Tag Archives: Bobby Cannavale

‘Ant-Man’ a Fun but Frustrating Marvel Ride

Ant-Man_posterIf nothing else, this is proof that Paul Rudd makes everything bearable.

“Ant-Man” is the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it stars Paul Rudd as the titular superhero. Armed with a suit that gives him the ability to shrink, career burglar Scott Lang (Rudd) is recruited by an aging scientist (Michael Douglas) to pull off a heist that will save the world from the scientist’s ex-protégée (Corey Stoll). Peyton Reed directs.

There was a lot of behind-the-scenes drama before “Ant-Man” even began filming. Originally, Edgar Wright was supposed to write and direct the film, however left after those pesky “creative differences” arose with the studio. So Marvel brought in Adam McKay (known for directing Will Ferrell flicks) to rewrite the script with Rudd, and “Yes Man” director Peyton Reed to helm the project. It was clear that they were trying to go heavier on the comedy than the action with “Ant-Man,” which may be where the film’s biggest pluses, and faults, lie.

The film is a bit frustrating in that it does a lot right, and creates a fun ride for the audience, but at the same time bogs itself down with a cliché and sloppy narrative. For every step forward “Ant-Man” takes, it takes one back. The biggest problem I have with the film is that essentially the first half, if not more so, is exposition and explanation. We are introduced to the characters, and rightfully so, but the movie beats us over the head with facts repeatedly, like how Rudd is a good guy who just can’t go straight, and how Douglas needs to make sure his research isn’t duplicated.

The film just feels cookie-cutter, and it feels that way because it is. The villain of the film (Stoll, known for “House of Cards”) is one big, bald cliché: the ex-protégée is angry at his former mentor and tries to get back at him. He then creates a bigger and badder version of the hero’s suit, and the two must face off (if that sounds like the ending to “Iron Man” it’s because it is). Not too much about “Ant-Man” felt refreshing or new, and one can only imagine how much more energetic it would have been had Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) had stayed on as director.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its positives. Rudd is as charming as ever as our leading man; I’m pretty sure he could make reading the Wall Street Journal while eating a bowl of Fruit Loops into comedy gold. His wit and charisma save some scenes from feeling bogged down, and is believable in the action sequences. Michael Douglas turns in an entertaining performance as well, playing a man who truly cares about protecting his research because it is what’s best for humanity, not just for him.

Director Reed, like the film itself, is a mixed bag. He has a career in comedy, and most of the humor scenes are handled well; nothing ever feels too awkward or out of place. However it is the narrative and camera work that seemed slacking, which makes sense seeing as this is Reed’s first big-budget action flick. Most of the film is just build-up and preparation for the big heist, and when that finally comes it under-delivers. The film never truly flows well, and that usually falls at the fault of the man in charge.

“Ant-Man” is far from a bad movie, and it isn’t quite a failure for Marvel, but it certainly is one of their weaker films (I doubt anything will ever beat out “Thor 2” for their worst). Rudd and Douglas keep the film watchable, and some of the abilities they give Ant-Man are creative, but all these positives are almost knocked out by a tedious pace, formulaic plot and stereotypical supporting characters.

The film’s tagline is “Heroes Don’t Get Any Bigger Than Ant-Man.” Well they may not get bigger, but they certainly get better.

Critics Rating: 5/10



Pacino Back in Form as ‘Danny Collins’

Danny_Collins_Official_PosterWelcome back, classic Al Pacino.

Pacino stars as the titular role in “Danny Collins”, a film that follows an aging rocker who decides to make some life changes after receiving a 40-year-old letter written to him by John Lennon. Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, and Bobby Cannavale all co-star while Dan Fogelman writes and makes his directorial debut.

There’s really no sugar-coating it, this is a story that we have seen before. A famous person in the final stage of their life realizes that they’ve made some mistakes, and set out to make peace and find redemption. “Danny Collins” never tries to stray from the course, but thanks to a fantastic cast and some fun writing, it is elevated above its cliché narrative.

I’m personally a fan of screenwriter Dan Fogelman. He may not be Tarantino, but his scripts, including “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” and the underrated “Last Vegas”, usually feature playful dialogue that lend themselves to fun scenes and character interaction. In “Collins”, he pens some great exchanges between Pacino and Annette Bening, who plays the manager of the hotel Pacino stays at, and their chemistry keeps the film from every getting stale.

I’m also a fan of Bobby Cannavale, and he turns in a solid performance here playing Pacino’s adult son who has never met his father. Cannavale brings the Italian charm that makes him so likeable, but at the same time gives a balance of hatred and unease in the scenes he shares with Pacino. He doesn’t want to forgive his father for being absent all his life but at the same time knows it isn’t fair to let his daughter grow up not knowing her grandfather. In the scenes with Pacino and Cannavale often no words are said, but both men do excellent jobs letting the audience know how they are feeling with their body expression and eyes.

While it is able to mostly overcome its familiar subject matter, there are times that “Danny Collins” becomes almost frustrating in how predictable it is. Whenever something is going right for a character you know bad news is right around the corner, and Danny’s addiction to drugs and alcohol seems to come-and-go as needed by the plot. The final act of the film is also somewhat poorly paced, slowing down considerably before rushing to a finish.

With a cast this talented and charming (Christopher Plummer and Nick Offerman both also make appearances), “Danny Collins” mostly overcomes its contrived moments and leaves the audience feeling good when the credits role. As the opening slide of the film states, this is “kind of, sorta” based on the true story of folk singer Steve Tilston, who discovered a letter from Lennon back in 2010, which makes the film just a tad bit more interesting.

Overlaid with John Lennon tracks and featuring one original song that I still have stuck in my head, “Danny Collins” is a feel-good film featuring a strong central performance from Pacino, who like Collins himself has recently entered into near self-parody in his work. If you’re looking for a tale about redemption and some fun interplay between some big name actors, then you’ll want to book a ticket to Danny Collins.

Critics Rating: 7/10