Ant Man

July 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily
Directed by: Peyton Reed (“Bring It On”)
Written by:  Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) & Joe Cornish (“Attack the Block”) and Adam McKay (“Anchorman”) & Paul Rudd (debut)

“Ant-Man” will likely remain the biggest “what if?” in the lifetime of the Marvel cinematic universe (unless they actually produce a movie based on the alternate-reality comic book series “What If?”) due to one big giant reason: the departure of original director and screenwriter Edgar Wright. The fanboy-favorite “Scott Pilgrim” filmmaker famously left the film last year—after nearly a decade of development—due to creative differences. With a cast in place and a release date looming, Marvel quickly brought in director Peyton Reed and punched up the script with contributions from star Paul Rudd and “Anchorman” writer/director Adam McKay—all clear signs this movie would be leaning further toward comedy than any Marvel movie released so far. And yeah, the movie is fun and funny at times, but the lumpiness of the rewrites, clashes of tone, and the general tamping down of Rudd’s easy charisma rob the film of what could have been an energetic “Guardians of the Galaxy”-style offbeat excitement.

The movie opens with good-hearted criminal Scott Lang (Rudd) being released from prison. Lang was locked up for stealing money back from scamming corporations, but a criminal record is a criminal record, and he can’t land a job outside of Baskin Robbins. When he loses that job thanks to his background, Lang’s loveable criminal friend Luis (Michael Peña) offers him an easy score: break into a safe at some old hermit’s house and steal the loot inside. Lang agrees, but all he finds in the vault is some strange body suit and helmet, which he steals anyway. Out of curiosity, Scott puts the suit on and presses a mysterious button that instantly shrinks him down to the size of an insect. The suit he stole belongs to Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, and he needs Scott’s help to stop a madman from using the shrinking technology for nefarious purposes.

“Ant-Man” feels like a smaller Marvel movie, likely by design. It’s a welcome respite from the end of the world scenario that the Avengers, et al, typically deal with, but the light-hearted, goofy adventure side of the film is undone by the dour, cliché-ridden parallel father/daughter redemption stories and some leaps of logic in the plot, like why does Lang steal the suit at all, other than to move the plot forward? Rudd’s natural likeability is neutered in the movie, his quick sarcasm and mischievous grin smushed under the weight of having to prove he’s a good guy to not just his daughter, but his ex-wife (Judy Greer, in another thankless role) and his wife’s new cop husband (Bobby Cannavale, apparently one of the two cops in San Francisco). The futile question gets asked, of course, because it must be asked: what would an Edgar Wright “Ant-Man” have looked like? Many fanboys will be wondering about this for many a Comic Con to come.

The Adventures of Tintin

December 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig
Written by: Steven Moffat (debut), Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”), Joe Cornish (”Attack the Block”)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg (“War Horse”)

If you mention “The Adventures of Tintin” in the confines of Europe, you won’t have to go far to find fans of the immensely popular comic book and TV show.  Mention it in America, and you’re just as likely to get confused looks and blank stares. Tintin is a national treasure in Europe, as evidenced by its $240 million international box office haul prior to its opening in the U.S. But for some reason, like man-purses and the metric system, it has never truly caught on in the United States. One person that did take to the comics just happens to be powerhouse director Steven Spielberg, who secured the rights to adapt it into a film series back in 1983.  Likening it to an “Indiana Jones for kids,” Spielberg has teamed with director Peter Jackson and the art of motion-capture animation to finally bring the whip-smart Tintin to life on the big screen.

When the young journalist Tintin (Jamie Bell) purchases a model boat at an outdoor market, he is immediately confronted by Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine (Daniel Craig) in efforts to buy the ship off him. After the ship is broken and a scroll falls out unbeknownst to Tintin, he is kidnapped by Sakharine and taken to the SS Karaboudjan. With the help of the chronically drunken Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), Tintin and his dog Snowy escape. From there, they discover that there are at least two other model ships, each containing a scroll with a clue to a sunken, treasure-laden ship that Sakharine and Haddock’s ancestors were once aboard. Trying to beat Sakharine to the scrolls and the treasure, Tintin, Haddock and Snowy must travel through Europe by any means necessary.

The film wastes little time on introductions, as Tintin’s crime-solving prowess is only referenced in a series of press-clippings following an impressive silhouette-filled, spy-thriller inspired opening credits. Still, audiences young and old alike are able to grasp what it is Tintin does best.  There’s a strong sense of adventure and playful humor as we watch Tintin and Snowy try to keep Haddock under control, all whilst trying to evade Sakharine. Bell and Serkis are particularly good in their voice roles. Serkis, with a bold and boisterous Scottish accent, attacks the motion-capture role (as he does in all of his mo-cap work) with the intensity and effort of someone who is a leading actor. If there is one element of “The Adventures of Tintin” that does not work it is the Thomson twins voiced by British comedic actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Playing bumbling detectives trying to solve the case of a local pickpocket, their humor mostly misses the mark and the B-story line of the pickpocket fails to live up to the excitement of Tintin’s adventure to retrieve the scrolls.

Using Peter Jackson’s digital effects company Weta, who was responsible for “The Lord of the Rings” franchise and “Avatar,” “Tintin” boasts some of the best motion-capture animation ever produced. While still keeping a cartoon-like sensibility, “Tintin” features incredibly photorealistic faces and settings. Even smaller details like mouth movements are precisely accurate, preventing any distraction from the masterful voice performances. Since Spielberg treated the film like it was live action, the camera movements add another layer of realism to the animation. One sequence in particular that demonstrates this approach is a “one-shot” multi-character chase through the streets of a Morrocan village. It is easily one of the most fun adventure sequences in a movie all year.

While Haddock’s constant state of drunkenness, including some serious enabling by the dog Snowy, might be seen as inappropriate for some parents, “The Adventures of Tintin” is a fun adventure film spanning air, land and sea. It remains to be seen if the film can be successful in America though. If it is, we have a Peter Jackson-directed sequel to look forward to, with Jackson and Spielberg teaming up to co-direct a possible third film.  Make sure to also opt out of the 3D if you have the chance. It doesn’t really accentuate the film and the impressive animation will look best with bright and deep colors, something that 3D technology neglects.

 

Attack the Block

September 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail
Directed by: Joe Cornish (debut)
Written by: Joe Cornish (debut)

Written and directed by Joe Cornish, who co-created the weirdo British sketch comedy series “The Adam and Joe Show” in the ’90s, “Attack the Block” desperately wants to be for sci-fi thrillers what the hilarious 2004 satire “Shaun of the Dead” was for zombie horror movies. Even though both films share producers, Cornish is no Edgar Wright, which is clearly evident from the humorless script and pitiable youngsters that make up this extraterrestrial turf war between wannabe hoodlums and what the kids here call “big gorilla wolf motherfuckers.”

There’s really no better way to describe the creatures that crash land in a London neighborhood except, perhaps, by adding that they’re really pissed off after a gang of troublemaking teens bludgeon one of them to death and then decide to hunt down the rest like safari trophies.

Moments before the alien invasion, we witness the misfits, led by 15-year-old gangsta Moses (John Boyega), mug a helpless girl (Jodie Whittaker) in their borough. Quickly labeled as the antagonists of the film, Cornish’s challenge is to make the little punks likeable enough that audiences won’t root for the monsters to claw their baby faces off.

Instead, Cornish chooses snarky attitude over genuine personality and scrambles the script by adding an ineffective side story about a drug deal gone bad, mostly to insert Nick Frost into a role as a fat stoner with a room full of weed and nothing interesting to say. “Attack the Block” could’ve been a blast, but with characters this useless, a better movie title would’ve been “Battle: U.K.”