**Cue the music!
Welcome to something never before seen on your computer screen! This is your completely, totally awesome, wonderful, gonna-wreck-your-world, undisputed, phenomenal, heck of a compendium of entertainment knowledge! Get psyched because only here will you get a glimpse of the expansive, R.T. Donlon views of Ant-Man, Southpaw, and Fantastic 4. The summer of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Jake Gyllenhaal!
So here's the real question: Where do we start?
If you're not an epic superhero nerd like me, then this might look like Marvel has lost its marbles. It's one thing to promote Iron Man or Captain America - everybody knows those guys - but a guy who can shrink to the size of ants and control them? Yeah right. But the truth is, there is some epic interplay going on behind the scenes with the characters here and, once you see the film, you'll understand why.
In Marvel comics, there are four characters who take on the identity of Ant Man. The first, Hank Pym, is the original scientist who developed the "Pym Particle", which is the genus of Ant Man's abilities. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a thief recruited by Pym years after his own dealings with the suit in order to carry on the superhero's legacy. This is where the story takes place.
When the story of Avengers: Age of Ultron was released, Joss Whedon took a lot of heat because Hank Pym was not supposed to make an appearance in the film. A lot of superhero fanatics criticized Whedon's loyalty to the comics because Pym is the actual creator of Ultron, not Tony Stark, who we now know is the creator in the film. I'm never opposed to directors taking liberties when attempting to make a film better, but this caught me a little off-guard at first.
So we've had two scientists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for some time now - Tony Stark and Bruce Banner - but with Hank Pym now in the fold and (spoiler!!!) Bruce Banner out of the equation, Hank Pym has the opportunity to come in and steal the show as Tony Stark's equal intellectually. As much as Bruce quietly matches the billionaire, playboy philanthropist, he really didn't. But Hank's a different story. Even in the opening scene of Ant Man, when Hank busts into, what seems to be, a private S.H.I.E.L.D. meeting, Howard Stark confirms that Hank is an equal or, perhaps even smarter than him, with this quote: "I've known Hank Pym a long time. He's no security risk...unless we make him one."
At first, I was super nervous that this would be the start of Marvel's decline. Once you've hit the top of the mountain...you know, played all your cards...there comes a time when moving on becomes a viable option. The Avengers, especially Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, seemed like a culmination. Now we know AOU was obviously a bridge movie, but with aging characters and actor/actress contracts ready to expire, it only seems logical to start thinking about the future. Apparently the future for the MCU is to flood the cinematic gates with as many superheroes as possible in Phase III - hence Captain America : Civil War.
And guess what side I'm guessing Ant Man leans toward? Judging by the appearance of Falcon during the film, Captain America's post-credit scene plopped nicely at the end, and Hank Pym's undeniable ability to rival Tony Stark, I think Scott Lang will join forces with the First Avenger himself and take on Iron Man's crew.
Overall Rating: B+ = A great movie all-in-all. The quirky humor we expect from Marvel plays into the plot of this undersized superhero and Paul Rudd does a fantastic job with the part of Scott Lang. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly shine, as well. I could have done without the likes of T.I., though. Star Power does not always equate to ticket sales. This is definitely a must see!
I cannot tell you how excited I was to see this movie and - Good Lord! - Jake Gyllenhaal did NOT disappoint! If you haven't read my commentary on Gyllenhaal's part in Nightcrawler, go do it before moving forward because I guarantee you it'll blow your mind. Gyllenhaal is a monster actor of our generation, potentially even one of the greatest unsung actors of all time. His role in this movie just proves that his legacy in the film business will continue for years to come.
Think of Southpaw as a Rocky film with some clear differences. As the Rocky series attempts to show Rocky as a fighter above all else, Southpaw does the exact opposite. It shows a fighter who is swimming through an identity he never really knew he had. The fighting becomes a caveat for who he really is and, that alone, is something that should really make the writers of this story proud. Sprinkle in a little Rachel McAdams and you've got a pairing for the ages, folks. Guaranteed you'll shed some tears somewhere in this movie. I came very, very close a few times and I'm not one to wear my heart on my sleeve in a movie theater.
Southpaw is one of those movies that exhausts its audience. I'm not sure if I'd watch it over and over again like I would a superhero movie or a comedy, but the drama here is exceptional and definitely worth a watch or two in the theater and at home.
Overall Rating: B+ = A strong casting here, no doubt, but there were some slow, developmental scenes that just didn't catch me. The producers should have cut a few of those scenes out. A father-daughter story that has me near tears is worth the watch. Absolutely!
Well, where do I start with this one? Not every movie can be a blockbuster hit. Marvel dive-bombed here with a very weak showing, especially because they usually hit the bullseye again and again with their other movies in the MCU. Josh Trank, Fantastic 4's director, spoke out recently that he had better plans and hopes for the movie, but the production company hacked it up. He was right about one thing - whoever meddled with the storyline really forced it to unravel midway through. You're right, Trank, it was bad. But whether it was Trank or someone else in the production company, I don't care. What I do care about is the value of the film itself - its qualities - but obviously, this one was lacking all of it.
Doom is one of my favorite villains of all time and, yet, he is never portrayed as the true villain he becomes. There's always this "woe is me" mentality when it comes to Victor, but that was never the way it was supposed to come across. The alien energy consumes him, blinds him from his humanity, and forces him to do terrible things. He's a character that relishes in the raw feelings of danger and fear. After you've watched the film, come back and tell me if my description matches that of Trank's Doom. Don't think so... This reboot, however, is the closest of the two productions, but when you have roughly 10 minutes of a climactic "battle" scene with Doom hovering on a floating piece of rock, you're simply not doing him justice. The whole "I'm going to destroy the world using a black hole" just isn't great. It's just not.
And then there's Ben Grimm. He's transformed into the Thing, abandoned by Reid Richards, used by the U.S. government for an entire year, and conveniently decides that bygones are bygones at the movie's end. Really? You couldn't find a way to tie these loose ends together like every other piece of media on the face of the planet? Seriously, I've always liked the conflict of Ben Grimm's character in the comics. He's always on the edge of blowing shit up and finding justice, so when I saw this version of Grimm, I was sorely disappointed - not because of the actor himself - but because of the character's lack of depth.
Overall Rating: C- = The only saving grace of Fantastic Four are the great special effects, the cinematography and visual appeal of Doom's unraveling in the next dimension, and Michael B. Jordan as the Human Torch. Everything else is pretty much trash. Focus on the story, not trying to one-up the other MCU movies with visuals. AND WHY AREN'T THERE ANY POST-CREDIT SCENES? Pshh. Not enough.
Until next time!