Ant-Man

Another Marvel Comics character comes to life in Ant-Man and has apparently birthed a new movie franchise.

Paul Rudd is a pretty boy actor from rom-coms and buddy movies—not your typical action hero. Rudd plays Scott Lang, just sprung from San Quentin where he did time for burglary.

When he can’t keep a job at Baskin-Robbins because of his felon past, his friend Luis (Michael Pena) guides him to a break-in gig. It turns out to have been a setup, arranged by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). When Pym sees that Scott is crafty enough to have busted into his safe, he drafts Scott to put the technology he developed into play and become Ant-Man.

With a press of one button he becomes ant size, with the press of another, he returns to full size. Ant-Man has a mission: to derail the work being done by Pym’s successor, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Pym developed the tech that made Ant-Man work. Now Cross is working to perfect his version of that tech to deliver a similar shrinking man he calls Yellowjacket, which he promises would allow its owner to control the world.

Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) is Pym’s daughter who continues to work with Cross. As the film begins, it’s not exactly clear whose side she’s on, but it soon becomes clear that she’s daddy’s girl. Her sparring with Scott creates some low boil sexual tension.

Ant-Man takes its time getting to the real action while Scott’s family situation is examined. He’s a divorced dad who wants to see his young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). His ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her boyfriend Jim (Bobby Cannavale) want him to stay away until he becomes solvent.

When Scott begins training as Ant-Man, the fun begins. He learns to run and leap through keyholes, timing his shrink/expand buttons to allow smooth passage. The film’s climax takes place in and around the lab that produced the technology and at the home where daughter Cassie lives.

Ant-Man is a fun film, thanks to script revisions by Adam McKay and Rudd. Ant-Man is notably lighter, less serious than your typical Marvel film. A highlight is a brief encounter with another character from the Marvel universe. Ant-Man is directed by Peyton Reed.

(FYI, Should a shot or two in Ant-Man trigger a memory of the 1989 film Honey I Shrunk The Kids, take note that Ant-Man first appeared in Marvel comic books in 1962.)

The Hangover Part III

The Hangover Part III is intermittently funny. But a handful of good laughs and outrageous bits do not make up for a weak story with a less-than-stellar supporting cast.

Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Justin Bartha are the Wolfpack (Alan, Phil, Stu & Doug) whom we have come to know and like from the two previous films. Then there’s Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow, who gets way too much screen time. As with Sriracha sauce, a little bit of Chow adds flavor, but an excessive dose can be hard to swallow.

As the Wolfpack takes Alan to an asylum, the gang is detained by bad guy Marshall, played by John Goodman. Doug is held captive while the other three Wolfpackers are sent to recover the gold stolen from Marshall by Chow.

While we in St. Louis all love John Goodman, he adds little here. Same can be said for Heather Graham, Mike Epps and Jeffrey Tambor.

There is one standout among the supporting crew: Melissa McCarthy. As she did in This is 40, she provides the film’s saving grace moment. In THP3, she plays a pawnshop boss who has a beautifully acted flirtation with Alan. Her dash of Sriracha is just the right amount.

The Hangover was funny, outrageous and cleverly assembled. The Hangover Part II was more outrageous, somewhat funny, but lacking in cleverness. Part III has a “let’s just get it done and collect our paychecks” feeling. It’s not as funny as it should have been. The outrageousness seems perfunctory. And the word “clever” will never ever be used in the same sentence as The Hangover Part III, except for this one.

Why should you see this movie? You’re a big Zach Galifianakis fan. You think Mr. Chow was the funniest thing about the first two Hangovers. You have a thing for Paul Rudd. (Sorry, but Justin Bartha seems like a less smarmy Rudd clone.) You dig Melissa McCarthy and want to see her brief, but memorable, scene with Zach G. You hope The Hangover sequels will continue for years to come.

Why should you skip this movie? It’s not that funny. It’ll be on cable in January. There are better movies on other screens. It’ll make you think less of Bradley Cooper (who was so good in Silver Linings Playbook). You have four unwatched episodes of Doomsday Preppers on your DVR.

According to the THP3 trailer, “this year, it ends.” We can hope. III is definitely enough for this franchise.

This Is 40

Some really funny lines and situations, some great supporting acting performances and two attractive leads should make for a great movie. Instead, This Is 40 is more of a movie stew.

This Is 40 is like a big, bloated sitcom. An R-rated sitcom with F-bombs liberally sprinkled throughout. There’s enough going on here to provide story frameworks for at least a half-dozen sitcom episodes.

Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are Pete and Debbie. Both are about to turn 40. Their lives are filled with messy situations. Their sex life is losing sizzle. Pete’s record label is hemorrhaging cash. Debbie’s boutique has an employee stealing money. Their kids are borderline obnoxious. Their fathers load them with more baggage.

Pete and Debbie each have little secrets that they don’t share with one another, like Pete’s obsession with cupcakes and Debbie’s sneaking off to smoke. They also do not fully disclose their respective financial issues.

And Debbie lies about her age. So the climactic 40th birthday party is just Pete’s party (not a joint affair, like they’ve had in past years).

The strongest performances in This Is 40 come from Albert Brooks as Pete’s dad, John Lithgow as Debbie’s dad and Melissa McCarthy as a parent the couple has an issue with. As she did in Bridesmaids, McCarthy steals the show.

Director/writer Judd Apatow delivers a movie that runs 2 hours and fourteen minutes, a bit too long. Judicious use of the editing blade could’ve easily trimmed this into a tighter, more focused movie.

This Is 40 will make you laugh. It may portray situations like some in your own relationship. With the right personnel, This Is 40 could easily transition into a successful TV series. It has a lot of the right stuff, but just a little too much stuff to be as good as it could’ve been.

 

 

Wanderlust—*Hippie Trip*

First things first: yes, Jennifer Aniston appears topless, but it’s heavily pixilated and not a big deal at all.

Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd play a New York couple with money problems. They hit the road, happen into a commune and decide to stay a while.

Copious amounts of pot relieve the stress of being broke. But a lack of privacy and the prospect of free love with commune members are issues they must deal with.

“Wanderlust” has its funny moments. Aniston and Rudd are attractive stars with good comedic chops. Both have appeal for women and men.

But “Wanderlust” somehow feels like a movie that could’ve been made decades ago. Maybe having 70’s sitcom stars Linda “Alice” Lavin and Alan “M*A*S*H” Alda in the cast helps make it feel dated. By the way, Lavin and Alda are the strongest actors among a supporting cast that, overall, is a bit weak.

So… you like Jennifer; you like Paul. Do you go see this one at the theater this weekend or wait to rent it from Redbox this summer? I think that depends on how much you like movie house popcorn and those ginormous boxes of Raisinets.

There is no urgent reason to see this movie now. Having said that—if you want to see a movie this weekend and you like comedies, go see “Wanderlust.” You won’t have your mind blown but you’ll be amused.

“Wanderlust” is rated R for language and “graphic nudity,” among other things. For what it’s worth, the graphic nudity will not titillate; in fact, it may have the complete opposite effect.