Iron Man 2

For me the summer blockbuster movies have begun. Iron Man 2 being the first one to hit the big screen. Without giving too much away, the movie is about a disgruntled russian, Ivan,  who is setting out to take down Tony Stark. Also there is a story line about Justin Hammer, a competitor in the arms race, trying to obtain Stark technology to create his own Iron Man to sell to the 4 armed forces division. In the simplest terms, those are the major plot lines.

The film has the usual cast of characters and a few new faces. Robert Downey Jr. (Wonder Boys, Sherlock Holmes, Zodiac) is of course Tony Stark. This is a role that seems very comfortable for him, a rich cocky superstar. Although I thought Downey Jr nailed the character, the scenes with the over the top technology was a bit much. He spent way too much time pushing buttons on hologram screens. Just way too much of that for me. Yes it showed money and wealth, and he can have anything he wants and any technology he wants, but not much else. The story did not benefit from it.

One of the new faces, Scarlett Johansson (The Other Boleyn Girl) plays Natalie. Who seems to be the new secretary for Stark Industries, then seems to turn into somewhat of her own superhero. Really she is nothing more than a cute face answering the phones until the extreme curveball with the character. Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) plays Ivan/Whiplash. Nothing really special to write home about on his performance, got the job done, but seemed to be just going through the lines. Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Traffic) is adequate as Lt. James Rhodes, but like all of these characters, seriously lacks character development. The one character that I thought was outstanding was Justin Hammer, played perfectly by Sam Rockwell. (Moon, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) Just as Downey Jr. plays the cocky rock-star, Rockwell has a nach for the slimy greaseball character.

Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love, Sliding Doors) returns as Pepper Potts. Samuel L Jackson (Shaft, Pulp Fiction), Gary Shandling (What Planet Are You From?) and director Jon Favreau (Swingers, Made) also make appearances in the new film.

So, what did I think? The film really lacked in story in my opinion and seemed to go all over the place as far as a direction. It got to be very slow in the middle acts. This one just did not live up to the first Iron Man, which I really loved. Unless you are a diehard Iron Man fan, my advice is wait and rent this one. The film was entertaining, and had some nice comedic moments, but had it’s fair share of flaws as well.

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Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors

To say I love the movie Sliding Doors would be a huge understatement. I am such a huge movie fan and have many favorites, and this one has to make the favorite list in some form or fashion. There didn’t seem to be much attention at the theaters with this movie, coming and going without me noticing it, and I don’t miss too much, especially with Gwyneth Paltrow!

Peter Howitt does a masterful job at writing and an even better job at directing. The idea behind this film, very early on, Gwyneth Paltrow (Best Actress for Shakespeare in Love) misses the train, and then a quick rewind….she makes the train. From that point on two stories are told simultaneously. Peter Howitt does a wonderful job of cutting in and out of both of these stories as they both move forward with the same similarities, but in different contexts. Don’t worry about having trouble following this film with the jumping back and forth, the director provides easy clues so you know who you are following, and eventually a complete hair style change makes it very simple.

As far as performances go, Gwyneth Paltrow does a great job shifting from character to character. Her boyfriend, played by John Lynch, does a nice job as well, since he does play the boyfriend in both stories being told. The first time I saw this movie is also the first time I remember seeing John Hannah (The Mummy). He is the absolute charm in this movie from the get go. It’s hard with the English accents, so pay attention, there are some priceless lines. Such as Helen and James riding the train together…”Everybody’s born knowing all the Beatles lyrics instinctively. They’re passed into the fetus subconsciously along with all the amniotic stuff. Fact, they should be called “The Fetals.” Also another very funny, laugh out loud performance from Douglas McFerran who plays a friend of John Lynch gives a similar performance with some classic lines!

I can’t say enough good things about this film. It is clever, very funny, romantic and even heartbreaking. It is just a joy to watch the story unfold,  having both stories revealing themselves at the same time. If you don’t mind a little challenge in your movie choices, this is a must see…and you will want to see it more than once!  You know what the Monty Pythons always say…….

“Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”

The Talented Mr. Ripley

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This is one that most will really like, or really hate. Myself, I choose to really like it…OK love it. This film is just great on so many levels. Director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) does a masterful job with the actors and the creation of their characters. He also incorporates the small Italian town and the music throughout almost as if they were characters themselves. A second viewing you might even pick up on all the symbolism throughout, the reflection of Ripley’s face in the piano and the ending scene, the different reflections of Ripley….think about it!

I try to write reviews and encourage those that haven’t seen these movies, to see them…or on the other hand to avoid like the plague. So to talk about the story without giving away key plot points and twists….kind of hard on this one. Everyone should experience the trills seeing it for a first time. It really is a classic potboiler movie that starts out with one innocent lie about a jacket of all things. Things begin to twist and turn from there.

As far as the acting, to me everyone in this is on the top of their game and very good. I don’t know how Matt Damon got snubbed. I thought he was clearly better than Sean Penn in Sweet and Lowdown and better than Denzel Washington in The Hurricane. Jude Law is very good and was nominated in a supporting role. And 3 other incredible performances from Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), and Gwyneth Paltrow (Shakespeare in Love), Just great all around! (Also kudos to the costume designers, make a not of how Ms Paltrow’s costumes change in color and style with her demeanor throughout the move.)

The first time I saw this film, I enjoyed it, but the more I see it, the better I like it, and the more I can read into it. If you have only seen it once and liked it, I recommend a second viewing, and if you haven’t seen it, give it a chance. Also being an avid cook, this a a great movie to break out a nice bottle of wine, maybe a pinot grigio or Sauvignon blanc, cheese and crackers…OK and a few grapes. Keep the wine cool and close, you won’t want to miss any part of this flick. Highly recommended!