Ant Man: Michael Douglas, Marvel and a Captain America Teaser

Yellow Jacket under threat from Thomas the Tank Engine "Ant Man'

Without even going into the Marvel verse too deeply, Ant Man skirts along the edge of all things Avengers without encroaching on Iron Man territory. Michael Douglas enters into the spirit of superheroes with the gravitas of an elder statesman (with a mean temper) and the film ends with a teaser that has a surprise appearance by Captain America.

This production had a troubled start and lost its first helmsman, Edgar Wright, who may have given the world a much different Ant Man, although Paul Rudd manages to employ a lot of humor in the role.  As Scott Lang, a man with a daughter he is desperate to keep in contact with, Rudd brings that special brand of persona that he does so well.

As  an over intelligent cat burglar determined not to go back to prison, Lang still manages to get in trouble because, as Dr. Hank  Pym (Douglas) puts it, when things get tough Scott turns to crime.  The likable ex con is targeted by Pym to be the next Ant Man, much to Hank’s daughter’s chagrin.

Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) may be a chip of the old block of both Dr. Pym and his deceased wife, but she is too precious to the scientist to risk putting in the suit.  Her job is to get close to baddy Darren Cross, aka Yellowjacket (played brilliantly by Corey Stoll) and she does this well.

The storyline deals with a strict ex (a tiny cameo by personal favorite Judy Greer) and her new fiancee “a**hat” cop Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) who actually turns out to be less of a hat than Scott reckons.  Rudd’s character goes through an arc, a very impressive one, and steps up to “save the day.” 

Along the way, actor Michael Peña manages to almost steal the film from Douglas, Lily, Rudd and Stoll with his comic portrayal of career criminal Luis.  The actor is aided by some brilliant montage and flashback work where Peña voices all the characters in his expository scenes. 

The combination of his topical language choices and phrasing, along with his voice over matching the expressions of the people he voices in the flashbacks, makes the performer the clear winner in terms of captivating the audience.

Of course the film is not about Luis, so his “take over” is fleeting as Rudd manages to imbue his character with an exponential “nice guy” factor that shines through.  Douglas is a fine mix of curmudgeonly despot and loving father who cannot quite show how he really feels.

While the characters all help to bring the film to life, it is the action sequences, most by necessity CG, that carry the movie forward. Some of the effects are most certainly practical, for example the “exploding from underground” when Lang is freaked out by his initial introduction to the ant world, and are mixed with the computer generated FX brilliantly.

Sidenote: Speaking of CG there is that oddly real, but at the same time creepy, looking scene at the start of the film where Michael Douglas is years younger.  Despite leaps and bounds being made in this field, Douglas still looked…weird and a bit disturbing.

There is a great blend of humor with some of the scenes.  The entire toy train sequence is incredibly funny. Peyton Reed, whether influenced by the multi penned screenplay (with Edgar Wright as main scribe) or not, gives us a Thomas the Tank Engine chase and action scene that is just priceless. 

Seen from both Ant Man and Yellowjacket’s tiny view, the sound is enormous and the train with its speeding cars, looks deadly.  From another perspective Thomas’ danger value diminishes to nothing with comic results.

By the end of the film, it looks like Dyne will be joining Ant Man for a bit of crime fighting, or as an addendum to the Avengers and Dr. Pym survives being almost killed. The original Ant Man will act, presumably, as a continuing mentor to Scott Lang.

Marvel continues to bring more superheroes to the screen; big and small, with some being more oblique than others. Jessica Jones  as a sort of Marvel-Noire offering, along with her paramour Nick Cage has been given a second season on Netflix, for example.

With a lot of territory to cover yet in terms of the Avengers and all the peripheral action that entails; Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, et al, there will be enough material to keep Marvel on both television and movie screens for some time. (Not too mention the Agents of SHIELD and good old Peggy Carter.)

Ant Man is entertaining but not wildly funny, just amusing enough that the casting of Paul Rudd was a masterful move. All the cast do a more than capable job and the storyline is entertaining “Baskin-Robbins” don’t play dude.”

This is a 5 star film version of Marvel’s Ant Man.  While it would have been brilliant to see Wright’s version of this world, Peyton Reed brings an entertaining feature to the masses and it is to his credit that after watching this film, one immediately wants to watch it again.

Final Verdict:

Marvel-ous.

Jessica Jones: Guided Falling…In Love

After taking time to watch almost all of the episodes of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix and starting to write thoughts on each single installment, it was decided to do an overall feeling about the series and this unlikely superhero.

Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones

After taking time to watch almost all of the episodes of Marvel’s Jessica Jones on Netflix and starting to write thoughts on each single installment, it was decided to do an overall feeling about the series and this unlikely superhero. An uber strong, limited self healing, gal who does not fly, but engages in guided falling, it is this description from the heroine that almost wills the viewer to fall in love with this character.

Throughout the season, we have seen Jones become more heroic (as she fights to catch and take out Kilgrave),  Jeri Hogarth become more evil, Kilgrave become pathetic, Simpson become deadly and Trish become stronger.  The entire first season of the show is all about becoming, apparently…and death.

It all about learning the backstory of Jessica and eventually Kevin, aka Kilgrave. But over and above all that, is this seedy, unglamorous and gritty side of Marvel. Set in New York, along the same time line as The Avengers saving the city, Jones is the red-headed step child of the verse.

(In the Marvel verse, Jones was a member of the Avengers very, very briefly.)

Jessica Jones is the “noir” version of Marvel, along with Luke Cage, and she epitomizes the hard-drinking, sloppy P.I. of fiction….except,  she has super strength and can fly.  Although she calls it, “controlled  or guided falling.

Krysten Ritter plays Jones as a downtrodden, attitudinal passive aggressive.  Like the rest of the verse the character inhabits, the city is grey, dark and dirty. The juxtaposition of Jones’ life compared to the Avengers; Tony Stark, Captain America is just too brilliantly ironic.

Cap and Ironman are heroes looked up to by the denizens of New York who believe they lead the charge to save them, along with that “big green guy” mentioned a lot in the Netflix series. Jones, who was not even part of the “rescue” is attacked by a disgruntled woman whose mother died during Loki’s attack.

Once again, like the big screen Marvel adventures and the small screen actions of SHIELD (both Agent Carter and Phil Coulson and his crew) despite all the fantasy elements of the verse, everything is rooted in a semblance of reality. Although arguably, Jessica Jones and her world feel much more in the trenches, or gutter, than the superheroes who saved New York.

Jones’ world takes a look at gory homicide, the messiness of divorce and even tackles drugs, the red white and blue pills that Simpson takes are pretty spectacular and apparently addictive as well as combat enhancing.

Apart from all these gritty, there’s that word again, realities, this version of Marvel is full of malcontents, the socially inept, the downright weird and full of destruction. Jessica lives in a world of broken walls, furniture and people.  As do most of the inhabitants of her verse. Even the more successful, like high-powered lawyer Hogarth is broken, personally and in terms of ethics, granted, she is a lawyer so it is to be expected…

There is at least one person who lives in an ivory tower, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), former child star and radio talkshow host of New York, is in a different realm from her “sister.” After Simpson turns up, completely overrun by those red pills he keeps popping like breath mints, he leaves two dead men outside Walker’s posh apartment.

When Trish comes home, she find the place spotless, no dead bodies and nothing to indicate that they were ever there. At Jessica’s place, the unconscious Simpson is removed, but her apartment/office still looks like a nuke has hit it. Vive la’ difference…

Leaving lifestyles of Marvel’s rich and famous aside, the noir-ish world of Jessica Jones is still firmly part of the comic verse. Nods and winks to her “colleagues” abound. References to the Hulk and at least one kid running around in a Captain America outfit. Then there is the reference to “inhumans.”

Dorothy Walker (Rebecca De Mornay), the stage mother from Hell, shows up at Trish’s place with an envelope with the mysterious initials IGH. Obviously a reference to Daisy, aka Tremors, and the other Inhumans and must stand for Inhuman Growth Hormone.  This is, apparently, the reason for Jessica’s strength and limited healing capabilities.

This down and dirty version of Marvel is as addictive as the cleaner shinier one.  While there is no real news about a second season or not, this one is pretty entertaining. Jessica Jones and her guided falling has made it easy to fall in love with this “darker” heroine.

 

 

 

Tis the Season: To Watch Screeners

In the run up to Christmas, a load of “film” screeners were received in the post. With the awards season rapidly approaching studios wanted their children to be seen and voted upon.

MARTHA PLIMPTON, JAY R. FERGUSON, NOAH GALVIN, MATT SHIVELY, BEBE WOOD
THE REAL O’NEALS ABC 2016

In the run up to Christmas, a load of “film” screeners were received in the post. With the awards season rapidly approaching studios wanted their children to be seen and voted upon. Now with the Yuletide actually come and gone, television is taking its own hiatus from regular programming.

Despite having access to a number of advance screeners via ABC, one of the few networks who allow easy access to screeners, unlike others who want the coverage but do not allow early screening,  this is the time of year where entertainment takes a “backseat” in terms of programming.

Seasonal films and specials dominate the airways and even reality TV, something that is not watched nor written about on this site, takes a break.  Ergo regular programming is left by the wayside replaced with festive folderol aimed at the great unwashed and uneducated masses.

Granted not all the seasonal shows on offer are pap and rubbish, there are the specials aimed at the youngster in all of us. For example anything Charlie Brown, or those splendid stop motions Christmas specials; re: Rudolph and so on… It goes without saying that all country music or other musical  Christmas shows were ignored.

Over the next few days, it will be necessary to review the last of the films from the studios and to have a look at more ABC offerings, such as the splendid looking American Crime; second season, and the odd new program. Other new shows would have been looked at in depth if only the networks wanted to allow early viewing…

As pointed out in an earlier article, nothing from CBS or CW will be reviewed except in the most minimal way possible.  Both these networks turned up their  noses at the “small” size of my site and refused access to photos and other press materials.   Hence no regular reviews of Supergirl, Arrow or The Flash apart from the amalgamated reviews of the latter two shows. (Not any  series from these two snobs will be covered…)

New shows coming up in 2016 on ABC  are: The Family; a drama and Uncle Buck (which has already been reviewed) and another comedic offering, The Real O’Neals.  Other programs returning for another season are Secrets and Lies, Galavant (reviewed already…twice) and the earlier mentioned American Crime, which MikesFilmTalk will be looking at further, since several episodes have been posted for viewing.

On ABC Freeform, ‘nee Family, The Fosters are returning for their fourth season and also have a screener on offer.

Television aside, there are a few more films to be discussed, Listen to Me Marlon, Song of Lahore, Meru, What Happened Miss Simone?, Winter on Fire, Shaun the Sheep and The Armor of Light (Abigail Disney’s directorial debut)All but one are documentaries and some are more interesting than others. All have something to offer, even the films which can only be described as a “hard slog.”

Tis also the time of year to look over the odd  Netflix series or two. Jessica Jones, the Marvel “noir-ish” heroine, who could also be seen as a sort of superhero escapee from Frank Miller’s Sin City, is on offer right now. Apart from offering a splendid villain in the guise of David Tennant, who seems to be channeling his inner “grumpy”  from Broadchurch (Gracepoint) to good effect, this dark Marvel offering is entertaining and addictive.

Other projects, such as short films, will be addressed in this “slow” period as well. Stay tuned for more reviews and previews of upcoming attractions and returning favorites, in the meantime, “tis the season for screeners.”

 

Jessica Jones: AKA the Crush Syndrome (Review)

The second episode of Jessica Jones on Netflix follows the aftermath of Hope shooting her parents to death in the elevator (lift). Marvel can do dark brilliantly and Jones as protagonist just does not get much darker.

Jessica Jones and Jeri Hogarth

The second episode of Jessica Jones on Netflix follows the aftermath of Hope shooting her parents to death in the elevator (lift).  Marvel can do dark brilliantly and Jones as protagonist just does not get much darker.  This noir-like offering gives us strong women in spades, albeit all are damaged somewhat, and two “stronger” male figures. Cage and Kilgrave (the latter is strong in will and his ability to make people act against their nature) are both arguably stronger than Jones, but then she has vulnerabilities because of David Tenant’s character.

In terms of overly capable performers in the dark series, Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones,  Aussie actress Rachael  Taylor as her sister (adopted) and Carrie-Anne Moss give us a trio of women who are strong, assertive and successful. (Although admittedly both Trish (Taylor) and Jeri Hogarth (Moss) are higher on the scale of “success” than Jones.)

The build up of Kilgrave (Tennant) is brilliant. Thus far, even though we have yet to see KIlgrave, apart from a very quick profile shot as he screams into Jones’ ear, the series is making him out to be a villain amongst villains. (This  lack of appearance is rectified by the end of the episode when he takes over  a family and shuts their children in a closet.)

As Jessica continues to track down Kilgrave we are treated to a number of moments that stand out.  Apparently even his near death experience, being hit by a bus may not have killed the baddy but it certainly messed him up, did not lessen his powers of persuasion.

Such as the poor man who gives up both his kidneys to Kilgrave. This particular sequence in the episode was as blackly funny as it was horrific.  Attached to a dialysis machine and trapped with his cloying mother, the man seems almost oblivious to his surroundings.

After his mother leaves to get Jessica a drink, she questions this victim of Kilgrave. The man motions for a pencil, taking the instrument, he then starts awkwardly printing on a scrap of a paper after Jones asks who did this to him.

K-I-L…

“Kilgrave,” Jessica prompts.

“KILL ME.”

This hapless victim of Kilgrave is clearly in his own personal hell with his  devoted mother, who believes his condition is God’s punishment for his previous indiscretions, as the jailer. What makes this scene so ironic is Jessica’s statement to Jack the victim.

“God didn’t do this to you, it was the devil, and I’m going to get him.”

How can you not love this type of sly black humor? It is obvious that poor Jack wants to die, not because of what Kilgrave has turned him into, but to get away from his suffocating overly religious mother.

Later we learn just what happened the night that Kilgrave was injured. It is also  made clear that Jones has a thing for Cage. She tells him about his married lover, whose husband, she says, hired Jessica to prove her indiscretions with Luke (Mike Colter).  

Another stand out moment shows us the mythos of the bartender. A man who is “unbreakable.” Certainly the power-saw scene was goosebump inducing, as was Jones’ reaction to his little display, but the use of the phrase brought up visions of Bruce Willis and M. Night Shyamalan. (As well as a delirious Samuel L. Jackson shouting out, “They called me Mr. Glass!”)

This display of invincibility, against a power-saw at least, is one of the more overt shows of power. So far, the series has downplayed Jones’ power. It appears in snippets, such as Jessica stripping off locks from the hospital lockers in the changing room, or her fight in the bar when she aids Cage, who clearly did not need it.

Jessica Jones so far,  is focusing on her relationships with Trish and the cool, aloof Hogarth (Moss) as well as her initial attraction to Luke Cage. There are brief flashes of life “under Kilgrave” and of course the Shlottman murders committed by Hope (Erin Moriarty) are part of Jones’ current workload.

The P.I. also discovers what may be Kilgrave’s achilles heel after learning that he underwent the kidney transplants sans anesthesia.  She learns that certain drugs  could leave him vulnerable.  Propofol or Sufentanil were the drugs he turned down before the operation.  She also learns what “Crush Syndrome” is; after one kidney is destroyed the other begins to shut down in sympathy.

The episode ends with Cage in her apartment, after Jones has that epiphany about the drugs being Kilgrave’s weakness and Luke get the last, and perhaps coolest line in the episode, with his, “You can’t fix me. I’m unbreakable.”

Jessica Jones is great small screen Marvel, darker than Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter, as both of these offerings contain an amount of overt humor, versus the black kind.  So far, Krysten Ritter rocks it as the strong, P.I. who has a personal demon to slay. The series is on Netflix which means that the whole thing can be watched without waiting. Tune in for the dark humor and a storyline that promises much.

Jessica Jones: The Underbelly of Marvel Noir

Jessica Jones is the dark side of Marvel, it is noire to the very core with a heroine that drinks too much and has been to the dark side and back, but only just. Played by the impressive Krysten Ritter (who will be remembered principally for playing Jesse Pinkman’s druggie girlfriend that Walter lets OD) this series is darker than dark and full of bad attitude.

Kristen Ritter as Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones is the dark side of Marvel, it is noire to the very core with a heroine that drinks too much and has been to the dark side and back, but only just.  Played by the impressive Krysten Ritter (who will be remembered principally for playing Jesse Pinkman’s druggie girlfriend that Walter lets OD) this series is darker than dark and full of bad attitude. 

It is also addictive to watch and great fun.  Jessica Jones is enjoyable in a way that the regular Marvel “good guys” cannot be. Sure there are superheroes, and just plain old heroes, who have dark pasts and some pretty messy backstories, but Jones, who will also turn up in The Defenders (which will also be aired on Netflix) in 2016 beats those hands down.

If one is interested enough there is at least one “wiki” page entry for Jones’ character in the Marvel verse.  Apparently the dark haired super-strong gal with limited invulnerability powers was a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. at one time until her dark nature got her the boot.

The magic of Jessica Jones is that Krysten makes the hero so watchable that it is difficult not to binge all 13 episodes on offer over at Netflix.  Another point in this dark Marvel heroine’s favour is that we don’t need to know an awful lot about the superhero.  The pacing and story telling is such that we find out all that is needed to know.

Certainly there are characters in the show that come from the verse and are all part of the lore of Jones’ world. Luke Cage (played with an impressive depth and bearing by actor Mike Colter who is working currently on TNT’s Agent X and will, apparently have his own TV show titled, appropriately enough, Luke Cage) has ties with Jessica in both the comic world and on the series.

Whether there are any “Easter Eggs” in the show or not remains to be seen. Admittedly it is hard to take one’s eyes off of Ritter, just as it was in Breaking Bad.  The actress oozes a sense of dangerous reality in Jessica Jones and merely walking across her cluttered apartment floor takes on special meaning.

The flashbacks and her mantra of street names, to help get over “the Purple Man” aka, KIlgrave go a long way toward telling us that this is one flawed superhero.  Thus far the viewer has yet to see more than a silhouette or an arm of Kilgrave and we have only heard his voice. The part will be played by David Tennant (former Dr Who fan favorite and star of the US version of Broadchurch, which he also starred in, Gracepoint.)

Once again the Purple Man is part of the verse and a major nemesis of Jones in the comics.  In the pilot episode, AKA Ladies Night, Jones is serving papers to douche client when she picks up the vibe of Kilgrave. Later a girl’s parents show up asking Jessica to find and save their daughter Hope (Erin Moriarty). 

Jones accepts, reluctantly and in the process of tracking down the girl learns that Kilgrave is still alive, despite what Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor), Jones’ adopted sister believes. The pilot episode is tight and entertaining. It ends with the viewer wanting more and as it is on Netflix, this is definitely possible. 

Perfectly timed to fill that holiday gap left by midseason and fall finales, Jessica Jones is a really dark gem. Tune in to Netflix and get hooked on that bad girl superhero vibe.