DAMON Smith reviews the latest releases. This week: Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly take flight in the Marvel Comics action adventure Ant-Man and the Wasp... and five teenage superheroes chase celebrity and stardom in the animated comedy Teen Titans Go! To The Cinema.


ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (12A, 118 mins) Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comedy/Romance. Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, Tip "T.I." Harris, David Dastmalchian, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer. Director: Peyton Reed.

Released: August 2 (UK & Ireland)

Earlier this summer, larger-than-life characters from the Marvel Comics galaxy united to combat the threat of mighty Thanos in the superhero showdown, Avengers: Infinity War.

However, one miniature crimefighter - wisecracking cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) - was notable by his absence from the pyrotechnic-laden combat.

Peyton Reed's crowd-pleasing sequel neatly explains Lang's no-show against Thanos with a high-octane blast of rip-roaring entertainment, which dizzies and delights in equal measure.

Adopting a more intimate style of storytelling, Ant-Man And The Wasp choreographs outrageous set-pieces without sacrificing the broad humour or tender emotion that made the original 2015 film a sizeable hit.

Notably, this is Marvel's first action-packed feature with a female superhero proudly name-checked in the title and Evangeline Lilly's airborne assassin dominates bruising fight sequences when she isn't catalysing molten on-screen chemistry with Rudd's reluctant saviour.

Ant-Man's ability to shrink to the size of an insect at the touch of his powersuit's button, or expand to the hulking form of a skyscraper-toppling giant, is exploited to greater comedic effect in the second film with the aid of seamless digital effects.

A turbo-charged car chase along the undulating streets of San Francisco is particularly memorable when the technology malfunctions and Scott is unable to revert to his usual form and avoid drawing the attention of hordes of camera-wielding tourists.

Following the cataclysmic events of Captain America: Civil War, Scott is sentenced to two years under house arrest followed by three years of probation.

"Any violation means 20 years in prison. Minimum," warns his parole officer Jimmy Woo (Randall Park).

Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), inventor of the Ant-Man technology, and his daughter Hope (Lilly) are in hiding, conducting experiments that will allow them to rescue Hope's mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum realm.

A ghostly figure called Ava (Hannah John-Kamen) who suffers from molecular disequilibrium, black marketeer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) and lecturer Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) become entangled in Hank and Hope's plans.

When disaster strikes, Scott defies the terms of his house arrest to don the Ant-Man suit and retrieve a stolen power source.

His workmates at X-Con Security - Luis (Michael Pena), Dave (Tip "T.I." Harris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) - pledge their support but could inadvertently hinder Scott at a critical juncture.

Ant-Man And The Wasp draws heavily on Rudd's boyish charm and impeccable comic timing to deliver big laughs.

Plot is flimsy and the quest to rescue Janet from the quantum realm is unnecessarily protracted but the sequel doesn't feel bloated at a buzz shy of two hours.

Special effects don't overwhelm the verbal gymnastics and stay seated for the end credits.

Predictably, there are two additional sequences - a narrative cliffhanger and an amusing throwaway gag - secreted in the lengthy final crawl.



TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES (PG, 88 mins) Animation/Action/Comedy. Featuring the voices of Scott Menville, Greg Cipes, Tara Strong, Hynden Walch, Khary Payton, Will Arnett, Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage, Halsey, Lil' Yachty, Greg Davies, Jimmy Kimmel. Directors: Peter Rida Michail, Aaron Horvath.

Released: August 3 (UK & Ireland)

The long-running animated TV series Teen Titans Go!, a tongue-in-cheek spin-off from the DC Comics universe, makes its big screen debut with a grin-inducing flourish thanks to co-directors Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath.

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies pokes gentle fun at the glut of superhero films, which clog up multiplexes and earnestly expand the mythologies of well-known characters torn from the pages of comic books.

A nimble script, co-written by the TV series' creators Michael Jelenic and Horvath, takes aim at predictable targets: the avoidable tragedies in superheroes' pasts, Stan Lee's obligatory cameos, that instantly forgettable Green Lantern film starring Ryan Reynolds.

Most of the punchlines elicit knowing giggles as a perfunctory plot sermonises the importance of teamwork and self-sacrifice to younger audiences.

Fleeting verbal gags, including a spoof of the Marvel Comics flip book title sequence, are complemented by knowing, self-referential dialogue that gleefully draws attention to the film's own shortcomings including a big reveal about the identity of the chief villain.

These barbs seldom draw blood.

Michail and Horvath's film is gently effervescent escapism with modest ambitions and a jaunty soundtrack including a delightfully retro anthem of empowerment called Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life performed by the inimitable Michael Bolton.

The charmingly deluded Teen Titans, comprising Robin (voiced by Scott Menville), Starfire (Hynden Walch), Cyborg (Khary Payton), Beast Boy (voiced by Greg Cipes) and Raven (Tara Strong), proudly patrol the streets of Jump City.

The wannabes are too busy performing a song about their origins to vanquish a marauding inflatable menace called Balloon Man (Greg Davies), forcing Superman (Nicolas Cage), Wonder Woman (Halsey) and The Green Lantern (voiced by Lil' Yachty) to intervene.

"You're goofsters!" despairs the Man of Steel as the members of the Justice League depart to attend a movie premiere for their pal, Batman (Jimmy Kimmel).

The Teen Titans sneak into the screening and Robin is devastated to learn that Alfred the butler, the Batmobile and even Batman's utility belt will be getting standalone films directed by Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell).

"What are we missing?" rages Robin.

"An archnemesis!" surmises Raven and the Teen Titans decide that a masked thief called Slade (Will Arnett), who bears an uncanny resemblance to Deadpool, will fill that void and persuade director Jade to turn her cameras on Robin.

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is lightly dusted with in-jokes for fans of the Marvel and DC Comics franchises but the tomfoolery doesn't alienate or exclude mainstream audiences.

Vocal performances are as lively as the animation.

Casting Cage as Superman is an inspired move - the Oscar-winning actor was scheduled to don the flowing red and blue cape in Superman Lives in the late 1990s for director Tim Burton until the project was shelved.

Twenty years later, his proud Kryptonian crusader takes flight and out-muscles the faltering Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice.


Also released...

DAMASCUS COVER (15, 93 mins)

Released: August 3 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

A highly trained Mossad operative compromises his undercover mission by falling in love in director Daniel Zelik Berk's thriller based on a novel by Howard Kaplan.

Damascus Cover resets the book to late 1980s Germany just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Israeli spy Ari Ben-Zion (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) returns home in disgrace after he botches an important mission.

His boss Miki (John Hurt) is duly unimpressed so Ari vows to repair the damage by travelling to Syria under a false identity in order to smuggle an important chemicals weapons scientist and his family out of Damascus.

To carry out this delicate plan, Ari poses as a German carpet salesman and Nazi sympathiser, which allows him to befriend Franz Ludin (Jurgen Prochnow), whose maid Yael (Neta Riskin) is a relative of the scientist.

The carefully calibrated plan threatens to fall apart when Suleiman Sarraj (Navid Negahban), head of the Syrian Intelligence Agency, pays a visit to his friend Ludin and voices concerns about Ari's cover story.


Released: August 3 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

Benjamin Renner, one of the creators of the Oscar-nominated animation Ernest & Celestine, co-directs a charming trio of short tales, adapted from Renner's acclaimed graphic novel.

The Stork grows weary of delivering babies and leaves the latest newborn in the care of Rabbit, Duck and Pig.

These ill-equipped animals must now accept responsibility for safely carrying the child to its expectant parents.

Meanwhile, Fox discovers he isn't an expert hunter after all and might be better suited as a parent to a clutch of needy baby chicks.

Also, Duck realises a dream to be Santa Claus after the farmyard creatures mistakenly believe they have killed the red-suited symbol of Christmas.


Released: August 3 (UK, selected cinemas)

Inspired by the tragic true story of a 12-year-old boy, who was kidnapped in 1993 by the Mafia and held prisoner for more than two years in order to silence the tongue of his informant father, A Sicilian Ghost Story tenderly sketches the relationship between two children with flashes of magical realism.

Luna (Julia Jedlikowska) has a crush on her classmate Giuseppe (Gaetano Fernandez), which the girl's controlling mother Saveria (Sabine Timoteo) tries to extinguish because she is painfully aware of the criminal connections of Giuseppe's father.

Soon afterwards, the Mafia kidnaps Giuseppe and chains the boy to a bed in a cabin in the woods.

Guiseppe's disappearance goes unexplained and Luna distributes flyers to neighbours with the help of her good friend Loredana (Corinne Musallari).

A veil of silence hangs over the community but Luna is determined to rescue Giuseppe from his captors, who she has glimpsed in her dreams.

She repeatedly sneaks out of the house to search for clues and puts her life in danger to unearth the shocking truth.

THE ESCAPE (15, 101 mins)

Released: August 3 (UK, selected cinemas)

Gemma Arterton delivers a moving performance as a mother in the grips of an emotional terror in writer-director Dominic Savage's sensitively handled drama.

Tara (Arterton) lives on a housing estate in Kent with her businessman husband Mark (Dominic Cooper) and two young children (Teddy Pender, Florrie Pender), whose boisterousness and occasional tantrums keep the doting mother on edge.

Tara is unfulfilled and searches for joy in the possibility of art classes but her husband is unsympathetic to her depression and her mother Alison (Frances Barber) repeatedly reminds Tara how fortunate she is to have a stable life.

As the pressure builds, Tara walks out on her family and impulsively buys a Eurostar ticket.

She heads to Paris to view close-up a tapestry called The Lady And The Unicorn from one of her art books.

A handsome visitor called Philippe (Jalil Lespert) takes an interest in Tara and they spend a magical day together, which offers the mother an emotional release from the stresses that await her back in Kent.

HEARTS BEAT LOUD (12A, 95 mins)

Released: August 3 (UK, selected cinemas)

A father and daughter celebrate the final days before she departs for college in director Brett Haley's tender-hearted musical drama.

Widower Frank Fisher (Nick Offerman) has run the independent Red Hook Records shop in a neighbourhood of Brooklyn for 17 years.

The store is a quirky relic of a bygone age but Frank's nostalgic landlord Leslie (Toni Collette) is fond of Frank and she has neglected to raise the rent in line with other properties in the rapidly gentrified area.

Eventually, Leslie is forced to sell and Frank sombrely prepares to close the doors to his shop.

He seeks comfort in music sessions with his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons), who will be heading to college in the autumn.

These recordings remind Frank of his time in a band with his late wife and he proudly uploads one of the sessions with his daughter.

When the song gains traction, Frank boldly suggests that Sam might want to delay her plans for further education to remain in Red Hook.

Meanwhile, the daughter enjoys a burgeoning romance with a girl called Rose (Sasha Lane), who lives in the neighbourhood.

THE APPARITION (12A, 144 mins)

Released: August 3 (UK, selected cinemas)

Vincent Lindon leads the cast of writer-director Xavier Giannoli's intriguing drama about a young woman, who claims that she has been visited by an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

World weary French journalist Jacques Mayano (Lindon) is covering the conflict in the Middle East with a photographer friend, who dies in the line of duty.

Emotionally scarred by the loss, Jacques returns to France where he is contacted by a cardinal from the Vatican.

An 18-year-old girl named Anna (Galatea Bellugi), who lives in a village in southern France, claims to have seen the Virgin Mary and her confession has sparked an influx of worshippers, desperate to glimpse the same apparition.

The Vatican enlists Jacques to determine if Anna's story is true or a wild fantasy.

The reporter accepts and he travels to the village where he discovers the local priest, Father Borrodine (Patrick d'Assumcao), and his church are profiting from the news of Anna's miraculous visitation.


Released: August 4 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

For one day only, a sparkling 4K restoration of Mel Brooks's zany 1968 comedy starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder screens in selected cinemas to mark the film's 40th anniversary.

Producer Max Bialystock (Mostel) is crestfallen when his latest theatrical endeavour flops.

He retires downhearted to his office where he glumly entertains accountant Leo Bloom (Wilder), who needs to examine the company's books.

A chance comment by the lonely number-cruncher sparks an ingenious plan: to secure major investment to produce the worst play ever written, to employ the worst director in Broadway history, ensure another flop and take the money and run.

Aided by Swedish secretary Ulla Inga Hansen Benson Yansen Tallen Hallen Svaden Swanson (Lee Meredith), Max and Leo find the perfect script, a musical called Springtime For Hitler, A Gay Romp With Adolf And Eva In Berchesgarten, written by Nazi-loving Franz Liebkind (Kenneth Mars).

The plan cannot fail: Springtime... is offensive, politically incorrect and artistically devoid of merit.


Jason Statham battles a hulking underwater predator with an insatiable appetite for human flesh in THE MEG... a 16-year-old girl (Amandla Stenberg) develops incredible powers that endanger people around her in the sci-fi fantasy DARKEST MINDS... and be careful what you view on your laptop in the horror thriller UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB.


1. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

2, Mission: Impossible - Fallout

3. Incredibles 2

4. Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation

5. Andre Rieu's 2018 Maastricht Concert: Amore, My Tribute To Love

6. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

7. Skyscraper

8. The First Purge

9. Ocean's 8

10. Sherlock Gnomes

(Chart courtesy of Cineworld)