Established May 2010.

Gordie: Do you think I'm weird?
Chris: Definitely.
Gordie: No man, seriously. Am I weird?
Chris: Yeah, but so what? Everybody's weird.

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

Member of THE LAMB: The Large Association of Movie Blogs LAMB #1588

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Movie Review: NOW YOU SEE ME

Director: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, Mélanie Laurent

Magic comes in a variety of forms each appealing to a different kind of crowd. J. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg) is your fast-talking brainiac who performs your standard set of card tricks. Merritt McKinley (Harrelson) pulls out unsuspecting people from a crowd and gets them to divulge life secrets as a mentalist. Jack Wilder (Franco) makes his living by doing sleight of hand tricks. He may end off ripping people off and stealing their money in the process. Henley Leeves (Fisher) pulls off the death-defying stunts as an illusionist.

All four of them are targeted and are given vague instructions to meet in a secret location. The world of magicians must be small as they all know each other or know of each others reputations. When they each arrive and notice that other people got the invitation their curiosity is sparked regarding this gathering of the who's who of magicians. They enter an abandoned apartment and a hologram of blueprints starts playing. They have been brought together to form a "super group" called The Four Horsemen.

One year passes and The Four Horsemen are performing to sold out crowds as an act in Las Vegas. During one special performance, they rob a bank in Paris and the money starts falling from the rafters onto the audience. This is no simple illusion as the money appears to be real and the bank mentioned during the trick has actually been robbed. This is just Act 1 of 3 of their plan to take over corrupt businesses and shower the people they have wronged with their money. The feds led my Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo) and a member from Interpol (Leaurent) are brought together to catch the Four Horseman. Rhodes brings along former magician Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman) along for the ride to explain and uncover their tricks along the way. He is the type of retired magician who makes a living off making videos exposing the tricks of the trade.

The film plays out as your standard cat and mouse chase between The Four Horsemen versus the authorities who want to bring them down. Like any good magician, they are always two steps ahead in their plan. None of the characters are all that original or new. You've got your dumb detective who gets angry every time they get away. You've got your wise old mentors, and of course you've got your hot shot "criminals" who do not believe they are doing anything wrong. None of the actors are really playing outside their comfort zones. Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine have all played this types before. The film may sound conventional, but who cares.

The tagline for the film "The closer you look, the less you'll see." is frequently used throughout the movie to describe the magic and illusions being performed. It is also a decent way to describe the movie. Now You See Me is a perfectly good summer popcorn film. This is the kind of movie where you can go in, have fun, enjoy it for what it is worth, and not have to think too hard. Magic is like that. On the outside, if you watch a magic trick and the person performing it has done their job you will leave amazed and surprised. If you take it at face value, it can be a fun time in that moment. If you start to dive in and deeply dissect how the trick was done, you will get aggravated or frustrated that you wasted your time on something. This is that kind of movie. I do not think the filmmakers were going in trying to make the most artistic movie about magicians ever made. There are no hidden meanings or deep thoughts behind it. You will be severely disappointed if you are looking for high art or the mysteries of magic to be explained. If you want to see that movie, go rent Christopher Nolan's The Prestige. Don't worry, you will still get your Michael Caine fix in. This movie is meant to be taken at face value as a fun joy ride that may keep you guessing along the way.

RATING: *** 1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Movie Rewind: PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971)

Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Jessica Walter, Donna Mills, Irene Harvey

"It was funny, I was calling you from that phonebox over there and he was telling me you'd left and I was staring at your car - isn't that funny."

Last summer I spent a week in small town Minnesota visiting my fiancé while he was performing in "Gilligan's Island" for the local townies. I found a weird joy about feeling secluded in a dark rustic cabin. Call me crazy, I know, but I was relishing in being away from work. I love thrillers and horror movies, so I thought it would be fun to watch an oldie from that genre. Does that make me a glutton for punishment? I find the majority of recent horrors like the Saw and the Hostel series to be so over-the-top that they don't make me jump or feel frightened in the least bit. The 1970s provided us with some great thrillers that are shocking and timeless. Movies like Don't Look Now, The Exorcist, Carrie, Halloween, and The Omen are still watched time after time without ever feeling old or boring. This felt like the perfect night to delve into a thriller that was both vintage and something I had not seen before.

Sometimes listening to jazz on the radio can be a perfect way to relax after a long day. Add in a disc jockey with a smooth, calm, and relaxing voice and you have the perfect solution for a long drive or a late night. Evelyn Draper (Walter) has found that perfect disc jockey. Dave Garver (Eastwood) is the late night host of smooth jazz KRML in Carmel, California. Every night a mysterious female calls into his show and requests "Misty" by Erroll Garner. She never leaves her name, but Dave always plays that song for her. On most nights after his shift, Dave pops in to his local pub. He notices a strange woman staring at him one night. They strike up conversation and mentions to her that he knows her from some place but can't place it. Evelyn admits to knowing him and specifically went to the bar to meet him. Dave realizes she must be a fan and then connects the dots that she is the woman behind the voice that always asks him to play "Misty". He agrees to take her home and sleeps with her.

In his mind, it was a one night stand to please a fan. In her mind, it was an invitation to a long-lasting relationship. She shows up at his door the next day unannounced with an arm full of groceries. This is just the beginning as Evelyn snowballs from cutesy and funny to deadly serious in her attempts to enter his life for good. Just as Dave is trying to make his life uncomplicated, Evelyn makes his it a living hell.

Throughout the movie, I kept thinking how perfect Jessica Walter is at playing this type of fanatic stalker. You never know how far Evelyn will go in her attempts to win Dave’s affection. At times it becomes quite jaw dropping. Walter is flawless at playing the various angles of a stalker without playing into camp or veering into over-the-top territory. She stays grounded and truthful and really shows that Evelyn firmly believes in everything she does and sees no problem with her actions. Walter went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for the film.

I came across Play Misty for Me back in my Barnes & Noble days. I really like the work of Clint Eastwood, both as an actor and as a director, and put this on my never ending "must watch" list. It was a departure for Eastwood from the spaghetti westerns he was known for, like the Man with No Name Trilogy. Eastwood made the choice to make this movie as his directorial debut. For being his first time behind the camera and switching genres, Eastwood makes a crisp, dark, edge-of-your-seat thriller. The studio originally wanted Lee Remick in the lead female role, but Eastwood saw Jessica Walter in Sidney Lumet's The Group and wanted to cast her instead. Kudos to Eastwood for sticking to his gut and picking such a fierce actress and gripping film for his directorial debut.

RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Movie Review: OBLIVION

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Starring: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo

With the exception of Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol, Tom Cruise movies have been very ho-hum lately. They have ridden the fence of mediocrity, but who is to blame? Is it the material? Is it Tommy boy, the guy that used to make huge blockbuster hits? Or both? The film starts off with Jack Harper (Cruise) narrating the destruction of the Earth and what is left of it. I immediately get perturbed whenever that much exposition is done all in voice-over. An alien invasion destroyed the Moon which caused massive earthquakes and tsunamis that then destroyed the Earth and left a desolate wasteland in its place. A few landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty have, for the most part, been pummeled with the remaining portions left poking out of the ground.

Jack and his partner Vica (Riseborough) are part of a handful of people who have survived the chaos. The majority of his memory has been erased except for the part where he remembers being with a woman (Kurylenko) up on the Empire State Building. Their mission is to fix and maintain robotic drones that defend their power stations from any of the remaining species, known as the Scavs, left from the alien invasion. Vica supervises from their command station on their living quarters watching his back from any potential Scavs that may be lurking in the area. Their superior Sally (Leo) gives the commands to them via satellite from a space station orbiting earth. An unidentified spacecraft crashes down leading Jack to investigate against regulations. He discovers human bodies kept in pods and recognizes one of them as the woman from his memory. Drones quickly descend into the area killing all of the humans, but Jack is able to save this woman. She explains that her ship was a NASA mission but won’t reveal the purpose of the mission. When they go back to retrieve the ship’s flight recorder, they are captured by the Scavs. Everything Jack knows to be true is turned upside down when the Scavs reveal themselves and what their true intention happens to be.

That moment in the story also happens to be the time when the movie derails into a muddled cheap sci-fi flick and starts adding in plot twists and other additional themes and ideas. So much of the exposition was told through narration and then we get blasted with these random space loopholes and ultimate truths that it tries to be a little edgier and deeper than it started out to be. I do not want to give too much away about the second half of the film as it would ruin one of the “revelations” in the film. Did I mention that they do not always explain certain ideas they are introducing? Take for instance the cabin. Yes, a cabin. Apparently on this deserted barren Earth is a cabin that Jack still retreats to for solace and there happens to be electricity so he can listen to his record player. There is also an unnecessary love triangle thrown in.

That being said, the first half of the movie is the better half. It is a three, but mainly two, actor adventure as Cruise and Riseborough go about their mission and roam around what is left of Earth. It gets a bit slow, but I found the idea behind this portion of the story interesting as we see what is left after Earth’s destruction. This exploration of life or the lack thereof was appealing. The look and tone of the film is very reminiscent of earlier sci-fi exploration films, especially 2001: A Space Odyssey. Melissa Leo’s Sally is a direct homage to Hal 9000. Cinematographer Claudio Miranda recently won the Oscar for his work on Life of Pi. His work here is quite beautiful and visually stunning. There is a constant score throughout by Anthony Gonzalez and Joseph Trapanese that fits well with this mysterious vibe that something else is out there.

Director Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy) directed the film based on his own graphic novel. Oblivion has some great aspects going it for it but starts to lose its footing when it tries to accomplish too much. I think going in with fairly low expectations caused me to enjoy and give into the film more than I would have if I was expecting the next sci-fi masterpiece. I just wish it would have stayed on track. Call me crazy, but I would not have minded a two or three actor movie about space exploration and the destruction of Earth.

RATING: *** (3 out of 5 stars)

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Alice Eve

Trekkies might have been on edge back in 2009 when J.J.Abrams was going to reboot the beloved Star Trek films with a younger cast playing all the old familiar characters from the original series. I am sure there are some purists out there that turn their head in disgust, but Abrams successfully brought back a series that made the Star Trek universe cool again. Old fans rejoiced and new fans came in droves to check out the reboot. If these new fans were like me, they went back to the original source material to gain a whole new knowledge and appreciation for this series.

Abrams is back in the director’s chair and has re-teamed with his writing crew of Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof for another dangerous adventure for the members of the USS Enterprise. Captain James T. Kirk (Pine), Bones (Urban), and Spock (Quinto) are observing civilization on the vastly red planet of Nibiru. As Spock’s life becomes in jeopardy when he is stuck in an active volcano, Kirk disobeys Federation protocol and exposes the Enterprise in order to rescue him. Back at the Starfleet Headquarters, Kirk is punished and demoted to first officer and Admiral Pike (Greenwood) resumes position as Captain. There is an emergency meeting after a bombing occurs at a secret location in London. The bombing has been traced back to one of their own Starfleet agents, John Harrison (Cumberbatch). The meeting comes to an abrupt end has Harrison flies in and opens fire. He escapes but one of Starfleet’s member’s lives has been compromised sending Kirk out for revenge. Harrison flees to the Klingon world of Kronos and Kirk, Spock, Uhura (Saldana) and the rest of the crew set out to capture him.

Rest assured that Abrams and his cast come back to deliver a sequel that is one high-octane ride to say the least. The special effects are top-notch and don’t ever have that phony CGI feel to them. Some may claim the film feels more like an action movie than a true sci-fi movie with the constant explosions and chase scenes. I can understand this feeling, but I was never bothered by this choice. The idea of terrorism and rebellion from within an organization grounds the story in a more realistic society than some of the other films in the canon have dealt with as themes. In order to take this approach and still have fun, you need to have a kick-ass villain played to perfection. Benedict Cumberbatch completely blows it out of the ballpark and becomes one of the best villains seen on screen since Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. He has found the right voice and physicality to make him this larger-the-life maniacal villain while keeping him grounded and realistic. He never falls into campy bad guy territory.

The screenplay provides great material for the actors to play with no matter what role they inhabit on the Enterprise team. It is by no means the Kirk and Spock Show. The idea of working on a team that operates like family really resonated with me. They may all have different opinions and ways of operating but they all have the same goal of looking out for each other. Pine and Quinto have really grown into playing Kirk and Spock, respectively. They keep in line with the previous actors that played them but give them their own breath of fresh air and unique personalities without ever giving into to doing cheap Shatner impressions. Their brotherly love plays a key factor in the story. Kirk will always do what he thinks is right versus what should be done by the book which is how the non-emotional Spock operates. This difference of opinion comes to blow during the opening sequence. In addition, Simon Pegg's Scotty is hysterical and always full of energy. I would expect nothing less from Simon Pegg.

Abrams knows how to make a great summer blockbuster that is more than just your standard popcorn fare. Like Christopher Nolan, he can take a series and completely re-invent it while staying true to the source material but also opening it up to a broader audience base. The filmmakers intentionally made a stand-alone film so you do not need any knowledge of previous plotlines or characters in order to understand this movie. However, there are plenty of little snippets and nods to the Star Trek universe to make it still feel inclusive to the history. He blends genres and themes to give it a universal approach and feel. If he has done his job correctly, it will hopefully cause the new fans to go back and invest into the world Gene Rodenberry created and gain an appreciation for the older Shatner/Nimoy movies or even binge watching the original TV show.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

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Thursday, May 16, 2013


Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher

When you think about it, The Great Gatsby has all the ingredients to be a fantastic movie. Fitzgerald! Baz! Leo! The Jazz Era meets Jay-Z! Somehow this recipe does not quite turn out like the masterpiece I hoped it would be. Nick Carraway (Maguire) is spending time in a sanitarium for depression, anxiety, and being morbidly alcoholic amongst other things. He starts to tell his psychiatrist about the time he spent in New York and how a man named Gatsby (DiCaprio) had a huge impact on his life. Being unable to fully express his thoughts, his psychiatrist suggests having him write it all down as a memoir.

When Nick arrives in New York he settles in at a little cottage next door to a sprawling luxurious mansion. This elusive Jay Gatsby character owns the place. He throws the grandest parties filled music, alcohol, fireworks, and beautiful women. He is world renown yet maintains a mysterious air about him as few people ever seem to meet him face to face. Directly across the bay from the Gatsby mansion lives the beautiful Daisy (Mulligan) and her brutish husband Tom Buchanan (Edgerton). Daisy just happens to be Nick's cousin and Jay’s former lover. Nick learns the hard way that Tom is by no means a faithful husband when Tom takes him to a secret place he goes to cavort with his mistress, Myrtle (Fisher). Nick receives an invitation to one of the infamous Gatsby parties and actually meets the host. Jay gets Nick to host a tea party the next day in order to reconnect with Daisy and potentially rekindle his romance. Jay’s feelings for Daisy have never dissipated over the years. His mansion and parties were all a way to gain her attention in hopes she would stop by to see him again.

There is no denying that Luhrmann has a distinct style and vision. The world he has created to represent the vision of author F. Scott Fitzgerald sits right alongside Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! Extensive choreography, music infused with various genres, and elaborate costumes by Catherine Martin are all present and from the outside can be a feast for the eyes. As a whole picture, Luhrmann relies too heavily on these theatrical moments to get his story going instead of trusting the characters and original source material. The cinematography and editing are so fast paced in the first part of the movie in hopes of capturing that vibrant rush that comes along with the party lifestyle. Luhrmann has brought in Jay-Z to blend the sounds of jazz and hip hop. There are fabulous moments and scenes in his previous movies where the musical elements really drive the scenes and intensify the emotions between the two lovers. I never felt that concept successfully worked in this case. It just plays as gimmicky and distracting.

When the camera slows down and the 3D special effects are not popping out at us, the story starts to take shape. Luhrmann has cast a strong ensemble willing to tackle on such well-known figures from the literary world. DiCaprio, as always, knows how to command the screen and can very easily bring out the multiple sides of Gatsby that show off his true personality. This role seems to fit him like a glove. It is probably a good thing the movie finally got made as he is getting too old to play a part that he was born to play. Edgerton and Mulligan are just as impressive as the tough, forceful husband against her beautiful, light, and airy qualities of Daisy. I cannot forget to mention Jason Clarke and Elizabeth Debicki who are equally fantastic in smaller roles. Maguire was the only negative standout which is a big problem being the narrator of the story. He lacks any sort of emotional connection and vibrancy that Nick should have toward the romance between Daisy and Jay.

I adored Lurhmann’s fusion of styles and tones in Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! but he cannot seem to make it work for The Great Gatsby. Throughout the whole movie, I was baffled by how inconsistent Luhrmann was in approaching this story. The character and dialogue driven scenes were simple and effective while the lush, CGI heavy party scenes were explosive and over-the-top. The two different styles never worked well together. He seems to trust the actors and the Fitzgerald language but feels the need to Luhrmannize any transitional type moments. The film was shot for a 3D release, but the effects came across as fake and phony like those recent Disney adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and Oz, The Great and Powerful. He easily could have made a lavish artistic movie that conveys the world of the Fitzgerald novel with real sets and effects without giving into CGI pressure. Luckily DiCaprio, Mulligan, and Edgerton are strong enough to make a portion of the movie work.

RATING: ** 1/2 (2.5 out of 5 stars)

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Movie Rewind: THE PAPERBOY

Director: Lee Daniels
Starring: Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack

It is the summer of 1969 and it is one hell of a scorcher out there. “God must have been sweating it was so hot”, proclaims Anita Chester (Gray). Sherriff Call killed so many of the African-Americans in this small Florida town that even the white people were afraid of him. That is until the day he wound up dead. She introduces all of the key players in this tale of sweat, murder, and the wrongful imprisonment of the man accused of the murder of Sherriff Call. At the time, she was the maid to Jack Jansen (Efron) and his family. His older brother Ward (McConaughey), a reporter from the Miami Times, is back in town to investigate the crime. Charlotte Bless (Kidman) is new to town and leaves Jack quite speechless and horny. Charlotte spends her time corresponding with inmates including Hillary van Wetter (Cusack) who she believes has been wrongly convicted of killing the Sheriff. By the way, they are also engaged even though they have never actually met in person. She hands over all of her letters from Hillary to Ward. Jack is more than happy to take her to the prison to spend any amount of time with her when he is not laying around the house in his tightie whities fantasizing about her.

The investigation into Hillary plays second fiddle and becomes more of a backstory and a plot device as the movie shifts focus to Jack’s relationships with Charlotte and Ward. Take this scene for instance. A day at the beach between Charlotte and Jack leads to him getting attacked by a jellyfish after a quick dip. She comes to the rescue by peeing all over his chest and face. Since this is a small town, it makes the front page of the newspaper. That is just one of many crazy absurd scenes that follow, each one topping the previous one.

The story is so out of control and nutty that it seems like director Lee Daniels (Precious) decided to go all out on what he was going to make the actors go through to tell this story. Some of these talented actors are up for the challenge while others seem to struggle. Kidman is asked to do a variety of trashy and strange things between orgasming for Cusack in jail and peeing all over Efron. I really appreciate Efron for continuing to take on different roles in order to challenge him and distance him from his High School Musical days. I am sure it was not hard for him to stay shirtless for most of the movie or dance in the rain in his tightie whities. Do not be surprised if you think Macy Gray is one of the better actresses in the movie. She perfectly nails the Southern maid/cook attitude that comes with having to deal with too much crap in her life. Cusack plays against type but it does not seem to work in his favor as he comes across as miscast and trying way too hard to be this maniacal creep.

Daniels co-wrote the screenplay with Pete Dexter based off Dexter’s book of the same name. The script seems all over the place at times. I kept debating whose story was being told. It took some time before it fully settles into what Efron’s character is going through. As great as Macy Gray is, the use of her narrating the story is completely unnecessary. The film is given a grainy look as if to convey the southern, hot, and dirty feel and the camera takes full advantage of using hazy unfocused shots from time to time. The film has that sexually deviant, mysterious, Southern feel that reminded of Wild Things. I personally think that film was far more successful at being over-the-top absurd while having fun with the story. The Paperboy tries way too hard at attempting this feeling and is too unfocused and serious at times.

RATING: ** (2 out of 5 stars)

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Director: John Wells
Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Margo Martindale, Benedict Cumberbatch

When I first heard that Goddess Meryl Streep had been cast as Violet, the pill-popping matriarch of the Weston family, I thought of no one better that could play that role for the big screen adaptation of the Tracy Letts play. After Violet's husband Beverly (Shepard) goes missing, the whole family gathers together in the house they grew up in order to find him. To call this family dynamic dysfunctional would be an understatement.

Movies adapted from stage plays can be tricky and hit-or-miss. Most of the time the casting is way off and the tension and themes of the play get lost in translation. I have seen the stage play, and I hope the movie comes close to portraying these character relationships that are vital to the story. The trailer seems a little light hearted for the first look into the film. The play is so heavy and dramatic but that does not quite come across in the trailer. Letts wrote the screenplay and with this A-List cast I have faith the final product will have the attitude, sharp dialogue, and crazy moments the play is known for having. If it gets good buzz, it could garner some Oscar buzz for Streep, Martindale, and even Roberts.

Release Date: November 8, 2013

Here's the trailer:

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Movie Review: IRON MAN 3

Director: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey,Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce

Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) should really start keeping tabs on all of the people he may have crossed or ignored in the past. Then again, that list may get way too long. His previous foes, including Obadiah Stane and Ivan Vanko, were previously connected to Tony and his father. Back in 1999, Tony met Aldrich Killian (Pearce) at a New Year’s Eve party but brushed him off and neglected to join him in his business venture, Advanced Idea Mechanics, A.I.M for short. Killian is a scraggly, disabled, and worn down man working with the Extremis virus which gives strength and regenerative treatments to humans.

In present day, Tony is out of sorts often suffering from panic attacks and a lack of sleep due to the alien invasion in New York (see Marvel’s The Avengers for this story). His girlfriend Pepper Potts (Paltrow) who is now the CEO of Stark Industries is worried about him and is growing tired of the consequences of him being Iron Man. To make things even worse, a terrorist by the name of The Mandarin (Kingsley) is sending threatening videos of the destruction he intends to inflect on the United States. It is probably no coincidence that he bears a resemblance to Osama bin Laden. An attack outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre leaves Tony’s bodyguard Happy (Favreau) badly injured and hospital bound. Tony sends a pretty ballsy message to The Mandarin saying he is not afraid and goes so far as to give his address out over live TV threatening that he is ready for whatever The Mandarin has to offer. The Mandarin sends his team to Tony’s gorgeous Malibu residence and destroys the place. With the help of a ten-year old boy and his friend James Rhodes (Cheadle), who is also suiting up in his own gear as Iron Patriot, Tony sets out to destroy The Mandarin and find out the connection between him and Aldrich Killian.

Black takes over the director’s chair from Jon Favreau who helmed the first two. The series needed a boost of fresh air after Iron Man 2. Fans left quite disappointed as the second film was weak and quite boring compared to the energy of the first one. Downey and Black previously worked together in the noir hit Kiss Kiss Bang Bang so it was reassuring to hear that collaboration would be back as Downey would be particular about who would sign on board for the third entry. Black wrote the film with Drew Pearce and they definitely know how to play to the strengths of these characters and actors. Each actor has great moments to shine without ever feeling like they are wimpy supporting characters in Downey’s movie. There are a few clever little twists thrown in to up the ante for the series and what is to come in the Marvel universe. The film also boasts the addition of the best villain in the series. Ben Kingsley is no stranger to playing the bad guy, but his take on The Mandarin is diabolical, sadistic, and dare I say funny at times. Each of the action sequences and special effects are top notch and impressive. The Iron Man suit alone comes flying onto Tony in various parts that connect all together once they hit his body.

These movies would be nothing without Robert Downey, Jr. I cannot think of another actor that would have taken on this role and given him the dimension he has been able to use with playing Stark. He can play the cocky comedic one-liners in one moment, kick serious ass in the next, and then have touching dramatic scenes with Pepper in an another scene. I would not be as big of a fan of the Iron Man character if it was not for Downey. If this was the last stand-alone Iron Man film, it would end on a high-note. I hope Downey comes back for The Avengers 2, but that will most likely be the last time he dons the Iron Man suit.

It should probably go without saying that you should keep an eye out for the Stan Lee cameo and stay after the credits for the additional fun scene that is always tagged onto Marvel movies. Don’t worry. No spoilers from me on what it entitles! Just trust that it is well worth sitting through the names of hundreds upon hundreds of people involved with the digital effects of the film.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

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