Reviews of Ant-Man, Mr. Holmes and Trainwreck plus four international films
The movies bring us a new comedy star this week, a better than expected comic-book movie, a tired Sherlock Holmes and gems from Iran and Ireland.
Here’s the list:
Ant-Man: 3 stars
Trainwreck: 3 ½
Mr. Holmes: 3
Jimmy’s Hall: 4
About Elly: 4 ½
Suite Francaise: 3 ½
Strangerland: 2 ½
ANT-MAN: I’m so happy that most of my doubts have dispersed about this latest adventure from the folks at Marvel. I mean: a super hero who can shrink to the size of an insect and herd an army of ants? How ludicrous. Turns out they make it work, initially with a complex story and then with a series of fun-to-watch special effects. It does, as usual, move on to a prolonged battle between two giants (sometimes runts) but for a change it’s not big and bombastic. The final bout takes place on a train track with Thomas the Tank Engine barreling down. The film is marbled with humor like that.
The story has rival scientists in conflict over a discovery that would mean “the end of warfare as we know it” or “unleash chaos on the world”. (Allusions to the atom bomb are surely intended.) Michael Douglas is the inventor of a suit that can turn a man tiny; his daughter (Vancouver native Evangeline Lilly) switches sides during the story and Paul Rudd is brought in as a guinea pig. Much of the fun involves the changes in size imposed on him. There are tiger-size insects, a giant rat, torrents of water and several plunges far down, one onto an LP record. Later he’s reduced further, to a sub-atomic level. The effects look great; they almost justify the 3-D. Other plot lines, about family, empathy and abuse of power, as well as the general playfullness, justify the film. (Scotiabank and suburban theaters) 3 out of 5
TRAINWRECK: Amy Schumer is not that at all, neither as the character she wrote for herself in this movie nor in real life. She’s been one of the stars of The Comedy Network and a sensation on the internet for her videos. Her movie is thoroughly modern and very funny. There’s both a flippant and insecure tone in the humor about a career girl and her men, along with completely candid joking about sex.
She’s a magazine writer who sleeps around and refuses anything longer than a one-night-stand. Never let them sleep over, she says. But when her editor (a supercilious Tilda Swinton) sends her to interview a sports doctor (Bill Hader) a change starts to come. Hader plays a nice guy and there’s no real reason she should fall for him, but that’s where the script goes and it’s worth following. His friend LeBron James, the basketball superstar, pops in several times in an unlikely role. He’s an advisor about life and love and apparently watches Downton Abbey with him. To Amy, he says: “Do you hear his name when you listen to the wind?” The humor is slightly warped and quite entertaining because of it. The jokes keep coming and not all work. But she’s a bright presence on the screen. Judd Apatow directed her script. (Scotiabank and many suburban theaters) 3 ½ out of 5
MR. HOLMES: Ian McKellen does a masterful job playing two ages in the life of Sherlock Holmes. There’s the exacting sleuth were all know and many years later the retired man of 93, worried that senility is encroaching on his life. That would be a fine movie except that too many stories clutter up the proceedings.
Sherlock is trying to write up his last case (Watson having gone away). In flashbacks he recalls both the case and a trip he took to Japan to find a root that has the power to revitalize memory. He also keeps bees and teaches the son (Milo Parker) of his housekeeper (Laura Linney) all about it. You know a mishap is coming. Maybe these elements fit together smoothly in Mitch Cullin’s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind but in this film by Bill Condon they don’t. In fact they distract from the most interesting story lines. Sherlock dislikes the popular-novel image that Watson created for him. He wants to set the record straight, but writing is new to him. And he has major regrets about how he handled that final case. The film is stylish but less than gripping. (5th Avenue) 3 out of 5
JIMMY’S HALL: Ken Loach was 77 when he made this film but I don’t see that he’d dulled the fire. For a while it looks like it though, in this village tale from Ireland. Jimmy Gralton, played by tall and pleasant Barry Ward, is back from 10 years in New York intent on living a quiet life near his ailing mother. He once ran a dance hall and the local youth plead for him to re-open it. When he does the combined forces of the local gentry, the state and the church come after him.