Weekend Roundup: Reviews of ‘Ant-Man’ & ‘Cartel Land’ documentary

Boy it’s quite a sweltering Summer weekend, I practically lived in my shorts & rompers these days. I love it when you found stuff in one of your old wallets, it’s like getting an unexpected gift. Apparently I left two gold AMC tickets in there, so we ended up going to the movies after all.

I also had time to spare to watch the remaining two episodes of Downton Abbey Season 3, and caught the first episode of season 4. My hope is that I’ll be done with season 5 by year’s end, which I think is feasible. I might blog about it later in the year, as I’m getting ready for the final season of the series in 2016!

In any case, here are quick thoughts of the two films I watched this weekend:

ANT-MAN

We went to the 2D showing as that’s the only time that worked for us and honestly I hate wearing those heavy 3D glasses. I wasn’t really anticipating this movie at all, frankly I’m feeling a bit superhero fatigue. So it’s nice to see that Ant-Man turns out to be more of a heist flick, as Ted’s mentioned in his review, instead of a full-blown superhero movie. The scale is also much smaller than other Marvel movies, which proved to be quite refreshing.

AntManStills

I had a lot of fun with it. Just like Chris Pratt was perfect as the lead of The Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel hit another casting home run once again with Paul Rudd. He’s just so effortlessly likable and we immediately want to root for this down-on-his-luck con-man. The movie is definitely lighthearted and fun, but not devoid of heart either with a familial theme running through the veins of the main characters. Director Peyton Reed is known mostly for comedies (Yes Man, The Break Up) so I guess he’s the perfect man for the job here.

Michael Peña is the movie’s scene stealer, which is not a surprise to me as I’ve always liked him in various supporting roles throughout his career. Interesting that people say he’s the comedic breakout here as I think he’s always got great comic timing, he’s just so under-utilized in Hollywood. I also love Evangeline Lilly’s role and her character Hope actually has a decent arc in the story. Funny that she has a similar hairstyle as the lead female character in Jurassic World, but thankfully her bad-assery didn’t feel forced in this one. I actually enjoyed this movie more than The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which again proved that sometimes bigger [scale] doesn’t mean better.

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CARTEL LAND

I always love documentaries that take you to a world that’s rarely explored, and few are as immersive as this one. Filmmaker Matthew Heineman got an unprecedented access, on-the-ground look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy – the murderous Mexican drug cartels.

CartelLand_Doc

It’s rated R for a reason as the film is pretty intense and show some really brutal scenes of what the drug lords do to people who wronged them. There are also some crazy shoot-outs that made me wonder just how in the world the filmmaker manage NOT to get shot! It’s also astounding that Heineman got access to film a meth lab, which was shown in the beginning and end of the film. It’s an unsettling scene to be sure, as the filmmaker was surrounded by heavy-armed men cooking meth at night in the desert. One of the workers interviewed said they’re so poor that they had no choice but to do this line of work and that they’ll continue cooking meth “as long as God allows it.”

The two main characters in the film came from opposite backgrounds. In the the Mexican state of Michoacán, we have a charismatic physician Dr. Jose Mireles (who looks like a latin version of Omar Sharif) who leads the Autodefensas, one of the vigilante organizations aiming to restore order to Mexican communities. They felt they couldn’t rely on the government to protect them, so they had to take matters into their own hands.

On the other side of the border in Arizona’s Altar Valley, also known as Cocaine Alley, Army veteran Tim Voley felt the same way about the US government. He felt that the authorities/border patrols didn’t do enough to keep Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across American border. Even though Mireles and Voley never met, they definitely share the same vision and brought their own brand of justice.

MethLab_CartelLand

What’s interesting is how initially the film portrayed them as a big hero, but as the film progressed, we saw that they’re flawed human beings like the rest of us. The Autodefensas themselves turn out to be as morally corrupt as the organizations they fight against. For one thing, vigilantism isn’t a black and white matter. I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a really gripping documentary that at times felt all too visceral and horrifyingly-real.

Heineman won Best Director and Special Jury Award for Cinematography at Sundance this year. Both awards are well-deserved as the director practically risked his life making this and the result is one of the most gripping doc I’ve ever seen. Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow also served as one of the executive producers for the film and I could see her making a film version of this topic.

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So that’s my weekend roundup. What did you see this weekend, anything good?