Tag Archive: Robert Downey Jr.


It’s time for fun in the sun!  And not just in the sun, but also in the cavernous over-air-conditioned confines of local theaters. The “Season of Blockbusters” has begun. I hope you all have seen my list of most-anticipated films on Cinefessions. I will try to see as many as I can, and I will review them here. Without further ado, here are my initial entries.

oblivion-posterOblivion

Another post-apocalyptic adventure, which become so popular whenever the public is afraid of what’s going on in real life. And like the atomic bomb scare and all the alien-attack films that were produced then, or the epidemic and zombie films that proliferate as we find new strains of diseases, now is a really scary time in the world.

The production value, effects, and pacing of Oblivion are spot-on. Overall it’s a fun movie to watch. The acting is decent, though a bit stilted at times. But I’ll bet it’s most entertaining for people who have never seen another movie like this in their lives. For those of us who have, it’s a kind of a hotchpotch of every other sci-fi/dystopia/conspiracy story ever made. I didn’t read the graphic novel on which the story is based (maybe because it was never published), so I can’t speak for the original plot and how it “borrows” from existing stories.  But the film certainly does.

I saw scenes and vignettes in this film from many iconic and obscure movies alike. If you haven’t seen this film but plan to, you might want to avoid the following possible spoilers.

li-oblivion-freeman-waldau-cp-04293048Apparent to movie and/or TV mavens are events and themes from Silent Running (1972 – rarity of plant life); the Matrix series (1999-2003 – secret underground survivors who know “the truth”); Independence Day (1996) and V (1984-85 – alien overlords); Gattaca (1986) and Code 46 (2003 – cloning); Moon (2009 – an isolated space-traveler’s struggle); Logan’s Run (1976) and many others (forbidden zones); Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and others (implanted memories and identity in general) … the list goes on and on. There is just nothing, and I mean nothing, original about this film.

So, let’s be nice and call this movie an homage to all the sci-fi we know and love. Yeah, that’s it.

C

 

Iron Man 3

As a big fan of Marvel movie adaptations, I enjoy all of these films about our favorite heroes and villains. MV5BMjIzMzAzMjQyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzM2NjcyOQ@@._V1_SX214_Admittedly, though, some are not the gems that the majority turn out to be (I’ll bet The Hulk popped into many minds just now). Most of the time, sequels run that risk more than original projects, so I think we all view them a bit more cautiously.

After an auspiciously marvelous beginning with the first Iron Man (2008), which invigorated the strained career of Robert Downey Jr., this franchise had a tiny blip with its sequel, Iron Man 2 (2010). It was a terrific film – successful at the box office and pretty well critically received – but it didn’t quite have the spark of the first film. It was a bit jolting that Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as Tony Stark’s friend and eventual sidekick, and with Stark “near death” and considering stepping away from his life throughout the movie, it wasn’t quite as much fun. To be fair, that is the case with the vast majority of sequels that follow fantastically powerful debuts, which Iron Man certainly had been.

That fun and power are back in Iron Man 3. The film features Stark back on top of his game (with the exception of some PTSD, thanks to his adventure with the Avengers) and facing a mercurial and deadly villain.  Performances by all involved are excellent, the action is exciting and well paced, and the interplay with the storyline of The Avengers (2012) is well done.

iron_man_3_tyOn top of that, there is a relationship and subplot in this movie that was the highpoint for me: Tony Stark meeting Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins). The boy is adorable and fresh and wise-assed beyond his years. They say that cute kids and cuddly animals can upstage anyone, but in this case it brings out the best and worst (in a very good way) in Stark and, well, produces magic.

Iron Man 3 is sure to remain one of the highlights of this summer movie season.

A

 

leonardo dicaprio the great gatsbyThe Great Gatsby

This was one of my most-anticipated films of summer, so I hoped it would indeed be great. I am a fan of both Leonardo DiCaprio and director Baz Luhrmann, but I knew from Luhrmann’s body of work (Romeo + Juliet, 1996; Moulin Rouge!, 2001; Australia, 2008) that he plays fast and loose with material he’s adapting and favors lavish spectacle. I wondered just how far his vision of Gatsby would veer from the classic novel.

I was pleasantly surprised by the loving care taken to tell the story of Nick, Jay, Daisy, and all of their companions. Yet there was not much sacrifice of the Luhrmann over-the-top style and panache. However, it seems to take a backseat and defer to the storytelling with careful control.

The narration by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moved more slowly than did Christian’s relating of his woeful tale in Moulin Rouge!, but it fits and sets a more melancholy tone. The atmosphere of the movie is absolutely stunning: It conveys the opulent decadence of the era which thinly veils the precarious despair under the surface.

Upon first hearing about this project, I thought from the beginning that DiCaprio was a brilliant choice to play Gatsby; his performance supports that judgment. The-Great-Gatsby_06He flawlessly captures the self-deluded air of our antihero from determination through devastation. Daisy (Carey Mulligan) also is perfectly cast, and all of the performances are superb. At first, Maguire’s half-goofy, half-stiff portrayal of Carraway threw me a bit, but it worked in the end, since he was unobtrusive within the drama playing itself out, as the narrator of this story should be.

Finally, I will be quite surprised if this film doesn’t win Oscars in such categories as costuming and art direction. It is truly a treat for all the senses.

A

It took a while, but I finally saw the new Sherlock Holmes, and I had a blast!

Anyone who knows this Movie Freak is aware that I am partial to both Robert Downey Jr. and director Guy Ritchie.  However, some trepidation preceded viewing this film:  What if it turned the legendary Sherlock Holmes saga on its head?  Would there be too many anachronisms?  Or would it simply beat a tired horse to its final grave?

Reading the reviews didn’t help.  A few said that Holmes was just too buff, and the fight scenes would have Sir Arthur Conan Doyle turning in his grave.  Some reviewers claimed that the Holmes character just wasn’t what he ought to be, with the signature deerstalker and pipe, the reticence and haughty righteousness.  One even claimed that the characters of Holmes and Watson were sketched in such contemporary likeness of one another that all they needed to do was exchange clothes and props, and leads Downey and Jude Law could play each other’s roles.

Nonsense and poppycock!  (I’ve always wanted to say that.)

The writing and acting alike are brilliant, and the film is true to its mystery-thriller genre.  It’s a feast of rousing action, deductive reasoning, and camaraderie, perfectly peppered with comic relief.  (In fact, I came away with only one peeve—the character of Watson’s fiancée, Mary, played by the oddly twitchy Kelly Reilly, seems too dislikable, conniving a creature to be with the good doctor; no wonder Holmes is displeased.)

I admit I was skeptical about the action sequences after viewing previews, but they fit right in, and Holmes’ combat style did suit the character.  The wonderfully manipulated scenes of Holmes planning an attack, and then the audience seeing it in real time, depicted just how the genius tactician’s mind would devise the most efficiently method to take down an opponent.  Marvelous!

There was a sufficiently dark and menacing baddie (Mark Strong), a Holmes-has-met-his-match love interest (Rachel McAdams), and the introduction of Professor Moriarty—which sets the stage for sequels, of course.  And I, for one, hope there will be sequels.

In this humble reviewer’s eyes, Sherlock Holmes is a triumph in a sea of recent and upcoming disappointments.  If half the planned remakes and resurrections on film are as good as this one, count me in to stand in line at the theater more often. Unfortunately, I think this one’s a rare gem.

For more movie recommendations, check out my new book, A Book Full of Movies!

The Xmas Vaca Movie-Watching Post

Over the holidays, I did some movie watching (gee, what a surprise) with the other movie freak in my family, my mom, and went to see a flick at the theater with her and also one with my brother.  It was a banner movie-watching holiday!  Here are some observations about these movies, old and new.

It’s Complicated Is Simply Funny

This is a silly film that could have been a throw-away in lesser hands. But the loads of talent involved in It’s Complicated makes it hilarious and very worth watching. Who would have thought that an older-set romance could be so much fun?  My favorite moment was probably when Meryl Streep, all giggly from realizing she’s having an affair with her ex-husband and even lying to her grown kids about it, catches herself and suddenly realizes how goofy she’s being — priceless facial expressions.  John Krasinski is adorable as the secret-keeping Harley.  B+

The Blind Side Is an After-School Special

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad film. But after all the hype I had heard, frankly I expected more. The Blind Side follows in the tradition of movies based on sports-connected true stories like Rudy and We Are Marshall but fails to inspire in the way that these films did. Why is that? One reason may be the lack of loquacity of its main character. Big Mike doesn’t talk much. It’s part of his character and makes sense, but it also makes it difficult for an audience to connect with him. The lack of connection is aggravated by other characters talking about and to him in simple terms. The after-school special feel of the film comes from its simplistic treatment of complex issues. It surely could not have been quite so easy for Leigh Anne Tuohy to get her family on board and to keep her household in order. Were there really no fights, no ill effects, no resistance? One small glitch is hinted at when Leigh Anne tells Michael he’s ruining the expensive couch he’s sleeping on, so she’ll clean out the guest bedroom for him. Perhaps it would have helped to see this damage and other understandable domestic complications, making the story more realistic at a visceral level. She’s also able to quiet friends and relatives with a “Shame on you” when they worry about “a large black boy” in the house with her young daughter. I don’t know many good friends or real family who wouldn’t storm over to see just how this situation was shaping up. Despite Oscar buzz, I see this as a rental.  C-  Continue reading

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