The Marvel cinematic universe has been enormously successful.  ‘The Avengers’, ‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America’ franchises have garnered buckets of cash.  Whilst some have been burdened by a predictable formula, others have lingered in the memory with ‘Ant-Man’ sitting somewhere in the middle.   An action packed, CGI-infused ode to one of Marvel’s earliest comic book characters, it’s a fun ride sure to please many genre admirers.


Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is keen to safe-guard his secret Ant-Man technology.  Enabling the user to decrease to ant-like size, Pym chooses an unlikely candidate, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a reformed thief.  Initially reluctant to accept the offer, Lang warms to the task of protecting the valuable property.   Becoming a pint-sized hero battling evil entities determined to use the technology for their own nefarious ends, Ant-Man’s small stature masks a man with a huge heroic heart.


Due to being an origin story, ‘Ant-Man’ occasionally feels very slow.  Its first hour is particularly glacially paced despite the performer’s enthusiasm.  When the action heats up so does the story with director Peyton Reed showing some stylish flair.  His combination of humour and drama within the action sequences is effectively handled.  Whilst these scenes heavily rely on bedazzling CGI, Reed ensures the actors inject enough personality in them to ensure you care what happens.


Being a superhero flick, ‘Ant-Man’ enjoys the story’s fanciful nature.  Although walking a well-worn trajectory, the script embraces the opportunities the concept presents.  Douglas and Rudd in particular seem to enjoy expanding outside their usually known acting range.  They know ‘Ant-Man’ isn’t anything other than a colourful comic-book movie succeeding in elevating its level of enjoyment.  You can’t take a movie like this too seriously with the action and humour blending to form an agreeable escapist package.


Compared to previous Marvel films ‘Ant-Man’ may perhaps not be the greatest.  But it has energy and a tone discarding the earnestness of similar movies.  If you roll with the impish nonsense it provides, the small hero witnessed should conjure humongous thrills.


Rating out of 10:  6 



Magic Mike XXL

‘Magic Mike’ turned into one of more surprising hits in recent times.  A film about hunky male strippers initially sounded like a garish excuse to see guys take their gear off.  Whilst that was true, underneath the layers hid a meaningful story about male relationships.  The sequel mostly picks up from the original’s sense of purpose.  Despite even more clothes being torn off, the smartly written screenplay ensures ‘Magic Mike XXL’ doesn’t descend into a tawdry flesh-fest.


Despite having left his life as a stripper behind, Mike (Channing Tatum) feels lost.  Missing the companionship of his buddies, he decides to reunite his motley band of strip-pals.  Among them are Ken (Matt Bomer) and Tito (Adam Rodriquez).  Travelling to a stripper convention, they look forward to winning the main prize.  Along the way, loyalties are tested and new bonds are forged as the clothes slowly peel away.


Directed by Gregory Jacobs, ‘Magic Mike XXL’ is generally engrossing.  Whilst emotionally less substantial than its predecessor, it still shows the men dealing with the pitfalls of their chosen profession.  When not becoming a group of fantasy enhancers, the men also become a form of therapy for the women they meet.  Fulfilling a sensual connection some lack, the ladies look to the men for adult escapism.  How the group handles these attitudes provides an intriguing insight often missing in similar films only showing stripping’s sleazier side.


Emboldened with some depth, ‘Magic Mike XXL’ also dazzles in the strip-show sequences.  Viewers would know what to expect although the way the men perform each set-piece almost makes it an art-form.  The physical and psychological bond they form with their audience is fascinating.  Tatum and his co-stars earn their money by doing most of these routines.  That they inject some heart into their sometimes mechanical moves speaks well of their quest in making ‘Magic Mike XXL’ more than it could have been.


Although not quite as involving as the first entry, ‘Magic Mike XXL’ generally delivers the goods.  It has enough emotional weight to make it stand out as the characters shed their inhibitions for their eager audience.


Rating out of 10:  7