Ant-Man – Review

Do you ever just crave watching an exceptionally mediocre movie? You know, kind of like that feeling you get when you’re binge watching Drake and Josh reruns on a Sunday afternoon? Well look no further than Marvel’s Ant-Man! This movie’s got it all, folks – an almost-interesting protagonist, just enough action to keep you from slipping into a coma, a plot that follows story beats like it was ripped straight from “How to Write Film Scripts for Dummies,” and so much cheese you’ll regret not bringing a few bottles of wine. If  you saw Paul Rudd on the poster for this movie and had some second thoughts about it, well I’m here to affirm that sense of apprehension. Ant-Man is pretty much the most Paul Rudd movie ever. A more fitting title would be Ant-Guy, or possibly even Ant-Bruh, to be quite honest. You won’t hate yourself afterward, and you’ll be able to cross it off the bottom of that “haven’t gotten around to it” list, but Ant-Man‘s got “Redbox and chill” written all over it.

The first red flag (aside from the fact that an Ant-Man movie exists) came within the first 5 minutes of the movie. Michael Douglas (made youthful again through the power of CGI) wastes no time establishing an absolutely ludicrous tone that I knew in my loins the film was not going to maintain. Playing the role of Hank Pym – the original Ant-Man – Douglas casually slams a man’s head into a table with all the grace and finesse of a WWE performer while at some sort of corporate board meeting. In that one action, Ant-Man already establishes a fictional world that is unbound by real world logic. Coupled with how corny the set looked, doubt slowly started to creep in. What remaining hopes I had were swiftly dashed in the following scenes, in which Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang character is released from an insultingly childish depiction of San Quentin State Prison, and proceeds to have conversation after tiresome conversation of expository dialogue opposite various character cliches and blatant racial stereotypes. It’s at this point that it became apparent that Ant-Man is just another summer popcorn flik that feels it has to spoon feed every detail because general audiences are too stupid to piece anything together on their own. All of it is hamfisted to hell too, of course. Seriously. So much ham! Someone with a kind heart should really show this movie in a homeless shelter for the holidays. Please. No one will go hungry this Kwanzaa. The best part is this exhausting process of “telling,” rather than “showing” what these characters are like, is repeated with Hank Pym, Wasp, and Yellowjacket as well. None of it clever, most of it cringe inducing. The movie feels like it doesn’t actually start until 20-30 minutes in because we have to go through the motions of watching Down-and-Out Hero Plot #3.  And even then, the movie just transitions to Superhero Origin Plot #2, where we get to watch the time-tested and never-stale “new to my powers,” scene, as well as a training montage for good measure. To be fair, Guardians of the Galaxy‘s terrible introductory scenes still beat this in terms of sheer cringe value. But just the fact that I’m having to draw parallels with the overhyped feces that was Gaurdians doesn’t speak well for Ant-Man.If there’s one thing that Ant-Man does do right, it’s making Ant-Man’s powers actually seem cool. No sarcasm. Despite what little life P-Rudd brings to the Ant-Man character, I think my 5th grade self would’ve thought having a shrinking suit is awesome. The suit is actually pretty nice too. It’s kind of got that Captain America color desaturation thing going on to make it seem realistic (?), but at least it’s better than this:

Also to the benefit of the movie, rather than having the protagonist create the suit and ant-telepathy tech himself (and waste even more time), Paulie Rudderstein just pilots it. In doing so, the movie allows audiences to discover the powers of this lesser-known character alongside the hero of the movie. It almost feels too smart for this movie when I say it out loud. Hmmm… I’m going to have to balance that out with a harsh critique. Ahem… The Baskin Robbins shill was GROSS. An entire scene dedicated to product placement, guys?? When did Adam Sandler start his contract at Marvel Studios? I’ve seen less Baskin Robbins promotions INSIDE of Baskin Robbins. No, that scene wasn’t funny. No, I will not go to Baskin Robbins  . Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. F*ck that scene. F*ck it in the nose and between the toes.

I didn’t have massive expectations for Ant-Man, but I wish someone would have warned me about Evangeline Lilly’s portrayal of Wasp. For the majority of her time on screen, she’s either being overly dramatic or just plain stiff. The blame falls squarely on the writing. It’s embarrassingly obvious her character was shoehorned in as supplementary “drama,” with a weak, inconsequential subplot about her and her father’s terse relationship. She must have needed some more lines, because aside from this, she’s just the person who trained Ant-Man. (By punching him in the face?)So we all have to suffer as a result. My recommendation for anyone interested in seeing this movie (because you would feel like an incomplete nerd to not have all the MCU under your belt) is to take care of any other things in your life you need to get done during these scenes. Out of popcorn? Time to microwave some more. Got some emails you need to check? You’re good, fam. Whether you got a load of laundry to check on or just have to drop the load of a lifetime, this is an overall great movie to run your errands/take a shit to. <<real quote on the cover of the DVD box.

Taking all this into account, there are some moments that made me realize that I was still alive. As I mentioned before, the fight scenes are pretty neat, and Pudd Ruddershins getting shrunken down to Planck length near the end is a visual trip. Stan Lee’s hilarious cameo is one of his best. Michael Douglas is still too cool to hate. And though Michael Pena’s silly Mexican was groan-inducing, the schtick where his voice comes out of other peoples’ mouths is funny. That’s about it, though. If you can stomach telenovela melodrama, cardboard cutout characters, a child actor more effective than rat poison, a mustache twirler  villain, and an unoriginal script written by what must be high schoolers in the bodies of Hollywood screenwriters, then by all means watch Ant-Man. At the end of the day, you’re just watching a slightly lamer version of a movie you’ve already seen before. Personally, I can think of another movie I’d rather give my repeat views to…

Back to School, anyone?

Obligatory Number at the End: 5.75/10

The Last of Us: Left Behind – Review

It’s no secret that I am a Naughty Dog fan boy. My first reviews on this site were for the unquestionably amazing Jak and Daxter titles. The only games I have ever spent more than a week playing multiplayer in were Uncharted 2 and Uncharted 3. And in my opinion, The Last of Us has one of the best, if not the best, narratives in all of videogaming.  Even when Naughty Dog has been complicit in practices I’ve actively boycotted, such as the online pass fad and the nickel-and-diming of customers via microtransactions, I have generally been able to turn a blind eye to these offenses. (It helps when you’re a developer that eventually makes all your game’s DLC free to all players) That being said, my obvious fandom doesn’t detract from my ability to judge their games fairly. So does Left Behind manage to live up to the large expectations set forth by the base game?

Left Behind alternates between two points of time. Taking place during the second half of the game’s main storyline, Left Behind flashbacks to a time before protagonist Ellie ever met co-protagonist, Joel. What players will find out very quickly is that this segmentation of the timeline effectively creates a distinct separation of the two major draws of The Last of Us. The “current” portion of the game is where the game’s combat and stealth gameplay returns, as Ellie must make her way through desperately violent apocalypse survivors and Cordyceps infected zombies alike. The flashback content however, is where the compelling character writing and relationship building makes a comeback, and features no combat whatsoever. To use what videogame scholarship I’ve acquired: though this dichotomy makes for some jarring transitions, it works for the purposes of ensuring neither narratologically-inclined nor ludologically-inclined audiences feel left out. (And makes for any easy method of reviewing the game.)

Though some argue that the combat situations in Left Behind are just filler to pad out its length, I’m glad either way. The fact that the gameplay time is only slightly longer than a movie allowed me the opportunity to play against the game’s intelligent and deadly AI again, complete with resource management and crafting, without feeling like I’d have to invest a lot of time. Sometimes it feels good being able to just enjoy a slice, rather than gorge down a whole pie. This is especially true when that pie’s filling is me exhibiting expert levels of archery like a tiny, ninja Katniss Everdeen that also isn’t impartial to viciously sticking aggressors with a switchblade in the throat. It was cool to play through encounters with both human and zombie enemies, as well. Being able to have both enemy types fight each other for your own gain was a neat addition to the formula. Aside from this though, the gameplay isn’t all that different from the Ellie stages of the initial release. One aspect I’m more critical of now than when I first played through the main game however, is the hyper-sonic hearing/Spider Sense thing that grants players X-ray vision. I’m not entirely opposed to the idea of being able to hear enemies through rooms (I found this superpower very useful in both games), but I somehow feel it’s a stretch to be capable of deducing that exactly four squatters are coming down that hole in the ceiling 50 feet away, in addition to the squad of exactly three fungus heads one room over, all with a precision that surpasses the echolocation of bats. I’d like to see this element return in a future release, albeit toned down – not just turned off altogether. Okay, rant over.

Now, what people really ought to care about is whether or not the story of Left Behind is good enough to warrant a purchase. I was initially pretty wary of whether or not Naughty Dog’s writing team would be able to create a significant connection with new character, Riley, especially since prologue and prequel stories so often feel like auxiliary and unnecessary nubbins. (Or tumors in the case of the Star Wars prequels.) But whatever expectations I could have had, the events of Left Behind still managed to blow away.  It obviously does not compare to Joel and Ellie’s bond that formed over 16 hours of intense trials and tribulations in the base game, but Ellie and Riley actually managed to create one of the biggest highlight moments of The Last of Us as a whole. And considering all of the shocking twists and turns of The Last of Us, that’s saying something. Gameplay-wise, exploring the mall alongside Riley is mostly comprised of walking, talking and interacting with objects. It felt a lot like a Quantic Dream game in that way, if David Cage somehow managed to write dialogue that sounded even 60% human. And though the banter was interesting enough, the payoff in Left Behind‘s final hour is something that is only rivaled by the main game’s ending. Seriously, if Joel’s morally opaque decision at the conclusion of The Last of Us  hits like a shovel to the back of the skull, then Left Behind’s big moment is comparable to being trash canned and thrown down a flight of stairs. You might still be conscious at the bottom of those steps, but your world is undeniably turned on its side for a bit, and you’ll still be left wondering “what the hell just happened? Who am I? What is life?” afterward. And for this reason, I give Left Behind‘s story a resounding two corndogs way up.

If there’s one thing that could keep fans of TLOU away from this add-on, it has to be that it only provides about 3 hours of extra gameplay to the overall TLOU experience.  Small things like the occasional blurry texture here and there, and the ridiculous videogame cliche of collectible audio recordings, didn’t keep me from being engaged with this excellent example of downloadable content done right. At no point did I feel like this was a creation of exploitation meant only to shake a few more bucks out of fans. This is obviously the intended result, but it doesn’t have that gross, cynical, have-to-scrub-yourself feeling you get from games like Destiny and EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront. Unfortunately, Left Behind is still $10 on the Playstation Store. Of course, I got it while it was on sale, but all options considered, I would just recommend picking up the Remastered edition of The Last of Us on PS4 with all the extra content included. It’s definitely a must-play for fans, but preferably at the right price. Sorry ND, but I am very stingy with my shekels. Maybe next time let me play the multiplayer for more than two hours.

JK, I still love you. XOXO

Obligatory Number at the End: 8/10

Future – “Where Ya At” ft. Drake – Review

OKAY! Guys! Guys! Alright, so I’m going to just be up front about it right now. This might not be the most professional music review. I write game and film reviews decently enough because I know the terminology of those two mediums. I have no idea what “chord progression,” “tempo,” “age of consent,” “stop you’re hurting me” or “melody” mean.  All of those, I hear them, and the brain just goes to  autopilot. That being said, what I need to say today goes beyond musical knowledge. This is important, guys (and otherkin)! After listening to this song a few times now, I have considerable reason to believe that Future is suffering from some sort of rare, degenerative brain disorder, and I am SICKENED by the fact that we are touting around someone afflicted with a gross cerebral impairment for our own enjoyment.

At first, when I heard this song in passing, I was utterly appalled. “Oh my word, did he just suffer a recent head trauma?” I asked this to no one in particular, as I so often do. Then I took the time to really let the sound of the music and the lyrics soak, and my concern quickly turned to shock and anger. The poor man’s voice is the vocal equivalent of a runny stool passed through autotune. How no one else is picking up on this glaringly obvious red flag is beyond me. I mean, is someone really going to try and tell me that he’s actually a properly functioning human being? Let’s just try and think about that for a second so I can debunk your cruel ass.

Now, I’m not the most well-versed critic of modern American rap music, but I have noticed a recent trend where artists simply let their lyrics dribble past their lazily flapping lips. Normally, it adds a gravitas of luxury – like a morbidly obese Roman cartoon character nonchalantly eating grapes lowered into his mouth by a nude beauty (male or female, your choice). When a rapper expends so little energy in his annunciation, he’s subconsciously saying “I don’t even need to put a modicum of effort into my shit cuz I’m just that golden, son.” Whether or not this makes for good music is a subject of debate that I believe goes case-by-case, but I digress. With Where Ya At, I am not going to accept this all-too-easy explanation for Future. His performance is neither indicative of any swagger nor artistic liberty. Nobody with all the cortices of their brain intact speaks like they have a mouth full of marbles. I mean, seriously, the hook of the song sounds like gibberish from a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.  And I swear, when he gets to the 1:15 mark in the song, all I hear is a drowned Fred Flintstone trying to speak through a waterboarding.

And since we all know that you couldn’t make out the lyrics to this atrocity, I’ve taken the initiative to provide an excerpt from that part of the song (you can thank me right now):

Had to rent that on the dick ass jocking
Running through the pussy like a nigga going jogging
Fuck a little Louis, put it in a bitch pocket
Put a pic with me on the gram now you popping
Where your ass was at when I was trapping in the stove?
Had to scrub to get where I’m at or sell dope
Jackie Chan moves got game in the choke
Gas rolling up and the blunt from the coast
12 jumpers came in the spot to open up the dope
Carlo, Bob, Joe gotta young nigga coughing
Janet out the stove and we still raised honest
Blowing on the O ho we call it full onion

Now, can we say it is a fair and balanced assessment to say that these lyrics would be f*cking indecipherable to anthropologists regardless  of who were speaking them? There are asylum inmates with wall scrawlings written in fecal matter that are more coherent than this. If this is what rap has come to in order to find a rhyme nowadays (which it isn’t, because Future is very, very sick and needs help) well then just jock on muh dick ho and choke me in the stove.

Come now. Where yo grammar was at, Future? Just stop pretending. This charade is fooling no one. We all know that underneath those bitchin’ shades that your eyes are actually looking off in two different directions. The jig is up, homie. (I can call him homie, right? Right? Cuz I’m a thuggish-ruggish bone now, right?)

Actually, come to think of it… is it possible that English is Future’s 4th or 5th language? Because that’s just about the strongest and only remaining argument for the brain bubble deniers at this point. What’s worse is the featured artist on the track. I honestly can’t believe Drake, the blessed, Canadian sweetheart of the music industry. To stoop down to this level shows a real lack of character. What do you stand to gain from rapping alongside someone with severe mental handicaps? Like, way to go, Drizzy, you want to have a foot race with a paraplegic now? (i.e. yourself circa the early 00’s) Would that make you feel good? Would it?

In closing, I sincerely believe that everyone who enjoys this song unironically needs to have an intervention with themselves in the mirror. Seriously, if the word “fire” came to mind at any point while listening to this track and you weren’t referring to what you want to toss this single into – then nothing short of staring at yourself in the mirror and repeatedly asking “who am I” and “what have I become” for at least one full hour can hope to return you to decency. That’s just my unlicensed, professional prescription. (Trust me, I’m a gynecologist.) Regardless of whether or not I’m proven wrong, and my theory on Future’s state of being turns out to be a lot of hot air, then this is still a lifeless, by-the-numbers rap song bereft of any energy or soul.  Future and Drake are just going through the motions with this track, but ultimately will still see plenty of radio play simply because Drake is the Coca-Cola of rap.  And I like some of Drake’s songs. (Over, 0 to 100, and The Motto have some very catchy hooks) but there’s a line separating those who jam out to stupid unintelligible trash  and the rest of humanity. That line’s name is Future.

No hyperbole, full onion.

Obligatory Number at the End: -4.20/10