Tag Archives: Edgar Wright

“ANT-MAN” Review (✫✫)

Fear me! I control ants! 

Here’s the perfect example of expectation affecting outcome. Let’s be honest: who was expecting anything out of Ant-Man? I know I wasn’t. I went in expecting a complacent, by-the-books, predictable superhero thriller. I left after getting that exact same thing.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little rough. The movie does have its moments, and it did at times give me slight enjoyment and chuckles. But how can individual moments replace an entire movie? If you compare Ant-Man to its other giant-sized movie counterparts (The Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), you will always arrive to the same word to describe it: smaller.

Taking place after the events of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man introduces Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a genius scientist that rivals the intellect of Iron Man’s father Howard Stark (John Slattery). After realizing that the government was seeking his Pym particles, which allows him to turn into Ant-Man, to be weaponized, Pym goes into retirement, hoping to protect his particles from the world so that they would never be used for nefarious purposes.

Enter Daniel Cross (Corey Stoll), Pym’s ex prodigy. In modern day, Cross re-created Pym’s particles in the form of Yellowjacket, a suit similarly designed to Ant-Man and outfitted with the same capabilities. Desperate to get the suit and to further protect his invention, Pym enlists the only individual who can help take up the Ant-Man mantle: Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a notorious thief who has a knack for getting into places he doesn’t belong, and a daughter he’d do anything to see again after separating from her mother.

It’s true, most probably didn’t think much about a superhero named Ant-man when this project was originally announced. But to be fair, this film does have some merit, despite its low expectations. The best thing I can say about Ant-Man is this: its fun. Meagerly fun, yes, but it still counts.

Honestly though, that doesn’t surprise me much. The film was originally written and was supposed to be directed by Edgar Wright, who is most known for his comedic action films Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. If you’ve seen any of those films, you know that he’s a clever and well-versed filmmaker who knows how to balance action and comedy with drama. If I were a studio head, I would have taken one look at his filmography, thrown all of my money at him, and shouted “Take it! Take it all! Take it and make more!”

So what happened? Simply put, Marvel happened. After a few creative disagreements between himself and Marvel, Wright left and Peyton Reed was hired in his place. Reed directed The Break Up and Yes Man before helming Ant-Man. Yeesh.

Luckily, Ant-Man survived it’s lop-sided pre-production into release. Well, maybe “survived” isn’t an appropriate word. Dragged by its insect legs is more accurate.

The biggest complaint about Ant-Man is that it’s inconsistent. Moments of heartfelt drama collide with out-of-place comedy. Comedy is bogged down by moments of forced emotion. The only thing that is consistent in the film is its action, which is surprisingly innovative to its premise.

For instance: in the first scene where Scott shrinks as Ant-Man, he falls into a bathtub. Who would have thought falling in between droplets of water and cracks in the floor would be so exciting and interesting? The details we see when Scott shrinks are extraordinarily eye-popping, immersing us in this whole new world we didn’t see before in regular proportion. Seeing Scott traverse into ant hills that turn big when he shrinks, communicating with insects his size when he’s small, and finding new locations inside smaller ones are among some of the fantasies we see when he’s Ant-Man. Seeing him fight as Ant-Man is the most fun. Who knew that a Thomas the Train set could be so dangerous to two miniature super-beings?

Other than the visuals though, the movie is sub-standard. It’s cookie-cutter in about every sense of the word. The comedy, the drama, and the acting is all forced for effect, and in the process, it has none. For Pete’s sake, even the movie’s villain is so bland. Who cares about some bratty little business executive who steals a powered suit for money, fame, and power? That was Obadiah Stane in 2007’s Iron Man, and he was a much more compelling villain than this standard archetype of an antagonist.

It’s true, this film didn’t have much to go on when originally announced, but the idea doesn’t count as much as the execution. People doubted Guardians of the Galaxy when that came out, and people reversed their opinions and said it was greater than The Avengers after they saw the film. I believe those same people will watch Ant-Man with no reaction as he flies in the air and goes “splat” across their window pane.

Footnote: If you do decide to watch Ant-Man, do not watch it in 3D. It has some of the worst particle effects I’ve ever seen in a 3D conversion, and I had to lift my glasses every five minutes to see how much brighter the film was without the glasses. I didn’t know that Ant-Man was supposed to be such a dark picture.

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“THE WORLD’S END” Review (✫✫✫)

These poor dims have had too much to drink.

We’ve all known that kid somewhere in our high school years. Yes, you know who I’m talking about. That kid. That kid as in, the troublemaker. The smart talker. The womanizer. The drinker. The guy who turns heads and raises eyebrows, the guy whose only concerned with having a good time and not much else. They act on impulse, spontaneity, paying no second thoughts to doubt or common sense. They don’t think about their future or what they’re going to do after high school. They don’t live in the future. They live in the moment.

That same trouble-making, lady-loving, drink-guzzling, bad-mouthed rebel is known in this movie as Gary King (Simon Pegg), a poor old sap in rehab who misses the old days and just wants them back again. In order to do this, he reaches out to his old british friends from high school to go and complete “The Golden Mile”, a long pub crawl of twelve different pubs in his old town of Newhaven, where the crawl ends at the most popular pub of all, appropriately called “The Worlds End.”

His friends are now all estranged successful businessmen, but they all lack the energy and perhaps foolhardy excitement that Gary loves to constantly express. Perhaps the best of his friends, however, is one Andy Knighly (Nick Frost), a once-cheerful young fellow, now an old, depressed office worker trying to win back the affections of his wife and children. The last thing he needs is to go on this trip with Gary, but if there’s one thing Andy knows, its that you don’t say no to the King.

They go to their hometown where they started the Golden Mile, and they notice a lot of things have changed since they were last there. Why? Well, that’s because alien robots have taken the town over.

……WHAT?!?!?!? No, dear reader, I am not drunk. Alien robots took over Newhaven, and Gary King discovers this by knocking one’s head off after he slid on his own urine in the bathroom. When he recoups with his friends later on at the bar, they decide that they need to keep going on their route so as not to raise suspicion, and later quietly slip out of town. Sounds pretty simple, right? Not when you have four drunk guys traveling along a total fool. Good luck with that, fellas.

Co-written and directed by Edgar Wright, The World’s End is the birth child of an unofficial trilogy of Pegg, Wright, and Frost’s previous work together, including Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. For those who’ve seen those previous movies and are expecting a pompous, outlandish experience just like those pictures, you’re not far off. The World’s End is, by every definition, a ridiculous, ludicrous, and far-out experience, a preposterous and purposefully silly picture to the point where it surpasses being stupid and starts being funny. It’s like those older television skits by Monty Python: they undeniably immature and stupid by nature, but there’s an inherent wit and silliness to them that can’t help but make them so much fun.

Case in point: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s chemistry. In the past, their character’s relationship involved a budding romance in a cheesy “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” type of ordeal. Here, the relationship is more strained, almost like Frost is a babysitter and its his turn to supervise little baby Simon so he doesn’t eat sand from the playground. Their characters are hilarious because they’re polar opposites: because Pegg plays the ambitious, over-the-top party boy while Frost is the more conserved, more easily frustrated business man.  Remember the chemistry between John Candy and Steve Martin in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, where the frustrated business guy (Martin) keeps having to monitor the guy (Candy) who is oblivious, foolish and hopeless? Same case here, although the roles are more or less switched between the two actors.

And then the robots. Oh my God, are they hilarious. In Shaun Of The Dead we had zombies, and in Hot Fuzz we had crooked cops. Now, we have supernatural alien robots, although they hilariously keep insisting that they are not robots because they have sentiment and free will. Anyhow, the funniest thing is how the group reacts to them, tearing off their body parts, whacking themselves with their arms, legs, and anything else they can pull off of their bodies. It’s like someone combined the Lego minifigures with Whack-A-Mole and then decided to throw blue kool-aid somewhere into the mix. Just trust me, it gets messy.

I’m overanalyzing this. The question I should be answering is this: did it make me laugh? The answer: Yes it did, consistently and abundantly, and what’s even more important is that it had something more to offer than simply entertainment. It had a deeper message to tell its audience, and instead of celebrating foolishness and drunkenness, it decided to touch upon a deeper subject involving friendship and true happiness.

I won’t spoil the segment for you, because for me it was the best scene out of the whole movie. I will say this though: most movies, including Project X, 21 And Over, and the dreaded Hangover series take alcoholism and play it out like its fun, like a big party with no consequences or repercussions to the people involved with them. This movie had the opportunity to play it out in that same fashion, but it chose a different direction. It decided to take alcoholism and show it in a more realistic light, maybe even a tragic one. This sequence genuinely touched me, as well as the conversation two characters shared about their life and what exactly they mean to each other. It did more than entertained me: it genuinely surprised me.

As far as comedy and drama goes, I can name a number of films this year that have both made me laugh harder and feel more, among them including the explicit Don Jon, the tamer Monsters University and the other horror-comedy Warm Bodies. Should I take off points, however, if the movie doesn’t match up to the standard of other pictures? The point is that this is a good movie. It had more to offer than just pointless swearing and debauchery: the movie is funny, touching, and original, and there’s a lot of moral truth to it, aside from all of the alien robots mucking everything up.

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