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.

[easyreview title= "Review of Ant-Man" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]

 

Review: This is 40

This is 40This is 40, the latest from writer, director, producer Judd Apatow, tells the story of Pete and Debbie (last seen in 2007’s Knocked Up) as they deal with life amidst financial issues, hormonal teenagers, guilt-tripping parents, and getting older. Like Apatow’s other films, This is 40 is funny and well acted but overstays its welcome by about 30 minutes. There isn’t much in terms of story. Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are Pete and Debbie, respectively. They have two daughters, Sadie and Charlotte (Maude and Iris Apatow). Pete runs an indie record label on the brink of failure while Debbie operates a boutique in which one of the employees may or may not have embezzled $12,000. They both turn 40 around the same time and are having trouble dealing with the pressures of life. The movie chronicles this 2 to 3 week period leading up to Pete’s big birthday bash.

There are structural issues here as well. There are scenes in the movie that are here purely for laughs but don’t really make sense in the context of the film. Financial issues are one of the major things Pete and Debbie argue about, yet a third of the way into the film, out of nowhere, we see them take a romantic (and what can only be believed to be an expensive) getaway to a lavish resort to live it up for a weekend. This scene was very funny but felt as if it was thrown in just because it was funny. There are other scenes that are in purely for laughs (the scene with Melissa McCarthy comes to mind) but this one, and a couple others, felt as if it contradicts the movie.

Despite those issues, I did find the film entertaining. It’s very hard to not like Paul Rudd and to empathize with his character. Leslie Mann, playing what I assume to be an exaggerated version of herself, is very believable and funny. Rudd and Mann have great chemistry together as well as with Maude and Iris Apatow. Some of the best scenes in terms of both comedy and tension come when the entire family is on screen together. Albert Brooks turns in a good performance as Pete’s guilt tripping dad as does John Lithgow as Debbie’s emotionally distant father.

To say that this writer/producer is directing his wife and children in a film that is ostensibly about his life is self indulgent is an understatement. However, there’s much to like about This is 40 as long as you can get past its flaws.

[easyreview title= "Review of This is 40" cat1title="Micah's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="3.0" overall= false]