For a re­view of “An­tMan and the Wasp,”

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Ant-Man and the Wasp are busier than a cou­ple of bees in the se­quel that bears their names.

That of­fers some bad and some good, how­ever.

That busy­ness can oc­ca­sion­ally creep into any given sit­u­a­tion in the film to make the au­di­ence feel as if they’re on a roller coaster. The good: most peo­ple be­lieve roller coast­ers are fun

In this case, the amuse­ment quo­tient is am­pli­fied to the nth de­gree and we all ben­e­fit from it. “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” the lat­est from Marvel Stu­dios, rep­re­sents the anti-Marvel film circa 2018.

In a year that gave au­di­ences “Black Pan­ther,” a movie that wears its mes­sage of so­cial jus­tice on its sleeve, and “Avengers: In­fin­ity War,” where half the char­ac­ters (avert eyes if for some in­ex­pli­ca­ble rea­son you have not seen a film that’s earned $672 mil­lion do­mes­ti­cally and more than $2 bil­lion glob­ally) die, “Ant-Man” pro­vides a wel­come change of pace with an ac­tion punch to match.

Be­sides, not ev­ery su­per­hero in the Marvel Uni­verse could be on duty to fight Thanos in In­fin­ity War, right? That fact brings us to Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), last seen chang­ing to gi­nor­mous size in “Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War” as a mem­ber of Cap’s team.

That lit­tle ad­ven­ture even­tu­ally net­ted him house ar­rest as we learn in the open­ing of “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” He’s pass­ing the time be­ing a good fa­ther, be­ing a good friend and busi­ness­man to his goofy set of misfit ex-cons — his part­ners — led by the hy­per Luis (Michael Pena) be­cause of his agree­ment with the gov­ern­ment. Although Lang is near the end of his sen­tence, he’s still closely mon­i­tored.

How­ever, his prior ac­tivi- ties with the Avengers cost him the friend­ship and re­spect of Hank Pym (Michael Dou­glas) and his daugh­ter Hope/The Wasp (Evan­ge­line Lilly). Pym and Hope have but one thing on their mind in his ab­sence — try­ing to re­trieve his wife and her mother, Janet (Michelle Pfeif­fer), from quan­tum space. They’re also wanted by the feds and have been too busy to hook up with Scott un­til…

Lang starts to have dreams about Janet from his past visit to the quan­tum realm and they be­lieve he pos­sesses the key to help bring her back.

The trio work to dodge the FBI, Ghost, a mys­te­ri­ous vil­lain con­nected to Pym’s past, and a shady black mar­ket tech­nol­ogy dealer, Sonny (Walt Gog­gins), who’d like noth­ing more than to part­ner with or steal the Pym’s tech, in­clud­ing a por­ta­ble lab.

Di­rec­tor Pey­ton Reed re­turns to helm the se­quel and im­proves on the first film. His di­rec­tion shows a com­fort level not only with the ac­tors and their char­ac­ters, but with re­spect to hav­ing to up­size the ante here for spe­cial ef­fects, some of which are down­right jaw­drop­ping as scenes of­ten flip be­tween nor­mal, small and big­ger per­spec­tives with the snap of a fin­ger or, in this case, the flick of a switch. He keeps it all breezy, light and laced with hu­mor.

That’s ap­pre­ci­ated, but with­out the dry wit and play­ful sar­casm Rudd pro­vides, Ant-Man would cer­tainly suf­fer. His in­ter­play with Dou­glas and Lilly, along with their per­for­mances, pro­vide some of the movie’s best mo­ments.

Then, as he did in the film’s pre­de­ces­sor, Pena’s mo­tor mouth Luis re­ceives his mo­ments as well.

The buzz around “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is no mis­take as this is not only an en­thralling en­try into the Marvel Stu­dios canon, but proves a wor­thy sum­mer re­lease.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp,” a Dis­ney/Marvel Stu­dios re­lease, is rated PG -13 for some sci-fi ac­tion vi­o­lence. Run­ning time: 125 min­utes.


“The First Purge”

Warn­ing: The fol­low­ing re­view con­tains ref­er­ences to the po­lit­i­cal con­tent, ram­pant and pointed, in the “Purge” fran­chise be­gun in 2013. With these movies, there’s no way around what they’re re­ally say­ing.

The lat­est “Purge” is an er­ratic, fairly ab­sorb­ing and righ­teously an­gry pre­quel. It sets up sce­nar­ios in which African-Amer­i­can and Latino re­sis­tance fight­ers rebel against the dear white peo­ple ex­ploit­ing them for bloody po­lit­i­cal gain. Hon­estly: There is no avoid­ing pol­i­tics and mes­sag­ing with that setup.

When last we purged, two sum­mers back with “The Purge: Elec­tion Year” (2016), our cur­rent pres­i­dent was a few months away from the White House. In var­i­ous de­grees of blunt­ness, screen­writer/di­rec­tor/ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer James DeMonaco had a few things to say about the fear-mon­ger­ing tac­tics that would ul­ti­mately put him there.

Now, with a new DeMonaco script di­rected by sec­ond­time fea­ture film­maker Ger­ard McMur­ray, “The First Purge” imag­ines what went down, and why, with the ini­tial 12-hour crime-and-mur­der spree al­low­ing an an­gry, dis­en­fran­chised U.S. cit­i­zenry to blow off steam with zero con­se­quences.

For new­bies: This is set a few short years in the fu­ture. The third-party Amer­i­can ruler rep­re­sents the New Found­ing Fathers of Amer­ica, backed by the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion. The pre­quel has it that a non­par­ti­san be­hav­ioral sci­en­tist has de­signed the 12-hour so­ci­etal “ex­per­i­ment” as a way of less­en­ing the crime rate and pro­vid­ing a mass cathar­sis. Look­ing a lit­tle dazed, Marisa Tomei plays the sci­en­tist, Dr. Up­dale, so named pre­sum­ably be­cause Dr. Down­hill was taken.

The ex­per­i­ment un­folds on Staten Is­land, N.Y., and those par­tic­i­pat­ing in the purge re­ceive $5,000 plus a bonus if they ramp up the blood­shed per­son­ally. Via the char­ac­ters’ creepy blue sur­veil­lance con­tact lenses, we, the au­di­ence, wit­ness the havoc they wreak. The first few sec­onds of screen time be­long to the story’s stone-cold psy­cho (Ro­timi Paul, truly scary as Skele­tor). I took no plea­sure in the block-party se­quence where Skele­tor ran­domly selects his next vic­tims. (It’s vi­cious in a morally in­ert fash­ion.) But the fran­chise lives (or dies) on its own hypocrisy, shak­ing its head at a so­ci­ety en­cour­ag­ing such sick­ness while rel­ish­ing the nar­ra­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Neigh­bor­hood ac­tivist Nya (Lex Scott Davis, lately of “Su­per­fly” and this film’s sole grace note amid the car­nage) and her ex-lover, drug lord Dmitri (Y’lan Noel, beefy but in­dis­tinct) join forces un­der fire. They have neigh­bors and friends and busi­ness in­ter­ests to pro­tect. One of the wit­tier de­tails in DeMonaco’s func­tional, largely generic script finds the slav­ish TV news an­chors frus­trated by the purge’s rel­a­tively slug­gish start. Then the gov­ern­ment’s own goon squads, to Dr. Up­dale’s alarm, en­ter the fray.

The bulk of “The First Purge” is pur­suit and eva­sion, at­tack and coun­ter­at­tack, mul­ti­ple, fren­zied stab­bings fol­lowed by mul­ti­ple, fren­zied rounds of au­to­matic gun­fire tear­ing through flesh. A key group of Staten Is­land res­i­dents seek sanc­tu­ary in a church, fool­ishly, while Nya’s lit­tle brother (Joivan Wade) risks his al­ready-in­jured neck on the streets. “We are all Staten Is­landers tonight,” the pres­i­dent in­tones at one point, wait­ing for things to start cook­ing.

Mod­estly bud­geted, the “Purge” se­ries has worked fast — four movies in six years. The new one’s the most vi­o­lent, but also the least propul­sive, with a de­lib­er­ate, lurch­ing, stop-and-start rhythm and sub­par dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy. Still, it’s no­table how “The First Purge” puts its Trump-trolling in­stincts first, riff­ing on ev­ery­thing from the Ac­cess Hol­ly­wood tape to the cast­ing of Patch Dar­ragh as the string-pulling chief of staff. The ac­tor bears a sus­pi­cious re­sem­blance to one­time Trump com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Sean Spicer. Once the Klan-hooded purg­ers show up, how­ever, prac­ti­cally beg­ging the peo­ple of color on screen for a come­up­pance, the men sport­ing lit­tle Amer­i­can flag pins on their well pressed lapels cease to mat­ter much.

“The First Purge,” a Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures re­lease, is rated R for strong dis­turb­ing vi­o­lence through­out, per­va­sive lan­guage, some sex­u­al­ity and drug use. Run­ning time: 97 min­utes. ★★½


Lex Scott Davis stars in the new Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures re­lease “The First Purge.”

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