The third Marvel movie of 2018, and by far the least consequential, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a minor chapter in the MCU. It’s occasionally entertaining, thanks to two great leads, and boasts creative set pieces, but the smallness of the film extends way beyond the diminutive stature of its two central superheroes.
If recent history were a guide in this never-ending series, shrinking the stakes would be welcomed, allowing for deeper character exploration and the ability to tell an engaging story that feels more Avengers adjacent instead of reliant. Black Panther is one of the best films of the year so far; Thor: Ragnarok and Spider-Man: Homecoming are a lot of fun; and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is bursting with that crew’s unique oddball charm. Ant-Man and the Wasp does not continue that Phase-Three tradition, combining its one-off innocuous adventure with the kind of unnecessary convolution that has bogged down the worst of Marvel’s output.
Stuck somewhere between a gothic Hammer-horror throwback and trashy revenge-sploitation, The Russian Bride has trouble fully committing to a style or a story. Things finally get batty and bloody, and Oksana Orlan is fantastic in the crazy final act. Unfortunately, the meandering road to get to her showcase is littered with lapses in logic, questionable choices in other performances and dubious production issues, regardless of the budget constraints.
Our world is in desperate need of more empathy, but the commoditized version presented in the thought-provoking Empathy, Inc. probably isn’t the way go, even if it were possible.
The film’s concept is genius, both in the grand ideas and the simple execution of them. The black-and-white cinematography is beautiful, and the solid performances earn our compassion or derision, based on their part in the empathy-generating scheme. Some grasp on the contained drama is lost by making suspension of disbelief more difficult in a bumpy final act, but this is quality, lo-fi science fiction where the thematic whole transcends plot resolution.
The Ranger has a ton of fun with ’80s slasher traditions but never turns them into a joke, marrying a punk-rock exuberance with some nasty bloodshed. Even at a short 77 minutes, however, some languid pacing – especially in a protracted second act – dulls the experience. Despite its issues, the film’s odes to convention and then wild tweaking of the standard formula make me excited for whatever first-time feature director Jenn Wexler does next.
The Devil’s Doorway is the best found-footage film I’ve seen in a long while, an honor that may not mean much considering the staleness of the genre, but it’s a really good movie. Though it starts with an annoying quaky-cam flash-forward, complete with a videographer who yells repeatedly into a black void instead of dropping the camera and getting the heck out of there, the movie slows way down to tell an intriguing, character-driven story. It’s also spooky as hell, with some biting commentary on the history of the Catholic Church and a setting that grows increasingly claustrophobic and menacing as the narrative deepens.
Horror films often hold up a mirror – or in the case of Await Further Instructions, you could say a Black Mirror, to society – commenting on its ills through genre expression. British director Johnny Kevorkian’s unraveling nightmare is a visceral, pertinent examination of the human condition as rules of order and decency break down and a chilling, mysterious new reality takes over. Sadly, the journey to hysteria doesn’t feel like too far of a trip, with elements that are terrifyingly plausible.