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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Sherlock Holmes

What an onslaught of Holiday movies. Sure Hope I can keep caught up. The first film to cross off the list is Sherlock Holmes. I wasn’t sure what this film would be like with Guy Ritchie at the helm of a mainstream film. Better known for his edgy indie films like Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, you wonder if he can pull off appealing to the masses for a holiday big budget film. Surprisingly, he does just fine! He still carries a lot of his “indie” style into Sherlock Holmes, especially the way he reveals information in the story and his way of cutting the fight scenes together.

Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man, Wonder Boys) is a perfect choice to play Holmes. The seeming brilliant, yet spaced out with an over active imagination, is right up Downey Jr.’s alley, having already played a similar confident egotistical crime fighter in Iron Man. Another great choice in casting is Jude Law (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Gattaca, Road to Perdition) as the level-headed sidekick, Dr. Watson. Law’s demeanor plays well off the sporadic off-the-wall ramblings of Holmes. The one casting move I didn’t really care for was that of Mark Strong (Body of Lies, RocknRolla)  as the villanous Lord Blackwood. Although he looked menacing, I wanted a little more from the character and maybe a  could have brought that. Rachel McAdams (State of Play) is also in the film, but to me was really a non factor in the film, really not offering too much when she was on-screen, but not taking anything away either.

In all, I would recommend this film. It is worth seeing for sure. Robert Downey Jr is wonderful to watch, having already been recognized for his performance with a Best Actor nomination for a Golden Globe. I would have liked a bit more information during the film, more of the Sherlock Holmes studious observations as they took place rather than leaving most all of them for trying to make a clever reveal later on. Still, if that is the only complaint, it is a very good film and good holiday movie fun. Next holiday film on the list, Up In The Air!

Brothers

Ah, a break from movies in the man-cave at the homestead. DLP TV is still in the shop. My better half and I ventured out to see the new Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In The Name Of The Father) film Brothers. Ok, treading carefully here as to not give things away for those that want to see it….this film is about two brothers Tommy and Sam. Tommy has just been let out of prison. Sam, who is obviously the favorite son and has always been the star athlete and well liked, has the perfect family with his wife Grace and 2 girls, and is being deployed to Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan, Sam  is presumed dead. The story develops as Tommy makes an effort to reassert himself in his family by helping Grace and being there for her two daughters. Of course the drama escalates as Sam returns home, dealing with certain events and returning home to a confused family. If you want to know any more than that, you need to go see it, hope I didn’t give too much away already.

The cast. Tommy, the ex-con is played by Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain, October Sky) and the other brother, Captain Sam Cahill is played by Tobey Maguire (Spiderman, Wonder Boys). Both performances were outstanding, and it would not surprise me at all to see one or both of them on the Oscar list early next year. Personally, I think Jake Gyllenhaal was a bit better in his role, but Tobey Maguire seemed to have the scenes where an actor can “grandstand” a bit, which seem to have some pull with the Academy. Both are top notch performances. Natalie Portman (Closer, The Other Boleyn Girl) plays Sam’s wife, Grace. At first she seemed a bit miscast and out of her element. She looked a little to perfect to be in a middle class family, but a few details given later on about being a popular girl, “cheerleader that dated the football player,” type of girl, I was OK with it.

Overall, I don’t think this is best picture material, but still is a very good and thought-provoking film with many tense moments that will keep  you on the edge of your seat. (One of the most uncomfortable  family dinner scenes I can think of…right up there with Anne Hathaway’s toast in Rachel Getting Married.) This is not a feel good movie, but the cast is very strong and everyone delivers, right down to the two little girls. I would recommend this one for sure.