Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Abby Ryder Forsten, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Tip ’T.I.’ Harris, David Dastmalchian, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer, Randall Park, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale
If Marvel Studios are going to release franchise instalments at the frequency they do – twenty superhero movies in ten years, five in the last 18 months – they can’t stick to the traditional blockbuster strategy of trying to outdo themselves with each film, of constantly striving to raise the bar with bigger stories and more extreme spectacles. Such an approach would be unsustainable, not to mention exhausting for fans. Instead, they opt for variety and modulation. Of scale, of tone, of stakes. The Ant-Man series is, fittingly, the smallest scale of the various strands of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it is some canny forethought from Kevin Feige’s team to offer up Ant-Man and the Wasp as a modest, low-stakes breather for superhero movie fans after the epic Avengers: Infinity War. Continue reading
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Rafe Spall, Daniella Pineda, Justice Smith, Isabella Sermon, Ted Levine, James Cromwell, Geraldine Chapman, Toby Jones, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum
“Do you remember the first time you saw a dinosaur?” The question, posed by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth instalment in the Jurassic Park franchise, seems to be addressed as much to the audience as it is to her returning co-protagonist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt). For many, it takes our mind back twenty-five years, to that beautifully constructed moment in Jurassic Park. The camera tracking in on the stunned face of Alan Grant (Sam Neill) in the back seat of the jeep. He stands up, taking off his glasses, reaching down to turn the head of Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) so that she can see what he is seeing. Her mouth drops open. And then, as John Williams’ iconic score swells, we see it: a giant brachiosaur walking up the hill beside them, rising up on its hind legs to eat some leaves from the top of a tree. It was a cinematic moment that was as breathtakingly awe-inspiring for those sitting in the theatres watching as it was or the characters living it on screen. We had never seen anything like it before. The diminishing returns for the Jurassic Park franchise since that first film has been in large part due to the inability to recapture that moment and to replicate that audience experience. Continue reading
Director: Brad Bird
Starring: Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Sowell, Huck Milner, Catherine Keener, Eli Fucile, Bob Odenkirk, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabella Rossellini, Sophia Bush, Jonathan Banks, Brad Bird
In contemporary Hollywood, fourteen years is an eternity to wait for a sequel. We are used to the sequel being in the works often before the first film is even released. While there had always been audience desire for a sequel to The Incredibles – a high point even by Pixar’s lofty standards – the animation studio and writer-director Brad Bird made us wait for another adventure from the Parr family. But fans can rest assured that it has been worth the wait.
Rather than reflecting the fourteen years that have passed between films in the story world, Incredibles 2 picks up immediately where the first one left off, with the Parr family suiting up to tackle the Underminer (Pixar talisman John Ratzenberger). But when things don’t quite go to plan ‘supers’ once again find themselves out of favour with a government that sees them as more trouble than they are worth. Continue reading
Director: Gary Ross
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna, Richard Armitage, James Corden
In the final moments before her crew sets out to execute their heist in the reboot-sequel Ocean’s Eight, Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) tells them: “You’re not doing this for me. You’re not doing this for you. Somewhere out there is an eight year old girl dreaming of being a criminal. You’re doing it for her.” This is the self-aware dialogue of a film which knows it has a greater purpose. Ocean’s Eight, like the gender-flipping strategy in general, is about allowing female viewers to break free of Hollywood’s limiting portrayals of women as passive objects and identify with the type of active character historically reserved for men. Could there be anything more emblematic of a female character with agency, with control of their own destiny, than a criminal? Continue reading
Director: Paul King
Starring: Ben Wishaw; Hugh Grant; Hugh Bonneville; Sally Hawkins; Madeleine Harris; Samuel Joslin; Julie Walters; Jim Broadbent; Brendan Gleeson; Peter Capaldi; Marie-France Alvarez; Sanjeev Bhaskar; Ben Miller; Jessica Hynes; Robbie Gee; Imelda Staunton
Films can make you feel a lot of things, but it is rare that one can make you feel pure, unbridled joy. With its sincerity and sweetness, Paul King’s Paddington 2, sequel to 2014’s successful adaptation of the beloved Michael Bond character, is just such a film.
Paddington Brown (Ben Wishaw) wants to buy an extra special birthday present for his beloved Aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) who is about to turn one hundred, to say thank you for all that she has done for him. In Mr Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) old curiosity shop he finds just the thing, a pop-up book of the sights of London. The only problem is that it is a one of a kind antique, and much more expensive than a humble bear can afford. Knowing it is the perfect gift, Paddington sets out to find himself a job. However, when the shop is broken into and the book stolen, Paddington finds himself falsely blamed and thrown into prison. Continue reading
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Joonas Suotamo, Donald Glover, Paul Bettany, Phoebe Waller Bridge, Thandie Newton
One of the things which made the original Star Wars trilogy the site of such intense fandom is that it created the sense of a universe that was bigger than just what we were seeing in the story. Through the details of different planets and aliens that we glimpsed it provided incredible scope for the imagination to run wild. It is this potential that Disney is trying to tap into with their Star Wars ‘anthology films’ – those films which are not classified as episodes of the central saga. Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story is the second on these anthology films, after 2016’s Rogue One.
While fighting with the Imperial infantry on Mimban, young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and his new, wookie friend Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) fall in with a group of smugglers led by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Continue reading
Director: David Leitch
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, Morena Baccarin, Eddie Marsan, TJ Miller, Stefan Kapicic, Briana Hildebrand, Shioli Kutsuna
It seems a strange, almost perverse thing to say of a film so coarse and violent, but the incredible success of Tim Miller’s Deadpool, which turned a comparatively modest US$58m budget into a US$783m worldwide gross, was one of the film industry’s feel good stories of 2016. It was both vindication for Ryan Reynolds who had worked tirelessly for the chance to redeem the character after its butchering in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and reward for 20th Century Fox’s willingness to take a chance on a superhero movie whose R-rating automatically ruled out a key demographic for superhero movies. A sequel, however, presents an entirely new challenge. Could a second film capture that same sense of freshness and difference, or would it just end up mimicking itself? Fortunately, Deadpool 2 not only lives up to the original, it arguably exceeds it on many fronts. Continue reading