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Ant-Man shrinks, Trainwreck breaks out

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ANT-MAN. When mentions of this latest Marvel cash machine appeared, they were enlivened by the presence of writer-director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). He left the project in pre-production; quietly, undoubtedly with a stiff upper lip. His screenplay, co-written with Joe Cornish (Attack the Block, which everyone should see) survived his departure, though Paul Rudd and Adam McKay (Anchorman, Saturday Night Live) share screen credit for the final product.

I try not to dwell on what might have been. In a case like this, though, when there was a faint hope that a director with a distinct sensibility and a personal style behind the lens might actually personalize a Marvel movie and set it apart, it is hard not to ask "what if?" No offense to Peyton Reed (Bring It On, The Break Up), who stepped in and made a perfectly serviceable movie. But Wright is a visual outlier, a quirky risk-taker and, in my mind, just the sort of influence the Marvel universe could use right now.

To be sure, Joss Whedon and James Gunn did impressive, entertaining things with The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, but those are megalithic ensemble pieces. The budgets are so astronomical, the stories so over-loaded with characters and plot elements, that there is little room for risk-taking; these movies are expected to make a billion dollars, after all. Ant-Man, in the early going, seemed like a perfect opportunity to inject some humor and weirdness, especially when Paul Rudd signed on. And there are traces of individuality in the movie as it has been presented, but they are just enough to suggest what might have been.

In 1989 Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), pioneer of the Pym particle and the original Ant-Man, finds himself at odds with his colleagues and bosses at Stark Enterprises. Resisting increasing pressure to weaponize his research, he hangs up the helmet and soon goes into early retirement. Twenty-five years later, Pym Technologies has become a juggernaut under the guidance of Pym's troubled protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Cross has been hard at work chasing diaphanous myths about the Pym particle; he wants desperately to discover his own shrinking serum, but his motives are questionable. Pym, catching wind of this, realizes he must take action. He enlists the aid of his semi-estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangline Lilly) and an activist/hacker/burglar/divorced dad named Scott Lang (Rudd) to bring Ant-Man out of mothballs and stop Cross.

There are enough clever asides and character tics in Ant-Man to begin setting it apart from the bulk of the Marvel canon, but they frustratingly suggest another movie all together. As much as Rudd, with his undeniable likeability and subversive darkness, manages to bring life to Lang/Ant-Man, it still feels like someone's got him on a leash. There are only glimpses of the Rudd who is at his dirty best collaborating with David Wain and company. The character is mild, if not toothless, and the whole scenario is tame and pleasant to a fault. It's entertaining, but without any real sense of risk, either on screen or behind the camera. It must be said, though, that the great Michael Peña here continues a streak of genuinely hilarious supporting roles. He is a treasure we should be talking more about. PG13. 117m.

TRAINWRECK. As Ant-Man is to the gargantuan sub-genre that is the Marvel universe, Trainwreck is to the decades old tradition of romantic comedy. It is, unarguably, a product of its genre; it is also the best recent argument for the notion that that rom-com may not be dead, after all. Under the tutelage of impresario Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, This is 40), the quiet, filthy genius of comedian Amy Schumer has been brought to vivid, raunchy, delightful life.

Amy (Schumer) has spent a lifetime heeding her father's early advice that "monogamy isn't realistic." She's in a sort-of relationship with a sweet, confused muscleman (an unexpectedly hilarious John Cena), but can't seem to keep herself out of other people's beds. Her job at a men's magazine is promising, she seems to have a handle on being perennially hung-over, her dad (Colin Quinn) is in a care home with multiple sclerosis and she playfully feuds with her younger sister (Brie Larson), she of the 21st century nuclear family. When an assignment to profile a rising young sports doctor (Bill Hader) lands on her desk, Amy thinks nothing of it. She interviews the guy, takes him out drinking, goes home with him and assumes that'll be that. When he expresses an interest in seeing her again, though, she's surprised to find herself likewise interested. The relationship that ensues, shot through with neurosis, conflict and doubt, adheres in many ways to the boiler-plate rom-com model, but it also rings true; some of these things are tropes for a reason, I suppose. It is also filled with Schumer's fearlessly dirty humor, a sense of genuine kindness and Apatow's trademark low-key hilarity.

On first viewing, I think Trainwreck may be the best movie of the year so far. It subverts the genre while also lifting it up. It delivers a strong, flawed female lead. It is punctuated by delightful supporting performances. Apatow's direction shows the light touch of a consummate professional, harkening back to the screwball comedies of Lubitsch and Hawks in its transparent precision. This is a well-constructed movie, and a frequently hilarious one. R. 125m.

— John J. Bennett


AMY. A documentary chronicling the late Amy Winehouse's struggles with fame and addiction via interviews and archival footage. R. 128m.

PAPER TOWNS. A trio of high school boys goes on a mystery tour/spontaneity intensive when the enigmatic (and, duh, beautiful) girl next door vanishes. PG13. 109m.

PIXELS. Adam Sandler stars in this interplanetary war pic featuring classic arcade game characters. Spoiler alert: Pac-Man's kind of a jerk. PG13. 105m.

SOUTHPAW. A widowed, rock-bottom boxer (Jake Gyllenhall) is desperate to get back in the ring to earn back both his title and custody of his daughter. R. 123m.


THE GALLOWS. Alums return to the revival of a school play that ended in tragedy. Supernatural drama ensues. R. 81m.

INSIDE OUT. Pixar renders our inner lives and the tumult of growing up with clarity, charm, poignancy and humor through the personified emotions of a girl named Riley. With Amy Poehler. PG. 94m.

JURASSIC WORLD. A big, fun, well executed popcorn movie that sticks with dinosaur action thrills rather than convoluted plot. Like its star Chris Pratt, it doesn't take itself too seriously. PG13. 124m.

MAGIC MIKE XXL. A lighter, road-comedy version of the original stripper-with-a-heart-of-gold story, starring not quite enough of Channing Tatum's abs. R. 115m.

MAX. A Marine's military dog returns from Afghanistan and bonds with the dead soldier's family. Commence bawling now. PG. 111m.

MINIONS. Sandra Bullock and John Hamm lend voices to the Despicable Me spin-off starring the goofy, Twinkie-esque henchmen. PG. 91m.

TERMINATOR GENISYS. So we're doing this again, with the robot assassins and the time travel and trying to stave off the apocalypse. Now with Arnold-on-Arnold violence. PG13. 125m.

— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill and

Thadeus Greenson


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John J. Bennett

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