Ant-Man and the Wasp

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The realization I had at the packed cinema where I watched Ant-Man and the Wasp explains part of the gargantuan success of Marvel properties on the big screen. The audience was evenly divided between kids and not kids; all of us prey to the siren song of the next superhero hit.

What struck out to me was that whenever a joke was cracked, visual or otherwise, both kids and not kids would laugh. Granted, there are some references and throwaway lines that only adults will get, but these were not as successful as the jokes that made the entire audience laugh.

I think that is my problem with movies of this ilk. It’s not that this movie is bad; it’s a highly enjoyable, very amusing adventure. But it’s that the product is so clearly aimed at pleasing the highest number of people possible, that any nuance gets thrown out the window. There is no room for ambiguity, no space for catharsis. Die hard fans can conjure up myriad theories and deep readings into Easter eggs and throwaways, but it does not change the fact that if a 10 year old can understand and laugh at the same thing you, an esteemed adult can, then that entertainment is probably not more than the sum of its parts.

B

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Tag

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Tag proves that Hollywood is not suffering from creative bankruptcy, but from a failure to tell creative stories well. With a premise as ridiculous as this one-adults playing tag for 30 years-, the movie captures the audience’s attention before it’s even begun. So why did it prove so hard for it to keep it?

The issue lies in that Tag is less a movie than it is a series of comedic sketches stretched to the breaking point. It proves hilarious at first, seeing comedy actors chase each other around only to fail in various ways. But then they do it again, and again, the only variant being their whereabouts. Because it seems so self contained, the movie lacks stakes of any kind. It attempts to infuse romance and lived in wisdom, but they seem like afterthoughts, as if halfway through the script the writer realized he was not working for SNL so he should add some depth to his piece.

A particularly egregious example of this occurs near the end of the movie, when a character makes a confession so out of left field in order to tie things up, that it threatens to destroy the credibility of everything that came before it. This level of lazy writing is not worthy of my attention. Fortunately, the cast seems to be having such great a time that they infect us with some of it. Their efforts almost succeed in making the movie do.

C+

A Quiet Place

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If Hollywood is to be trusted, planet Earth is the most coveted real estate in the universe. The last decade alone has seen aliens invade it, try to subjugate it or blow it up. This gets tiring after the umpteenth iteration of watching skyscrapers tumble and unnamed pedestrians fleeing for their lives; life ceases to matter, so disposable it has been shown to be.

A Quiet Place is not one of those movies. Like the recent Annihilation, by shrouding the Apocalypse in unknowns it generates the type of interest in the destruction caused by aliens that other flicks like to pretend they do. “It`s Sound!”, reads a newspaper headline. It is a scary and ominous a headline as has ever been printed; one can easily imagine the horror of mankind upon such realization. And then the movie progresses, and one does not even have to imagine it anymore; you feel it.

A-

Annihilation

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Alex Garland has crafted the greatest video game adaptation of all time. The world of Annihilation is the most immersive environment I have visited in a long time; it is also the most ominous. Every specimen in it, from the scattered patches of grass, to the neon coastline to the muddy lagoons, oozes hazard. You attach a controller to the screen and are suddenly playing an Earth-bound version of Doom.

I am only compelled to write at length regarding films that made me feel something; a brief glance at my post history will reveal that I write a mere sentence or two for each movie. This blog is not meant as a movie review site, but as a space in which I can expand on the feelings brought upon by the power of cinema. As such, films are not analyzed from a technical perspective, nor viewed through a political or social lens; they are lived in by emotions and my faith.

For two hours Annihilation trapped me in a world in which the unknown was more dangerous than even the massive deadly beasts roaming through the land. Unanswered questions and a sense of uncertainty are greater foes than the ones we stare in the face.
It is this intense sense of dread and mystery which has attached me so deeply to Annihilation. In an era in which Hollywood has to hold the audiences hand and lead them to the nicely tied in a bow ending in which good triumphs over evil, Alex Garland has provided a conclusion in which the answers only serve as springboards for more questions, for further prodding of every little thing that has preceded it. Such examination stimulates the intellect, invigorating the notion that cinema is truly the only thing that has the capacity to transport you to far away places, to challenge you, to question what it means to be human and what to do with the time we have left.

Are we going to continue sabotaging ourselves, as a character in the film notes is humanity’s favorite past time? In that case the arrival of foreign entities to destroy us must be welcome, for they cannot mess things up more than they already are. Or are we going to plow through adversity until we get the answers? And while the film posits that the end of the road may provide not the type of closure one was expecting, it does incites change. And as long as change is possible, life can carry on.

A

Phantom Thread

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Decades from now, when somebody inevitably makes a documentary on genius filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson, they will settle on The Master as a title inspiration. Having already bestowed upon the world one of the greatest motion pictures in history (see: There Will Be Blood), the director has achieved what few ever do. With this privilege, the question arises: what’s next?

The answer is a film that follows the tumultuous romance of a fashion designer in post WW2 London. I don’t know where he got the inspiration for something that, on paper, sounds like it should be a total bore. And then the title card appears on screen, and for the next two hours you sit entranced by the talent of the man. Paul Thomas Anderson has complete control over every aspect that makes cinema masterful, and you cannot help but be envious. He wrote the intoxicating dialogue, on wild display during fiery exchanges and in haunting monologues delivered by the inimitable Daniel Day-Lewis! He shot every frame, the camera sneaking behind his characters, on the characters faces, on the laces, socks, bows and pins that adorn the picture! He chose the score, continually present during the entire movie, the design, out of a film the likes Hollywood does not make anymore, the settings, almost entirely confined to the House of Woodcock, as much a living protagonist as anybody.

I do not love Phantom Thread, nor is it going on my list of favorite films ever. Yet, I cannot help but be enthralled by the enormity of the craft on display. Delicate and perfect, it is what cinema should aspire to.

A+