Iron Man 2 – A Movie Review

Interestingly enough, I believe Iron Man is one of those comic book characters that actually translates better on film.  Let’s face it: no matter how great the artist, Iron Man is a hero we want to see blazing through the sky, shooting rays from his hands, and just being generally awesome in live-action.  I think that’s (one of the reasons) why the first Iron Man was so successful.

I’m happy to say that in nearly every conceivable way, Iron Man 2 is just as good as the original if not a tad better.

Let’s get the bad right out of the way.  Certain aspects of the story in Iron Man 2 … well, they were a little clichéd and more than a little fuzzy.  The parts concerning fathers and sons I got; the parts concerning Stark’s new power source and how he discovered it … not so much.  And we have a lot of iron men battling Iron Man, which sort of felt like a retread from the first film and something I hope we’ve seen the last of.

Okay, let’s talk about the good!  First of all, it is undeniably a fact that Sam Rockwell took a great movie and made it better.  I actually couldn’t wait for him to return to the screen during this movie, which says something considering that he played an opportunistic, annoying jerk.  His Justin Hammer was absolutely a blast to watch.  He even outdid the always-entertaining Robert Downey, Jr., whose Tony Stark was not all that different from Justin Hammer in a lot of ways.  For some reason, though, Tony comes off as the cool kid and Hammer comes off as the annoying bottom-feeder.  These two actors were phenomenal to watch.

Mickey Rourke was also amazing, but for the completely opposite reason.  As extravagant and bombastic as Downey and Rockwell were, Rourke was subdued.  His villain, Ivan Vanko, could have been a joke.  A man with daddy-issues tied to the Stark family who uses Stark technology to wage war against Iron Man.  Instead, Rourke took him and made him his own—Rourke made him scary and real.  Of all the characters, Vanko was the one I believed could actually exist, and that’s because they got a top-notch actor to play him.  I loved every scene Vanko had except for at the end of the film when they ruined him just like they did Jeff Bridges in the first Iron Man.  But man, when we first see Vanko’s gear at the road race … that’s the stuff of cinematic legend.

I’d also like to mention that Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts came off as far more likable in the sequel.  I actually found myself rooting for her this time around, and I think that’s because they gave her a meatier role.  Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes also had charm, as did Sam Jackson as Nick Fury and Gary Shandling as Senator Stern.  In fact, this was a stellar cast who brought real charisma to their characters from top to bottom, making Iron Man 2 a fun film to watch.

And, of course, the special effects couldn’t have been done any better.  I even took note that the score was appealing which usually only happens for me with James Horner, John Williams, or Danny Elfman.

I really enjoyed Jon Favreau’s direction.  He seems to understand how to let his actors play to their strengths while keeping the action tight and the shots dynamic.  Iron Man 2 was actually pretty funny in a lot of ways, which makes sense considering Favreau’s background, but it felt purely organic to the characters and not as though this was a comedy masquerading as an action film.  And as much as I love The Dark Knight, I’m okay with a super hero movie having a lighter tone and giving us something to cheer about.  By the way, I would have loved to have seen Favreau directing Downey and Rourke in the same scene.  I can’t imagine two more different men.

So while the story left me scratching my head at some times, the sheer charisma of nearly every actor in this movie, as well as its action, sense of fun, and appealing direction made it a great ride.

P.S.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, make sure you sit through the credits.  It gives a big hint as to the next Marvel film to be released.

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The Break-Up – A Movie Review

I’ve argued in the past that I believe Jennifer Aniston could be a very good actress if only she’d start taking meatier roles like she once did with The Good Girl.  I really feel like the last several movies I’ve seen with her have been the same character over and over.  She’s become like the Tom Cruise of female actors-a victim of her own popularity.  Granted, I get that America wants to see her the same way in every movie, I understand she’s a lock for big box office, but I still don’t like it.

I’ll also admit that Vince Vaughn does the very same thing, yet it doesn’t bother me so much.  Is that a double standard?  Yeah, it probably is, but in my mind the main difference is that I like the fast-talking, joke-making Vince Vaughn and I don’t like the semi-whiny, always-the-victim Jennifer Aniston.  (I’m talking about the characters they play, mind you, not the actual people.  I have no idea what their true personalities are like.)

Anyway, let’s talk about The Break-Up.  Vaughn and Aniston stick to their typecasts and play the usual.  The story line is pretty simple-they meet and fall in love, buy a condo in Chicago together, break up over a lack of communication, and then the “laughs” ensue. 

Notice the quotes.

The quotes are there because other than a few truly gut-busting laughs, this movie was very, very stressful to watch.  Aniston and Vaughn spend much of it yelling at one another or doing things to upset the other.  It really had a lot of tension, more tension than I wanted from my comedy on a Saturday night. 

One thing that I love about this DVD is that to even get started you have to pick a side-are you with him, or are you with her?  That’s a nice touch, because I think you can’t help but pick a side as you watch this film.  Of course, my wife and I were siding with two different folks and we were having trouble convincing the other why they were wrong.

The supporting characters really made this film.  Jason Bateman (always gold) was barely recognizable, and that’s what I love about him.  Vaughn’s buddy Jon Favreau played Vaughn’s buddy in the film and the dynamic displayed in Swingers still exists.  Aniston’s brother in the film was truly hilarious, and Vaughn’s brothers were also very amusing.

So I guess the real question is if I would recommend this film to you?  Well, that depends.  If you’re a Vaughn or an Aniston fan, you dig their usual style of performance, and you don’t mind top-of-the-lung yelling, I think you’ll be pleased.  Otherwise, I might give this one a pass.

Iron Man – A Movie Review

You don’t need me to tell you this movie has been warmly received by the masses, and for good reason.

When I first saw the trailer many months ago, I knew this movie would be the Iron Man I wanted.  I wasn’t sure it’d be a hit with the general public, but I was fairly certain the comic book fans would leave the theatre drooling.  Happily for me, everyone seems more than satisfied.

Let me first say that the actors and their acting are first-rate.  Robert Downey, Jr. is, without a doubt, Tony Stark.  He inherently captures both the nobility and arrogance of Iron Man’s true identity.  With his charismatic delivery and snide jokes, Downey, Jr. was perfect casting.  Terrence Howard plays Stark’s best friend and was also very good, though he didn’t get to stretch his acting chops much.  Not to worry, if you know the Iron Man mythos at all, you know Jim Rhodes will have his chance to shine (no pun intended).  Gwyneth Paltrow was surprisingly likeable and appeared to have real chemistry with Downey, Jr.  And finally, thank God Jeff Bridges is on the silver screen again.  I love Bridges.  His role wasn’t quite as meaty as I would like, and he fell victim to the superhero formula, but it was fun to see that bald head and huge beard.

The special effects were phenomenal.  Iron Man is a movie that, even five years ago, never would have worked.  Trust me.  It works.  Big time.

The origin of Iron Man is one that works surprisingly well as time goes on.  War is a pretty constant in our society, and so with a few tweaks and twitters, Tony Stark can get his start wherever the war zones are.  Downey, Jr. captured the complexity of a man wanting to do the right thing after a lifetime of living selfishly, and while he delivers true emotion, the story never became heavy-handed.  The first three-fourths of the movie really is quite dramatic and timely, but then falls victim to superhero cliché during its climax.  By no means does it ruin the film or even weaken it, but they don’t really give us anything new in the grand finale, the “big fight.”

Also, I was disappointed by the fact that I’d seen every cool shot of Iron Man in the trailers and commercials.  Luckily, the acting and story were so strong that Iron Man could have been totally absent, but really, I wish they’d saved a few snippets of the suit to surprise us.

The director, Jon Favreau, obviously understands both Iron Man and Tony Stark, as well as everything that makes both of them captivating.  Iron Man is a wonderfully entertaining movie with true drama, tension, comedy, and charm. 

By the way, I absolutely loved the end of the movie, right before the credits.  So Tony Stark.

Oh, speaking of which-for all the comic book peeps, make sure you sit through the credits.  Seriously.  You’ll be furious with yourself if you don’t.