Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It Came From The Cineplex: The Gallows

The Gallows was written and directed by Travis Cluff and Christ Lofing. 

This appears to be the duo's first foray into Hollywood movie making. If we're lucky, it'll be their last. Their only previous credits were a couple of short films.

This is another execrable found footage film, a genre which I hate with a white hot passion, so I'm not going to waste your time and mine with an overly lengthy review. You may be wondering why, if I hate films like this so much, I paid to see it. Because I'd already seen all of this summer's big blockbusters and there was precious little else to go see.

Remember when movies used to be shot on actual film instead of videotape, on sets with real production values? Remember when movies starred actual actors instead of friends of the director? Ah, how I wish we could go back to that time. If this is the future of filmmaking, then these movies can go watch themselves.

How do these awful found footage movies keep getting made year after year? Because studios make money off of them, that's why. No matter how poorly these films perform at the box office, they're made so cheaply they can't help but make a profit. The Gallows was shot for just $100,000, and has so far grossed over $21 million. So you know what that means! Sequels, whether we want them or not.

In fact it seems like the creators are banking on it. They practically pull a hamstring trying to make Charlie Grimille into the next horror icon, ala Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees. Nice try, guys. Somehow I don't think a high school kid dumb enough to be hanged for real during a play quite stacks up to a knife-fingered child killer or an unstoppable machete-weilding hulk.

The Gallows Marketing Team pulled out all the stops, going so far as using one of those "night vision trailers" to promote the film. You know, the kind where they show actual audiences shrieking and covering their eyes as they watch the movie, in a flailing attempt to convince us it's scary and worth our time.

Again, nice try. Unfortunately it's all about as scary as this.

This quote is also from the trailer. Well, I agree with half that statement.

The film clocks in at a paltry 81 minutes! What a gyp! I felt like sitting in my seat for another half hour just to get my money's worth.


The Plot (such as it is):
In 1993, students at Beatrice High School in Beatrice, Nebraska, performed a play called The Gallows. A student named Charlie Grimille played the lead character, who was sentenced to be hanged. Tragedy struck when a faulty trap door opened on the makeshift gallows, hanging Charlie for real in full view of his co-stars and the audience.

Twenty years later, the Beatrice drama class inexplicably decides to commemorate this tragedy by staging the very same play (!). We're then introduced to our small cast of characters: Ryan, a sarcastic sociopath who films the rehearsals (and as such, the movie), Reese, who's playing the same part as Charlie Grimille, Pfiefer, the co-star and the play's biggest champion, and Cassidy, Ryan's girlfriend.

While goofing off, Ryan interviews a woman named Alexis Ross, who's been attending every rehearsal. She reveals she was present at the original play in 1993 and witnessed Charlie Grimille's death.

Reese has no business being the star of the play, as he's unable to project emotion or even remember his lines. He only auditioned to impress Pfiefer, his secret crush. Ryan resents being forced to work on the play, and realizes Reese doesn't want to be there either. He comes up with a plan— he, Reese and Cassidy will break into the school after hours and destroy the set, forcing the play to be canceled. Reese initially wants nothing to do with this plan, but eventually agrees.

The three break in and trash the stage. They're then confronted by Pfiefer, who demands to know what they're doing. They give her the runaround, but she sees through their lies. Just then a loud noise spooks them, and the four make a run for it. They discover the previously broken stage door is now inexplicably locked. As they head back to the stage, they see it's been completely restored, their damage undone.

The four attempt to find a way out, but every door in the entire school is locked, the land lines are out and they have no cell phone service. They're effectively trapped inside the school. There's lots of running and screaming in the dark, in a desperate attempt at eating up screen time.

The four find a cast photo in the school's display case (!) and discover that Reese's father was in the original play. He apparently called in sick, which forced Charlie Grimille to take his place. Apparently the ghost of Charlie Grimille blames Reese's dad for his death, and starts picking off the kids one by one in revenge (why he's pissed at the other kids is apparently none of our concern).

There's lots more barely visible action, as Ryan and Cassidy are hanged by Charlie's ghost, leaving Reese and Pfiefer the only survivors. Charlie's ghost somehow forces them to recreate the end of the play. Reese steps up on the gallows, puts the noose around his neck and is hanged for real, just as Charlie was. Alexis, who's been in the auditorium watching the play unfold, gives it a standing ovation and reveals she was Charlie's girlfriend back in 1993.

In the final scene, the police enter the home of Alexis Ross and find her combing Pfiefer's hair, as the two watch a twenty year old videotape of Charlie Grimille's on-stage death. It's implied that Pfiefer is the daughter of Alexis and Charlie. As a policeman call for backup, Charlie appears and attacks him.

• I can't think of any possible reason why the school officials would ever allow this play to be staged again, especially in our current hypersensitive society, and especially after it caused the death of a cast member. 

They're supposed to be "commemorating" the original production. In fact, Pfiefer even brags that the new programs use the same design as the original. I don't know... it seems like extremely poor taste to me. It's like performing a recreation of a car wreck that killed a bunch of prom goers.

• Supposedly Charlie Grimille was hanged when the trap door in the stage gallows opened prematurely, before he was "ready." That means they obviously planned to fake hang him at some point during the production. Are you freakin' kidding me?

How was this high school drama department planning on safely simulating a hanging in the first place? Charlie was hanged for real, so there was no extra long, breakaway or elastic rope, or any other safety measures built into the gallows. Who thought this was a good idea? And to top if all off, they built the gallows the exact same way twenty years later.

Instead of Charlie's ghost seeking revenge on Reese, he should have gone after the idiot director who built a goddamned working gallows for a high school play back in 1993.

• There's not one sympathetic or likeable character in this entire film. Ryan is a complete and utter asshole, and may even be a sociopath. Cassidy has absolutely no redeeming qualities, willingly going along with anything Ryan suggests. Pfiefer seems unhealthily obsessed with the play. Reese comes closest to being somewhat likable, but even he easily lies to Pfiefer, who's supposed to be his crush.

Once the killing started, I couldn't have been less concerned about the lives of any of these people. Was I supposed to be rooting for Charlie Grimille?

• At the beginning of the film we see Reese and Pfiefer rehearsing their lines for the play. Pfiefer seems to be quite an accomplished actress, but Reese misses his cues and struggles with his lines. He's almost cartoonishly bad, to make sure we all get the point that he's a terrible stage actor.

The problem is, once the rehearsal's over, his normal "movie" acting is every bit as bad as his "stage" acting. In fact, everyone in this film is a horrible, horrible actor. I doubt any of them could say "Hello" convincingly. That's pretty much par for the course in found footage films though.

• Ryan notices the stage door has a broken lock, and plans to use it to sneak into the school after hours and vandalize the stage. All the characters, including the drama teacher, seem to know about this broken door, but don't seem the least bit concerned by it. I find it hard to believe that no one's robbed this school blind before now.

• Ryan, Reese and Cassidy sneak into the school after dark and trash the stage. This "vandalism" sequence is extremely brutal and hard to watch, as it consists of the group smashing a couple of pieces of prop crockery and actually knocking over a couple of cardboard trees. Reese even uses a screwdriver to remove the gallows stairs. Dear god... it would take the theater department minutes to repair the vast amount of damage they caused.

• At one point the kids walk past a display case, which prominently displays memorabilia from the original 1993 production of The Gallows. Among the items in the case is a photo of the smiling cast, including Charlie Grimille. Why the hell would any teacher or principal in their right mind allow this display? "Hey everyone, look! It's a photo of that kid that died in a horrific freak accident onstage! Look at 'im smile! He has no idea he's only got a day or two left to live!"

• Man, that is one elaborate high school theater! It looks more like something you'd see on Broadway than in rural Nebraska. It's got a huge system of walkways in the rafters that rivals that of the Paris Opera. A far cry from the cramped auditorium stages in most schools.

• Math is hard! The original play took place twenty years ago. It's implied that Pfiefer is the daughter of Charlie Grimille and his girlfriend Alexis Ross. If that's true, then wouldn't that make Pfiefer twenty years old? Nineteen at the absolute youngest? Is she really supposed to be a nineteen year old high school student? Maybe she flunked third grade two or three times?

• There's no way this story was ever going to be good, but I might have liked it a bit more if they'd just shot is as a normal film, with real cameras and actors, instead of as a thrice-damned found footage film. As always happens in such movies, I spent most of the movie wondering why the hell the characters were filming everything while they're supposed to be running for their lives.

• There's only one truly creepy moment in the film: when Cassidy is sobbing in the dark, the spectral image of Charlie slowly becomes visible behind her. Too bad the original Halloween already did the exact same scene almost forty years ago, and better.

There's a tiny spark of a decent idea at the heart of The Gallows, but it's marred by atrocious acting, non-existent production values, amateur camera work, and unlikable characters. I give it a D.

Tales From The Video Store: Bloated

Unlike the majority of the world, I don't go in for all this convenient video-on-demand and FlixNet nonsense. Nosiree! Give me an old fashioned, inconvenient Video Store any day! The farther away from my house the better! You just never know what you're gonna find— or see— when you browse the Video Store!

This Tale From The Video Store is 100% true.

There's a video store just a few blocks from my house, and for some reason it seems to attract a large... well, let's call it a hillbilly contingent. While I was browsing the shelves one day, a very large hillbilly gal plodded in. She had a huge head with dull, cow-like eyes and was decked out in her finest stained sweatpants. She wandered around the store for a few minutes, talking loudly to herself in a raspy voice deeper than mine.

She was looking for Bridesmaids, and of course didn't have the slightest idea where to find it. Apparently alphabetical order isn't part of the Hillbilly School curriculum. She then plowed her way between me and the shelf I was browsing like I wasn't even there, and asked the clerk where to find her film. 

The clerk told her, "It's over there on the far wall, with all the other movies that start with B." Hillbilly Gal then waddled in front of me a second time, again like I wasn't there. She picked up the DVD case and shambled back in front of me a third time.

The clerk said, "Oh, you just picked up the box. I need the disk too!" So Hillbilly Gal clip-clopped in front of me for an astonishing fourth time. This time though she bleated, "Ohhh, I don't feel like walking all around this big store when I'm bloated! I'm bloaaaaaaaaaated!"

"I say, miss. You're obviously a creature of elegance and refinement, who appreciates the finer things. I'm new in town and looking for a good charm school for my daughter. I wonder if I could trouble you to recommend a good one!"

Friday, July 24, 2015

What Are Americans Outraged About This Week: Trophy T-Shirts

These days Americans love nothing more than feeling outraged. In fact it's replaced baseball as the national pastime. Practically every day the news is filled with various so-called atrocities that are vexing the general public and causing them to overreact.

So what are Americans outraged about this week?

Why, Target's new Women's "Trophy" t-shirt, of course.

The short sleeved, dark gray shirt features the word "Trophy" across the chest, and the phrase "Trophy Wife" is part of the actual product description. The shirt retails for $12.99.

Naturally this plain, simple garment has caused a storm of controversy on social media sites, as many shoppers are shocked and outraged that Target would carry such an item. A few were actually able to rise from their fainting couches long enough to compose themselves and label the shirt "demeaning," and demand it be pulled from stores.

One woman was so apoplectic over the shirt that she created a petition on Change.org, calling for Target to immediately cease selling it. As of this posting, the petition has nearly 15,000 supporters.

Target spokesmen responded to the controversy by stating, "These shirts are intended as a fun wink and we have received an overwhelmingly positive response from our guests."

Despite this, Target went on to say that it's "never their intention to offend anyone," and have decided to immediately pull the shirts from all stores nationwide. They then announced a new replacement for the offending garment, seen here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It Came From The Cineplex: Ant-Man

Ant-Man was written by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd. It was directed by Peyton Reed.

That's a pretty eclectic (and extensive) pedigree for a film. Wright was the writer and director of Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World's End and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Cornish directed the sci-fi film Attack The Block, and co-wrote The Adventures Of Tintin: Secret Of The Unicorn with Edgar Wright and Steven Moffat (of Doctor Who fame). McKay wrote and directed most of Will Farrell's various vehicles, including Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgandy, Talledega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby, Step Brothers and the Land Of The Lost remake. Rudd is of course primarily an actor, whose sole previous big screen writing credit was Role Models. Peyton Reed was an odd choice to direct a sci-fi superhero film, previously having helmed comedies and chick flicks such as Bring It On, Down With Love, The Break-Up and Yes Man.

Amazingly, despite these bizarre credits, the film's actually quite good.

That the film exists at all is nothing short of a miracle, as it's had a very long and tortuous route to the screen. Ant-Man creator Stan Lee first pitched the idea to New World Pictures way back in the late 1980s. Unfortunately Disney released Honey, I Shrunk The Kids around that time, which put the kibosh on those plans for many years.

In 2000, Howard Stern (!) tried to buy the rights to Ant-Man. Thank the film gods that deal didn't go through. No doubt Stern wanted to produce a flatulent version of the character.

Cut to 2003, when director Edgar Wright wrote a script treatment for the film. He pitched the idea to Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige in 2004. In 2006, two years before Iron Man was released, Marvel hired Wright to direct Ant-Man as part of their first foray into making their own films.

The script went through various drafts and revisions over the next few years. In 2012 Wright shot some test footage of Ant-Man (played by an unknown actor) to see how his powers would look on the big screen. In 2013 Wright announced he'd finished the script, and filming would begin in 2014.

Then on May 24, 2014, Marvel announced Wright was leaving the project due to "creative differences" (meaning of course they fired him) and Peyton Reed would now direct. Whew! I told you it was a tortuous route. Somebody really, really wanted Ant-Man to be made!

There are numerous conflicting reports as to why Edgar Wright was fired from the project, but the most likely reason comes down to Ant-Man's relationship with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wright supposedly wanted it to be a standalone film, while Marvel of course wanted cameos from other characters to help it fit in with their already established film world. Whether that's truly the reason or not, only Marvel and Wright can say.

It was nice to see a Marvel movie with relatively smaller (!) stakes; one that doesn't involve the destruction of the entire world. As long as you have a strong storyline, it's not necessary to blow up the planet every time. In fact I think I enjoyed this film more than I did Avengers: Age Of Ultron. It's got a light, breezy tone, and most of all it's a lot of fun. Unlike DC, Marvel seems to understand that superhero movies need to have a sense of fun about them, and not be dreary, grim and humorless dramas that beat the audience about the head with their own self-importance.

For months before the film came out, critics and naysayers were predicting this would be Marvel's first big flop. "No one's ever heard of the character," "The concept's too weird," and on and on. They said the exact same things about last year's Guardians Of The Galaxy. Fortunately Marvel knows what they're doing and once again proved everyone wrong. Only they could make a top-notch, entertaining and successful superhero romp about a man who shrinks and rides around on an ant.


The Plot:
The film opens in 1989, as volatile scientist Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas) angrily resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D. after learning the super secret spy organization wants to use his shrinking technology as a weapon. Agent Peggy Carter and Howard Stark try to placate him (and give the audience their cameo fix), but he vows to hide his technology as long as he lives.

Cut to the present day. Pym's estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (played by Evangeline Lilly), along with his former protege Darren Cross (played by Corey Stoll), have voted him out of his own company, changing the name from Pym Technologies to Cross Technologies. Cross has reverse-engineered Pym's shrinking process, planning to build a high tech battle suit called Yellowjacket for military use. Pym is terrified of this prospect, believing it will plunge the world into chaos. Well, more so than it already is.

Meanwhile self-styled "cat burglar" Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) is released from prison. Scott was convicted when he discovered his employer was embezzling funds from their customers, and hacked into their system to return the stolen millions back to the deserving victims. Having nowhere else to go, Scott moves in with his old cellmate, Luis (played by Michael Peña). Scott's ex-wife Maggie forbids him to see his daughter Cassie until he gets an apartment, a steady job and begins paying child support. Unfortunately Scott has trouble holding down even a minimum wage job due to his criminal record.

In desperation, Scott agrees to join Luis and his makeshift gang (including Dave, the driver and Kurt, the computer hacker) to commit a burglary in the home of a wealthy industrialist. Scott breaks into the home and easily cracks a formidable safe in the basement.

Scott is puzzled to find the safe contains no money, but what he believes is an old motorcycle suit. In desperation, he steals the suit and returns to Luis' apartment. He tries on the suit, and discovers it allows the wearer to shrink to the size of an insect. He slips through a crack in the floor and into the middle of a party, barely avoiding the dozens of giant (to him) dancing feet. He flees into another apartment, where he's sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. He eventually manages to free himself and run outside. Rattled by the experience, Scott stupidly tries to return the suit to the owner's safe, and is arrested.

Scott is visited in jail by Hank Pym, who offers him a choice: life in prison or follow his instructions. An army of ants drags the shrinking suit into Scott's cell. He puts it on and shrinks, then rides on the back of a flying ant to escape.

The ant takes Scott back to Pym's mansion. Pym tells him that he invented the suit years ago and wore it as the crime fighting hero Ant-Man. He manipulated Scott into stealing the suit as a test, and wants him to become the new Ant-Man and steal the Yellowjacket tech from Darren Cross.

Hope then reveals that despite her strained relationship with her father, she's decided to help him defeat Cross, who she believes has become dangerous and unbalanced. She helps Scott learn to use the suit, as well as to fight. Pym teaches Scott to use a special earpiece so he can communicate with, and control various species of ants to help him. Hope reveals to Scott that her problems with her father stem from the fact that he's never told her the circumstances of her mother's untimely death.

Pym tells Scott he'll need a special piece of tech to steal the Yellowjacket suit, but unfortunately it's stored in an abandoned S.H.I.E.L.D. warehouse. Scott shrinks and infiltrates the warehouse, which unknown to him has now become the new Avengers headquarters (as seen earlier this summer in Avengers: Age Of Ultron). He's detected by the Falcon, and the two fight briefly. Scott crawls inside the Falcon's jetpack and disables it, allowing him to escape with the tech.

When Scott returns, Pym finally decides to tell Hope what happened to her mother. Decades ago the two of them fought crime as Ant-Man and the Wasp. They were trying to disable a Russian missile headed for the U.S., but couldn't get into it even at insect size. The Wasp then shrunk even further, slipping between the molecules of the missile. She managed to deactivate it, but unfortunately kept shrinking down to subatomic size, and was lost in the mysterious quantum realm.

Meanwhile, Darren Cross has finally perfected the Yellowjacket suit. He invites Pym and Hope to the unveiling, where he reveals he's selling the suit to the highest bidder, which just happens to be HYDRA.

Scott enlists Luis and his gang to help enter the Cross Tech building and steal the Yellowjacket suit. Their plan works, and Scott rigs the building with explosives. Unfortunately right before Scott can steal the suit, he's caught in a glass cage by Darren. Scott breaks free and takes out the HYDRA agents. Darren puts on the Yellowjacket suit and escapes in a waiting copter as the building explodes.

Scott leads an army of flying ants into the copter, where he confronts Yellowjacket. The two battle inside a briefcase (!) in the copter. The case falls through the air and Yellowjacket escapes. He goes to Scott's ex-wife's house, where he threatens Cassie, hoping to draw out Scott.

Scott confronts Yellowjacket and they have an epic battle inside Cassie's bedroom. The only way Scott can defeat Yellowjacket is to get inside his suit, but that would involve shrinking to subatomic size. He does so, entering and sabotaging the Yellowjacket suit. The suit then malfunctions, causing Yellowjacket to shrink into nothing. Unfortunately the size regulator on Scott's suit is also damaged, and he continues to shrink, entering the bizarre quantum realm. Just as he's about to be trapped there forever, he somehow hears Cassie's voice. He focuses on her long enough to rewire the suit and grow back to normal size.

When Pym hears that Scott survived and escaped the quantum realm, he wonders if his wife Janet might still be alive, but that's a question for the inevitable sequel. Luis tells Scott that the word on the street is Falcon's looking for him, presumably to join the Avengers.

In the post credits scenes, Pym shows Hope a new version of the Wasp suit he and his wife were working on, and offers it to her. Meanwhile, Captain America and the Falcon have finally captured the Winter Soldier, and discuss what to do next. They decide not to tell Iron Man about it, and the Falcon says he knows who to contact, implying he means Ant-Man.

• By Stan Lee's Toupee! That is one butt-ugly movie poster! The desaturated red/blue color scheme is very off-putting, as is the ghastly blue pallor of all the characters. I guess they're supposed to be shrouded by the thick San Francisco mist? Every single face is lit by a completely different light source too, as the artist obviously cut and pasted up shots from a dozen different sources. 

I'm definitely not a fan of this lame photo-collage style that's been infecting the cineplex for the past decade or so. Give me an illustrated Drew Struzan movie poster any day!

• About that opening scene. I was very impressed with the younger-looking Michael Douglas effects. Looks like CGI de-aging technology has improved quite a bit since it was used in X-Men: The Last Stand and TRON Legacy. It was great to see Peggy Carter in action again too.

Oddly enough John Slattery (of Mad Men fame) reprises his role here as Howard Stark (see bottom image above), who he last played in Iron Man 2. This is odd, as Dominic Cooper has seemingly taken over the role, playing Stark in Captain America: The First Avenger and on the Agent Carter TV series. In fact Cooper's logged much more screen time as Stark than Slattery has. I suppose Cooper's playing the young version, while Slattery's supposed to represent the older Stark. Unfortunately the two actors look absolutely nothing alike. I'm sure many audience members had no idea who Slattery was supposed to be.

They put old age makeup on Haley Atwell as Peggy Carter, so why not do the same with Cooper? Was he not available? Marvel most definitely needs to pick a Howard Stark and stick with him.

Ant-Man's storyline is very, very similar to that of the original Iron Man. Both feature a cocky, brilliant inventor who wears a high tech super powered suit. In both films, the inventor is being elbowed out of the very company he founded by a bald, evil industrialist co-worker, who wants to steal the tech for nefarious purposes. Both feature end battles between the hero and the villain, who wears a slightly different version of the suit. Not to mention both heroes have sassy gal-pals who are privy to their secret and help train them.

Apparently Marvel figures if the formula ain't broke, don't fix it. Still, it would have been nice to change the plot up a little.

• Long time readers of my blog know that it irks me when trailers feature scenes that aren't in the actual film, which feels like false advertising to me. That said, there's a scene in the trailer that I'm glad isn't in the final film. In the trailer, Hank Pym solemnly tells Scott Lang he wants him to give him a second chance and become a hero, saying "I need you to become the Ant-Man." Scott accepts, but says, "One question. Is it too late to change the name?" Waaah-waaaaaaaaah.

I'm glad that scene's not in the film. Not only does it disrespect the character, but it's winking and nudging the audience to do so as well. When you're dealing with a movie like this, you don't want to remind the audience how preposterous it is.

• The film makes very good use of macro photography and tilt-shift to make the environments looks huge and Ant-Man look small. I especially liked the inclusion of large specks of dust floating around Scott when he was in ant mode.

• Marvel really, really needs to work on their villains. Seriously. They need to stop whatever they're doing and call an emergency meeting with all their producers and head honchos, to deal with this issue, today.

They've always had a problem with weak villains, and Darren Cross may just be the weakest one yet. He never feels like much of a threat, and spends much of the film acting like a petulant child, pouting over the way Hank Pym treated him. Any second I expected him to shout, "It's not fair! I hate you!" and run tearfully to his room and bury his face in his pillow.

It's not until the very end of the movie, when he dons the Yellowjacket armor, that he finally becomes somewhat dangerous.

• I think Anthony Mackie got more screen time as the Falcon in this film than he did in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you! I really like the character and am always glad to see him.

• Michael Peña practically stole the show as Scott's friend Luis. Expect to see him in any sequels, as he supposedly signed a three picture deal with Marvel.

• Judy Greer plays Scott's ex-wife, and mother of his daughter Cassie. So far this year she played Casey Newton's mom in Tomorrowland, Zach and Gray's mom in Jurassic World, and now Cassie's mom here in Ant-Man. Apparently Greer is the new go-to actress when you need a screen mom. She's fast becoming the Dee Wallace of the new millennium.

• Since this is a Marvel movie, there were tons of shout-outs and Easter Eggs. Here are a few I noticed.

After his release from prison, we see Scott lives in the Milgrim Hotel. That was obviously a nod to comic book artist Al Milgrom, who oddly enough never drew any Ant-Man stories.

During Darren Cross' presentation, he shows classified footage of the original Ant-Man. He says the rumors of an ant-sized hero were gossip, and "tales to astonish." Ant-Man debuted in a Marvel anthology comic called Tales To Astonish. Hank Pym made his first (non-costumed appearance) in issue #27, and first appeared as Ant-Man in #35.

Scott's daughter Cassie is actually in the comics as well. She grows up to follow in her father's footsteps, becoming the size-changing superhero known as Stature, which is definitely a contender for the worst codename ever. Stature was a member of the Young Avengers.

Scott escapes jail by shrinking and flying away on the back of an ant, buzzing a streetcar as he lands on a man's newspaper. The headline on the paper reads "Who's To Blame For Sokovia?" That's the country the Avengers struggled to save in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

Garrett Morris has a brief cameo as a perplexed cab driver. Why an appearance from such an obscure performer? Because Morris played Ant-Man in a Saturday Night Live sketch way back in 1979. Somebody on the writing staff has a good memory!

When Darren Cross is attempting to sell his Yellowjacket tech to the highest bidder, one of the potential customers has a tattoo on his neck. It's the symbol of the Ten Rings, the terrorist group that kidnapped Tony Stark in Iron Man.

When Luis is posing as a security guard, he whistles the tune from It's A Small World. Gosh, I wonder how Marvel got the rights to that song.

At the end of the film, the Falcon references several superheroes, including one that can jump, one that swings, and one that crawls on walls. Obviously he's talking about Spider-Man here, who finally, at long last, has become an official member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. According to Marvel executive Kevin Fiege, the line was a happy coincidence. The scene was filmed long before the Spider-Man deal between Sony and Marvel, so it was originally just a generic reference. Now that the deal's been made, the line takes on even more relevance.

• Although I really enjoyed the film, I have to admit it contains some ridiculous science that would make Ed Wood roll his eyes. The writers don't seem to understand the concept of mass.

Hank Pym says his shrinking process works by "altering the distance between molecules." Fair enough, but that wouldn't change an object or person's mass. If Ant-Man weighs two hundred pounds and the Pym Particles compress him, he's still going to weigh two hundred pounds. Yet somehow this inch-high, two hundred pound man stands on Luis' shoulder with no ill effects, and even runs along the barrel of a gun without affecting the shooter's aim. He's even able to somehow ride on the back of a tiny, fragile flying ant without crushing it.

The only way any of this could possibly work is if he's somehow reducing his mass along with his size (and regaining it when he returns to normal). Unfortunately dialog indicates this isn't the case. Pym tells Scott that when jumps through the air as he shrinks, his body will become "like a bullet." Hope also says that Scott's strength will increase as he shrinks, presumably referencing the old "ants can lift fifty times their body weight" trope. In fact we see him punch grown men across the room while he's insect sized.

Sorry guys, but none of this makes any sense. If Scott shrinks, he's going to have to shed his mass to keep from crushing things, which means his strength would be virtually nonexistent. If you want him to have super strength while shrunken, then he's going to have to keep his mass. It's one or the other.

Hank Pym adds to the problem when he reveals that his keychain, which resembles a tiny toy army tank, is in fact real— it's actually a full sized tank that's been shrunken. If the shrinking process just compresses things, that means Pym is somehow carrying a tank around in his pocket. Pretty impressive for an old man!

Then late in the film, Scott uses one of his "enlarging disks" on a Thomas The Tank Engine toy, causing it grow to the size of a real locomotive engine and crash through the side of his ex-wife's house. If this enlarging process is just altering the space between molecules, then this now full-sized train would weigh the same as it did when it was a toy— just a few ounces. Hence it wouldn't go crashing through the side of the house.

I realize that this is a comic book movie, so I shouldn't expect realistic science. Still, this is a pretty significant error.

• A couple more things about that tank. Hank enlarges his tank keychain and he and Hope get inside it. They then drive it through the side of the Pym building seconds before it explodes. The tank then crashes to the ground hundreds of feet below, yet somehow they're not turned into chunky salsa after bouncing around inside it.

Secondly, when the tank hits the ground, we see there's an enormous chain and keyring attached to the back of it. It was kind of amusing, but it makes zero sense. Did Hank construct a gigantic novelty keychain to a full sized tank and then shrink the whole lot? If so, why? Why not just shrink the tank and then attached a normal keychain to it?

I suppose it's possible that the keychain was normal sized, but was caught in the "enlarging field" and grew along with the tank. If objects and surfaces that Ant-Man is touching can be affected by the Pym particle, that ain't good either. That means every time Ant-Man changes size, chunks of the floor he's standing on should shrink or grow.

Once again it's best to just try and ignore all this dodgy "science" and go along with the film.

• Scott and his crew concoct an elaborate scheme to get past all of Cross Technologies' increased security, in order to steal the Yellowjacket armor. But Pym has been invited to the Yellowjacket unveiling ceremony. Why couldn't Scott just hide inside Pym's tank keychain until he's inside, then hop out while no one's looking? Whoops!

• I want one of those ant communication devices that Hank Pym uses. Then I could finally keep the stinkin' ants out of my house.

• Speaking of ants, note that no matter what they're doing throughout the movie, the writers are very careful to never show any of them being hurt or killed (with one big exception). Even when Ant-Man is sailing through the water pipes on a "raft" that's literally made of ants, we see them very specifically crawl to safety after they deliver him to his rendezvous point. Can't have the nut jobs at PETA protesting this movie, after all!

Note that Ant-Man never hurts any of his ants, but Darren Cross actually kills a few. That's because he's the bad guy, dontcha know.

• Hank tells Scott to never shrink without wearing the Ant-Man helmet, as it will protect him from energies that could affect his mind. 

Later on, Hope says Darren has been driven insane because he hasn't properly protected himself from the shrinking energies. But wait a minute— Darren's Yellowjacket armor has a helmet. So shouldn't he be protected?

I suppose we could say that Ant-Man's helmet protects the wearer because Hank Pym knew what he was doing, but because Darren reverse engineered his suit, it doesn't insulate him. I suppose we could say that, but...

• At the end of the film, Hank Pym stares at a photo of his wife Janet, realizing she may still be alive in the quantum realm. Note that at no point in the film do we ever see Janet's face. Even in the photo, her face is obscured by a large sun bonnet (who keeps a photo of a loved one whose face is hidden?).

Obviously Janet's being set up for an appearance in the inevitable sequel, and hasn't been cast yet. This way they can take their time and cast an actress when the time comes, instead of committing to one now.

• In the comics, Janet shrinks to subatomic size and is lost in the Microverse, which is Marvel's name for its tiny little universe. It was also home to The Micronauts, who had their own comic book in the 1980s.

Unfortunately corporate law once again raises its ugly head. For legal reasons, Marvel can't use the name Microverse in the film, hence the term "quantum realm."

• In the comics, Ant-Man (as well as the Wasp) was a founding member of the Avengers. By the second issue though, Stan Lee apparently realized that a man who can shrink to ant size wasn't all that mighty, so he had Ant-Man turn his size regulator the other way and become Giant Man.

I wonder is something similar will happen in the movies? Will we eventually see Scott grow to giant size?

Ant-Man is a light-hearted superhero romp that's big on humor and light on scientific accuracy. The excellent cast helps elevate what could easily have been a disaster. I give it an A-.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Nine Other Emotions That Didn't Make The Cut In Pixar's "Inside Out"

Pixar's done it again! Critics and audiences alike have fallen in love with the studio's latest film, Inside Out. It's the story of a young girl named Riley and the wacky cast of personified emotions who live inside her head and control her life.

The movie features five different emotions that control the life of young Riley: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. According to director Pete Docter, the original script featured dozens of other emotional characters, including Dread, Obsession and Mortification. Unfortunately many of these had to be dropped for time and story purposes, as they whittled the cast down to just five.

The staff here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld was lucky enough to get their hands on a few of the model sheets for these deleted characters, and are presenting them here for the first time.

Here are Nine Other Emotions That Didn't Make The Cut In Inside Out.

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