ANT-MAN AND THE WASP [PG-13] B+
There has been a casually sly means to incorporating the character of Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has allowed the developing franchise to maintain a distinct identity and tone all of its own. Returning director Peyton Reed has been able to create a multi-layered family-focused narrative – bouncing from the dynamic between ex-con Lang and his young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) to super scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his superheroine-in-waiting Hope (Evangeline Lilly) who takes on the mantle of the Wasp – that never forgets to remind us of its presence in the larger blockbusting landscape. Intriguingly though, the stakes here are always smaller and more contained – much of the action centers on a trip to the Quantum Realm to rescue Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), the original Wasp, but by the end, a post-credit sequence flips the switch, triggering a perilous connection to the dire threat that is Thanos. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is all fun and games, in the way I wish “Ocean’s 8” had been, and I hope they are able to inject some of that lightness of being into the conclusion of the “Infinity War” saga.
THE FIRST PURGE [R] D
Prior to the release of “The First Purge,” I noticed that the buzz surrounding the movie tended to revolve around its urban dimension. Bluntly stated, people were talking about the series prequel being a black “Purge,” which I didn’t quite get since the franchise had always prominently placed itself in POC adjacent landscapes. Unfortunately, this “origin” of the “Purge” doubles down on the more reductive and unsavory aspects of how the idea – the impact of 12 hours of complete lawlessness on society – is rooted in the creation of what amounts to an all-out state sanctioned race war. The franchise has always capitalized on a seedy B-movie level of exploitation, but this latest installment seems even more ugly and irresponsible, likely because it mirrors certain elements of the current political environment, without any edifying points.