Movie Review: Ant-Man (2015)

Running time: 115 minutes

Director: Peyton Reed

34321After it was announced last year that Edgar Wright and Marvel had parted ways due to creative differences over the Ant-Man script for years, and with Peyton Reed taking his place in the director’s chair, a lot of people started to believe this was proof that Marvel’s glory days were coming to an end and that Ant-Man would be the first movie for the studio to bomb at the box office. Sure, that was the exact thought when Guardians of the Galaxy was announced and it ended up doing more than ok. So, did Marvel end its Phase 2 in a high note, ensuring that at this point we should trust Kevin Feige, or did they not recover from Wright’s departure?

Ex-convict, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finds himself involved in Hank Pym’s (Michael Douglas) plan to retrieve from Pym Tech the shrinking formula he developed in his youth and that his former protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is trying to replicate to create an army. With the reluctant help of Hank’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), Scott learns how to use the Ant-Man suit and become the hero they need to pull off this heist.

Marvel's Ant-Man..L to R: Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hank Pym/Ant-Man (Michael Douglas)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014The first time we meet Hank Pym is in 1989 as a spectacular CGI young Michael Douglas is resigning from SHIELD after finding out that Howard Stark has been trying to replicate his shrinking formula. This scene introduces us to the original Ant-Man and sets up some backstory to his character, in addition to revisiting some beloved MCU characters from previous movies like Howard Stark (from the first Iron Man) and the always delightful Peggy Carter (Captain America: The First Avenger) as the SHIELD founders.

In present day, Scott Lang is about to be released from San Quentin State prison after serving some years for a Robin Hood-like burglary. Out in the real world, his priority is to make amends with his family and prove to his ex-wife Maggie and her partner that he is still fit to be a good dad. But, despite his clear efforts they won’t let him see his daughter Cassie (played by the most adorable Abby Ryder Forston) until he pays the child support he owes them. Once again this year we have Judy Greer in a blockbuster film being the worried mom, at least Bobby Cannavale had an active part in the film besides just being the stepfather who is a jerk to the hero.

screen-shot-2015-04-13-at-10-12-53-amUnable to find a proper job with his criminal record, his friend Luis (portrayed by Michael Peña, who steals the show every time he is on-screen) convinces him rob an old man’s house. This way his path crosses that of Hank Pym’s, who needs his help and wants him to become the Ant-Man to retrieve from Pym Tech the shrinking technology that Hank’s former protégé, Darren Cross, is trying to replicate to create an army of tiny men. And as it is so typical with Marvel movies now, the villain is probably the weakest part and in the end, forgettable. Corey Stoll is good in the role and his motivation is clear but the execution is quite poor and often needs of a lot of exposition.

Scott is trained by Hank and his daughter, Hope, with whom he doesn’t have a very good relationship and creates great father-daughter parallels with Scott and his own daughter Cassie. Hope is reluctant to use Scott for the mission as she is far more capable and already knows how to use the suit. And even though her character was well realized and she had some cool fight moves during the training session, I would have liked to see Evangeline Lilly taking some part in the action. Spoiler! At least the end credit sequence foreshadows some exciting stuff for her character in the near future.

Ant-Man-3We will never know what movie did Edgar Wright have in mind so it is pointless to compare what we have and what we could have had. The important thing is that Marvel did it again and Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man is a simplistic but effective heist film with well-balanced comedy and does a great job at tying the film to the MCU while keeping it self-contained. Unlike Thor’s quest in Age of Ultron, neither of the references or cameos pull you out of the movie or feel like set up. The action sequences may not be the best we have seen from Marvel, but the use of the macro photography makes it a visual spectacle, and the relationships between the characters are a treat to watch. In the role of Scott Lang, Paul Rudd proves that he is a legit superhero and deserves a place in the Avengers. He was likable, believable, relatable and a perfect addition to the MCU. In a shared universe where supersoldiers, gods, raging monsters and enhanced humans defend the world, Ant-Man seemed like an odd choice to add to the franchise but, as Stanley Tucci’s Dr. Erskine said in Captain America: The First Avenger, maybe what we needed now was a little guy.

9/10

Movie Review: Minions (2015)

Running time: 91 minutes

Director: Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda

minions-2015-im-with-stupidFollowing the example of The Penguins of Madagascar, Gru’s loyal and adorable companions are now the protagonists of their own movie. The minions are for practically everyone the most unforgettable part about the Despicable Me movies but, while they work amazingly as side characters, can these cute creatures carry their own movie? And most importantly, can they survive without Gru?

After causing the demise of several of their evil masters, three minions, Kevin, Stuart and Bob, leave their exile in search of a new villain to serve. The journey takes them to Villain Con, where they manage to impress the world’s first woman supervillain, Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), whose greatest desire is to become the Queen of England and needs the help of the minions to achieve her dream

minions-imageThe movie starts with a narration by Geoffrey Rush about how the minions have existed since the beginning of time and have gone through history always serving the greatest villains of the time, from the T-Rex to Napoleon, and often being the cause of their downfall. This causes them to go into isolation to the Antarctic where they quickly lose spirit without having a master to serve. In 42 B.G (42 years before Gru), Kevin, our alpha minion, decides to venture into the world again to search for a boss. He is accompanied by rebellious Stuart and the adorable little Bob.

These yellow creatures already conquered our hearts in the Despicable Me movies, and these three are able to carry the film without ever speaking a sentence in english as their dialogue consist of random spanish, french and italian words. Their search takes them to Orlando, where Villain Con, a wonderfully realized Comic Con for villains, is taking place. There they meet the meanest villain of all, Scarlet Overkill, and I am so glad they chose to make her evil through and through and not give her some sad back story to make her sympathetic. I loved her arc, from being friendly towards the minions at the beginning and as her plans go awry and she becomes more and more desperate, showing her true colors, always keeping her husband Herb as her soft spot. Jon Hamm is surprisingly hilarious.

minions-sandra-bullockWith these kind of spin-off films is practically inevitable not to draw a comparison to the originals and though Minions lacks the deep story that the two Despicable Me movies had, it definitely has more laughs in it. The humour walks a fine line between being funny and offensive but does it successfully and I laughed consistently throughout the film. From the opening credits with the minions singing as the Universal logo comes up, to the ending that ties the franchise in a brilliant way.

Most of the criticism I’m seeing with the film comes from it aiming especially towards kids. Unlike Pixar movies, which despite being considered for kids there is a lot in them for adults to enjoy and in the end adults are the ones who will appreciate the themes, Minions‘ target audience is mainly kids. Not that adults will hate it but they certainly won’t have the same appreciation for it. I personally loved it. It’s cute, it could have had a more complex story, but it’s delightfully entertaining.

8/10

 

Movie Review: Terminator: Genisys (2015)

Running time: 126 minutes

Director: Alan Taylor

1427476029832Terminator: Genisys was supposed to be the first film in a new trilogy of the Terminator franchise before the rights went back to James Cameron but the fifth installment in the saga has been such a disaster at the box office, unable to beat Jurassic World and Inside Out (both of which have already been playing for several weeks) that Paramount Pictures might need to change their plans.

John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human Resistance, sends his best friend Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect his mother Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from the Terminator that Skynet has sent back in time to kill her and therefore eliminate John Connor from existence. But when Reese arrives to 1984 he finds a very different past than what he was expecting, where Sarah Connor is no longer a damsel in distress but a warrior who has been raised up by a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Together they will have to find a way to prevent Judgement Day from happening in the future.

sarah-connor-terminator-genisys.pngIn case you missed the previous films, Terminator: Genisys opens up with a voiceover by Kyle Reese explaining how the machines managed to conquer the world and practically eradicate the human race. It is the year 2029 and John Connor is the leader of the Resistance against Skynet, though Jason Clarke never comes across as the strong and charismatic warrior the character should be. Instead, he is quite creepy even at this point. After an attack to their base, Skynet sends a T-800 back to 1984 to kill John’s mother, Sarah Connor, to prevent him from ever being born and that way eliminate the Resistance. John Connor sends his right hand man, Kyle Reese, to protect her.

So Reese travels in time to find out that the past is not how he expected it to be and Sarah Connor is no longer the waitress that needs his protection and has been trained by a Terminator since she was a child. And, in a movie where none of the actors really pop up, Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor is the only one who comes close to do so. But, though she is supposed to be the protagonist of the story, the movie does such a poor job at focusing on her that it ends up actually being Kyle Reese’s story and, though I’ll admit Jai Courtney is not as bad as usual, his performance is still absolutely uncharismatic, which makes it hard to care for any of the two characters.

terminator-genisys-photo-552bc861d9acbIf you haven’t noticed yet, the time-travel in this film is awfully confusing. When Kyle Reese is traveling to 1984 he has some visions of an alternate timeline due to the fact that the past has been changed and somehow he figures out that Judgement Day will no longer happen in 1997 as it originally did, but in 2017 where the machines will take over the world through an app called Genisys. Sarah is not entirely convinced about that (and who can blame her) but Reese finally convinced her and even though it doesn’t make much sense, we go along with it too because the best way to see this movie is shutting down your mind. In 2017 we finally see Matt Smith again, in a role that is a waste of time for the Doctor. J.K Simmons is also wasted but the jaw-dropping moment comes with the John Connor twist which should have been the big revelation of the film, if the ad campaign hadn’t already gave it away in the trailers.

It seems I’m trashing a lot on the film when the reality is that I had some fun watching it. Yes, the time travel is a mess, it introduces ideas that are never developed, the acting is not that great and therefore it’s difficult to emotionally connect with the characters, but it is great to see back Arnold as the Terminator with a very self-referencing humour, the action sequences are cool and there is some level of intrigue that keeps you guessing. So even though Terminator: Genisys is far away from being a good movie and we are all waiting for the rights to go back to James Cameron, there is some joy to have with the film if you don’t try too hard to make sense of what is going on.

6,5/10

Movie Review: Tomorrowland (2015)

Running time: 130 minutes

Director: Brad Bird

tomorrowland_movie_2015-2560x1600Trying to imitate the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, which is based on a Disneyland attraction, Tomorrowland is based on a section of the park. Brad Bird, director of Ghost Protocol and The Incredibles, gets behind this beautifully directed movie, that could have easily done way better with a better script.

Casey Newton (Brett Robinson) a genius and curious teenager that often gets into trouble for her ideas, finds a pin that whenever she touches it, she suddenly seems to be transported to another world. With the help of the cranky inventor, Frank Walker (George Clooney) and the enigmatic girl, Athena (Raffey Cassidy), she embarks in a dangerous adventure to find this futuristic city, known as Tomorrowland, and safe the future.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND Casey (Britt Robertson)  Ph: Film Frame ©Disney 2015With so many good things going on in Tomorrowland, it’s quite frustrating that the movie doesn’t actually work. The characters are interesting and it has a unique and original premise, but the plot is such a mess that it’s ironically that the movie starts with George Clooney trying to explain what’s going on and he keeps getting interrupted by someone off-camera because he’s doing a poor job at it. That right there could sum-up the whole movie. It’s awfully confusing.

However, Tomorrowland is not short on good performances. It’s great to see that an actor of the caliber of George Clooney can be in a movie like this without just phoning it in. Frank Walker had a lot of layers that made him enigmatic and made you care about him. But then, there is all this romantic subplot going on with a little girl, played brilliantly by Raffey Cassidy, and because it’s a Disney movie they couldn’t fully explore it to make it work, so it ended up being just creepy. Despite of that, and not diving into her character to avoid spoilers, Athena was the most charismatic and the stand out character of the movie.

Disney's TOMORROWLAND..L to R: Frank (George Clooney) & Athena (Raffey Cassidy)..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney 2015Brett Robinson as the lead, Casey Newton, also did a great job, she handled the humour very well and held her own until George Cloony was finally introduced a whole hour into the movie. On the other hand, Hugh Laurie’s David Nix was kind of a throwaway character and one of the main problems with Tomorrowland is its lack of a solid antagonist. It had a lot of potential and an ambitious idea, but didn’t quite get there and made a very poor job at sending a subtle message at the end. That, amongst other things, suggests that the movie was trying to aim more at little kids than at adults.

The main thing to have in mind while getting into this movie is that it is not about Tomorrowland. It’s about getting to Tomorrowland, and if you’re expecting a movie about a futuristic city, you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment because in the end, Tomorrowland was hardly explored. The worst part of all is that you spend the whole time waiting for them to get there and the movie is quite fine until that point. Once they get to Tomorrowland the movie starts to derail. The reveal of what was the ultimate threat was very underwhelming. That, and the inconsistent tone, hurt the movie overall.

6,5/10