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ANT-MAN (2015)

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Not being a fan of the character or being at all familiar with him, I had low expectations for what sounded like a silly superhero movie but, was pleasantly surprised by Ant-Man for a number of reasons, though it’s not perfect.

The story finds thief with a heart of gold, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) getting out of prison only to be convinced to take on another heist when his Baskin Robbins job doesn’t work out. Instead of the assumed money and jewels, he finds a strange suit in the safe he robs. Scott soon discovers two things, one…the suit is capable of shrinking him to an insect level size (while retaining his human strength) and two…the suit belongs to a Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) who has set Scott up because, he needs his help. Hank Pym is a former super hero named Ant-Man. He has kept his suit and the formula that works it, secret for decades. His arch rival/former protégée Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is close to unveiling a suit of his own and he has far less noble plans for it. Hank and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) want Scott to don the Ant-Man suit and use his skills to break into Pym Technologies’ high security research facility to steal Cross’ Yellow Jacket suit and destroy all the research that created it.

As directed by Peyton Reed, from a script by four writers, including former director Edgar Wright, this is a fun movie and also, one with a far smaller scale than the last few Marvel epics. Sure, the fate of the world is still hanging in the balance, to a degree, but, the film concentrates on a more intimate heist scenario and focuses primarily on the preparations for it by it’s three main characters. This gives the film an almost separate feel from the other Marvel universe films, if not for the mentions and cameos by some other characters. It also gives it more time to focus on the main characters more and makes it a bit more accessible to a degree. Rudd makes a surprisingly good, reluctant hero and there is also a lot more humor than the last few flicks and, for the most part, it is not broad or intrusive. There is plenty of action and the film really moves when that action occurs and it is executed with the usual top notch special FX. If anything holds the film back a little is that the different tone takes a bit of getting used to and the film does take a little while to really get going. The pace is a bit more moderate than we are used to in the MCU and even with appearances and mentions, it never truly clicks as one of the Marvel universe movies. Rudd’s Lang doesn’t quite seem like he’d fit in with the rest of the heroes, despite his entertaining tussle with one of the Avengers…but, that might add some needed diversity. The villain is, again, a stereotypical greedy corporate douche and is on par with Thor: The Dark World’s Malekith. He’s serviceable but, never really impresses. Also, Lang’s partners in crime (Michael Peña, Tip Harris, David Dastmalchian) are a source for a lot of the humor in the film and while it works most of the time, sometimes the schtick gets a little much, especially when they get involved in the main story. Finally, while it worked, there is a very cliché sub-plot with down-on-his luck Lang being divorced and not allowed to see his little girl, Cassie (Abby Ryder) and his ex-wife (Judy Greer) now married to a jerk cop (Bobby Cannavale) who has it out for Lang. All the tropes of such a tired sub-plot are played out as expected…though well enough to still be effective.

We do have a good cast here, too. I am a huge fan of Douglas so, it was great to see him onscreen again with an important role and like Robert Redford in Winter Soldier, it adds a little extra dignity to the proceedings. He’s a veteran actor and very good in the part. Rudd gets to do something interesting with his usual smarmy, smart-ass persona and he makes for a different edition to the Marvel universe. He’s more down to earth than most characters and he was charming, fun and even a bit sympathetic as the dad who wants to do right by his little girl. Lilly is sexy and feisty, which seems to be the requirement to be a Marvel female character but, she does it well and there is indication we may see more of her. She and Rudd and Douglas all work very well together, too. As said, Stoll makes an adequate villain and gives it his all, but, he’s just not that impressive. It’s a problem a lot of these Marvel flicks have had, some mediocre villains for our heroes to face. The likable Michael Peña steals a few scenes as Luis but, his schtick does get a bit overplayed, at points, as does Harris and Dastmalchian. Rounding out, Greer is fine as Lang’s ex-wife, Ryder is adorable as his daughter and Cannavale is a stereotypical jerk-at-first, who comes to like Scott once getting to know him…again very cliché.

Overall, I did like Ant-Man and had a good time. It’s not as strong as the best of the Marvel flicks though, far much better than the borderline mess that was Iron Man 3. It’s a smaller scaled and more moderately paced film which works for and against it, but, does have a good cast. Rudd’s Ant-Man is a bit different than his soon-to-be fellow Avengers and that’s a good thing and he made a solid hero. I recommend it for a good time. It’s refreshingly lighter than Age Of Ultron and Winter Soldier and while it has flaws, it’s still engaging and fun. Remember to stay for the whole show, as there is both a mid-credits scene and an end credits scene…that one is especially interesting.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 ants.

ant-man rating




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Yes, it’s true I have covered both these films before but, with Thor: The Dark World recently being released on home media, I decided to revisit it and the first film together. They actually make a really cool double feature with each film bringing it’s own style thanks to two different directors yet, they still blend very well together with their mix of fantasy and real world adventure. It is also interesting to see Thor as we first saw him, the arrogant hot-head, in contrast to the more noble and humble warrior he has progressed into over the course of the first film and The Avengers. That and his relationship with Jane Foster is resumed as well. A really entertaining night of popcorn entertainment with a little extra courtesy of two contrasting yet equally talented directors.

THOR (2011)

I’m not that familiar with the Marvel comics version of Thor, so, I have to take the movie at face value and as such, Thor is a lot of fun. The film takes place both on Earth and in Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) home realm of Asgard and Kenneth Branagh does a nice job of switching back and forth between both worlds and keeping the tone even and the narrative flow fairly smooth (more on that later). The film fits in very nicely with the world created in the Iron Man films and yet has it’s own style and flavor as it tells the story of arrogant Prince Thor and his path from banished and disgraced warrior to hero of both Earth and Asgard. The cast works really well together and in filling their roles. Hemsworth brings a nobility to Thor, as well as, keeps him charming during his arrogant beginings and then makes believable his humble awakening during the course of the film. Natalie Portman is energetic as the pretty scientist and love interest, Jane Foster and she and Hemsworth have a nice screen chemistry together that actually gave their growing relatrionship a realistic touch despite the fantasy story elements. Tom Hiddleston makes a good villain as the devious Loki, Thor’s brother and Anthony Hopkins is a regal and strong Odin. Kat Dennings is cute as Portman’s sidekick, Darcy and her antics are just enough to provide humor without being annoying and Stellan Skarsgard is fine as a fellow scientist, Dr. Selvig who grew up with norse mythology and provides some exposition for those not in the know. And I would be remiss in not mentioning Rene Russo as Thor’s mom. There is plenty of action and the SPFX are top notch especially in the portrayal of the mystical Asgard which is beautifully designed and realized. Thor’s flying was the hardest thing to pull off and they smartly keep it to a minimum and it works withing the context of the scenes. My only gripes are minor. The middle of the film slows down for about 20 minutes… though it does give the opportunity for some nice character interaction… but, soon picks up as the film heads toward it action filled last act. The earth sequences don’t quite flow as smoothly as the Asgard sequences leaving me to believe there was some editing to get the fim under 2 hrs but, it is not jarring. And, finally, the set of the New Mexican town just doesn’t quite look like a real town, it’s layout does make it look like a set, well built, but still a set. But these problems are small and don’t ruin what is an overall very fun and entertaining movie that has some nice fairy tale touches as well as plenty of action. Stay through the credits as usual with these films.

A solid 3 and 1/2 hammers!

Thor rating




Thor was one of my favorites of the Marvel Phase 1 movies. I loved it’s fun mix of fantasy and real world adventure and thought Hemsworth made a noble and very likable hero. And now the Norse God turned superhero is back in his second solo adventure and a welcome return it is. Thor: The Dark World opens 5000 years earlier with an alignment of the planets being taken advantage of by the Dark Elves and their leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) to unleash a weapon called The Aether which will convert all the worlds into dark matter where only the Dark Elves may exist. Thor’s grandfather Bor (Tony Curran) defeats the invaders and they are assumed destroyed and The Aether is hidden away never to be found… or so Bor hoped. But, in the present, the worlds are aligning again and the long dormant Malekith and the remaining Dark Elves seek to destroy all once more and, as fate would have it, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) stumbles upon the hidden weapon and it is absorbed within her. Now hunted by Malekith, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) brings Jane to Asgard against Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) wishes and must somehow find a way to stop Malekith, banish The Aether and save the woman he loves and all the known worlds… and the only one who can help him is his devious stepbrother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) imprisoned in Asgard’s dungeons by Thor’s own hand. This second solo adventure is this time directed by Game Of Thrones and Deadwood director Alan Taylor who creates a much grittier and down to Earth version of Asgard then the bright and magic kingdom-ish version we saw in the delightful first feature directed by Kenneth Branagh. It’s still recognizable as Asgard and it blends perfectly with the first Thor but, we get to see far deeper into the city and into it’s halls and pubs and get a more lived in and functional look at Thor’s homeland. The tone of the film is also darker at times and that was a nice change from the upbeat first film and Avengers but, so not to get too dark or grim, the film is punctuated with a lot of fun and humorous sequences especially those involving Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), the latter’s trip to Stonehenge being especially hilarious. I thought the humor and the darker story elements were blended just fine and there was plenty of action and strong drama throughout till the big free-for-all ending set in London where Thor and Malekith finally get to throw down. And the action and special effects do not disappoint, they are top notch as with all the previous Marvel films. The budget is onscreen in all aspects of the production from sets to costumes to FX. Taylor gets good work from all the cast. There are some nice character moments in between the drama and destruction and all the actors are now very comfortable in their roles and work very well together. Hemsworth is once again a noble hero who has grown since his first visit and the battle in New York. He and Portman still have a nice chemistry together and I liked their scenes especially when Thor has to explain where he’s been for two years. Dennings gets a bit more screen time and handles it well getting some of the bigger laughs and Hiddleston is once again scene stealing as Loki. It was also nice to see Rene Russo finally get a big scene and have a bit bigger part this time and Hopkins is still endearing as the weary but, majestic Odin. We also get some nice scenes with supporting characters Heimdall (Idris Elba), Sith (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (now Zachary Levi) and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) but, those expecting expanded roles from this bunch will be disappointed. Newcomer to Thor’s world Christopher Ecceleston, is OK as villain Malekith but, he really doesn’t make a strong impression or stay with you after the film is over. To me his somewhat tepid villain is the film’s only real stand out weak point and a stronger villain or more screen time to really establish Malekith as a threat would have made this flick even better. Taylor’s interpretation of Don Payne and Robert Rodat’s script is highlighted by a moody score from Brian Tyler and some nice cinematography by Kramer Morgenthau. Overall, Thor: The Dark World is a very entertaining follow-up that gives us enough of the action, drama and suspense we are looking for and takes it in enough of a different direction to keep it fresh but, not straying too far as to alienate us. It’s not perfect, as stated the villain could have been stronger, there are a few slow spots here and there, especially in the first half and we can tell there was a bit of editing to manage the running time but, for all the entertainment we get, those minor flaws can be overlooked. A fun and worthy sequel to both Thor and The Avengers and certainly less schizophrenic then the mixed bag that was Iron Man 3As with all Marvel films stay through the entire credits for not one but, two additional sequences and keep an eye out for a couple of really fun cameos. Another solid bit of entertainment from Marvel and Disney.

3 and 1/2 hammers!

thor TDW rating