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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of The First Purge, Won't You Be My Neighbor, Ant-Man and the Wasp

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for what I feared would be a triple-dose of mediocrity. 
Though the barre was set low, I'm pleased to report all three entries were more enjoyable than anticipated.
My opener: The First Purge.
Tracing the origins of America's most infamous holiday.
Dear reader(s), while I make every effort not to read reviews before seeing a movie, it's impossible to avoid headlines and friends' comments entirely. What I'd read going into The First Purge didn't give me much hope, but since the things I like about the Purge movies aren't necessarily the things most folks look for, I suspected I might enjoy it nonetheless. I was correct.
The First Purge is the most basic of origins stories. Paper-doll characters play out a social morality tale that is so heavy-handed as to be almost laughable. The cast is unremarkable, neither as bad as the material nor good enough to elevate it. You'll spend a good deal of time wondering what on Earth ever made Marisa Tomei sign on for this. BUT...those aren't the things that make the Purge series great. Though they're in shorter supply than in the previous two installments, The First Purge boasts striking visuals, scenes and individual shots that are gorgeous despite being violent and terrifying. There are some solid jump scares, and a minimalist score by Kevin Lax perfectly underscores the deadly night's tension. The film feels long for it's brief runtime, and it misses Frank Grillo, but it was definitely a better time than I expected.
The First Purge runs 98 minutes and is rated R for "strong, disturbing violence throughout, pervasive language, some sexuality, and drug use."
It may well be the poster child for Movies Nobody Asked For, but, for my money, The First Purge isn't nearly as bad as you've heard. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, the First Purge gets five.
Next on the docket, the Mr. Rogers documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor.
A fond look back at the world's best neighbor.
Won't You Be My Neighbor scratches the surface of the Fred Rogers story, from his humble beginnings at WQED in Pittsburgh, to national stardom, to becoming the voice to which a nation turned for advice and solace in challenging times. The film is fortunate its subject didn't need much finesse to make compelling viewing, but it's unfortunate filmmakers never dug very deep or asked many difficult questions. Interviews with family, friends, and colleagues uniformly paint a picture of a big-hearted man whose chief concern was always the well-being of children. Anyone who veers ever-so-slightly from such recollection quickly has his path righted in the interest of a tear-jerker that reminds us we're all perfect as we are, and, whatever the question, the answer is always kindness. It's a sad testament to our current state of affairs that, through 2018's eyes, Rogers' sincerity sometimes comes across a little creepy, and that his message of love and acceptance feels almost subversive.
Won't You Be My Neighbor runs a quick 94 minutes and is rated PG13 for "thematic elements and language."
Won't You Be My Neighbor isn't an especially well-done documentary, but it's a nice tribute to a man who was a huge part of many childhoods, and whose kindness and tolerance are much missed in today's increasingly mean world. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Won't You Be My Neighbor gets six. Oh...and bring the tissues.
Fangirl points: the Banana Splits, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Rappers Delight (I'm not kidding) all make appearances in this movie.
Finally, the other side of yesterday's "unnecessary sequels" bookends, Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Pursued by both sides of the law, Scott Lang, Hope van Dyne, and Hank Pym form an uneasy alliance.
Okay, Marvel, maybe it gets a little dicey trying to meet big-screen expectations with your least-impressive super-hero, but I'm here to tell you, if the question is, "How do we fix this?" the answer is NEVER, "More Evangeline Lilly." Never, ever. Just ask the folks who made The Hobbit, m-kay?
If the first Ant-Man was a movie nobody really asked for, this sequel isn't any more necessary for having a co-headliner. However, there are some positives, so here goes. Paul Rudd is an extremely engaging lead. He's a natural at comedy and sympathetic when things turn more serious. Walton Goggins makes an able foil, and I found myself wishing for some interaction between him and the movie’s other most-watchable actor, Bobby Cannavale. (Kinda-spoiler alert: Cannavale's Paxton being the most minor of minor characters, that doesn't really happen.) It's always great to see David Dastmalchian, too. Ant-Man and the Wasp is well and properly funny; like Thor: Ragnarok, it's as much straight-up comedy as super-hero movie, and the humor never seems awkward or ill-timed. 
There are some nifty effects, though the 3D is rather pointless. The picture's biggest problem, outside of a hero that doesn't seem very super, is that the stakes seem comparatively low by Marvel standards. Every Marvel movie is able to stand on its own to a degree, but so closely on the heels of Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp seems a little pointless. There are two stingers: a mid-credits scene that is material to the interconnected MCU, and a post-credits scene that's just for fun.
Ant-Man and the Wasp clocks in at 118 minutes and is rated PG13 for "some sci-fi action violence."
Ant-Man and the Wasp is another fun but disposable entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Ant-Man and the Wasp gets five and a half.
Until next time...

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