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Dune (2021) Review

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Dune (2021)

Time: 156 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides
Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica
Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides
Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck
Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen
Dave Bautista as Glossu Rabban
Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat
Zendaya as Chani
David Dastmalchian as Piter De Vries
Chang Chen as Dr. Wellington Yueh
Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Dr. Liet-Kynes
Charlotte Rampling as Gaius Helen Mohiam
Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho
Javier Bardem as Stilgar
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence, only those who can conquer their own fear will survive.

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Dune was my most anticipated film of 2021. Along with sporting a massively talented cast including the likes of Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson and Oscar Isaac, it is also the next film from Denis Villeneuve, who has already delivered some outstanding films like Blade Runner 2049, Sicario, Prisoners and more. On top of that, he’s adapting Frank Herbert’s Dune, and although I’ve never read it and I have only watched the David Lynch adaptation, it is said to be one of the most iconic and important sci-fi novels ever. So for the talent involved I was absolutely on board and was greatly anticipating its release. Unfortunately, the wait for the release date in cinemas for Dune here in New Zealand has been delayed to December, resulting in me having to watch it through other means. All that aside, I can now confirm that it is a fantastic movie that lived up to all the hype.

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Despite this movie being called Dune in most places, the true title of this movie (as shown in the opening) is Dune: Part One. Denis Villeneuve made the decision to split his Dune adaptation into two parts, a very wise decision to me. David Lynch’s Dune attempted to adapt the novel all in one film to very mixed results. So far, Villeneuve’s adaptation really benefits from this. There is a lot of strong worldbuilding, as well as lore and characters established. It really does earn its 2 hour and 30 minute runtime. I haven’t read the book and my knowledge from it came from watching the Lynch movie, and even then I only grasped some aspects and plot details. However with Dune Part One I grasped the story and lore surprisingly well, and I wanted to know more about this world. I was on board with what was happening the entire time. The pacing is steady especially near the beginning, but I wouldn’t have changed it at all. Villeneuve does well at conveying the stakes and scale of the events and setting, while also telling a personal journey of the lead character. This movie essentially focuses on Paul’s (Timothee Chalamet) internal struggle with his growing power and the story is about him accepting his role in a coming war. Like other movies, it does have the concept of a messiah-like or chosen one protagonist but there’s something about the way its handled here that makes it feel unique. Part One does essentially serve to convey a lot of exposition and worldbuilding for the Dune universe, but it approaches it in a way that felt natural to me. Some characters are more fleshed out than others for sure but that’s to be expected with a movie on this large a scale, with so many characters to keep track of. I didn’t really have any issues with the film off the top of my head, there was a lot to take in and a second viewing would definitely help. The only thing I will note is that as you probably would’ve guessed by this point, not everything is resolved at the end, in fact most things aren’t. It does well at getting you interested in what’s to come next, but this movie’s quality in a few years from now will depend on whether Part Two can deliver.

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As said earlier, the cast is really talented and they are great in their roles. Timothee Chalamet is in the lead role of Paul Atreides. He’s a commanding screen presence and captivating as this layered character. Rebecca Ferguson is once again great, Oscar Isaac was solid as the Duke and Paul’s father, and Jason Momoa is a scene stealer and perfectly cast in his role. Other actors like Josh Brolin, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Javier Bardem and more also do well in their parts. Some actors have less screentime than others. Stellan Skarsgard plays Baron Harkonnen, the main villain of Dune. Despite being in under 5 scenes in this movie, he leaves a strong and memorable impression with his menacing performance. Zendaya doesn’t get a lot of screentime but her presence is felt throughout through visions that Paul has. She’s good in her scenes, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in Dune: Part Two.

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Denis Villeneuve is a great and ambitious director, and his work on Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 particularly felt like an audition for this movie. Unsurprisingly his work on Dune is fantastic. Again I wasn’t able to appreciate all the work done on a big screen yet, but for those who can watch it in a cinema, I highly recommend it. This movie is an absolute experience and spectacle of a film, it’s rare to find a blockbuster that actually feels this epic in scale. The cinematography from Greig Fraser is outstanding, with perfect use of framing, colour and lighting. The production designs and locations were incredibly effective. So many of the places shot were memorable and unique from other sci-fi movies, with an otherworldly look to them. The set pieces and wardrobe are well crafted and help bring this world to life. It is not an action movie by any means, but the action that is here is very well handled and shot. The score from Hans Zimmer is operatic and unique, fitting the film perfectly.

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Dune: Part One is truly an immersive experience and spectacle of a film. A fantastic and visually gorgeous sci-fi epic, with an intriguing story, characters and world, a great cast of performances, and stellar direction from Denis Villeneuve. The only thing about Dune: Part One is that essentially we are watching part one of a full story, this movie could end up becoming better or worse depending on how Part Two is. I do know that I am even more excited for Part Two now, and I really want to check out the novel it is based on. If you’re able to, try to watch Dune on the big screen because I can already tell that it’s worth it.

The Suicide Squad (2021) Review

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The Suicide Squad

Time: 132 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence, offensive language & cruelty
Cast:
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn
Idris Elba as Robert DuBois/Bloodsport
John Cena as Christopher Smith/Peacemaker
Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag
Sylvester Stallone as the voice of Nanaue/King Shark
Viola Davis as Amanda Waller
Jai Courtney as George “Digger” Harkness/Captain Boomerang
Peter Capaldi as Gaius Grieves/The Thinker
David Dastmalchian as Abner Krill/Polka-Dot Man
Daniela Melchior as Cleo Cazo/Ratcatcher 2
Director: James Gunn

The government sends the most dangerous supervillains in the world – Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and others — to the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Armed with high-tech weapons, they trek through the dangerous jungle on a search-and-destroy mission, with only Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) on the ground to make them behave.

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I enjoyed the first Suicide Squad when it came out, however looking back on it, it was a bit of a disappointment to say the least. The follow up Suicide Squad film has been in development, eventually it was James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, who ended up helming the project. Honestly I wasn’t that excited for the movie, first of all while I enjoy the GOTG movies, I’m not a massive fan of Gunn and his style. Second of all, the trailers weren’t that good, and didn’t do a great job at getting me interested in watching it. Nonetheless, I still decided to check it out. The trailers really didn’t do The Suicide Squad justice, it was better than expected. I still have some issues with it, but on the whole, I enjoyed it.

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First and foremost, you don’t necessarily have to have seen the first Suicide Squad to get into this new Suicide Squad. While it works as a sequel, it is more of a reboot. I will say that as a movie about the Suicide Squad, Gunn’s version does succeed more than the Suicide Squad movie from 2016 (speaking as someone who doesn’t generally read comic books). In these Suicide Squad comic books, there’s usually a large cast of characters, and by the end most of them are dead. Whereas the first Suicide Squad really only had two members of the Squad being killed off throughout the entirety of the movie, The Suicide Squad has a larger amount of people dying. The tagline “Don’t get too attached” is certainly apt. Gunn certainly delivered a lot of deaths, almost to the point of going overboard, but more on that later. The plot like the 2016 movie is pretty straightforward. I do think that it gets a little weirdly complicated at points, with the time jumps, perspective changes, and the like. I was able to follow it fine enough, it was just a bit jarring how it jumps from place to place at points. The movie even surprisingly has too much going on at times. The plot is familiar to a lot of other comic book movies and doesn’t break new ground, but I don’t think it really needed to. The first act starts off pretty well, as it introduces the main characters. The second act is where plotwise I have most of my criticisms, it slows down quite a bit. The movie is long at nearly 2 hours and 20 minutes, while I don’t have a problem with longer comic book movies, The Suicide Squad is one where occasionally you feel the length, and you especially feel it in the middle section. There’s also a section involving Harley which I really didn’t like for the most part, even though it does pay off by the end of it. The third act actually does a lot at making this movie work as well as it does. It is very reminiscent of other comic book movie climaxes with large scale threats that the main characters have to deal with, but of those examples, The Suicide Squad is among the best executions of them. There’s also some surprisingly emotional and impactful moments involving the characters. I would say that it’s worth watching the movie for the climax alone. It is worth noting that there are two credits scenes worth staying around for, the second of which is especially worth watching.

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One of my main two predictions going into the movie was that the humour would be my least favourite aspect, and that turned out to be true. It is strange because although I don’t find the Guardians of the Galaxy movies to be hilarious, they are funny, and are certainly funnier than The Suicide Squad. For every witty line and joke that’s actually funny, there’s a back and forth lines about “an island of dicks”, or a 69 joke. Somehow the R rating actually made the jokes less funny, and most of the time they attempted humour, at best it doesn’t leave much of an impact, at worst it’s annoying. However, if you watched that first red band trailer and found the jokes in that to be funny, you’ll probably have a good time with The Suicide Squad. Effectiveness of the humour aside, another issue with it is that sometimes it undercuts dramatic or emotional moments, something that also appears in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. The movie gets surprisingly dark at times, whether it be with characters, or the deaths that occur. With that said, there is a general feeling of Gunn trying hard to be edgy. This was a feeling I had ever since the trailers proudly announced that The Suicide Squad was “from the horribly beautiful mind of James Gunn”, and that feeling was in the movie itself. I don’t have a problem with the violence, gore, etc. However when it feels like it’s being done to get a reaction out of the audience, it does get annoying, and unfortunately The Suicide Squad slips into that at points. Some of it is the violence, which might be surprising and shocking in the first act, but by the halfway point it loses its impact. Some of it was the deaths, specifically who is chosen to die. I mentioned earlier that I thought the movie had killed off too many of its named characters. There were two deaths that I downright hated in this movie. The first was in the first half of the film, it was partly because of how quickly it was executed, and it seemed rather unnecessary outside of it being done for shock value. The second was in the second half of the movie, and it was mostly the nature of the death, how it was done without having any weight to it, and feeling like a joke despite the death being for a major character that we are meant to care about (and do care about).

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Some of the highlights of the movie were the cast and characters for me, and they shared great chemistry between each other. There were two standouts for me. One is Bloodsport, played by Idris Elba, who is essentially the main character. Immediately there have been a lot of comparisons between him and Will Smith’s Deadshot from the first Suicide Squad. However, Bloodsport is his own character and he’s a great character, from his action scenes, to Elba’s performance. The other standout is Ratcatcher 2, played by Daniela Melachior, who is essentially the heart of the movie. One of the new main characters is John Cena as Peacemaker, a character I was very curious about given that even before the movie was released, it was announced that he would be getting his own spin off tv series. I haven’t seen Cena in a lot of movies but this is definitely the best performance I’ve seen from him, he handled the humour, the action scenes, and even the emotional and dramatic moments really well. I’m not sure that he’s interesting enough to lead his own spin off but I am curious to see how it plays out. Another new main character is David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, and it really is a credit to the movie that they can make us like a character as ridiculous in concept as him. Another of the main characters of the Squad is King Shark (who’s basically just like a giant humanoid shark), and the second of my main two predictions was that I would really dislike him, mostly because he looked like he would be treated as a mix between Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and any other ‘funny animal character’. However I was wrong, he’s not one of the best characters in the movie by any means, but I didn’t mind him and I surprisingly liked him. Joel Kinnaman returns as Rick Flag and although he basically has the same role as in the first movie, I do like him more in this movie.

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Another major returning Suicide Squad character is that of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, one of the biggest standouts in the first Suicide Squad, who had her own spin off with Birds of Prey last year. I do like Harley in this movie, although there were some decisions involving her I wasn’t such a fan of. There is a segment with Harley in the second act which I particularly take issue with. With that said, it does lead to one of the standout action sequences in the movie. In fact I really liked the action that she was involved with. She is more of a supporting player compared to her past appearances, but I didn’t necessarily mind that, as Suicide Squad in concept is more of an ensemble piece, and she does play off other characters quite well. Another returning Suicide Squad character is Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis. Waller serves as the same purpose in the first movie as the person making the Squad take on this mission, and Davis as usually delivers her part at the top of her game as always. The character is made way more over the top in this movie, but my main issues with her lie in the third act. In that section, the way she acts, the decisions she makes, and her motivations just made no sense. Her character is really the one part of The Suicide Squad where I preferred the 2016 version more. Other cast members like Peter Capaldi also delivered, as well as the other Suicide Squad members who don’t get that much screentime.

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The movie is directed by James Gunn, and it certainly feels like it, while still feeling different from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. It does have a distinct visual style and it is well shot, from the camera movements, to the colours, the costumes, and the production design. Even the CGI is pretty strong throughout. The action scenes are one of the highlights of the movie, all very entertaining, bloody, well shot, and great to watch. The third act is particularly done well, and the final enemies managing to be effectively threatening despite the initially absurd concept. The Suicide Squad also handles its music a lot better than the first movie. In 2016’s Suicide Squad, there was a good score from Steven Price but most of the music that we hear is a ton of random song choices slapped together in so many scenes, and it was just a mess. In The Suicide Squad, we get both a great score composed by John Murphy, as well as a good lineup of pre-existing songs that are utilised well throughout the movie. There are some effective needle drop moments, even if they aren’t as memorable as in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

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The Suicide Squad has its issues. The humour which mostly doesn’t work, some of the characterisation, and some of the plot decisions (especially in the second act) do linger in my mind as parts I really didn’t like. However, I did find myself enjoying it, and what it gets right, it really gets right. The cast and characters for the most part are great and they have great chemistry between each other, the visual style is strong and distinct, and the action is enthralling to watch. The Suicide Squad is also a reminder that the DCEU movies really are at their best when Warner Bros lets their directors deliver their visions, and it would be great to see them learn this from how well their latest movie turned out (not that I’m counting on that happening). Even if you dislike the first Suicide Squad movie, this second version might be worth a look.

Ant Man and the Wasp (2018) Review

Time: 118 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Contains violence & coarse language
Cast:
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne/Wasp
Michael Peña as Luis
Walton Goggins as Sonny Burch
Bobby Cannavale as Jim Paxton
Judy Greer as Maggie
Tip “T.I.” Harris as Dave
David Dastmalchian as Kurt
Hannah John-Kamen as Ava Starr/Ghost
Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie
Randall Park as Jimmy Woo
Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne
Laurence Fishburne as Bill Foster
Michael Douglas as Hank Pym
Director: Peyton Reed

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is grappling with the consequences of his choices as both a superhero and a father. Approached by Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Lang must once again don the Ant-Man suit and fight alongside the Wasp. The urgent mission soon leads to secret revelations from the past as the dynamic duo finds itself in an epic battle against a powerful new enemy.

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I was somewhat interested in Ant Man and the Wasp. I have to admit I wasn’t super hyped for the movie. Don’t get me wrong, I actually liked the first Ant Man, it was a simple but effective enough comic book movie that was quite entertaining. However with it being released after the juggernaut and emotional chapter that was Infinity War, Ant Man and the Wasp just felt a little off to release months after. Also I had a feeling that the sequel would just be more of the same, fun but nothing really that new. Nonetheless I was interested. Ant Man and the Wasp surprisingly worked very well for what it is, which is a fun and entertaining comedy.

Something that is quite apparent is that this movie is very focussed on being funny and entertaining. It’s like Marvel wanted a lighter movie following Infinity War, that could possibly affect your thoughts on Ant Man and the Wasp, for better or for worse. A problem which could happen with some MCU films is that while the comedy works, often times it would interrupt some more dramatic or emotional scenes. However with Ant Man and the Wasp, there aren’t a ton of emotional scenes, the most is related to Scott Lang and his daughter and Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym with Pym’s wife (played by Michelle Pfeiffer). So there really weren’t many emotional scenes to ruin with comedy. This movie might as well be called a straight up comedy and while I would’ve preferred some more emotional depth to the movie, it does well at what it sets out to do. A criticism of the movie is that it doesn’t have great consequences or stakes, like with the first movie the stake here are very small and personal and I’m completely fine with that. Even so, you don’t ever feel a sense of urgency, you felt it slightly more in the first movie but here you always just know that everything is going to be alright. It’s also rather predictable, with very rare surprises. Really the biggest spoiler of the movie is the credit scenes, you can’t really spoil most of the movie. It’s a rather straightforward superhero movie that doesn’t really do anything particularly surprising, it’s goal was for it to be fun and hilarious and it achieved that. The movie is about 2 hours long and from start to finish I was quite entertained. There are a couple credits scenes, the first is about something that everyone will want to watch following Infinity War, the second is okay but not necessary to watch.

Paul Rudd is once again great as Scott Lang/Ant Man, he’s just so likable and funny, and a real underdog character. It’s very easy to root for him, Rudd’s casting was perfect. It’s been a few years since I’ve watched the first Ant Man for the first time, but I remember him being a little less goofy in the original movie. While he’s not completely stupid or anything, they do put him in more goofy scenarios or make him do some somewhat goofy things, it’s like they were doing that to try to make Evangeline Lilly’s character of The Wasp stand out more in comparison, which wasn’t necessary as she would’ve done that perfectly fine on her own. Lilly as the Wasp is one of the standouts of the movie, she gets to do a lot here and the movie definitely utilises her well. I didn’t buy the sorta romance between her and Scott in the first movie and the same is here. It’s not constantly done again and again to the point of annoyance but it can be distracting at times and doesn’t really work. Michael Douglas is once again great as Hank Pym, perfect casting, here he gets to do even more than in the original movie. Michael Pena like in the first movie is very funny and has some great scenes. Other actors like Laurence Fishburne do their part. The villains often have a chance of being one of the weaker parts in MCU movies (or comic book movies in general), however with Black Panther and Infinity War earlier this year providing great comic book villains in Killmonger and Thanos, the MCU seemed to be making some progress in regards to them. The main villain in Ant Man and the Wasp is Hannah John-Kamen as the character of Ghost, who has unique phasing abilities which can lead to some entertaining action scenes. Also she does have a different backstory and credit from other MCU villains, you can really understand why she does the things she does here. For once the whole “this comic book movie villain isn’t really a villain” description actually applies, it could be argued that Ghost is more just an antagonist than a villain. It seems that all the main MCU villains this year have in common is that they all have strong and defined motivations. Ghost unfortunately isn’t a top tier level villain in the MCU but she’s a reasonably strong second tier villain. The biggest problem is that aside from her powers, the backstory, motivation and the performance, there isn’t enough of her as a character. She has just about enough screentime but it would’ve been a little better if they showed a little more to the character. With that said, the character was actually done well, with her arc being treated well, consistent throughout and not just being a throwaway villain. Also Hannah does do a great job in her role. She fared much better than Walton Goggins, who served to be as a leader of generic disposable henchmen. Goggins really is wasted here as a generic villain. He and his henchmen seem to only be in this movie because the movie needed a large amount of villainous characters that the main characters can fight because the main villain herself didn’t have any. Honestly if they were somehow connected to Ghost, maybe they could’ve worked in some way.

Peyton Reed turns from the first movie to direct Ant Man and the Wasp. The thing that really stood out about the first Ant Man was the unique action scenes that included resizing (mostly shrinking). The sequel really leaned into that more and they got very creative with the action scenes. Other visual aspects such as Ghost’s phasing ability are done pretty well. The visuals can look pretty stunning at times, especially when it comes to the Quantum Realm, which plays a part in this movie. On a side note, like in the first movie there is a flashback scene which utilises de-aging technology and once again it works effectively.

Ant Man and the Wasp is not anywhere near the top tier of Marvel but it is quite entertaining. The cast do well in their roles, it’s visually stunning with some entertaining action scenes and the movie is so fun. It does have its fair share of issues but it achieves what it sets out to do for the most part. If you really liked the first Ant Man, I’m pretty sure that you’ll have a good time with Ant Man and the Wasp.

Ant Man (2015) Review

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Ant Man

Time: 117 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]Violence and Offensive Language
Cast:
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne
Corey Stoll as Darren Cross
Bobby Cannavale as Paxton
Michael Peña as Luis
Tip “T.I.” Harris as Dave
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon
Wood Harris as Gale
Judy Greer as Maggie
David Dastmalchian as Kurt
Michael Douglas as Hank Pym
Director: Peyton Reed

Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, con-man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

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Ant Man has been receiving quite a lot of scepticism before its release. Not only was this concept hard to pull off but Edgar Wright’s separation from the project concerned many. Despite this, Ant Man manages to rise above all its potential problems and makes for a great and refreshing addition to the Marvel universe. Ant Man proves once again that Marvel can take a concept that is hard to pull off but actually manage to succeed in delivering.

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..© Marvel 2014

The first thing you need to know is that Ant Man is not a big movie. Go into Ant Man as if you are seeing a heist movie as opposed to a save the world type of movies like Age of Ultron. It’s actually kind of refreshing, it can get a little tiring being bogged down by the large scope and stakes of some of the big movies. It is also a very funny movie, this might actually be the funniest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (either this or Guardians of the Galaxy). Although Edgar Wright has left the project, you can tell from a lot of the scenes, writing and dialogue his work. I would’ve liked to have seen what Wright had in mind for this film but it is still pretty good. Peyton Reed has directed this movie quite well, despite my doubts of his choice of helming this movie. The last thing to know is that Ant Man has 2 credit scenes, so be sure to stick around for them.

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Paul Rudd is great in this film, this is probably the best performance I’ve seen from him so far. He really transitioned into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with ease and I look forward to seeing more of him as Ant Man. Michael Douglas was perfect casting as Hank Pym, it is one of his best performances in a while. Evangeline Lilly was also great as Hank’s daughter, I could really sense a lot of history between her and Michael Douglas. Michael Pena was great and he provided a lot of great comic relief. Villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (for the most part) aren’t that good and while Darren Cross, the villain of this film isn’t that fleshed out, its actor’s Corey Stoll’s performance that makes him one of the better antagonists in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Like with the script, you can definitely see Edgar Wright’s style here, like with its fast editing. The effects to show Ant Man shrinking look really great and the film really takes advantage of its opportunities to create some really great, entertaining and at times hilarious scenes. This film is actually worth watching in 3D, it really does enhance and make the experience much better and that’s not something I usually say about 3D movies. The climax of this film is very enjoyable and it gets very creative and entertaining.

I said in my anticipated movies of 2015 that if Marvel can pull off Ant Man and make it great, I’ll be pretty much sold on any movie that they make, no matter how ridiculous a premise it may sound. They have done that with Ant Man and have made it much more. Looking at this film (and the end credit scenes) I’m excited for Marvel’s next films. So far it looks like today, Marvel can do no wrong (well at least movies by in the Avengers universe).