Saturday, July 18, 2015


Year: 2015
Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena, Bobby Cannavale

Plot: Scott Lang, a cat burglar recently released from prison, gets a second chance to do good when Dr Hank Pym, a scientist who created a suit that can shrink its wearer to the size of an ant, recruits him to pull off a heist necessary to save the world.

Review: In the wake of superhero films made up of a group of super powered beings and the recent release of trailers for DC Comics' upcoming films for next year, it's refreshing to see a film like Ant-Man make a mark.

While it doesn't differ much from most superhero films (there's a hero, a villain and plenty of action), Ant-Man is very much a heist film as well. Our hero, Scott Lang is a reformed burglar who just wants to spend more time with his daughter, but unable to secure a job in order to pay child support due to his prison record. He does one last break-in and steals what he thinks is a motorcycle suit, only to discover it's a special suit that allows him to shrink himself to the size of an ant. Its creator, Dr Hank Pym, impressed with Scott's skills, recruits him and trains him to use the suit and pull off a heist, which involves breaking into his former lab and stealing a suit developed by his former protege, who is obsessed with turning the shrinking suit technology into a weapon.

Director Peyton Reed, taking over from Edgar Wright who dropped out, keeps the film entertaining without a dull moment in sight. It's notable that Ant-Man is hilarious from beginning to end thanks to a great script and lead star Paul Rudd's charisma, but what's also good is the drama and action in it. The drama comes mostly from Hank Pym's relationship with his estranged daughter Hope, who is torn between her love for her father and her business loyalty to Pym's former assistant Darren Cross, the film's villain.

There are quite a handful of action sequences here, two of which stand out the most. The first is a scrap between Scott and an Avenger midway through the film, the second is at the film's climax when Scott takes on Cross in their respective suits. Credit is given to the CGI crew who convincingly make shrinking effects as well as showing how ants can help our hero.

I gotta say, though I'm not a fan of Rudd, I felt that he's the perfect guy to play Scott Lang, a charming and likable everyman who gets the second chance he desperately needs. Rudd makes him easy to root for, which is important in a film like this. Michael Douglas is equally solid as Hank Pym, a man who created something awesome, but knows too well that in the wrong hands it can be catastrophically bad, and is in some ways, a victim of his own ego. Douglas works well with Rudd, and also with Evangeline Lilly as Hope. Lilly gets to do a few action sequences here too, though much less than in the Hobbit films. 

The downside to Ant-Man is mostly its villain, played by Corey Stoll. Stoll actually did quite well, but the Darren Cross character seemed too comic book-y, where some of his lines sounded cliched. Michael Pena, while being well suited in the role of the film's comic relief as Scott's former cellmate, deserves better than this. The guy's talent is a tad wasted here.

So should you go watch Ant-Man? Absolutely. I know I would. P.S.: wait for the post credit scenes. There are two. (8/10)

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Terminator Genisys

Year: 2015
Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, J.K. Simmons, Lee Byung-Hun

Plot: John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to 1984 to protect his mother Sarah Connor. But once Kyle arrives there, he realises nothing is what he expected to see.

Review: Like Jurassic World before it, Terminator Genisys has a herculean task of seeking its own identity while staying true to the material that has made the franchise so successful.

First, the story. Most viewers already know what this film series is all about. Machines turn on humans, it causes Judgment Day, John Connor leads the resistance to victory, machines send a terminator back in time to kill John's mother, John sends someone back to protect her. We all know this already and we see it again in the first 20 minutes of Genisys. Emulating what happened in the first original film, Genisys sees Kyle Reese going back to 1984 to save Sarah Connor, only to run into a T-1000 and then getting saved by Sarah instead. Then there's an aging T-800 that runs with her now, and the trio have to stop Judgment Day, which Kyle suddenly remembers is now in 2017 and not 1997. All this is because someone sent the T-800 back to 1973 to save Sarah as a young girl from a T-1000, and as a result, alternate timelines exist.

Confusing? Perhaps. But this franchise can't keep using the time travel story without throwing in a few new surprises, so for me, it's rather welcome. The confusion isn't really the problem here anyway. Alan Taylor, who directed Thor: The Dark World and several Game Of Thrones episodes, does a solid job of keeping the film moving briskly, even as the slightly confusing plot threatens to derail the whole thing. At the very least, the action sequences are well shot, though there isn't anything here that matches the intensity of James Cameron's work in the first two films. Perhaps it was unwise to make this film a PG-13 when a R rating would have boosted its entertainment value somewhat.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the man himself, is back in the role he's best known for, even acknowledging his age, which the plot manages to explain quite conveniently. Strangely enough, he doesn't do much more than action sequences here, leaving the acting mostly to Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney. The duo make a very different Sarah and Kyle as compared to Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn, in the sense that Genisys is a far less serious film than its predecessor. In fact, the three of them do more arguing and engaging in humour than they ought to, which works sometimes, and sometimes not.

Jason Clarke plays John Connor well enough, but as you might already know from the trailers and posters, he's not who we once knew. It might take some getting used to, and I felt that having a emotionless machine be a villain is always stronger than a human one. It's not really Clarke's fault, he did his best with what he's given. J.K. Simmons is a welcome addition as a cop who is willing to help the good guys, while Lee Byung-Hun sadly gets so little screen time as the T-1000. He certainly deserved better considering that he's well cast in the role.

Taylor wins plenty of brownie points for making many nods to the original, especially when Kyle and the T-800 arrive in 1984, right down to the shoes that Kyle steals in the department store. What's also cool is how Skynet plans on ending the world by using humans' dependency on smartphones, which is very relevant in today's world. But as mentioned, the PG rating dampens the intensity of the film, and a bit less humour than what was shown would have helped. As a result, Genisys isn't as engaging or edgy as it could have been.

Overall, Terminator Genisys is quite entertaining, though not as awesome as it would have been in James Cameron's hands. Still, I'd rather see this again than watch another minute of Jurassic World, box office collection be damned. (7/10)


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