Movie/Binge Review 11: The Irishman

Martin Scorsese remains one of the best American filmmakers alive with his dignity intact. Where his contemporaries have put down the camera or resigned themselves to monotony, he has only gotten better with age. He hit his stride with Goodfellas and year after year since he has put out some of the most memorable movies in history. People may not remember Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, but no one has forgotten Gangs of New York or The Departed. And in his 77th year, Scorsese brings it all full circle in a return to his mobster roots.

The Irishman is the culmination of his past work on the genre, cast with the actors that helped Scorsese achieve success. Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a real-life hitman under Russ Bufalino, played by Joe Pesci. Together they contend with Jimmy Hoffa, played by Al Pacino, a trucker union legend that disappeared in 1975. No one has yet found his remains or trace of what may have happened to him and Irishman attempts to shed some light of what could.

All the hallmarks of a Scorsese film are on display with notable changes. His signature fast editing is mostly non-existent with an emphasis on a slow, contemplative pace throughout. That is not to say the movie is not as snappy or humorous as his previous work. Irishman is serious, but not without cunning Italian wit similar to Goodfellas and Casino. It is a movie that needs to take its time or you miss the whole point, with many long takes that hold on shots.

Irishman is a long film, the longest in Scorsese’s filmography from what I can tell. Almost all of that time is spent making the characters appear human and real. Regardless of the subject matter, whether the characters are mobsters or monsters, they are written and acted in a way that you can almost excuse their crimes. Costello from Departed may have been a paranoid psychopath, but it was very easy to like him. The same can be said for Nicky from Casino.

Sheeran, Russ, and Hoffa are given about as much depth and personality as characters from a long-form television show. Before the movie is over you feel like you have known them for years. Despite all their criminal activity, you care about them, and want to see where they will end up. You have so much fun and want more that the near four-hour runtime feels like nothing.

Those characters are the heart and soul of The Irishman and you should just go watch it without me having to explain more. While I was thankful to have the chance to see the film in a theater, it was always going to come to Netflix. Everyone and their grandmother has Netflix and they have already seen it by now. Unless you live in a foreign country that has restrictions on Internet, you have no reason to not watch this movie. Otherwise, you’re a mook.

Editroial 27: Nitpicking

Because of my budget, I can only afford to see one movie a week. After I saw LEGO Batman I saw another film because I was asked to by a friend. This is a person I respect more than anything and when she saw John Wick: Chapter 2 despite her apprehension, I was honor bound to see this other movie. When I sat down to watch it, however, I found I was correct in wanting to skip it. Because I respect my friend and I will have nothing but negative remarks, I cannot in good conscious write a review. Instead, here is something I have wanted to talk about for a long time.

To the uninitiated, Nitpicking is to point out elements or ideas in a given work that are meaningless and treat them as major problems. It is to complain about shit that does not matter. Little things and actions, regardless of their insignificance, are weighed and measured as if they have a broader purpose. Elements in service to style are also considered as though they are anything but. The only way to satisfy a Nitpicker is to have each detail, action, and line of dialog make sense in real world logic and explain everything as clearly as possible.

Like Political Correctness, Nitpicking hinders creativity. An artist is not allowed to be subtle or challenge the audience because they must leave no questions unanswered and give away the punch line. This is not to say plot holes and plot conveniences are permitted. Those are real mistakes that any good writer knows to avoid at all costs. What I am referring to are symbolic elements and story details that serve a purpose that is not made explicitly clear. Even if they do not make sense those ideas exist for a reason. Rather than use subtlety or leave the audience to simply enjoy their experience, Nitpicking has created an environment where you cannot do either, lest you invite criticism. The more creators follow this pattern, the worse their work becomes.

One of the most nitpicked movies in recent memory is Dark Knight Rises (DKR). For many, the little problems of logic were enough to write whole film off as trash.

“How could Bane trap all of the cops in the sewer?” “Why is it suddenly night after the stock market heist?” “How did Bruce Wayne get back to Gotham so quickly after getting out of the pit?”

Audiences and critics asked these questions and there was only one answer.

“Because it is a movie.”

Yes, these elements and others did not make logical sense, but who said they had to? Why would you complain about logic in a superhero movie in the first place? It is the same argument you can apply to style versus substance. Do aesthetic choices mean something or are they there just for show? In DKR, the style choices are in service to the story. A plot convenience is something there just to move the story along that also does not make sense. The “problems” with DKR actually make sense in the context of the overall experience, ridiculous though they may be.

Bane trapped the cops in the sewer because that was his plan and he is the villain. It is suddenly dark after the stock market heist because Batman only comes out at night. Bruce Wayne made it back to Gotham because he is the hero of the story.

Those perceived issues were not significant enough to be issues. You can have as many style elements as you want, but if they do not serve the whole, then what is their use? When a film just does things just to do them, then you can nitpick. DKR was not that bad, but everyone was too busy questioning little things that did not mater to enjoy it. If these ideas did not serve the plot, then they would be conveniences and DKR would have deserved the vitriol it got upon release.

A major contributor to the epidemic of Nitpicking is blatant ignorance. For some reason, people do not look at what a movie is anymore. They see what a movie should be and judge it based on personal expectations. They have standards that must be met or the work in question will be labeled garbage. Videogames receive similar treatment with the added technical caveat. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a gift from the gods, but the sometimes choppy frame-rate, the fact it does not hold your hand, and micro transaction were enough for critics to deem it middle-of-the-road.

Take for example the Final Fantasy (FF) spinoffs Spirits Within and Dirge of Cerberus, a movie and game. Many fans see both as an affront to the series and do not consider them a part of the brand. Putting aside the fact not all FF titles have much in common, these titles were judged in regards to what fans thought FF was supposed to be. Chocobos, a fantasy setting, and a save the world narrative are a part of the series identity. Spirits and Dirge did not fit those criteria because they strayed so far from the collective identity.

The former was a science fiction animated movie about alien ghosts taking over Earth. The latter was a third-person shooter about the FF7 character Vincent. Because they had “Final Fantasy” in their titles they were judged according to what was defined as Final Fantasy. People looked at them as they should be instead of what they are.

Take FF out of the equation and judge these two titles on their own merits. Spirits is not as terrible as you think, except for some ridiculous moments you can only find in anime. As a shooter Dirge was also okay, but I am a little biased because I am the only one in existence that likes it. The fact they were called Final Fantasy meant nothing because I saw them as they are.

However, we have become so brand oriented as consumers of entertainment that we do not think according to personal taste. What we like is based on what we liked before, our perception of quality grounded in brand recognition and nostalgia. If it has a major name on it, we consume and judge it based on the name. Just because Rogue One is connected to Star Wars does not change the fact it was boring and mediocre. That is like saying Transformers was good because it made a lot of money.

The brand name is applied most often when finding elements to complain about. With a series, Nitpickers take the whole into consideration instead of the fraction. Some say FF13 was a good Final Fantasy, but was not a good game. BvS was terrible for many reasons, but all everyone could talk about was how Batman killed people like it was the only reason that movie sucked. It was judged as an adaptation of the source material, ignoring the rushed and corporatized nature of the film. Fans went on a tirade against critics that had a problem with Suicide Squad because it had their favorite character.

Sometimes Nitpickers take the opposite approach and judge a series based on the last best entry. The Marvel movies following Winter Soldier are measured according to that movie because it is widely considered a masterpiece and I do not blame them; I do the same thing. Coming back to Final Fantasy, FF7 is the standard from which all predecessors are judged. The same principle applies to Call of Duty with Modern Warfare being the last great entry.

The origin Nitpicking is nebulous to say the least. Since I do not have time or interest in researching years of article by other critics (I’m such a good writer, you guys), I am going with the most obvious culprit: Internet Reviewers (IRs).

From Nostalgia Critic to Spoony, for about a decade IRs have relied on Nitpicking for their content. Spoony is probably the worst because most of his videos are insane, extended rants over nothing. Obscurus Lupa and Phelous also contribute to this problem and their brand of comedy does not help either. Cinema Snob nitpicks, but he is playing a character. As his true self, however, he will fixate on issues that are not issues when talking about new releases on Midnight Screenings. Todd is the Shadows, a pop music critic, is so irritating I stopped watching his videos. The channel Cinema Sins’ entire existence relies upon Nitpicking for some of the pointless shit I have ever seen.

Lindsay Ellis and Red Letter Media are the few IRs that avoid Nitpicking and actually criticize. Your Movie Sucks partakes, but he is intelligent and articulate enough that he makes it entertaining. Razorfist judges works on their own merit, even if he is a little biased with his massive Chuck Norris boner.

So why would IRs nitpick? I am of the opinion it is for entertainment purposes. Thanks to the Internet, irony and anger have become legitimate forms of comedy. I myself enjoy watching people lose it over bad movies and videogames and try to emulate their success. Some of my major inspirations, including those listed in the previous two paragraphs, built their careers on getting mad. Nitpicking is a part of the act and I do not hold it against them.

That being said, it has gotten so out of control and unchecked that it has affected the way audiences and others see art, which in turn affects the creators. Many do not see entertainment media as entertainment and fixate on little details that do not matter. The smallest of inconsistencies in logic can turn audiences against a given work like flipping a switch. Nitpicking is now the standard through which they consume and criticize.

When I was learning to write for entertainment, I was taught to leave nothing to chance. I had to explain everything in my stories and keep it short because audiences are too slow and stupid to understand certain ideas. Personally I like using symbolism and leaving it up to the reader to decide what is happening. I trust them to understand what I am going for and do not give a shit about the 10% that will have trouble.

All I can say to them is git gud.

Maybe I am being a snob. Maybe I really am terrible at explaining myself and am a pretentious hack with delusions of grandeur. But what would you rather have: Big Bang Theory or Blade Runner? I never claimed to be a good writer, but I can say with absolute certainty that I am less disingenuous and condescending than the people who gave Jim Parsons a reason to be relevant.

The more we create for the lowest common denominator, the more we contribute to the downfall of art. Every day there is a new show or movie that repeats the process of those that came before. Every day I see more of the same copying itself ad nauseum, flushing real entertainment down the toilet like an aborted fetus. Soon works that are challenging will be overshadowed by crime procedurals, open world adventures, sitcoms, military shooters, pop music, and lawyer shows that are no different than the last dozen. All because some retards could not figure out what was happening on screen.

The faster we abandon this way of thinking the smarter we become as consumers. Like Political Correctness and its sister language Newspeak, Nitpicking will keep us dumb and ignorant to true art. While we complain about bullshit, new works are dumbed down and suited to fit the needs of those who do not appreciate real works. It is the laugh track telling you what is funny and when to laugh. It is the terrible music choices telling you how to feel. We need more Neon Demon and less Blair Witch. In the end, it is up to us to stop Nitpicking and start elevating art that transcends the bounds of mediocrity. Better yet, get off you ass and create your own.

Editorial 25: How to Fix the Fantastic Four

I could write quite a few pages on how the Fantastic Four movies get everything wrong about the characters, premise, and Doctor Doom. Instead of talking about a superhero team like I am an expert and explain how to make a great film adaptation, I just wrote one.

mcmillan_fftreatment1

A story treatment is a precursor to a screenplay that describes plot, action, and character in a prose format. I have not written one in years, but I wanted to express myself in a more accessible fashion, as opposed to a script.

Even though I can count the number of Fantastic Four comics I have read on two hands, I have many ideas on how to adapt the team in ways Fox Studios seems incapable of. Honestly, how hard is it to write a family of super scientists that fight a wizard dictator, who refers to himself in the third person?

While Fox holds the movie rights, I wrote the treatment in the context of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is definitely a meaningless gesture and it will not go anywhere like my Punisher script. My only hope is I prove you can make a Fantastic Four film that epitomizes their family dynamic and big idea scientific underpinnings where so many have failed.

Enjoy and please let me know what you think.

Movie Review: Paper Towns

I find it hard to be the judge of a Young Adult movie about high school because I did not go to normal high schools. The first two were on military bases, the second of which was so awful I would prefer not to remember I was there, and the last was an all boys military school where I enrolled willingly. Therefore, I cannot imagine what it must be like for normal kids to go to a normal school. With this in mind, I pondered how I would react to Paper Towns (PT). Was I able to judge the movie on its terms or did I find myself laughing at the characters’ fake problems?

I would not be a critic if I did not allow movies to stand on their own merits. Opinion is criticism, but too much of it can negatively affect the judgment and recommendation of the media in question. And so, I took my pragmatic nihilistic self out of the equation and found a quality film in PT.

In the midst of his senior year, Q, played by Nat Wolff, becomes the reluctant participant in a breakup revenge plot by his neighbor Margo, played by Cara Delevingne. After fulfilling her plans he finds himself infatuated, but before making a move she disappears. Q then follows a series of clues Margo left behind to divine her location with the help of his friends.

PT is a finding yourself drama in the context of a high school student. Q is the aimless male protagonist set in his ways and Margo is the Manic Pixie Dream Girl that makes him think twice about who he is. Usually I hate this genre with a passion, but unlike Aloha, PT has a point, you know what is happening, and the characters are likeable. Despite the fact I cannot care about problems that do not exist, especially in real life, I kind of cared about what the characters were going through and wanted to see them succeed.

I believe a part of my feeling is from how well acted the movie is, in addition to the writing from author John Green (Fault in Our Stars). Wolff was believable as the dopy overachiever, but Delevingne showed great promise in a debut role. Though she needs to work on the American accent, I believe we can expect a lot of good in Suicide Squad and beyond. Austin Abrams as Q’s friend Radar had great comedic timing in scenes I assume were improvised. The weakest performance was Halston Sage as Lacey, but I think it is more the fault of the script that made her the “misunderstood blonde.”

Issues arise in the pacing as the film takes its time getting to anything relevant. It was nearly two hours and it could have ended in 90 minutes had Q been proactive in his pursuit of Margo. I know you cannot do much while in high school, but if he cared about finding her, Q would not have waited days before making the effort instead of talking about it in voiceover. Furthermore, whoever in wardrobe put Abrams in a UF Gator shirt, how dare you make me see that crap super-imposed on a theater screen. You should be ashamed of yourself.

And that was Paper Towns, a simple movie in the ever-expanding genre of Young Adult. If you liked Fault in Our Star, it is very similar in tone, but with a road trip-mystery angle about people finding themselves. It has more than enough humor to balance out the drama and I recommend it. Then again, Ant-Man is still out and still awesome, but both are better than Pixels.

Movie Review: Pixels

When I was young I was a big fan of Adam Sandler. His movies were immature and nonsensical, but they were still fun and I enjoyed them quite a bit. Before I was allowed to watch Jackass, there was the physical comedy of Water Boy, Happy Gilmore, the Wedding Singer, and the raw hatred of his characters to make me laugh. He was my only accessible source of the closest to adult comedy I could get and it was the best of times. Now that I am older, I still like those movies and they still make me laugh. If that is the case, why am I not a fan anymore?

It is less a matter of my age as it is a steady degradation in the quality of Sandler’s films. I first noticed it in Click where I could not feel it had anything special or distinct. Sure, the stopwatch angle was something, but when you break it down, it is the same plot of A Christmas Carol, like it was copied and pasted for ease of dismissal. Furthermore, Sandler did not play a “character.” Happy Gilmore, Bobby Boucher, and Robbie Hart are memorable characters, and I do not remember a thing about the guy from Click.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry was when I saw a pattern. All stories, with the exception of something like I’m Not There, follow Joseph Campbell’s Heroes Journey. Sandler’s films use the same method with plot points that have reverberated throughout his movies since the beginning. I dismiss the assumption all films are the same for following Campbell’s structure because it simply is not true. Star Wars and Avengers have a lot in common, but there is so much to distinguish them it does not make any sense to judge on equal terms. When I looked back at Sandler’s movies, I noticed all of them have the same characters and narratives with nothing to set them apart.

And I did not stop seeing it.

Next came Don’t Mess with the Zohan, an attempt at an Israeli action comedy that would make Yonatan Netanyahu spin in his grave and Golan Globus commit ritual suicide.

At 18 I watched Grown Ups and found myself disappointed in the man I once called funny. There he was, standing with other failed comedians and SNL co-stars he conned into joining him for a tasteless, predictable, and joyless spectacle about old friends having a collective mid-life crisis. At that point I did care anymore. Here was a man I looked up to, reduced to a talentless schmuck who somehow thinks he can keep going and we would not notice how far he has fallen. I had neither the nostalgia nor the will to keep watching and my admiration struggled to recover.

And then Just Go with It happened.

I saw the movie, but I did not hear it. I was on a plane coming from Germany when it came on the screen. I had my iPad with Ghost in the Shell to keep me company, but Just Go with It was still playing out of the corner of my eye, and I could not help paying attention. As I watched it, with no sound mind you, I saw the absolute annihilation of any respect I had left for Sandler. It was not a movie, but a slow torture and vivisection of the fan I used to be. The product placement, beauty shots of resorts, and the infinity of monotonous plotting and predictability dissipated who I was and replaced it with anger. I saw not a funny man but a wastrel of lesser character than filth. I saw a villain that has done more damage to the Jewish people than the Holocaust. Sandler was officially nothing to me.

In the years that followed he would never change and I was not the only one who saw the decay. Red Letter Media put best in their analysis of Jack and Jill, bringing to light the rampant commercialism. Worse still was his failed attempt at adult comedy with That’s My Boy, the dreaded sequel that somehow beat Pacific Rim out of the box-office, and the reunion with Drew Barrymore that no one asked for. Now comes Pixels, a film I will certainly hate, but considering the set-up of videogames invading Earth with the theme of nostalgia, I found I could probably relate and enjoy it to some degree. Has Adam Sandler made his first good movie in almost a decade or was I wrong to trust my heart?

When it comes to new movies, I have not trusted my heart since I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine. What I thought was going to be a good movie based on the trailers was one the worst pieces of garbage I have ever seen before Amazing Spider-Man 2. Thanks for that Gavin Hood, you hack. But I am not enough of a scumbag to hate everything. I give new films the benefit of the doubt, to let them speak for themselves before I render judgment. Being critical of entertainment media in a vacuum is tantamount to artistic fascism. Did Pixels have what it takes to stand on its own, regardless if my preconceived notions?

Well, I would not know because I DIDN’T FUCKING SEE IT!

Did you honestly think after spending 882 words explaining the genesis of my animosity I would actually see Sandler’s new movie? Have I not been clear? I am often told I do not explain myself enough in my work, but when I say someone is worse than the Holocaust, I think that is pretty obvious.

I know I have a professional obligation to see new films and I know not all of them are going to be good. You cannot possibly think I did not know what I was getting into when I chose to make this hobby a job. I accept that Taken 3, Aloha, and Longest Ride were unmitigated trash and I do not regret seeing them. Even bad movies have their merits on the basis of irony. The Loft was stupid, The Room hilarious, and Miami Connection was pure insanity. For Christ’s sake, even the Twilight movies can be enjoyed for how funny-bad they are. Seriously, have you seen Breaking Dawn Part 2? It is genius! I have sat through and studied Christian propaganda. I have wasted power on my computer streaming a Tyler Perry movie so I could write about how offensive it is, when it does that on its own by simply existing. I am used to watching bad movies, but I refuse not see an Adam Sandler movie.

Unless there is money in it (which there has not since I started reviewing back in October), nothing can convince me to see Pixels. If I do get paid, a portion will go to compensation for the ticket and to keep me from killing whoever had the nerve to endorse my suffering.

So, if you have read this far, you are probably wondering why I have not ended this little tirade of mine. Being a critic it is my job to give a well thought out opinion and recommendation of the movie in question. I have taken a total of 1,157 words to articulate my opinion, but I cannot say if you should see Pixels. It would be dishonest of me to tell you not to see a film I have not seen myself. I am sure you can form your own decision based on what I have written.

To that effect, I recommend watching this review from Bob “MovieBob” Chipman. Say what you will about his redder than a Soviet’s blood on krokodil politics, his pandering to people I do not wish to mention because I do not want that kind of attention (which I will probably get anyway), or his whining on Twitter. I have been watching Chipman’s videos since his beginning and his movie reviews formed the basis for my own when I started out. He is one of my inspirations and the reason I chose to be a movie buff. His review of Pixels is both funny and shocking because he is the target demographic, and if you inspire such anger in your own audience something is horribly wrong.

I also recommend doing your own research. When I want to buy a new videogame, I consult multiple critiques and play-throughs before I make my decision, unless we are talking about The Phantom Pain and Fallout 4. The same applies to film, comic books, and even news agencies and political parties if you want to have nightmares. It is important to consider all sides of an argument to get a well-defined perspective. I would know because it took six years and five movies for me to realize Adam Sandler is a slobbering cunt.

Movie Review: Trainwreck

Apart from unintentionally infecting the world with that limey pissant known as Russell Brand, Judd Apatow is the reason R-rated comedies did not die after the turn of the century. With the help of Paul Rudd, Will Ferrell, Seth Rogen, and James Franco, he directed and produced a number of exceptional films that put Adam Sandler to shame (then again, Sandler puts himself to shame). They feel genuine with relatable themes and jokes that are actually funny. An Apatow movie is like Saturday Night Life if the actors and writers knew how comedy worked. Can Trainwreck measure up to his past works or should you give it a pass for Ant-Man?

If you read my previous review, you should see Ant-Man regardless. There is no reason to not see it, but that does not mean you should skip Trainwreck. It was a really bad move for both to come out at the same time. Nevertheless, one or the other will do if you are looking for a good comedy this weekend.

Comedian Amy Schumer plays Amy, a magazine staff writer who enjoys her life of alcohol, limited marijuana use, and tempered promiscuity. But while writing an article on sports physician Aaron, played by Bill Hader, she cannot handle feeling she wants a serious relationship and struggles between giving in or moving on.

If you have seen one Apatow directed movie you have seen them all. When you break it down by plot points, Trainwreck lines up with 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. One can predict the moment of change, separation, and redemption on timing alone. What keeps the linearity in check is the humor of each film. All three are virtually the same, but they are defined and remembered for their comedy. Whether its “You know how I know you’re gay” or the “Chairs” scene, no one cares about the story as long as it has moments that make you laugh.

Trainwreck is no exception. Because Apataow employees professionals, they work in perfect harmony to make the humor consistent between each scene and character. And like many times before, there is a lot to enjoy, the difference being Schumer’s unique perspective.

To put it simply, at the risk of garnering unwanted attention, her style is feminist in the context of equality. She is very casual about sex, body issues, and stereotypes in relation to masculinity and treats men as equals rather than opposites. As the writer of Trainwreck, she applies her voice and structures the story around someone who is forced to grow out of her preferred lifestyle, a reverse 40-Year-Old Virgin.

Everyone on the cast did well, providing their respective levels of comedy depending on their parts. Schumer proved she could hold her own against veteran Hader. Even Lebron James and John Cena carried themselves, playing caricatures of their personalities. Dave Attell shows up as a homeless parody of himself. I do not know if he is a bum in real life, but it was a great touch.

The one negative I find is the lack of a blooper reel. Did something happen that put a stop to including outtakes at the end of movies? Apatow’s bloopers are always great and it is a shame I have to wait till the DVD release to see them.

I recommend Trainwreck, but only after you see Ant-Man. Both are fantastic comedies worth your time and money. The latter is more fun where as the former has a ton of relatable themes consistent with Apatow’s signature. To that end, it is a question of personal preference. But you should see Ant-Man even if you do not want to.

Movie Review: Ant-Man

Of all the Marvel films, Ant-Man seems like the riskiest move yet. Like Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy, it is important to consider that mainstream audiences may not be familiar with the character(s) and you cannot ignore the pre-production controversy amid creative differences. On a personal note, watching the trailers gave me a feeling I cannot accurately describe. It seemed as though the studio was playing it too safe, taking the Iron Man route with a helping of self-deprecation, while not being afraid of its comic book roots. Going with a template that has worked in the past is a staple of storytelling, but still I find it unsettling what I may find upon admission to Ant-Man. Am I overreacting or is it Marvel’s Heaven’s Gate?

Playing it safe is the worst thing this movie could have done. What I thought was a retread of old ideas and a potential failure as the result of cooperate interference is instead a thoroughly enjoyable and Marvel’s most unique movie to date. If my word has any merit, you should stop reading and go see Ant-Man immediately.

In an attempt to get his life and family back together, ex-con Scott, played by Paul Rudd, does what he does best and burglarizes an expensive home at the behest of his thief friends. What he finds instead is the Ant-Man suit of former SHIELD operative and super scientist Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas. After putting on the suit, Scott experiences its shrinking capabilities and becomes the reluctant participant in Pym’s plot against his own company and former ward Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll.

Where Guardians of the Galaxy failed in my opinion, Ant-Man succeeds. Both are the same in terms of eccentricity and level of humor, and both are centered on retrieving a McGuffin to stop the bad guy. The difference between the two is a focus on story reinforcing character.

The narrative of Guardians does not change the characters, with the exception of Starlord because the main protagonist must always change by story’s conclusion. Everyone else remains much the same before and after they form the team. Gamora stays the same, Drax does not know how to change, Rocket is still crazy, and Groot is Groot. Guardians’ plot was a vehicle for its weirdness and humor, but it left its characters behind.

Ant-Man’s heist narrative affects everyone, even the villain to some degree, but when you’re a psychopath with a pseudo-Electra complex (I know that does not make sense, but see the movie and try to explain it better), you can only spiral further into insanity. Scott begins as a criminal who thinks criminality is his sole solution to doing good and becomes a genuine hero. Evangeline Lily’s Hope learns to trust others while making amends with her estranged parent. Even the minor characters that have no real involvement in the story are different by the end.

Another exceptional aspect of Ant-Man is its comedy. Edgar Wright might have left before filming, but he still wrote a script with his name on it. I have seen and own all three Cornetto movies and Scott Pilgrim and as a fan, I can safely say Wright’s latest is just as good. He makes great use of the Marvel property and the idea of a hero that can shrink in both the gags and action sequences. Even the ants are excellent as Scott’s sidekicks with their own insect-specific personalities. Ant-Man is what Honey, I Shrunk the Kids wanted to be, but did not have Wright’s talent and imagination behind it.

Everyone on the cast did well. Rudd was a nice choice for a thief seeking redemption that does not know how to handle a world of superheroes. Lily could have easily taken over the movie with her strongest performance yet. It is hard to judge if Douglas did Hank Pym justice because both versions are different. Comics Pym is naïve and unaware when his creations may do more harm than good, and movie Pym is the exact opposite. To that effect, Douglas was believable as a kind of older, seasoned Tony Stark without the sarcastic whit and playboy personality.

At this point in my critiques I usually mention the faults, but I cannot find any worth talking about. I would say Ant-Man runs a little long if the whole 117 minutes was not enjoyable to sit through. You will want all that and more from beginning to end. Were it not for Fury Road, it would be the best film I have seen this season. It is Winter Soldier perfect.

Why are you still here? Get a ticket already!