July 23, 2015
Ant-Man (***) PG-13
With the release of Marvel Studios latest comic book adaptation Ant-Man I think it’s safe to say that I’m definitely suffering Marvel burnout. That’s the only possible explanation as to why I wasn’t as crazy about the adventures of the miniscule hero with super strength as I expected to be. You certainly can’t blame the filmmakers for the film’s shortcomings as it’s obvious that everyone is trying. Ant-Man has all the elements in place for a rewarding movie experience, to be sure. The movie is humorous, fairly engaging and has some of the best effects sequences I’ve seen in a Marvel film since last summer’s effort, Guardians of the Galaxy. And yet, I felt a certain sinking feeling of déjà vu hanging over the proceedings that seemed to keep me from enjoying things as I felt I should. The story templates found in these kinds of films are firmly on display in Ant-Man and the film slavishly sticks to them. It gave this casual viewer with only a mild diversion and nothing more. A month from now I probably won’t be able to reiterate one plot point.
Paul Rudd is well cast in the title role and there’s no arguing that. In the film he’s a two-bit thief, Scott Lang. In the film’s opening scenes Lang, recently released from prison, is finding life tough as he attempts to readjust to civilian life and pull off such ordinary endeavors as pay his child support.
Paul Rudd & Michael Douglas in Ant-Man
His partner in crime, Luis (Michael Pena), convinces Lang to join him on one last heist which will net him the funds necessary to get him back on his financial feet again. What Lang didn’t bargain for was becoming a superhero, which is exactly what happens when he inadvertently steals a suit deliberately left behind for him by scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), said suit being the Ant-Man suit, of course.
Pym, once upon a time, wore this suit but is now too old for such things. Once Lang comes into possession of the suit, Pym gives the former burglar all the ins, outs and the what-have-yous as to how the suit works. Lang also finds himself becoming increasingly attracted to Pym’s daughter (Evangeline Lilly), adding another variable to the equation.
The plot then shifts into the standard thing we’ve seen too many times where Ant-Man must stop an evil competitor from coming up with a similar suit that could lead to catastrophic consequences. This is where the air of familiarity takes over and I found myself ready for the film to reach its conclusion.
The film is credited to four writers, the most notable of which would be director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead), who worked on this film for ten years before exiting the project due to creative differences with Marvel. His handprints are all over the thing. I can’t help but wonder if his version would have changed my opinion drastically. That’s a question that, alas, will never be answered. And it’s a shame.
Trainwreck (**) R
Director Judd Apatow’s first film in nearly three years, Trainwreck, is the least satisfying of all the feature films in which he’s stepped behind the camera and I must admit that this comes as quite a surprise. The idea that Apatow would choose a script written by someone other than himself to direct was quite a revelation in and of itself and seemed to signal a new direction for the comedy heavyweight. Turns out it was a bad choice as lead actress and comic Amy Schumer’s script offers the thinnest plot imaginable being used as an excuse on which to hang the usual gross out gags and throw away lines that are typically seen in an Apatow production. The situations and gags seem like they might be more at home on Apatow’s HBO show Girls than in a feature film. The laughs are scant and the film, as most of Apatow’s product tends to be, is also mercilessly overlong which certainly doesn’t help matters.
Schumer stars in the film as Amy Townsend, a journalist of some sort who can’t seem to commit to any lover or relationship for any length of time.
Amy Schumer & Bill Hader in Trainwreck
You get the idea right off the bat that Schumer is taking the rule of writing what you know to all new levels here as everything has the feel of stories that are only funny if you were there when they transpired. As a comic, Schumer may have the chops but she’s proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that scriptwriting is not her forte and the film doesn’t do Schumer the justice that she so richly deserves. It’s not that she’s untalented it’s just that she needs better material to work with and should let the professional screenwriters serve her needs in the future.
The plot basically concerns Amy getting a writing assignment in which she must take her hatred of sports and make a case as to why sports are detrimental to society at large. In the midst of her writing assignment she narrows her focus to a doctor who treats sports injuries (Bill Hader). It isn’t long before Amy eventually finds herself falling for the charming doc against her better judgment and in spite of the fact that Amy has been told from her childhood onward by her father (Colin Quinn) that monogamy is basically an impossible concept. Of course, the film hinges on whether Amy can commit or will continue on in more ill fated romantic escapades.
Trainwreck works best during its final act wherein the adult Amy’s relationship with her aging and physically compromised father gets its own subplot, adding some emotional depth that’s missing from the film’s first section. Truth be told, Trainwreck could have used some of the more serious stuff that litters the film’s final section. Unfortunately, it’s too many gross out gags and not enough of them that actually work.
Both films are playing everywhere in this area.
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