Review: Ant-Man

AntMan Ant-Man is the longest gestating Marvel film to date. Initially worked on by director Edgar Wright, even before Robert Downey Jr. put on the now iconic suit, Ant-Man was a little more fleshed out than just a pipe dream. Fast forward past The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and even Avengers: Age of Ultron to Marvel’s latest ambitious project. A movie about a lesser known character who shrinks to the size of an ant while fighting crime. The premise is silly, but inject a little Marvel Studios magic and you got yourself another summer hit.

The movie stars Paul Rudd, known comedic actor and all around loveable goofball as Scott Lang. The character differs from the average Marvel superhero because he is not a hero in any way, shape, or form when the film starts. He’s a known thief, who lives by a system of morality, but a thief all the same. When Lang is released from prison he makes a promise to himself, his daughter, and ex-wife that he is done for good in the crime world, of course life has a way of making liars out of the best of us. We are also introduced to Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), an aging scientist who in the past created a suit and technology that allowed him to shrink to the size of an ant. Pym, has since retired from the scientific world, but keeps his formulas and life’s work very guarded even from his former partner, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Pym has an estranged daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), that works with Cross on his attempt to recreate Pym’s works as he has since taken over the company.

Pym recruits Scott Lang to infiltrate his former company, Pym Technologies, and help to destroy all the work so that Cross cannot sell the technology to military contractors. A simple enough plot to get us moving in the right direction. What takes place next is an Ocean’s Eleven type film. Lang brings in some other thieves to round out his support team on this heist. They proceed to gather materials, and prep for the work at hand.

One thing is clear when watching these Marvel Studios films, they understand to keep the genre alive you have to attack each film with a new and inventive style. While this is an original flick, Ant-Man doesn’t feel like other Marvel films. It is a heist film first with superhero elements. Its incredibly funny, and well paced. The side characters are nearly as important as Rudd, Douglas, Stoll, or Lilly. While they aren’t flushed out nearly as much, they play such an integral part of what goes on you will not forget them. Michael Peña as Luis absolutely steals the show every time he is on screen, that hasn’t happened in a Marvel film ever; its a true collaborative effort. Douglas does a wonderful job as the old codger who is still smart as a whip and tough as nails. The flashbacks and callbacks to his past are important and fascinating to the overall film. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne gives you just enough to be excited to see where they go next with the character. She isn’t a damsel in distress, but rather constantly clamouring to be the lead because frankly she is more qualified. This is a nice push back to the criticism of Marvel’s so called lack of female characters problem. Corey Stoll as the villain Darren Cross was a well placed over the top corporate bad guy. His performance was strong, but like a number of Marvel Studios villains he is more mustache twirling and less developed than he should have been. Last but certainly not least, Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang performance is wonderful. He delivers every bit of loveable goofball and guy who can’t get out of his own way. Very similar to how Robert Downey Jr. played Tony Stark in the first Iron Man film. He strives to be better, often falling short, but keeps getting back up. His comedic timing works well here considering the outlandish subject matter of his “powers.” All and all, Marvel Studios cranked out yet another hit even when they had to make a last second director change from Edgar Wright to Peyton Reed. Reed was able to take the bones of the script, rework it quite a bit to fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe properly, and make it his own. Any Marvel Studios fan should be pleased with the outcome.

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Review: Fury

Fury Written and directed by David Ayer, Fury, tells the brutal story of a five American soldiers in the 2nd Armored Tank Division during the last month of the European Theater during World War II. Lead by their battle harden sergeant, Don "Wardaddy" Collier, the men fight against all odds while creating an unbreakable bond. Fury seems like just a standard World War II movie, but I assure you it's much more. Like Ayer’s previous work, End of Watch, its less about the action (which is there in a big way) but rather more about the effects of war. “Wait until you see it...what one man can do to another man.” A chilling quote indeed, but that is what Fury is, an intelligent look at brutality and brotherhood. Not since Saving Private Ryan have we seen a WW2 movie so unabashedly violent. Arguably the European Theater was the most brutal part of WW2, and Fury holds nothing back. The film opens with letting the audience know that at this point Adolf Hitler has called for total war, otherwise known as the demand that all able bodied Germans fight, including children. That is an important thing to remember in the final scenes of the film.

We begin our journey with Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) and his tank crew. Each member of the team has a distinctive personality and sense of self. No one character fades into the background or outshines any other. The man who managed the tank’s main cannon was Boyd “Bible” Swan (Shia LaBeouf). The driver was Trini “Gordo” Garcia (Michael Peña). The on board engineer was Grady "Coon-Ass" Travis (Jon Bernthal). Four men who come from seeming diametrically opposed viewpoints work as a cohesive team when the time comes. They have been fighting together since early battles in Africa against the Germans. They live and breathe warfare inside their home away from home, the tank called Fury.

When they have to make a stop at a U.S. base they are forced to take on an additional member to their little dysfunctional family. A young army private by the name of Norman "Cobb" Ellison (Logan Lerman) is dumped into the laps of 4 men who would rather step over him then let him into their “home.” Norman is an 18 year journalist who is forced into this tank division due to the army's heavy losses. Sergeant Collier is none too pleased by this revelation, but reluctantly concedes. The film does a great job in showing the juxtaposition of the 4 battle hardened men and the fresh face kid out of journalism school. Collier’s countenance is riddled with scars that show a hard life. Brad Pitt’s natural charm is brushed aside here for a by any means necessary mentality. “You see a German with a gun, you kill em...even if its a kid,” says Collier after Norman’s first incursion in the field.

The movie goes back and forth between building real connective tissue between the team members and stellar action sequences that will likely stand the test of time. Neither element drags the movie too far in one direction. When the action sequences do come, they are fast, loud, brutal, and jarring. Norman plays as the eyes and ears of the audience. We know about as much as he does when he sits in that tank for the first time. During Norman’s first battle things are happening so fast. Its confusing and unsettling at first, but its such a powerful way to do it. You don’t get the rhythm of warfare at that point. Rhythm seems like an odd phrase choice but its accurate. During the second big action beat you get a sense of how fighting in a tank with a team works. With each passing engagement Norman’s sees clearer and hears nuance and the audience right along with him; a tremendous stylistic choice from the director.

The five men gain an all around brotherly respect for one another and become a true team in the end. Pitt’s Collier is the perfect father figure. He sits atop the tank surveying the landscape and the powerful team he has modeled. Peña’s Gordo takes Norman under his wing initially and is a gentle introduction to the team. His gentle demeanor is consistent and makes him a lovable character from the onset. I will admit I am not a fan of Shia LaBeouf, but he does an amazing job here. Playing the role of the Bible quoting Boyd Swan I am often reminded of Barry Pepper’s character from Saving Private Ryan. Then there is Jon Bernthal’s Grady Travis. Seemingly an ignorant hick who just has no sense of dignity about him. Grady is a layered character, and director David Ayer and Jon Bernthal do a wonderful job of slowly unraveling him to both Norman and the audience. Last but certainly not least, Logan Lerman's performance as Norman was thread that made the film truly work. As the inexperienced kid Lerman was perfect. From not knowing what to do next and fearful of making mistakes to a full fledge member of Fury, Norman allowed us to grow with him making his journey our own; thus creating more audience engagement.

All and all, Fury is a shock to the system that only a WW2 movie can be in this age of film and television brutality. Director David Ayer works to create not only big Hollywood action, but also a film with true heart. You get to know these guys in the 134 minutes you spend in their world. They are flushed out and real. While not to the sheer scope and scale of a Saving Private Ryan, the film packs 5 personalities into a tiny space and never lets up. While stacking up bodies and tap dancing on the edge of their own mortality, the crew is heard saying more than once, “best job I ever had,” and you will believe them.

[easyreview title= "Review of Fury" cat1title="Nerdpocalypse Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]