Ant-Man Review

Ant-Man movie posterSynopsis
After getting out of prison, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) tries to leave his life of crime behind him. However, when he has trouble providing for his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), he takes a job with his old cell mate, Luis (Michael Pena). Inside the vault he breaks into, Scott finds the Ant-Man suit, hidden by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) decades before. Being impressed with Scott’s skills, Hank hires Scott to steal the Yellowjacket suit from his former protege, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), much to the disliking of his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly).

Review
Ant-man was predicted to be Marvel’s first flop, both critically and financially. But let’s be honest, if they audiences would buy into a story about a space faring team consisting of a snarky kid stuck in the 1980s, a sexy green alien femme fatale, a red alien warrior who takes everything literally, a talking kleptomaniac raccoon, and a talking tree who only says one sentence, how hard would it be to sell a hero who can shrink and talk to insects? It may not have been a huge money maker for Marvel like many of their other films but you can’t deny it is a humorous, fun, and quirky movie.

After the gargantuan, globe-spanning epic that was Age of Ultron, it was nice to step back and have a smaller, self-contained story. There are many references to the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe (HYDRA, Iron Man, the events of Age of Ultron, even a fun fight scene between Scott and one of the New Avengers), but that is to be expected at this point. Marvel has built such a large world that references help place the story inside that world. It can be a catch 22 between letting the film stand on its own and using established characters and events to remind the audience where this world exists. Ant-Man does a terrific job of balancing these two sides.

For a film that is only around two hours long, Ant-Man was able to include a lot of Ant-Man history into the film. In the Marvel Comics, there are no less than three characters who have held the Ant-Man moniker. Hank Pym is the original and most well known, followed by Scott Lang (and a third named Eric O’Grady but he’s not important right now). Pym specifically has had a type of literal identity crisis over the years, taking up several costumes and code names, which include Ant-Man and Yellow Jacket. And he is short tempered, which has caused friction with other heroes. As a comics fan, it is great to see so much of the characters’ history effectively incorporated some way into the movie.

In their Phase 2 films, Marvel has mixed up what genre their movies are. They are part superhero but also something else, such as spy thriller or space opera, allowing each film to feel fresh. I have made it no secret that I am a huge fan of heist movies so I really enjoyed that aspect. The montage of the heist planning had a duel purpose of Scott, Hank, and Hope planning the heist but also quickly showing Scott learning how to use the suit and its powers. Two birds with one stone, if you will. Then the heist itself was pretty fun. Not many (if any) involve a the thief shrinking down and going through computer circuitry to accomplish their goals. It’s pretty unique and enjoyable.

Paul Rudd may not scream superhero material but he was the right fit as Scott Lang. The movie plays to his strengths and timing as a comedic actor, elevating the film. However, the stand-out star is Michael Pena as Scott’s partner-in-crime, Luis. His monologues about how he discovered the jobs for his group of Robin Hood-esque band of criminals is side-splitting. Michael Douglas is here to give gravitas and legitimacy to the film, like Glenn Close in Guardians of the Galaxy. That doesn’t stop him from doing a fantastic job. Corey Stoll and Evangeline Lilly do the best with the roles they are given but are not as strong as the other leads.

It would have been cool to see more of Pym’s history. His quarrels with SHIELD are talked about constantly and he regularly warns about the dangers of constant exposure to the Pym Particles (the device that allows the suit to shrink), but they aren’t really shown and are only given in exposition. Same with his relationship with Hope. If the audience would have gotten to see these stories, it would have helped show who Hank Pym was and why.

Other than Loki and maybe the Winter Soldier, Marvel hasn’t had great success with their villains, Ant-Man is no exception. In many of the past films, I have been like Elsa and let it go. However, I had a hard time doing that with this time. The film’s Darren Cross had a strong history with Pym which they tried to explain was his motivation but it could have been so much deeper and he could have been one of Marvel’s better villains (which is honestly not that tall a bar to hurtle). Instead, he has become forgettable like many of the others.

Ant-Man is the most refreshing MCU films since The Avengers. Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas are perfectly cast as the Ant-Men Scott Lang and Hank Pym, while Michael Pena steals every scene he appears in. The light, not-serious tone and self-contained story let this film be accessible to a large audience and is a nice break between the previous Avengers film and the sure-to-be-epic scale of Captain America: Civil War.

Rating
4.5/5

Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 2: Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter SoldierGuardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Peyton Reed – Director
Edgar Wright – Screenplay / Story
Joe Cornish – Screenplay / Story
Adam McKay – Screenplay
Paul Rudd – Screenplay
Christophe Beck – Composer

Paul Rudd – Scott Lang / Ant-Man
Michael Douglas – Dr. Hank Pym
Evangeline Lilly – Hope van Dyne
Corey Stoll – Darren Cross / Yellowjacket
Bobby Cannavale – Paxton
Judy Greer – Maggie Lang
Abby Ryder Fortson – Cassie Lang
Michael Pena – Luis
David Dastmalchian – Kurt
Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris– Dave
Wood Harris – Gale
Haley Atwell – Peggy Carter
John Slattery – Howard Stark
Martin Donovan – Mitchell Carson


And I’m back. I know I wasn’t really away, you know with the usual weekly features and my entry in the Film Emotion Blogathon, but after the Christmas in July Blogathon and Anniversary Week 2, I needed a break to catch up on some gaming and overall do-nothingness. Besides the blogathon entry I was able to put together in the time between getting off work and my soccer game that night so it was almost no time at all.  This is the first of several films from earlier this summer I have lined up.  Next will be Inside Out followed by Jurassic World.  After those, I will catch up on some awards and review the horrid Rage. Until then, cheers. 🙂

PS, Splatoon is so ADDICTING! Do any of you play? If you do let me know, maybe we can organize a time to play together.

Million Dollar Baby Review

Million Dollar Baby movie posterSynopsis
Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a veteran boxing trainer who has never had a boxer in a title match.  He isn’t fond of training women, either. But when his best friend, Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman), insists on training the persistent Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), Frankie takes her under his wing. Working together, Frankie and Maggie work towards their dreams of a championship, forging an unbreakable bond in the process.

Review
Every once in a while a movie comes along that leaves an impression on you long after the credits have rolled. For me that was Million Dollar Baby. I first saw this more recently, even though it came out way back in 2004. It’s too bad I didn’t see it sooner because I had no idea what I was missing.

Million Dollar Baby is a movie about boxing, but it doesn’t follow the conventions of other boxing movies, or at least the last act doesn’t. This film starts off like similar movies, showing the rise of the boxer, their training, and some of their matches. But something happens that catches you (or at least me) by surprise and really changes the tone of the whole movie. It’s in these final thirty minutes or so that have some of the best character moments in the entire film.

Easily the strongest aspect of this film is how well the characters are fleshed out. Over the course of the movie, we learn a great deal about Frankie, Maggie, and Eddie. And not just their backstories, but who they are as people and the motivations behind their actions. By the end of the Million Dollar Baby, I felt a relationship with the characters that I don’t usually get when watching a movie.

There is not one bad performance in this movie. Eastwood is normally known for more action-oriented roles, but he does phenomenal in this quieter role. He just seems to get better and better as he’s grown older. Freeman is always great in any role he plays and I am a fan of a Freeman voiceover. The biggest surprise was Swank. Granted, I haven’t seen very many of her movies, but after watching this one, I look forward to watching her again. Even the lesser seen supporting cast, like Anthony Mackie and Jay Baruchel were great.

I have mentioned before how much a good score can add to a movie. Usually it’s very big and dramatic, but the score of Million Dollar baby is much more subdued and simple. The score, surprisingly composed by Eastwood, is still dramatic, but in a different fashion. It consists mostly of a single acoustic guitar or piano that is very much in line with the feel of the movie but it is every bit as emotional as the full orchestral scores.

Cinematography isn’t something I normally bring up, but I would have a hard time talking about this movie with discussing about the cinematography. There is a great use of shadows and lighting. During the boxing matches, the camera gets close to the action, but too close that you can’t see much. It’s really great work that I think few movies can compare to.

I missed Million Dollar Baby when it was released in 2004 and when I finally did see it, I regretted not seeing it sooner. The characterization is brilliantly written and it’s easy to become invested in the characters and their struggles. It is hard to pick a stand out performance because every actor was fantastic, even the supporting cast. A simple but fitting score and top notch cinematography enhance the experience even further. If you want a movie that has great acting, excellent characterization, and superb cinematography, then Million Dollar Baby is the movie for you.

Rating
5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Clint Eastwood – Director
Paul Haggis – Screenplay
F.X. Toole – Stories from Rope Burns
Clint Eastwood – Composer

Clint Eastwood – Frankie Dunn
Hilary Swank – Maggie Fitzgerald
Morgan Freeman – Eddie Dupris
Anthony Mackie – Shawrelle Berry
Jay Baruchel – Danger Barch
Brian F. O’Byrne – Father Horvak
Margo Martindale – Earline Fitzgerald
Michael Pena – Omar