When seeing a variety of films, it can be difficult writing an introductory paragraph to tie them all together. Other than the fact all four films I saw in the past week are worth watching, there really isn’t a common bond between them. Well, two of them oddly involve Pez dispensers in some fashion. Does that count?
Ant-Man and the Wasp by Peyton Reed (2018)
In 1987, Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, then known by their superhero names Ant-Man and Wasp, had been called on an important assignment to save a community from a Soviet nuclear missile attack. Janet soon realized that the only way to stop the missile was to use her suit’s shrinking powers so that she could pass through the missile’s molecules. She succeeded in disabling the missile, but she became trapped in the microscopic quantum realm as a result. Hank proceeded to raise their daughter Hope under the presumption that Janet had perished in the mission.
Years later, former criminal Scott Lang took up the mantle of Ant-Man. During his first forays in using the suit, he discovered a way to enter and return from the quantum realm. Inspired by this, Hank Pym and Hope begin working on ways to replicate this feat. Shortly thereafter, Scott had helped Captain America in a skirmish between the Avengers in violation of the Sokovia Accords. Because of his actions, he was placed under house arrest. Now, Hank and Hope manage to open a tunnel to the quantic realm. At that exact moment, a strange vision comes to Scott. He immediately calls Hank, and later learns that he is experiencing quantum entanglement, effectively channeling the long-lost Janet. What they do next could at last reunite a family after three long decades.
The original Ant-Man shocked everyone by taking a relatively obscure superhero, giving him his own film, and proceeding to get critical acclaim across the board. Though fondly remembered these days, I can assure you that was not the attitude filmgoers had up until its release. Everyone was expecting it to fail and mar the otherwise stellar track record of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So with a hit on their hands and Scott unexpectedly appearing in Captain America: Civil War, a sequel was inevitable.
Between Incredibles 2 and Deadpool 2, quite a few sequel movies have premiered this year. While I felt Incredibles 2 wasn’t quite as good as its predecessor while Deadpool 2 outpaced its predecessor, my feelings toward Ant-Man and the Wasp is that it manages to be as good as the original – albeit in a different way. While the original was a Marvel take on the heist film, the plot of this film is driven by the desire to rescue someone all while Scott finds creative ways to circumvent his house arrest.
It’s interesting among Marvel films in that its antagonist exists more as a secondary threat. Said antagonist is Ghost – a woman who, following a tragic accident that took the lives of her parents, is caught in a perpetual state of molecular instability. Indeed, the only reason she and the heroes come to blows is because their goals merely happen to conflict with each other. She wants access to Hank’s lab so she can cure her condition, which threatens to end her life at any moment, while the heroes need it to save Janet, for the variables required to pull this off are so specific, they won’t occur again for at least one-hundred years. It’s an interesting, effective method of adding tension to the proceedings without making the antagonist a remorseless killer. |It also has the side-effect of making the betrayal of Hank’s former colleague interesting in that it wasn’t done for selfish reasons.|
Naturally, one of the most intriguing developments is when Hope takes up the mantle of Wasp for herself. It’s not too often that you see a character who was raised by two superheroes, and her determination to rescue her mother and no-nonsense attitude play really well off of Scott’s less serious demeanor.
All in all, Ant-Man and the Wasp is another solid entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you liked the first one, or the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general, this one won’t let you down between its creative premise, well-written humor, and likable characters.
Das Boot by Wolfgang Petersen (1981)
Lieutenant Werner has been assigned as a war correspondent on the German submarine U-96 in October of 141. He proceeds to meet some of the crew in a French bordello – during which one of the captains gives a drunken speech to celebrate receiving his Ritterkreuz award. The next morning, they sail out of the harbor in La Rochelle into the Atlantic Ocean. Little do they know that their mission will push every single member to their absolute limits.
Unlike the previous three German films I’ve seen (M, Run Lola Run, and Aguirre, the Wrath of God), I knew of Das Boot long before I decided to start watching classics at home. It stands to reason, being what is arguably the most famous German film of all time. Furthermore, between Patton and Saving Private Ryan, I’ve been watching a fair share of World War II films lately. I actually had this one sitting on my “To Watch” pile for quite some time, so I decided that because it would be interesting if I decided to watch a film depicting the other side of the conflict.
My conclusion? It deserves its lofty status, capturing perfectly what the mission would entail, including the boredom of waiting for something to happen, the excitement when they spot an enemy, and the despair when one of their allies is sunk. The crew also forms an interesting dichotomy. Though the new members share a tight bond and are enthusiastic about their first mission, the hardened veterans are already highly cynical and tired from the conflict.
This film does a great job humanizing a faction that doesn’t typically receive that treatment. It’s easy going into it under the pretense that you’re going to be watching a bunch of Nazis for a few hours. In reality, the film goes out of its way to show how awful war is – it doesn’t matter which side you’re on. |The ending is something else too – the crew came back from a harrowing experience that left the submarine on the ocean floor only to get bombarded by an Allied attack, killing most of them off. It serves as a reminder that even when a fascist regime falls, good people die.| For those interested in World War II films, this is a must-watch.
Whitney by Kevin Macdonald (2018)
Whitney Houston is notable for having broken more music industry records than any other female singer in history. She is the only artist to have seven consecutive number one singles in the United States, and her eponymous debut album sold over twenty-two million copies worldwide. In doing so, hers was the first album by a solo female artist to produce three number-one singles. Her famous cover of “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton, which featured in Mick Jackson’s 1992 film, The Bodyguard, propelled her even further into superstardom. However, in the midst of all this success was no shortage of turmoil stemming from various causes, including a failing marriage, a crippling drug addiction and a lack of knowledge of what to do with a child.
Admittedly, I can’t say I’m a particularly big Whitney Houston fan despite being a big music fan in general. That said, I do remember hearing the news report of her death six years ago, and when I heard of this documentary’s existence and the excellent reception it was receiving, I knew I had to check it out for myself. It was fascinating watching important events from her past interlaced with the snippets of historical events occurring around the same time. I also enjoyed hearing what her surviving family members, including her mother Cissy Houston, had to say of her. One of the most affecting moments for me was when I began wondering why her daughter wasn’t interviewed for this documentary. I then remembered that she had died in an eerily similar fashion as her mother three years later.
Seeing the daughter’s photos was particularly disturbing given the context of how she grew up. She never had a chance to simply be a kid, and she looked absolutely miserable in those photos. The sad thing is that unlike a lot of child stars who grow up in similar circumstances, she never got to achieve anything, and she picked up many of her mother’s vices, apparently becoming an addict at age eighteen. Whitney Houston accomplished a lot, but the lifestyle consumed her, and it led to a tragic situation all around. For music fans or historians in general, I’d say this documentary is worth your time.
Stand by Me by Rob Reiner (1986)
An author reads a newspaper about the fatal stabbing of a lawyer. This event causes him to reminisce about a childhood incident wherein he and his three friends undertook a journey over the Labor Day weekend in 1959 near the town of Castle Rock, Oregon. The narrator, Gordie, was once a quiet, bookish boy. The recent death of his older brother caused his parents to neglect him. Also in his circle were Chris, a boy how comes from a family of drunks and criminals, Teddy Duchamp, a kid unstable due to having been burned and scarred by his mentally ill father, and Vern Tessio, a timid, overweight boy. Vern overhead his older brother and his friend talking about a young boy by the name of Ray Brower. He had gone missing and was presumed dead. Believing that Ray did indeed die, the four of them decided to find Ray’s body in the hopes that they can become local heroes. They faced considerable difficulties in this task in the form of “Ace” Merrill and his gang of delinquents, but they were determined to find the body first.
How I heard of this film for the first time was, of all things, Generation I of Pokémon. Shortly after the game begins, you can examine a television set that gives a brief description of this film (“Four boys are walking on railroad tracks”). Some may wonder if this was added to the localization, but this wasn’t the case, as it existed in the Japanese text as well. As it turns out, Stand by Me was massively popular in Japan – special versions of the movie were sold with the intent to teach English. It was even referenced in the Japanese version of Earthbound Beginnings, a game created by many of the same people who would go on to work on Pokémon.
Actually getting around to watching Stand By Me proved to be a bit more convoluted. I had watched two of Rob Reiner’s other films, The Princess Bride and This Is Spinal Tap, some time ago, but oddly, I didn’t have the desire to see Stand by Me until this year when I began watching the films I was interested in seeing but never got around to for whatever reason.
Based off of Stephen King’s novella, The Body, this film is considered a classic, and I did indeed enjoy watching it. It’s a nice coming-of-age film that perfectly captures the spirit of that era in American history. As it’s the time of age when kids do begin using swears regularly (the smart ones knowing not to say them in front of adults), the leads’ foulmouthed dialogue lends a lot of authenticity to the film. An actual film from that era would never have had its child actors (or even adult actors) swear to the extent that the kids in this film do. More than that, I like this film for getting a lot out of a plot with few moving parts. It has a simple premise that was executed perfectly, depicting the kind of oddball story everyone had growing up.