Klavan On The Culture

Summer Movie Update, with Coming Attractions

Ant-Man‘s not bad at all! Marvel’s smallest super hero doesn’t exactly deliver an epic, but he manages to produce a smart, humorous, emotionally sound and exciting addition to the summer super-hero genre. Paul Rudd has mastered the art of being likable, and Michael Douglas has inherited Paul Newman’s mantle of onscreen class: the moment he walks on, everyone else just seems to be in a lesser league. (The coolest part of the film is the flashback to Douglas’s younger self. Some real CGI magic. Wish they could do it in real life!) Lost girl Evangeline Lilly should probably sue the producers for making that sweet face of hers look almost forbidding, but never mind, it’s a good part and she does it well. The smartest thing the filmmakers did is rely on the human interactions to make the story work. They let the theme of father-daughter relationships play out at length before getting down to the ant-sized action. The reason this is such a masterstroke is that Ant-Man just isn’t that interesting as a superhero. Watching a dude shout, “Come on, gang, let’s get em!” to a bunch of ants…  just not that cool. The Thomas the Tank Engine train set chase is fun though. It’s all fun. A nice evening out, especially with kids. (They use the s-word twice. Normally I wouldn’t care, but I thought it unnecessary in a picture so otherwise suitable for 10-year-olds.)

As for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. — charmless; disappointing. The ’60s TV spy show (created by James Bond creator Ian Fleming) is not exactly a franchise that begs to be rebooted in the first place, but if you’re gonna do it at least have some fun with the 1960s settings and attitudes. Should’ve been a sort of Mad Men with silencers. Instead it’s more like, “Dude, Where’s My Cell Phone?”  I liked the two leads though. Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo recreates TV’s Robert Vaughn to the life: which is to say, he gives the same sense that he can just barely work up enough energy to pretend he likes women. And Armie Hammer as Ilya Kuryakin — how come this guy can’t get a hit? He’s really good and entertaining to watch but he clearly needs some better material.  The hot-as-the-hinges-of-hell Alicia Vikander is wasted in a part that makes no sense (every lad should see her in Ex Machina if his brain needs steam cleaning; she’s terrific there and incredibly sexy). The equally hot-as-the-hinges-of-hell Elizabeth Debicki is hot as the hinges of hell and brings the whole business to life whenever she’s onscreen.

Some upcoming trailers looked really good. Batman vs. Superman (or versus vice versa) looks like it’ll be tons of fun. And — as I alone suspected he would — Ben Affleck looks to have done a great job as the Bat. Also a picture about a heroic 1952 Coast Guard rescue called The Finest Hours looks great with a fantastic cast: Chris Pine, the stupendous Ben Foster, the also-stupendous Casey Affleck, Eric Bana and Holliday Grainger. And while we’re at sea, Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Seathe story that inspired Moby Dick, looks very cool too.

Forget ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E,’ Here Are 6 Unforgettable, Forgotten Spy Films from the Swinging ’60s