Thursday 18 October 2018

Film of the week: Ant-Man And The Wasp

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Plenty of fun: Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd in 'Ant-Man And The Wasp'
Plenty of fun: Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd in 'Ant-Man And The Wasp'

There is hardly a more American theme right now than dim lunks wielding great power. Such a thing goes through your mind looking at Ant Man, the Marvel superhero played by the always likeable Paul Rudd. There is no brooding Batman baggage or Iron Man ingenuity here. Ant Man - or Scott Lang to give him his real name - is an average guy, a manchild and a messer. He can also knock down a building.

Why does this come to mind? Well, there was a time when a superhero film was an event, something that stood out in the calendar and promised spectacle and courage. Now, they are just action-comedies with starry casts and eye-watering budgets. Ant Man And The Wasp is a very entertaining lark, full of wit and fun action set-pieces. It's also entirely forgettable once you walk out the door.

Director Peyton Reed returns, and in the spirit of most superhero sequels, doesn't waste much time bringing those who missed the previous rodeo up to speed on events. Scott is under house arrest, we're told, following what apparently went down in Captain America: Civil War, an entirely different film franchise. He is busted out by The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original inventor of Ant Man's shrinking suit. They need him to help them find Hank's wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is lost in the quantum realm. Got that?

Plenty of fun is had with an extended cast of Hannah John-Kamen, Michael Pena, and Randall Park. An old-school, primary-coloured charm is detectable - there isn't really a big arch-nemesis, for example - and most welcome. It won't stand out forever in the Marvel canon, but what of it? ★★★★ Hilary A White

Teen Titans Go!  To The Movies

Cert: PG; Now showing

Interesting that a release such as this should arrive the same week as Ant Man and The Wasp, a franchise that, along with Thor, is the class clown of superhero films. It has now become customary for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to pepper its busy release schedule with more arch fare such as these in order to temper the furrowed brows and apocalyptic events that have become synonymous with spandex attire and super powers.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, however, goes one further by making sure that almost everything happening before you is self-referential, bold of behaviour and mercilessly sending up our latter-day obsession with superheroes. That it manages to do this while being a mightily entertaining action cartoon is its big talking point.

Based on the wildly popular Cartoon Network animated comedy, the franchise is a mocked-up version of a comic supergroup composed mainly of sidekicks. Team leader Robin (voiced by Scott Menville) is tired of how even obscure superheroes now seem to warrant big-budget movie productions about them, while the Teen Titans go unacknowledged. It becomes Robin's goal to get Hollywood to notice them, but with every superhero on the red carpet, who is protecting the world?

The voices of Kristen Bell, Nicholas Cage, Michael Bolton and a very sporting Stan Lee crop up in what is a relentlessly silly, chucklesome and high-octane action-comedy. It's probably a bit too smarty-pants for very young ones but will split the sides of their older siblings. ★★★★ Hilary A White

The Big Bad Fox...

Cert: G; Now showing

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales to give it its full title makes a refreshing change from what has become the more usual animated fare. A French cartoon dubbed into English using lots of well- known voices, it is a simple but effective old-style 2D animation of three interlocking stories.

Director Benjamin Renner and animator Patrick Imbert introduce a selection of wild and farm animals who run a theatre company. The company puts on three shows, each featuring animals undergoing some kind of crisis of identity. The first features a stork who couldn't be bothered delivering a baby, leaving the task instead to a pig, a rabbit and a duck (Justin Edwards, Adrian Edmondson and Bill Bailey). The second, based on Renner's comic book, is about the big bad fox (Giles New) who ends up caring for chicks he steals from a hen (Celia Imrie). Torn between reluctant parenting and wanting to eat them, he also has to contend with the taunting of the wolf (Matthew Goode), the only character who remains true to type. The final tale is about Christmas and, for your information, parents, there is a character who claims to be a Santa non-believer, though he is converted in the end.

Tonally it is a little odd at times, it looks like France, sounds like England and it is rather male-character heavy, but it's funny with both slapstick and verbal humour. It does move at a great pace, not least because of the animation. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

Sicilian Ghost Story

Club: Cert; Now showing

Fairy tales are often horror stories of lost and forgotten children and this beautiful Italian film, told like a fairy tale, is based on a horrific true story. Co-directors, Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza, work from Marco Mancassola's short story to create an atmospheric feature that lingers long after the credits have rolled.

Giuseppe Di Matteo was 13 when he was kidnapped in his small town in Sicily. His Mafioso father had turned informant and the boy was held for 779 days in a bid to silence him. The story invents a girlfriend for Giuseppe (Gaetano Fernandez), and this girlfriend, Luna (a wonderful Julia Jedlikowska), is the only person who will not remain silent about Giuseppe's disappearance.

Although the Mafia element is not played up, it's there to be seen in the collusion of a community. Told in half-light, with the symbolism of forests and animals and Luna's apple-proffering scary mother, the story-telling is not straightforward, it requires audience submission, but the pay-off is great.

★★★★ Aine O'Connor

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