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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Cinema Review: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

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DIR: Adam McKay  WRI: Adam McKay, Will Ferrell  PRO: Judd Apatow, Adam McKay, Will Ferrell  DOP: Oliver Wood  ED: Melissa Bretherton, Brent White  DES: Clayton Hartley  Cast: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, James Marsden, Meagan Good, Greg Kinnear, Kristen Wiig

 

 

Following its release back in 2004, Anchorman: The Legendary of Ron Burgundy became an unexpected comedy smash, grossing just under $91 million at the worldwide box office off a budget of $26 million. It brought the creative team of director Adam McKay and Will Ferrell (who had previously worked together on TV’s Saturday Night Live) a platform to develop the projects that were closest to their hearts, and also opened up several doors for co-star Steve Carell, who was best known at that time for his work alongside Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on The Daily Show, as well as a small-role in the Jim Carrey-starring Bruce Almighty.
With producer Judd Apatow also about to kick-start his directorial career, it is clear to see that Anchorman represented a pivotal point in the lives of much of the cast and crew. Indeed, many of them have enjoyed terrific commercial success since the original was released, but the idea of a follow-up to the ’70s-set satire has always been an enticing one for the main players.

 

The prospects of a second outing for Ron, Brick, Brian and Champ seemed bleak when Paramount Pictures decided against making a sequel in 2011, but a deal was finally brokered last year to make Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues a reality. The story picks up in the ’80s, where Ron and now-wife Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are co-anchors at GNN, and now have a six-year-old son named Walter. However, Ron’s life is turned upside down when legendary newsreader Mack Harken (a growling Harrison Ford) decides to make Corningstone the station’s new weekend anchor, and relieve Burgundy of his position.

 

Although Ron’s career eventually plummets, he is given a second chance when he is approached about a new 24-hour news channel that is being established in Manhattan. Along with his trusted team of Brick Tamland, Brian Fantana and Champ Kind, he embarks on the Big Apple, where they shake the very foundations of broadcast news.

 

Nine years is certainly not the biggest gap between films in a series (the recent sequels in the Indiana Jones and Tron franchises took a lifetime to come to fruition), but it is nevertheless a long time since Ferrell & Co. brought their off-the-wall characters to the silver screen. While there was little pre-release hype for the original, the publicity for Anchorman 2 has been cranked up significantly, to the point that everyone who has even a passing interest in the film industry will be aware of its existence.

 

With all this in mind, it would have been easy for the various participants to rest on their laurels, but the good news for the many fans of the originals is that it maintains the spirit of the first outing, and registers a high laughter rate throughout.

 

The five principle returning stars (Ferrell, Rudd, Carell, Koechner and Applegate) clearly have too much affection for their characters to simply go through the motions, and they are all given their moments to shine. There are also some welcome additions to the cast in the form of Dylan Baker, James Marsden (as sharp-suited rival anchor Jack Lime) and Meagan Good as Ron’s new boss/love interest.

 

Witnessing the parameters of Ron’s romantic life suddenly shifting (Greg Kinnear also comes into the equation as a new partner for Applegate) provides much comic inspiration for the film, as does a dark third-act plot development for our eponymous hero.

 

Though lovers of the original will undoubtedly garner immense enjoyment from this second-parter, comparisons will inevitably be made with its predecessor. Only time will tell if the sequel will become as quotable as The Legend Of Ron Burgundy, but there is no doubt that its successor is lacking that certain element of surprise.

 

Also, at 119 minutes, it does over-stretch itself, and there are certain segments in the drama that could have been completely exorcised from the final cut. Aside from Brick (who finds his true soul mate in Kristen Wiig’s oddball secretary Channi), Ron’s fellow anchors are not given a great deal to work with, and when the celebrity cameos eventually arrive (in a heightened version of the first film’s Battle of the Anchors), they are thrown at the audience at a most extraordinary pace).

 

However, there are certain aspects to the film that are an improvement on the 2004 offering, namely the more coherent narrative structure, which indicates a desire on the part of Ferrell and McKay to properly develop the trajectory of their numerous creations.

 

Should the box-office receipts reveal healthy returns, then we can expect that a third film will follow in the not-too-distant future. On the basis of this film, there is no reason why the projected target audience wouldn’t be interested in another helping, because although the likes of Ferrell, Carell and Rudd have enjoyed great success away from Anchorman, it is clear that they are appreciative of what these characters have done for their careers.

Daire Walsh

15A (See IFCO for details)

118  mins

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is released on 20th December 2013

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues – Official Website

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On The Reel On The Red Carpet at Anchorman 2 Premiere

Anchorman - Paul 2

On The Reel‘s Lynn Larkin managed to catch up with the cast of Anchorman 2 at the Irish Premiere in the Savoy Cinema on O’Connell street.

Anchorman 2 left San Diego and came to Dublin for the film’s Irish premiere at the Savoy cinema. Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Steve Carell and director Adam McKay all entered the glass case of emotion on O’Connell Street to meet and greet their Irish fans.

During their chat Paul Rudd explains to Lynn why Fantana will continue to be as naughty as ever and Steve Carell talks about Brick’s new love interest, Kristen Wigg, and what it was like working with her.

David Koechner (Champ) licks the microphone and explains why it’s not just the women in the movie that are strong characters but women globally. And director Adam McKay explains how difficult it was to keep a straight face during the shoot.

Finally, Lynn gives Will Ferrell (Ron Burgundy) a special little gift and in return Will serenades Lynn with Ron’s moving love song to a shark named Doby.

 

 

Anchorman 2 opens in cinemas on Wednesday, 18th December

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Cinema Review: Prince Avalanche

Prince Avalanche

DIR/WRI: David Gordon Green  PRO: James Belfer, David Gordon Green, Lisa Muskat, Derrick Tseng, Craig Zobel  DOP: Tim Orr  ED: Colin Patton  MUS: Explosions in the Sky, David Wingo  CAST: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch, Lance LeGault

Prince Avalanche has been preceded in the media by the kind of mood music that suggests that it is the film in which director David Gordon Green retreats/recovers from the commercial, stoner-comedy digressions of Your Highness and Pineapple Express to the artistic purity of his well-reviewed first films, George Washington and All the Real Girls.

In fact, this story about Alvin and his girlfriend’s dopey brother, Lance—camping out in a rural part of Texas as they paint road markings–falls between the two poles already established in Green’s career. As a buddy comedy it is undernourished, making only feeble efforts to draw out the humour of the situation and allowing the characters to flounder as vague sketches of classically comic opposites—Alvin, somewhat repressed and uptight; Lance, libidinous and irresponsible.

At the same time, what is there to appeal to our expectations of character and comedy detracts from the film’s lyrical ambition to compel our attention on a purely impressionistic or imagistic level. Rudd and Hirsch make the most of the wispy material, and there are some moments when the harmony of Tim Orr’s cinematography and the soundtrack compels our attention, as in an inexplicably powerful sequence in which Rudd sets up his camp alone intercut with shots of the surrounding landscape and creatures.

The reputation of Terrence Malick—to whom Green was frequently compared after the release of his first two films—may waver slightly from film to film, but the one thing he doesn’t do is dilute or adulterate his formula. Maybe that willingness to colour outside the lines is ultimately to Green’s credit—certainly, he’s not cranking out the same kind of movie every time—but it doesn’t result in this case in a film that is particularly distinguished.

Tony McKiver

15A (See IFCO for details)

93 mins
Prince Avalanche is released on 18th October 2013

Prince Avalanche – Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: Wanderlust

Aniston in Rom Com shock

DIR: David Wain • WRI: David Wain, Ken Marino • PRO: Judd Apatow, Ken Marino, Paul Rudd, David Wain • DOP: Michael Bonvillain • ED: David Moritz, Robert Nassau • DES: Aaron Osborne • Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Malin Akerman, Ray Liotta

David Wain’s latest offering, Wanderlust stars two of comedy’s current sweethearts, Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, and so should have the potential of being the first real comedy hit of the year. Wain’s last feature Role Models also starred Rudd as an uptight male lead to Seann William Scott’s moron, but here Rudd is allowed the opportunity to take the helm of male lead alone, and alongside old friend Jennifer Aniston, offers us an effortlessly charming, but ultimately predictable comedy caper.

Rudd plays George to Aniston’s Linda, a tightly-wound Manhattan couple for whom the term ‘stressed-out’ is an understatement. When George finds himself out of a job, their only option appears to be moving in with George’s atrocious brother in Atlanta. The idea of the uptight Manhattan couple being forced out of their comfort zones and learning something along the way is one that has been long propagated on screen, but Wanderlust offers something slightly different. On their way, the couple somehow stumble upon Elysium, an apparently idyllic community peppered with characters that see the world in a different way to George and Linda. From money to clothing, nothing is essential in Elysium, and whilst our protagonists are refreshed by this change in priorities, it may ultimately cause them more emotional harm than good – as is generally the case when nudity and the elderly get together.

Wanderlust has all of the ingredients for greatness, but is either lacking some secret ingredient, or the addition of too much nudity has spoiled the broth. As we learned with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, an unexpected penis shot is always good for a giggle, but here the writers have gotten somewhat lazy and decided to rely heavily on the humour of the elderly male form, to which the audience has already become numb. Wanderlust has the potential to be a massive hit but unfortunately isn’t always as funny as it should be.

The writing is often awkward and a little forced, but, having known each other since the good old days of Friends, Rudd and Aniston have so much on-screen chemistry that they could dictate the Golden Pages to each other, and still manage to hold their audience captivated. Wanderlust is the perfect movie for a first date, charming, enjoyable, but also effortless as the twists and turns are usually noticed long before they happen, meaning that it asks nothing but giggles from its audience. Although the script isn’t exactly top-notch, it is refreshing to see that it doesn’t dissolve into a hideous slapstick mess as is often the case with recent comedy.

The entire film has a sense of looseness, freedom and the idea that ‘anything goes’ which, although it is entirely in keeping with the situation in which our protagonists find themselves, doesn’t quite fit with the film format, and leaves the audience slightly confused, and waiting patiently for the next charming moment between Rudd and Aniston. It is the actors and not the story that makes Wanderlust worth a viewing, with this many funny people throwing their hats into the ring, it’s impossible not to leave the cinema feeling somewhat charmed and satisfied, despite the fact that you’ve already forgotten the story. All in all, we’re just glad that it doesn’t star Adam Sandler.

Wanderlust offers some moments of intelligent comedy, but the intervention of a senior citizen full-frontal shot ultimately ensures its fate resting among the charming yet silly comedies that have gone before. The good news for our protagonists though is that it is the charm of Rudd and Aniston alone that carries this movie and, given the right script, the duo has the potential to be this generation’s king and queen of Rom Com.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Wanderlust is released on 2nd March 2012

Wanderlust  – Official Website

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Paul Rudd to receive 'Honorary Irishman’ award

Actor Paul Rudd will be honored at the sixth annual ‘Oscar Wilde: Honoring the Irish in Film,’ event on 24th February at The Ebell of Los Angeles. Paul will be presented with the ‘Honorary Irishman’ award. Previous recipients of the award were Jim Brooks and J.J. Abrams.

Also being honored this year will be casting agents Ros and John Hubbard. Actress Sarah Bolger will receive the ‘Wilde Card’ award, which recognises rising talent in film. Singer and actress Maria Doyle Kennedy will perform. Actor Donal Logue will emcee the event.

Paul will next star in Jesse Peretz’s My Idiot Brother. The film premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and will be released by The Weinstein Company later this year.

The invite-only, pre-Academy Awards party is hosted by the US-Ireland Alliance and sponsored by Culture Ireland, the Irish Film Board and American Airlines.

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How Do You Know

How do you Know

DIR/ WRI: James L. Brooks • PRO: Julie Ansell, James L. Brooks, Laurence Mark, Paula Weinstein • DOP: Janusz Kaminski • ED: Richard Marks, Tracey Wadmore-Smith • DES: Jeannine Claudia Oppewall • CAST: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson

There is so much to like about this movie that it feels like a disservice to some of the wonderful separate elements pronouncing the ‘whole’ a bit flat. But so it is. With the potential to be a perfect romantic comedy, it instead delivers a rather stale serving of predictability where might have stood a feast of chuckles and emotion. That it stands above the normal fodder of ‘chickflick’ banality is down, pure and simple, to wonderful acting from the eternally likeable Reese Witherspoon, and perfectly placed leading-man goofiness, expertly handled by Paul Rudd. Even Owen Wilson’s dumb-blonde ‘himbo’, though done to death at this stage, lifts the movie above comedy car-crash, and adds weight to an otherwise humdrum script.

Witherspoon plays Lisa, a professional baseball player, who is dating successful fellow-baseballer and all-round player Matty (Wilson), but his thoughtlessness leaves her in a position to accept a blind date from George (Rudd). Their subsequent dinner occurs on the day that Lisa is dropped from the US team for her advancing years, and George is indicted by the US government for crimes he hasn’t committed. Their predictably disastrous date is, however, dealt with quite gently and realistically, and the spark between them is undeniable. In their subsequent friendship they both find ways of dealing with these pivotal moments in their lives – Lisa in attempting a meaningful relationship with Matty, and George in repairing his own relationship with his father (Jack Nicholson), who may have gotten him into all this trouble. Despite the triteness of the story, it is imbued with character and comedy by the actors involved. Rudd, in particular, is outstanding and unbelievably likeable as George, willingly twisting his handsome face into comic foolishness, and proving that his leading-man credentials are hard-earned and well-deserved. I challenge anyone not to find Witherspoon charming – in this, or any, movie – and she gives Lisa a glowing depth not always visible in the lacklustre script. Until the final act, it feels almost like a perfect rom-com, but there is really only so much the actors involved can do to save what eventually feels like a sinking ship. Its denouement leaves no bitter-sweet taste, a lá The Graduate, from which it seems to take inspiration, nor does it give a sappy wrap-up – instead falling somewhere in the middle.

James L. Brooks has been making every effort to appear hit-and-miss, and How Do You Know is another half-step downwards in this campaign. The posters are hyping the movie as from the creator of As Good as it Gets, but despite the repeat presence of Nicholson, it can’t quite reach that magic. Finding it hard to reduce down from melodrama or boil up from pure rom-com, the lack of focus causes a dilution of both sub-genres. The upshot of this is a nice idea, with delightful component parts, producing a movie that lacks enough substance to truly make it a worthy romantic comedy.

Sarah Griffin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
How Do You Know
is released on 28th January 2011

How Do You Know Official Website

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Dinner for Schmucks

Dinner for Schmucks

DIR: Jay Roach • WRI: David Guion, Michael Handelman • PRO: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes, Jay Roach • DOP: Jim Denault • ED: Alan Baumgarten, Jon Poll • DES: Michael Corenblith• CAST: Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis, Jemaine Clement, Stephanie Szostak

Dinner for Schmucks is based on the 1998 Francis Veber film Le Diner de Cons (The Dinner Game). Directed by Jay Roach the film has the same air of discomfort as Roach’s previous offering Meet the Fockers, leaning more towards the farcical side of comedy.

It tells the story of Tim (Paul Rudd), who is on the verge of having the perfect life. After impressing his bosses, he is offered the opportunity to earn a promotion to his dream job, with one catch. He is expected to participate in what his superiors refer to as their ‘Dinner for Winners’, where guests are asked to bring along an interesting person for their co-workers to laugh at. Enter Barry (Steve Carell), a man with a passion for taxidermy and dressing mice up in handmade outfits to create ‘mousterpieces’. When the two meet Tim is convinced he’s found his meal ticket, before Barry starts pulling his life apart at the seams. At the very start of the film, Tim seems to have it all. He drives a sports car, lives in a luxury apartment, and carries around an expensive engagement ring for his gorgeous girlfriend. Understandably this is the set up of his enormous fall from grace but it makes it harder to feel sorry for him when things do start to fall apart. It’s the same lack of sympathy people feel for contestants on Who Wants to be a Millionaire who get a little bit too greedy.

Steve Carell and Paul Rudd have worked together previously on The 40 Year Old Virgin, and Anchorman, but in their previous films they didn’t have as much on-screen time together, so it was interesting to see how their dynamic changed. Their characters were similar to those we’ve seen previously with Rudd as the seemingly self-assured alpha male and Carell as the grown-up nerd. In Dinner for Schmucks however they didn’t quite manage to make the characters as likeable or endearing as previous films. Jemaine Clement stole the spotlight as Kieran, a self-obsessed photographer known for his animal magnetism as much as his art. His character is deadpan and oblivious to just how ridiculous he is, which did create a nice contrast to Carell’s over the top antics.

This is a different kind of comedy than we’re used to seeing these two produce. Rather than relying on pithy dialogue and ad-libbing it’s a lot more physical. A few times the film tried to transition from being slapstick to having long sections of dialogue which did skew the pacing a little. When this was done well it created some great moments where I almost felt myself blushing on their behalf, in others it just felt uncomfortable. Rudd and Carell are both naturals at physical comedy, but the funniest scenes for me were the more original elements. The opening scene where Barry is working on his ‘mousterpieces’ was almost macabre but incredibly simple and hilarious.

Comedy is a very personal thing, and if you’re a fan of the Roach’s talent for creating cringe-worthy moments than Dinner for Schmucks will be just the ticket. If you’re expecting it to be the next Anchorman however, you will be sorely disappointed.

Jane Ward

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Dinner For Schmucks
is released on 27th August 2010

Dinner For Schmucks Official Website

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