The summer movies continue, with several surprises…
Ant-Man – Wow. They made a movie called friggin’ Ant-Man and it’s actually pretty good. It’s interesting to see movies’ first beta male super hero, played by the quintessential beta male actor, Paul Rudd, who does a good job. This is a true beta super hero, unlike any other you’ve seen before, who apologizes to his enemies when he hits them (“Sorry, sorry!”) and casually introduces himself to his enemies (“Hi! I’m Scott!”). It’s different, so it’s interesting. Michael Douglas is one of my all-time favorite actors and I loved seeing him in this. The Evangeline Lily character is off-putting and boring, and the villain is paper-thin, but the movie is fun.
Self/Less – Good for what it is. I really enjoyed the concept (moving your consciousness into a younger, stronger body) and wish they did more of it, but I wasn’t expecting Hollywood to really nail something this cerebral. Thus, the movie met my medium-low expectations. Ryan Reynolds is actually a good actor, and Ben Kingsley is fantastic (though he tends to be in a lot of bad films). I was surprised to see Tarsem Singh’s name as the director at the end. He’s the guy who made The Cell (remember that weird ass movie?). Self/Less is a moderately good movie, worth a watch on video or streaming if you ever have some downtime.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – Not as good as the last two, but still good, and worth seeing. I continue to be astounded at Tom Cruise’s almost magical ability to consistently make good movies. And make no mistake, these are his movies. He runs the show on these films (and all his films), picking the director, actors, script, etc. Amazingly, he knocks it out of the park almost every single time. It’s strange for me to say this, but Tom Cruise is probably the most skilled blockbuster movie-maker of our time. From Risky Business all the way to this film, it’s rare that Tom Cruise actually makes a bad movie, or even a mediocre one. Weird.
Fantastic Four – Ah, yes. A classic example of a studio screwing up a director’s work. At some point during post-production on this film, the studio fired the director and made all kinds of changes to the final third of the movie. This turned what could have been a very good film into a weird mish-mash. The first two thirds are quiet and dark, almost like a sci-fi horror film. The final third is suddenly a typical heroic superhero movie. In other words, the movie doesn’t make any sense. If they had kept the dark theme and vibe throughout the whole movie, it could have been good. Doctor Doom is the most interesting supervillain in comics; it’s a shame Hollywood just can’t nail this character no matter how hard they try.
Man From U.N.C.L.E. – Holy crap, I LOVED this movie, and I wasn’t expecting to. The plot is very blah, and so are the women in it, but the two men in this movie are pitch perfect Alpha Males. I loved how this movie made both guys equally cool, equally interesting, and equally flawed. Usually in a buddy-movie like this, one guy is the cool one and one guy is the comic relief. Not here. Both men are cool and humanly fallible. A refreshing change. The music in this film is also really sharp. Many laugh-out-loud scenes. This is one of my favorite movies of the year, strongly recommend.
Hitman: Agent 47 – When I saw this getting 8% on Rotten Tomatoes, I figured I’d have to shut off my brain while watching it and just focus on the action scenes. I was surprised to see that this movie isn’t that bad. Yeah, it’s bad, but not 8% bad. Yeah, there are some dumb lines, some obvious CGI, and some plot holes, but most action movies, even the really good ones, may have those things. Not sure why the critics were so brutal with this film. The cast was great (Ciarán Hinds is in it; one of my favorite actors of the last 15 years). The action scenes were fun, and you could actually tell what was going on. It also takes place in Singapore, which is all kinds awesome. If you don’t like action movies, you should probably skip it, but if you’re an action fan, you should check it out. It’s not as bad as the critics are saying.
American Ultra – As you can see, several movies this time around were much better than I expected them to be. This movie was the opposite. The previews to this movie made it look interesting, different, and fun. Instead it was a very disjointed film that, while not terrible, was a big letdown from my high expectations. The cast was great. Jesse Eisenberg is always good and I can’t wait to see him as Lex Luthor. Amazingly, Kristen Stewart was actually fantastic in this film (!). How weird is that? She’s like a completely different person in this movie, and that was surprising. Sadly, the movie just didn’t move fast enough. I wanted it to be better.
By the way, that’s something interesting to note. American Ultra is a better-made movie than Hitman, but the marketing for Ultra made you expect a better movie, while Hitman made it very clear it was going to be just a bunch of fun schlock. Therefore, my experience was slightly worse watching Ultra. Interesting how marketing can change your perception of a film?
Oh well. Summer is over now. The movie schedule is going to be pretty weak until November when James Bond returns. Then it’s Star Wars, Frankenstein, Rocky, and a bunch of other stuff that might be good or might suck horribly. We’ll see.