‘Ant-Man’: The good, the bad, and the weird (video)

18 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Box Office: ‘Ant-Man’ Rises to $65 Million Opening, ‘Trainwreck’ Also Stellar.

Paul Rudd is about to hit the big-time with Ant-Man. Disney-Marvel’s “Ant-Man” is marching to a solid $65 million weekend at the U.S. box office while Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” is overperforming with a $35 million launch frame, according to early Friday estimates. “Ant-Man” took in $6.4 million in Thursday-night preview screenings — comparable to the $6.2 million for Universal-Illumination Entertainment’s “Minions.” Forecasts for “Ant-Man” had been in the $60 million to $65 million range at 3,856 locations, most of which are in 3D.JUST SIX short years ago, at Comic-Con 2009, the hall of 6,000-plus high-decibel Marvel fans raucously cheered what was technically billed as the panel for “Iron Man 2,” but something else entirely was in the air.We find out early on in the Marvel movie, out July 17, that Scott Lang/Ant-Man gets a job as an ice cream server. (It’s hard for him to find work after getting out of prison.) But why did filmmakers decide to place Lang at the 31-flavor ice cream chain?

DETROIT (WWJ) – Superhero movies based on Marvel Comics just keep getting better and better. “Ant-Man,” the latest film from the Marvel Comics franchise starring Paul Rudd in the title role, is fun, funny, exciting and super creative. This was the Victory Tour, that palpable moment when an act has had a sudden hit, and now, that wide-eyed surprise is giving way to the seismic pressures and fissures of massive success. There are even jokes made in the film about how Baskin-Robbins “always finds out,” to the point that it almost seems like quirky product placement. He’ll always be the most likeable man in Hollywood In advancing the task of examining his fundamental Ruddness, I thought a shared activity would provide us something to talk about beyond the mandatory promotional patter. (Which is this: He is starring in the newest Marvel movie, ‘‘Ant-Man’’.) Rudd suggested ‘‘Fun Home,’’ the musical based on a graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel, which deals with topics like parenting, queer theory and Chippendale furniture. Rudd plays a down-on-his-luck thief who uses technology to transform himself into the size of an insect. “Trainwreck” launched with $1.8 million in Thursday night previews.

In that moment, if you were at all familiar with the narrative rhythms of rock ‘n’ roll, or of championship sports teams, or of Silicon Valley start-ups, you could realize what was happening before your eyes. Screenwriter Adam McKay told USA TODAY at the Ant-Man premiere that he remembered Jamba Juice being one of the top employer picks, but director Peyton Reed says the first pick was actually Chipotle. I got to the theatre just six minutes before the play started and spotted Rudd sitting in the third row: tweed jacket, pants of no importance, museum-quality forehead. Unfortunately, “Chipotle didn’t particularly like the context in which we were using their brand,” said Reed, who didn’t think making up a Mexican restaurant called “Chiplotnicks” would be as affective.

The well-reviewed “Trainwreck” looks likely to exceed the first weekend of Fox’s R-rated “Spy,” which opened with a $29 million on June 5-7. “Spy,” which was similarly embraced by critics, showed impressive staying power and has hit $105 million. Reed knew he made the right choice with Baskin-Robbins when realized how the bright pastels of the parlor provided a funny contrast to Lang’s dark prison scenes.

Universal and Schumer have been actively promoting “Trainwreck,” starting with a high-profile screening at March’s SXSW to generate buzz. “Trainwreck,” directed by R-rated comedy specialist Judd Apatow, cost a relatively modest $35 million to produce. Or perhaps Robert Downey Jr., the kinetic talent and once-high-risk hire who had kicked his demons of the bottle and now was fresh off a “Tropic Thunder” Oscar nomination?

The animated spinoff will likely close the weekend with a cume of $220 million as Universal continues to dominate the domestic box office this year with a market share well above 25%. The excitement built, the thrum escalated, and then the moderator said first: “I just want to introduce the president of Marvel Studios, and the producer of ‘Iron Man 2’…Kevin Feige!” Out into the spotlight step-jogged the man who now ran a universe. If ‘‘likeable’’ is the best adjective you can think of to describe an actor, you’re excluding a whole raft of others: intelligent, formidable, mesmeric, knee-buckling (all of which apply to Rudd).

His ex-wife, Maggie, is none-too-happy with Lang’s chosen lifestyle or with the fact that he has gotten thousands of dollars behind in his child support payments. The main thing about Rudd is not that he is likeable, but that he is funny, and that his particular flavour of funniness is something no other actor possesses at the moment. He was running this ballclub, whether the film be “Iron Man,” or the “Ant-Man” project he had greenlit with director Edgar Wright several years earlier.

Next announced was Favreau, the conquering director, who thanked the Comic-Con fans for believing in this team two years earlier at this venue, when Iron Man flew under the radar. “It all started here,” he said to the supportive throng. “Nobody cared before you guys did.” And then, after a clip was shown, materializing into focus almost as if out of nowhere was Downey Jr., in rock-star sunglasses and crisp suit. Superhero fans, action movie fans and movie fans in general who love a good time should make sure they catch “Ant-Man.” And, be sure to stick around after the credits roll so you don’t miss out on what’s still to come.

The three men stood side by side, like black-clad musketeers, all for one, and yet because this is Hollywood, there always must be greater weight placed on “One for all.” The trio, playing to the room, acted out a small power-play over what footage would now be shown to the fans. “We just wrapped a week ago,” said Favreau, stoking the drama. Like Owen Wilson, Rudd is affable, but without Wilson’s just-got-hit-on-the- head-with-a-mallet countenance. ‘‘Fun Home’’ was performed at a theatre in the round, and every few minutes my eyes would drift across the stage and land on an audience member staring at the seat next to me. It was possible, and highly compelling, to clock the process of that person as he or she converted an ordinary moment into an event (‘‘the time I saw Paul Rudd’’). And Favreau, the filmmaker who gave the Marvel Cinematic Universe its true creative and commercial beachhead, has never again directed a Marvel picture. Two years before “Iron Man” changed the game for Marvel — making a charted course for “The Avengers” plausible and soon making the studio a sexy $4-billion buy for Disney — there was indie auteur Edgar Wright, set to make his passion project “Ant-Man.” “Shaun of the Dead” in 2004 had vaulted the British filmmaker into a new echelon, and the stakes weren’t yet so staggeringly great two years later when Wright decided to shake hands with Marvel.

The Marvel bet is that the actor’s magic can be combined with the studio’s batting average to turn ‘‘Ant-Man’’ into the equivalent of Josh from ‘‘Clueless’’ in the hearts of movie-watching males. There seemed no urgency, either, as Wright made 2010’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” for Universal, and then 2013’s “The World’s End.” But Feige slated “Ant-Man” for a summer-of-2015 release, and so by early 2014, the creative rubber was meeting the scheduled road completion.

As evidence of this wager, note that a seven-inch Rudd-as-Ant-Man action figure is already available for $24.95 at the studio’s web store, limit two per customer. Later, as Rudd maneuvered up the theatre stairs and through the front door, a wordless ripple of lit-up eyes followed him, culminating in some fans’ stopping him to take selfies outside. Either way, he no longer had custody of “his baby.” The old “creative differences” were cited by some; others speculated it was about schedule. Pinewood Atlanta Studios is a gated complex in Fayetteville, Ga., containing what looks like a couple of Walmarts: big Duplo-block structures built on a scale that feels vaguely hostile to humanity.

It was a week after the play, and Rudd sat in his trailer at Pinewood waiting to be summoned to the ‘‘Captain America: Civil War’’ set, a two-minute S.U.V. ride away. A machine that arguably, so far, has an unmatched record of box-office success since the unlikely Iron Man and his electromagnet-guarded heart soared for the first time.

Amid his departure, Wright beautifully posted on social media a picture of silent legend Buster Keaton holding a Cornetto ice cream — an allusion not only to Wright’s “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” but also to Keaton’s famed quote that the worst career decision he ever made, after his film “The General” flopped, was getting into bed with a big studio. He grew up in a suburb of Kansas City to British-born parents. ‘‘I wasn’t one of those kids who was like, ‘I want to be an actor,’ ’’ he said. ‘‘It wasn’t in my wheelhouse at all.

And James Gunn, who was months away from hitting it huge with Disney/Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” wrote on Facebook at that time: “Sometimes you have friends in a relationship. But at Marvel, curiously — unlike with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy for WB/DC, say, or Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man triptych for Sony — a director seldom sticks around for that third picture.

Rudd co-wrote the ‘‘Ant-Man’’ screenplay, which may be a reason the movie has a light subtext of self-aware why-is-this-movie-getting-madeness that will either charm you into submission or make you squirm, depending on your level of cynicism about Hollywood. Last May, “Avengers: Age of Ultron” had barely cleared its monster opening weekend when Whedon began to go public about just how challenging the shoot had been for him.

It’s the same gloss of irony that shimmered across the surface of ‘‘Guardians of the Galaxy’’ and the world was fine letting that movie have its cake and eat it too, for the simple (but sort of profound) reason that Chris Pratt seemed like a guy who deserved cake. Remember how strikingly human the scene was at Hawkeye’s farm, as his cozy homestead seemingly has character reveals big and small around every corner? He is the kind of optimised everyman that normal everymen might elect into the office of representing them on-screen, if such men were given a ballot. To prepare for the day’s scenes, Rudd drank black coffee and watched an infomercial about an eight-in-one all-purpose wheelbarrow available for four easy payments of $39.95. And he told the Empire podcast how he hated the “Go save the world, honey!” version he shot, but the “studio quite liked it.” During “Age of Ultron,” Whedon and the studio also clashed over the dream scenes (“Not an executive favorite”), and Thor’s cave scene, and a Banner/Romanoff bedroom scene.

Things, he said, got “unpleasant.” Marvel is so unlike anything Hollywood has quite seen before, perhaps it would help not to even think of it as a studio. It also converted to a snowplow, which aroused Rudd’s skepticism: ‘‘I’ve seen a lot of wheelbarrows in my time, and none of them can do that,’’ he said, changing the channel. For purposes of illumination, it seems more like some other institutions in the state, like the sprawling University of California system (yes, even though Feige is a USC guy). Or like the similarly successful San Francisco Giants (so well-fed by the franchise’s farm system), who have won three titles in five years — all, in other words, since Favreau last took the Marvel stage.

In a new Grantland piece, Jonah Keri writes of the Giants: “One of the most important tenets of roster-building is to downplay past results and make decisions based on expected future returns.” Now, if it’s elucidating to think of Marvel as the owner of multiple sports teams, then the ballcap-wearing Feige is like the general manager who’s often around the dugout, working especially closely with his manager. And, in an approach not entirely unlike Oakland’s “Moneyball,” you often match “expected future results” with very precise roles on a relatively tight budget. (Marvel Studios, in its precision, doesn’t like to waste a dime or its time.) So just what does Marvel do? A variety of exoskeleton pieces, which I’m not allowed to describe, were laid alongside a smattering of accessories and an array of foundation garments, right down to a silky square of underpants. It often hires provably gifted or promising directors (“future returns”!) who haven’t yet had a blockbuster — and hands over the keys to its magic kingdom of cinematic toys.

Many of the crew on the set worked on ‘‘Ant-Man’’ too, and they wore frayed ‘‘Ant-Man’’ baseball caps and goofed around with Rudd as he plodded around in his heavy suit. They did not instinctively stay out of his way, as they did around some of the other actors. ‘‘Can I get you a hot coffee?’’ ‘‘Yes,’’ Rudd said. ‘‘Also do you have any chili?’’ Next, he stepped into a tent among a row of tents, where the Ant-Man costume was further rigged by six more people. You get the Oscar-caliber Kenneth Branagh to deliver a Shakespeare-for-the-masses “Thor” that does boffo box office, and he, in turn, gains the then-biggest commercial hit of his directing career.

Whenever Rudd roamed the studio grounds in uniform, he wore a cloak covering himself from head to toe, to thwart stealth photographers determined to leak pictures of the costume online. Disney’s Marvel can sell its directing chair on a promise: What’s your dream toy chest, and dossier spike, for our shared billion-dollar-grossing movie? When a distracted crew member dropped a call sheet, it took one second for three other crew members to dive for that sheet and press it back upon its owner. A barn owl could swoop down, snatch the paper, eat it, fly directly over a Marvel superfan’s house and regurgitate the call sheet in a scrutable format onto that fan’s flagstone patio.

This is not a studio of station-to-station franchises like the ever-rejuvenating James Bond; these are cinematic planets that must be kept ever aligned. An undisclosable number of other Avengers were also on set with their stunt doubles, and it was fun, in a primitive way, to see the pairs standing next to each other: the actor, on one side, looking like a photograph of himself; and the stunt double, on the other side, emitting the distinct aura of a knockoff. He vanished for a moment and then reappeared carrying a padded briefcase with tubes streaming out of it that plugged into the lower back of his suit to circulate chilled water throughout the armored costume.

The Georgia weather is so crazy — so hot, so sticky, so much like being baked inside a fruit pie — that it consumed all small talk and evaporated all vanities. At one point, his assistant of two years, a human-shaped sunbeam named Thomas Deming-Henes, wheeled over a swivel chair in case his boss wanted to sit down. Before sitting, Rudd exaggeratedly paused and wiped a mote of dust off the seat. ‘‘Oh, here, let me get that,’’ said another crew member in turn, wiping Deming-Henes’s shirt corner with his own shirt corner.

I was eating an apple from craft services and joined the chorus to offer Rudd a bite, which he accepted like a suckling pig — his hands were gauntleted and immobile — and then had an allergic reaction to. Rudd was more reflective in Atlanta, where he was staying in a high-rise hotel suite with a view of downtown: two pools, two cranes, a residential hotel, a construction site and a billboard for Jimmy John’s restaurant. The room had a microwave and a leather ottoman topped with a fan of regional magazines. (Rudd: ‘‘I brought those with me.’’) That morning, he had a fitting and then an interview and then a nap, during which he had a dream that he could no longer remember. The answer is yes, but tacitly. ‘‘No one said anything to me,’’ he said. ‘‘I just kinda took it upon myself.’’ For example: ‘‘The fascinating thing I discovered about ants is, if some water comes along and they need to avoid drowning, they innately know to cross their legs with each other and connect to create a raft.

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