At least he’s on the wagon now.
After the wild events that took place in New York with Gods of Thunders and worm-holes and such, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has found himself in a bit of a crisis. Not only is he constantly reminded of what occurred, but he can’t seem to get any sleep and continually works on his hobby: building and building shit. It doesn’t matter what it is or what it could do, the fact is that he’s building shit, losing sleep, losing the love of his life, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and losing what it means to be a superhero. However, an evil terrorist by the name of Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), might just change that feeling in the pit of his stomach and have him realize what it was about him that made him Iron Man in the first place.
Since the Avengers came, saw, and conquered the world last Summer, it seemed only right that Marvel would unleash it’s brand-new bag and go back to where it all started: Iron Man, or if you really want to be legit about it: Tony Stark. Without the first movie coming out in 2008 and taking over like it did, who knows just what the hell Marvel might have done not just with their fellow, other superheros, but in general as well. But from what we’ve all seen and what we do know is that Tony Stark is the go-to guy for when you need a compelling movie, and Iron Man is a pretty bad-ass superhero, even if he doesn’t have a big hammer. I still think that’s one of the all-time best weapons in superhero history. By far.
The first piece of curiosity that sprang through my mind when I initially heard of this movie happening, was the choice of Shane Black as director and co-writer. If you don’t know who this cat is, I suggest you go and find Kiss Kiss Bang Bang somewhere on DVD and check that out because it is a gem of a movie and it’s all because of Black. The guy’s also written Lethal Weapon, but in my eyes: his directorial-debut ranks supreme against all others because it’s funny, exciting, and filled to the brim with plot that may seem like over-kill, but keeps you guessing until the end. And just as promising as that may sound for a guy who’s about to tackle Iron Man, it still seemed strange considering that not only was this his second movie to date, but also that his first one had barely any CGI whatsoever, or action for that matter. Most of it was just shooting, guns, bullets, a car-crash, and fake blood. That was it. So, how the hell did Marvel trust this guy with their biggest money-maker to date?
Well, whatever it was that the big guys at M found in him, sure as hell worked because Black does a superb job as both director, and co-writer. Not only is his humor present throughout the whole flick, but the guy also finds a way to throw in some neat and nice little twists here and there to spice things up. One plot-twist that I won’t give up unless you want to e-mail me about it (CMrok93@yahoo.com), really divided this movie into two, different ways. Some will definitely go along with it and think that it was a nice-departure from what we are used to seeing with typical, superhero movies, whereas others may be a bit pissed and wished that they exactly got that typical, superhero movie they had grown so accustomed to. I still haven’t been able to rack my brain around whether or not I liked it all that much, but I will say that in Black’s case, it sure as hell was risky, something different, and not exactly what I was expecting. So, yeah, maybe you could put me in that earlier-group of peeps, but at the same time, don’t, because I’m still not sure.
Just give me some damn time, man!
But what really worked for Black and what mainly surprised the hell out of me is how well he handles all of the action, CGI, and 3D (basically, the big-budget). Black knows exactly what the fans want to see when they see a superhero movie about Iron Man and that’s what the dude gives to ‘em. Some may actually be surprised to see that not all of this action features the actual superhero, Iron Man, but features more of Stark doing all of the ass-kicking himself, but it’s still fun and exciting to see, especially when you add a darker-element of story-telling on top of it all, which is what Black has done surely well. Of course the humor is always there to keep people laughing and giggling, but the stakes feel higher with this one and it’s no surprise that some may actually be scared as to who’s going to get off’d next, who might not make it for Iron Man 4 (although Paltrow spilled the beans on that enchilada), and who’s going to come out victorious and with a little bit of something to brag about. It’s fun to watch a movie that knows how to keep the energy rolling without a real break in the pace, but it’s even better when you feel like the seconds you see a person on screen for, could just might as well be their last. Black keeps this going for quite some time, that is, until the last-half shows up and sort of ruins things.
For the most part, about an hour and a half in, I was on-board with this movie and I easily felt like I was working on a 9-9.5 here, but something happened. No, not the twist I was talking about earlier, but the final showdown that we all know is going to eventually come. Something, I don’t know what it was, just didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel as epic as the rest of the movie did and it sure as hell didn’t do much to really knock me out of my chair with it’s originality; something I was seeing from Black’s side of the room, more and more. Don’t get me mistaken, I still had a ball with this final-act and just about lost my hearing by how many clangs, booms, and bangs I continued to hear (that’s a good thing, by the way), but something didn’t make it feel like the movie was tied-up with a pretty, little bow at the end like all of the other superhero movies have lately. Even Iron Man 2 somehow decided to do that, and as we all know: that was nowhere near greatness.
However, I can’t put anything against this cast because as usual: they are all phenomenal, even the newbies too. But I’ll get to them later, let me stick with the man of the 2 hours, the man with the power, and the man who practically has it all: Robert Downey Jr. Everybody and their mothers (the coolio ones who didn’t give up on him when he got busted all of those years ago) know that Downey was made for this role and he continues to show us why with his egotistical act, look, and feel. Yet, there’s something more to this guy that makes him actually feel like a hero worth rooting for. Stark does make some stupey mistakes and gets caught-up in situations that he could have easily gotten himself out of if he just thought more, but he’s human, dammit! That’s what we do. And even if we don’t have a mansion, a billion dollar corporation, or a suit made of iron that can kick ass and speak like Paul Bettany, we still feel like this guy would do the right thing, if he was given a chance to make the decision as to what that exactly is. Downey is funny as usual, and probably a lot better with the script considering that he practically vouched for Black to get this job, but it’s his human-aspect within that makes this character tick, rock, and kick….some ass. See what I did there? Yeah, I’m all out of being witty for the night.
Even if it seems like nobody in their right minds is willing to let all of the hate for Gwyneth Paltrow go, just for a little bit of time over 2 hours, at least the girl still shows us that she can act and be charming as hell. I don’t hate Paltrow like everybody else seems to, and that’s why I really liked her as Pepper Potts because it not only felt like her character really loved Tony and wanted him to be all fine and dandy once things were over with, but that she could also stick up for herself in the chance arose itself. Pepper isn’t the type of character that you could classify as a “damsel in distress” and that’s the route that Black turns away from and gives her more a chance to knock some people out, if she needs to. During this movie, she definitely does need to and that’s exactly what she does. Keep on going, Mrs. Coldplay!
Don Cheadle is here once again as Col. Rhodes (still thought Terrence Howard was better, but hey, that’s just me, baby) and does fine with what he’s given. Cheadle doesn’t have a huge role here but gets more to do than just pick up Tony’s scraps and make us feel like he’s more of a bad-ass too. Although, I will say that he does get to show us what makes him all bad-ass still. Oh, and before I forget about it all: Rebecca Hall is here as an old-fling of Tony’s and is good, even if her beauty and charm does seem a bit wasted on a character that is essentially around just to show how much of a chauvinistic a-hole Tony basically was back in the darker days before he fell in love with Pep. Still, the girl is mighty fine!
Now is the part where we go onto the baddies and this is where things begin to get a little dicey for me and you. See, Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce both play some evil a-holes that definitely are not the breed you want to mess with, let alone see Tony mess with, but there’s more to them than just that and I can’t give away too much without sounding annoyingly-vague, or just giving it all up. Both do what they need to do as the baddies, especially Kingsley who actually terrified me at one point, but there are more layers to them and once you see what’s really going on with these cats, you might just be a bit surprised. I sure as hell was and once again: I still don’t know what to make of it. What I can say though, is that the movie does not, for a second, stray-away from giving these two guys plenty of scenery to chew on and that’s where all of the fun comes from. Because if you think about it: that’s all you need in a good villain, right?
Consensus: Starts off perfectly with a funny script, electric set-pieces, and a cast that never backs down from a script they can’t grapple, but Iron Man 3 ends more on a whimper, than on a bang. Which would have been all right and perfect with the world, had we not already see the Avengers and know what there is to expect with the Marvel Universe.
8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!
P.S. Stay for the credits. Even though you probably already knew that, didn’t you?
Save me, Maximus!
Life seems perfect for John Brennan (Russell Crowe) until his wife, Laura (Elizabeth Banks), is arrested for a gruesome murder she says she didn’t commit. With the rejection of their final appeal, Lara becomes suicidal and John decides there is only one possible, bearable solution: to break his wife out of prison.
It may seem a bit strange that director Paul Haggis would return to the director’s chair after two character-driven flicks like Crash and In the Valley of Elah, to do something very action-oriented in a way that would remind me a bit of the Bourne movies. Total change-of pace if you ask me, but a pretty intriguing one, none the less. However, this is also the guy who wrote Casino Royale and I think he should have kept it that way and try not to stretch out his action skills anymore teaming up with this dude, because he said he was an “Oscar-winner”.
What I liked about Haggis’ direction here is that he does have a good combination of character-driven drama and a suspense-thriller for a combination that sort of evens each-side out. We first start this flick off by focusing on Crowe, how he’s struggling with being a single father, having a wife put in jail wrongly, and it basically just sets up a lot of sadness for his character and the situation he so sadly found himself so involved with. But underneath all of that, there’s also a very interesting prison-escape drama that shows how Crowe goes around, checking for all of the clues on how to get his wife out successfully without any problems whatsoever, and it’s so interesting and well-done, that it actually made you wonder just how the hell this guy was going to pull it all off in the end, if at all. Prison-escape movies are always fun to watch, but it was really cool to see that aspect, used on the outside, from a guy who’s trying to break somebody out, and not really being able to tell how smoothly everything will go. Definitely a good combo for Haggis, but sadly, it all ends up losing it’s way about half-way through. Oh well, at least it was intruiging for the longest-time.
Mainly the problem with this flick is that it can be very hard to buy at times, especially the main bond between Crowe and Banks. As soon as we step into the movie, we see Banks and Crowe at dinner together, then in no less than 5 minutes later she gets hauled out by cops and that’s pretty much all of the love we get see come from them. That’s right, only 5 minutes of them actually being loving and happy together and we’re supposed to buy the fact that Crowe would go the ends of the Earth to save his wife from prison. Who knows, maybe they had one of the most beautiful marriages that any person has ever seen, but with the very limited-amount of time they have together on-screen, I found it very hard to actually believe Crowe would do what he ends up trying to do for her.
However, that’s not the only part of this movie I didn’t buy. The whole film revolves around Crowe and whether or not he can pull off such a plan as the one he has mapped out on his wall (so original) but I couldn’t really believe much of that either. The film does show him doing certain things to gain pieces of information that ultimately help him out with this plan and gaining more information, but it was never fully-developed to the point of where I understood how he could make it all happen to begin with and even worse, only showed-up every once and awhile. In fact, the whole escape itself by the end was really just based on coincidences that Crowe just so happened to find himself running into by sure luck. Crowe’s character had so much time to think everything through and to get everything right, but by the end, everything just happens in a very messy way and like almost every obstacle he got through was just another piece of perfect-timing, that was just a bit too perfect for my taste, really.
Now I say all of this crap but I did have a certain bit of fun with the very fast-pace this film was going through. As implausible and coincidental things may get for this plot, Haggis kicked up the volume and the speed of this movie and kept it going perfectly where I actually felt like I was on the edge of my seat for a good time. That’s why I can’t go too far into how much this film didn’t make sense to me, because I like prison-escape movies and seeing the sensitive-edge Haggis brought to it, kept me interested. However, a lot of that is lost on some very obvious twists this film goes through.
Russell Crowe is one of the best-working actors today and can make almost any character he plays, work. His performance as John Brennan may be the only exception to that statement. My problem I had with this character wasn’t necessarily Crowe’s performance itself, but it was more or less the essence and nature of the character he was playing here. Brennan is such a meek, awkward, and shy dude that it really seemed “out of his element” and unbelievable whenever he would just decide to g0 around and start doing crazy shit just, in order to help his wife escape from jail. I can understand what a man does and thinks when he’s pushed to the edge, but I never saw that for Crowe and that’s a surprise because this is a guy who’s known for beating the shit out of people in many other films as well as real-life (telephone-throwing joke right there). This performance really surprised me and I think with other actors it would have worked, but when you get a tough-ass like Crowe, ehhh not so much.
One performance that really took me by surprise was Elizabeth Banks as his wife. Banks is always one of those very cute, very funny, and very sexy ladies that pop-up in these raunchy-comedies, but she shows she has a lot of dramatic depth here and makes her character seem a lot more believable than Crowe. Hopefully she continues to get more and more dramatic roles that fit her, and no, I do not mean Man on a Ledge. Liam Neeson is also here as a former prison escapee that helps out Crowe and is easily one of the best and most memorable parts of this flick even though it only lasts for 4 minutes. Oh, and Olivia Wilde is here as the only model, single mom in Pittsburgh. Wilde is a random character to have for this movie and what made it even worse and just added to the implausibility of this movie, was the fact that Olivia Wilde, was playing a single-mom! What the hell! If this is what single moms look like in Pittsburgh, get me my 2005 Scion right now! I’ll be there soon, ladies! Just you wait.
Consensus: The Next Three Days starts off pretty-strong with a great combination action, mystery, suspense and character-drama, but the script really starts to lose itself about half-way through with all of its implausibilities, strange coincidences, and unbelievable character relations, especially the ones between Crowe and Banks, who was supposed to be the core-relationship for us to really connect to this movie and actually give a damn.
A pedophile and a red-hot affair don’t really mix.
Two stay-at-home parents (Patrick Wilson and Kate Winslet) both end up striking affair after they both realize how bored they are with their own actual lives at home. Then another story happens where a convicted sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley) moves back into his house and is soon harassed by almost every person he sees.
This is the sophomore effort from writer/director Todd Field, who some will remember from the big-smash he made back in 2001 with ‘In the Bedroom’. Somehow, he took that similar story mixed it with some ‘American Beauty’ satire and divided it with a hint of ‘The Woodsman’, then he got this crazy flick.
The film starts off very strong with these two immature parents who obviously don’t know what to do with their lives except just nag each other and hope that all their depression and angst goes away. I dug this beginning because the film showed these characters in a very interesting light while also focusing on the fact that it’s telling us that these adults are just like kids in some ways, they both forget the responsibilities they have in the world and they go with their gut-feeling rather than just using their heads.
A lot of people complained about the whole narrator from PBS thing so much that when I heard it in this film, I couldn’t say that I was too bothered. Yeah, he does spell out everything a little too much but there are times when his narration actually makes a lot of this moments in this film a lot more entertaining then they have any right to be. It seems as if he is reading a children’s story to us, like one of those audio-tapes you would get for a book if you didn’t know how to read, and it really divides the line between what’s funny and what’s sad in this film. I found myself laughing at some of the things that the narrator was saying, while others, I didn’t know how to feel.
The main problem that lies within this film is that it is very very messy because it constantly shifts back-and-forth between these two stories and they shouldn’t be in the same film together either really. There would be moments where the film would just focus on the suburbanites and their affair for a very long period of time, and then randomly go to the peddy without any real reason other than to show this dude who has obvious problems. Both stories are pretty interesting in their own rights but together, they can’t really share the same screen considering that after awhile the “affair story” becomes the same thing over-and-over again whereas the “pedophile story” becomes a lot more interesting as the time goes on. I think I would have rather watched two different films of these stories rather than just one because it wouldn’t have been so messy.
I do think Field as a writer is very talented but there are times where I think he loses himself with trying to be too smart, which I know is a weird thing to say but just bare with me peeps.. There are moments here when Wilson and Winslet are getting it on and Winslet will constantly ask him, “Is she pretty?”, she meaning his wife. She doesn’t only just ask this once but also many other times during whoopie and this to me seemed very unbelievable as some chick would just constantly ask the dude who’s mounting her about his own wife. There are also plenty of other moments where this film doesn’t feel all that realistic but not worth mentioning.
Everything with this film is all pretty messy until the last act, where the film really loses itself with the shock-o-riffic ending that seems more put-on than anything. I don’t want to give anything away really but I think Field tried a little too hard to convey these certain types of emotions for these characters to the point of where this ending came up, and it probably looked good on paper, but when it came to actually filming it up on the screen, it seemed very dumb.
The cast is very good though despite all of these other problems with the film. Kate Winslet is great as the conflicted house-wife, Sarah, and Patrick Wilson has never been more charming or conflicted as Brad. Jennifer Connelly is good as Brad’s wife, Kathy, but I wish there was more of her that gave more of her side on things. Granted, we get a scene here and there but I really did feel like her character could have done a lot more for this film if they included her just a little bit more considering Connelly is such a good actress as well.
The best out of the bunch though is probably Jackie Earle Haley as the pedophile who plays up that man-child act so well that it’s almost too hard to hate this guy when he’s being such a dirt-ball. I mean yeah, he’s a dirty dude that I would never have over for dinner around my kids but he’s also a very troubled soul that wants nothing more but to be accepted once again and feels the need to fit in, mainly because his mommy says so. Haley is great here and just by looking at him, you get the sense that this is a sad and tormented soul.
Consensus: Little Children has some good elements, such as its good acting and very strong beginning, but then starts to fall apart with being too repetitive, too unbelievable, and just by having two different stories that don’t really mesh all that well in the same film.