Review: Ant-Man

Paul-Rudd-Ant-Man-Movie

DIR: Peyton Reed • WRI:  Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, Paul Rudd • PRO: Kevin Feige • DOP: Russell Carpenter • ED: Dan Lebental, Colby Parker Jr. DES: Shepherd Frankel, Marcus Rowland • MUS: Christophe Beck • CAST: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Hayley Atwell

 

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a well-to-do burglar who has finished serving his time. Now he wants to reconnect with his daughter but his inability to pay child support puts up an immediate roadblock. Having vowed never to return to prison, Scott attempts to go straight but finds it impossible to get a job with his criminal history. Reluctantly, he agrees to a ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ heist but ends up with nothing to show for it but a strange suit and helmet that exhibits unusual properties. Meanwhile, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is a reclusive scientist who created a weapon back in the Cold War days that proved effective but which he kept to himself due to his distrust of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the devastating potential of the weapon if it fell into the wrong hands. However, in the present, Pym’s former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is close to perfecting his own version of Pym’s Ant-Man program in the form of Yellowjacket; a miniaturised suit of power armour he fully intends to sell to the highest bidder. Fearing the chaos this could bring on a global scale, Pym, along with his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), recruit Scott to pull off the heist of his career but with one ‘small’ twist…

 

With the departure of Wright and Cornish from the production, it seems like most people just decided this was going to be Marvel’s first big failure. And, personally speaking, going in with those diminished expectations made the surprise of just how fun this movie is all the more enjoyable to experience. Make no mistake, this movie still has ‘damage control’ written all over it. From an opening prologue that exists almost solely to remind you of previous movies by briefly bringing back Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter and John Slattery’s Howard Stark, to a hugely enjoyable but entirely extraneous Avengers detour halfway through the movie, you can almost see the studio notes on-screen demanding more fan-service in an attempt to placate those who only came to throw stones at the lack of Wright/Cornish-ness. Add in the heavy emphasis on (largely ad-libbed by the looks of it) comedy and you can tell they really want this to be this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It would be genuinely surprising if this manages to do anywhere near Guardians business but in terms of entertainment and tone, it’s pretty much on par.

 

There is a lot to like here. Rudd is a compelling lead and lots of fun, Lilly is solid and Douglas is clearly really enjoying himself. Stoll is the only real weak-link but a sub-par villain in a Marvel movie is at this point neither surprising nor much of an issue. In a reverse of the usual Marvel problem, Ant-Man actually starts off a bit weak and only gets stronger as it goes on. The final act is both dramatically and comedically the peak of the film. Meanwhile, the first chunk of the movie, while consistently funny, feels in desperate need of tightening up. Basically, once the heists and montages get going, the film only goes from strength to strength but getting there can feel like a bit of a chore. Speaking of montages, the visualisations of Michael Peña’s labyrinthine descriptions of how he attained ‘x’ piece of information are both the best thing in the film and laugh-out-loud funny. It’s a real pity there aren’t a couple more of them.

 

In terms of everything else, there’s not much to comment on. Reed’s direction is adequate but can’t hope to live up to the now never-to-be-realised potential that Wright’s gleefully frenetic style could have wrought. (That said, there is a great sequence near the end with some distinctly trippy visuals, it’s only a pity Reed doesn’t go that far more often.) Christophe Beck’s score goes largely unnoticed but the credits showcase a fun main theme and his frequent throwback pieces of old-fashioned caper music are enjoyable. There are clear attempts to ape Guardians’ use of licensed tracks and while it never reaches that level, there are a couple of fun sequences in that regard. The supporting cast are almost all fine. It is, however, very annoying to see yet another movie in as many months where Judy Greer is playing the mother of a plot-centric child and is ultimately given nothing to do. But now I’m just nitpicking.

 

While Marvel has somehow managed to (yet again) maintain their winning streak, this is the year the cracks start to show. Age of Ultron was little more than a very enjoyable, perfectly produced but entirely disposable fireworks display. Now we have Ant-Man which looks for all the world like Marvel trying to recapture the Guardians magic for a second time. While it lacks the consistent freshness that film displayed, there is a lot of good in this film overall. It’s also hugely refreshing to see a Marvel movie with such a noticeably small scale (pun very much intended). No cities get destroyed (only a single building explodes!), the world is never in immediate danger and the overall death toll is very conservative by blockbuster standards (it could even be in the single digits, on reflection). Any film in which the big final battle takes place in a child’s bedroom with the hero and villain fighting with a trainset deserves a lot of credit in our current climate of summer movies with a fetish for genocide, one city at a time.

 

While the final film is a tad more forgettable than it could have been in its original creators’ hands, there’s no denying this is one of the better comedies of the year, a decent action film, a fun caper and yet another name to add to the list of niche-appeal characters Marvel somehow managed to make good, crowd-pleasing films out of. Now, where’s my damn Hawkeye movie/Netflix miniseries, Marvel?

Richard Drumm

 

12A (See IFCO for details)
116 minutes

Ant-Man is released 17th July 2015

Ant-Man – Official Website

 

 

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Cinderella

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DIR: Kenneth Branagh • WRI: Chris Weitz • PRO: David Barron, Simon Kinberg, Allison Shearmur • DOP: Haris Zambarloukos • ED: Martin Walsh • MUS: Patrick Doyle • DES: Dante Ferretti • CAST: Lily James, Hayley Atwell, Helena Bonham Carter, Cate Blanchett

For viewers who are au fait with recent animation and fairy tale adaptations aimed at young children, Cinderella may come as something of a shock. Here, there are no winking jokes and pop culture references to keep parents entertained while their offspring awe at flashing images and oscillating soundtracks that will improve impossible-to-evade for years to come. No, what writer Chris Weitz and director Kenneth Branagh present us with here is a film that prefers to get by on its charm alone.

Charming it is. From the settings, which owe as much to the Jane Cocteau’s 1946 film La Belle et La Bete, as they do to the legacy of Marie Antoinette and Belle Epoque-era France, to Cinderella and Prince Charming, this is a film that entertains its audience by being as pleasing and inoffensive as possible.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, of course, but Cinders’ compliancy with the demands of her controlling step-mother – masterfully played here by Cate Blanchett – and idiotic step-sisters does seem questionable to modern audiences raised in the post-feminist, post-Bechdel test era. Why in God’s name does she put up with them without at least resorting to passive aggression? To honour her deceased mother’s advice to always be to kind in this situation is to allow herself to be, at the very, least used.

It is the job of Downton Abbey alumna Lily James, who plays Cinderella, then to convince viewers that her core goodness is such that in spite of such treatment her spirit will never be broken. James is an excellent choice for Cinderella possessed with the kind of pure-skinned beauty and seeming lack of guile that could very much belong to both country girl and princess, and could no doubt charm a Prince into searching a kingdom for her.

Audience members aware of the fairy tale’s original metaphorical use for the glass slipper being the perfect fit for Cinderella’s dainty feet (they have sex) will no doubt be rewarded by the breathy ecstasy exhibited by James when Scots actor Richard Madden as the Prince (or ‘Kit’ as he prefers and if you really must) places the shoe on her foot. Perfectly safe for children to watch, it’s snortingly amusing in context.

Other joys to behold are the costumes worn by Cate Blanchett in a villainous turn as Cinders’ step-mother and the outfits worn by Sophie McShera and Holliday Granger as her step-sisters. Here, Blanchett not so much channels Joan Crawford as Faye Dunaway playing Crawford in Mommy Dearest, while wearing a range of acidically-toned New Look by Dior-style dresses – she really is quite fabulous. Meanwhile, the costumes her daughters wear appear to have been inspired by chi-chi lap dogs and made from discarded Quality Street wrappers. They too are fabulous in wholly horrifying ways.

These outfits though are not the ones audience members will have been waiting for. That privilege, of course, belongs to the sparkling blue ball dress worn by James when her fairy godmother (an oddly toothy Helena Bonham Carter) transforms her for a night at the ball. The blue glittery piece of silk chiffon puff with corset waist is meant to pay beautiful tribute to the gown worn in Walt Disney’s animated version of this story from 1950, and probably does. It also looks like something Sarah Ferguson, the notoriously badly dressed Duchess of York would have worn circa 1987 but, unlike, Cinders and her Prince, we cannot have it all.

 

Alisande Healy Orme

G (See IFCO for details)
105 minutes

Cinderella is released 27th March 2015

Cinderella – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: The Sweeney

DIR: Nick Love • WRI: John Hodge, Nick Love • PRO: Allan Niblo, Rupert Preston, James Richardson, Christopher Simon, Felix Vossen • DOP: Simon Dennis • ED: James Herbert • DES: Morgan Kennedy • CAST: Damian Lewis, Hayley Atwell, Ray Winstone, Allen Leech

Writer/director Nick Love (The Business, The Football Factory, Outlaw) has made his living from showing the criminal’s side of things, so much so that even on The Sweeney, his first movie told from the vantage point of the law, the good guys still act like the bad guys. Based on the ’70s British TV show, this is story of Jack Regan (Ray Winstone), George Carter (Ben Drew, aka rapper Plan B) and the rest of the Flying Squad of London’s Metropolitan police, as they use any means necessary to get the job done. And that includes, in the first five minutes alone, bribing snitches with stolen gold, beating up crooks with baseball bats, and having affairs with married women.

Love does a good job of picking influences for his movie, knicking bits and bobs from Christopher Nolan (the Inception-esque score, as well as a plot section lifted straight out of The Dark Knight Rises) and Michael Mann (London is seen here as a beautiful city of endless skyscrapers of glass and metal, as well as a massive post-bank robbery shoot-out lifted straight out of Heat), and between the cinematography, editing and some well-paced action scenes, he’s made leaps and bounds in terms of filmmaking.

But when it comes to story-telling, he’s still got a lot of work to do. The very messy plot – a seemingly pointless murder at a robbery that may or may not involve a world class thief – never gets too involving, and the other story elements – Regan’s affair, his partnership with Carter, his bosses (including a wasted Damian Lewis) trying to shut down his department – are too by-the-numbers to be entertaining. Add into that some truly awful dialogue, as well as a staggeringly dead-eyed performance from Ben Drew, and what you end up with is 112 minutes that feels twice that long. Next time, stick to the directing end of things, Love. Leave the story writing to someone else.

Rory Cashin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
112 mins

The Sweeney is released on 12th September 2012

 

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