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Heroes, hunks, high schoolers

By: - Writing Editor
/ 01:06 AM July 26, 2015
Paul Rudd in “Ant-Man”

Paul Rudd in “Ant-Man”

Ant-Man’: Ginormous breather

One of Marvel’s most bizarrely powered comic book heroes finally gets adapted for the big screen, and it’s a simple but enjoyable adventure that expands the already-humongous cinematic universe even further.

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Necessary alterations are made for the movie, but the essence is familiar: Lovable ex-con and divorced dad Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is recruited by an aging ex-hero, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Wearing a suit that helps him shrink and communicate with ants, Scott, alias Ant-Man, reluctantly goes on dangerous missions for Hank and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly).

Peyton Reed’s “Ant-Man” is refreshing; Rudd is aptly “approachable,” making the character disarming and easily underestimated, which works really well.

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Providing a stark contrast to the mentor-mentee bond is the overly ambitious David Cross (Corey Stoll), Hank’s estranged protégé. Douglas gives his genius Hank the wisdom and arrogance that makes the character appealing, if often infuriating. And Lilly’s Hope is an impressive “mystery” woman making her debut here.

Fight sequences are unsurprisingly tight and flashy, but especially fun are the training sessions, reminiscent of lighter parts of the first “Spider-Man” and “Iron Man” films. “Ant-Man” is uncomplicated, a ginormous breather from the barrage of increasingly serious super-capers.

Joe Manganiello  and Jada Pinkett Smith (center) in “Magic Mike XXL”

Joe Manganiello and Jada Pinkett Smith (center) in “Magic Mike XXL”

‘Magic Mike’: Stylish, sans satisfying climax

An adequate sequel to the Steven Soderbergh hit “Magic Mike,” the similarly stylish—if practically story-devoid—“Magic Mike: XXL” has its mandatory skin-flashing moments but with less treacly drama, a new director (Gregory Jacobs) and two less cast members (Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer).

The two actors’ absence, however, makes the other male entertainers stand out, primarily Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer’s characters. Channing Tatum’s titular star stripper Mike gets to shine anew, as well.

Other cast members Kevin Nash and Adam Rodriguez are given moments, but new female additions Andie MacDowell, Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks and Amber Heard keep things a tad surprising for other reasons.

“XXL” zigzags from one silly scenario to the next. But the new numbers? They’re hit and miss. In the spirit of following their bliss, the dancers shed their time-tested stage personas and go for more “truthful” numbers to strip to. Some are iffy, but those that work are both sensual and stunningly choreographed. The only thing missing is a fantastic, satisfying climax.

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Carla Delevigne and Nat Wolff in “Paper Towns”

Carla Delevigne and Nat Wolff in “Paper Towns”

‘Paper Towns’: Accessibly angsty

“Paper Towns” understands relatable teen drama well—the film by Jake Schreier gets the idiosyncrasies, victories and pains of high school life, although it takes time to get to its point.

The film centers on Quentin/Q (Nat Wolff), who’s been attracted to his friend and neighbor Margo (Clara Delevingne) since they were kids. She enlists his help in getting back at “friends” from her clique. He helps, with little resistance.

“Paper Towns,” while accessibly angsty and delightfully optimistic, trudges at certain points, almost squandering the excellently paced first 30 minutes of the film. The rest is a prelude to a road trip that isn’t as engaging, and a road trip itself that, while funny in some parts, doesn’t feel as important as the destination.

The 22-year-old Delevigne shares good chemistry with 20-year-old Wolff, who brings sensitivity and heartfelt narration to a sometimes-disconnecting tale. It’s worth watching for the charming pair, and the maturely handled messages of growth and change.

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TAGS: Ant-Man, Carla Delevigne, Heroes, Hunks, Jada Pinkett Smith, Joe Manganiello, Marvel, Matt Bomer, Movies, Nat Wolff, Paper Towns, Paul Rudd, Peyton Reed, review
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