Innerspace (1987, Directed by Joe Dante) English 6

Starring Dennis Quaid, Martin Short, Meg Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Robert Picardo

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A hotshot marine officer, Lt. Tuck Pendleton (Quaid) is miniaturized for a government science experiment where he’s to be placed inside the body of a test rabbit, but, due to an attempt from rogue agents looking to steal the work, gets placed  inside the body of a hypochondriac named Jack (Short) instead. Jack and Tuck team up to return the latter to his normal size, as well as keep him out of the hands of mercenaries. Along the way, Jack becomes smitten with Tuck’s girlfriend, a reporter named Lydia (Ryan). Goofy, fast-paced with some excellently performed gags and stunts, Innerspace is more about the individual scenes than the picture itself. Promoted as a “what if” type picture wherein a Dean Martin type gets put inside the body and the head of a Jerry Lewis. They might have done well to push that idea further, but as it stands, Innerspace is a fine adventure.

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018, Directed by Peyton Reed) English 6

Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Walton Goggins, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Randall Park, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Judy Greer, T.I, Bobby Cannavale, Hannah John-Kamen

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Scott Lang (Rudd) seems to have burnt his bridges with Hank Pym (Douglas) and Hope (Lilly) after going rogue with Captain America back in Civil War (2016). On top of that, he was sentenced to two years house arrest. As he closes in on his release date, Hank and Hope see a chance to rescue, Janet (Pfeiffer), the former’s wife and the latter’s mother, from the quantum realm she was lost to decades ago. Unfortunately for everyone, Scott appears to be the key, forcing a reunion and putting Scott in danger with his parole officer. Meanwhile, an enigmatic figure known as Ghost materializes at every turn. Fun film and a 180 from the heavy, substantial Avengers: Infinity War. Ant-Man and the Wasp is slightly better than the first one. Often funny, with some cool ideas involving shrinking and growing. It does, however, feel like a modest entry in a series of films that all run through the same machine in my opinion. The end result is always nice, but never extraordinary. Add to that, Ant-man, or, more specifically, Scott Lang, is a second-tier hero, largely dependent on Hank Pym.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018, Directed by J.A Bayona) English 6

Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Geraldine Chaplin, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Jeff Goldblum

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The fifth entry in the Jurassic Park franchise, and second film in the reboot trilogy, sees Owen Grady (Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Howard) returning to the shut down theme park in order to save the remaining dinosaurs from an impending volcanic eruption. Of course, there are other people involved who turn out to have ulterior motives, and dinosaur chaos is unleashed once again, this time primarily on the affluent estate of patron Sir Benjamin Lockwood (Cromwell). This far into the franchise, you wonder if it’s fatigue or simply a sub-par entry, but this was an underwhelming experience. Despite some impressive camerawork, including a scene with two characters stuck in a pod while water fills in, at no point does this film provide any legitimate thrills. We’ve been down this rode before. It’s time for the franchise to veer. On top of that, the pacing seemed awfully fast, especially in the beginning.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001, Directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise) English 7

Voices of Michael J. Fox, James Garner, Don Novello,  David Ogden Stiers, John Mahoney, Jim Varney, Leonard Nimoy

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Milo Thatch (Fox) has always been considered crazy for believing that the lost empire of Atlantis exists. Than one day, he’s asked to meet Preston B. Whitemore, an eccentric millionaire who wants to fund an expedition and wants Milo to lead the way. Set in the 1910s, this is Disney animation’s first sci-fi flick. I think critics focused too hard on the flaws of this film, and missed out on some of its greatness. No, it’s not a great film, but it is ambitious, gorgeous, innovative, and entertaining. The voice actors are fantastic. Michael J. Fox is always an engaging protagonist. Its flaw is the lack of character development. It carves out nice characters, but we don’t get enough time to care about them. I actually think it could have been interesting as Disney animation’s first epic, meaning longer than an hour and twenty minutes.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018, Directed by Ron Howard) English 6

Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Paul Bettany, Thandie Newton, Donald Glover, Phoebe Waller-Bridge

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Staying true to their word of a new Star Wars movie a year, Disney gives us Solo, an origin story for the iconic character first played by Harrison Ford. He’s played here by Alden Ehrenreich, a good actor and a fine Han Solo, despite not looking very much like Ford. His story follows his humble beginnings on Orellia, where an orphaned Han and his girlfriend, Qi’ra (Clarke) struggle to survive at the mercy of a local crime syndicate. It all seems very Charles Dickens-esque or Dickensian if you will, which could have made an interesting film by itself, however, we light-speed past this part of his life, and pick up years later when through a series of events, Han meets a gallery of thieves, and decides to join them, along with his new pal, Chewbacca. The mission details hardly matter (and perhaps that’s the film’s main fault). All that matters is that the stakes are high, it’s going to be extremely difficult, and there will be a ton of action. The film delivers on all of the basics of popular entertainment: action, great special effects, romance, mystery. In the end though, it feels too much like the B-Side to a great album. I haven’t been overly impressed with the Star Wars spin-offs. You lose certain elements of surprise since we know where Han is going, but I did find Han and Chewie’s budding friendship worth the watch.

Under the Skin (2013, Directed by Jonathan Glazer) English 7

Starring Scarlett Johanssen, Paul Brannigan, Adam Pearson, Michael Moreland

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An unexlained alien figure posseses the form of an alluring woman (Johanssen) in order to seduce and consume men in modern Scotland. Provacative, engaging work that mixes spontaneous guerilla filmmaking with insane, and yet beautiful abstract sequences. Heavily thematic, I’m at odds to pin down just what the film was saying. I do think, like with its characters, it’s what’s underneath that counts. The soundtrack/score is an instant classic.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018, Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo) English 6

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Josh Brolin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Mackie, Idris Elba, Bradley Cooper, Carrie Coon, Chris Hemsworth, Peter Dinklage

Point of order right off the top: I’m not what you’d call a “Marvel fan.” I’ve seen every film they’ve churned out, generally in theaters, if able, opening weekend even. I enjoy the surrounding excitement when watching these films. During Infinity War, I sat next to a mom and three young boys. Seeing her cover their eyes for half of the movie gave me a heavy sense of nostalgia from when I was a boy watching PG-13 movies in the theater with my mother.  They’re event films, and it’s fun to hear the nerds clap when ————-happens, or $%#@ arrives on the scene, or  ~~~ says something witty (for people serious about avoiding spoilers). In fact, another point of order, I will not be completely able to avoid spoilers in this review. I will not go heavy into detail, but I also cannot complain thoroughly enough without calling out specific incidents from the film. There’s my warning. With both disclaimers out of the way, allow me to unleash, or really, more accurately, temper the avalanche of over-the-top praise Infinity War is receiving, not dissimilar to what surrounded Marvel’s last effort, Black Panther. This is a good film. It held my attention. The acting was solid across the board, but Marvel movies have always lacked in certain areas, and that doesn’t change here. I consider Marvel more of a factory than a film studio.

The film opens strong, with Thanos (Brolin) reveling in the ashes and the corpses of another land that he’s massacred. He is a madman, a zealot who believes his purpose is to reduce the population of every planet by 50%, in order to sustain their people. He was unable to achieve this ideal on his home planet of Titan, and the entire civilization was destroyed, adding fire to his fanaticism. Josh Brolin gives the character a brooding, rigged sensitivity that makes the character more interesting than past “ultra-powerful” villains. That’s one element of the film I really liked. Making Thanos three dimensional goes a long way to making him more daunting.  Thor and Bruce Banner find out first hand the power Thanos possesses, aided by powerful stones known as Infinity Stones. Of the six in creation, Thanos already possesses 2. If he gets to all six, he’s virtually unstoppable, and so the stakes are clear. Thor and Banner split up and attempt to, essentially, sound the alarm, reaching out to all Avengers, because this latest threat is their most severe. That brings in a large array of characters, characters Marvel has done a nice job of setting up throughout the last decade. There are still some black sheep among the cast, however. No one cares about the Scarlet Witch, Vision, War Machine, Falcon, or Heimdall. They’ve been undercooked since conception, and can go the way of the Dodo for my money. I, frankly, don’t care about Black Widow either. What are her powers? If the Avengers are bringing in mortals with nice moves, why not recruit Jackie Chan or Donnie Yen? Gina Carano would beat Black Widow. All of these D-list heroes are space eaters, and Infinity War’s first mistake is not having them bite the dust first scene. Their purpose in this film should never have gone beyond dying by Thanos’ hand to show how powerful he is. The rest of the good superheroes split time well enough for the most part. Black Panther is short changed, but everyone else has their moments, and the actors make the most of their screen time. The writing in Infinity War was impressive. Some good lines and well placed comic relief make sure the movie is never a drag, no matter how serious the action gets.

One of my core complaints about the Marvel Universe has always been the lack of consequences that accompany the immense and, at times, overwhelming action. I said of the last Avengers movie, which was poor in my view, that it reminded me of the Shakespeare quote, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Nobody important dies (don’t try to sell me Quicksilver), and it was just a bunch of flashing lights and deathless explosions. Infinity War seemed prime to change all this. Right off the back an important character dies. Later, down goes another. I was hooked into Thanos’ reign of terror, until the film ended on a lame string of fake deaths. Maybe this is premature, it’s hard to fairly evaluate two part films, so I’ll come back, but for now, I’m fairly confident what happens to end this part, will be mitigated in the second part. I hate when any work of fiction brings a character back from the dead. It’s the equivalent to ending on, “It was all a dream.” It undermines everything. Unlike the hardcore Marvel junkies, I’m not even going to waste a minute trying to figure out where the plot goes from here. I was basically tuned in the film’s entire running time, interested in who was going to die. What am I left with? No one knows. It was all a tease. I am anticipating the second one being devastating and strong, and if I’m right, I’ll recant this review, and give it a higher rating, but for now, a solid film/disappointment.

-Walter Howard-