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Ant-Man (Marvel Studios 2015)

July 19, 2015 Leave a comment

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While Ant-Man himself is one of the original Avengers, it took fifteen years and eleven other films before he would finally be granted his silver screen debut.

Marvel Studios’ latest film and the true end of “Phase Two”, the overlying arc spanning six films (Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and finally Ant-Man) has had a rocky go of it from the get-go. Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish were tapped to write the script, with Wright set to direct. This made a number of fans very happy, as his quirky style of writing and unique approach to film making seemed a perfect fit for what is such an arguably odd story. Wright and Cornish had been involved in the development of an Ant-Man script since as early as 2003, with them being officially brought on to the project in 2006. Development continued through the entirety of Phase One, as Ant-Man wasn’t considered a “tent-pole” character. Months after turning in the fifth draft of their script, however, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish left the project, citing “differences in their vision of the film”.

The story doesn’t end there, thankfully.

Filmmaker Adam McKay entered negotiations to replace Wright as director, though ended up backing out a day later. Marvel Studios would soon after name Peyton Reed as Wright’s replacement, with McKay contributing to the script. It was revealed that Paul Rudd, after being cast as lead character Scott Lang, would also lend a hand with the script. So, we have a movie that went from being written exclusively by Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, to a movie that has four screenplay credits altogether. This was troubling to many, and it could be said a stigma was added to the film after that. Many doubted Ant-Man would meet the standards of quality set by the Marvel Studios films that preceded it.

Cast:
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Evangeline Lily as Hope Van Dyne
Michael Douglas as Dr. Henry “Hank” Pym
Corey Stoll as Darren Cross/Yellowjacket

Plot:

When career criminal Scott Lang is released from San Quentin, he vows to turn his life around. He’s given a very clear set of goals by his ex-wife: Get a job, get an apartment, pay his child support. Only then will he be able to spend time with his young daughter, Cassie. Walking the straight and narrow doesn’t pan out for Lang, and when his friend and former heist partner Luis (Michael Peña) offers him “the perfect job”, he decides to take his chances.

The perfect job ends up being more than Lang bargained for, though, when he crosses paths with Dr. Hank Pym. This mysterious older scientist inserts himself into Scott Lang’s life and makes him an offer of his own. One that takes Lang on a wild ride to redemption as he struggles to win back his daughter and, oh yeah, save the world.

Thoughts:

I will preface this by saying that there has not been a single Marvel Studios movie that I have disliked. There have been some that I truly loved (Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy) and some that I enjoyed but could have been much better (Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron). Even the ones that have been heavily flawed, have had some redeeming quality for me.

Now, to Ant-Man.

I’ve seen reviews comparing Ant-Man to heist movies like Oceans 11, and I could not agree more. At its core, this is two movies in one. A tale of redemptions and the story of a daring heist. The combination of these elements, along with the heart and charm of Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas, are what really hold this movie together.

The cast is great and each member plays off one another very well. Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas have an undeniable chemistry when on screen together. Evangeline Lily’s Hope Van Dyne is believably at odds with her father, Douglas’ Hank Pym. Michael Peña steals every single scene he’s in as Luis. Going in, I thought for sure that Rudd was going to get the biggest laughs, but Peña nails it every single time.

Even actors in smaller roles, like David Dastmalchian and rapper-turned-actor T.I., or character actress Judy Greer and Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale, shine during their brief moments on screen.

Corey Stoll, who can be seen on The Strain on FX, does a fine job as the villainous Darren Cross, though there was something about his performance that didn’t sit right with me.

I’m still blown away that Michael Douglas was in this film. Between Douglas being in Ant-Man, and Robert Redford in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’s truly astonishing to see the caliber of actor being drawn to Marvel Studios.

Edgar Wright’s influence is still very much felt throughout the movie and I can’t help but wonder how much of his original script made it to shoot. I also can’t help but wonder what the finished product would have been if Wright had remained signed on as director. All of that said, between Wright and Cornish, and Adam McKay and Paul Rudd, all having their hands in the screenplay, the pace of the story is very smooth.

I go back to the combination of heart and humor that made me enjoy this movie as much as I did. While I would not rank Ant-Man with the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’s a solid heist movie and just a lot of fun all around. It’s certainly a better movie than you might expect considering it’s a movie about Ant-Man.

Both the mid-credits scene, which sets up some exciting opportunities for Phase Three and beyond, and the post-credits scene, which does a fine job of leading into next summer’s hotly anticipated Captain America: Civil War, are a blast to see.

Overall, I would say Ant-Man does a great job of being a fun summer popcorn flick and fits in to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe in subtle but promising ways. I absolutely recommend seeing it, if you’ve enjoyed the Marvel Studios films as a whole so far.

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Mutants and Aliens and Various Japanese Gods

February 18, 2015 Leave a comment

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Morena Baccarin is no stranger to geeky genre projects, being probably best known for the role of Inara Serra on Joss Whedon’s gone-too-soon fan favorite Firefly, she has also starred in such shows as Stargate SG-1, V, and most recently Gotham. Well, she’s about to add another geeky title to her resume as she has just officially signed on to play the female lead in the hotly anticipated Deadpool feature film, due out in 2016. There’s no solid lead on exactly who she’ll be playing, other than the words “Love Interest” being bandied about, but a popular fan theory (and one I’m personally hoping is true), points to her playing the probability manipulating mutant mercenary named Domino.

The reason I like this theory is it would mean Fox is using Deadpool as a way to introduce elements that we might later see in the previously announced X-Force film. Domino being a founding member of that team, Deadpool himself joining in later story arcs. Not to mention Colossus, the metal skinned Russian strongman who got his start in the X-Men before joining the X-Force lineup in recent years, who is also rumored to make an appearance in the Merc With A Mouth’s solo adventure.

If Baccarin does end up playing Domino, as the fan theory suggests, and if Fox is using this an an opportunity to segue into an X-Force film, it does raise questions as to exactly which version of the X-Force roster we’ll be seeing on the big screen.

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This news comes on the heels of X-Men: Apocalypse director Bryan Singer announcing via Instagram that Kodi Smit-McPhee has been cast as a young Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner in the latest X-Installment set in the 1980s, making today a pretty big day for Marvel’s Merry Mutants.

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Speaking of directors dropping bombs over Instagram, District 9 and Elysium filmmaker Neill Blomkamp has revealed that he is, indeed, directing a new installment in the Alien film franchise. Followers on Blomkamp’s Instagram were given a sneak peek of concept art for the new film two months ago with the caption “Was working on this. Don’t think I am anymore.” followed by Blomkamp dropping a hint in an interview as early as a week ago that there was a “high possibility” he might still be involved in the making of the movie. All of this back and forth, will-he-won’t-he, anticipation finally culminated in another Instagram post made today:

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As a fan of the Alien franchise (well, some of it), and as a fan of Blomkamp’s work (specifically District 9, though Elysium was a solid sci-fi film), this makes me happy. The online response from the Alien and Blomkamp fanbases alike has been pretty positive so far.

Neill Blomkamp’s latest film, Chappie, is in theaters March 6th.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita, or Kamisama Kiss, won me over with its first season in 2012 and it always bummed me out that there weren’t more episodes made when the manga continued on well after the show’s completion. I only just learned a week or two ago that a second season was even happening, and only learned this morning that the first six episodes have already been aired!

You can find the entire series so far, all of season one and the six episodes of season two, on the Funimation website or Hulu. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend giving it a shot.

The Spirit

April 20, 2008 1 comment

Sixty eight years ago, a man named Will Eisner created what would go on to become one of the most important comic books in that or any year.

The Spirit followed the exploits of Denny Colt, a Central City detective who was presumed dead. When he reappeared, fed up with the crime and desolution overcoming his city, Colt donned a mask and took it upon himself to become a one man army against the criminals that nearly cost him his life.

The Spirit was a working class superhero who stood for justice when no one else would. He embodied the every day struggle of the common man against the cruelty of the world around him.

Next year, comic visionary Frank Miller, will redefine The Spirit on the silver screen.

Here, you can watch the teaser trailer for The Spirit. Be sure to play the clips after the trailer, they’re entertaining. Frank Miller is afraid of an undead Will Eisner and Eva Mendes has no clue what The Spirit is about.

In watching the teaser, which is just that, a teaser, and not meant to be taken as a final cut sort of trailer, I’ve realized I only have two problems; The fact that The Spirit is in black and red as opposed to blue and red, which I would normally be willing to overlook, except in this case it makes the film look a bit too much like a Sin City related project (which is my second problem).

While I do not doubt that The Spirit’s attire will remain black in the future trailers, and subsequent film itself, I do hope Miller does something to it to take it away from that Sin City aftertaste.

That being said, I have faith in Frank Miller’s vision.

With the release of film adaptations of Will Eisner’s The Spirit and Alan Moore’s Watchmen in 2009, it’s certainly shaping up to be a wonderful year for film adaptations of amazing comic books.

Whereas Miller’s retelling of The Spirit left me with a distinct Sin City aftertaste, Zack Snyder’s take on Watchmen seems to be dead on so far. (though there is no teaser just yet)

I do not envy Miller or Snyder for being in their current position. If either of them manage to sully the visage of their respective source materials, I envision a legion of very unhappy comic book fans descending upon them as locusts would.

Planning on starting the second bit of prologue before I go about my housework. I truly cannot wait to share this with all of you and may decide very soon to give you all a sneak peek of what it is I’m working on.

If there would be any interest, of course.