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: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

Title: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Running time: 144 minutes

Director: Peter Jackson

Starring: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom

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The final installment in Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth franchise, The Battle of the Five Armies, is finally here and it brings a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, full of breath-taking scenes, fantastic special effects and an emotional ending. And yes, there is a battle. A very long, but epic, battle.

It’s called The Hobbit, but this has become Thorin’s story and Richard Armitage has outdone himself with this movie. Amazing acting. He’s the character who has gained the most with every movie and had a great arc over the course of the trilogy. Martin Freeman, I can’t pray him enough and if you’ve read my reviews for the first two movies, you’ll already know how much I love his portrayal of Bilbo. This movies wouldn’t have worked without this two actors in the center of it. Their friendship is the core of the story, especially in this movie, providing really emotional moments where is difficult to hold back the tears.

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Lee Pace was a wonderful Thranduil and I wished his back story could have been explored a bit more because he was a fascinating character. I loved how Luke Evans portrayed Bard, not as a hero, but as a regular man who finds himself being the lead of the people of Lake-Town. Ian McKellen has, as always, some of the best lines and a great scene with, Galadriel, Elrond and Saruman that had a similar vibe to Lord of the Rings.

I wasn’t a fan in The Desolation of Smaug of the love story between Kili and Tauriel and even less of the romantic triangle adding Legolas. In this film is even worse. I didn’t care about it and, without getting into spoilers, some of the dialogue at the end is very lame. Legolas, we love him for his unbelievable, actually impossible, stunts and in this movie there are a lot, but it’s so much fun to watch.

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It really angered me how, having so many wonderful characters that could have had more develop, like Thranduil, Peter Jackson decided to waste time with Alfrid. All his scenes felt like time-fillers and, what I guess was supposed to be a comic relief, actually turned out to be quite pathetic and not funny at all. At least Radagast in the previous films wasn’t so overused.

I understand how after the success of Lord of the Rings it must have been very tempting to do another trilogy but after watching all three, maybe they should have stick to two as they originally intended while filming. It’s pretty clear from the very beginning that this wasn’t suppose to be a movie on its own and therefore The Battle of the Five Armies, as epic as it is, suffers from a considerable lack of story. As a film, is the weakest of the three but is still a fun ride. The battle sequences are stunning and all the individual story-lines have a nice blending with The Fellowship of the Ring.

7’5/10

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Title: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Running time: 161 minutes

Director: Peter Jackson

Starring: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Luke Evans, Lee Pace, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly

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As much as I loved An Unexpected Journey, this one is way better. Everything was vastly improved. The Desolation of Smaug starts right into the action without wasting time with introductions or recaps. The pacing, which was a problem in the first one, was more fluid and action-packed instead of focusing so much on thirteen dwarves running around.

Martin Freeman is such a wonderful Bilbo and this time he had the opportunity to be a badass, already being part of the group and embracing his craftiness. He was so fun to watch, though he felt less as the main character and at some points is Thorin who steps up to be the leader of the film. Richard Armitage did an amazing job bringing more layers to the character, making some hard decisions and starting to go a bit dark by greed but he was much more likable this time around.

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug-DwarvesThe barrel scene was so exciting, even though the CGI was a bit weak, but it was still so cool and playful, with Legolas dancing over the dwarves. I’m glad to see Orlando Bloom returning. It’s a great way to tie with Lord of the Rings and it totally makes sense since when Tolkien wrote The Hobbit he hadn’t created yet the character for Lord of the Rings, but being the son of Thranduil, who does appear in the book, would have been weird not to have him there. He didn’t feel forced at all and it’s always awesome to see Legolas killing some orcs.

Talking of characters that don’t appear in the book, I like the idea of creating a strong female character as Tauriel because otherwise is all male characters but, while I did like her, I don’t get the point of having her romantically involved with a dwarf. That part was so cheesy and forced, and adding Legolas to the romantic triangle only worsened it. That definitely didn’t need to be there.

the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-2Luke Evans was fantastic as Bard and I like that they focused a bit in the politics surrounding Lake Town with Stephen Fry as the governor. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the black arrows though, I guess I’ll have to see the next movie to have a solid opinion on it. It was sad to see Gandalf so little and not being part of the company and, because they wanted to have Ian McKellen, they kept cutting to him and his storyline felt from a different movie.

But the scene stealer of the movie was no other than Smaug himself. Benedict Cumberbatch was incredible as the voice of the dragon, so rich, mysterious and menacing. The CGI was simply perfect. His scene with Bilbo was phenomenal, everything I hoped it would be or even more.

smaug-the-hobbit-copyThe end, fading to black in that moment was so unexpected. It leaves you on the edge of your sit craving for the next one. I was quite pissed off at first but then I realized what a great way to end the movie that was. Shout out to I See Fire by Ed Sheeran, the song that plays during the credits. I still listen to it with goosebumps after a whole year.

There are so many awesome things I’m leaving out and are worth mentioning, the Spider scene, Beorn, The Forge Battle… The score, as always, was wonderful. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug turned out to be a great movie. It’s fun, exciting, I finished it the first time just wanting to sit for another 2 hours and 40 minutes to watch it all over again. Yes, it’s different from the book, but all the changes make for a great movie and a great prequel to the beloved Lord of the Rings and that is the most important thing you can ask of this trilogy.

9/10

This Week’s Movie News (6-10 oct)

Character Posters for ‘The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies’

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We are two months away from the last installment in the Peter Jackson trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies, and the official Twitter for The Hobbit has started promoting their upcoming movie by releasing, first a poster featuring the hobbit himself, Bilbo Baggins, played by Martin Freeman, with his sword, Sting. Through the week fans could vote which characters they wanted to see next and the winners have been Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Orlando Bloom as Legolas, Luke Evans as Bard, Richard Armitage as Thorin, Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Lee Pace as Thranduil.

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 Léa Seydoux joins ‘Bond 24’

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After Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and a successful career in indies, the french actress will return to the world of franchises as the femme fatale of the next Bond movie, role that, over the past few months, Penelope Cruz was speculated to play. There’s no report yet if the character will be a “Bond girl”. Chiwetel Ejiofor is rumoured to play the villain.

At the end of November there will be a read through of the script with actors Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Wishaw and Naomie Harris before shooting stars in December. The movie will hit theaters on November 6, 2015.

Jennifer Jason Leigh lands role in ‘The Hateful Eight’

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Tarantino has finally found the female lead for his next western film, The Hateful Eight. Jennifer Jason Leigh will play Daisy Domergue, a wanted criminal accused of murder, being transported by two bounty hunters. Some Hollywood actresses like Robin Wright, Michelle Williams, Hillary Swank and Demi Moore coveted the role and Jennifer Lawrence was also rumoured to have a part in the film but there’s no confirmation if she was in talks for this role or a different one.

Tarantino will reunite again with Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen for the film which will start shooting early next year.

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Official Teaser Trailer

Warner Bros. has released the teaser trailer that was shown during the ‘Hobbit’ panel at Comic Con this weekend (Take note Marvel!) and it’s both epic and heartbreaking. Check it out!

“One day I’ll remember… remember everything that happened. The good, the bad. Those who survived and those who did not.”

That quote literally gave me goosebumps and the trailer had me on the edge of my sit the whole time. Full of amazing shots: Smaug strafing Lake-town, Galadriel kissing an unconscious Gandalf on the forehead, the dwarves preparing for battle, Bard with the elves of Mirkwood, Thranduil fighting in Dale, dwarves mounted on war-goats, Thorin’s “Will you follow me one last time?“. All accompanied by The Edge of Night sung by Billy Boyd (Pippin) in The Return of the King. Perfect song choice.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies hits theaters on December 17, 2014.

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