The Night He Came Home 40 Years Later (Halloween, 2018)

Halloween_PosterIt has been forty years since the rampage of Michael Myers in Haddonfield, IL.  And Michael Myers absolutely was caught and has been institutionalized ever since. He totally did not massacre a hospital or anything else.

The trauma had a profound effect on Laurie Strode, who is totally not the sister of Michael Myers. When Myers is being transferred to a tougher facility, the bus crashes and Myers escapes.  He goes on a new and bloodier rampage, while Laurie tries to protect her estranged daughter and her family.

Myers is not driven to find Laurie because he is her sister, he just is a big believer in finishing what you start…? So, much has been made of the fact that this film is a direct sequel to the original John Carpenter Classic.   There is a throwaway line that pretty much pushes all the other films into the realm of “urban legends” which…I guess works.  Admittedly, it makes some of this feel less personal. But at the same time, the portrayal of Laurie as a survivor of a brutal event who became fueled by her fear and paranoia to never be a victim again (shades of Terminator 2 here, including the pained relationship with her daughter who was taken away from her by the state, as she was training her to be a warrior) is really pretty exciting here.  Curtis is really great in the role.  And she shines each time she is on screen. There is a lot of meat for her here.

The film has some great callbacks to the original with little moments and visual cues. It also has some beautifully lit shots.

The film is really overloaded with characters, and this results in characters you kind of expect to matter more suddenly are just out of the story.  Now granted, some of the characters kind of stand out as victims. But Laurie’s grand daughter is a huge focus and then she disappears for nearly the entire sequence where Michael and Laurie are stalking each other through Laurie’s house. Granddaughter Allison’s boyfriend seems like he will play a pretty big role and literally just drops out of the film, never to be seen again.

There is at least one twist that seems to be either super predictable or totally out of left field depending on who you ask…but…oh well…

Is this a new classic entry in the franchise?  Well…not really.  Is it bad? No.  I actually really did enjoy the film. It can be uneven, but it is still an enjoyable ride. It does rise above a lot of the previous films in the franchise.  Again, Curtis is really good (really, the core cast of Curtis, Greer, Will Patton and Matichak is great).  Plus, the new Carpenter soundtrack is just killer all the way through.  I kid you not, that was almost worth the price of admission alone for me.

Big Little (Ant-Man and the Wasp, 2018)

Ant_Man_Wasp_PosterWe last saw Ant-Man in prison with the other heroes who sided with Cap in Civil War. People noticed that he was absent from all the Infinity War promotions, and while Infinity War gave a quick explanation of where he and Hawkeye were, Ant-Man and the Wasp gives us the “full story”. With days to go on his house arrest, Scott Lang has been out of contact with Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne for months, having parted on less than good terms as he stole the costume for his role in Civil War.

Hank and Hope have renewed hope that Janet Van Dyne (believed lost in the Quantum realm) may be alive.  They are working in secret to locate her. When one of their experiments coincides with a crazy dream of Scotts, the three are brought back together to try and rescue her. But it is not as simple as they hope, as they are in competition with underground arms dealer Sonny Burch and a mysterious villain called Ghost. Ghost is trying to get the Pym lab because she has phasing powers, but cannot control them. Add to this being hunted by the FBI, rescuing Janet may not be as easy as they hoped.

The film is more focused on Hank and Hope, with Scott brought along somewhat unwillingly, but I found this worked okay. The first film had a running joke about how Hope was far more competent a super-hero, but never got to wear the suit. This film gives us a lot of Wasp action, and it is a whole lot of fun to watch. Scott gets some solid action of course as well, and he even gets a few opportunities to really show his cleverness (a FBI breakout sequence calls back to a scene in the first film, but flips the roles).

Rudd is as goofily charming as in the first film…and Michael Peña is hilarious (even though they only give us one of his elaborate stories). The return of Judy Greer and Bobby Cannaval is welcome.  I really like that the relationship between Cannaval’s Paxton and Scott is not some sort of rivalry over their shared family. Instead, Paxton seems to want the best for Scott and genuinely like him.

The film has some genuinely touching moments with Scott and his daughter Cassie. A wise kid who looks up to her dad and wants to be his sidekick.

The story works very organically, the things that bring the first film’s cast together makes sense (Scott, Luis and their team of ex-cons now have a security business to help businesses avoid being hit by folks like…well, themselves).

The first Ant-Man was a surprising film and a welcome relief to the trend of telling bigger and bigger stories in the solo Marvel films. Ant-Man and the Wasp carries the fun over, building on it’s small scale mythology (the post credit scene ties it to Infinity War).  Ant-Man and the Wasp is a pretty worthy sequel and a lot of fun to watch.

 

It’s the Little Things (Ant-Man, 2015)

ant_man_posterAnt-Man is the 12th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It has been the source of multiple controversies.  It was not always meant to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, instead it was the pet project of Edgar Wright.  With Iron Man, Marvel Studios birthed their cinematic universe, and slowly started to wrangle Ant-Man in.  When Marvel announced actor Paul Rudd, it got a shot in the arm.  Eventually Wright and Marvel hit an impasse.  Wright left the project and people got nervous about Ant-Man.  Although a founding Avenger in the comics, many questioned the point of a character seen as fairly obscure outside of comic circles.  But Marvel was determined to make the film, hiring director Peyton Reed (Down With Love, Bring It On).

The film we have gotten is not necessarily what we would have gotten from Edgar Wright.  But that does not make what we got a bad offering.  The fears that we were getting the first official MCU bomb have not come true.

The film is the story of criminal Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).  He was a skilled burglar who exposed a corporation screwing over it’s customers and is now recently released.  His hopes of being a part of his daughter Cassie’s life are quickly dashed, as his ex-wife (Judy Greer-underused again) set strict rules before he can re-enter Cassie’s life.

ant_man_leapRunning parallel is the story of  Hank (Michael Douglas) and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) Pym.  Hank has spent 20 years trying to protect Pym Particles from falling into anyone’s hands and it strained his relationship with his daughter Hope.  Hope felt abandoned at a time when she probably needed Hank the most-the death of his wife and her mother Janet.

The strong points of the film are that it stays mostly in it’s own grounds.  There is an obligatory Avengers crossover, and we know Hank used to work for S.H.I.E.L.D.  But it is mostly background.  This is smaller scale, no universe/planet saving.  In fact, it is more of a traditional heist film where they added the element of super-heroics.  The final battle takes place in a little girl’s room.  The only world at stake in that moment is Scott’s.  After so many “bigger” Marvel films, the smallness of the film is pretty refreshing.

The cast is terrific, with Michael Peña‘s Luis being a real highlight.  He is solid and enjoyable comic relief.  It is a nice touch that he is not inept, simply excitable.  I liked Evangeline Lily’s Hope, and even felt Douglas made Hank’s adamant refusal to allow her to don the Ant-Man costume made sense.

The miniature effects look great, and Reed makes the best of the moments.

At the same time, the film seemed to take short cuts.  We never really see when Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross shift from ambitious business man to psycho villain.  It just happens.  While understandable why Hank opposes it, the idea that Hope never dons an outfit as the Wasp in the film?  Disappointing.

ant_man_lillyAnother controversy (which proves true in the final film) was “fridging” the original Wasp*.  We never see much of her, she is hidden behind a mask.  Between this and the lack of Lilly getting to be the Wasp left me wanting a bit more from the film.

The final work is still strong, with likable characters, fun adventure and great humor.

ant_man_yellow*”Fridging” is the term for storytelling where a female character is killed on or off screen for the sole benefit of the lead (usually male) character.

No Way This Will Go Wrong (Jurassic World, 2015)

jurassic-world-posterIt has been 14 years since we saw a Jurassic Park movie.  And they opted to bring us one thing we had not seen.  A fully operational space station.  Wait, that is not it.  I meant a fully functional theme park.  Considering the last two film trod similar ground (small group of people stuck on the island running from dinosaurs) it makes sense that they went bigger this time around.

It is years later and the Dinosaur Theme Park has been running for at least a few years, successfully. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is preparing the most daring exhibit yet.  A genetically modified dinosaur, a creature that has never walked the earth before.  Nothing could go wrong, except that her nephews are visiting the park this weekend.  So Mayhem will ensue.

The plot is not really the point here (there are some big plot points that just disappear from the film entirely), it is cool dinosaur scares.  And the film delivers there.  There is a lot of fan service to the previous films (One I really liked was the return of BD Wong as Dr. Henry Wu, given a much bigger presence than the original film).

The characters seem all over the place, early on Chris Pratt’s Owen comes off as the stereotype of the charming misogynist.  I find this trope absurd.  Never have known a charming misogynist in the real world.  But this personality trait drops pretty early, and does not resurface the rest of the film.  Claire is introduced as the “Woman Who Is Sacrificing a Family To Have a Career”, but it is pretty clear when she realizes her nephews are in danger she considers them important, risking her life to save them.

From the minute characters are introduced, I started trying to figure out who was going to get eaten, and it is not to hard to tell.  Faceless guys with guns, random park attendees and a couple big names because they are over confident or greedy.  You can play this game in most Jurassic Park films, but the first film still invested in all the dinosaur food.  We knew a lot about those people who got chomped.  Little to no depth is provided here.

It probably sounds like I hated this film.  But I didn’t.  I actually enjoyed it.  It has a very likeable cast, solid effects, cool dinosaurs and plenty of adventure.  It kept me into the story, even when Claire ran super fast in high heels.  It is a fun adventure, but not a deep one.

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