Star Wars: The Force Awakens In Your Living Room

I am days away from getting on a plane to go run in the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World. Along with the packing and the costume planning, I’ve been doing a fair amount of immersion in the Star Wars universe to get me ready for these races. And while the original three films are still near and dear to me, most of my attention the past couple of weeks has been on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Like many Star Wars fans, we were giddy at the release of this new film. We had Cordy and Mira watch the original trilogy ahead of seeing The Force Awakens, and they were nearly as excited as we were. Mira especially connected with the character of Rey, and I couldn’t be more happy to see a strong, positive female lead for her to look up to. It’s definitely made lightsaber battles among kids in our neighborhood more gender neutral, as no one questions that girls can be just as powerful with lightsabers now.

Mira will also be wearing her Rey costume for her first 10k at the Star Wars Dark Side 10k. (And I’ll be dressed as Rey for the half marathon.)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens..Ph: Film Frame..©Lucasfilm 2015

The months between the film’s theater release and it’s release on Blu-ray/digital HD felt like forever. But then it was finally here, and I’ve been thrilled with everything on this Blu-ray. (Disclosure: I received a copy for review.) So, why do I recommend adding Star Wars: The Force Awakens to your movie collection? Here are a few reasons.

The movie is still amazing, even on a smaller screen. Unlike the prequels, this film made me feel like a kid again. It remained more true to the original films with the reliance on more practical effects versus computer special effects, making everything around the actors feel more solid and also bringing back a “lived-in” feel for the universe that is on par with the original trilogy. The characters are well-defined without giving the audience everything you’ll ever need to know about them – there’s still plenty to learn about the new characters, and that’s exciting when I know there are still two more films ahead of us.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) with Stormtroopers Ph: David James ©Lucasfilm 2015

The story itself fits perfectly as a continuation of the previous Star Wars stories, and the action is fast paced and purposeful. Yes, there are plenty of nods to nostalgia, with moments in the film that seem to be written specifically to make fans swoon at the memories of the original trilogy, but I expected that, and I feel it was necessary to acknowledge the audience’s expectations for it and then move on.

I have a feeling the next two films will not need those moments, as we’ve now established the connection between old and new and can now move forward with the new story.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens..Ph: Film Frame..©Lucasfilm 2015Passing the…torch?

“Secrets of the Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey.” This bonus feature, included with the Blu-ray or digital HD versions, is a feature-length documentary that takes an in-depth look at the making of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This addition is priceless for fans, as it provides a fascinating look at everything that went into the concept and creation of this movie.

If you enjoy learning about the process of making a movie (and making one that has to live up to the legacy of the original trilogy!), this is probably one of the best documentaries to watch.

Deleted scenes. I always love watching deleted scenes to get a peek into some of the additional ideas the director and team had for the film. All of the deleted scenes included here added a little bit more to backstory and character development, but none were essential.

The Force Awakens is a little light on deleted scenes, honestly, although I’ve heard there are even more deleted scenes than what was included with this release, including an entire story arc that was removed for time. I’m hoping those deleted scenes weren’t released because they’re trying to work some of them in as backstory for the next film.

Behind the scenes featurettes that cover every area of interest. Do you like learning about how the creatures were made? There’s a bonus feature for that. Love that little BB-8 droid and want to know how he was built and filmed around the set? They’ve included a behind the scenes feature on that, too. Nearly every part of the film-making process is covered.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens..L to R: Director J.J. Abrams w/ actress Daisy Ridley (Rey) on set...Ph: David James..? 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved.

Probably my favorite bonus feature is the “Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight” featurette, which shows how they built that surprisingly lifelike, snowy forest on a sound stage, as well as how they prepared and choreographed that brutal final battle.

Star Wars Snow BattleThis fight was epic.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens carries the legacy of the original trilogy into the next generation, and the story, action, and tone of the film fit seamlessly with the previous films. We’re thrilled to include it on our shelves next to the Original Trilogy (and yeah, the other three movies, too), and I think it’ll be a valued addition to your movie collection as well.

PS – Want some free activities for your kids? (Or, let’s be honest, for you?) I’ve got you covered here:



Recap: runDisney’s Princess Weekend 2016 Enchanted 10k

Well, a late recap is slightly better than never, right? Things are finally slowing down enough in life for me to write up the amazing weekend I had at Walt Disney World back in February.

A year before this, I ran my first 10k at the 2015 Princess weekend, and Aaron’s anniversary gift to me while on that trip was the promise that in 2016 I’d complete the Glass Slipper Challenge at Princess weekend. The Glass Slipper Challenge involves running the 10k on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday – sounds a little crazy, and it really kinda is.

I was also traveling to this race by myself, since three of us are coming back in less than two weeks for the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge. I booked a room at Disney’s Pop Century resort, found a roommate in a race group to help cover the expenses, and was ready to run these two races. Well…mostly. I’ll admit I was under-trained due to winter, and other commitments, and mostly being lazy. But I was still determined to finish both races.

Before the race, though, is the expo. I didn’t arrive until Friday morning, so I missed some of the craziness I’d heard reports of the day before, which mostly involved long lines and people fighting over official race merchandise. Friday’s version of the expo was still crowded, but more relaxed. I picked up my race bib and shirts, browsed the expo for any good deals, and then dropped everything off at my room before spending the late afternoon at Magic Kingdom.

Princess expoSee? No long lines on Friday!

The primary reason I was going to Magic Kingdom that evening was to carb load at my favorite WDW pasta spot: Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. I met up with an Ohio friend for dinner and stuffed myself with shrimp scampi before going back to my room to get a few hours of sleep before the 10k the next morning.

3am is never an easy time to wake up. Nothing about 3am feels natural or comfortable. And yet 3am is when I had to be awake to get dressed for the race, get out to the bus stop, and take the bus over to the race corrals for the 5:30am start time. Thankfully, race day adrenaline kept me upright, but I was also more excited to be meeting up with friends Jana, Megan, and Megan’s husband Al in corral D. This was Megan’s first 10k, and she looked awesome in her Ursula running costume, with her husband dressed as King Neptune.

Pre-race photoPre-race selfie!

As for me, I never miss a chance at a running costume for a runDisney race. My outfit was Vanellope from Wreck-it Ralph. My only regret on my costume was that I wore my visor so it wasn’t easy to see the candy charms in my hair.

Vanellope Enchanted 10kVanellope is a princess.

The weather was much warmer than 2015, but still cool and comfortable for the start. Just like the 10k a year before, it was a great countdown and race start.

 

I stuck with Megan for the first two miles, trying my best to provide motivation and support. She was probably sick of my thumbs up and motivational pep talks before the first mile. I’m not sure when I became “that cheery runner” but I can promise that I am not that cheery by mile four or so.

At her urging, I went ahead of her after mile two, and as I ran solo I quickly found myself remembering the route from the previous year and felt a surge of joy to be doing this race again. The skies were just beginning to brighten as we turned off the freeway and onto the off-ramp towards the back of Epcot.

One of the most awesome parts of running the Enchanted 10k is being able to run through the World Showcase section of Epcot. I’m slow enough that the sun is just coming up when I reach this area, and there’s a hazy glow to everything. It’s beautiful, and provides for more ideal selfie locations than you can imagine. Runners were pulling off to the side all along this area to get photos, and yes, I was one of them.

Epcot selfie

As we crossed the bridge from the France pavilion to the United Kingdom pavilion, we turned towards the exit to the Boardwalk. There’s a short area just outside of Epcot where a rope divides the path in two, with those exiting Epcot starting their loop around the Boardwalk area on one side, and those returning from that loop on the other side. This is such a high energy area as runners going in opposite directions high five each other across the rope and cheer on their fellow runners. It’s a great mental boost for mile four, when legs and lungs are starting to complain.

The second most awesome part of running the Enchanted 10k is the crowd that gathers around the Boardwalk resort. Lots of spectators are here, some with funny signs, some offering pretzels or Twizzlers (THANK YOU!), and all providing a lot of cheering and positive energy. Also? More beautiful views.

View from the BoardwalkNo filters here, people. Just a beautiful scene with Spaceship Earth peeking out in the background.

Unlike the previous year, I’ve run more than a 10k, so the distance wasn’t as challenging for me this time. But even still, that last mile does start to feel rough. Thankfully, much of that mile is spent back inside Epcot, winding past The Land and The Seas with Nemo and Friends, around Spaceship Earth, and then making the final turn for the finish line.

Spaceship Earth - Enchanted 10kThe finish line is soooooo close!

The gospel choir was positioned right before the final turn, and I remember they were singing something with the lyrics, “Thank God, thank God, thank God…” as I was approaching them. As I passed, I chimed in, “Thank God I’m almost done!” with my hands up in the air, then reached out to high-five one of the choir members.

And then there it was – the finish. Before I knew it, I was across the line, had my medal, my Powerade, my mylar blanket, and my snackbox. I spread out the blanket to sit down and guzzled my Powerade, all while gazing at the pretty medal I had just earned.

Enchanted 10k medal

The Enchanted 10k is packed full of fun things to see in only 6.2 miles that go by very quickly. I didn’t even mention the character stops along the way. I’m a slow runner, so I usually don’t stop to get photos with the characters because I worry I’ll fall behind. But it’s still fun to see the characters as I run by.

Of course, this was only race #1. I still had to do more than double that distance the next morning, but not before getting some photos with my medal.

Showing off the medalKylo Ren didn’t seem all that impressed.

Part two coming soon!



Escaping Everyday Stress at Castaway Bay

How’s 2016 been going so far, you ask? Well, the two words that best describe 2016 so far for me have been busy and stressful. I feel guilty using the word “busy” because I know that word is thrown around as an excuse for everything anymore, but it certainly does apply to the past couple of months.

Each week has been filled with long days at the computer for my job, with my work schedule extending into many evenings as well due to new projects and needs. I was appointed to a facilities planning committee for our school district, too, with meetings for that scattered in every few weeks. And then there’s our typical weekly evening rotations of therapy appointments, dance lessons, PTO meetings, etc. Not to mention grocery shopping, bill paying, laundry, and all of the other daily life tasks of being an adult.

It’s enough to leave anyone stressed.

As a family, we were all feeling a bit burned out and needed a weekend that didn’t involve catching up on chores or going to meetings. So we recently escaped our regular routine for two days and a night at Castaway Bay in Sandusky, Ohio. (Disclosure: I was provided with a one night stay at Castaway Bay.)

Castaway Bay

Castaway Bay is the indoor waterpark resort owned by Cedar Point. It’s a little over two hours away from Columbus, and is just one attraction of many in the Lake Erie Shores and Islands area. And while it isn’t the only indoor waterpark in that area, it remains our family favorite. Here are five reasons why we love Castaway Bay!

Lots of waterpark fun, with something for everyone.

The waterpark itself doesn’t look especially big when you first walk in, but there’s a surprising amount to do packed into that space. There’s the large Lookout Lagoon Family Funhouse area with water jets and buckets all over the multi-story climbing structure to engage in fun water battles, along with a 1,000 gallon tipping bucket that drenches everyone in front of the structure every two minutes.

Lookout LagoonSee the giant bucket at the top? It holds a LOT of water.

There are smaller open water slides for those less adventurous, and for those seeking a thrill there are three larger enclosed water slides and the Rendezvous Run water coaster that uses water jets to propel you uphill.

Morning water slidesThe smaller water slides are a part of Lookout Lagoon.

One side of the park is dedicated to the Castaway Bay Wave Pool, and on the other side there’s another pool that offers water basketball and floating animals you can climb on, as well as a toddler tide pool with gentle water elements to introduce the youngest family members to water fun.

Castaway Bay wave poolCordy loved the wave pool. (Mira is underwater behind her, diving under the wave.)

And when you’re tired and just want to relax, there’s the indoor/outdoor hot tub called The Grotto. Both Cordy and Mira found it fascinating that they could be outside in 25 degree weather in just their bathing suits, and yet be completely comfortable because they were in a pool of hot water.

The GrottoThe indoor section of the Grotto first thing in the morning.

There is literally something to do for every family member, from baby to grandparent and everyone in-between. Cordy and Mira spent the majority of their time in the wave pool, although they also enjoyed going down the water slides and climbing on the turtle and dolphin in the other pool. Me? I spent ample time in the hot tub, soaking away my stress.

No worries about deep water.

My favorite part of Castaway Bay’s waterpark is that no water element is over four feet deep. Our kids aren’t the strongest swimmers, but knowing they can touch the bottom with their heads still above water in any pool helps me relax and be less of a helicopter mom. They could splash and play and go to different parts of the waterpark without me hovering over them at all times. I could enjoy myself without my anxiety on full alert, entirely relaxed.

In the poolIn the deep end, Cordy had no worries with touching the bottom of the pool.

Life vests are also plentiful and available for the smaller kids, and the lifeguards are at the top of their game when it comes to making sure anyone below a certain height has their life vest on for safety before entering any pool area.

The on-site food is great!

At Castaway Bay, you won’t go hungry. There’s Mango Mike’s with it’s enormous breakfast buffet,  and next to it is Ebb & Eddy’s quick service dining, including ice cream and Starbucks coffee. (I need my Starbucks.) We’re big fans of the gigantic ice cream scoops at Ebb & Eddy’s. Would you believe this is the “small” ice cream cup for $2.50?

Giant ice creamMoose tracks ice cream – yum!

A new feature since the last time we visited is Quaker Steak & Lube, a chain table service restaurant featuring amazing wings, burgers, and a wide variety of sauces. The food was delicious, the service was outstanding, and the decor was fascinating to look at. It’s a restaurant I’d like to visit again soon.

Quaker Steak & LubeI was secretly glad we weren’t sitting directly under that car.

You can meet your favorite Peanuts characters.

If you’re a fan of Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and the rest of the Peanuts gang, you’ll find there’s no shortage of your favorite characters around the resort. There are random encounters with the characters around the resort lobby, as well as scheduled times for meet and greets with Snoopy and friends at Camp Snoopy.

LinusEarly morning hug from Linus (still in his PJs!)

The night we were there, they had a dance party with the Peanuts characters, and then later in the evening we went back to Camp Snoopy for the Peanuts family movie and Story Time with Snoopy.

Time with SnoopySnoopy also ends the evening with hugs, too.

There are plenty of non-water activities, too.

Need a break from swimming? There are plenty of other family activities happening throughout the day at Castaway Bay. At Camp Snoopy, kids can do free arts and crafts, color their own Castaway Bay t-shirt or towel, or join in on a dance party or karaoke. On some evenings, cookies and hot chocolate are provided in the lobby before bed. And for the older kids, there’s a large arcade full of ticket games and traditional arcade games waiting to keep them busy.

Camp Snoopy t-shirt coloringHard at work coloring her t-shirt.

Beyond the fun, the rooms are moderately large with comfortable queen beds and a mini-fridge. We loved the view of the water from our room’s balcony.

Castaway Bay balconyView from our screened-in private balcony.

If you’re not staying the night at Castaway Bay (or choosing to swim more after checkout on your last day there), there are lockers available in the waterpark to hold your stuff. Also, no beach towels are needed unless you really want to bring them – Castaway Bay provides all of the towels.

There may be larger indoor waterpark resorts in the Lake Erie area, but Castaway Bay is the perfect size for our family. They have plenty to keep everyone busy, there’s never too long of a wait for any water slide, and the resort goes above and beyond to help you relax and enjoy the time together without going too far from home. We splashed, we laughed, we hugged Snoopy, and for the first time in weeks I went two days without a stress headache.

Giveaway!

Want to experience Castaway Bay for yourself? I have four waterpark day passes to give to one lucky reader! These passes will admit you and three friends or family members into the waterpark for a single day – hotel stay and transportation is not included.

To enter, just leave a comment below telling me your favorite thing to do at a waterpark. Are you a thrill seeker and go for the water slides, or do you prefer to lounge in the wave pool or the hot tub? Entries will be accepted until 11:59pm on Friday, March 18th, one entry per household. After that date, one winner will be randomly selected and contacted. Winner has 48 hours to respond or another winner may be selected.

Good luck and happy swimming!

Castaway Bay lobby



Yet Another Update On My Shoulder

It’s flu shot season, which means that the traffic has started to pick up on my first post regarding the shoulder injury I suffered as a result of my flu shot in early 2014. I’m sorry to see so many comments from others that they’ve had similar experiences and to see the same question over and over: will this ever get better?

I guess I’m overdue for an update on my own experience with SIRVA. When I last discussed this over a year ago, I had received yet another steroid injection for my shoulder when the pain returned. That particular cortisone shot left me feeling that I was finally done with treatments as my shoulder felt fine for all of winter and much of the spring.

But then in April of this year, I was again aware of that nagging ache coming from my left shoulder. I tried to be gentle with that shoulder for a week or two, hoping it would go away, but like before it only intensified and I noticed my pain-free range of motion decreasing.

When I visited my ortho doc in May, he ordered new x-rays to check for any calcification in the joint that could be causing pain. The x-rays were uneventful, and the diagnosis remained as a reoccurring bursitis. He gave me another cortisone injection, and we both hoped that this would be the final shot needed. After all, if the previous one lasted for eight months, maybe this one would last even longer…like permanently?

It wasn’t meant to be.

My doctor and I reunited in September when I had agonizing shoulder pain that was making it difficult to even get dressed each day. The pain was sharp with certain motions, and otherwise a low-grade ache the remainder of the time. Ibuprofen did little to help.

At this point, all I wanted was another cortisone injection to stop the pain. Which meant I was ready to cry when my doctor declared that it was time to stop the shots.

But…WHY?

He said that over time the cortisone shots can begin to lose their effectiveness, and each injection can increase the risks of additional damage to the joint. Surgery was presented as the next step to clean out the shoulder joint and look for any scar tissue or damage to remove.

The bad news: my chances of having the pain resolved by surgery (and physical therapy after surgery, of course) was better than 50-50, but not by much. A high number of patients still have shoulder pain after surgery.

The bad news that related specifically to me: after surgery , there’s no exercise allowed at all for 1-2 weeks, and then no exercise involving the shoulder for another 2-3 weeks.

I was numb at this point. I quickly explained why surgery wasn’t an option for me at that time: I was registered for the Columbus Half Marathon on October 18, with two more half marathons in November. These were my first half marathons, and this was the start of race season; I couldn’t spend 1-2 weeks with no activity to risk or give up on races with a lot of time and money invested. But I also stressed that I couldn’t go on with the pain.

My ortho doc is part of a sports medicine practice, so he understands the needs of athletes. (HA! First time ever that I’ve suggested I’m an athlete. Writing that made me laugh!)

My pleas sunk in. We compromised and agreed on a cortisone shot that day, but that’s the absolute last one. The next time the pain comes back – whether in 3 months, 6 months, 9 months – it’ll be surgery time. I’ll be mindful of this in planning races for 2016, knowing that if the pain comes back right before a big race, I might need to ditch the race or endure the pain until after the race.

Wine and Dine medalAnd I did run those races – more on that soon!

The latest relapse happened after only four months, and even though I wish it would go away, experience tells me it’ll be back. In fact, I’ve started to have a sore shoulder this week, and I keep hoping I slept on it wrong and it’ll go away soon. I’m scared at the thought of surgery and even more worried that I’ll endure the pain and expense of surgery and it won’t work.

My frustration has turned to anger. I’ve previously considered filing an injury report to the federal government and then seeking compensation through the vaccine injury courts, and I may be ready to do it now. In less than two years, I’ve endured a lot of unnecessary pain, I’ve spent a lot of time and money on trying to recover from SIRVA, and now I’m facing surgery, which also won’t be cheap. Had I decided to skip my flu shot in January 2014 or waited to get it at my doctor’s office, it’s likely this never would have happened.



Marvel’s Ant-Man Available on Blu-ray and Digital HD.

Ant-ManDisclaimer: We were provided a free digital download of Marvel’s Ant-Man for the purposes of this review.

The Marvel Movie machine rumbles on as they bring us the biggest tiny heroes to the screen. The saga of bringing Ant-Man to the big screen is kind of a fascinating one. Originally, this was to be the second of Marvel’s self-produced films. Edgar Wright, of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead fame was to write and direct the tale, on the heels of Iron Man. This was before there was any idea of such a thing as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the interconnected world of superhero films based on Marvel comics.

Due to one delay or another, Ant-Man kept being delayed, and as such, the need to rework the film to fit into the greater MCU arose, and eventually Edgar Wright and Marvel parted ways (although Wright has kept both a writing and a producing credit on the film).

What this means is that we have a very different Ant-Man then we would have had Wright made his film, but we also have one that was set to tie in to the greater narrative that Marvel and Disney have been crafting.

But does it work? That’s the big question. I asked Aaron to cover this one, as he knows far more of the backstory with this character. As is usually the case when we see movies together, we agree on most points with this assessment of Ant-Man.

Synopsis

Armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Doctor Hank Pym, protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from a new generation of towering threats. Against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

Marvel’s Ant-Man stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne, Corey Stoll as Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket, Bobby Cannavale as Paxton, Michael Peña as Luis, Judy Greer as Maggie, Tip “Ti” Harris as Dave, David Dastmalchian as Kurt, Wood Harris as Gale, Jordi Mollà as Castillo and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym.

Peyton Reed directs Marvel’s Ant-Man with Kevin Feige producing and Louis D’Esposito, Alan Fine, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo, Edgar Wright and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Marvel’s Ant-Man delivers a high-stakes, tension-filled adventure on July 17, 2015.
(from Marvel.com/movies)
Antman_004

The Feature

There were a lot of interesting creative choices to be made in this film, beginning with the decision to use a Hank Pym, who is more a contemporary of Howard Stark than Tony, and whose superhero career (alongside his wife, Janet Van Dyne) started in the 1970s and ended in the late 1980s. In the present, set to become an Avenger alongside Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, we will see not Pym and Van Dyne as Ant-Man and the Wasp, but instead Scott Lang taking on the mantle.

It’s a curious choice from the point of view of a comic fan, but from the perspective of a film fan, it does give us an Ant-Man who is not a genius scientist, which frankly the Avengers will already full of. And the good news is that Paul Rudd is amazingly charming as Scott Lang.

As Lang, Rudd gives us a character who is motivated not by wealth or power, not by guilt or a strong sense of moral fiber, but is instead motivated by a drive to try to not let innocent people be hurt while sticking it to the “Man”, and simultaneously driven by the need to provide for his daughter.

In fact, the thing that unites Lang and Pym more than their shared mantle as Ant-Man is the need for a father to connect with and protect their daughter, while being completely unsure of how to do that. Being an ex-con, convicted for stealing from Lang’s former employer, Lang is unable to find a legal job to prove his responsibility and get access to his daughter again, and a heist gone wrong proves to Pym that Lang is the man he needs to be his successor.

Antman_005

Pym, played fantastically by Michael Douglas, is an older man, driven by the desire to protect the world from his Pym Particles being used by the wrong person. After all, a two-inch high assassin with the strength fifty times that of a normal man would be nigh-unstoppable. Pym’s former protégé, Darren Cross, has spent years trying to unlock the secrets of the Pym Particles, and is finally on the verge of both using the formula and unleashing his armored, flying, “Yellowjacket” suit.

Pym’s daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) is working for Cross while secretly still aligning herself with her father. Hope is everything the daughter of a superhero could hope for – brilliant, driven, a skilled fighter, and capable of the mental discipline needed to control an army of ants – but for reasons unknown to her, her father doesn’t want her wearing the Ant-Man suit.

Along the way, we meet Lang’s former cellmate and other criminal compadres, who end up assisting Lang and Pym in their crusade against Cross; and experience the drama surrounding Lang’s ex-wife Maggie, daughter Cassie, and Maggie’s fiancée Paxton (who also happens to be a cop).

The entire film is fun and moves along briskly to the climax where Ant-Man and Yellowjacket fight for both control of the Pym Particles and for the safety of Lang’s family, and ends with a set-up to see Ant-Man in the next films in Marvel’s Phase Three of Films.

Antman_006

The Good

The casting is spot on in this film, with Rudd, Lily and Douglas especially standing out. The action is solid, the dialogue is sprinkle with quick one-liners, and the effects are superb. This is a very solid entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and seeing the different cast members introduced here in future films will be very welcome.

Antman_002

The Bad

Cross is one of the least interesting villains to enter into the realm of the MCU. He’s almost exactly a carbon copy of Obadiah Stane from Iron Man, and lacks all of the nuance and interest we’ve found in Loki, the Winter Soldier, or Ultron. He’s not awful – but he definitely represents a step back.

Antman_003

The Ugly

The remnants of Wright’s script are still visible, sometimes in awkward places. There are lines that feel like they were directly lifted from his pen in scenes that otherwise seem like they were completely reworked, and beats in the script that would have worked in a film that was more consistently marked by Wright’s style, but which stuck out like a sore thumb on their own.

The Bonus Material

The Blu-ray packs and Digital HD copies of Ant-Man include several bonus offerings, including an incredible look into how they created the world when seen from the size of an ant, and audio commentary by Peyton Reed And Paul Rudd. If you can’t get enough of the movie’s humor, there’s a fun gag reel of flubs, forgotten lines, and even a few intentional laughs. A collection of deleted scenes are also included. I enjoyed the deleted and extended scenes, but thought that the right choice was made to leave each out of the final cut as being unnecessary to further the plot and slowing down the pace in some instances.

Final Thoughts

I would have loved to see what Edgar Wright wanted to do with Ant-Man, but the truth is that once the Marvel Cinematic Universe became a thing, that was never going to happen. Wright is at his heart an independent film-maker, and being forced to rework his script to coincide with events that happened in other films, and to set up future films, was always going to be something he fought against – and Marvel has made it very clear that no creative talent is more important than their overall vision of the MCU. No actor, no director, no producer is more important than the whole (with the possible exception of Robert Downey Jr), and it is probably better to see Peyton Reed directing Ant-Man than to see Wright’s version of the film being hamstrung by Marvel’s requirements.

That said, as someone who is a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I think that this film is ultimately more satisfying than a stand-alone, Edgar Wright-driven Ant-Man like we might have gotten back in 2008. It’s a very solid middle entry into the overall saga of the MCU, and is probably at the right level of “everything changes” drama to be a good palate cleaner between Age of Ultron and Civil War. Scott Lang brings a different kind of personality, background and skills to the Avengers than we’ve seen in any of their other members, and this film is perhaps the perfect example of a popcorn film.

The one complaint I have was that it was remarkably predictable. There are tiny little moments that surprised me, but overall, there were no big twists to the film. It was enjoyable, but nothing hit me with the kind of “Wow, did not see that coming,” that I’ve experienced in most of the Marvel films. On the other hand, if I wasn’t surprised by anything in the film, I suspect the reviewability of the movie will be high, since my enjoyment wasn’t based on being surprised.

Ant-Man is a very solid superhero film, and if we hadn’t already seen almost all of the elements of the formula that made the movie already, I’d have been thoroughly wowed. Instead, I found myself thinking that there wasn’t a lot new to find here (other than the father-daughter relationships being the driving force of the film), but that it was still a perfectly enjoyable way to spend a few hours. And it’s not like superhero tales don’t all have a certain degree of similarity to begin with, but I still read comics each week. If I’m willing to buy six to ten comics each week that all have elements I’ve seen before, I can certainly afford to spend the money to watch a superhero film that has elements I’ve seen before. And I was happy to do so.

Antman_001

Bonus

Stan Lee makes his requisite cameo, and true to form, it’s a pretty darn funny one. Also as we’ve grown to expect (grown… because Ant-Man shrinks… get it?), there is a mid-credits stinger scene that addresses the question that has been on the minds of all of us ever since Ant-Man was mentioned as coming to cinemas – when do we get to see the Wasp? Finally, stick through all the way to the end credits for a sneak peek look at Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War.

 

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