Review: ANT-MAN

A healthy combination of humour and action has meant that Ant-Man is my surprise of the summer. You should find out if it’s yours too.

Smaller than your average Marvel movie.

ANTMAN

Ant-Man is a solid film. Aside from the occasional [and sometimes ham-fisted] wider-Marvel-Cinematic-Universe nods, you could quite easily watch it in isolation and not even know it was part of said MCU.

And that’s no bad thing.

Ant-Man has a wit and, with a wink and a nod to its source material, it knows its hero is/can be predominantly perceived as rubbish too. And best of all – it has fun with it.

ANT, MAN

Paul Rudd gives a good turn as our eponymous cat-burglar-turned-mini-superhero; carrying enough pathos and drive to make you believe that he would make the mistakes he makes. I guess that’s another aspect of what makes Ant-Man a good movie: you believe that any minute the lead could get a complete pasting – call it the ‘Indiana Jones’ effect, if you will.

Corey Stoll takes a break from catching catching poorly-plotted vampires and strikes a perfectly good rent-a-villain pose and, as antagonists go, he’s not so bad. I read recently that’d be good if just sometimes superhero movies weren’t about THE WORLD IS AT STAKE! and instead focused on smaller issues. The recent Netflix take on Daredevil tackled this challenge brilliantly. Ant-Man does a similar job here. Stoll isn’t out to take-over the world per se, he just wants to be [redacted].

Michael Douglas, as Dr Hank Pym, discoverer of the Pym Particle – the particle that makes molecule size control possible, is great – in all ages.

It’s no spoiler to say that the film opens in 1989 with a flashback to Pym’s earlier days. And, rather brilliantly, the specials effects boffins have done an incredible job.

 

So casual.

EDIT: Vulture has a great piece on how they did it.

If you know how hard this is to do, you’ll understand how awesome it is to make it look effortless.

Anyway, in Ant-Man, he’s our Obi-wan Kenobi.

Evangeline Lilly on the other hand, I can’t work out if it’s poor character building in the writing phase or just lack of belief in the material – but there’s something that doesn’t land for me. Not sure why. I’ll think on it.

And finally, Michael Pēna…

MP

…the guy who steals every damn scene he is in. He just nails it.

Ant-Man is a great little heist movie and I mean it when I say it: the more I think about it, it really doesn’t feel like a Marvel movie at all. Yeah there was a bunch of stuff about the original director leaving and, in some instances (if you know Edgar Wright’s work) you can feel his presence/absence in the film. But Ant-Man is here and this movie is better than no movie at all.

And it’s genuinely good!


In closing: I wasn’t sure I would like Ant-Man that much.

To be honest, I was quite close to not going to see it at the cinema all.

But I’m really glad I was wrong.

With a healthy combination of humour and action, Ant-Man is my surprise of the summer. You should find out if it’s yours too.

PS. Stay ’til the end: there are two post-credits sequences.

Jurassic World of Brands

Jurassic World is a great film but free of product placement it is not. Laugh at it when you see it and you’ll have a fantastic time.

Saw Jurassic World.

It’s pretty good.

Funny in the right places, cheesy when it needs to be (and knows it) and with enough careful nods to the original to make it a very satisfying watch indeed.

In short: JW gets the JW seal of approval.

One thing though.

Like most blockbusters these days, there is a large amount of product placement. Everything from our hero’s drink of choice, to the sponsorship of the ‘innovation exhibit’ at the park itself. Again, the film is aware of this and even makes a joke of it during a pre-action sub-plot.

But.

THIS IS ACTUALLY A THING THAT LEGITIMATELY HAPPENS IN THE FILM:

1. Dino does Sea World
This scene (that’s been in every trailer) of an ancient dinosaur doing the Sea World thing for the park’s guests. It’s great!

Shark dino

2. Cue: big splash and soaked audience.
See? Totally doing the Sea World thing.

splash

3. Our two young leads have an awesome time!

wow

So much of a great time in fact that the elder one turns to the younger one and exclaims:

‘Wow!’
‘That was so cool!’, replies his little brother.
‘Want to see something really cool?’
‘Yeah!’

And, I KID THEE NOT, the film cuts to:

4. Introducing the Mercedes Benz GLE Coupe!

MERC SHOT

Straight up.

Not kidding.

Absolutely this is what happens.

Jurassic World is a great film but free of product placement it is not. Laugh at it when you see it and you’ll have a fantastic time.

 

 

Ps. This film is not for kids.

Review: GONE GIRL

NO. SPOILERS.

NO. SPOILERS.

gone_girl_xlg

On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne reports that his wife, Amy, has gone missing. Under pressure from the police and a growing media frenzy, Nick’s portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble. Soon his lies, deceits and strange behavior have everyone asking the same dark question: Did Nick Dunne kill his wife?

The last time I reviewed a Fincher film on this website of mine, it was the 2011 Aaron Sorkin scripted, Facebook-flick, The Social Network. Since then he’s directed [a re-make of] The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as well as a couple of episodes of [the rather fantastic] House of Cards.

GONE GIRL, the film of the book (no, I haven’t read it), is Fincher’s latest effort and boy, it is a doozy.

There are few directors that get me frothing at the mouth with every new production – Nolan, Tarantino, Aronofsky, to name but three. Fincher also sits in that list. I fell in love with his work when I saw Fight Club (mind-blowing) back in 1999.

After that I explored back through The Game (mind-f***) and Se7en (visceral) and then worked forward into Panic Room (meh) and then Zodiac (over-long, but good enough to forgive). I didn’t think Dragon Tattoo was superb. Serviceable, yes. Classic Fincher? Certainly not. Social Network was very good – and then House of Cards reminded me that I missed him in film. In short: to say I was looking forward to GONE GIRL would be an understatement.

So much so I’m just happily tweeting typos…

And I was not disappointed.

Let’s start with the cast: Ben Affleck, as husband-in-search-of-missing-wife, Nick Dunne is a masterclass on playing Mr Average.

Gone-Girl

Relationships are weird things and, in every relationship, people behave in different ways and in this, Affleck delivers (nothing about this film makes him a superhero, but the weight of the world that he carries throughout? He will indeed make a great Batman) – I like it a LOT when good actors remind you just how good they are.

Playing the disappeared-wife, whose back story is told through diary entries along the way, Rosamund Pike excels. I’ll be honest, I’ve never really taken to her much in the stuff I’ve seen her in but in this, probably her best and yet most challenging work to date, Pike is on top form. It’s not an easy journey her character goes on and, at times, it’s a tough sell. I can’t imagine anyone else nailing it as well as she does.  

Neil Patrick Harris gets third billing but it’s Carrie Coon who really should be next on the list. Playing Ben Affleck’s ever-supportive / ever-present twin sister, Margot, Coon grounds the movie with emotion and brings the audiences questions to life without verging too much into exposition. That’s not to be mean to NPH, mind. His short but impactful performance is just the right side of sinister – and that’s all you need to know.

About all of it, in fact.

Yes, Trent Reznor’s scoring of the film is outstanding. And yes, the 149 minute run time keeps you gripped from start to finish. But to say any more would be giving hints as to where the film takes you and I’m telling now, going in ‘dark’, without knowing a thing, is probably the best way to see this film. GONE GIRL is a twisting, turning tale of the darkness that occurs in relationships. The stuff you don’t see, the stuff that both deny. The stuff that all of us have seen – or at least heard of.

It’ll push you to your limits of belief and it will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. It will thrill you, make you question those around you, and it will make you feel sick.

But it does it so well.

I really did leave the cinema completely stunned by just how good it was. Writing this now, several hours later, and I’m still thinking about it. At times, it reminded me of Social Network, at others, Fight Club. The dark humour that spills through the celluloid during the film’s third act is to be enjoyed and revelled in.

GONE GIRL is a fantastically dark film.

GONE GIRL is Fincher at his best.

GONE GIRL is my film of 2014.

It might be yours too.

See it.

_______

Related post: ‘UK Cinema Release Dates for you Calendar

UK Cinema Release Dates for your GCal/iCal

Like going to the Cinema? Use Google Calendar? Then you might find this just a little bit useful.

Presenting –  ‘The COMING SOON Calendar’

coming_soon

Like going to the Cinema?
Use Google Calendar, Outlook, or iCal?
Then you might find this just a little bit useful.

Over the summer, I subscribed to a Google Calendar RSS feed that populated my diary with all the various games from the World Cup. What was great about it was that it kept itself up to date with scores, updated group matches, and even made sure the right teams were in the right spots come the finals.

Smart stuff.

I’m not really a football person (I just like the International stuff) but, as is often the case with these kinds of things, it got my cogs whirring and I set about trying to work out how it was done (it didn’t take long) and then decided I wanted to make my own version.

And I have.

But instead of football matches, what I’ve done is plotted the release dates of all the upcoming films that [I think] might be worth seeing over the coming months.

Calendar example

I write about film a fair bit on this blog of mine and I figured that if you like the kind of stuff that I see, then you might be interested in the stuff that I’m looking forward to too.

Ready?

If you want a regularly updated Google Calendar event for the decent films coming out over the coming months then…

This is what you need to do:

  1. Go to your GCAL
  2. Then go to OTHER CALENDARS
  3. Then click on the little arrow next to OTHER CALENDARS
  4. Then click ‘ADD BY URL’
  5. Copy and paste this URL
  6. Hit ‘Add Calendar’ and you’re done!

UPDATE – iCal users can use this link to get the same result – (thanks Simon)
UPDATE 2: iCal link works for Outlook too! (thanks Julian)

CAVEATS AND OTHER INFO

1. Its fallible
I’m updating it as and when I see stuff that I want to see. This means I might miss stuff and if there’s that crazy french film that you’ve been DYING to see for months and I’ve missed it out, by all means Tweet me or something and I’ll add it.

2. It’s an experiment
Consider this an open beta. I’ve given it to a couple of people already and they’re finding it quite handy. I’m still dicking about with the settings (currently all events go out with a link to either Empire or IMDb or something, this might change). I also reserve the right to end the experiment at any point.

3. Feel free to feedback
Got an idea on how to make this better? Leave a comment below, send me an email, drop me a tweet – whatever. Just let me know and if I can, I’ll fix it.

Currently the calendar runs up into January.

I’ll add more when I know/see/look forward to more.

Let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

NEW TRAILER: INTERSTELLAR

Nolan’s next project, INTERSTELLAR, is months away and the third (and final?) trailer has arrived and it is beautiful. I can’t wait for this film.

Sometimes, space is the only escapism.

INTERSTELLAR POSTER

Catch me on a particularly passionate day (hint: the ones that end in the letter ‘y’) and ask me about Christopher Nolan and I will gladly tell you that we are extremely lucky to be living in the time of his film. In years to come, his films will be regarded in the same breath as Scorcese, Spielberg, and Kubrick. Such is in influence on modern cinema; he is literally history in the making (argue with me, I dare you).

Nolan’s next project, INTERSTELLAR, is months away and the third (and final?) trailer has arrived and it is beautiful. I can’t wait for this film.

Trailer 2 is below, the third trailer can be viewed at the new website (entry code: 7201969) and it is well worth 180 seconds of your time.

“Mankind was born on Earth, it was never meant to die here.”

__

 

Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

No spoilers.

TF4

A little over a week ago (and thanks to my childlike and somewhat ridiculous public excitement – I blame the Superbowl) those super lovely people at Paramount Pictures invited me to a ‘super-fan screening’ of Transformers: Age of Extinction (TF4), at the biggest screen in Britain, the London BFI IMAX.

TF4 Superfan Invite

I’m not kidding around, when that first trailer dropped, I admit it: I was so much SUPER FAN NUMBER ONE that my excitement was palpable.

Optimus Prime. Riding a dinosaur (or Grimlock as we geeks know him). You can’t get any more balls-to-the-wall nerdgasmic than that. No siree Bob.

tf4

Now, let’s fast forward to the super-fan who has seen the film. First off, if you’d spoken to me the moment I left the cinema I probably would’ve said something like: ‘Transformers 4 is probably the most unintentionally hilarious film I’ve seen all year.’ – it’s almost tongue in cheek with its brazen audacity and the belief-suspending leaps of faith it puts before you.

Example: yes I accept we’re dealing with house-sized transforming alien robots but MARK WAHLBERG IS PLAYING AN INVENTOR. Think about that for a second.

If you go into the film capable of accepting that as a fact (or as a running joke) then you’re in for a fun ride.

Story wise, it’s not bad: four years after The Battle of Chicago (see Transformers: Dark of the Moon– well, don’t see it, just know that it happened in that film) Transformers of all kinds are hunted all over the world and have, in the main, gone into hiding. Marky Mark’s CADE YEAGER (great name), a modern day rag-and-bone man, happens to find an old truck that he wants to break up and sell for parts.

Thing is, the old truck just happens to be one Optimus Prime (rocking an awesome nod to his original 1980s form) and then, well, someone tells the Feds and everything rolls out from there.

Before we carry on, let’s get the whole MICHAEL BAY thing out of the way. In my last Five things on Friday post I linked to an 8min video of what makes a Michael Bay movie (it’s 8mins long, worth watching, and embedded below).

TF4 is no break from this style.

In fact, Bay embraces it.

TF4 is pure Bayhem.

Soft country music, US flags flowing in the wind, low shots looking up (for no reason whatsoever), slowed down battle scenes – it’s all there. In fact, TF4 it so Michael bay, it almost verges into self-parody.

This is a man that loves American sunsets so much that in the opening chase, you go from glorious daylight, to an orange dusk, to a sunset over farmland, back to daylight (racing through fields), back to sunset (this time in the city), then to daytime (escaping on what can only be an actual race track – with the action and editing such that maybe he hoped you wouldn’t notice) to sunset again but this time out on the desert plains.

Obviously all these places exist in or near Chicago (probably) but are they all within 15mins of a farmhouse? With bonus magical yo-yo sunsets to boot? I don’t think so.

Example: these two images take place within minutes of each other.

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 11.14.36 Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 11.14.49

Notice anything about the lighting?

Jesus.

It’s easy to criticise Bay. Too easy. But y’know what? The man nails bombastic action like no other and while the story may not be the best in the world, it’s better than previous efforts and jettisoning the ineffective Shia LeBeouf means what plot is there isn’t being held up by the acting equivalent of a damp cloth.

‘Yeah but, it’s just another robot smash up, but this time with dinosaurs, right?’

Well, yes (that’s the whole point) and no.

The first Transformers film was pretty good (purely because, aside from a novelty dancing robot car commercial, we’d never seen the Transformers made real before) but the following two sequels were rubbish. Terrible even. Age of Extinction breaks that mould and, contrary to the finality of its title, actually breathes new life into the franchise.

The Transformers themselves, leaving the obvious war hero tropes aside, are given at least some attempt of being different from one another, as well bit of personality to them (thank you John Goodman and Ken Watanabe). Plus, for the geeks, we get a new set of Decepticons, a couple of new kinds of Transformers (oh hey Drift, what’s that? You’re a Bugatti Veyron and a helicopter? Sweet!) and a brand new Decepticon leader.

But no more on that one…

On the character front, probably the best addition to TF4 is that of Lockdown, the gun [for-a-head] toting robot seen in nearly every bit of promotional material you would’ve seen.

This guy, standing in front of the monster space ship –

Lockdown

He’s a bounty hunter, with no affiliation to either side, and his presence not only mixes with motivations and ideologies of the characters we’ve known so far but also alludes to a larger story yet to be told.

Lockdown is a badass

Plus he’s a badass. That helps.

In closing, TF4 is Michael Bay doing his best impression of Michael Bay and it’s got robots that transform into dinosaurs and Mark Wahlberg saying things like ‘I think we found a Transformer!

It doesn’t matter what I say to you (really, it doesn’t), I doubt very much my opinion will sway you. If you’ve decided to see it, you’ll see it (see it BIG) and if you haven’t well, you know you’re not missing out.

I started off this review saying that TF4 is basically a joke but the more I think about it, the more it’s been growing on me. Put it this way: I can safely say Transformers: Age of Extinction is the best and most Transformer-y Transformers since the first one.

You’ll love to hate it or you’ll hate yourself for loving it.

In cinemas now.

ROARRRRGGHH!

Five things on Friday #80

Things of note for the week ending July 11th, 2014.

I AIN'T PLAYIN' SON

1. Village Buildings as Art
In Burkina Faso, near the bottom of a hill over looking the sun-drenched West African savannah, there’s a village where every house is its own individual work of art.

Burkina Faso

Its residents, the nobility of the Kassena people, have lived in the region since the 15th century and are one of the oldest ethnic groups in the Burkina Faso. Keeping itself fairly isolated from the outside world (the photographer negotiated for a year before being allowed to enter) the village comes with strict rules, such as ‘only the most noble family is allowed to carry an umbrella’.

I doubt it rains much there but still.

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 12.39.37

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 12.39.47

More details, as well as more photos, over on Messy Nessy Chic.

2. My Life as a Tech Evangelist
I first met Myriam Joire – aka ‘Tnkgrl – way back in September 2008, and since then she’s gone from a self-made mobile blogger, to technology news reporter at Engadget, to Tech Evangelist for the ‘original’ (and best) smartwatch, Pebble. This post, entitled ‘So what is it you do anyway?’ an,d published on Medium last Saturday, goes into the detail of what it means to be a Tech Evangelist at a start up in the one of the newest and most exciting product categories today.

Quote:

“How do you become a tech evangelist?” I get this question a lot. First, you need to be an extrovert who loves tech. You have to be comfortable talking with people — whether individually or up on stage, in front of thousands. It’s also important to have a solid understanding of the tech world and how it operates. You want be familiar with the products in your market and beyond, including the competition. Relationships are critical — start building connections with as many people in tech as possible, especially the media. Attend conferences and events, and have a strong presence online (social media, blog, etc…) Be yourself, be honest, be critical, be fair, and — most importantly — have fun!

Myriam is a great person, Pebble is a great product (trust me, I know), and this is a great post.

3. Toilet Tennis
Wimbledon came to an end last week and, as Djokovic enjoys his well-deserved championship, the New York Times has a great article about the uncertain protocol around Grand Slam toilet breaks.

Toilet break tennis

Not the most exciting of topics you might think, but brilliant reading (and trivia).

As Djokovic and the restless crowd waited, Murray stood alone in a tiny, one-toilet bathroom just off the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
.
“I stood in front of the mirror with sweat dripping down my face, and I knew I had to change what was going on inside,” he said the next spring. “So I started talking. Out loud. ‘You are not losing this match,’ I said to myself. ‘You are not losing this match.’ I started out a little tentative, but my voice got louder. ‘You are not going to let this one slip. This is your time.’
.
“At first, I felt a bit weird, but I felt something change inside me. I was surprised by my response. I knew I could win.”
.
He did not say whether he used the toilet.

Ha!

More.

4. 100 Social Media Content ‘Ideas’
This Forbes article lists off 100 different things you can do in social.

idea

Rather confidently named ‘100 Killer Ideas For Your Social Media Content‘ it is a little disingenuous in its pitch however, given that the article reels off a century of tactical things you can actually do with your social media pages, I’m willing to give it a pass.

Where it lacks in strategy (e.g.: ‘Share a Reddit topic!’), it makes up for in sheer volume.

Bookmark it for when you need to mainline some CONTENTIFICATION.

5. WOLFCOP
I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this already. I honestly thought I had but it must’ve been a dream. In short, WOLFCOP looks AMAZING. io9 is calling it ‘The best 80s film ever made in 2014‘ and, while I haven’t actually seen it yet, the trailer is a BLAST.

I’ll put it out there, I love love love werewolf flicks. I’ve seen ’em all. Twice.

Wolfcop is next on my list.

I reckon it should be on yours too.

WOLFCOP

RAAAAARGH!

—- Whatley out.

Bonuses this week: