Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ant Man and The Gallows:


Originally slated to be written and directed by Edgar Wright, Ant-Man spent a couple of years in developmental hell before finally being included in Marvel’s “Phase 2” series of films leading up to the huge Civil War storyline. Wright’s script was taken, altered to include the rest of the Marvel Universe, and placed in the hands of someone else in order to deliver another summer blockbuster for 2015. So what’s the final product like?

Honestly, it’s a fun movie.

Unfortunately, it’s a movie we’ve already seen a few too many times.

Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd as a burglar who has recently been released from prison. The film makes certain to let us know that he wasn’t just any kind of thief, but rather that he was a “Robin Hood”-esque figure, robbing from the corporate fat cats and hitting the “system” where it hurts. He wants to go straight but his messy past is making it hard for the man to find decent employment, so he eventually turns to doing what he knows best. He breaks into the wrong house and what he finds eventually leads him to the former Ant-Man, Hank Pym.

Here is where the movie is a bit more interesting in that they present Pym as the former Ant-Man, a costumed hero during the mid-80’s. Michael Douglas is fantastic as Pym, and his story is the most compelling of the sub-plots introduced to the story. He’s tortured by past mistakes and the very process of becoming Ant-Man has had an effect on his own brain chemistry. His daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), is the most logical choice for his successor to the mantle but the former hero refuses to risk her life.

I really liked the movie. It was fun, it was exciting, and there’s even a really good scene involving Rudd and another member of the Avengers that really showed some strong future chemistry between the two stars. The effects were a little saturated in CGI, but I don’t believe practical effects would have served a film where the hero’s ability is to shrink really fast and communicate with ants. Rudd is a likeable protagonist, but he’s rarely anything more than “Oh, look- it’s Paul Rudd”- it’s a role he’s comfortable in. Michael Douglas steals the film as Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly’s “Hope” is far more interesting than Rudd’s. But while I “liked” the movie, I didn’t actually “love” the movie.

In total, the movie is a solid addition to Marvel’s line-up but it’s not anywhere near the top of the mountain. Admittedly, the film suffers from the saturation of Super Hero Origin stories that currently flood the market so it’s not the fault of the film itself. The only real problem is that the film has some really interesting concepts that it just seems unwilling to explore; living up to an inherited mantle and the long term consequences of using powers that manipulate the fabric of reality. It has a lot going for it and is a fun ride, but ultimately doesn’t take many chances to break with formula.

3.5 out of 5.

The Gallows

Seventeen years ago, the local High School production of a small play entitled “The Gallows” resulted in the accidental death of its star. The event was caught on tape and the tragedy continues to haunt the school with rumors of strange noises and ghostly spooking. The school is about to produce the play once more and a small group of prototypical jocks find themselves part of the production in order to fulfill a required Elective Course to graduate. When the films chronicler finds an unlocked door to the theater, he convinces his friend and girlfriend to come with him to wreck the set at night as a prank. High jinks ensue.

This one comes on the heels of the “found footage” ghost movie craze but follows more of a “slasher film” formula to deliver the goods. The killer ghost wears a signature mask, carries a signature weapon, and has the intricate back story related to many Slashers over the past several years. It was much more my cup of tea then the other films of its ilk and just hit some real good notes for me. The camera work is far steadier than I’m used to seeing in “found footage” and the scenes use the first person perspective to fairly decent effect. What I did find interesting was that the camera was used more as a flashlight than a recording device and we got to see things move a little more steadily as a result. There are some twists in the story and the acting is fairly decent, even if the actors spend too much time demanding that people “put the damn camera down” and all of that nonsense.

3 out of 5.

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