While Marvel has enjoyed great cinematic success with its well-known characters, their Guardians of the Galaxy film did well with much lesser-known characters and a sillier feel.  Now Marvel is trying the same with Ant-Man, a superhero movie that's part action, part comedy, part training montage, and part heist.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a thief and electrical engineer who just got out of jail for a, er, noble theft.  He wants to take care of his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston), but his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) wants him to get a job, get a place to live, and pay child support first.  And Maggie's fiancee Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) is a detective who thinks Scott is no good.

Scott can't get a job with his criminal record, so he eventually joins his criminal buddies Luis (Michael Pena), Dave (T.I.), and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) on what's supposed to be a perfect job.  After Scott overcomes a number of obstacles, all he finds is "a motorcycle suit" and a helmet.  When he gets curious and tries the suit on, he shrinks down to the size of an ant!  He also hears a voice in the helmet.

The suit is the creation of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who had been the Ant-Man earlier in his life.  Hank created the "Pym particles" that can shrink or enlarge matter -- and he's worried because businessman Darren Cross (Corey Stall) is on the verge of duplicating the Pym particle and using them to power a lethal armor called Yellowjacket -- which Cross will then sell as a weapon.  Hank needs Scott to break in, destroy the data, and steal the Yellowjacket.  Hank trains Scott in using the suit to manage his size, as well as controlling ants and throwing discs that shrink or enlarge what they hit.  And Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Hank's daughter is training Scott to fight despite wanting to go on the mission herself.  She's also pretending to work with Cross -- and has issues with her father, since he never told her what really happened to her mother.

Ant-Man is a lighter superhero movie.  There are plenty of special effects (mainly when we see the ants seem like large beasts) and action (especially at the end), but there's more planning and training through the movie.  Paul Rudd is best known as a comic actor, and he's an excellent choice to helm this movie; Scott Lang's fellow criminals are almost all comic relief.  Ant-Man isn't perfect -- it follows a very straightforward story line, with relatively few surprises -- but it's a simple, likable summer movie.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch



The original Sharknado left so many unexplored areas and unanswered questions that a sequel was required.  No, that's not right: It was just a terrible movie that somehow became popular (under the "so bad, it's good" theory) and so another one was made to milk more money out of it.  Fortunately, what's painful by itself can be transformed into comedy gold with commentary.  And that's what got me to see that abomination of a movie: Rifftrax Live: Sharknado 2 -- The Second One.

Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett certainly have plenty of bad material to work with here.  Following the short "Parents -- Who Needs Them?" ("the film that made a young Bruce Wayne burst into tears at Gotham Elementary"), they jump into the sharky badness.  As for the movie itself, it's largely the same as the original (most of the cast, terrible CGI sharks, rapid switches from rain to sun), only it's set in NYC and, owing to the popularity of the first movie, there are lots and lots of d-list "celebrities" making cameos.  The trio have fun riffing it all, whether it's Mark McGrath's pseudo-celebrity as the former Sugar Ray lead singer, Tara Reid's... well, her presence, the heroes' insane plan ("Marvel super villains thing this plan is outrageous"), or the Statue of Liberty's head rolling down streets after the heroes.  ("To hell with physics!")

Possibly the scariest part of all this is that this month, Syfy will be airing Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!  (There was a preview at Rifftrax Live, and it's exactly what you'd expect.)  There's no way I'm watching that -- unless it's part of Rifftrax Live, in which case there's no way I'm missing it.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch



The boys are back!  Magic Mike XXL brings back the movies' most famous male strippers for a light, fun road trip.

Magic Mike XXL begins three years after the original.  Mike (Channing Tatum) has left the world of stripping behind, following his dream of making and selling custom-made furniture.  He gets a call from his old exotic dancers: "Big Dick" Richie (Joe Maganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), and Tarzan (Kevin Nash).  They tell Mike that Dallas is gone and the rest of them will be taking a trip from Tampa to a stripper's convention in Myrtle Beach, SC, with Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) driving and M.C.ing for them.  Mike passes, but back in his workshop a rap song on the radio gets him swinging and dancing all over -- and next thing you know, he's in the FroYo van heading to the convention!

Along the way, the group wings up getting into various adventures, from an upscale women's club to a gay bar.  The group also meets a number of interesting people: Zoe (Amber Heard), a cool and disaffected young woman who may be Mike's new love interest; Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), a successful female empowerer and MC, and her brother Andre (Donny Glover), a sexy crooner; and Nancy (Andie MacDowell), a woman who is more than happy her daughter invited five male strippers to crash at their home.

While Magic Mike balanced the eye-candy of male stripping with the search for something beyond that life, Magic Mike XXL is a much more superficial movie.  There's no real conflict or suspense (every setback on the trip is solved very easily and quickly), and while a few characters wonder what they'll do after the big convention, there's no real thought or speculation as to what they'll do when the ride ends.  Also, every scene between the start and finish could be played in random order with little impact on the movie.

What Magic Mike XXL does deliver is fun.  Apart from the sexy, incredibly stylized dance numbers, there are plenty of laughs, whether it's the guys bickering about their issues, their ridiculously sexy routines (including one of the funniest scenes with Backstreet Boys music ever), or Ken's continual new age theories.  This movie also gives more interaction between Mike and his buddies, as this time they're not just background to the relationship with the Kid from the first movie.

Magic Mike XXL is superficial and enjoyable at the same time.  There's not much to think about, but it's fun to watch.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch


Red, White, & Blue!

Happy Fourth of July!  In honor of the holiday, below are some photos of celebrities who wore the red, white, and blue.  Enjoy!

Jim Lynch

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Alyssa Milano

Britney Spears

Brooke Burke

Carrie Underwood

Cindy Crawford

Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart


Erica Durance

Erin Heatherton

Halle Berry

Jessica Simpson

Julianne Hough

Kate Upton

Katy Perry

Mariah Carey

Nicki Minaj

Niki Taylor

Rachel Bilson

Samantha Hoopes

Will Ferrell