New “Ant-Man” trailer surprisingly good

I might have to eat crow when it comes to the “Ant-Man” movie.  Time will tell, I’m still reserving my right to go “meh” when the credits roll.

After a crummy teaser earlier this year the new trailer was released Sunday and, to my pleasant surprise, looked pretty swell.

What bothered me about our first look at the film was how predictable it was.  Dramatic speech by Michael Douglas?  I bet it’ll end with Paul Rudd going, “Huh” or something.  Toss in some action shots?  I’m looking at my watch to see how long it’ll be before the mandatory joke about the name Ant-Man.  Oh there it is.

Now I’m ready to shake that off, here’s why:

Return to the Phase One feel

I’ve only been down on Marvel movies since the so-called Phase Two stage kicked-off after “Avengers.”  In 2013, it felt like the studio was just spiking the football and patting itself on the back after making a mountain of cash the year before.  Things got better in 2014, though.

“Ant-Man” feels different.  It looks like comic book heist film first as opposed to another team-up or generic save the world movie.  Best case scenario, it has the same Phase One DNA as 2008’s “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk,” which I’ll always consider a heavily underrated film.  Have a fair amount of origin story with the only stakes being to take out the bad guy.

They shrank the damn Marvel logo!

Tiny logo

The new studio intro logo, which I want to say debuted with “Guardians of the Galaxy,” was bigger, longer and oh so showy.  It also might end up causing more seizures than 90’s-era anime.  Seeing it cut down to size brings warm, coffee-like feelings to my heart.

Corey Stoll is awesome

Not much elaboration required here.  This guy is one helluva an actor, just watch season one of “House of Cards.”  Can’t wait to see him on screen as the villain Yellowjacket.

Iron Man’s weapon proliferation fears revised

This kinda relates to the Phase One point.  What I liked about “Iron Man” was how Tony Stark said his mission was to combat illegal weapon sales.  It was an excellent motivation that fell off the radar in the sequels.  Damn shame since to me Robert Downey Jr.’s best moment was his, “There is the next mission and nothing else” scene from the first movie.

“Ant-Man” picks up that baton by making this a conflict over stealing back the super shrinking technology so it can’t be militarized.  Right on!  Wish this plot was used years ago.

Vacation from the East Coast

Way too many superheroes work in New York City or a New York City substitute.  I mean, it’s considered the safest major city in the world how many heroes do you need?  “Ant-Man” is going to take place on the West Coast and bully for that.  San Francisco is lovely in the summer.

And finally, Thomas the Tank Engine!

Well done!  Marvel might toss in far too many witticisms but visual gags like having Thomas the Tank Engine smash the bad guy is pure gold.

“Ant-Man” will be released in theater July 17.

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Movie Review: “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”

With Guy Ritchie at the helm and the cast and crew of 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes” once more unto the breach, we get a rare cinema treat: “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” a sequel that maintains the look of the original and, aside from a few blemishes, recaptures the spirit, as well.

There is the same camaraderie between Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law), but without the kind of flare that worked so well in the first film.  Don’t misunderstand, their friendship is believable and we get many awkward circumstances that will make even the most stiff movie-goer crack a smile.  What’s lacking is the kind of jovial one-upmanship we saw last time, more often it seems the two’s decision making is done out of spite instead of spec.

You could maybe chalk up the pair’s attitude to the intention of the filmmakers, a way of showing the two men drifting apart and becoming more independent.  But if I had to pick, I’d prefer the brainy, Lethal Weapon-esque buddy detective feel from the 2009 film.

The partnership also seems a bit unbalanced this time around.  Law’s Watson seemingly steals the show, outwitting opponents without employing a disguise (as Holmes does on several occasions) and shows that some of Holmes’ deductive abilities definitely rubbed off on him.

Don’t worry, Mr. Downey Jr. we still love you and never doubt that this is your show.

Opposing the detective duo is Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), who is hell-bent on sparking a war between France and Germany for the sake of profit.  It’s hard to phrase exactly how good Harris’ performance is without employing cliche.  He puts such a sinister spell on the audience that you’re left searching for a flaw, only to find that critical part of your mind dashed.  Simply put, if you somehow don’t like Harris in this movie you can go fishing.

Seeing Harris on the big screen should also cure “Mad Men” fans of some fatigue caused by the show’s delay.  After this film, viewers might want to see more of Harris’ sinister side.

Standing by Moriarty is Sebastian Moran (Paul Anderson) who, like Watson, served in the British army in Afghanistan, though his record is far less honorable.  He makes for a great accomplice in Moriarty’s game, in a sense becoming a less-chummy, more-nasty Watson.

The remaining supporting cast of characters make their mark with the little screen time they have and definitely have a hand in making the film’s final showdown work.  Hat tip to them.

Summing up, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” pulls off an interesting trick.  It maintains the feel of the first film while at the same time not going the route of other sequels where everything goes to hell in a hand basket (see “The Empire Strikes Back” and “The Dark Knight”).  It functions as a standalone film, complimenting the franchise and in no way lessens/increases expectations for a possible third film.

The same way you could think less of one book in a series while still enjoying the storyline applies here.  If future Sherlock Holmes movies don’t live up to expectations, it won’t spoil one’s attitude toward the other pictures because the big picture is still satisfying.

Well played.

Bottom Line: 8 out of 10