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?

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50 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup: Reviews of ‘Ant-Man’ & ‘Cartel Land’ documentary

  1. I didn’t really see anything this weekend. I had one of my aunts visiting as I’m right now watching the first episode of the second season of Twin Peaks to continue my marathon on the series.

  2. Tom

    Nice one Ruth, I’d love to check out Cartel Land. Sounds like a rough ride but these sorts of doc’s are important works. I’m glad to see you enjoyed Ant Man! TRhat was another potential looming disaster for Marvel but I think, as it turns out, all the pieces fit together neatly even after Edgar Wright stepped down as director. I think it could have been even funnier with him at the helm but as it was, it worked. Go Paul Rudd. 😀

    1. Hello there Tom! I’m glad I gave this a shot though I wasn’t keen on it initially. Seems that Edgar Wright still got writing credit for this? Yeah I’m curious how the movie’d turn out w/ him at the helm but Reed did a good job overall. Paul Rudd is awesome!!

      1. Tom

        Yeah there were certain scenes throughout that were distinctly Edgar Wright, which was cool. Idk why there had to be four writers though. That seems a bit excessive doesn’t it? Ant Man will be memorable just on the virtue of how weird it’s origins are.

  3. I’m planning to see Ant-Man again since at the advance screening, the Icon theater somehow decided not to use Dolby Atmos even though it’s shown at the Atmos theater. This is one of those films that will definitely sounds very cool in Atmos.

    I’ve never heard of Cartel Land so I’ll definitely check it out once it hits home video. I love watching anything crime related, especially the drug cartels.

    I’m catching up on the episodes of Hannibal, this potentially last season ever has been kind of disappointing so far. Then I finally watched CHEF and I thought it’s very entertaining, of course I got very hungry during and after the movie, ha ha. I now want to try a Cuban sandwich, I wonder if there’s a food truck here in MN that sells it.

    1. I don’t think I’ll be seeing this again until later on BD. It was fun but I didn’t love it THAT much to see it again on the big screen. I still haven’t rewatched Fury Road yet though I had hoped to see that again at the cinema. It didn’t have Dolby Atmos when I saw it a couple of months ago.

      If you’re intrigued by drug cartels then CARTEL LAND is a must-see. It’s quite terrifying, esp those shoot-outs, it’s like something straight out of Clear & Present Danger movie, except that it’s all real!

      Oh Chef was pretty good wasn’t it? I enjoyed that too and I also got REALLY hungry after seeing it, ahah.

  4. I might go and see Ant-Man this week, although I’m superheroed out once again. Also I’m busy looking for a job at the moment so I’ll probably have to catch up on writing rather than see any new films. Will have to see!
    Over the weekend I saw The Salt Of The Earth, a documentary about the photographer Sebastiao Salgado, and The One I Love, which came out last year. Both pretty good.

    1. Hello Stu! I totally understand man, I probably wouldn’t have gone to see this if I hadn’t found those tickets I bought years ago. I’ve been wanting to catch up on more writing [screenwriting to be specific] rather than blogging about films, so I might take a sabbatical shortly.

      The Salt of the Earth sounds VERY interesting. That sounds very different from the doc I saw this weekend which was quite brutal!

  5. Cannot wait to see Ant-Man! I’m crushing on Paul so bad, he is so lovely ❤ Pena always strikes me as very rude, at least from interviews/award shows things I saw him in. Great to read the movie is better than Ultron which is seriously the most forgettable movie of the year.

    Yep, badass haircut ^^ But it looked so much better on Bryce. And me 😛 Lily's face doesn't suit that cut at all

    1. Oh if you LOVE Paul Rudd, you MUST see this pronto. He looks really good here, he has a handsome face, though he’s a little on the um, petite side for my liking. I like really tall guys 😛 Hmmm, I never saw Pena in interviews, so I can’t say, but he’s hilarious on screen. Yeah I think this one is far more entertaining than Age of Ultron AND Jurassic World combined.

      I think you’re right, the bob haircut suits Bryce and you much better, Lilly’s face is almost too angular that a longer haircut perhaps is more flattering on her.

        1. You’re 5’3″ too? Very cool! I guess 5’10” is still pretty tall, he’s still taller than my hubby. But for some reason, most of my crushes are over 6’2″. Oh I think you’ll enjoy this! Interestingly enough George R.R. Martin apparently loved Ant-Man so much he blogged about it, I’m sure you knew that already.

          1. Hell no, I’m 5’1/2” 😛 Paul is apparently 5′ 10″ according to imdb but I think it’s a bit less than that 🙂 He did? After they killed Stannis I’m not very involved in the series but it’s kinda funny George loved something so positive 🙂

            1. Well I actually thought I was 5’4″ but it seems that every time I go to the doctor I shrink, but I like to think I’m at least 5’2-1/2″ 😀 Yeah I was surprised to that George would enjoy something so positive and even wholesome. But what he said about Marvel villains is pretty funny… and I have to say I agree w/ him.

  6. Hi Ruth, my son saw Ant-Man and he thought it was fun. I’m more than fatigued, so will just read about it. I have been watching House of Cards and baseball! I watched “What Lies Beneath” with Jim last night because he hadn’t seen it, and I’m in the middle of watching/reviewing Billy Wilder’s “Witness for the Prosecution”.

    1. Hi Cindy! I totally get it that you’re fatigued about superhero movies, perfectly fine to skip it, I almost did myself. I’m not interested in Suicide Squad nor Deadpool that were all the buzz from Comic-con.

      What do you think of What Lies Beneath? It sounds too scary for me, though I like Ford and Pfeiffer pairing.

      1. I am a huge wimp, so you shouldn’t judge by me. Spirits and haunted houses make me nervous. 😉 I loved Ford and Pfeiffer together. For the most part, it felt like a Hitchcock suspenseful mystery. Then the ending was almost comical. There are some cool things about it like the cinematography. And the best part is Pfeiffer who really did a great job acting. Ford is Ford. He never could act, but I love him anyway. I would watch it again.

  7. I’m really trying to muster the excitement for Ant Man. Even as a comic book guy I just haven’t found much that has me itching to see it. Still planning on checking it out, maybe tomorrow.

    1. Hey Keith, a few people have said that too, and I totally shared your sentiment. I wasn’t interested in Ant-Man that I gave my press screening to Ted, that’s how fatigued I was. But then I got curious based on the positive reviews, and finding those two gold AMC tickets I thought, well, it’s like seeing the movie for free, y’know. Otherwise I would’ve been fine waiting to rent this one. That said, the movie was more like a heist flick, so that’s why I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

  8. J Rispoli

    Ruth,

    Again, you hit the nail on the head. I started my own comic book collection with Flash #121 back in 1961. Here’s the doorway to a fantastic comic historian’s site, for those who might be interested in it –

    http://dcindexes.com/features/newsstand.php

    Just set the date, month / year and let your nostalgia kick in.

    When I heard they were making an Ant-Man film, and word on the street had both the writer and
    director known for their comedic talent, I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing this one. However, when I took my son (who had little familiarity with the characters involved in the film), we both enjoyed it immensely for many of the reasons you gave in your review.

    Unlike most of the viewers of the film, I grew up reading the original run of the Ant-Man stories which ran in Tales to Astonish for quite a while, as well as Ant-Man, Giant Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket, and Dr. Pym’s adventures in the ongoing Avengers storyline for decades thereafter. So I was especially amused at the effort they put into the film, using the black and white sequences to show Ant-Man’s original adventures, reflecting actions he took in the original comics.

    An old friend of mine (who never got into comics) visited us this weekend, and after I gave him a cursory briefing on the character in the comics, and basically how they handled early events in the movie, we went to go see it. Upon exiting the theatre, I asked what he thought of it. His answer, “It was great!”

    Looking back at the original comics, actor personal info (ages) and the MCU twisted history presented so far, I’ve whipped up my guesses on what should happen next if Marvel / Disney ever does greenlight a sequel to what I consider to be #4 in my list of favorite Marvel Studio movies. (No, I won’t post them here, because a lot of my conjectures would ruin a major part of the film for those who haven’t seen it yet.)

    Oh Sati, Hope’s haircut was not inspired by anything to do with Jurassic World’s character, but by the short styled haircuts normally chosen by Janet van Dyne – Pym’s character, the Wasp in the original comics. Just another sign that she really adored her mother.

    Ruth, given your recommendation for Cartel Land, I’m definitely going to have to watch that.

    1. Hi J Rispoli, welcome to FC! Thanks for the great, insightful comment. That’s cool that you grew up reading Ant-Man comics, naturally you have trepidations about the movie but glad that you (and your friend) ended up enjoying it. I really didn’t know ANYTHING about this character, well most superheroes anyway apart from Batman, Superman and maybe Spider-man.

      Btw, I mentioned about the hair thing purely because I thought it was an interesting coincidence, not that I’d think they’d be related. I guess now that I think about it, Black Widow in The Avengers have a similar haircut too, esp in Captain America movies as it’s a red, shoulder-length bob just like Claire’s in Jurassic World.

      Cartel Land is a must-see if you’re into docs, I’ve always been fascinated by the drug cartels and it’s heartbreaking to see how much they wreck society they infiltrate in. Sadly, as long as people still consume these illegal drugs, they will always be in power 😦

  9. So right about Ant-Man, smaller was better and it is more fun than anything else these movies are designed to do. Pena was great and Paul Rudd, well he was just right. Also saw Double Indemnity in a TCM/Fathom screening. Thanks for asking.

    1. Hi Richard! I think the casting work perfectly for Ant-Man and it’s just a fun, lighthearted movie. Oh Double Indemnity is a good one, that’s cool you got to see it on the big screen!

  10. Great read Ruth. I really enjoyed Ant-Man too – like you say, its grounded nature gives it a fresh vitality. That documentary sounds interesting, I’ll need to keep my eyes peeled for its release.

    1. Hi Adam! It shows that big doesn’t always mean better (a la Avengers), I like that Ant-Man is more of a heist flick. As for that doc, it’s really worth a look, the drug cartels sure make for a fascinating and gripping cinematic subject.

  11. The last few Marvel Studio movies I made the effort to see them on opening week, but not Ant-Man. Good to hear you enjoyed it, I’ll probably get around it soon. 😀

    I’m mainly watched TV shows this weekend. Mr. Robot was recommended to me recently and I’m liking it a lot so far.

    1. Hi Eddie! I wasn’t planning on seeing it on opening weekend, but it ended up being worth seeing!

      Oh I heard tons of great things about Mr Robot, I need to catch up on that one. Love Rami Malek!

    1. Hey Mark! That’s cool that you’re out having fun this weekend, a music fest sounds awesome! Hope you’re feeling better soon though.

  12. Glad you enjoyed Ant-Man Ruth, perhaps not surprising that Marvel have pulled it off again but it was a lot of fun, Rudd and the rest of the cast were great and the size gimmick used to great effect in the action sequences.

    Looking forward to seeing how Ant-Man slots into Captain America: Civil War.

    1. Hi Chris! Yeah, I like how their diminutive sizes is used to make a big impact in the movie.

      And yes, I’m SO looking forward to your American twin there as Capt. America in Civil War 😉

  13. Went to see Ant-Man last night and it was a lot of fun. Agree that Pena was a scene stealer, he was extremely funny.

    That documentary sounds very interesting. Is it out on VOD or currently only playing in theaters?

    1. Ant-Man was indeed a lot of fun. LOVE Pena, good thing you did a spotlight on him.

      Cartel Land might be available on iTunes, I’m not sure, I got a screener link through a local film fest. Highly recommend that if you’re into documentaries, which I know you do 😀

  14. Nice weekend for ya. Still haven’t seen Ant-Man but hoping to catch that this week. Cartel Land sounds interesting but I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch a couple hours of the same thing we see on the news every single day. Especially us who work in the media.

    This was done last weekend, so my roundup of last weekend was: rewatched Relatos Salvajes and Birdman, and watched the latest episode of True Detective.

    1. Hi Fernando! Sorry for some reason I missed your comment here. Oh man, it must be tough watching Cartel Land if this kind of thing is on the news all the time, boy that definitely hits too close to home for you.

      Oh you rewatched Birdman, I need to do that too!

  15. Ant-Man was fine, but I feel like I’m just seeing these superhero movies now because I have to see the MCU Phases through. Hoping Captain America: Civil War is better than the last two Marvel films.

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  17. I’m not a Marvel fan at all but finally I’ve found a Marvel film I love! Ant-Man’s sense of humour really worked for me and I’m actually looking forward to more in this series. I agree with you Paul Rudd is perfectly cast here!

    1. Glad to hear you love Ant Man, Natalie! I actually like this a lot more than I thought. Crazy how Paul Rudd looks exactly the same as he was in Clueless!

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