Ant-Man and the Wasp: it’s quantum baby!

The first Ant-Man was a welcome surprise – funny, inventive, and it had a lot of heart. What would the sequel offer, more of the same? Go bigger? Go smaller?

It’s worth mentioning that in the first film the story touches on the quantum realm, the place where Ant-Man can go if he shrinks to sub-atomic levels. Well, for Ant-Man and the Wasp the story picks up after events from Captain America: Civil War, where Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), after siding with Captain America by getting in an almighty fight with the rest of the Avengers in an airport in Germany, finds himself under house arrest for two years, under the watchful eye of the FBI, led by the surprisingly amusing Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) – who clearly admires Scott as a hero, but has a job to do keeping him contained.

The first film mentions Hank’s wife Janet, lost in quantum realm for decades. Hank and Hope begin to suspect she might still be alive, so set about building a device to bring her back.

They learn that, after his brief journey into the quantum realm, Scott may now have a connection to Janet, so they need his help. The issue is, a strange, shadowy figure named Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) also has an interest in their quantum technology, as does dodgy technology dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins).

And thus we have chase after chase (putting to use size in inspired ways, giant Pez dispenser anyone?) around the picturesque streets of San Francisco as Ghost and Sonny try and steal Hank’s lab and technology, as Hank and Hope try aim to evade them. And Scott sort of gets in the way a bit.

So, plot wise, it gets a little bit samey and bogged down with all the characters running around in circles a little. However, it does make for some nice set pieces, in particular one where Scott’s suit malfunctions in a school with hilarious results – in a scene that wouldn’t have felt out of place in a Deadpool movie.

That said, it’s full of jokes, probably funnier than the first film, with bigger set pieces, more action and higher stakes. Hope as Wasp, in particular, gets a lot more screen time and is an exciting hero. Different enough to Scott’s Ant-Man (she has wings and blasters, and also a much more fluid fighting style), so as a duo they’re a ton of fun to watch on screen, throwing bad guys left and right.

In general, as far as sequels go, it’s a big thumbs up. Some critics have said the stakes aren’t high enough and it doesn’t reach the heights of Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War or Black Panther, but those are basically three of Marvel’s most successful films out the 18 or so they’ve produced, so I think this comparison is unfair to make. More accurately, how does it compare to say, Thor: The Dark World or Guardians of the Galaxy 2? In my book, it’s up there, better than both possibly, sitting comfortably middle of the pack. Which is no bad thing at all.

It also has, for my money, one of the best stings from Marvel in some time. That’s all I’ll say on that, but watch to the end to see if you agree.

End of Watch takes in-car banter to new level

End-of-watchIs David Ayer more of a writer than a director? His writing credits include U-571 (once described as the most historically inaccurate film of all time), Training Day (a career high), S.W.A.T. (enjoyable but unmemorable), Harsh Times (great performance by Christian Bale) and End of Watch (his best yet?).

It’s probably unfair to just say he’s a writer. As a director he began his career with Harsh Times, then followed up with Street Kings and now we have End of Watch. It’s clear he plays to his strengths. Many writers get told to write what they know. Ayer grew up in South Central Los Angeles and this comes through in his work. Many of his stories revolve around cops, gangsters, drugs and violence and are all well-observed with a distinctive look and feel.

Fate with a badge and gun

With his latest offering I found myself asking, is Ayer the master of in-car banter? Picking up where Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke left off in Training Day, we now have Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as two street level LA cops, just trying to do their jobs and make it through the day.end-of-watch-jake-gyllenhaal-close-up Ayer gifts their characters with believable dialogue, which Pena and Gyllenhaal deliver effortlessly with easy chemistry. These guys are brothers in all but blood.

You could call this a buddy cop movie, but Lethal Weapon this aint. It’s a thriller, the tone is gritty, visceral and very real. The banter between the two leads serves to diffuse any tension that builds from a result of the job they do. It also contrasts nicely for the audience. We’re relaxed when the guys are riffing off each other in their patrol car, yet completely on edge when they’re answering 911 calls in gang-ridden neighbourhoods.

Found footage…again

Plot-wise, the film starts simply enough, as vehicle for us to become familiar with the lives of the two leads. They then fall foul of a gang that greenlights them for assassination. In terms of methods used, Ayer opted to tell this tale in ‘found footage’ style, with the two cops filming their everyday lives for a documentary. This largely works. You can willingly suspend disbelief, aside from the odd scene where even a hardened LA cop would put away the camera for his own safety.End-of-Watch_03 What doesn’t work so well is when the gangsters also seem to have cameras and be filming their activities. There’s a limit guys.

That said, it’s a minor point. Overall, this film lives or dies by its leads and it’s safe to say it’s alive and kicking. Prior to filming, Gyllenhaal and Pena spent months riding around LA with real cops and it shows. Their chemistry drives the film and gets under your skin – you really care about their fate and this builds throughout as the tension ramps up.

Does it beat Training Day?

As an overall experience I would say no. Not much will touch Denzel’s award-winning performance. However, in terms of chemistry between characters, it has to be up there. There was perhaps a worry Ayer was beginning to lose his way – as both writer and director – but this represents a huge return to form.

Indeed, award-winning film critic Roger Ebert gave this four out of four stars last year, naming it as his fourth best film of 2012. That should make it a must-see in anyone’s book.

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Best twenty films of 2012

It’s been an epic year for films across a variety of genres. This list reflects my taste in films so I hope you enjoy. Sorry Twilight, you didn’t make the cut!

  • Skyfall
    skyfall-craigStrangely there are people who don’t like this film and say it’s not classic Bond. I think it’s the closest to Fleming’s Bond since Connery. To celebrate 50 years of Bond, the dream team of Mendes, Craig, Bardem and Dench pulled out the stops to make this film truly special.
  • Argo
    Can’t believe people still give Affleck a hard time for his early career. How many decent films does he need to direct before people will admit he’s a real talent? First Gone Baby Gone and The Town and now this. A proper, intelligent thriller.
  • Moonrise Kingdom
    This film is a great companion piece for The Life Aquatic, my favourite from Wes Anderson. As always, a great cast: Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Ed Norton. Although focus is on the two, young actors who confidently carry the story. A sweet and quirky tale.
  • Looper
    Rian Johnson and Gordon-Levitt are fast becoming a match made in heaven. First Brick and now this time-travelling sci-fi tale of assassins. This film had an interesting mix of futuristic and retro, plus it marked Gordon-Levitt out as a leading man in the making.
  • Silver Linings Playbook
    SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOKForget Hunger Games, this ranks as my favourite Jennifer Lawrence film, just edging Winter’s Bone. She has great chemistry with Bradley Cooper, both of them playing flawed characters in this acerbic, edgy and alternative type of rom-com. Highly recommended.
  • Chronicle
    Earlier this year this film was released and flew somewhat under the radar. Shown in found footage style, the best way to describe the first half is Jackass with telekinetic powers. It then goes darker as it builds to an epic finale. Thoroughly deserving of a place on this list.
  • Dark Knight Rises
    The final instalment of Christopher Nolan’s game-changing bat franchise. Tom Hardy as Bane, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Gordon-Levitt as Boy Wonder in the making. This was an emotional, visceral ending to the best set of Batman films of all time.
  • Avengers Assemble
    Despite my last comment regarding Batman, Marvel Studios has firmly staked its claim as the lighter, more upbeat side of the superhero world. Joss Whedon pulling off an incredible trick to balance a film with a host of big characters, letting them all shine equally.
  • Ted
    ted
    Macfarlane knows his comedy. This film was his vision and really paid off. From script and direction through to mo-cap acting, he was the driving force. Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg added their dramatic and comedy talent to make this one of the funniest films of the year.
  • Life of Pi  
    Ang Lee’s tale of a young boy shipwrecked at sea with a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker is a visual masterpiece. Taken from a Booker prize-winner novel, it makes you question the nature of belief and how you perceive the world. An uplifting and life-affirming tale.
  • The Raid: Redemption
    Combine the talents of a Welsh Director and up-and-coming action star in Iko Uwais and you get an unexpected, kick-ass treat. Introducing us to pencak silat, an Indonesian form of dance and self defence, it’s breathtaking to watch when used to beat up bad guys.
  • The Hobbit
    Peter Jackson has worked wonders yet again. The dwarves are great and Martin Freeman is the perfect Bilbo. His ‘riddles in the dark’ scene with Gollum is brilliantly scripted. If you’re even a fleeting fantasy fan you won’t want to miss this exhilarating tale.
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
    beasts
    Critically well received, this fantasy film has drawn comparisons with Pan’s Labyrinth and is well worth seeing. It tells the tale of six-year-old girl Hushpuppy who, when looking after her ill and hot-tempered father, must learn the ways of courage and love.
  • Rust and Bone
    It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Marion Cotillard – there’s a permanent picture of her on my blog. Here she beautifully plays a killer whale trainer who forms an unlikely romance with a bouncer. Jacques Audiard directs this passionate and moving love story.
  • The Master
    Possibly a career-best film from Paul Thomas Anderson and performance from Joaquin Phoenix? Ultimately, this film is about the fascinating interplay between war veteran Freddie (Phoenix) and movement leader Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman).
  • Seven Psychopaths
    seven-psychopaths_07
    From the Director of darkly comic film In Bruges, this tale of kidnapped dogs and gangsters is hilariously scripted and brilliantly acted. With a cast including Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell and Woody Harrelson.
  • End of Watch
    Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena put in the hours with cops on the beat in South Central LA to form a real bond prior to filming. The results paid off, as this thriller cop movie has real believability and chemistry between the two leads.
  • Magic Mike
    Ladies of Tampa‘, croons Matthew McConaughey, before he smashes his guitar and strips in front of a horde of screaming ladies. This film, though, belongs to Channing Tatum. Before acting he was a stripper – this film gives an intriguing glimpse of life back stage in that world.
  • The Grey
    It’s Liam Neeson, he’s cold, he’s angry, wolves are trying to kill him. In a minute he’s going to get really mad – what’s not to like? This bleak adventure sees a bunch of oil workers stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash – in the middle of a wolf kill zone.
  • 21 Jump Street
    21 jump street
    Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill team up in this cop buddy comedy remake. Tatum is – surprisingly – very funny, with great comic timing. Jokes are often set up and don’t pan out how you might expect, which is a good thing. Also, Johnny Depp has an outstanding cameo.