The summer movie machine is in full motion.  With so many exciting films coming out, I’m going to depart from my normal format and do two mini reviews this week instead.
Ant-man and the Wasp is the sequel to Marvel’s surprise hit Ant-man.  Taking place just before the major events of Marvel’s Infinity War film that dropped in May, Ant-man and the Wasp plays for much lower stakes.
At this point, Marvel’s ability to make good movies no matter how ridiculous the source material is no surprise.  So, it is with a film whose titular characters are named after nature’s non-exciting insects.  One of the keys to this success has been Marvel’s ability to tell different types of stories with their various characters.  Not every story is straight “smash ‘em up” with the fate of the city/country/world/galaxy at hand.  Ant-man and the Wasp has its roots in the buddy-cop genre more than in the world of Avengers, and it works.  The story is fun, and while not wholly original in concept, the details make it uniquely Marvel.
The other key to Marvel’s success is its ability to cast actors who shine the in the roles they play.  With all their success, this has obviously become much easier.  Paul Rudd is great once again showing his comedic chops as the bungling, but well-intentioned ex-con turned superhero.  Evangeline Lilly is great as Rudd’s serious, talented, and annoyed partner Hope Van Dyne aka “The Wasp.”  And Michael Douglass has fun with his jerk, control freak character Hank Pym, who acts as the disapproving leader and father.   Ant-man and the Wasp is fun, funny, and really well done.  Fly over to the theater to see it!
Skyscraper is the latest Duane “The Rock” Johnson vehicle.  Light on the creative title and heavy on the action, Skyscraper finds Johnson in the world’s tallest building trying to save his family while foiling a criminal plot.
Johnson is clearly the star of this film.  His charm, charisma, and physicality are on full display and clearly his star power is the attraction to put people in the seats.  Seemingly out of nowhere, Neve Campbell returns and is really good as Johnson’s capable and talented wife.  It’s a role that suits her.   The action is hot and heavy as Johnson wrestles increasingly tough challenges and pitfalls as the movie progresses.  Johnson’s persona is up to the task of carrying the film, and a nice supporting cast make this film’s short run time a lot of fun.
Overall, the story is weak, which comes as no surprise from a movie carrying such a banal title.  There are plenty of head scratching moments, some of which cause bursts of unintended laughter from the audience.  The villain’s plot is fairly convoluted, and the knock on this film being Die Hard-lite is fair.  The film also might be a bit too heavy on the dramatic last-second escapes, but the short run time helps prevent that from becoming to grating.  That aside, this is the classic summer popcorn movie.  It’s exactly what you think it will be.  It’ll be a lot more enjoyable on the big screen than in your living room.