Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Year: 2018
Directed by: Oli Parker
Starring: Lily James, Amada Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Colin
Firth, Julie Walters, Andy Garcia, Cher

WRITTEN BY MEGAN WILLIAMS

This is going to be a weird way to start off this review, but I have a confession to make: I’m not really an ABBA fan. I enjoy a couple of their songs but they wouldn’t be my first or even third choice of music to listen to, but despite this, still really enjoyed the film adaptation of ‘Mamma Mia!’ in 2008. Now, ten years later, Hollywood has decided we clearly needed a sequel/prequel. I call it that because of the way the plot is constructed: ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again’ is set in the present day as well as the 1970’s as we are reunited with Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) as she reopens her mother’s hotel in Greece. The other plot revolves around a young Donna (Sophie’s mother, this time played by Lily James) as she graduates from University in 1979 and travels to Greece where she meets three men (one of which is Sophie’s father) and gives birth to Sophie.

For something that is a blatant cash-grab, I had fun with this charming film. The plot and songs worked well together (for the most part), and the blending of songs (most of which I didn’t know) within each scene fitted in seamlessly. Most of the cast were fantastic too although the standouts, once again, were Donna’s two best friends (played by Julie Walters and Christine Baranski in the present plot, and Alexa Davies and Jessica Keenan Wynn in the 1970’s plot). Amanda Seyfried and Lily James were fantastic and their singing voices are beautiful; they should both be featured in more musicals, and I look forward to seeing them in more films. However, this is where the positives end, unfortunately.

Nearly all of the cast were given singing parts, which is to be expected in a musical, but some of these actors should not have been granted this opportunity: Pierce Brosnan is back once again with his tone-deaf and flat voice (although it’s not for long thank goodness) but he does a passable job, acting-wise, returning as one of Sophie’s potential fathers. Dominic Cooper, who plays Sophie’s boyfriend Sky, is also not that great singing and even acting-wise. While he’s not flat, his singing and acting is very monotone and emotionless; it made me wonder whether he had signed a contract ten years ago saying he had to be in the sequel and he had had second thoughts before the filming of this one. On a final note, Hugh Skinner (who plays the young version of Colin Firth’s character) also can’t sing to save his life, and the sequence where him and Lily James perform ‘Waterloo’ is the probably the cringiest movie scene I’ve ever watched; I had my head in my hands throughout its entirety.

Overall, ‘Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!’ was a fun, charming but blatant cash-grab that, for the most part, works really well and although a couple of the cast members shouldn’t have been given singing parts, this gets overshadowed by the rest of the cast. If you’ve seen every other film that’s out at the moment but still want another trip to the cinema, I’d say check this one out.

MEGAN’S RATING:

3

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Steven Tyler: Out On A Limb

Year: 2018
Directed by: Casey Tebo

Written by Jessica Peña

Tune in to any classic rock radio at any given day and it’s likely you’ll hear an Aerosmith ballad. Next thing you know, it’s reeling you into car karaoke. So infectious, so energetic. Lead singer Steven Tyler is sort of that way, too. At 70 years old, there’s no stopping him. He’s come a long way from the rowdy early days of Aerosmith and is looking to spread his wings and welcome a new musical vitality, a new passion route like nothing before— country music. Steven Tyler: Out on a Limb documents the singer’s journey of self-discovery, his country roots personality, and his new lease on the music landscape. These behind the scene quirks blend seamlessly into live concert footage of his Out on a Limb tour at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee, where he now calls home. A concert film in its own right, this documentary has a lot to admire, root for, and engage with.

Directed by former Aerosmith roadie, Casey Tebo, the film features his friendship with Steven, talking head interviews of industry peers such as Slash and Robert DeLeo, and Steven’s bond with Nashville-based Loving Mary Band as they tour his solo album ‘We’re All Somebody from Somewhere.’ After hearing stories of band conflicts you’re met with wildly spirited performances of Steven’s newest album throughout the film. It’s his antidote to industry wrath and negative energy, things the legendary singer-songwriter no doubt experienced in his 30 years with Aerosmith. His constant willingness to create and perform become second nature and his move to Nashville proves to be one of the best things in the documentary. The collaboration with Loving Mary Band is highlighted in the second half as we lean more into discovered roots and how the sound of country music has become the basis for Steven’s new creative freedom.

Whether his solo country album is your cup of tea or not, the performances featured from the concert are quite alive and eerily nostalgic, thanks in part to his unmatchable rockin’ voice. And that’s another thing: his voice, grounded in its raspy, soulful glory, almost hasn’t aged as he reaches the high note of Dream On in this concert. He’s still so dedicated to the songs as if it’s still Aerosmith’s career peak and that’s what keeps the documentary moving along. Steven can only be true to himself and so sparks the continuing ride of forming new ties and solidifying his vow to make roots in Music City. For those craving to see more about the singer and the ins and outs of his career that led to this album, it’s a nice glimpse. The doc is also a pleasant enough portrait that will bring in long-time fans of his into welcoming this new angle of his life.

Steven Tyler: Out on a Limb is a lively, vibrant showcase of the singer’s personal career, offering insight to his love of life, people, music, and calling these passions home. There’s no denying the appeal of someone so intent on molding their forever happy environment and finding the grounds to stand by it. If nothing else, this documentary helps fixate the notion that life experiences carry so much weight on who we are and sometimes it’s worth it to break out of your norm and leap into something new. Steven Tyler’s new story is not necessarily a groundbreaking one but it’s definitely here to please and inspire, and that gets some respect.

Jessica’s Rating: 

3-5

Flavors of Youth

Year: 2018
Directed by: Haoling Li, Yoshitaka Takeuch, Xiaoxing Yi
Cast: Taito Ban, Dorothy Elias-Fahn, Matt Fowler, Dorothy Elias-Fahn

Written by Hunter Williams

After devoting two films to the emotional agony of young love — specifically, an enrapturing story of how time changes people but not love — the tragic series continues with Haoling Li and Yoshitaka Takeuch’s directorial debut Flavors of Youth after Takeuch operated as chief 3D animation artist on Your Name and special effects artist on 5 Centimeters Per Second. But curiously, instead of focusing on the romance alone, the film recounts three different stories of youth set in different cities of china, similar to that of 5 Centimeters per Second.

In the first chapter, “The Rice Noodles,” (take a drink every time “rice noodles” is said in the film) we’re introduced to Xiao Ming, whose nostalgic retelling of eating rice noodles helps him come to terms with the death of his Grandma and who he’s yet to become. The noodles were an integral part of his everyday life: watching his school crush walk home from school, bonding with his grandma and what it means to be happy. But it’s only in the softly animated town he once called home where he can learn how the past informs our future, even in the smallest of ways. In Xiao’s case, it was rice noodles.

Where one of the strengths of the first chapter was reconciling the past and present, chapter two, “A Little Fashion Show,” grapples with the anxiety of the future. Two sisters, one a fashion model and the other an aspiring fashion designer, persist in the aftermath of their father’s death. Unfortunately, the pressure of performing well in competition under the fashion industry threatens not only their way of life but also their relationship. It’s a heartfelt depiction of youth in a world that forgets the old, and especially the dead. And while it’s borderline cliché in its attempt to subvert beauty, it always feels genuine in execution.

Around the one-hour mark, once the healing from previous stories has finished, Flavors of Youth closes with a finale akin to the best moments of 5 Centimeters Per Second. Chapter Three, “Love in Shanghai,” perhaps the best due to the familiarity with the tragic romance, recounts the childhood of a young architect whose long-lost love has slipped away through time. The soft, nostalgic animation turns glossy and sharp, rendering the past as a forgotten corner of the mind that slowly reveals itself the more young Xiao explores his feelings. What’s found is the kind of love that admittedly only works in the movies, but it still hits just as hard. Xiao, whether he rekindles his past relationship, demonstrates the open heart of not only its producer, CoMix Wave Films, but also the directors who are hopefully on their way to making something even better.

Hunter’s Rating

3-5

 

 

The Meg

Year: 2018
Directed by: Jon Turteltaub
Cast: Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Cliff Curtis, Winston Chao

Written by Dave Curtis

You know it, I know it, heck even Jason Statham knows it – The Meg is not to be taken seriously. Tongue firmly in cheek, the director Jon Turteltaub has put together a surprising summer blockbuster which tries to be as big as ‘The Meg’ itself. What it lacks in genuine scares and jumps it makes up for in entertainment and enjoyment.

Loosely Based on Steve Alten’s 1997 novel of the same name The Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror which came hot on the heels of Michael Crichton’s smash Jurassic Park, it seems prehistoric creatures were hot property back then. Sadly, the plot of the 2018 feature film was written from the 101 manual of disaster movies and follows the guidelines which are all so generic. The Stath plays Jonas Taylor, an ex-deep sea diver who is dragged back into action to help rescue a submersible dive team who are stuck at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Battling his past, he must face the mysterious monster that cost him his career and his reputation. It seems he wasn’t that crazy after all.

Frankly, films like this never match the buzz that surrounds them. If its a crazy plot, (looking at you Geostorm) or just from the name *cough Snakes on a Plane cough*, often the marketing is the best thing about them. Cool posters and clever tag lines can only go so far and thus The Meg was pretty much built around the idea of Jason Statham fighting a giant shark. It’s as simple as that. Surprisingly The Meg just about rises above those low expectations that come with B-movies, I mean its no Jaws (but what is). Think more along the lines of Deep Blue Sea. In a less safe and ensured pair hands this could be rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Sharknardo films. Luckily Jon Turteltaub is a director who has helmed some big films (National Treasure 1 & 2) with big set pieces and has a history of working with CGI (The Sorcerer Apprentice) . These are all important factors because he set out to make a proper movie, not just a  film about a muscly action star punching a shark on the nose. Does he succeed? Not really, but it is a great attempt. What really lets the film down is the run of the numbers script. It truly has some dire dialogue. Luckily the willing cast attack it with gusto and conviction. Cliff Curtis looks like he is really enjoying himself.

The PG-13 rating does hamper and weigh the film down. It’s never really allowed to be let loose. The deaths are bloodless and get a bit samey after a while. (Its a big shark and one bite normally does the job). The problem with the shark is that it just doesn’t seem to impose a serious threat. For such a big shark it really should be more scary. Not that The Meg doesn’t look good. The visual effects work is better than expected. Time and money has been spent to ground the shark in reality, to try and make it believable. The Meg really shines when Jason Statham is taking centre stage. Whether he is being dragged behind a boat while the shark chases him (they use him as bait!) or interacting with the international cast, he really is at the forefront of everything good about the film. It really takes a certain type of actor to sell this kind of movie.

The Meg is a huge guilty pleasure which bounces along at a nice pace. More enjoyable than imaginable and in a summer of sequels, superheroes, and remakes The Meg is most shockingly quite refreshing. Yes it is very dumb and stupid but come on, what did we really expect?

Dave’s Rating

3

People You May Know (Short)

Year: 2018
Directed by: Louisa Fielden
Cast: Aiysha Hart, Joseph Timms

Written by Lucy Buglass

Have you ever scrolled through Facebook when the algorithm recommends someone from your past? Sometimes you feel happy, sometimes upset or even angry. We’ve all been there, and Louisa Fielden’s latest short film, People You May Know, centres around this very topic. After seeing ex-boyfriend James pop up as a suggested friend, Emily decides to add him and invites him to a coffee shop for a catch up eleven years after their break up. Set predominately in the cafe, we watch as the two of them discuss their past, and dark secrets are uncovered.

This is an incredibly emotionally charged film that deals with some upsetting topics. I personally found it very hard to watch but that’s a testament to how good the script and acting is. Despite the fact there’s only two actors, both Hart and Timms give excellent performances that hold your full attention for the entire duration. Over the course of the narrative we learn more and more about these two characters, in a similar fashion to reading all about somebody on social media, and we begin to feel like we’re part of these character’s lives.

I really loved the intrusive nature of the camera and it was one of my favourite things about People You May Know.  It felt like I was watching real people, talking about a very real and raw former relationship, and I was someone listening in when I wasn’t supposed to be. The film places you in that cafe, locks the door, and forces you to listen to every word even when you don’t want to. I was truly captivated by this short film and can’t praise the screenwriting enough for that. I thought the pacing was just right, and the dialogue packs an almighty punch when needed.

With this in mind, I appreciated the way these difficult topics were handled; in a way that emphasises their serious nature but doesn’t become too graphic. The incident that Emily recounts to James and to us, the viewer, has scarred her for life and is both physically and emotionally damaging. The way she spoke about it brought me to tears, as I expect was the intention. She is a hugely complex character with complex emotions that are often disregarded. Although she is only on screen for a few minutes compared to hours, we learn so much about her and her past.

People You May Know is harrowing but I would definitely recommend it if you feel you’re able to watch. With a runtime of 16 minutes, it’s a quick watch but something that will stay with you for a very long time once the credits roll. It’s a stunningly made, realistic and heartbreaking short about love, loss, trauma and confrontation. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.

Lucy’s Rating: 

4.5

You can keep up to date with Louisa Fielden via her website and Twitter

The Equalizer 2

Year: 2018
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Denzel Washington, Pedro Pascal, Melissa Leo, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman

Written by Tom Sheffield

Full disclosure before I start this review, I only watched The Equalizer for the first time a few hours before heading to the cinema for an early screening of this sequel. I really have no excuse as to why it took me so long, I’d only ever heard good things about it and now I can see why! It’s safe to say that I was well and truly ready for the sequel once it had finished and I had high hopes for it seeing as Denzel agreed to return for his first ever sequel.

Following his killing spree in the first film, Robert McCall (Washington) is now a Lyft driver in Massachusetts and lives in a small complex. McCall spends his days listening and talking to passengers, and by night he helps out the less fortunate as a righteous vigilante. After his closest friend is murdered, McCall makes it his personal mission to find those who killed her and deliver his own justice. The incoming hurricane isn’t the only storm brewing…

Much like the first film, the plot is very slow paced. Clocking in at just over two hours long, the first half of the film is spent focusing on McCall’s day job and the people he meets. We are also introduced to McCall’s neighbour, Miles (Sanders), who is a young and talented artist who has taken a wrong turn in life following the death of his brother. McCall takes Miles under his wing to help steer him on to the right path, and it’s this unexpected friendship that is a strong focus in the first half of the film. Once McCall learns of the death of his best friend the pedal hits the metal and McCall’s ferocious revenge begins.

Denzel yet again manages to completely embody the character of McCall. We didn’t learn all that much about his character in the first film, but this sequel gives us a little more insight into his mysterious past and also shows us a more fatherly-figure side to him. We know he’s a very protective person, but his relationship with Miles allows us to see a deeper side to him. Ashton Sanders delivers a solid offering as troubled teenager Miles. We learn about his background during his conversations with McCall, and we witness the struggles and dangers Miles puts himself in as he continues to make the wrong decisions in life. Pedro Pascal is a fantastic addition to this sequel, but the less said about his character in this review the better the film will be for you!

Oliver Wood, who’s previous cinematography work includes the Bourne series, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, and Safe House, has delivered some career-best work here. Fuqua and Wood have paid close attention to each shot, but there’s one shot in particular that revolves around McCall’s car that I had to restrain myself from punching the air because it was so quick and so smooth that when it’s available on home release I will be going straight to that scene to watch again and again. If you’ve seen it, or will be seeing it, you’ll know instantly which scene I am referring to.

Antoine Fuqua has managed to re-capture a lot of what I loved about the first film without making it feel like a copy and paste job. With the slow-motion ‘situation assessing’ shots and the brutal justice McCall serves, all it felt like the film was missing was Batman’s cape and cowl. Denzel putting on the batsuit really wouldn’t have felt out of place in this film – and I mean this is a sincere compliment. Whilst it takes a while for the action to kick off, the wait feels worth it as once it starts it rarely stops to let you breathe.

With some incredible action set pieces that rival the bloody killing spree in the first film, The Equalizer 2 proves itself a worthy sequel (even if a plot point or two are incredibly cliché and predictable). Denzel is on form once again, delivering both really touching moments and brutal fight scenes that will make you think twice about ever messing with him. Unlike most films these days, The Equalizer 2 doesn’t end with some sequel baiting tease and if this is the last time we see McCall it will be a fitting farewell, but something tells me that more of McCall’s past could come back to haunt him and we could be blessed with an Equalizer trilogy.

 

Tom’s Rating: 

4.5

Teen Titans GO! To The Movies

Year: 2018
Directed by: Aaron Horvath & Peter Rida Michail
Cast: Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Michael Bolton, Nicolas Cage, Greg Davies, Halsey, Jimmy Kimmel, Stan Lee, Lil Yachty

Written by Tom Sheffield

I honestly don’t even know where to begin with this review. Even the hilariously bizarre marketing didn’t prepare me for the weirdest 88 minutes I’ll ever spend on a Sunday morning. I knew we were in for something different when the lights went down in the cinema screen and an animated version of DC’s new intro began to play.

The premise of this little animated caper is that Robin is growing increasingly jealous of all the superheroes getting their own movies in Hollywood, and when he learns that Alfred and the Bat-mobile will be getting one before him he decides it’s time for the Teen Titans to prove themselves worthy by seeking out an arch-nemesis, something all great superheroes have. Robin and the Titans then come face to face with D̶e̶a̶d̶p̶o̶o̶l̶ Slade (aka Deathstroke, although he’s never called that in the film for some reason) and they decide they want him to be their nemesis, but Slade deems them unworthy to waste his time on. The Titans try to help Robin prove he’s worthy with a few catchy musical numbers, a dash of time travel, and a ton of comic book and film easter eggs along the way!

The film boasts an incredibly talented voice cast, with Tara Strong (Raven), Scott Menville (Robin), Greg Cipes (Beast Boy), Hynden Walch (Starfire), and Khary Payton (Cyborg) all reprising their respective roles from the Teen Titans TV series. Also along for this ride is Will Arnett, Nicolas Cage (and his son Kal-El), Kristen Bell, Greg Davies, Michael Bolton, and Jimmy Kimmel to name just a few. However, not even Nicolas Cage finally getting to play Superman could top the hilarious cameo from the king of cameos himself, Stan Lee!

The film is full to the brim with pop culture references, comic book nods, and digs at previous DC films. Not even Disney is safe in this film as there’s one particular sequence animated in Disney fashion and puts a twist on the Lion King’s opening sequence. I was constantly scanning the background of each shot for subtle jokes, such as the name of buildings, film posters in the theatre, and characters popping up in the background. I’m pretty sure I missed about 50% of them, so a second viewing is on the cards at some point. These nods and digs were easily the highlight of this film for me, mostly because the majority of the actual dialogue felt like it was targeted to the younger members of the audience (and rightly so I guess!). There’s a joke about pooping that goes on waaaay longer than it needed to, and there are also a few jokes that didn’t manage to get a laugh from any of the audience (the majority of which were young children with their parents).

Poop jokes aside, the musical numbers in this definitely caught me off guard at first, but I’ll be damned if they weren’t toe-tappingly catchy. How could anyone not crack a smile at Michael Bolton singing as an 80’s clad Tiger? In fact, let’s put that to the test. Below is the official clip from the film of the song ‘Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life’. Just let the soothing tones of Michael Bolton’s voice bring you some joy today.

That’s just a taster of the kind of musical numbers this film holds, of which there is a handful. The music is catchy, upbeat, and is accompanied by great scenes in the film. Listening to the soundtrack as I write this, I can’t help but laugh remembering some of the ridiculous stuff that goes on during some of the songs.

Teen Titans GO! to the Movies has the perfect runtime and it doesn’t overstay its welcome (despite Robin’s objections). With only a couple of stinkers, the humor is mostly on point and you can’t help but enjoy yourself whilst watching the film. If you have younger siblings or family members, definitely invite them along for a watch at your local cinema.

Tom’s Rating:

4

Heartless (Short)

Year: 2018
Written & Directed by: Kevin Sluder
Runtime: 12 minutes 24 seconds
Cast: Stacy Snyder, Joanna Sotomura, Matt Mercer, Blaine Vedros, Ron Morehouse, Melody Melendez

Written by Tom Sheffield

Heartless is a brand new short film from the award-winning L.A based Sunshine Boy Productions and is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’. Heartless marks Kevin Sluder’s directorial debut, who is also one half of Sunshine Boy Productions team alongside his wife, Jennifer, who is an executive producer on this film.

I will try to avoid spoilers ahead as best I can because if you do intend to watch this when it’s released for public viewing you’ll thank me for it!

Selby (Stacy Snyder) is about to deliver a presentation at work but it’s clear something is weighing heavily on her mind. Before she even starts her presentation, three ‘classic’ businessmen (total asshats who belittle women and think they’re God’s gift) already make it clear they would have preferred Clare, Selby’s co-worker who she worked on the presentation with, to have been presenting. This is then followed by a demand for Selby to fetch some coffee before she starts. The look on Selby’s face says it all and if looks could kill all three of the men would be laid out on the meeting room table. One of the men then tells Selby it’s just a joke but then says she has to smile before the presentation can start. The smile she forces herself to wear is the point Selby snaps and we learn who Clare is and why she isn’t the one presenting.

Selby gives Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman a run for his money when she snaps, and it makes for bloody magnificent viewing. My jaw literally dropped during the flashback to the night before when we learn of Clare’s fate. Snyder absolutely nails her performance as she completely owns the screen and I found myself unable to take my eyes off her (those of a squeamish nature may find themselves looking away during one or two particular moments). Admittedly I haven’t seen any of Snyder’s previous work, but having seen her in this I will definitely be seeking some out.

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I really couldn’t write this review and not praise Josh and Sierra Russell for their incredible blood and gore effects. Their work on this short is easily better than some feature-length films I’ve seen and it really elevates this short to a whole other level. I really didn’t expect this film to make me jump back in my chair in surprise during some of its big moments, but the makeup and effects are incredibly well detailed and executed that, for a moment, I fully believed someone just had their throat sliced open with a coffee mug.

The cast and crew as a whole have delivered a sleek and professional final product that could easily be mistaken as a scene from a bigger budget feature. Steve Moore’s score is incredibly fitting with the craziness that ensues too. The second the credits finished rolling I immediately started the film again and began to pick up some of the subtle and clever details I missed the first time round. Once again, Snyder’s performance was completely captivating

This is a solid debut from Sluder, who has managed to deliver a brutal and thrilling horror/dark-comedy that honestly surpassed my initial expectations. I would happily sit and watch a feature-length film exploring the days leading up to this presentation and Selby’s brewing outburst. As a short, I can’t fault any aspect of it. The whole thing is incredibly well executed, from the makeup to the editing, and Sulder’s superb writing and direction.

Tom’s Rating:

5

Be sure to keep up to date with Sunshine Boy Productions on their social media pages: 

Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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Ant-Man & The Wasp

Year: 2018
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Forston

WRITTEN BY CHRIS GELDERD

This 2018 American superhero film is the sequel to 2015’s ‘Ant-Man’ and the twentieth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It is directed by Peyton Reed and stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Hannah John-Kamen, Walton Goggins, Laurence Fishburne, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park and Michelle Pfeiffer.

One of the most under-rated Marvel superheroes launched in 2015 with his big-screen debut, bringing together a solid cast and adding more pieces to the MCU puzzle. In ‘Captain America: Civil War’, Ant-Man stole the show by becoming Giant-Man in an all to brief but highly entertaining appearance. Now it’s time for the inevitable sequel; one that not only surpasses the original, but lets core Marvel values shine brightly in a franchise currently clouded by recent doom and gloom.

Grab your popcorn and kick back. It’s time to have some fun once again.

This film belongs to Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly – it’s a film about partnership, about family, friendship and being. It’s ‘Ant-Man & The Wasp‘; equal heading, equal footing on marketing and everything in-between. Rudd doesn’t need to try too hard to be humorous, but he still manages to do it in a very heartfelt and endearing way, making Scott Lang stand out as one of the Marvel heroes simply wearing a super suit and uses his heart, head, and honour to fight evil, rather than gifted God-like superpowers.

On the other side of this duo, Evangeline Lilly holds her own across the whole film. She is ballsy, brainy and badass.  She’s a real humane hero who doesn’t become a damsel in distress. She clearly takes care of herself when the heat is turned up and, along with Rudd, shows some real heart and emotion that pushes the core themes forward. Rudd and Lily are equal, neither have greater ability than the other when it comes down to fighting the good fight, and none of them are there as a spare tool. It’s equality, and then some, and so much more enjoyable for it with them being together. The trailer used lyrics It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta’ sight.” Never a truer phrase in this case.

With a stellar supporting cast including veterans Michael Douglas (who has even more to do this time around thankfully) and the amusing guilty-pleasure comedy of Michael Peña who all add to the story rather than be expendable, new faces also add to the overall quality. Laurence Fishburne helps expand character relations and morals, Walton Goggins as our charming black market bad guy for hire and Michelle Pfeiffer as the original Wasp and wife of Hank.

Young Abby Ryder Forston as Cassie, Lang’s daughter, shines with as much warmth and wit as Rudd in her scenes and is a joy to see on screen. But it is Hannah John-Kamen who strikes a chord as Ava Starr – our ‘Ghost’ – who has a molecular instability thanks to reasons left to be discovered. She’s pushed as the villain of the piece, but is she? Director Peyton Reed tiptoes towards MCU cliché in her goals and actions, but each time pulls back from the brink to give us something a little different and unexpected. Her story is a sad one and while she is highly dangerous in what she does and why, it’s the journey she takes mirroring the heroes that add some great moments and thrills, thrills that come thick and fast, and help define “popcorn entertainment”.

We have a brilliantly choreographed car chase that involve trucks, motorbikes, Pez dispensers and Hot Wheels racers. We have a hotel lobby and kitchen fight, once more perfectly choreographed, that showcases Lily in full force. We also have eye-popping ‘Doctor Strange’-esque quantum realm travel and bone-crunching hand to hand combat. The whole pace of the movie is perfect, and the action compliments each development and progresses everything and everyone without being pointless.

There isn’t the need for city-wide destruction and mass genocide here. It’s a family-friendly film, but one that harkens a little more to classic Marvel themes before the stakes were as high as they could be and it felt things had peaked. ‘Ant-Man & The Wasp’ takes the threat of Thanos out of the equation for a couple of hours and reduces all pointless cameos and Avenger interaction to give Ant-Man both a fair stand-alone sequel but also presenting new ideas for the future of the franchise.

The humour is on top form where you will find yourself chuckling along a lot of the time without even knowing it thanks to the snappy character exchanges. Yet, fear not, the movie isn’t stupid nor does it rely on infantile humour to get the laughs. There is a lot of heart to this film – the narrative is more about family and faith over Infinity Stones and nuclear wars – so you will certainly be able to invest in the characters, what they do and why.

Another strong reason this film seems to make great leaps forward to Marvel is the visual effects that stand amongst the best in the current franchise. There is no need for constant green screen and masses of CGI locations thanks to keeping things Earth based with practical sets and effects. The stand-out moments are the shrinking and enlarging of Ant-Man and Wasp. Split second transformations in the middle of breakneck fights are seamless and fluid, with the environment and characters reacting accordingly. Nothing feels jarred or loose. It’s tight, imaginative, entertaining and exciting. And when Ant-Man loses control of his suit’s regulator, there’s just more good fun to be had.

Ant-Man & The Wasp’ doesn’t try to compete with the juggernaut of ‘Infinity War’, it instead does the wise thing and distances itself far from it. If the bar to judge all MCU films hinges on ‘IW’, then you’ll find you miss out on these smaller gems that expand the forgotten heroes and their own stories.

However, for the ones who are worried, then don’t be. Events of ‘Infinity War’ are referenced in the film. How? When? You’ll have to find out for yourself and watch that Marvel cloud of doom and gloom smother the care-free fun you just had.

CHRIS’ RATING:

5