Friday, July 6, 2018

Three for 7/6/18: Marvel schlock; sad doc; and what a road-trip crock!

Remember when the '50s and '60s were filled with sci-fi goofs featuring big bugs, miniature people and silly stories? Well, Marvel brings it all back in the nonsensical sequel, "Ant-Man and the Wasp," which makes the 2015 original (simply "Ant-Man") sound like Shakespeare. Well, not really, but even all the elaborate special effects and 2018 studio wizardry still can't make those giant insects following around the tiny title characters seem anything but gross impostors. 

And, that's certainly just a minor quibble with a flimsy film listing five screenwriters, never a good sign, and about three too many villains, especially if you're counting a tormented creature nicknamed "Ghost" (Hannah-John Kamen) and a somewhat shady scientist (Laurence Fishburne).
Oh, yeah, Lilly's "Wasp" and Rudd's "Ant-Man" are in love.
The latter oh-so-stoically plays a former colleague of Dr. Hank Pim (Michael Douglas), himself the guy acting like he's in a much more serious place than this dumb summer movie. I guess it's because he devised all this quantum-realm mumbo-jumbo in the first film and now, heaven forbid, the wife he lost in what amounts to a peephole in a galaxy still might be rescued.

Naturally, she's portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer, who apparently only looks as if she's about 30 years younger than Douglas who, by the way, might be cast next to play father Kirk's long-lost twin.

Sorry, I digress, since at least one of us is way up to here with these comic book-based tales. Also, please know there are about 50 or so cast members we haven't talked about yet. Those include the little superheroes once again played by dependable Paul Rudd and terrific Evangeline Lilly, even when they grow to normal size as lovebirds named Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne. 

Of course, Michael Pena, one of Hollywood's great character actors working today, is on board again, too. In fact, as Lang's sidekick, he actually steals the show whenever  he opens his mouth, including his very funny sequences about truth serum.

Or maybe that same drug somehow leaked into the brains of the viewing audience and now the reality of it all becomes anybody's guess. Superhero addicts know not to fret, though, because the inevitable answers likely will be unveiled in a third Ant-Man film a few years from now. Really sounds Marvel-ous.
Rated "PG-13": some sci-fi action violence; 2:05; $ $ 1/2 out of $5

Also opening today are a very sad documentary on the much-discussed life and tragic death of Whitney Houston, and a humdrum road picture which even the legendary Christopher Plummer can't salvage. 

The former, obviously and aptly called "Whitney," includes everything you'd never want to know about the drug-tainted megastar, but you'll watch anyway, especially since all the family members who made a dime from her career get to make a few points about her tabloid-embracing demise in a Beverly Hilton Hotel bathtub.

By then, the 48-year-old Houston apparently was just a shadow of her former lovely self, which director Kevin MacDonald superbly highlights throughout. Her memorable "Star Spangled Banner" performance at the 1991 Super Bowl, songs and scenes from her blockbuster film, "The Bodyguard," and a few moments of her stunning TV debut on "The Merv Griffin Show" are all on joyous display.

On the dark side, where reflections from Whitney's mom, Cissy Houston, and controversial ex-husband Bobby Brown are quite minimal, there comes a bombshell from a caretaker about sexual child abuse. It surely will make some news since Whitney's alleged molester had a bit of a career herself before her own drug-related death in 2008.

Certainly Houston fans can and will decide for themselves what to believe from whom in sorting out Macdonald's wide assortment of intimate superstar detail. Still, all that remains is remarkable sorrow.

Rated "R": language and drug content; 2:02; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Finally, Boundaries features the scene-stealing Plummer, even at age 88, playing a pot dealer who gets thrown out of his nursing home, then coerces his often clueless daughter (Vera Farmiga) to drive him from Seattle to Los Angeles.
Plummer and MacDougall share some secrets.

Along for the truly unconventional ride is his 14-year-old grandson (Lewis McDougall from "A Monster Calls"), himself recently expelled from school for drawing nude sketches of everyone he meets (including a teacher or two).

Obviously there's much more to come here from writer/director Shana Feste ("Country Strong"), who invents the most unbelievably eccentric assortment of characters you can shake a script at. She obviously loves 'em all, too. I mean, why else would she bring everyone back for an encore at the end of the road? 

Enough already, lady! 

Rated "R": drug material, language, sexual references and nude sketches; 1:44: $ $ out of $5

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