The Forest — a review

This is certainly a lot faster ride than going by horseback.

This is certainly a lot faster ride than going by horseback.

Located at the base of Mt. Fuji is a forest known as Aokigahara. It’s perhaps best known as the “suicide forest” due to the number of people who go there to kill themselves. There’s actually a sign at the start of the hiking trail that urges people who’re thinking of killing themselves to reconsider and call a special hotline. In The Forest, Natalie Dormer takes some time out from the wacky doings in Westeros to investigate the disappearance of her twin sister, who’s a teacher in Japan. Despite the fact that she has not been found, the twin has been last seen entering the “suicide forest”, and since she hasn’t come back out, she’s practically been written off as being dead by the Japanese.

But our heroine just knows that her sister is still alive, thanks to the psychic connection that they share (it was that same connection that alerted her to the fact that her twin was in trouble in the first place) and she’s determined to come to Japan and find her, even if it means upending the darn forest and shaking her out! If you’ve watched enough of horror movies, you know things go sideways the moment she walks into the forest. Despite receiving aid from a local guide, along with a handsome travel writer (who’s looking for a good story, and maybe a soul mate) Dormer’s character starts acting like a typical dopey horror movie heroine in that she keeps making really bad decisions for no reason.

Don't turn around...don't turn around...don't turn around....

Don’t turn around…don’t turn around…don’t turn around….

Having your characters do stupid things is the norm for all ineptly-made horror flicks, in whose ranks of the goofily dimwitted The Forest now stands should to shoulder with. This looks like the type of movie that somebody like Dormer would make just to show that she can do other things aside from dodging dragons on a weekly basis. And, seriously, who can blame her? Especially if there’s a nice payday attached to the prestige of being the star of your own movie. But in addition to having the main character act like an idiot, the movie itself also feels idiotic in how it lacks any real scares whatsoever.

Part of the problem is that the filmmakers don’t make it clear from the start what we’re dealing with. Is the forest haunted by the souls who have ended their lives there? Ok, fair enough, but then we’re treated to the interesting idea that Dormer’s character might be being gaslighted by somebody. This would have been a cool twist, but no, never mind, it’s quickly dumped in favor of the spooky forest idea once again. Saddled with a badly thought out and confusing script that’s filled with cardboard characters, The Forest is a snooze-fest right up to its cheap, tacked-on ending. Skip it. –SF

Ant-Man — a review

Luke, I am your father...sorry, just had to get that off my chest.

Luke, I am your father…sorry, just had to get that off my chest.

After sitting through the two and a half hour funeral dirge known as Batman Vs. Superman, I needed something light and entertaining to cleanse the palate, so to speak. When I realized that I had not seen Ant-Man, I decided to give it a shot. I initially avoided this movie for two reasons: it looked very silly, and there was an infamous behind the scenes story regarding how the original director, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), who had worked on and off on the film for eight years, abruptly left the production–supposedly when the script was changed without his knowledge or input. There were plenty of people who said that Wright should have trusted Marvel. But my take on this was that Marvel should have trusted Wright.

But while we can never really know what Wright’s fanciful vision of Ant-Man would have been like, director Payton Reed (Bring It On), who stepped into Wright’s big shoes, does a fine job at turning Ant-Man into a success. Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang, an ex-convict who’s been recruited by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his grown daughter Hope (the divine Evangeline Lilly) to steal some dangerous high tech that’s being developed by Darren Cross (the always good Corey Stoll), Pym’s former protégé at Pym’s labs. Having left the company after some bad blood had been spilled, Hank Pym has no control over this tech, and his only choice to stop it is to steal it.

You lose that suit while it was still mini-sized again, Scott?

You lose that suit while it was still mini-sized again, Scott?

Back in the 1980s, Hank Pym was originally Ant-Man, working with his wife The Wasp on special missions for the government. Pym created a special suit that could shrink him down to the size of an ant, while increasing his strength tenfold. This is the same tech that Cross is trying to weaponize, and what Pym wants Lang to steal for him. But this heist is different in that Lang gets to wear and use the original Ant-Man suit. Maybe the movie is more prosaic without Wright’s stylish touch, who knows? But when I was watching it, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Ant-Man is refreshingly different from the other superhero movies in that it’s a lot funnier, with the humor coming from the situations, so that it’s not too over the top, but just perfect. Having Michael Peña in the cast doesn’t hurt; the guy’s so funny he nearly steals every scene he’s in. There’s also a healthy respect for the sciences that’s presented here that one can only hope but help but spur some young minds into that field. It’s reminiscent of the first Iron Man film in terms of the sheer fun that it presents. And if it is a little silly in some places, that’s not a bad thing, either. Certain overly pretentious movies out there could do well to take a page from Ant-Man and get a little silly. — SF