Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Rudd Reviews

Why exactly was everyone certain that “Ant-Man” was going to suck?  Allegiance to Edgar Wright?  Maybe a secret yearning for a Marvel backlash since their movie universe has just become so all-encompassing?  Or maybe a little of both, as the firing of Wright from the project led some to believe that Marvel was becoming too big for its britches, and true ‘creative’ types weren’t going to be allowed to really imprint their styles on the movies?

While I enjoy Wright as much as the next guy (Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim, both former Markademy Award Best Picture nominees!), he’s also not the be-all and end-all of filmmaking.  Would I have enjoyed seeing an Edgar Wright Ant-Man movie?  Absolutely.  Would I have enjoyed see an Edgar Wright Ant-Man movie at any time in the last seven years, since he actually started working on the project way back in 2007?  I can’t really blame Marvel for a) wanting to finally move ahead with this thing and b) perhaps feeling that they wanted from Wright in 2007 and what they wanted in 2015 were two radically different things given how their ‘cinematic universe’ has so grown since then.  The downside of having an interconnected universe of films is that one weak link (or even an oddball link) in the chain can threaten the entire thing, so I can understand Marvel’s point from a business sense, even if I don’t like it from a creative sense.

But this all being said, it’s not like Marvel is making bad movies.  At worst, you get “meh” movies — Thor 2, the last two Iron Man movies, and maybe even to some extent, the somewhat anti-climatic Avengers sequel.  I’ve never left a Marvel film feeling disappointed or even angry, which is more than I can say for any number of Superman, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four or even X-Men movies (though X3 is the only actively horrible chapter of the otherwise solid X-Men series).  Marvel may be more or less sticking to a formula by this point, but it’s a pretty strong formula, and Ant-Man is no exception.

Also, I quite enjoyed how Ant-Man itself seemed to purposely carve out a small (pun intended) niche for itself as opposed to the world-shaking events of the other Marvel movies.  Scott Lang isn’t trying to save the planet, he’s just trying to pull off a heist and keep the Ant-Man tech from falling into the wrong hands.  The smaller scale (again, pun intended) was a refreshing change and it may be sign of how Marvel’s next phrase may go smaller (again…) given the street-level heroes on their Netflix properties or even their version of Spider-Man, before ramping things up against for the Avengers’ battle with Thanos.

It’s also just fun to note that Paul Rudd is now involved in the Marvel Universe and, assuming he signed one of those crazy seven or eight-picture deals, he’ll be popping up in these movies as comic relief for years to come.  We won’t see an Ant-Man 2 until 2020 at the earliest given the packed Marvel film schedule, though maybe we don’t even need to — Rudd is an okay leading man but he works best in an ensemble.  The same kind of goes for the rest of the cast; Michael Pena is an awesome supporting actor, Evangeline Lilly is lovely but not strong enough of an actress to carry her own film as the new Wasp*, and Michael Douglas seems made for years of cameos as Hank Pym popping in to give technical advice and getting into arguments with Tony Stark.

* = it’s a damn shame that the Wasp will only exist in the MCU as the rather generic Hope Van Dyne rather than the awesome Janet Van Dyne, one of the comics’ finest characters.  From day one, she could’ve been the signature female hero that Marvel has been lacking; imagine what Joss Whedon could’ve done with Janet since that type of character is right in his wheelhouse.  Maybe that was one downside of Wright taking so long with the Ant-Man project…all of the related characters were tied up with him, so Whedon and company couldn’t use Pym, Janet, etc. in the Avengers.  

So yeah, Ant-Man, solid movie!  Really creative action scenes, some genuinely funny moments (though not really as much of a comedy as it was sold as) and Judy Greer keeps getting’ den cheques.  Good lord, if someone had had the idea years ago, we could’ve had Judy Greer as Janet Van Dyne THIS WHOLE TIME.  Dammit, Wright!


As a 97-minute movie, Wet Hot American Summer was hilarious.  As eight 30-minute episodes, the “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day Of Camp” probably would’ve made a great 97-minute movie.  As eager as I was to see the TV version of this great comedy come to life, and as much as I enjoy the talents of virtually everyone in the cast, four hours was a stretch.

The funniest of the many storylines in the series were, by far, Beth and Greg’s attempts to uncover the government conspiracy around the camp and the dissolution of the Gene/Gail marriage and Gene’s slow transformation from Jonas.  Not coincidentally, these were also the two stories that actually developed the most and actually had new jokes and new plot points in every episode.  Every other story kept hitting the same beats over and over with little to be gained comically.  Between this and the fourth season of Arrested Development, should I be worried about any revival of a long-departed comedy property that involves John Slattery and Kristen Wiig in supporting roles?  (And I guess technically Michael Cera too?)

Also, come on, David Hyde Pierce is in the thing for maybe five minutes?!  I was looking forward to a major DHP showcase, his first since Frasier ended!  Can they not make an entire Dr. Neumann spinoff series?


While I’m here, I might as well do a quick rundown of every Paul Rudd movie I’ve seen.  Pretty strong track record for the Ruddmeister here!  Tons of excellent films and only a few absolute stinkers.

Classics: Anchorman, Clueless, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, I Love You Man, Role Models, The Shape Of Things, Wet Hot American Summer

Classics (but Rudd just had a cameo role): This Is The End, Walk Hard

Pretty Good: Ant-Man, Knocked Up, Our Idiot Brother, They Came Together, Wanderlust

Pretty Blah-To-Mediocre: Admission, Anchorman 2, The Object Of My Affection, Prince Avalanche

Pretty Crappy: Dinner For Schmucks, Romeo + Juliet, Year One

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