29 July, 2015

The Ant Man Cometh

A Review of Ant Man (2015)
by James Kislingbury

Sorry to get to this so late! I've had a few personal things come up and I'm going nuts with, like, what feels like eight different writing projects. I didn't mean to neglect you, dear reader! So, with no further ado, here's my review of the incomparable Ant-Man--

Pandemonium. That is the only word I can use to describe the excitement in Hall H as Ant Man was announced. “Ant Man,” they said. You could feel it like a wave. As the peels of turgid excitement washed over the crowd of sun-burnt and crowd drunk virgins, I thought to myself “This is what Marvel does. This is what it gives the people.”

Would we be worthy enough for Ant-Man?

Would I be worthy enough for Ant-Man?

Did this place validate parking?

While the need was always there, the technology wasn't. After a decades long gestation period, cinemas are finally read for the vision of Ant-Man that so many millions of children and man-children have pined for.

We are living in times of miracles.

Why didn't this guy get a movie earlier?
Paul Rudd is perfectly cast as the titular super hero. He brings a special edge that no Marvel movie has ever had. By blending affability with an avuncular charm Rudd allows the scenes to breath, allowing the comedy to come through naturally. Yet, between all of the humorous asides, I still bought Rudd as an actor in the Ant-Man movie. And, believe me, his likeness is very believable as you see it on the various stuntmen and computer generated images that make up the bulk of the movie.

While Rudd brings the chuckles and the kapows, much of the film's gravitas comes in the form of the film's older, distinguished actor. The older actor added a lot to the scenes he was in, lighting them up  by delivering exposition and occasionally reminding Ant-Man what the stakes of the film were (I think it was Infinity Gems). Also, he said something about Bruce Banner which, in the theater I was in resulted in fifteen solid minutes of applause.

There is also Evangeline Lily, who is a brunette white lady.

I kept on typing "Ant-Man Villain" into Bing and
this kept on popping up. I don't know.
Of course, as pretty as white ladies are, that isn't why you go to a Marvel movie. You go to see action and spectacle that you can only see in other Marvel movies, two to three times a year. And, lemme tell you Ant-Man delivers. It's a bang-smash popcorn munching flick of epic proportions (or should I say “miniscule proportions?” Yes. I should. Thank you for pointing this out). Whoever directed Ant-Man does a great job of balancing the story with various special effects that you would expect from the House to Astonish.

For me, I'll know I'll look back for years to come at the first time that Ant-Man got small. It just took my breath away. And just when I thought I had seen it all, he then became regular sized again. How do they come up with this stuff? It was what Munsterberg meant when he called cinema “That beautiful, living dream” probably.

Hero? Yes.
All of this leads up to a satisfying, massive showdown at the end of the film between Ant-Man and the bad guy that is slightly different from Ant-Man. As much fun as the showdown is, it does tend to run a bit long. But what can we expect? Ant-Man is simply too much character for one screen, for one actor, for one director. I mean, it's not a Joss Whedon film, imperfections are going to appear here and there. What I can say is that, despite the imperfections, Ant-Man was definitely two hours long and did not consist entirely of room tone and flashing lights. What more could you want from a movie?

As the credits rolled, set to a slightly off kilter rock song, and the much needed reminders of Marvel's future movies flashed across the screen, I thought back to my time at Hall H. As I hung upside down, caribined to one of the convention center's walkways, one particular fan stands out in my mind.

I hope you're prepared for Ant-Man's signature line,
"I am Ant-Man."
As the Marvel executive said those fateful words on that hot July day, I looked down at this fan. He had become so overcome with the sheer ectasy of Ant-Man being on a very large screen that he lost control of all of his limbs. As he rended his shirt from his white, white body, he screamed the names of all of the great artists and writers from Ant-Man's illustrious an lauded run at Marvel.His mania seemed to go unnoticed by those around him, as each fan was consumed with a rapture of his own. As the shirtless honkey swallowed his own tongue, pink foam erupting from his mouth, I thought to myself “This is important. I must remember this” because I knew that this was as pure of a love for Ant-Man that I would ever, could ever see. I shed a single tear for that moment. Also, the stench of a thousand people losing control of their bowels was horrifying. A lot of people died at that panel.

Seeing this new ad for Avengers 3 I now know that had that man lived, he would have loved to see the truth of Ant-Man come to pass.

I personally cannot wait for Ant Man 3 and 4 to grace our movie theaters. I only hope that we are still worthy.

16 July, 2015

Uphill Climb to the Bottom

A Review of Minions (2015)
by James Kislingbury

I think this requires some kind of explanation.

As a piece of design, the minions are wonderful. They're simple, cute little guys. It's easy to see why they're so popular and it's easy to see why you can't turn a corner in this city without seeing them pasted on a bus and on McDonald's and on very large domes. I have a soft spot for cute things. Hamsters. Puppies. The odd kitty cat. Minions. It's all there. For that reason, I was willing to see Minions. When I heard that Mark Kermode liked the film, I became a little more interested. When I heard that it was also set in 1968, I was sold.

"Well, alright," I said to myself. If I'm a sucker for anything besides cute critters, I'm a sucker for fake 1960's spy-fi mod designs. You ask anyone and they'll tell you that those are basically my two main things. With Minions, I was guaranteed at least one of these things. So, you understand, it was with a sense of completeness that I set out to see this movie, yes?

And, so I figured one of two things would happen: It would be a good movie and I would use that as an excuse to go see more movies or it would be a terrible movie and I would use that as an excuse to go see more movies. It was win-win, as far as I was concerned.

For better or for worse, Minions is a silly film. On that level, it succeeds. Personally, I don't think it needs to be much more than that. Minions aims for a very particular target and it succeeds. To ask it to be anything more than a silly, funny movie about cute, little whatsits, is madness. And it's kind of depressing, because if you don't find joy in seeing these dumb, little critters dressed up in Napoleonic garb, running around, then what do you enjoy? Pulling the wings off of flies? Setting fire to derelict buildings? Collecting the tears of children for your own craft cocktails?

You sicken me.

As far as comedies go, I think you're allowed a certain amount of leeway as to the substance of your film. I know that's not something I've ever said before, but it's true. I don't think there's a lot of political subtext keeping The General afloat, but it has a guy doing stupid stuff on a train and sometimes that's enough. The story is also primarily told through its visuals and it quotes Modern Times. It's very clear that Minions knows what it's doing as a film. It knows where it comes from. In the background, it also has at least one joke about group sex with inanimate objects and one joke about BDSM (which I cannot recall as I write this.I was very intoxicated while watching this movie. I will admit as much). So, I don't know. At least it's a film that's willing to get weird.

Admittedly, though, it would have been nice to see the film be about more than. . . I don't actually know what it's about. It's not like the minions have story arcs.. There's nothing for a kid to take away from this, except that butts are funny. And butts are very funny, but that's nothing new. The film makes one or two references to the villain Scarlet Overkill's rise in the man's world of super villainy, but it doesn't go anywhere with it. To me, teaching kids about something like feminism, showing them that a woman can be just as evil as a man is kind of important. When kids are five, six, seven, that's the time to pound that sort of thing into their heard. It doesn't go anywhere with anything except for the gags. I suppose that's something. You can at least admire its purity of vision, if nothing else.

I also wonder what John Hamm is doing in this film, Obviously, he's there to fill out the big names on the poster, but why him? What does he bring to this movie besides being another name on the poster? As a character he's underused and as a voice actor, he's underplayed. He seems to be there for the sole purpose of showing us that between the knit ties and the Vidal Sassoon haircuts, the 1960's had some real dumb fashion trends. Pinstripes? Sideburns? Disgusting. Terrible. People like this should be in jail. Time jail. Only the Beatles should be allowed to look that bad.
Minions gets art.

What holds Minions aloft is that it is very smart about its stupidity. It has to be. Otherwise it's just, well, stupid. The movie strikes a balance between the two things in the way that all great comedies do (not to say that Minions is a great movie, but it at least knows what makes Chaplain and Keaton work). Minions backs up its dumb ass with its animation. It's a meticulously animated world. Had Minions been handed to worse directors or slapped together by a low rent studio, I'd be slagging it off right there with you. But it looks great. Somebody put time and care and effort into these really silly jokes about butts and bananas. Apparently people expect more from a movie than that. I say: Fuck those people. The visuals in Minions are as much of a storytelling asset as the acting or cinematography or music in a "real" movie. Hell, I've seen a lot of shitty serious movies lately and none of them are half as well done as Minions.

I've been nipping at the edges of an argument for this entire argument, so I guess now is the time to tackle it head on: A lot of people hate the minions. I am sure that like the people who supported Pol Pot or the kind folks that rationalize the actions of Stalin or William F. Buckley, these people have their reasons. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. It's America and until Jade Helm runs its course, they're all entitled to it. It's just that hating the Minions makes these people into tremendous bummers.

Personally, I suggest that, like communists and young Republicans, you cut these people out of your life until they recover. Your energy is better spent cussing at the sun for being too bright or trying to get a gopher drunk. It's madness. These people are better off being shot into space because I simply do not see the function of hating something as harmless as the minions. Or Minions. It's a movie about a bunch of yellow guys having a silly adventure. Sometimes they're Eskimos. Sometimes they play corgi polo. It's that kind of a movie. It is exactly what it is meant to be. You don't like that? Well, then, I just feel sorry for you.

Also, fuck you.

I just finished watching A Field in England this week. It's. . . uh, quite the film. It's 90 minutes long and it took me two weeks to watch. It's not exactly a corker. Still, I really liked it. Or, parts of it, anyways. It reminded me why I love films. It reminded me why films are worth loving. As much as I need movies like A Field in England, I also sometimes need to laugh. Sometimes I just want to have fun. And, sometimes a movie doesn't have to be about men slowly losing their minds to be good.

I complain a lot about movies.

Sometimes I drop my guard. Sometimes a bunch of cute little monsters come into my life and they make a movie about the most pivotal year in Western history since the end of WWII. Sometimes I want to laugh. And sometimes all of those things come together at once. The Minions is silly and I liked it. Sometimes that's all a comedy has to be.

Plus, you know, butts.

James Kislingbury is a writer. He does a podcast about movies called A Quality Interruption. He thinks a lot about dumb stuff. A lot.