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Tag Archive: movies set in San Francisco


Review by C.J. Bunce

Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the Hulk haven’t done it.  Along with Captain America and Thor, now Ant-Man adds another Marvel Cinematic universe film that matches the spirit of its first solo film.  That’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, premiering this weekend in theaters across the U.S.  If you count Ant-Man as one of your favorite films of the MCU, you won’t be disappointed in the sequel.  As with the original, Ant-Man and the Wasp is the rare superhero movie that will appeal to all ages of moviegoers–not a single scene will pollute the minds of the littlest kid, and for the older generation that loved that classic sci-fi trope from The Incredible Shrinking Man, moviegoers don’t need to follow the MCU to jump right into this film.  Better yet, Ant-Man and the Wasp has heart like nothing else on the big screen from Marvel, except for Paul Rudd’s first adventure as Ant-Man only three years ago.

For those not paying close attention, this film takes place before the events of Avengers: Infinity War, and two years following the events of Captain America: Civil War.  Each of the character-led superhero films have those elements special to that character.  The trademarks of Ant-Man return for this sequel: a slightly daft and bumbling hero (played by Rudd) enjoying his superpowers, a friend whose rapid-fire banter steals every scene (played by Michael Peña), a romantic co-lead ready to bust out and make her own name (played by Evangeline Lilly), even more cutting edge special effects that show today’s actors playing scenes looking just as they did 20 years ago, and the return of the great Michael Douglas with every bit the acting chops he had back in his The China Syndrome, Coma, and Romancing the Stone days as the incomparable Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man.  Rudd’s Scott Lang has only three days left under house arrest before regaining his freedom, as Dr. Pym and daughter Hope (Lilly) attempt to secure the last piece of technology required to try to reach Pym’s wife, long ago left in the quantum realm.  But they aren’t the only ones after this new technology.

The film doesn’t stop at mere fan service, bringing in three new characters that take the quantum universe story arc from the first film into new territory.  That’s Michelle Pfeiffer as Dr. Janet Van Dyne–the original Wasp, Laurence Fishburne as former Pym colleague Dr. Bill Foster, and a stunningly good MCU debut by Hannah John-Kamen–at last in a major big screen role after playing supporting characters this year in Tomb Raider and Ready Player One.  John-Kamen’s character has the same fierce grit and badass determination as Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, and like Valkyrie, we hope she’s back in the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War next year.  As with Thor: Ragnarok, Ant-Man and the Wasp brings the comic book page to life, and like Black Panther, the film has an antagonist you may find yourself rooting for.  And make no mistake, Lilly’s Wasp could take over the reins from Black Widow as Marvel’s lead superheroine.

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It’s one of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest and most celebrated films.  Pairing Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, Hitchcock explored the ultimate con, the perfect murder, and a hopeless love story.  In Hitchcock’s stylish 1958 film Vertigo, the director also paints one of the most beautiful travelogues for the San Francisco Bay area.  The American Film Institute has declared it the all-time best mystery, the #12 best film score, the #18 best romance, the #18 best thriller, and the ninth best movie of all American films.  Over the years international critics’ polls have seen Vertigo move back and forth with Citizen Kane for the designation of best film of all time.  Celebrated directors François Truffaut and Martin Scorcese have heralded the film.  Vertigo is also the only film that featured Hitchcock himself as a trumpet player–you’ll just need to keep a watchful eye for his cameo.  And you can do that this weekend, as Vertigo is returning to theaters nationwide for two days to celebrate its 60th anniversary beginning this Sunday, March 18, 2018, as part of Turner Classic Movies, Universal Pictures and Fathom Events’ retrospective screenings of film classics.

Even more so than Otto Preminger’s haunting 1944 film Laura, Vertigo delves into obsession like no other film.  Stewart’s take on an ex-cop observing the beautiful wife of an old friend at that friend’s request is a character far removed from any other role Stewart had ever taken on.  And Novak really plays two women as the film is cracked into two halves–one a dangerous and enigmatic stranger, the other a young romantic from Salina, Kansas, trying to escape the decisions of her past.  You, too, will find it hard pressed to avoid becoming obsessed with the film (I’ve seen it at least twice in theaters and dozens of times on home video over the decades).

Behind the scenes film aficionados will appreciate that Vertigo was the first film to use the dolly zoom, the camera taking the dolly out while zooming in, thereby creating the dizzying vertigo effect throughout the movie.  John Whitney used an M5 gun director–an actual World War II anti-tank firing predictor, along with famed graphic designer Saul Bass’s spiral motifs, to create the film’s unusual opening title sequence.  Edith Head’s spectacular designs were behind Novak and Stewart’s memorable wardrobes.  The film was nominated for two Oscars, George Dutton for sound, and Hal Pereira, Henry Bumstead, Sam Comer, and Frank R. McKelvy for Art Decoration/Set Decoration.

But probably most significantly for the ambience of the film, Bernard Hermann’s score is one of Hollywood’s finest, and Martin Scorcese summed up the music his way:  “Hitchcock’s film is about obsession, which means that it’s about circling back to the same moment, again and again…  And the music is also built around spirals and circles, fulfilment and despair.  Herrmann really understood what Hitchcock was going for — he wanted to penetrate to the heart of obsession.”  Years later the 2011 Oscar winner for best picture The Artist would use the spiraling love theme from Vertigo to achieve the emotion needed for its key scene.

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Ant-Man

In case you missed the first full-length preview of Marvel’s Ant-Man at the end of the second hour of ABC’s Agent Carter Tuesday night, we’ve got it here.  Strangely we almost missed this one, since it was a billed as a teaser and Marvel Studios already released a teaser last week, shown here.  This is no teaser–it’s a hefty preview of the film.  Check it out below, after the break.

Some observations on this first trailer for Ant-Man.

1.  It looks like this is one of those stories where one superhero (Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym) hands the reigns over to the new generation (Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang).

2.  Doesn’t Michael Douglas looks a lot like his dad Kirk Douglas these days?

Michael Douglas in Ant-Man

3.  The likelihood of a movie being good improves when it takes place in San Francisco (Vertigo, Bullitt, Big Trouble in Little China, So I Married an Axe Murderer, Foul Play, Star Trek IV, Time After Time, Dirty Harry, Zodiac).

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