REVIEW: ‘Ant-Man’

BF-08760_REver since Marvel teamed with Disney to create the Marvel Cinematic Universe, attending movies has been more like reading a serialized soap opera in Spandex that film-going. We’ve had three Iron Mans, a pair each of Avengers, Thor and Captain America, a few out outliers (Hulk, Guardians of the Galaxy) and many more in the pipeline. And that doesn’t even include the tangled web of Spider-Man reboots, which makes it seem like we’re all reliving Groundhog Day. Eventually, it’s a cacophony of sound effects and needless 3D extravaganzas. Some are better than others (Cappie, so far, gets my vote as the best of the lot), but they all have a sameness to them after a while.

Which is why Ant-Man stands apart. Like the first Iron Man, it has a snarky star (Paul Rudd, a sort of less cynical version of Robert Downey Jr.) and a comedic sensibility that lightens up even some of the nastier bits (when the mad scientist unsuccessfully experiments on minimizing a cute lamb, what’s left is a teaspoon of goo, meaning this is the first lamb to become its own side of mint jelly). It’s a hip caper film, gussied up in a comic book adventure. (Marvel considers Ant-Man the final film in its “Phase One” of the movie series of the three proposed phases. Phase Two starts next spring with Captain America: Civil War.)

HEL0680_comp_v083.1173And because Ant-Man comes so late to the game of MCU, it doesn’t have to spend a lot of time on backstory: We know who some of these characters are already, which means its both an “origins movie” and a “mission movie” — we don’t get bogged down in either. (A mid-movie comic duel between Ant-Man and Falcon gives a gimmicky but not unwelcome nod to the MCU, and Stan Lee eventually makes his requisite cameo … about 30 seconds before it’s over.)

Surprisingly, the minimization set-pieces — with Ant-Man the size of an insect, where water from a tap looks like a tsunami — don’t seem as cheesy as they have ever since the days of The Incredible Shrinking Man. It’s all in fun.

Especially with Rudd and much of the supporting cast, including an endearing Michael Douglas as the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. But the kickiest performance comes from Michael Pena as Rudd’s unexpectedly sophisticated criminal running buddy — he shines with so much good will and energy, you almost forget what a sourpuss Evangeline Lilly is as the budding love interest. Who needs lame romance when you have ginormous Thomas the Tank Engines and a villain with a kick-ass stinger? This summer actioner really has legs … like, six of ‘em.

Now playing in wide release.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Bill Hader: The gay interview

BillHader7The new film The Skeleton Twins went wide last weekend, and the quirky comedy has gotten some good notices, especially for star Bill Hader. Our Chris Azzopardi talked to the SNL alum, famed for his uberqueer Stefon character, about playing gay again.

Dallas Voice: You lip-syncing to Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” in The Skeleton Twins would make everyone on RuPaul’s Drag Race so proud.  Hader: You have to get me on that show! That would just be the best.

How much drag did you and Kristen observe while training for the famed lip-syncing sequence?  I mean, we had to learn that song, and we had a lot of fun doing that, but we didn’t have a lot of time. There wasn’t a lot of time in the day to do it. It was definitely a quick “we gotta go; we have a lot more to shoot today” moment, so it’s cool it all came out so well.

So, what you’re saying is you already knew how to sissy that walk.  I knew … I mean, I’ve gone out with enough of my gay friends to know.

 The finger in the ear during the money note — was that Mariah Carey-inspired?  No, no. It was just me messing around. So much of that stuff was me just trying to make Kristen laugh and just knowing her sense of humor and what will make her laugh. I thought that was something that would.

You’re a natural in that lady garb.  Oh, thank you.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Queer Clip: ‘Our Idiot Brother’

If Jesus came back today, I think he’d be a lot like Ned Rochlin (Paul Rudd) in Our Idiot Brother, stumbling through life while erring on the side of putting too much faith in humanity … kinda like the first time around.

After eight months in prison for a dumb mistake, Ned finds himself with no home and no money. Life with his (s)mother (Shirley Knight) is unbearable so he moves on to his three sisters, wrecking each of their lives in the process.

Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) is a “former bisexual” in a lesbian relationship with a lawyer (Rashida Jones), while Liz (Emily Mortimer) has a sleazy husband (Steve Coogan) and a son and Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) is a writer nearing a career breakthrough.

Ned’s experience with his more worldly siblings leads to mixed results. When he’s unable to function in a three-way with a woman and another man, Ned feels guilty about it until a neighbor (Adam Scott) consoles him: “Just because you’re straight doesn’t mean you’re homophobic.”

How the women deal with their brother — the sweetest, most honest guy in the world — makes for pleasant entertainment. It introduces so many good characters it could be a sitcom pilot … if any network could afford that cast.

— Steve Warren

In wide release.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens