Flashback Friday: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

A secret is only as powerful as its content. Its corrosivity is based on the power it has and how it controls those who know the truth. It can be as benign as stealing a candy bar from the local convenience store as a child. On the other hand, it can be as destructive as having cheated on your significant/spouse for decades.

2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp is the sequel to Ant-Man (2015). Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is walking the tightrope of fatherhood and being a superhero. To say that it is complicated is an understatement. Adding to the difficulty is a new task assigned by his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and Hank’s daughter/ Scott’s partner, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). His ultimate goal is to reveal a secret that has been kept close to the vest for a very long time.

Compared to other individual IP continuations with the Marvel universe, it’s slightly weaker. That being said, it is not a complete dumpster fire. Even with the narrative’s darker turns, it is still fun to watch and an entertaining film.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Advertisement

Avatar: The Way of Water Movie Review

To say that Avatar (2009) made an impact is an understatement. The highest-grossing movie of all time, it became an instant classic and a fan favorite.

The sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, was released in theaters last weekend. Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) are happily settled down and are raising their children. When Quaritch (Stephen Lang) comes back in Na’vi form, he has one thing in mind: revenge.

Jake and Neytiri leave their home and find refuge with another Na’vi tribe. Led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and Ronal (Kate Winslet), they rely on the sea for everything. While their children try to fit in and learn the ways of their hosts, Quaritch gets closer. Eventually, it becomes obvious that the only way to stop him is for Jake and the Na’vi to take him head-on.

This movie is incredible. The 13-year wait and the 3+ hours run time are completely worth it. Balancing narrative, special effects, and climate change, James Cameron tells a story that is both effective and powerful.

As he did in the first film, he used the allegory of the Na’vi and the destruction of their world as a warning about ours. I have had to hand it to Cameron. A film of this type, with all of the disparate elements, could have easily failed. The special effects might have overtaken the story, the filmmakers could have gotten on their soapboxes, etc. But they all blend seamlessly together.

What I loved was that at its heart, it is the tale of a family. Parents doing their best to raise their kids, young people trying to find themselves, learning from our mistakes, etc. Cameron also continues with the tradition of strong female characters. Ronal and Neytiri do not wait for their mates to rescue them. They are just as badass and in charge as their partners.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Avatar: The Way of Water is presently in theaters.

Avatar GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Throwback Thursday: Toy Story 2 (1999)

In a film series, the second is the most important. It is a litmus test of two important questions: 1. Is there an audience appetite for the sequel? and 2. Is there enough of a narrative to warrant a second movie?

Toy Story 2 (1999) is the second tale within the Toy Story franchise. After Woody (Tom Hanks) is stolen by a toy collector, it is up to his friends to save him. While Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) works on the outside to free Woody, Woody makes friends on the inside. Jessie (Joan Cusack) is a cowgirl and a part of the wild west line of playthings.

I enjoyed Toy Story 2. It has everything that made its predecessor great and then some. It is funny, entertaining, and suspenseful, and the addition of the new characters provides enough stretch to make the story plausible.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Hocus Pocus 2 Movie Review

Movie sequels have a tenuous reputation. They can either further a beloved narrative (i.e. The Empire Strikes Back), or they can be a supposedly easy cash grab that nearly destroys the reputation of its predecessor (i.e. Independence Day: Resurgence).

Last weekend, fans of Hocus Pocus were finally rewarded for our patience. The long-awaited sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, was released on DisneyPlus. Nearly thirty years after the Sanderson sisters, Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy), and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) were vanquished, they are brought back again by a couple of teenagers.

This time it is Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) who light the black flame candle. The only way to stop the witches is with the help of their friend, Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), who has been spending all of her free time with her boyfriend. Working with the sister’s fanboy Gilbert (Sam Richardson), they know that Winifred, Mary, and Sarah must be stopped for good this time.

I could not help but smile during the film. The wait was worth it. It is as if the last 29 years have not existed. Midler, Najimy, and Parker slipped back into their roles as one would put on a beloved piece of clothing. The narrative is an organic continuation of the 1993 movie, taking the story in new directions in regard to the main characters.

The new characters also work well and are a nice extension of the original teenage protagonists. Becca, Izzy, and Cassie are an interesting mirror image of Winifred, Mary, and Sarah. For his part, Gilbert represents the myth of the witches that have grown within this world and within the fanbase.

It is a fun, exciting ride that takes the audience on a ride and ends in a manner that is lovely and unexpected.

The only thing that would have made it better would have been cameos from the original kid actors.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Hocus Pocus 2 is available for streaming on DisneyPlus.

Hocus Pocus Sanderson Sisters GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Throwback Thursday: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)

For all of the strengths of a superhero, there is a weakness. It is therefore expected that their antagonist will use that weakness against them at some point.

The 1999 film, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me is the sequel to Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). Dr. Evil (Mike Myers) uses a time machine to travel back to the 1960s to steal the mojo of Austin Powers (also Mike Myers). With the help of CIA Agent Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham), Austin has to both save the day and get his mojo back.

I love this movie. Myers took what made the first movie the brilliant comedy that it is and explodes it tenfold. It is quotable, hilarious and one of the most perfect spoofs I’ve ever seen. Though it’s been years since I’ve seen it, I can still quote it.

The issue I have with the film is two-fold. Though Felicity is on par with Austin both sexually and as an agent of the law, she is also a love interest. Though it is par for the course for female characters, it kind of takes off some of the shine of her badassness for me.

There is also Fat Bastard (again, played by Myers). Though I am perfectly aware that this is a satire, I cannot overlook that he is a punchline merely because of his size.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

 - Find & Share on GIPHY

Flashback Friday: Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003)

The natural evolution of a narrative may seem simple to write. But the truth is that it is not. The next step in the story has to hold onto the characters and narrative while ensuring that it is not forced or outlandish. It becomes more complicated when the original work is respected and appreciated by both fans and critics.

Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (2003) is the sequel to Legally Blonde (2001). Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) has a new passion: animal rights. It is so important to her, that she prioritizes the issue over her wedding to Emmett Richmond (Luke Wilson). Arriving in Washington D.C., she turns to Congresswoman Rudd (Sally Field) to help her bring attention to the issue. She also gets help from Sid Post (Bob Newhart), her building’s doorman who provides guidance in how to navigate the figurative power corridors of the city. As in the previous film, Elle is an outsider who is initially judged a pretty blonde with nothing between the ears.

As sequels go, it’s pretty good. The screenplay does not feel like it was being stretched to fit within the world that was created in its predecessor. The film is funny, charming, and Witherspoon again makes us root for an unlikely heroine. The message of not judging a book by its cover is potent, but does not hit the audience over the head. It is a lesson that is forever universal and important.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Reese Witherspoon What Like Its Hard GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

Throwback Thursday: Spider-Man 2 (2004)

The truth about life is that it is complicated. We are often juggling multiple things at the same time, making decisions as to what is important and what can be put aside for the moment.

Spider-Man 2 (2004) is the sequel to the 2002 film, Spider-man. Since we last saw Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) has dealt with a series of personal disasters. While continuously saving the world, his grades are falling fast, he cannot keep a job and he is being attacked in the press as a criminal. On top of all that, Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is no more.

All signals are pointing to the end of his career as a superhero. Then an accident turns Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) into the villainous Doc Ock. Instead of putting his mask away for good, Peter has no choice but to do his thing and stop Doc Ock before he destroys the city.

This one is not bad. The narrative flows nicely from the previous movie, creating more trouble for our leading man. Moving from adolescence to early adulthood, Peter is learning how to keep several figurative plates spinning in the air at the same. The problem with this is that one or more of these plates will eventually fall to the ground and crack into pieces.

My problem with his movie is the usual issue. The women in this film are constrained to the love interest/damsel in distress/spouse and maternal figures, not giving them room to stand on their own two feet.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Flashback Friday: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

The Indiana Jones film series is one that keeps on giving. Forty-plus years old, the story of historian/adventurer Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has kept audiences enraptured for generations.

The 4th movie in the narrative, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) takes place in 1938. Indy’s father, Professor Henry Jones Sr. (Sean Connery) disappears while looking for the Holy Grail. On top of searching for his father, Indy, with the help of Elsa (Alison Doody), has to stop the Nazis from getting their hands on the grail and its power.

This movie is so much fun. It is a heart-pounding, blood-pumping, roller coaster of a ride. Ford and Connery have incredible chemistry as on-screen father and son.

My only complaint (which, as I spoke of in my last post), is that Doody as Elsa (who does not have a last name) is a film version of the “girl of the week”. Just like Connery’s other well-known series, James Bond, there is a new female love interest/co-adventurer in every story while the male lead remains as is.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Flashback Friday: Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

When the sequel to a highly successful film is released, the expectation is that this second narrative will hold up on its own while giving proper respect to its predecessor.

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) is the follow-up to the blockbuster 90’s movie Independence Day. It takes place a generation after Earth was nearly obliterated by an invading alien army. Humanity has taken thorough advantage of the advancement in technology. When the aliens return with revenge on the mind and a military force that has doubled in size, our heroes must once again save the day.

Two generations combine forces. the newbies Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), Patricia Whitworth (Maika Monroe), and Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher) eagerly join the fight. Backing them up are veterans David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), Julius Levinson (Judd Hirsch), former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), and Jasmine Hiller (Vivica A. Fox). It will take all of them working together to repel the attackers and keep our world going.

I love the first movie. It is everything a film of this nature should be. I wish I could say the same about Independence Day: Resurgence. While the visuals are fantastic, they cannot make up for the meh storyline and unimpressive character arcs. The emotions that I felt while watching Independence Day are missing. It was as if the screenwriters and creative team lost the spark. Unfortunately, it comes off a soulless easy cash grab based on nostalgia, which doesn’t always work.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

Independence Day Explosion GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

Obi-Wan Kenobi Review

When the original Star Wars film, A New Hope, premiered in 1977, no one could have foreseen the narrative junctions that have come out of this one movie.

The new DisneyPlus miniseries, Obi-Wan Kenobi, premiered on Friday. Ten years after the events of Revenge of the Sith (2005) the Jedi appear to have been wiped out. But a few have survived in hiding. The Empire sends The Grand Inquisitor (Rupert Friend) to find those that are still alive. One of the Inquisitor’s lieutenants, Inquisitor Reva, Third Sister (Moses Ingram) is intent on locating one Jedi in particular: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). His former Padawan, Anakin Skywalker (now known as Darth Vader) is eager to see his former master again

While living under another name, Obi-Wan is keeping an eye on Anakin’s son, Luke Skywalker (Grant Feely). But Luke’s Uncle and guardian, Owen Lars (Joel Edgerton) would prefer that his nephew remains in the dark. Meanwhile, on Alderaan, Princess Leia Organa (Vivien Lyra Blair) is kidnapped. Her parents turn to Obi-Wan to rescue their daughter.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is amazing. After watching both The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett, I thought nothing would top them. I was wrong. My eyes were glued to the screen the entire time. There were multiple easter eggs (if you know where to look), many mouth drops, and quite a few expletives. I am already hooked and ready for the rest of the series.

It would be easy to make another soulless sequel. But it is not. It is full of so much love and respect for the material that it radiates from the screen. McGregor is back in perfect form, with the obligatory changes since the last time we saw the character. He is starting to become the grizzled old man who has come to terms with what was and will never be again. But there is still a little bit of hope, just enough to inspire him to pick up the lightsaber one last time.

Do I recommend it? 100% yes. Don’t be surprised if the program makes the cut for “best of” lists in December.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is available for streaming on DisneyPlus. New episodes premiere on Friday.

Star Wars Goodbye GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
%d bloggers like this: