The BIG Summer Flicks of ’18! Worth Streaming?

Now that the summer’s biggest blockbusters have all been released, it’s time to give them a look and, hopefully, help you decide what to bother renting/streaming. I know, I know…”Jason, if I wanted see them, I already would have”! Well, true for many, not so true for others (those of you with kids, for instance). But more importantly, there may be a flick you assumed was one thing so you didn’t bother, but you should have…or were about to rent it and I saved you two hours of your life by warning you not to bother. I’ve previously reviewed two that were terrific (click to read my “Deadpool 2” and “MI: Fallout” reviews), one that was slightly better than “meh” (“Ready Player One“), and quite possibly the worst film of 2018 (“Red Sparrow“). Thus, here are my takes on the remaining bunch (in order of release date):

  • “Pacific Rim: Uprising” (available to stream/rent now)
  • “Avengers: Infinity War” (available to stream/rent now)
  • “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (available to stream 9/14/18)
  • “The Incredibles 2” (streaming date TBD)
  • “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (available to stream 9/4/18)
  • “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (streaming date TBD)

“Pacific Rim: Uprising”
Directed by Steven S. DeKnight

Winner of the “So Bad It’s Actually Pretty Good” Award

Image result for pacific rim: uprising“Pacific Rim” excels in its terrible-ness. The story is patently absurd, the action feels very eighties, the acting(?) is beyond brutal and if the amount of times you rolled your eyes were a drinking game, you’d have alcohol poisoning by the film’s completion. HOWEVER, all of this equals a stupid good time.

Now, to be fair, I was not a big fan of the original, although I applauded the creative effort and ideas put forth from the franchise’s creator, Oscar-winner Guillermo del Toro. He apparently exec-produced this version, but I can’t for a second believe he had ANYTHING to do with it beyond picking up the checks. But the first film was positively Bergman-esque in comparison to “Uprising”.

But, if you like watching bad movies for their camp value, then you’re in for a huge and lasting treat. It possesses a laugh-out-loud-in-all-the-wrong-places-yet-cringe-when-it-wants-you-to-laugh script. The acting has no shot of overcoming the absurdity of its environment, although if I’m to pick out two special performances, I’d go with the joyousness that comes with watching Charlie Day burn down every bit of scenery, and the mystery of how Scott Eastwood could be quite so devoid of charisma (it’s truly a marvel). And, best of all, the lack of attention to any laws of gravity by the SFX departments.

No, this is a movie to get wasted to and allow yourself the freedom to laugh at it. It’s that bad/good.

“Avengers: Infinity War”
Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Winner of the “Don’t Worry, None of the Shocking Stuff Will Have Any Lasting Effect On the Future of the Franchise” Award

Related image“Infinity War” is not nearly as good as the critics claimed it was, but still very entertaining. Well, the script is entertaining. The story is ridiculous, even if it does center around a villain who rationalizes doing all the wrong things for the right reasons. But if you have seen any one of the 375 or so Marvel Universe films, you’ll find something to giggle at. The best parts of the film center around Spiderman (Tom Holland) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), mostly because they are the most believably  earnest characters in the film. The rest suffer from either a bit too much smarminess (looking at you Messrs. Cumberdict and Downey Jr.), and/or not enough personality within the context of the story (Mr. Boseman is especially hit hard by this).

But, let’s face it, if you didn’t see it in the theater, then you’re more interested in the fight scenes, hunky/gorgeous performers, special effects and whether or not the story keeps you invested (the stakes). So…

  1. The fight scenes are pretty great on a big screen…not so sure how they’d go over on the small one.
  2. The hunky folk are hunky, especially if you are in to Mr. Hemsworth, as you would expect. Oh, and the women soldiers of  Wauconda kick ass throughout…which is hot.
  3. The effects range from “how’d they do that” to “oy vey”. Everything Dr. Strange does is the former. All the non-Earth worlds are the latter.
  4. The stakes are extremely high. The problem is there just isn’t enough there to really buy in to them. After all, they have to shoehorn seventy thousand super heroes in to one film.

I don’t know. I had a really good time while watching it, but other than the ridiculous ending, it had no lasting effect on me in the way that, say, “Spiderman: Homecoming” did.

“Solo: A Star Wars Story”
Directed by Ron Howard

Winner of the “Had to Hide My Face In Shame Whenever I Told Someone I Liked It” Award

Related imageI’m not a Star Wars fan boy. I am a huge Star Wars fan. Thus, if you read anything during it’s release, you’ll be able to guess that I really enjoyed the film, as opposed to the fan-boys, who HATED it. That’s their problem. It was silly, exciting, well paced, had a decent enough story, and features Donald Glover AND Woody Harrelson (both of whom are simply great in this and, let’s face it, everything else they’re in).

I liked Ron Howard’s light approach to the subject. For me it hearkened back to the innocence of those first couple Star Wars films. And Alden “would that it t’were so simple” Ehrenreich is fine. Takes a long time to get used to him in such an iconic role, but he’s fine, charming even. Emilia Clarke is terrific. And Phoebe Waller-Bridge lends her brilliantly droll V.O. chops to the shebang as a socialist ‘droid.

I felt, strictly as a cinematic experience, this was one of the more enjoyable blockbusters of the summer. I have no idea if it will translate to the small screen. My guess is that it’s just this side of “aww shucks” enough to make that leap. Of these six, this is the film I’m most likely to own.

“Incredibles 2”
Directed by Brad Bird

Winner of the “Giggling Like A Little Child Is Good For You” Award

Related imageIf you were an adult fourteen years ago, when the first “Incredibles” was released, you’ll remember how groundbreaking it felt…refreshing…like putting on your sneaks after spending a couple hours at the skating rink. Well, this is not your young adulthood’s “Incredibles”. It’s still pretty good. The animation is great, it’s awfully funny in spots, and the story is terrific.

So, what’s wrong with it? Well, listen, I love Catherine Keener. REALLY love Catherine Keener and no one was happier than I to see her come back in “Get Out” after too long of an extended absence. But movies like “The Incredibles” only work if the villains are VILLAINOUS, and Keener just seemed like a terrible choice for the role. VO work is a very different animal than on-camera and requires taking massive risks by listening to your imagination instead of emotion…or rather, the balance between the two should be weighted to the left. Alas, she plays her role as if she were still doing “Get Out”, and as a result, not only is hers the only character we think of as animated, instead of alive, but every time her character speaks the energy is sucked out of the theater. I blame Brad Bird. He is a VO and animation genius and I feel he could have probably coaxed more out of her.

However, you will probably either not notice my issues, or forgive it, because on all other levels the film is a success and a joy. And it is one of the few that will be just fine on a small screen, conditioned, as we are, to watch cartoons on the boob tube since early childhood.

“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”
Directed by Stephen Spielberg

Winner of the “So Bad It’s Really Just Bad” Award

Image result for jurassic world fallen kingdomTwo words: oy vey.

This is a TERRIBLE film on pretty much every level. Why? Well, because it forgot to do the ONLY thing needed to make it bearable…a story about DINOSAURS! After the thrilling (and heartbreaking) first twenty minutes, dinosaurs simply leave the story. They’re there, but as story background, not as antagonist. I mean…huh? Imagine if in “Jaws” the shark does all its damage in the first act, and then the film becomes an extended argument between Chief Brody and Mayor Vaughn. Yeah, it’s sort of like that. Add to that all the worst heavy-handed tricks Spielberg uses, with absolutely none of the wonder. Even the kid in it is like “yeah, dinosaurs, big deal”.

Not worth anyone’s time – including any more time given to a review of it. Wish I had better news.

“Ant-Man and The Wasp”
Directed by Peyton Reed

Winner of the “Hey! This Was a REALLY Enjoyable Summer Trifle” Award!

Image result for ant-man and the waspHouston, we have a winner! I don’t know why, but I really wasn’t expecting too much out of this film. The first chapter was really only good because of the charming nature of Paul Rudd. But this film actually tackles issues of family, desertion, loss and love all within a tight, rollicking, (creakily) funny and well executed special effects tour de force.

Rudd is awesome. Even when the humor falls flat it does so with the total self-awareness of a dad who knows he’s being corny. Hannah John-Kamen, who was terrific in the Brit-cop series, “Happy Valley”, is good enough to pull off the “bad gal with a heart”. But more importantly, Evangeline Lily is terrific and works well with Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer (who remains the most beautiful person in Hollywood).

The story feels dense, even though the “fate of the world” doesn’t rely on anybody’s actions. And the effects are pretty spectacular. In fact, they occasionally over-run the sweetness of the film, but that may just be a symptom of me seeing it in a Dolby Cinema, where the chair literally shakes, which diminished some of the jokes. At home, I don’t think you’ll have that issue.

In essence, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” feels as irreverent as a Deadpool film, but, y’know, for kids!

So…you want some grades? Too bad. BUT, here is how I would rate them in order of most enjoyable viewing to the least (click on each title for its trailer – but be forewarned, some of them give away just about everything – except the “Red Sparrow” trailer I’ve included below…that one’s spot on):

  1. Mission Impossible: Fallout
  2. Deadpool 2
  3. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  4. Ant-Man and the Wasp
  5. The Incredibles 2
  6. Avengers: Infinity War
  7. Ready Player One
  8. Pacific Rim: Uprising
  9. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  10. Red Sparrow

Written on 8/17/2018

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