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Tony Stark and Iron Man is back, and after the misstep/retread that was Iron Man 2, in much better form.

I will note now: I will get spoiler-ific, though I’ll keep it separate from the actual review.  There will be a line separating the two sections.  Though, $175 million open weekend?  You should have seen it by now at least.

As for the review?  Well, Tony Stark, facing anxiety from the events in Avengers, is trying harder than before in keeping himself (and others around him, like Pepper Potts) protected.  The Mark 42 suit, for example, is a suit constructed of individual pieces and controlled by small receivers embedded in Stark’s arms.  He runs into trouble though when unexpected demons from his past show up, along with the terrorist known as the Mandarin.

Iron Man 3 is a much better film than the second one was, simply by not rehashing everything from the first film (climactic battle against bigger badder suit? check).  It keeps away from all of the Avengers stuff too, and that I feel is a good thing.  Iron Man 2 suffered a bit as well from trying to connect Iron Man to the whole Avengers universe.  The singular focus helps in a good way.  It’s not as tight as the first film – it feels looser, and some scenes don’t connect well – but it’s still well filmed, especially with the big action pieces that occur (Tony’s mansion, Air Force One, and the harbor sequence at the end).

Everyone that returns from the previous film is good. Downey Jr is impeccable as Tony Stark, as always.  Gwyneth Paltrow is great and is given a lot more to do, which is awesome (though being the damsel-in-distress for a moment again is wearing thin).  Don Cheadle is back as Col. Rhodes/War Machine (or, jokingly, the Iron Patriot) and has some good scenes as well.  The several new cast additions were all good as well, to a varying degree: Guy Pierce is good as Aldrich Killian, the founder of AIM and the creator of the Extremis virus, which acts as one of the plot catalysts; Rebecca Hall plays Dr Maya Hansen well, though I was confused at times with her motivations; and Ben Kingsley is the Mandarin, and part of the spoiler discussion coming.

All in all, this is a good, solid film.  Better than the second film, and a natural progression for Tony Stark/Iron Man to take.


There are two bits of spoiler stuff I want to discuss, both good: the post-credits sequence and the Mandarin.

The post-credits sequence, with Bruce Banner as a “psychologist” to Tony Stark, is pretty funny and works well. The one thing I was particularly glad to see what that they didn’t advance any sort of Avengers plot. What I’m guessing is that the Avengers stuff will be limited to post Thor (given how galactic that one will be), if they do that, and Guardians of the Galaxy. The latter seems the more natural fit, since that film will transition into Avengers 2, if they’re going to do the Thanos route with it.

The Mandarin reveal was interesting, and a welcomed change of pace from the norm. Yes, he’s Asian in the comics apparently, but terrorists from anywhere in Asia has been done to death in movies. Making him a drunk British stage actor named Travis is a bold, brilliant move that works, especially in the movie: have someone act as your face while you cause all the mayhem in the background. It’s a clever bit of misdirection. Though, Killian as the main villain was hard to say. I didn’t mind too much, though I’ve heard both positive and negative reactions to him.

There’s also this piece over on Badass Digest that pretty much says that no one saw the Mandarin reveal coming, since Marvel didn’t hype it up. There’s the comparison to JJ Abrams and Star Trek regarding Schroedinger’s Khan as well, though I might have different problems with the film besides that. I won’t voice them until I see the film though, if those criticisms do apply.

So one speculation and one awesome reveal. Dicussions?

I’m trying to understand the social backlash that has plagued Ben Affleck a lot until recently.  He isn’t a terrible actor – quite good at times, especially in this movie – but I supposed he suffered through making some poor decisions, like Gigli and Surviving Christmas, to name a couple movies.  Maybe a couple years away from the limelight helped, since a lot of what he’s done recently (which I’ve only seen a couple) was well received, if not for him, than for the ensemble casts that he was in.

Actually, he was great in Extract in a smaller role in a movie that really didn’t do a whole lot for me.

Coming back to the Town, which is the second film he’s directed (the first being Gone Baby Gone, which was great), and he’s found himself a niche in directing.  He does a commendable job here, creating a tense, often chaotic environment interlaced with the quieter sequences involving Doug (his character) and Claire (Rebecca Hall), a bank manager that he takes as hostage and eventually develops feelings for.  The editing could have used some work, especially in the latter sequences just mentioned, but all in all, it wasn’t bad.  The action sequences, which include several gunfights and a car chase though narrow Charlestown streets, are easily the best filmed sequences in the film.  Especially the car chase: the narrow streets and the multi-storied residential buildings that the bank robbers and police cars fly through create a kind of claustrophobic feel that threatens everyone at every turn, not knowing who or what will jump out or fly out at them at every turn.  It’s great stuff.

The story itself is involving, and relies on some solid acting from everyone, including Affleck, Hall, and Jeremy Renner, who plays the often-times psychotic one in the group of robbers.  Doug wants out of the bank robbery business, often saying that he’ll do just one more hit before calling it quits.  He finds his way out of Charlestown with Claire.  It’s actually this relationship that provides some pretty good material for the film: she’s heavily affected by being taken hostage after the opening bank robbery, and initially, Doug – who has her license courtesy of Jem (Renner) – is out to keep tabs on her, seeing if she knows anything about who the robbers were (and she knows, but I won’t say).  Doug walks a fine line throughout, between his relationship with Claire, his familial relationship with Jem and the other robbers, the florist Fergie (Pete Postlethwaite, who comes away with the best line in the movie), and the FBI, relentlessly in pursuit of Doug and the others.

The last third of the film wraps as nicely as possible, though it stretches credibility a little bit, especially in the epilogue.  The film the work though, since everything that occurs has some sort of establishment during the film.

In short, another great effort from Affleck, who is making a nice career resurgence that started with Hollywoodland and continues here.

B+

Note: I still need to see Hollywoodland as well.  Just adding that in there.

It took a while to figure out if I liked this movie or not. Well, not really like, but just to think if it was any good (it was). It is a likable movie, though obviously you won’t like everything that’s going on.

But there are those good movies that you won’t like. Take Greenberg from earlier this year. It was decent enough, but I hated it, mostly because of the Greenberg character. He’s someone we were supposed to not like.

In Please Give, there are several characters like that, but also several characters that you will like. Each of them have their own strengths and flaws, and some of them don’t really change at the end. You may sympathize with them, you may pity them, you may do nothing and wonder as to why they react the way they do.

The last reaction comes strongly from Kate, played by Catherine Keener, who is very much an enigma indeed. She’s often racked by guilt: she feels it when she buys furniture from dead people, and she feels it when she tries to find some way to help the poor and less fortunate (she often gives money to random homeless people on the street). There’s a scene towards the end that affects her the strongest though: it involves a group of Down Syndrome adolescents who play sports. She’s amazed at their ability to overcome their disability and succeed, so much so that she breaks down crying. Maybe the guilt gets to her too much, thinking that everyone needs help (she’s well off financially, which is probably why she wants to give so much). By the end though, she remains an enigma: she doesn’t feel any guilt when she buys her daughter Abby a $200 pair of pants. Maybe she’s over it? At least to myself and Liz, it didn’t send her character off well.

But that’s mainly her character. The plot involves an elderly woman, Andra, whose apartment has been purchased by Kate’s family, and the interactions between her family and Andra’s family.  It’s a fairly broad based character study surrounding Andra, though Kate is the central character throughout.  Her husband, Alex, is her business partner and seems to view her more in that regard than as a loving wife, though he does still love her in some way.  Their daughter, Abby, is quite spoiled (yes, she’s one of the characters you’ll end up disliking), and finds more of a commonality with Rebecca, even though she idolizes Mary more (Abby is fifteen years old, probably that age where she thinks $200 jeans and a tan would make her look good).  Rebecca, a radiologist, is somewhat socially awkward, but cares enough for Andra despite the fact that the old woman is quite often rude (she is 91).  Lastly, there’s Mary, a self-centered cosmetologist who is more concerned about being as tan as possible (even if it is fake).

The characters interact well with each other and learn from each other.  Like I said, some do change, some don’t, but it’s life.  Some people will look inside of themselves and wonder why they’re acting that way, and some people will just plow ahead in life without any regard to others.  These characters at least attempt to look at themselves, with Kate being the only real interesting one, mainly because hers was the most difficult to figure out.  She doesn’t, necessarily, but maybe she finally understood that not everyone she comes across needs help.  A moral conundrum indeed, but an interesting one.

B