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Ant-Man (2015)

For anybody following this tag, we didn’t skip a movie. We watched Avengers: Age of Ultron earlier this month, but I’m finding it much, much harder to find anything new to say about the Marvel movies, and that one’s particularly uninspiring. That doesn’t mean I think it’s a bad film; in fact it’s perfectly entertaining for what it set out to do.

Ant-Man, on the other hand, is a pure pleasure from start to finish. It’s still a pain in the neck coming up with anything new to say about it, so I’ll turn to our favorite seven year-old critic and his own observations.

Naturally, he liked the fights the best, or at least he claims he does. When we were watching the movie, the thing that made him exclaim and start babbling over the dialogue was seeing Michael Peña and “the gang” reenter the story. Luis might be his favorite supporting character from any of these dozen movies. And he loved seeing Evangeline Lilly’s character of Hope Van Dyne train our hero and give him a basement full of bruises.

Of course, since the fights include helicopters, lasers, explosions, and Thomas the Tank Engine, that’s all he wanted to talk about afterward. I liked those as well, but I really liked Lilly’s chemistry with Michael Douglas and Paul Rudd, and loved the casual start-of-the-film revelation – with guest cameos by Hayley Atwell and John Slattery – that the original Ant-Man was an active superhero agent for SHIELD in the 1980s. There’s probably a Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline somewhere that I’d enjoy reading. I should probably track that down.

Eight movies between us and the release of Captain Marvel. Can we do it in time to see the film in a theater? Stay tuned!


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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

The elevator scene.

There is nowhere in the Marvel Universe – movies or comic books – that I’d rather be less than in this elevator. I’d rather be sat next to the Kidney Lady on a city bus in Cleveland, 1977, than in this elevator.

Years ago, a fellow I knew got up after the second song at a Roxy Music concert. He said after watching Phil Manzanera play the end of “Ladytron,” he got his money’s worth. That’s how I feel about this movie. It doesn’t matter how many things blow up or how many buildings get knocked down after this. It’s Cap and those dozen men in that glass box a third of the way through the film. Boy freaking howdy, did I ever get my money’s worth.

As for the rest, I think it’s the best Marvel movie by a mile. Kind of bittersweet to watch it the weekend after Chris Evans announced he was stepping down as Cap, because Captain America is my favorite Marvel superhero and I am so pleased and thrilled with the job Evans did bringing him to life.

Joining Evans this time out, there’s Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson as usual. Sebastian Stan returns as Bucky, now the brainwashed Winter Soldier, and Anthony Mackie debuts as Cap’s best friend and partner Sam Wilson, the Falcon. Also returning are Hayley Atwell as the now ninety-odd year-old Peggy Carter, and Toby Jones as Arnim Zola.

Before we got started, I showed our son what Zola looked like in Jack Kirby’s comics. Marvel thoughtfully collected Kirby’s mid-seventies run of Captain America and the Falcon across three volumes, and they are some crazy, wild, freaked-out comics. You should definitely visit your neighborhood comic shop and buy those. Turning Zola into a supercomputer that has a nice wink to old readers with his camera above his face-monitor left me in heaven when I first saw this.

And of course, there’s Robert Redford. You can imagine the wheels turning in the directors’ heads as they started putting this story together and realized that Redford, more than arguably any other possible choice, was the name they needed for this part. Alexander Pierce is a terrific villain.

It all adds up to my favorite Marvel movie. Not much else to add, other than the kid loved it too, of course. It demands repeat viewings more than any of the others, and if you don’t finish this movie without wanting to watch Redford in Three Days of the Condor, something must be wrong with you. Not really one for our kid quite yet, of course, but one day.


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Agent Carter 2.10 – Hollywood Ending

“Hollywood Ending” sounds like an apt title. It seems like this is the way of modern television: the story reaches its climax with ten minutes to go, giving plenty of room to wrap up the character stuff, dangle a couple of plot threads for the next season, and, once everything is satisfactorily resolved, introduce a thunderous cliffhanger. In the final scene, Chad Michael Murray’s character of Jack Thompson is gunned down, and a file, containing faked information meant to frame Agent Carter, is stolen.

Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, there hasn’t been a new season. This season only received between 2.35 and 3.18 million viewers when it aired on ABC in the first quarter of 2016. A year and a half later, ABC tried another Marvel series, Inhumans, which sadly managed even smaller numbers and didn’t get the good reviews and buzz that Carter had. Fans have crossed their fingers that Netflix might step in and order a season, though that seems unlikely. I’ll join them. I’d really like to see more episodes of this series one day.

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Agent Carter 2.9 – A Little Song and Dance

I might have only said that tonight’s episode was more of the same double-crossing and double-dealing and not knowing who to trust but for the opening. It starts with a terrific little dream sequence staged like a musical dance number from the period. It is incredibly self-indulgent, but too much fun. I think it ran a little bit longer than our son really wanted, but I got a kick out of the change of pace. Peggy should get clobbered on the head more often if the results are this amusing.

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Agent Carter 2.7 and 2.8

I feel like I can’t add too much to what I’ve already said about Agent Carter. This is so unpredictable and does such a great job in keeping me constantly surprised. I certainly wasn’t expecting Dottie to meet her match so thoroughly. I wasn’t expecting one character’s betrayal. I wasn’t expecting another to see the light. I wasn’t expecting one character to be so grievously wounded and I wasn’t expecting another to just start pumping bullets into a bad guy as though nothing was left to lose.

That last point caused me to exclaim out loud, which I try not to do when somebody’s in the next room asleep. My cold is mostly gone, but Marie has a stomach bug and went to bed early, and here I am shouting like a teenager over a TV show. Wow, if anything remotely this fun was on ABC when I was a teenager, I’d have never left the house.

But you know what was on ABC when I was a teenager? MacGyver was…

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Agent Carter 2.6 – Life of the Party

Dottie’s finally back in this one. Since Whitney gave Peggy a pretty grievous injury last time, our heroes decide they have no choice but to break Dottie out and use her to get a sample of Whitney’s zero matter. Lucky for them Dottie’s being held in a facility in Los Angeles.

Nothing goes as planned for anybody in this episode. Kind of the through-line for this season is a conglomerate of the wealthiest and most powerful people being evil using patriotism as a cover for their greed and corruption. I’ve had a feeling that some of this lot would be meeting grisly ends at the hands of Whitney before the series finishes. I wasn’t wrong, but I was pretty certain that, of the three robber barons with speaking parts, one in particular would be the last to go. I was mistaken. He and half the council go down screaming as Whitney disintegrates and absorbs them. One reason I love this show is because nobody’s safe, not even a villain you thought would get his just desserts in episode ten.

What else? Thompson loses even more of his backbone, Daniel’s fiancée calls off their engagement, Peggy tears her stitches just opening a door, and Dottie loses her bid for freedom, waking up in a box all chained up and with a heck of a shiner, with Whitney Frost smiling down at her. Our son summed it up this way: “The two scariest women in this show… together!”

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Agent Carter 2.5 – The Atomic Job

An absolutely delightful little change of pace with tonight’s episode. The story, which revolves around an unofficial break-in at a top-security Roxxon facility to steal uranium rods, is light and frothy and full of silly sight gags and slapstick, and Peggy zapping an old adversary with a device that knocks out your short term memory. It’s played entirely for laughs, and then Peggy fights Whitney and it goes very, very dark in a hurry.

Our son sums it up thusly: “Whitney Frost has always been mean, but now that she’s got that zero matter in her, she’s really scary!”

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Agent Carter 2.4 – Smoke and Mirrors

I am completely loving Whitney Frost, the villain of this piece. Our son briefly found her situation engaging as well. In this episode, she orders a cage of white rats from the lab, and he was delighted to see them. Of course, she’s using them for experimenting on her strange power, which disintegrates and absorbs her targets and makes the brilliantly black scar on her face grow. Frost wears her hair in a Veronica Lake ‘do, so she’s able to hide it for a time, but by the end of the episode, there aren’t any more rats, and she’s been forced to reveal her power to her husband to get rid of a threat, and the scar has reached down to her chin. Our son wasn’t quite as pleased to realize what that empty cage meant.

And he’s drawing connections between Frost and Dr. Wilkes, who was blasted by the zero matter explosion but with a very different result: he’s intangible. Not sure how he’s able to stand up and not sink through the floor, but, you know, comic book science. Anyway, Wilkes can’t touch anything, doesn’t feel the need to eat, and can’t sleep. After several days awake, he’s starting to hallucinate, as any of us probably would, but he’s having particular hallucinations of zero matter coming through walls and blackboards. Our son is sure that something very bad is going to happen with these two characters, and perhaps when they meet again, there will be an explosion.

I was mistaken, but I thought for sure his favorite bits would be the ones where Peggy and Jarvis kidnap their informant with the help of a powerful tranquilizer. Between Jarvis getting a jab of the same stuff and their captive waking up in the trunk of their getaway car while Chief Sousa’s there to hear the shouting, it’s a complete mess. Nice to see that every once in a while Practically Perfect Peggy has a situation more in line with what Larry, Moe, and Curly would come up with.

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