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Ant-Man and The Wasp (2018) Movie Blu-ray Review By D.M. Anderson

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins

When heavy metal was at the height of its popularity, most bands could be counted-on to include at least one power ballad on each album, a relatively quiet song that was seldom the best tune on the record, but got the most radio airplay and had fans whipping out their lighters during a concert.

The power ballad also served an important aesthetic purpose, offering a brief respite from the sonic fury of the rest of the album. For example, smack-dab in the middle of Metallica’s Ride the Lightning is a song called “Fade to Black.” While still heavier than anything Poison ever recorded, it was sort of a breather from the constant speed and intensity of the surrounding songs.

As films in the MCU grow longer, louder and increasingly epic, the Ant-Man films are sort-of like Marvel’s power ballads. The second film, Ant-Man and the Wasp, is more tied to the MCU story arc than the first, but steadfastly maintains the same light, breezy and humorous tone, another welcome break from the serious implications and apocalyptic battle royals where the fate of the world is at stake.

Not that it skimps on spectacle. As power ballads go, Ant-Man and the Wasp is still more Metallica than Poison. But the stakes are more personal, the characters more grounded and realistically flawed. One thing I appreciate about Paul Rudd’s amusing take on the title character is that he screws up as often as he succeeds, and most of the supporting characters (Evangeline Lilly as Hope/Wasp in particular) are just as integral to the plot. Most distinctively, the action & visuals are as humorous as they are eye-popping (you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a giant Pez dispenser take-out henchman).

Other than an ominous MCU-related coda during the end credits, Ant-Man and the Wasp, while not strictly mining for laughs, is never overly serious. It’s even shorter than other recent Marvel movies, never outstaying its welcome. Like heavy metal power ballads, the film may not be among the most essential entries in the franchise, but like the first Ant-Man, it’s a welcome change of pace. Even fanboys need an occasional breather.

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Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers 
Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins

I finally got round to watching Ant-Man and the Wasp a good week back, just the one month after the rest of the world. I knew about the end credit scenes, because frankly, I couldn’t wait to see how they interconnected this with the events of Avengers: Infinity War and so I succumbed to reading about them on the internet. They had to do it following Scott Lang’s non-involvement and I have to say that I was pleased and relieved that Disney/Marvel didn’t intrude upon the actual films plot with any Thanos related incidents. 

This had to be a more street level, more intimate affair, focusing on Scott Lang, Hope Van Dyme and Hank Pym. I’ve always enjoyed that element to the MCU over the years. Their ability to jump from cosmic scale events to fighting a corrupt businessman with itchy fingers and a propensity for turning up at just the right time. That last bit is directly connected to this film, admittedly, but we’ve seen it time and again, in the in the other standalone films. Be it the ragtag group of terrorists in Iron Man, Yellowjacket, Aldrich Killian, or more recently, Killmonger. 

Thankfully, it is more street level. It begins with the focus on Scott Lang, post Civil War. He’s under house arrest and he unwillingly gets stolen away by Hope (Evangeline Lily) and Hank (Michael Douglas), as they try to save Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), who’s apparently alive and still trapped in the quantum realm. There’s two main antagonists and a minor, comedic one. Primarily, we’ve got Ghost/Ava (Hannah John-Kamen), weaving through doors and walls, trying her damnedest to steal Pym’s latest invention for herself, a portal to the quantum realm. 

Why does she want it? Well, her father is Elihas, a former partner of Hank, who killed himself and his wife, during a quantum experiment. This left Ava in a permanent state of agonising pain, with her body tearing itself apart, again and again. She wants Hank’s lab to extract quantum energy, in the hope of it curing her, with the help of Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), another disenfranchised ex-partner of Pym. Which would be perfectly fine and dandy, if it wasn’t for Janet being trapped within and the danger of her being killed by such an excursion. 

The second antagonist, is a wiry, snake of man called Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins). He’s an opportunistic, low level criminal and more of a traditional villain. His main objective for the entirety of the film is fairly simple. He also wants the Pym lab for his own and endeavours to sell it onto the black market for monetary gain. I described him as being similar to the Beni character from ‘The Mummy’ in that he’s full of misguided cockiness, but does have a propensity for arriving on the scene at the right time, much to the chagrin of  Scott and Hope, who he taunts frequently. Ava is a relatable antagonist, with a semblance of humanity. Sonny, is a little annoying bitch. 

Thirdly, you have Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), an FBI or some kind of law enforcement officer who makes regular trips to the Lang household to make sure Scott is maintaining his house arrest. He’s not a proper antagonist as such, but he’s a thorn in the side of Ant-Man, who often has to leave more important matters to dash back and keep up the facade of ignorance to the forty foot plus superhero wading through water in the Ant-Man suit, which is definitely not him. No way. Woo brings some much needed comedic relief along with the usual suspects of Luis (Michael Peña), a family pet sized ant and even Lang himself. 

The humour is fantastic, incidentally, and very reminiscent of the first film. It’s reminiscent of just about every MCU film in existence. They know how to blend all the different elements together to create a perfect tonal stew. Paul Rudd is no stranger to that genre too and he’s got the gift of comedic timing and hilarious line delivery. From the “Hank I would never do that to you, I respect you too much” to the “I don’t think you got the gist of the game” quip to Hope. He’s a very likeable, loveable even, goofball. Luis also brings the comedy with his antics and even a certain Mr. Douglas has his moments too with a few one liners. 

The story is pretty simplistic throughout really, I pretty much nailed it all in one sentence earlier, but that’s absolutely fine for a film like this. It doesn’t need a complicated, convoluted plot to work. It gave me exactly what I wanted with the relatable, great characters we love returning, slick and quick paced action, more of Pym’s cool shrinking technology, more great humour and stunning visuals. But more importantly, the aforementioned human level antagonists and story. It was a great change of pace, it was escapism, and for me at least, an improvement on the original. That’s no mean feat either, because that was one of my favourite standalone MCU films.

My only gripe for this film was the bone headed decision from the Disney executives to delay its release in the U.K. by a month. Ok, fair enough, the World Cup was on and that can have ramifications for the box office performances. That seemed to have overlooked the fact that three of the four countries that make up the U.K. weren’t even in the tournament though. There’s little appetite in Scotland to watch England coasting to a semi-final. Watching Ant-Man would’ve been the perfect remedy. That’s before you even mention that a large part of the core demographic probably doesn’t even follow football.

It was a mistake for me and it’s came back to bite them in the arse because it’s not doing too great at the box office regardless. A large proportion will have watched a pirated copy, which is criminal, particularly for a film of this ilk. But it’s also understandable too. Nobody wants to be waiting a month longer to see a blockbuster release like this. If it was the United States getting that treatment then there’d be riots. That being said, I think the fact my biggest criticism isn’t even about anything within the film itself will speak volumes.

It’s another highly enjoyable ride from Disney/Marvel. They’ve nailed the formula at this stage, they know what fans want and they bring their A game every time now. It’s a more than worthy addition to the collection. Of course, I’m biased because I love Paul Rudd and the Ant-Man character, but it’s a highly recommended watch.

Rating: 5/5

Ant-Man (2015) Movie Review by John Walsh

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Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Edgar Wright (screenplay),  Joe Cornish (screenplay)
Stars: Paul Rudd,  Michael Douglas,  Corey Stoll

I finally watched Ant-Man the other day, continuing my long tradition of missing the lesser Marvel cinematic films (can a film that grossed over $500m really be called that, who knows?) and then catching up with everyone else the best part of two years later. I have to say, I’m quite pleased that I got round to seeing it, because it’s yet another fine film from the beloved MCU.

The film opens with a very impressive piece of CG, as Michael Douglas gets the Benjamin Button treatment. That aside though, Mr. Pym is not a happy chappy, as he resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D, accusing them of trying to steal his technology. Things don’t get much better in the future either as his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) force him out of his company, Pym Technologies, with the latter transfixed on trying to emulate Pym’s shrinking suit and getting uncomfortably close with his ‘Yellowjacket’ creation. This doesn’t sit too well with Hank and he sets about sabotaging it before disaster strikes.

Step forward Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a man with a masters degree in electrical engineering, who inexplicably turns to a life of crime, carrying out burglary jobs presumably through boredom? I haven’t read the comics, so it’s more than likely that there’s a plausible reason. He’s a bit of a well meaning, loser at the beginning, coming off a short stint behind bars, but he’s looking to get on the road to redemption and earn an honest living, whilst also beginning to play an active role in his young daughters life again. That’s all well and good, but when you have a record, it’s often impossible to get employed, something which soon becomes apparent to Lang, as he loses his job at a fast food joint. Temporarily staying with ex-cellmate and buddy, Luis (Michael Peña) and coming off an awkward reunion at his daughters birthday, it’s not long before he’s tempted back into one more heist.

The heist on the Pym household is mainly an introductory look at Lang’s array of talents and he has quite a few. He acrobatically climbs up the house, disarms the alarm and uses some inventive techniques to pop the door off a vintage, 1910 era safe, apparently made with the same steel as the Titanic. It all appears in vain though as the only thing inside is a crappy suit, but he takes it with him nonetheless, and of course, when he gets some alone time the next day, tries it on. Things get interesting from this point onwards, from a visual and story standpoint. Firstly, those visuals. Wow. It’s absolutely incredible looking when Scott first shrinks down into the bathtub and the sequence afterwards is equally incredible as he makes his way through all sorts of varying, landscapes, before popping back to his original. Hank, who’s well aware of him wearing his suit, and as it turns out, let him steal it on purpose and planted the whole heist idea in general, introduces himself whilst helping to make sure the new, budding, superhero doesn’t kill himself.

A trip back to jail ensues with an overwhelmed Lang attempting to return the suit to its owner despite being told to do the opposite. He’s given a clear choice, stay in a perpetual life of crime or make the decision to be something better. Thankfully, he chooses the latter and it’s a brief stay, as an exhilarating escape is orchestrated by Pym and his army of obedient, mind controlled ants. The perspective then flips back to the villainous Cross, who by this point is brutally murdering several animals and a cynical rival, whilst Scott receives some much needed training from Hope, who’s switched sides again, and Hank on his way to becoming Ant-Man. He’s a quick learner and that’s perhaps for the best as a confrontation with Avenger, Falcon (Anthony Mackie), soon takes place with the former attempting yet another heist, this time on the very much occupied (it was supposed be abandoned) Avengers base. He’s successful, though not without a struggle, and the final assault on Pym Technologies gets brought forward after a lucky breakthrough from Cross brings him ever closer to replicating Hank’s suit.

The final assault is like a microcosmic version of the film as a whole, filled with lots of fast paced action, humour and fantastic visuals. Beginning in a lab as Cross is thwarted in his attempts to take his former masters suit by Hope, after briefly trapping Ant-Man inside a display case for the Yellowjacket (I’m really not sure what else to call it?), in front of Hydra representatives, and spreading out across town, ending in the most unlikely of places, his daughters bedroom, and more specifically, her toy train set. Lang uses nifty, little gadgets created by Pym to expand and shrink various objects, which add some good comedic moments. Everything from a toy train, an ant (later the family pet) and tank key ring gets the expanding treatment. He also utilises this in the films final moments to eventually save his life, after performing the ultimate sacrifice of shrinking into mere molecules to overwhelm and finally kill Yellowjacket/Cross by destroying his suit from within. This, incidentally, was the very thing that killed Pym’s wife and cohort Wasp years before. The scene reminded me a little of McConaughey in Insterstellar as he fell further and further into nothingness and it was very well put together.

Listen, I’ll admit it, I love Paul Rudd. From Anchorman to his role in Friends, he’s a brilliantly, funny actor and fantastic in this film. As I previously mentioned, his character starts off a bit of a well meaning, clown and develops very nicely as it progresses becoming a fully fledged superhero. Michael Douglas was impressive as Pym, the guiding guru figure that sees Lang’s potential when nobody else can and helps him achieve it. I enjoyed Evangeline Lilly as Hope and given the ending, I presume she’ll now be Wasp in the inevitable sequel. I’d have zero complaints with this and I thought there was some good chemistry between her and Rudd throughout. Corey Stoll played the villain well, he always seems to be a villainous character in anything I watch, albeit I’ve only seen him two films, this and the Big Short. He didn’t have a huge amount of screen time, the film seem to serve as more of an Ant-Man origin story, focusing on his training, but he did fine in the time he had.

I watched Captain America: Civil War before this and obviously Ant-Man was part of the ensemble of superheroes in that particular film, so I had a fair idea of what to expect going into this. I thoroughly enjoyed the film from start to finish, but then I thoroughly enjoy just about every Marvel film. It was a visual masterpiece, as it needed to be given the manner of the lead character, and Russell Carpenter should take a bow for that. It wasn’t the most complicated story ever told, essentially a heist film at its most basic level and story of redemption for Lang, but it was well directed by Peyton Reed and the dialogue was generally witty and snappy. Ultimately, if you’re a Marvel fan and somehow forgot to watch this, like me, and I’m aware that will be a very niche demographic then get it watched ASAP. If you’re not a Marvel fan then I doubt this will suddenly convert you.