23 08 2015

Ant-ManAnt-Man,” the final piece in Marvel’s so-called “Phase Two” of their Cinematic Universe, invites us all to do what I have done for the past five years: not to take any of this too seriously.  With the constantly winking and self-effacing charm of Paul Rudd (and co-writer Adam McKay), the best Marvel movie in years is ironically the one that spits in the face of what the studio signifies.

This is the first film from the comic book behemoth since the original “Iron Man” back in 2008 that feels entirely sufficient as a film in its own right, not just a placeholder for the next super-sized sequel.  Granted, some of that might be a response to its iffy economic viability at the green-lighting stage of the process (and some concerns over authorship following the departure of writer/director Edgar Wright and his screenwriting partner Joe Cornish). Nonetheless, “Ant-Man” earns a second installment by virtue of its tongue-in-cheek spirit and fun sense of scale.

Rather than set up some cataclysmic battle of the fates where the powers of good do battle with a terrifying evil that beams a big blue light up into the sky, “Ant-Man” builds up to a fight between two men for one important thing.  This climax engages rather than numbs (as “Avengers” final acts tend to do) because it takes place on the human level where the rest of the film registers.  It also helps that the final clash is essentially the only major one in the movie, going against Marvel’s general tendency to throw in a major action set piece every 30 minutes or so to placate the thrill-seekers in the audience.

And every time it seems like “Ant-Man” is turning into a conveyer belt of Marvel tropes, Paul Rudd’s humor kicks in to disrupt the moment and make a joke at the studio’s expense. He plays on admittedly shorter leash than someone like Judd Apatow or David Wain gives him, but his sardonic wit proves a welcome reprieve of Marvel’s faux gravitas that proves suffocating in their more commercial products.

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REVIEW: Attack the Block

25 07 2011

When I had the chance to see “Attack the Block” back in May 2011, it had neither a release date in the United States nor a domestic trailer.  Its strongest advocates were fanboy-type bloggers on sites like /Film, so I went in with fairly high expectations.  Based on the only trailer I could find, which was for its recent release in the United Kingdom, I had the impression that the film was a comedy with some alien butt-kicking added in the mix.

However, when I walked out of the theater (at the end of the movie – it wasn’t THAT bad), none of my preconceived notions held up.  It was more of an alien invasion horror movie that had some incidental humor, mainly from an easy and tired source – marijuana.  If it was intended to be a comedy, it lost a lot of hilarity on the voyage across the pond.  I’ve never been a big fan of British humor, but I’ve always managed to get a few good chuckles out of movies like “Shaun of the Dead” or “Hot Fuzz.”  This, on the other hand, provided very little in the way of laughter.

But speaking of the films of Edgar Wright, “Attack the Block” feels like a very belated rip-off of the now famous director’s conventions and style, particularly “Shaun.”  Wright isn’t my favorite director, but Joe Cornish’s imitation sure made me appreciate the original even more.  His “Attack the Block,” while entertaining and amusing at times, doesn’t come close to replicating the creativity or fun of a Wright film at any point in its short duration.

American audiences in July, however, will see parallels between another film: “Super 8.”  Both feature teenagers fighting strange extraterrestrials that threaten their homes and livelihoods.  The difference, though, is that “Attack the Block” does not have a visionary director like J.J. Abrams at the helm.  Even though Abrams was paying homage to an earlier innovator, a take on Spielberg is inevitably more entertaining than a take on Edgar Wright.  To top it off, the teens of “Attack the Block” were just plain vulgar and unsympathetic (juvenile delinquents tend to be like that).  Not to sound like a prejudiced American, but their practically unintelligible and profane vernacular just didn’t register with me at all either.

So by all means, in case you haven’t had enough retread this summer, spend your time and money on “Attack the Block.”  It’s a redundant movie not only within its own genres, but within the season as well.  B- /