Halloween (2018)

Jamie Lee Curtis and I are the same age. I wish I could say that I was in as good shape as she is. I’m also not the badass her character Laurie Strode has become in this update of the “Halloween” film franchise. This movie removes the history of the other nine films, and treats the original as cannon and everything else as a figment of the audiences imagination. I can go with that, but there are a couple of other films that I might want to save before I make this entry the cannon for the future.

So forty years after the original events, Laurie has become a PTSD victim, who has passed on her paranoia to a second generation, or at least she tried to. In a plot lifted from “Terminator 2” , Laurie has been found to be an unfit mother and had her daughter taken from her when the girl was only 12. That daughter grew up to be Judy Greer, a forty something Mom with a daughter of her own in her senior year of high school. There are some pretty obvious beats being set up for the story. The goody goody grand daughter and her friends strolling through the town replicate the early segments of the original “Halloween”. Dr. Loomis has been replaced with Dr. Sartain, an apprentice of Loomis. And of course it is Halloween. So expect murders and costumes and people trapped in houses to be filling the screen for most of the time this film is running.

The idea of the traumatic family dynamic is an interesting one but it is under-developed. We don’t really know how the relationship between the characters works. Sometimes it seems like the grand daughter and Laurie are strangers to one another and at other times they have a deep bond. Greer’s character seems to be indifferent to her Mother’s warnings, despite having been raised with the specter of “The Shape” looming over her through her whole childhood. It’s not clear if she is a chip off the old badass block or a snowflake who has turned a blind eye to the evil in the world because her Mom is a bit nuts.  Jamie Lee is the stoic guardian angel who seems to have been plotting to kill Michael for forty years, but she loses her composure when she most needs it to warn the people she cares so much about. The inconsistencies in the characters undermine the story way more than it can take.

There is a turn about three quarters of the way into the movie that is so out of left field as to be silly. I guess it was supposed to be set up by the opening visit to the mental hospital by two journalists. When the one reporter waves Michael’s Captain Kirk mask at him, all the other prisoners react while Micheal remains motionless and as silent as ever. It is as if Michael’s evil is contagious, and long term exposure will result in an infection of the same. The only redeeming aspect of this plot thread is that the new villain gets a gruesome comeuppance that looks like it is mostly practical make up effects.

As flawed as the film is, there are several successful aspects to it.  I’d say the best sequence is a replay of the scenario in the original film. A babysitter, with a romantic partner while on the job, has to confront the masked killer. There was some nice chemistry between the babysitter, her charge and even the boyfriend. It plays out with the characters fulfilling their destiny but with as much self respect as you could hope for ever one involved. Another very effective sequence involves Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s illegitimate son, confronting Michael in the shadow of a light connected to a motion detector. The staging of those moments was pretty tense and there is a solid payoff.  I also liked the two cops keeping watch over Laurie Strode’s compound. The tone was humorous in a natural way and did not detract from the horror around it.

Before we get to a couple of comments about the climax, let me rant about a couple of other things that I saw as problems. The whole relationship between the grand daughter and her boy friend is filled with some deep secret that never plays out. He ends up discarded as a character and Laurie’s grand daughter Allison, ends up as the new scream queen without much more personal development. The plot thread from the opening with the two journalists does get played out, but in such a contrived situation as to be irritating, in spite of the well put together attack that finishes that part of the story.

Two shots in the film will immediately be recognized as reverse call backs to the original film. Allison sees a brief vision out of her classroom window, just as grandma had forty years earlier. That shot also foreshadows a moment in the climax that was the most enjoyable moment in the film. Replicating the double take that Donald Pleasence has at the end of the movie was the fan service moment that most worked for me. I did not see it coming, although I probably should have, but when it arrived, I laughed and smiled.

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.


One of the things that made last years “Guardians of the Galaxy” so much fun was the tone of the story. Yes it did feature a threat to the entire universe and that is pretty heavy, but every character who was conflicted and depressed at times, usually had a sense of humor and the whole enterprise came off as fun rather than angst inducing. The big Marvel film from earlier this year “Avengers: Age of Ultron” is weighed down with sad backstory and depressing philosophy and while it was entertaining, it was also very heavy. This film and story manages to be closer to the Guardians end of the spectrum rather than the Avengers end. Even though there are Avengers tie ins, this is a lighter, more amusing take on the super hero mythos and a solid way to launch another character from the Marvel Universe.

My kids have accused me of having a man-crush on Paul Rudd. That is mostly because he stars in the greatest film of 2008, “Role Models“. He is a surprising choice for a super hero movie but a very reasonable one for a comedy, and there is a lot of comedy in this film. While he is not a physical specimen like Chris Helmsworth, Rudd is in good shape and has an appealing face that is average rather than chiseled. His selection reminds me of the decision made before the first Tim Burton Batman film, to cast comedic actor Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight. The suit will do the action material just fine, it is the story that takes place around those scenes that requires the right kind of choice and this one is a hit. Rudd has a sardonic quality to his voice that matches well with the disillusioned ex-con who goes to prison for being a crusader in a hacking scheme. He is given enough background for us to sympathize with him but we also know he is capable of making a bad choice or two.

The original “Ant-Man” is Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas. There is an early scene where the CGI budget for the film is largely spent on making Douglas his “Romancing the Stone” are once more. It is very effective and the change in appearance to more contemporary dates is almost startling. There is some exposition about how he lost his company to the apprentice that is now running things. Darren Cross (perhaps not the most subtle of name for a villain character ,-D.Cross) is a genius but has apparently given in to megalomania in part due to exposure to the processes required to develop the material that allows a man to reduce his size to that of an insect. That Pym still has contact with the company as it is reaching a critical deal point is a little hard to believe, but than it is typical of this format that the acolyte wants to impress the mentor as he passes him by. Corey Stoll is a familiar face from action films and TV shows and this is his chance to step into what would usually be the role played by Mark Strong, who was I guess, not available.

Some of the powers of “Ant-Man” are a bit strange. The ability to control ants sounds like one of the oddest super powers to come along. I’m surprised that President Obama did not have it on his list instead of being able to speak all languages. After all, ants outnumber humans substantially and if universal communication is important, you ought to start with the creature that is most prevalent on the planet (outside of termites anyway). The ant connection allows a lot of problems to be fixed in an interesting visual manner, and Scott Lang ( alias Ant-Man) manages to make a humorous connection to the creatures and even imbue one of them with enough emotional weight that what happens to one of billions of insects may actually matter to you. The speed with which he can change size and escape detection is also pretty cool. There is a technology though that seems to minimize this advantage and that makes a fight scene in the middle and end of the movie work a little better. Scott also has a couple of weapons that Hank has created for him that harness the molecular technology that powers the suit. Not much time is spent explaining them but when they are used they both create reasonable solutions to situations and amusing comedy bits as well.

Evangeline Lilly is Pym’s disaffected daughter and she will have an important role to play, but right now she is not really a romantic interest for Rudd as Scott. The ex-wife and mother of Scott’s daughter is played by Judy Greer, in her fourth movie of the summer season (Jurassic World, Tommorowland and Entourage) but as in those other films, she is underused ( and today just happens to be her birthday, so Happy Birthday Judy). Bobby Cannavale plays the cop/future step father to Scott’s child and he doesn’t get the suave role he had in “Spy” but he does get to do the comedy material pretty well. Michael Peña does comedy as well and the way he tells a story, reminds me too much of some people I know. Overall it is an interesting cast and the tone of the film is a good change of pace for these comic book films. It looks like there are some future adventures that we will not have to wait to long for, if you have not yet heard, you should sit through all of the credits.