Ant-Man (2015) is the final film of Phase Two in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It introduces Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, and his passing the torch to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).

What a fun movie! Paul Rudd is absolutely endearing and such a funny guy. His superhero persona channels Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord over the more serious Avengers superheroes in the MCU, but, jokes aside, he does have a serious motivation: his daughter. He’s a hero in her eyes, and he wants to prove to her and every one else that he isn’t a lost cause. Pym isn’t as messed up as he is in the comics, but there is a huge rift between him and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). She is a strong and focused woman, an expert in everything her father mastered — everything from fighting skills to communicating with ants. Lilly, as always, puts on a superb performance, transcending the script more than was perhaps imagined. Similarly, Judy Greer’s few scenes as Lang’s ex-wife are scene-stealers. Every thing she does looks perfectly natural and effortless. (Someone write a leading role for Judy Greer, please.)

I still have trouble grasping the idea of Ant-Man. It’s hard for me to accept a shrunken superhero who fights with normal-sized superheroes. I concede that I have seen giants fighting with normal-sized superheroes, like Juggernaut in X-Men and I suppose the Hulk, but going the other way is strange. Half the time I was laughing at how funny it is to watch tiny superheroes fighting, like on the train set. As fun as it is to watch, and as fun as it makes a movie night out, it’s hard for me to take seriously, which I get isn’t the point — but at some point Ant-Man (and Wasp!) will join up with the Avengers and I can’t even imagine how that will work out. But that’s my own issue. I look forward to Phase Three of the MCU, which starts with Captain America: Civil War where Ant-Man will make his next appearance. It’s also weird watching ants doing strategic missions. It’s both absurd and frightening — I might have ant army nightmares.

Ant-Man is a lot of fun, what with Rudd’s funny and sometimes awkward jokes and Michael Peña’s excellent storytelling; however, it is a pretty generic superhero film: origin, training, execution. Luckily, there are all the fun elements to make it not so pedantic, largely coming from the solid cast. When Iron Man came out, his was a character that was not very familiar outside of the comic books world, but now he is a household name. I like that Marvel is including less known characters, like Ant-Man and The Guardians of the Galaxy. Enjoy a summer night with Ant-Man, and make sure that you stay until the very end of the end credits hint hint nudge nudge.

They Came Together

They Came Together (2014) is a spoof on the romantic comedy genre, directed by David Wain and co-written with Michael Showalter. Although constantly spoofing, the film is made with a deep-down love for the romantic comedy genre; it’s 83 minutes of laugh-after-laugh all in the spirit of good ‘ole fun.

They Came Together tells the story of Joel (Paul Rudd) and Molly (Amy Poehler) as they are sharing the story of how they met to their friends one night at dinner, Kyle (Bill Hader) and Karen (Ellie Kemper). Joel and Molly preface their love story as a really corny romantic comedy, and, boy, does it live up to that. It begins with a You’ve Got Mail foundation, with Rudd being the charming and charismatic leading man, oozing handsome smiles all over the place, who works in the evil candy empire that is threatening to bankrupt Molly’s small and community-friendly neighborhood candy shop (Poehler and Rudd working in candy companies screamed Leslie Knope, Bobby Newport, and Sweetum’s from Parks and Recreation). Molly is the classic strong and in-your-face type who’s clumsiness and compulsive qualities are endearing. Almost every romantic comedy trope and stereotype could be found in this film: overhead shots of Ney York City, holiday gatherings to introduce single friends to each other, incredibly passionate and rambunctious nights of love-making, meeting the parents, breaking up and getting back together over and over again, a mad dash to stop a wedding, getting back with an ex, montages of couples falling in love in the city, marriage proposals, hate-at-first-sight — they even managed to fit in a montage of the leading lady trying on various outfits to impress her man. Because the film is so fast-paced, all this and more is able to fit into a film that’s a little under 90 minutes long. Each trope and stereotype has Wain’s unique and hysterical twist on it, making for constant laughs.

The film hardly has a story — but it doesn’t need one; the point isn’t to have a story. The film is perpetuated by laughs and jokes. The pacing is very quick, joke after joke after joke, and while there are a few misses, most land perfectly. Laying out tons of the jokes, the leads — Rudd with his myriad of close-up smiles and Poehler with her clumsy yet likeable antics — are supported by an incredible cast. Jason Mantzoukas is the goofy and loyal best friend to the leading man; Cobie Smulders is the unfaithful and vapid ex-girlfriend of and constant temptress to Joel; Max Greenfield is the leading man’s little brother who offers up “jewels” of wisdom (with whom Joel has a tangential family crisis which is yet another romantic comedy antic); Teyonah Parris is the sassy co-worker (and possibly only other employee) at Molly’s small business; Ed Helms is the nice guy who is clearly wrong for Molly yet still manages to procure an unenthusiastic “yes” to his marriage proposal; Christopher Meloni is Joel’s boss, the token idiot turned up a few notches; and perhaps the most important supporting character: New York City.

This movie takes inspiration from great spoof and parody films such as Airplane! and Blazing Saddles. It’s 83 minutes of fun and laughs, if you’re open to not taking anything seriously. They Came Together has a solid and hysterical screenplay by Wain and Showalter and it’s brought to life by a crazy-strong comedic cast. Even though they’re making fun, you can’t help but root for Molly and Joel to get together. And even though Rudd is flashing a ton of fake, laugh-inducing smiles, you get a little weak in the knees each time.

I was fortunate enough to see They Came Together at the Music Box Theatre as part of the Chicago Film Critics Film Festival. David Wain was the special guest and introduced the film and let a Q&A afterwards, which was as hysterical as it was fascinating. They Came Together comes out to select theatres on June 27, 2014. It will be at the Music Box Theatre, so please check your local theatres and check out this film if it’s in your area!

Our Idiot Brother

On the eve of Chiberia, my roommate and I ordered in some Chinese food and cozied in with a movie night. We keep making the “mistake” of browsing Netflix’s “Comedy” category for a light-hearted comedy. I say mistake only because we keep finding movies that are actually “dramedies”, with an unexpectedly poignant message that we are not mentally prepared for. We scrolled through some titles and picked Our Idiot Brother. It wasn’t a “mistake” to watch it — since it was a nice movie — but it wasn’t what we were looking for.

Our Idiot Brother (2011), directed by Jesse Peretz, is about Ned (Paul Rudd), an unaware but kind and sweet man, who befalls adversity, both in his life and the lives of his sisters. He means no ill will on anybody, but he lacks common sense and foresight to understand the consequences of his action. Basically, this film is is about the bond between Ned and his sisters and how it grows stronger throughout the movie. Even more simply, it’s the story about how Ned is reunited with his dog. At its most simple, it’s the story of how Ned finds love — the most weak part of the film. After defining complex relationships between Ned and his siblings, his siblings and their partners, the conclusion of the film seems too cliché and too unimaginative. The rest of the film was clever and interesting, and this ending is a bad aftertaste after an intriguing meal.

Paul Rudd plays Ned very well, exuding charm and charisma. He’s charming in every way, including his foolish antics. He ends up “ruining” the lives of all three of his sisters: Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), Liz (Emily Mortimer), and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel). His honesty unravels Liz’s marriage, stifles Miranda’s article at work, and destroys Natalie’s partnership with Cindy (Rashida Jones). The three sisters ultimately gang up on Ned and his idiocy, but the beauty of this film is that they all have made bad decisions that have led to the rocky points in their relationships. It was merely Ned’s light push that brought all their insecurities and secrets to light. Through these complex relationships, the film cleverly shines the “foolish” light on the three sisters — who are normal members of society, seemingly put-together, with common sense and good judgement — through Ned’s exaggerated stupidity. 

Even with a small budget, this film excels, particularly in make-up and costume design. This film manages to make beautiful women like Rashida Jones and Emily Mortimer very plain and even unattractive. Playing down attractiveness is a huge plus in this film; it makes it feel more real. It’s more relatable. It also works on Paul Rudd, with that long, flowing hair.

Even though it wasn’t what we were looking for, Our Idiot Brother entertained us. The cast is incredible, also featuring Adam Scott. For an independent film, the ending seems a little too passive and flat. It’s what you expect from a big-budget rom-com. One can say that it’s fitting with Ned’s character, as he’s an idealist — and something I appreciate as a hopeless romantic — but it casts too much attention on itself compared to the tone of the rest of the film. While it may have been a “mistake”, it was a happy accident to stumble on to Our Idiot Brother