Tag Archives: michael douglas

Ant-Man – Review

26 Jul

Every years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe just keeps getting bigger and bigger, which I guess meant that the next hero had to be the smallest one of them all. Before watching this movie, I really had no prior experience with the characters of Hank Pym, Scott Lang, or Ant-Man. Just a few minor detail and notes were all I had to go on, so I didn’t really know what to expect, and I was actually a little bit nervous about the whole thing. Luckily, Ant-Man is a welcome addition into the MCU, and aside from a few minor complaints, this is one of the most fun films of the franchise that dons the same kind of feel that Guardians of the Galaxy did.

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After being released from prison, professional thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is working hard to find a job in order to pay child support for his daughter so that he can finally spend time with her again. He is finally backed into a corner and decides to take a job given to him by his friend Luis (Michael Peña), which involves breaking into a house to rob a mysterious vault. Turns out that this job was actually set up by former S.H.I.E.L.D agent and scientist Hank Pym (Micahel Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). They explain to Scott that they need him to don a special suit and become Ant-Man in order to break into Pym’s old research facilities and steal a prototype for a Yellowjacket suit that will be used by the villainous Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) to wage world wars. Of course, it’s never as easy as it seems with job culminating in a fight to the death between Ant-Man and Yellowjacket.

Just a few months ago I was writing my review for Avengers: Age of Ultron, which is probably the most epic film in this franchise thus far. So, we’re going from that to Ant-Man, which is (no pun intended) a lot smaller. Luckily, the creative talent behind this movie was more than capable for making up for all that. This is a Marvel movie the likes I’ve never seen before. It’s a lot more than just a good guy against a bad guy. In fact, I would argue that that isn’t even the main focus of the movie. The main focus is actually the planning and execution of the heist to secure the Yellowjacket suit. The bottom line is that this is a heist movie starring a superhero. How cool is that?

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Like with Guardians of the Galaxy and both of The Avengers movies, the writing in Ant-Man is really sharp and quick. I credit a lot of this to the original screenwriter and director Edgar Wright, but I can’t discount the rewrites done by Adam McKay and Paul Rudd. All of these guys have shown their talent for both comedy and drama, and all of that comes together in a nice clean package here. This film is both funny and often dramatic, but never overwhelming in either of these departments. There’s a healthy balance between the two ends of the spectrum, and between those two ends is a lot of really great and inventive action. The character of Ant-Man may seem a little silly, but seeing him in action, wether he’s riding on ants or shrinking down to utilize his super strength, is just a joy to behold.

I just want to take a moment to address some of the not so great parts of this movie, because unfortunately there are some. For example, Darren Cross isn’t exactly a great villain. They just sort of explain that his brain has been poisoned by the formula that can make the suits shrink, but they don’t actually dive into that and examine him as a character. All you need to know is he’s bad and Scott Lang is good. That’s kind of disappointing. Also, there gets to be a point in the movie where things just start to happen so the story can keep progressing. I get that that may have been done to make sure the movie didn’t get overly long, but it also just felt kinda weak at the same time. These are, thankfully, pretty minor complaints overall.

So in a world where superhero movies have flooded theaters all over the world, I’m happy to say that Ant-Man is a more than welcome addition. It’s filled with humor, action, nice drama, and all of the references you would come to expect watching a movie that’s part of the MCU. Not only is it a great stand alone film, it also makes me really excited about what’s to come. Don’t miss out on this one.

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The Game – Review

30 Sep

I’m probably not alone in thinking that David Fincher is one of the best directors working in Hollywood right now. If you take a look at his filmography, there doesn’t seem to be a genre that he can’t tackle. His second film (after the entirely mediocre Alien 3), the superb horror/mystery Seven, scared that crap out of audiences, but also kept them guessing up until the very end. His other films like Fight ClubThe Social Network, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo were each a part of a different genre, but were all exceptional character studies. Of course, these are just a few noteworthy examples, which were also quite clear in his third effort, The Game. While it doesn’t quite pack the punch that Seven did, it is still a very fine example of work as a thriller and also provides an excellent mind game for the viewer.

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Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is an investment banker who can’t seem to get a grasp on his life despite his wealth. His wife has divorced him, his brother is estranged, and his house only serves to remind him of just how lonely and empty he is. When his estranged brother, Conrad (Sean Penn), shows up for his birthday, he gives Nicholas a business card as a gift for Consumer Recreation Services, which he claims will change his life. Nicholas decides to give it a try and meets with an associate of CRS (James Rebhorn), who gets him all set up and explains that it’s all just a game. As Nicholas’ game starts, he finds that his life and all of the work that was put into starts to crumble all around him with no explanation or conceivable reason. The only clues he may have lie with a mysterious woman, Christine (Deborah Kara Unger), who may or may not be involved with what’s going on with Nicholas.

A movie with a plot like that leaves a lot of room for some crazy stuff to happen, and believe you me, crazy stuff happens for a good majority of the movie. At first, I felt a little disappointed, because everything that was happening just seemed like another obstacle for Nicholas to get over, and what I was expecting was a movie that was going to toy with my mind and expectations. If only I had a little patience. What I mistook for a wasted opportunity was actually just excellent pacing. The movie starts off a little slow and progressively gets stranger and stranger until I finally felt like I was all wrapped up in this unbelievable game along with Nicholas.

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What actually got me curious about this movie was that I heard how twist turny and mind boggling it is. I love movies like that; the ones that are in the same vein as Donnie Darko and PrimerThe Game is now going to be my new go to example for a movie that takes your brain and shakes it around so much that it leaves you feeling tired by the very end. There have been times where I go into a movie expecting that, and by the end I’m disappointed that it really didn’t make me think out the puzzle all that much. Trying to solve the mystery of a movie like The Game is a large part of the fun. This one did not disappoint. Fincher and screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris lay this movie out in such a way that I at first though I knew what was going on, but as the movie progressed I was left wondering if anything that was going on was real or just part of the game, which is exactly what Michael Douglas’ character was going through. Now that’s clever film making.

Something that seems to bother people about this movie, and rightfully so, is just how ludicrous it is. I’m not the kind of person who gets too upset over a movie that seems completely implausible, because it is a movie after all, but there are some limits. The Game had its moments where I would think to myself that it would be highly, highly unlikely for something like that to happen. A counter argument would be that CRS is just so exact with their work that they would make it happen, especially given all of the tests they give to Nicholas when he starts up the game. Still, it would still be a really difficult task that kind of pushes the limits of what is acceptable with suspending disbelief. The movie is saved though by how believable Douglas plays everything and how twisted the movie can get.

As a mind boggling thriller, David Fincher’s The Game is a prime example of the genre and has gone on to become a cult classic. It would be very easy to pick this movie apart and find all of the flaws, but that would ruin the fun of the story. A story that left me scratching my head and on the edge of my seat until the very end. If you’re able to suspend your disbelief and enjoy movies that challenge you to think, and think quickly, then I can easily recommend The Game. Just be prepared for a wild ride.

Haywire – Review

23 Aug

There’s a lot of things about Haywire that made me really excited. For one thing, Steven Soderbergh is one of my favorite directors and seeing him tackle an espionage action/thriller film would be awesome. Secondly, the cast looked out of this world awesome, with the lead  character being an MMA fighter. And finally, I heard nothing but great things about the action sequences. I felt concerned right before the film started that I would be disappointed with it, and disappointment with this movie would be a big letdown.

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Mallory (Gina Carano) is the top employee of a company, led by Kenneth (Ewan McGregor), which gets hired out by different corporations to get certain jobs done. This time, the contractor is American government official Coblenz (Michael Douglas) and his Spanish contact, Rodrigo (Antonio Bandaras).  The mission goes well but she is soon betrayed by another agent, Paul (Michael Fassbender), which starts her on a mission of vengeance that will rope in her father (Bill Paxton) and a close employee (Channing Tatum).

It’s difficult to summarize this movie because there are so many twists and turns packed into a 90 minute movie. What I gave is pretty skeletal, but I certainly don’t want to ruin the movie, especially one that is as entertaining as this! Steven Soderbergh does it again, and this time he takes the spy genre and throws his own unique vision over it all. The only thing that really wears the film down is its plot. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it seemed to just take a back seat to everything else. It’s a simple story with a lot of complex twists and characters. In that sense it became more about the action and the characters more than the story, which is fine, but it’s sort of weird for this genre of film.

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This cast is way too big to ignore. Gina Carano, who is known for being an MMA fighter, does fine but can come off as a little flat sometimes. More on her later though. Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, and Antonio Bandaras are adequately sleazy and easy to distrust right off the bat. I really liked Michael Douglas’ performance as the government official who is working for himself, pretty much. I still don’t know what he’s all about and Douglas played it perfectly. Bill Paxton was fine, nothing too special, but fine nonetheless. Now we come to Channing Tatum. Ok, I see why people don’t like him, but I stand by a statement I previously made in another review. If you put him with the right director and/or give him the right role, he acts very well. This is one of those times, and Soderbergh also seems to agree, casting him in Magic Mike and Side Effects as well.

Now this is the part I really want to talk about. The action sequences. You know how cool the fight sequences are in The Bourne Identity and its sequels? Well, picture those scenes, with a camera that is far from the action, and completely still. Those are the fight scenes in Haywire. This is where Carano shines the most. Using her skills as an MMA fighter, the interesting camera placement by Soderbergh, and the lack of any music, these fight scenes are really something to behold. You can see every punch, kick, or defensive maneuver that a character does, and the sounds of grunts, hits, and broken bones only help to immerse you in what is happening.

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Haywire is definitely a great way to spend 90 minutes of your time. With Soderbergh’s attention to style, the action sequences, and the all star cast, Haywire is a surprisingly memorable movie. There are plenty of ways to mess up an espionage film, but this one borrows from the ’60s and reinvents itself into something new. I recommend Haywire to everyone. It’s awesome.