Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Erin Paul to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” the Christopher Plummer road trip “Boundaries,” the family drama “Leave No Trace” and the love letter to one of Manhattan’s most famous hotels, “Always at the Carlyle.”
A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the latest Marvel superhero flick “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” the Christopher Plummer road trip “Boundaries” and the glitz documentary “Always at the Carlyle.”
“Do you guys put the word quantum in front of everything?”
That’s the question Paul Rudd, playing Scott Lang / Ant-Man, asks in the new Marvel movie “Ant-Man and The Wasp.” Having seen the film I wonder why he didn’t speak up earlier, like when the screenwriters were scribbling about quantum physics, quantum realm, quantum void, quantum this and quantum that. These movies are supposed to be about a smart alecy guy who can shrink himself down to the size of an ant to solve crimes, not the Heisenberg principle.
The movie begins as Lang has just three days left on his house arrest following the events of “Captain America: Civil War.” Trapped in his apartment he has a strange dream. He sees Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), wife of scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), mother of Lilly van Dyne a.k.a. Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), trapped in the quantum wormhole she disappeared into three decades before. Meanwhile Hank and Lilly are perfecting a method to rescue their loved one from the quantum hike she now calls home. Trouble is, they can’t do it alone. They need any information that may be trapped in Rudd’s head and money from a grubby bad guy. Time is of the essence as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a spectral presence who can walk through walls, also seeks out Janet’s quantum power to heal her cellular disorder.
From the kitschy sounding title to the size-shifting characters to the scientific mumbo jumbo that takes up much of the screen time, “Ant-Man and The Wasp” is a throwback to drive-in movies of the 1950s. It’s been updated with better special effects and more authentic sounding science jargon, but make no mistake, for better and for worse, this has just as much in common with flickers like “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” and “Them!” as it does with the Avengers. Like the 50s b-movies that were undoubtedly an influence, this is a loud-n-proud genre film but like many of the Avengers films that are part of the Ant-Man family, it is marred by excess. Too many characters, too many story shards—a rescue mission, two sets of baddies chasing down the quantum technology, a romantic subplot, a family film angle—too much exposition to much quantum theory.
There is a funny scene about an hour into the movie where Michael Peña, playing Lang’s former cellmate and current business partner, recaps the story so far. It takes two minutes, is laugh-out-loud funny and completely negates the need for much of the exposition—people in this movie love to ask things like, “What have you done?”—that comes before it. Move that to the beginning of the film and they could have saved pages of dialogue and juiced up the film’s fun factor by at least fifty percent.
“Ant-Man and The Wasp” does plough some new ground—it is the first time a female superhero’s name is in the title of an MCU film—but feels scattershot in its execution.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show guest host Ken Connors to talk about the small scale superheroes “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” the Christopher Plummer road trip “Boundaries,” the father and daughter drama “Leave No Trace” and the love letter to one of Manhattan’s great hotels, “Always at the Carlyle.”
The summer movie season began amid doom and gloom. I don’t mean George Miller’s filling screens with his dystopian vision of the future in Mad Max: Fury Road or the career ending fallout from the Sony hack. No, I mean the sky-is-falling predictions that circulated about the movie business.
Box office is down! No one goes to the movies anymore! And best of all: Movies are dead!
To paraphrase Mark Twain, I’m happy to say the reports of the death of cinema have been greatly exaggerated. The summer box office of 2015 will go down in the record books as the second-biggest in history with almost seven billion dollars generated by Minions, Ant-Man, Mad Max, dinosaurs and a sad little girl named Riley.
Superheroes helped put bums in seats, but 2015 won’t be remembered as the Year of Ultron. Now that the summer silly season is over, a definite trend toward female-driven movies like Trainwreck, Pitch Perfect 2 and Spy showed that, as Amy Schumer told me, Hollywood has finally realized “our money works, too. Our banks also accept the female dollar.”
But it wasn’t just women going to the movies. With Jurassic World pulling in 1.6 billion samolians worldwide, it seems everyone put down the remote and went to the cinema.
We didn’t rush out to everything — cash grabs like Ted 2 and Terminator: Genisys flopped — but the naysayers, the folks who, in January, were declaring movies to be a thing of the past, an old outmoded form of entertainment in the digital age, missed the point.
People flocked to the movies in huge numbers this summer, filling seats and studio bank accounts, not simply to sit in air conditioning for a few hours as relief from the summer heat or to dine out on popcorn and Twizzlers, but to engage in an age-old ritual.
Of course, you can watch movies at home or on your phone. New technology has made it easier than ever to enjoy a film from the comfort of your coach on a 60-inch screen with surround sound and healthy, homemade snacks, but no matter what set-up you may have in your living room, the thing missing is the ancient practice of sharing entertainment with a large group of strangers. It’s a primal thing, hard-wired into our DNA, that dates back to when tribes of cave dwellers would sit around fires and tell stories through to the Globe Theatre, vaudeville, the talkies and right up to today’s IMAX and AUX screenings.
People have gathered to be entertained since there were tales to be told because there is no better way to enjoy the storytelling experience than surrounded by strangers who are laughing, crying, gasping— whatever — in response to a shared event.
No matter how large your TV or comfortable your sofa, home viewing misses the magical element of community. In the theatre you’re getting the sound and the picture the director intended, but more than that the experience brings people together, inspires conversation, respect and triggers actual physical interaction with others. Try that as you stream a movie on your iPhone.
Of course, as in any other community there are a few troublemakers — texters, seat kickers — but I spend more time in theatres than most and find the pros far outweigh any negatives.
In the era of home entertainment the idea of going to the movies may sound old fashioned or quaint but I like the way English novelist Angela Carter described watching a film in a theatre. She called it “dreaming the same dream in unison” and that, for me will never go out of style.
“If you had told the ten-year-old me that I would be doing what I’m doing now my head would have exploded,” says Peyton Reed, director of the latest Marvel superhero movie Ant-Man.
The director, best known for making comedies like Yes Man and The Break Up, says he grew up obsessed with comics and movies.
“I read comics and got a Super 8 film camera when I was thirteen and started shooting film from a young age. My after school life was divided up between my jobs. I had a paper route and I mowed lawns to make money to buy comic books and buy Super 8 film to shoot movies.”
Marvel comics played a major part in his comic book consumption.
“The thing I loved about Marvel was Stan Lee’s storytelling techniques and his editorial attitude. Those Marvel comics had a clear sensibility. They were really of the moment and had this attitude that was equal parts cocky and self-effacing. I loved it. They created these heroes who all had real world problems. Spider-Man was Spider-Man, but he could never get the girl in high school and he had to figure out how to make enough money to pay his rent.
“I actually told Stan Lee this when he did his cameo in our movie. I said I grew up reading the comics and my mom was an English teacher and I became an English major and I learned so many vocabulary words form Marvel comics. He wrote in this very flowery style. If someone was disappearing into the microverse he’d write, ‘Slowly and inexorably he disappeared into the ether.’ I’d run to the dictionary. What does inexorably mean? What is ether? It was hugely educational for me.”
Reed admits his small-but-mighty superhero, Ant-Man, played by Paul Rudd, has “really absurd powers.” His ability to shrink and control ants don’t seem as impressive as Thor’s Hammer or Hulk’s rage but, Reed says, “there is an inherent comedic component to the idea of Ant-Man which we also really embraced.
“I think one of the biggest things that helped was having Paul Rudd at the center of it because Paul manages to do something in this movie that I think is really interesting. He really does relate to these weird situations in the same way you or I would. He definitely acknowledges the absurdity of the situation but then goes ahead and fully commits to that situation.”
At the end of the year don’t be surprised to see ”Ant-Man,” the latest Marvel superhero franchise starter, take the top spot on the Canadian Entomologist Magazine’s Top Films of the Year but numbers 2 through 10 as well. It not only features a man who can shrink to the size of an insect, but a supporting cast featuring colony after colony of ants. Bugheads are going to love it, and I suspect, so will fans of the Marvel Universe.
The origin story of “Ant-Man” begins with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). He’s not a mad scientist, but he’s certainly angry. At the height of the Cold War his creation, the Pym Particle, was a breakthrough but he refused to allow its miniaturization properties to be used as a weapon. “As long as I am alive,” he says, “nobody will ever get the formula!”
Cut to present day. Pym’s Particle is still a secret from everyone, including his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and former protégé Darren Cross (“The Strain’s” Corey Stoll). Cross is now in charge of Pym’s company and has worked to develop the technology with an eye toward selling it to the highest bidder, a.k.a., HYDRA.
In the hopes of stopping Cross, Pym and his daughter recruit cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to don the incredible shrinking ant suit and use his particular set of skills to break into Cross’s laboratory and destroy the miniaturization technology. If he is successful he can save the world, if he isn’t, he will be crushed like a bug underfoot.
Surely the silliest, and most definitely the smallest of all Marvel superheroes “Ant-Man” nonetheless has the same sort of swagger as the first “Iron Man” movie. It’s an origin story that uses humour to smooth over some of the rough bits of exposition. For instance, it’s self aware enough to follow a revelation of Pym’s complicated plan with a throwaway line from Rudd. “That sounds like a job for the Avengers.” It gets a laugh and stops the film from taking itself far too seriously.
As Lang Rudd has the same off-the-cuff charm that Downey brought to Tony Stark and the movie is the better for it. To pull off the story of a man who flies on the back of winged ants and is small enough to get sucked up by a vacuum cleaner you need someone with a spring in his step and a permanent wink and Rudd has both, finding just the right tone in scene after scene to make this work.
Michael Peña brings full on comic relief as Lang’s motor-mouthed friend, Lily adds strength to a character who could be spun off to her own franchise and Douglas has old school gravitas to burn, but make no mistake, this is Rudd’s movie, whether he is running through the grass with a herd of ants or slyly trying to seduce Hope.
Entomophobics may have nightmares following the film, with memories of a dog-sized ant scurrying around their dreams, but for the rest of us, “Ant-Man” is a fun, larger than life summer diversion.