity War). Doctor Strange, the latest MCU film, is a little more than your basic origin story.

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is one of New York City’s most brilliant neurosurgeons. One night, he gets into a car accident, causing him to lose his job due to serious damage to his hands. Strange goes on a journey to find a cure in Nepal. At Kamar-Taj, he meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) shows him the astral plane and alternate dimensions. He reluctantly trains of becoming a sorcerer. When he learns that the enclave is at war with a team of evil sorcerers, led by Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelson), Strange and his mentor Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) try to defeat the evil mastermind once and for all.

Scott Derrickson creates an origin story mildly different than the previous entries. Strange is a—literally and figuratively—broken protagonist who is willing to change. His spirituality is put to the test when he learns about controlling time. There is plenty of humor thrown in the mix. Notably, when he pokes fun at Master Wong (Benedict Wong) and his [one-word] name and using his wits to outsmart Kaecilius and his minions once they finally meet. There is an Inception-vibe through the stunning action sequences and visual effects, which is provided by Michael Giacchino’s magnificent score (powerful chorus, too).

Despite being somewhat formulaic and Mikkelson’s Kaecilius not quite topping Loki and Zemo as the best villain (a little bit more depth would have certainly done the trick), Doctor Strange provides enough wit and wonder to outweigh its flaws.

3.5/4

2015 Summer Movie Review: Ant-Man

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) grabbing the suit in "Ant-Man"

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) grabbing the suit in “Ant-Man”

Ant-Man is the final film in the second phase of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. I gotta admit, this is a fun send-off. It centers on Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a criminal who has just escaped from prison. With the help from scientist Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), he puts on a suit with a power to shrink in size but increase in strength. As Ant-Man, Lang, with the help of his teammates–Luis (a scene-stealing Michael Peña), Dave (T.I.), and Kurt (Dave Dastmalchian)–tries to pull off a heist involving Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) who creates the Yellowjacket suit, similar to the Ant-Man suit. This movie has Edgar Wright’s name written all over it. Despite only being attached as the screenwriter and with Peyton Reed sitting in the director’s chair, Ant-Man provides more laughs than most mainstream comedies, as well as the action, the emotion, and the fun of any superhero movie. Not to mention the effects during the sequences where Lang has shrunk into ant-size are reminiscent to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Cannot wait to see how phase three will turn out to be.

3.5/4

2015 Summer Movie Preview: July

Two months down. Two to go. This summer had a variety of great movies, especially Inside Out. I’ve seen it three times already and I can’t wait to see it again and again until it heads out of the theater and hit the DVD shelves. But, it’s time to talk about what has yet to come in July.

I apologize for being late doing this. I recently spent a week in Illinois mainly to see my brother graduate from NAVY boot camp (I’m very happy for him). Now I am back in Maine to give you my thoughts on several upcoming movies for the month of July. Let’s do this!

July 3

terminator-genisysTerminator: Genisys (came out July 1) – It’s awesome to see Arnold Schwarzenegger [literally] back in the spotlight. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it would hold up for how bland it looks. I’ve yet to see any of the original Terminator films – particularly Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day – but I prefer watching those movies over this one. Nothing is creepier than seeing a CGI Arnold. James Cameron tells us that we’ll love this movie. In my opinion, it would be the exact opposite.

magic_mike_xxlMagic Mike XXL (came out July 1) – I would not be surprised if the sequel to the sleeper hit Magic Mike would make a lot of money this weekend. I’m pretty sure a lot of women will have as big of a ball as last time watching male strippers do what they do. Channing Tatum has come a long way after his horrendous performance in the G.I. Joe movies (I’m glad he got killed off early in G.I. Joe: Retaliation). This looks like it would be fun.

July 10

minionsMinions – I’m one of the few people who is not a big fan of the first Despicable Me. Other than the gorgeous animation, I found the jokes lacking and the characters dull (Steve Carell’s Hungarian accent didn’t do it for me), it didn’t make me laugh that much. And I skipped the sequel. I have to admit, the minions easily stole the show. Everyone wished for a spin-off featuring these delightful characters. Guess what? Their wishes came true! I don’t think this highly anticipated spin-off/prequel to Despicable Me looks any great, but it looks pretty damn funny. Not to mention the three main characters remind me so much of Moe, Larry and Curly (“The Three Stooges”). It’s interesting to see Sandra Bullock portraying a villainess.

the-gallowsThe Gallows – The found-footage horror genre enters an empty high school at night. An evil has lurked after a freak accident occurred during a play. A group of students go around to investigate. The previews look like it’s pretty atmospheric (given that it’s R-rated because of it, which is super rare). I have a bad feeling this would turn out to be garbage. We’ll play it by ear.

selflessSelf/Less – This looks like a massive step-up for Tarsem Singh after his visually stunning but narratively lackluster Mirror Mirror (that movie can suck it): a futuristic sci-fi thriller. It involves a wealthy businessman who has cancer and decides to go under a procedure that changes his appearance to make him look younger. But this procedure is not what it appears to be. I like a good sci-fi. Let’s hope this delivers.

boulevardBoulevard – After his death last year, it’s hard not to choke up watching a movie starring Robin Williams. He has been under the spotlight for more than 40 years improvising, doing stand-up routines, making people laugh, and delivering serious performances. He even won an Oscar for his astounding role in Good Will Hunting. Being his last acting role, Boulevard seems to be a great send-off for Williams. People have been praising his performance! I cannot wait!

July 17

ant-manAnt-Man – Marvel is in its third phase in their cinematic universe. Funnyman Paul Rudd stars in a more serious role as the titular role who wears a suit that has the power to make him shrink into ant-size. I like the looks of this movie, but I’m curious how Edgar Wright would have played it out before Peyton Reed entered the director’s chair. The effects look reminiscent to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. It might be as entertaining as the other superhero movies.TrainwreckTrainwreck – A comedy that has been getting unanimous praise prior to its release. And I could definitely see why. Directed by Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People, This is 40), starring two funny people (Amy Schumer and Bill Hader), and countless celebrity cameos. Also, the jokes – from the preview ­­­­– made me laugh quite a bit.mr_holmesMr. Holmes – Played by countless actors including Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most popular detectives of all-time. This year, director Bill Condon makes a version of Holmes unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. He’s played by Sir Ian McKellen. At the age of 93, he goes around England to investigate one final mystery. I would be a fool missing this one out.irrational-manIrrational Man – We all know how much we hate Woody Allen as a person. But more than half of the movies he makes – including Annie Hall and Blue Jasmine – are some of the best movies ever made. His new movie follows a professor who goes through an existential crisis who bonds with one of his fellow students. I like Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone (star of last year’s decent but charming Magic in the Moonlight), but this looks like a standard entry in Woody Allen’s repertoire.

July 24paper-townsPaper Towns – Based on the book by John Green (author of The Fault in our Stars, which became a massively successful adaptation last year), Paper Towns follows a love story turned into a mystery. This is mainly a mystery for teens and young adults. Nat Wolff (star of The Fault in our Stars) and Cara Develegne look like they had great chemistry in what seems to be a funny and mysterious film. Hell, this looks better than The Fault in our Stars. Cannot wait for this and Looking for Alaska (I’ll have plenty of time to read that).pixelsPixels – It’s rare for anyone to look forward to a movie starring Adam Sandler. I personally liked his stuff on Saturday Night Live and some of his movies (Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Funny People). Other than that, I hate Adam Sandler with a passion. I’m glad he worked with a better director this time; Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) alongside Kevin James, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, among others. How can a movie involving aliens in the form of retro video game characters taking over the world not get you stoked? This is one of the most ridiculously entertaining concepts I’ve ever heard for a movie!southpawSouthpaw – As I like to call it: “Raging Bull for the new generation”. Jake Gyllenhaal got huge for the role of a heavyweight boxer fighting for his life to get custody of his child. It looks like Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen, The Equalizer) has made an emotionally tense character study.the-vatican-tapesThe Vatican Tapes – This sounds so much like a direct-to-DVD crap-fest. Mark Neveldine, who directed Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, cannot direct to save a life. I can’t imagine anyone watching his movies and not get a headache. The camera would not even stand still! Here’s some advice: MOUNT THE CAMERA ON A TRIPOD, FOR GOD’S SAKE!

July 31vacationVacation (in theaters July 29) – I rather watch the original 1983 Vacation starring Chevy Chase over this pile of tripe. Even Chris Hemsworth’s awkwardness doesn’t make it any funnier.mission-impossible-rogue-nation

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Ethan Hunt is one of the best action movie heroes and Mission: Impossible is one of my favorite movie franchises. Even Mission: Impossible 2 is a guilty pleasure of mine. He and his short hair are back to go on another globe-trotting mission. It amazes how no other actor can pull off perilous stunts like Tom Cruise. Yes, he was actually hanging on that cargo airplane door. Looking for a good time. Let’s hope Christopher McQuarrie steps up after directing Jack Reacher.the-end-of-the-tourThe End of the Tour – A hit at this year’s Sundance, this movie follows a journalist interviewing a writer for the Rolling Stone. This showcases Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel in what seems to be the performances of their careers. I love movies like these where they only involve people talking rather than mindless explosions.

Recap:
Most Anticipated: Boulevard, The End of the Tour, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Mr. Holmes, Paper Towns, Pixels
Least Anticipated: Terminator: Genisys, Vacation, The Vatican Tapes

I hope you all enjoyed what my thoughts on upcoming movies for July are. Please feel free to leave comments on what you are looking forward to this July. Stay tuned at the end of this month as I give my thoughts on what has yet to come in the month of August. Take care.