Iron Man 3 Movie Review 0 102

Iron Man 3 movie review
There’s little denying that Joss Whedon set the bar for Marvel movies, perhaps even all superhero blockbusters, when he brought together the heroes from the previous films for The Avengers. Combining a near-perfect mix of action and humour – giving at least the major characters their due as far as screen time goes – it was a blistering blockbuster that ticked a lot of boxes.
So how could Shane Black, taking over Iron Man directing duties from Jon Favreau, possibly top that Avengers triumph with the third film? The truth is he hasn’t but it pleases this reviewer greatly to say that it’s not that far off.
Picking up not long after the events of The Avengers, we follow Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) as panic attacks caused by those events hinder his ability to get on with life with his now-girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). At the same time he is faced with a dangerous new foe in the form of The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley), the tyrant head of an international terrorist organization wreaking havoc wherever he goes.
Much of the success of this third Iron Man outing – the series’ most ponderous, meaningful and weighty installment – is how Black and co. treat it as its own beast. Unlike Iron Man 2, which felt rather like one huge set-up to the big team up movie, this is a singular affair with a point.
It still carries things on from what’s come before, with even repeated mentions of what happened in New York and how the wormhole Tony fell through may have affected his well-being, but is very much focused on its own plots. You might wonder why he doesn’t just call on the help of his newfound super-powered buddies but that would be missing the point – this is Iron Man’s story, not The Avengers 2 (that comes later!).
The presence of Black (well-loved for the Lethal Weapon franchise and the quick-witted Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) is extremely evident on both a directorial and a script-writing front. While a serious, even solemn feature at times, his action sequences are inventive, exciting and genuinely awe-inspiring with each one there for a purpose rather than just as spectacle in the way that was detrimental to the second film. An aerial rescue just about steals the show while a fairly early sequence involving Tony’s idyllic, high-tech home getting attacked by the tyrannical Mandarin is as visually fantastic as it is genuinely threatening. Rather surprisingly you feel like Tony just might not get out of this one intact.
Speaking of which, a big theme of the film is Tony’s mental state. To paraphrase, he is a billionaire who has the perfect life keeping people safe with his super-powered suit – so why can’t he sleep? He’s a reflective, damaged hero completely out in the open, quite literally bringing danger to his own doorstep because of his showiness. Much of why the film pulls off this rather bold move is Downey Jr’s performance, who really steps it up from the first two to go beyond the simple quips and cocky charm that have become his trademark.

Iron Man 3 movie review2

Nevertheless the film never forgets to have fun both with its action sequences and dialogue infused with just the right amount of humour and references (including a running gag about Downton Abbey of all things) without going overboard. Along with co-writer Drew Pearce, Black has delivered a rather brilliant superhero script that finds the right balance between a lot of things; humour and action, (soap-opera) drama and spectacle, continuing the larger story and making it feel a film all its own. Even the potentially cheesy inclusion of a boy who acts as a sort of sidekick to Tony for a chunk of the movie feels justified – on paper that shouldn’t work but it does.
The film is also pleasingly free of predictability. Even in its seemingly straight-forward villains and the inevitable twists-and-turns thereof it has the amazing ability to catch you by surprise. That’s no easy feat considering this is the third in the series and the umpteenth Marvel sequel, including the follow-up to what was the superhero movie to beat all others. It’s not the best Marvel effort but it comes a close 2nd.
Filling its supporting cast with genuinely great actors, it rarely skips on giving the characters a meaningful reason to be there. Kingsley is something of a wonder as The Mandarin, menacing and charismatic as a character prescient if not entirely realistic (but hey, who needs realism?). Superhero movies are almost always only as strong as their villain and on that front this is a rousing success.
You can just tell that Guy Pearce is having an absolute ball playing the half charming-half slimy Aldrich Killian, a rival scientist who enters the story in flashback as a weedy man trying to get Tony to help his company. Don Cheadle is a lot of fun as Colonel Rhodes-turned-War Machine (or Iron Patriot as he now likes to be called), donning a stars-and-stripes version of the Iron Man suit. Even Paltrow, relegated to light-hearted scenes with Tony in the previous films, gets a lot more to do here and the film is all the better for it. Only Rebecca Hall, playing one of Tony’s former associates, doesn’t serve as much of a purpose as you’d hope. It’s not Hall’s fault, who is fine, but rather a case of her character getting lost in the shuffle. But this is ultimately a minor quibble in an otherwise brilliantly realized superhero adventure.
Marvel continue their winning streak and stay on the Avengers high with an Iron Man installment that is as fun as it is dramatically mature. Black’s presence is felt in every aspect of the slick, polished sequel even managing to carry on the astute mix of humour and spectacle so perfectly conjured by Whedon last summer. Iron Man 3 is loud and bombastic but also measured and lean, making for a thoroughly entertaining romp with a lot of meat on the bone.

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I'm a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features. I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Movie Review: Home Again 0 530

This review was previously published at The National.

Despite an obviously talented leading lady in Reese Witherspoon and a family pedigree behind the camera in making this sort of rom-com flutter sweetly off the screen, Home Again struggles to finds its way out of cloying cliché and narrative contrivance.

This is the directorial debut of Hallie Myers-Shyer, daughter of genre stalwart Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, What Women Want). It focuses on the life of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a single mum who has just turned 40 and tries her best to raise her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) in Los Angeles with her job as an interior decorator.

Freshly separated from her British music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen), she embarks on a drunken birthday night celebration that leads to her meeting a trio of 20-something lads – Harry (Pico Alexander), George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) – who are trying their best to break into the Hollywood movie business.

The young men improbably end up staying in Alice’s guest house while they work on finishing the script for their first film. Before long they become an integral part of her life, from Alice embarking on a romantic relationship with Harry to George helping out Isabel with her school play. To quote the title of the director’s mother’s 2009 film – it’s complicated.

Except the film mistakes the kind of enjoyably frothy complexity exemplified by the best of the genre for skin-clawing convolution that renders much of the romantic and comedically-tinged drama of Alice’s life lacking in authenticity. Not that it needs the ring of truth that comes with, say, a Ken Loach picture but you need to be able to invest and believe in these characters’ lives as presented.

The approach to gender and generational relationships is simplistic which, of course, is nothing new to a genre that, at least in its Hollywoodized state, so often throws up films meant to be taken as easy-going fluff. But it’s particularly frustrating here when it squanders the potential thrown up with the initial concept of a woman trying to find herself again once she’s out of a stale relationship by entering into one with a much younger man.

It strangely seems far more interested in the plight of the three young men working as three cogs of one creative machine – director/producer, writer and actor – to get ahead in the movie business.  But even then it smacks of implausibility, like a cheap rom-com version of the bromance found in Entourage but without any of the snarky wit or Hollywood satire. Despite decent chemistry between a likeable assembled cast, Home Again is a tough pill to swallow as it rings false through and through.

3.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin 0 556

This review was previously published at The National.

The world of celebrated children’s author A. A. Milne and the creation of his beloved Winnie the Pooh stories are chronicled in this frightfully polite biopic from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) that flirts with dipping its toes into darker waters but steadfastly clings to safe tropes and always with its top button firmly fastened.

We start off in 1941 where we find an ageing Milne (Domhnall Gleeson in questionable make-up and greyed hair) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) living on their secluded East Sussex farm. They receive a telegram informing them that their son, C.R. Milne, is missing presumed dead after heading off to fight in World War Two.

We then jump back in time to Milne on the front lines of the First World War. He returns from the fighting a changed man; suffering from PTSD (popped balloons evoking sudden gunfire et al.), becoming increasingly sick of just making people laugh with his West End plays and the general hustle-bustle that comes with big city life.

He convinces his reluctant wife to move to the country for some peace and quiet and where his infant son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at the younger age, Alex Lawther as he gets older), can go on the childhood adventures he deserves with the support of loving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Settling into the kind of serene life he craves, he is inspired to create Winnie the Pooh and the rest of his soon-to-be-beloved friends inspired by the stuffed animals with which his young son has become so enamoured. Unfortunately for Christopher – referred to by everyone as “Billy Moon” – his father uses his real name in the stories, turning him into one of the most famous boys in the nation.

Despite the obvious attraction of it exploring the world famous Pooh stories, it’s a film much more interested in the effect it has on a fractured family clinging on to peacefulness, not least the unwanted attention thrust upon a young boy who simply isn’t equipped to handle it and how his parents carry on oblivious.

If anything it takes a curiously bleak outlook on what these stories mean to the world once they’ve been put out there, conveying a somewhat confusing message for a film that ultimately wants us to celebrate these stories as immortally cherished tales; that the Winnie the Pooh embraced immediately by the public and has now stood the test of time for almost a century is in some way missing the point of what it truly means to the author and a son who, inadvertently or not, was used as a tool of innocence to sell the idea of an idyllic childhood in Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

It’s bolstered by almost uniformly moving performances; Gleeson plays Milne with a kind of damaged empathy that makes you feel like you get to know the author beyond the public persona. Macdonald is oftentimes heart-breaking as Christopher’s devoted caregiver and Tilston walks away with the film as the adorably sweet-natured young Christopher. It’s only with Robbie that the film makes a misstep; she’s miscast as Milne’s wife and never stepping out of the shadow of cold motherly cliché.

In spite of its darker leanings, the film remains too buttoned up to properly wrestle with those themes in any sort of lasting way, far too polite to ever dive head first into the murky waters into which the drama intermittently peers.

Wrapped in Ben Smithard’s handsomely old-fashioned cinematography and soaked in Carter Burwell’s perpetually swelling score, it’s an aesthetically and emotionally appealing but nevertheless fairly vanilla period biopic best suited to being enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with tea and biscuits.

6.5 out of 10

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