Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday, July 9, 2018

Lambcast: Ant-Man and the Wasp

This week we enter the Quantum Realm to discuss an MCU film, that feels like a stand alone but does have some connections to the main series of that story.  We also play a game and people struggle with my name.


Friday, July 6, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp



Ant-Man is a lesser Marvel Property that is slowly being elevated in status for the second generation of Post Avenger's Infinity Wars movies.  Paul Rudd's introduction to the MCU came in the 2015 origin story, Ant-Man. He followed that up with a quick introduction and one major scene in Captain America: Civil War.  Interestingly, he was not a part of the Infinity War movie earlier this year.  In this film we get a reason why and a strong connection in one of the mid-credit sequences as to where things could be going in next year's "Infinity War" entry. It's beginning to look like Thanos is not a quantum physicist.

That future speculation however has little to do with this movie. Much like its origin story, the stakes for this plot seem befittingly smaller for Ant-Man. The world is not threatened by aliens or nuclear megalomaniacs, Rudd's Scott Lang is recruited by original Ant-Man Hank Pym and his daughter Hope, in the belief that his earlier visit to the quantum realm, has left them a path to follow to recover Hank's long lost wife, Janet. As usual, there are plenty of complications. Black market technology thieves want the material in the fugitive Pym's lab. A mysterious costumed character, who ends up being referred to as "Ghost",  also wants the technology for a more personal purpose. And since Scott has been under house arrest for violating those accords meant to contain the actions of "super" beings, his fan worship of Captain America has gotten him and Pym in trouble.

So the plot is a rescue mission with a few heists and chases mixed in. Scott has to try to finish his sentence which is almost up, without having contact with Pym and Hope. Evangeline Lily returns as Hope, and has donned the tech suit created by her father which turns her into "The Wasp".  Clearly this is a comic duo in the making, with a strong romantic strain which gives the film some Tracy/Hepburn style sparks with interpersonal confrontations mixing with the plot mechanics. Very much like the first film, this is a comedy. Much more often than in that film however, the comedy is focused on peripheral characters, like Scott's buddy and business partner Luis. Michael Peña returns as the loquacious thief turned security expert. In a hysterical sequence that probably goes on too long, although that was the point of the sequence, he provides a whole history of his relationship with Scott in his own unique style. Also providing some humor but of a more subtle and refined style is Kirkham family favorite Walton Goggins. He has moments of frustration and fear that generate priceless laughs at the right spots.

Michael Douglas gets to put on the costume as well in this film and it turns out that Michelle Pfeiffer continues to look like a movie star. She and Tom Cruise must have made the same deal with the devil. The two more mature actors only get a little bit to do in the film, but it is enough to justify having them there, and for any fans of theirs to come out and see the picture.

I hope someday that Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale will get to do a little more in this film series than mug for the camera, but at least their mugging is in tune with the warm humor that is usually found in Ant-Man's family relations. This whole film plays like a palate cleanser for all the strum and d angst found in the two earlier 2018 Marvel movies. This is a comedy with action parts all over the place, rather than an action film with comedy inserted. I don't mean that it is frivolous, but rather that it is interested in entertaining us in a very different manner than it's older brothers and sisters. That makes sense since director Peyton Reed is a comedy film veteran, helming some solid humor filled hits back in the naughts, including "The Break-Up", "Yes Man" and "Down with Love". He replaced Edgar Wright on the first Ant-Man movie, and I know a lot of fans want to credit that films tone to the departed director. Fair enough, so Mr. Reed should probably get credit for the jokes that work, and a little blame for some of the bits that go on a little too long, even when they are funny.

There are plenty of effects shots that take advantage of the unique powers that the two heroes on this film possess. Stuff gets big and small at the right moment or not and the outcome works in making us laugh or adding a moments tensions to the proceedings. Because the film feels so much like a stand alone story, there may be Marvel fans out there who will give it a pass and just wait for "Captain Marvel" next year. I think that would be a mistake. There are some hints about the Infinity War at the end of the movie and in the credit sequences. Those hints should delight the fans of the main story and build even more anticipation. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Won't You Be My Neighbor?



I am not a big consumer of documentary films, but I do try to see those things that interest me. When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I was definitely interested. Most Americans will be familiar with Mr. Rogers even if they were not the audience for the show. Millions of kids have been exposed to his work, and he has been parodied by everyone from Johnny Carson to Eddie Murphy. The trailer evokes a simple and heart-warming approach to the work of a man who for all appearances was genuinely caring about children.

The film has received a lot of hype in the last few weeks. A local entertainment reporter was rapturous in singing it's praise. I do think it is a fine film about a fascinating subject but be cautious of being oversold. My guess is that people offering reviews for this movie are so starved for something worthy and genuine to write about, that they may heap effusive praise on a very good film, and try to pass it off as a great film.

The work that goes into a documentary includes hundreds of hours of research and digging through archives and editing together various film elements. The Academy Award winning director of this film, Morgan Neville, has done a thorough job of finding interesting material to show us, collaborators and friends of Fred Rogers to speak to, and  just a couple of minor controversies to make the story a bit more compelling. The style of the film however is straight forward, there is nothing particularly innovative about the approach here, most of the audience interest in the film is going to stem from the subject matter and personality of the show we are looking at. The winsome charm of Fred Rogers is the draw for this movie.

We will learn a little bit about his early life, he was a seminary student when he became interested in television for children. He was an ordained minister for the Presbyterian Church, and sure to irritate many of those who would like to politicize everything, he was a lifelong Republican. Everything we see in the film suggests that he was a nice man, who believed love was an important part of a child's life and tried to make all children feel loved. Some social critics have tried to tie his open support of children to the Millennial phenomena of entitlement. The link there is so capricious that it hardly needs to be responded to. Mr. Rogers view of a child's need for love stem from biblical concepts not self esteem books. While he was a critic of many children's programs, his criticism was generic to the tone, themes, violence and "bombardment" of kids as opposed to focusing on particular programs.

The need for a movie about this subject at this time seems to be fertilized by all the rancor and hostility in the world. Again, social advocates may try to make hay out of some of the themes and events covered by the documentary, but the true value is that we see a decent man, doing good in the world. He worked hard and was as unassuming in his real life as he seemed to be on television. Everyone should be able to slow down a little and connect with a man who tried to teach children to love one another and set an example for adults as well. That's as much endorsement as a movie like this needs. "A little kindness makes a world of difference."

Monday, July 2, 2018

Lambcast: Ocean's Remake A Palooza

Three Oceans and a sea of stars make up the cast of the Ocean's Remake a Franchise Palooza


Entry One in the 2018 Jaws Posts

As long time readers of this blog know, JAWS is the "Quint"essential Independence Day movie at this site. I've shared a number of posts on this greatest of adventure films, and there is always something to add each time. Last night gave us two distinct experiences to add to the memory file.




First of all, this was a film presentation, not a digital screening. This was a personal print provided by director Sacha Gervasi, a friend of the American Cinematique. It was worked out by an organization called  Cinematic Void,  which has been presenting a series of films on New England Nightmares. The print is from the 1978 re-release of the film and it has not been cleaned up or re-mastered. The host mentioned that it was extremely difficult to find film prints for Jaws, everything now being digital. They asked their personal friend Director Gervasi who accommodated them. Much like the print we saw last year of John Carpenter's "The Thing", there is a lot of red hue in the color palate as the film stock fades and bleeds over when projected. Never the less, it is always great to see a "film" and not just computer images masquerading as film. The grain and imperfections do diminish the look of the movie, but they also induce memories of seeing films from the time period, which do wear down after thousands of screenings.

Now second, the guys introducing the film, and many of the audience, made the mistake of describing "Jaws" as a horror film. People, this is an adventure film with horrific elements but it is hardly "horror". While it uses some of the "B" movie tropes of horror films, like the opening scene or the jump scares when sharks and bodies appear, the vast majority of the movie is taken up by a struggle of a common man to face down political, cultural and natural obstacles in overcoming a problem. The second half of the movie is pure sea-faring adventure.

This movie is 43 years old, and yet, 600 plus people paid to see it in a sold out presentation last night.


The power of this film continues to draw in fans, as it has done for this family for forty years. This is my daughter Amanda's favorite movie, and we dressed appropriately for the occasion.




Check out these kicks. The tie ends of her shoes are the barrels Quint uses to bring the shark to the surface. The inside sole of the shoe also has an image of the Beach Closed signs from the film. Saturday was her birthday, and she considers the movie to be a continuous gift that she receives every year. To feed that animal, check out the bed set that was one of my gifts to her .
 Sweet Dreams Kid.

(We have another Screening scheduled later in July at the Hollywood Bowl, see you there. )

Sunday, July 1, 2018

"Deterrence" On MovieRob's Genre Grandeur Project

MovieRob is my blogging colleague from Israel. He has hosted me on a Lambcast Show a couple of times and we have both been participants on other Lambcast Shows as well.Every month he solicits entries for his series he titles "Genre Grandeur", where a theme or genre, suggested by one of the many writers he knows,  is used as an invitation for articles on his blog site. This month the subject was political thrillers and I contributed a essay on the Rod Lurie film "Deterrence". If you click on the poster below, it will take you to that review and to Rob's site. Spend some time there if you can, but be careful, Rob is the most prolific blogger on The Lamb, he has thousands of posts and you may not want to get too lost in time there.