“Iron Man 2” – 2010. Dir. Jon Favreau.

With Robert Downey, Jr., Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Sam Rockwell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Clark Gregg, John Slattery with Samuel L. Jackson and Garry Shandling.

If you could make God bleed, people will cease to believe in Him. There will be blood in the water, and the sharks will come.”

  • Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke)

Yes I was one of the people who saw this at the 12:01 showing at IMAX (and still went to work the next morning). The much anticipated “Iron Man 2” starts off pretty damn good. We are in Moscow and seeing an old man watching Tony Stark’s press conference (from the end of “Iron Man”) and he lays there moaning and grunting. He keeps calling for Ivan. We cut to a dark hallway where a man leans up against a wall in the shadows. The name Ivan is repeated by the old man, and the hulking mass turns and faces the camera – it’s Mickey Rourke in all his tooth capped, crazy hair, and tattoo covered glory.

Don’t fuck with Mickey.

Ivan (Rourke) goes into the room and holds the man, the man (Ivan’s father) tells Ivan that he should be building the Iron Man suit – not Tony Stark. The old man dies and Rourke screams. He begins constructing his own Iron Man exoskeleton and the credits roll as Rourke works.

I don’t want to dig any deeper into the plot because I don’t want to leak out any spoilers to those of you who read this and haven’t seen it yet. I’ll essentially break the film down a little bit and tell you what I thought worked and what I thought didn’t.

A problem that arises with “Iron Man 2” is that we were so, so very spoiled by Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”. “The Dark Knight” forced all these other superhero movies to be better, to be taken more seriously. A big fault of “Iron Man 2” is that it tries to be too smart and too witty and it sometimes comes across as really contrived and arrogant. The film introduces us to a slew of Stark gadgets that reminds us of how the James Bond franchise used to be.

Mickey Rourke is good in the film, but doesn’t have a chance to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor (which I called after seeing the trailer – I’m eating my words once again. Fuck!). The character of Ivan Vanko/Whiplash is so underdeveloped it makes me upset. Scarlett Johansson really adds nothing more to the film except T & A and some slightly perverted lines of dialogue.

Robert Downey, Jr. is well Robert Downey, Jr. in the film and the character of Tony Stark is almost too witty in the film, in almost every scene with Stark there is a spoken line, or an action taken by him that is supposed to make us laugh. A few of them do, but it becomes so very redundant.

Don Cheadle is a much added bonus to the film, he’s so much better than Terrance Howard and the climactic battle with Iron Man and War Machine is very sexy. Sam Jackson plays Sam Jackson; as the slightly angry black man who gives us his signature Jules Winfield from “Pulp Fiction”.

The two really special treats of the film are Garry Shandling playing a Senator on the Armed Services Committee who is trying to get the Iron Man suit turned over to the United States government so they can mass produce it and use it in their military. It’s really fun to see Shandling in this film, he’s always been so funny and it is way cool of Favreau to cast him in this.

The second is Sam Rockwell playing Justin Hammer (essentially the evil Tony Stark). Rockwell is on fire in the film, and remains to be the biggest highlight. He’s wickedly funny and goofy and delivers the best lines of the film. This film just displays the capability of a wonderful actor. The only problem I have with his character is near the end of the film, it feels like there is unfinished business with him.

I’m sure most of you know to stay until after the credits for a special extra scene. As the credits rolled my friend Peyton and I were excited, talking about what we were going to see. We’re both really hip to the Marvel universe and are familiar with The Avengers and the other Marvel films coming out to work towards the ultimate Avengers movie. I was personally insulted by the clip after the credits. I just expected more.

Another distracting factor in the film was the pushing of AC/DC. Just let it go.

One trait the film does share with with first film is that the ending battle scene with Whiplash is anticlimactic – much like the first film’s ending battle sequence with the Iron Mongerer was anticlimactic.  I’m not against an anticlimactic ending, I think they are excellent in certain films – “Eastern Promises” comes to the top of my mind – but not in an Iron Man film.

This film is your above average summer blockbuster. It falls out of line with the first Iron Man film by pushing a lot of different story arcs on you. It fails to reach the magnitude of the first film. What the film is really lacking is that of a performance of Jeff Bridges in the first film. Rockwell comes close to Bridges’ performance but his character wasn’t developed as well as Bridges’ was.

But Jeff Bridges is one of a kind isn’t he?

Was anyone else half expecting Stark to paint his Iron Man suit black and comb his hair down, put on some eye liner and do some weird dance number?

Review: 6.5/10

Mini Reviews: “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and “Iron Man”

“Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982)  – Dir. Amy Heckerling.  With Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Ray Walston.

Believe it or not, I had never seen “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” before a week ago.  The film pleasantly surprised me.  I thought it was a nice time capsule movie.  It was vintage 80s.  I am actually quiet surprised that it’s from 1982, it feels newer, it doesn’t feel so dated.  It had a great soundtrack in it including one of my favorite songs “Moving in Stereo” by The Cars.  I finally saw the infamous scene with Phobe Cates getting out the pool, removing her top.  I remember watching the TV show “I Love the 80s” hearing the guys talk about it, or hearing my older friends talk about how they used to watch it, over and over again.  The film was witty and had well written dialogue.  The film feels well paced.  It has your cliche teen humor in it.  It’s got nudity, drug references, and snappy lines.  The scene with Judge Reinhold washing the mirror in the bathroom of the fast food joint, just staring at himself in disgust made me laugh so hard I was crying.  Ray Walston delivered as usual, but I was surprisingly impressed with Penn.  I have always thought Penn was a great, great actor but it was really fun seeing him in a role like this, even though it was one of his first.  The film left me wanting more Penn, but then again, I really do think that from time to time, less is more.  But I still can’t help but wonder, dude…where is Jeff Spicoli now?

Review: 7/10.

“Iron Man” (2008) Dir. Jon Favearu.  With Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges.

This was the first superhero film since “Batman Begins”, that was made with the same quality that they should be.  It came out the same year as “The Dark Knight” and was overshadowed by it, but “The Dark Knight” was a superior film in all every way.  RDJ gives nothing more then a stellar performance because in a sense, RDJ is Tony Stark.  The rich playboy that dates beautiful women, but has an emptiness inside of him.  The arrogance of Tony Stark is so brilliantly pulled off by Downey Jr.  I’m not really that big of a fan of Paltrow, but she’s pretty good as Stark’s assistant Pepper Potts.  Terrence Howard doesn’t really bring a whole lot to the role of Stark’s friend Col. James Rhodes.  I actually think replacing Howard with Don Cheadle for the sequel was a good choice.  I’m looking forward to Cheadle’s performance since he’s an actor that can display more range, and more capability.  And what can I say about Jeff Bridges that I already haven’t said?  That he’s wonderful.  He’s amazing.  He’s brilliant.  He’s Jeff fucking Bridges!  The action sequences don’t feel jarred or forced, they flow very well, and as we watch a CGI man fly around the sky, Faverau show’s us Stark’s face inside the helmet of Iron Man, to give it a personal feel, a connection with the audience.  That was very smart, and probably one of my favorite aspects of the film.  The only problem I have with the film is the ending battle scene is anticlimactic.  It isn’t what it should have been.  There are over ten shots of RDJ’s face inside of the Iron Man suit, but only three of Bridges’ inside the Iron Mongeror suit.  There isn’t as much of emotional connection that there should be in the end battle scene.  It’s a huge moment of the film, it’s Stark fighting his mentor, his surrogate father to the death.  They dehumanize Bridges’ character, maybe they did that since everyone loves themselves a little Jeff Bridges.

The DVD Extras are your typical behind the scenes shorts that are boring and don’t show you anything insightful, but there are two excellent extras.  The first is Robert Downey Jr’s screen test for the role of Tony Stark and it is just so wonderful.  It’s very cool to see an actor screen testing for a role, instead of it just getting handed to them.  The other special feature that is just brilliant; it’s a rehearsal with Faverau, Bridges and RDJ.  It’s the scene where Bridges tells RDJ his real intentions and what he plans to do.  It’s very cool to see these two masterful actors work and play off each other.  They’re dropping F-bombs at each other, Bridges actually slaps RDJ.  It’s very cool to see actors perform in such a raw form.  It truly is art.

Review: 8/10.

Bring in the Heavy Part II.

Batman Begins – 2005

I am embarrassed to admit this, but I had absolutely no interest to see “Batman Begins”.  I remember seeing the first image released the films website.  All it was the image of the “new” Batmobile.  Then the TV spots started coming out and it looked cheesy to me.  As far as I was concerned Michael Keaton would always be Batman.  Who the hell does Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale think they are?  Batman would always remain in my heart as Michael Keaton.  At this point in time I had grown tired of the mediocre (at best) comic book films hitting the theaters, “DareDevil”, “Hulk”, “Catwoman”, ect.  Boy was I wrong!  “Begins” changed comic book films forever.  It made the industry make them with more sincerity.  But what is really commanding about the film is its cast.  Nolan took the semi-unknown Christian Bale and tossed him into a pool of sharks.  Two-time Academy Award winner Michael Caine (“Hannah and Her Sisters” and also for “The Cider House Rules“),  Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”), Rutger Hauer, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes, and Academy Award nominees Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai”), Tom Wilkinson (“In the Bedroom”) and the ultimate Heavy, Liam Neeson (“Schindler’s List”).  Holy great European cast (minus two) Batman!

Liam Neeson as the man who finds Bruce Wayne and forms him into Batman, Henri Ducard.

“Begins” brought sheer realism to the world of comic book films.  The excellent story was sometimes outlandish at times, but what made it believable was the stellar cast.  I truly believe that if you had the entire cast minus Neeson, the film wouldn’t have been as good.  Neeson has almost typecast himself as a mentor or Heavy in recent films like “Star Wars: Episode 1, The Phantom Menace”, “Kingdom of Heaven”, “Breakfast on Pluto”, “Gangs of New York” and “Batman Begins” but he has been able to still break out in excellent lead roles such as “Kinsey” and “Taken”.  Neeson’s role is vital to the film, since he as Henri Ducard seeks out and finds Bruce Wayne in a Chinese prison and teaches Wayne how to channel his anger and aggression and use it for good, for justice.  In a sense, Ducard is responsible for the birth of Batman.  Neeson’s vital part doesn’t end there, he’s also a major player in the thrilling climax that leaves you wanting to see more Henri Ducard.

Iron Man – 2008

Robert Downey, Jr.?  Really?  You’re getting that guy from “Swingers” to direct it?  No not Vince Vaughn, the other guy.  Wow…this should be interesting. I remember reading about this project and seeing that.  Then Marvel signed Terrance Howard who was hot off his Oscar nomination for “Hustle & Flow“.  I still wasn’t sold.  Then they announced they signed Gwyneth Paltrow?  Come on!  She’s the least deserving Best Actress winner next to Halle Berry.  Then Marvel announces four-time (soon to be five time for “Crazy Heart“) Academy Award nominee Jeff Bridges.  SOLD! I was so excited, even though Bridges was playing the cliché mentor/father figure who eventually becomes the villain.

Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane.

The cast had only slightly interested me prior to Bridges joining since Downey was on a come back with a brilliant performance in “Zodiac” but think about what Marvel and Paramount must have thought.  This was their first production with their new film studio.  And they are putting the studio in the hands of John Favreau and Robert Downey, Jr.  Before you jump on my case about slightly bagging on RDJ, think about it in their perspective.  RDJ was hot when he was younger, being nominated in “Chaplin” and being a box office draw until things took a turn for the worst when his addiction to drugs and alcohol took hold of him.  He was out of the lime light, and in and out of jail and rehab for a couple of years.  He became sober and his first real test was “Iron Man”.

I can almost imagine Favreau sitting in a darkly lit board room, a spot light on him, and all the men who are have egotistical and financial investments in the film sitting at a huge board table in darkness, smoking cigars and drinking Johnny Walker Blue Label, and Favreau is sitting there just sweating.

JF:  Well…um…we have Terrance Howard.

Big Wig #1:  Who?

JF:  He…uh, was just nominated for “Hustle & Flow”.

Big Wig #2:  What’s that?

Big Wig #1:  For a Grammy?  Is this guy a rapper?

Big Wig #3:  Oscars don’t mean anything to my grand kids.

Big Wig #1:  Look we can get Michael Bay and (insert up and coming popularish good-looking shitty actor’s name here).

Big Wig #2:  Look Kid, what else ya got for us?

JF:  (Nervously sweating and getting dry mouth from the heat of the spotlight on him)…Jeff Bridges…?

Big Wig #10:   (coughs on his cigar, exclaims in excitement)  The guy from “Tucker“?!

Big Wig #5:  He was GREAT in “The Last Picture Show”!

Big Wig #35:  Wasn’t he in some Eastwood flick…?  What was it…um…

JF:  “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot“.

All Big Wigs:   Yes!

Big Wig #1:  Alright kid!  You get Bridges and you got yourself a three picture deal with all the actors you want.  Here’s a blank check.  You name it kid you got it!

JF:  Well, I had a thought about the villan for the next installment.

Big Wig #2:  You mean Bridges won’t be in it?  Alright kid.  Who?

JF:  Mickey Rourke.

Big Wig #15:  Don’t push it.

I’m sure it didn’t at all happen like that.  But it’s fun to think it did.  Bridges ties this film together nicely, but it is RDJ that does make the film.  He is Tony Stark.  He is the only actor that could play Tony Stark.  He and Bridges play off of each other so nicely, it’s as if they are actually father and son.  They have this great banter and a give and take with their performances.  The idea of the Heavy, in this case Bridges, is to attract people like my Dad’s age.  Older movie goers who comics don’t really appeal too.  But the fact that Jeff Bridges is in it may steer them to the theaters, and more likely to the DVD rentals.