gwyneth paltrow

Movie Review: Iron Man 3 (2013)

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I must admit that as much as I loved IRON MAN I probably could have been done with the series after IRON MAN 2. I didn’t hate the sequel, but aside from the racing sequence it seemed like nothing more than a clone of the first film with an equally if less satisfying finale. It took nothing more than one trailer for IRON MAN 3 for me to change my tune completely, granted THE AVENGERS did soften the blow immensely. With all due respect to comic nerds, IRON MAN 3 delivered on almost every level for me and I dare say it could possibly end up being my favorite of the series thus far.

Following the events during the finale of THE AVENGERS, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who we all know also as Iron Man, is struggling to sleep- in fact when he does he has terrible nightmares. A lack of sleep has also lead to a series of equally distressing panic attacks as he is terrified of the potential that he cannot match the power of his opponents and thus cannot protect the love of his life, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). While Stark struggles the world is looking at a global terror threat in the form of The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who has been causing lots of tension with a series of mysterious bombings of which there is no evidence of an actual bomb at the scene. When Stark’s interest in the matter becomes personal he can’t resist the urge to call out terrorist which sparks an intense confrontation where Stark must alone face a threat unlike anything he’s seen.

It’s true that I have never read an Iron Man comic in my life and it’s been made abundantly clear that because of that I cannot comment on how a comic lover would enjoy IRON MAN 3, but as a fan of the first film and the character as portrayed by Downey Jr. I have to say this movie straight up rocks. I am aware of an Extremis plot within the comics, which this film explores and Shane Black’s film works for me in every way. It isn’t perfect by any means, but the personal conflict Stark faces along with the way it ties in with THE AVENGERS all hit me in a way that I enjoyed greatly.

I did have some questions with some of the logistics of certain scenes and the fact that this takes place in a post Avengers world how at some point none of them might have been called upon, but at some point I just was okay with brushing aside those thoughts and enjoying how fun and exciting the film is on its own. Shane Black’s script had enough surprises and flip flops to keep me on my toes and interested in the outcome of any given situation to almost make me forget how let down I felt after IRON MAN 2. I am not quite sure if it really stacks up with THE AVENGERS in terms of total enjoyment, but as an Iron Man film it delivered in every way for me.

The special effects are great and when integrated into some of the central action sequences they are easily the best the series has seen. The climactic battle is alone better than the first two film’s final fights put together. Aside from the finale there are two really epic action sequences that are equally impressive in terms of visuals and overall quality of filmmaking. Don’t get me wrong because I love THE AVENGERS, but the plane rescue in this film at times beats many of the action set pieces featured in Joss Whedon’s film.

It was a breath of fresh air to see a new face behind the camera for the third IRON MAN, but I must say that Black’s script doesn’t always take full advantage of its characters in spite of some really fun surprises. I also don’t find the use of 3D to be necessary despite the fact that it works incredibly in the plane rescue and a few other moments, but felt wasted in many other scenes including the finale.

IRON MAN 3 is bound to have a crowd of detracts, but then again what movie doesn’t these days. Shane Black did more than enough to restore my faith in the franchise and in the process directed a film that could close it out in a satisfying way and be the most enjoyable of the series. Robert Downey Jr. continues to knock it out of the park as the wisecracking billionaire and eccentric genius while carrying everyone around him. IRON MAN 3 also shares some of the villain woes from its predecessors, but makes up for them in ways the previous films didn’t. This non-comic enthusiast may not have the knowledge that most nerds have, but I still give the film two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Rating: A-

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Movie Review: Contagion (2011)

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I don’t know exactly what I expected when I sat down to watch CONTAGION but having seen the trailer and seeing all the big names attached to it I think the final product was close to my expectations. There are several very alarming aspects that the film depicts but overall I feel like it should have stuck with one or two of its central plotlines rather than adhering to such a massive amount of different stories. Each different character has interesting moments, it just becomes a bit much to deal with at times.

CONTAGION’s plot is nothing more than the emergence of an extremely fatal disease and the rapid spread of that disease in a short period of time. The film follows several different stories of people handling the disease from a dad dealing with his wife and young son contracting the disease and dying while he himself is immune and trying to keep his daughter from getting it, medical experts searching for a cure and all the way to a blogger causing a stir by reporting on conspiracies surrounding the disease and possible cure.

The film is very well done despite the vast amount of different storylines weaver throughout. I never got lost or bored by any story in particular, I just feel like adhering to one or two of the many stories could have engaged me a little more. I realize though that to tell a story on such a massive scale and the logistics of telling this type of story that keeping people all in one place would be hard so on that level the film does a great job at incorporating all of the main stories together while some of the side ones seemed a little less important and a waste of time.

The performances are all pretty decent- Kate Winslett and Matt Damon being the strongest of them. It’s pretty tough to come down and say anyone is particularly memorable though since they each only get a few minutes of screen time every ten minutes or so as it switches from one story to another, sometimes crossing paths. The more emotional aspects of the film come from Damon since he’s one of the only reoccurring characters that have an emotional story arc where as the rest only have one or two moments where the tragedy of what is happening truly affects them.

CONTAGION is a film that I don’t find particularly scary as far as the execution of its material- I do however find the plausibility of its premise and execution very frightening. What I mean is that there’s nothing about the film that will scare you on the visceral thrill level but on a psychological level it’s terrifying because the way the disease plays out seems perfectly capable of happening. What’s even more frightening is that I don’t have the confidence that in real life practicality that our medical community could solve the problem all that quickly. The scattering of resources and medical mumbo jumbo sound realistic- I’m no medical prodigy though so I’d take that with a grain of salt.

The script for the most part is decent though at times it makes the film seem like somewhat of a schlocky B-Movie. There’s a scene early on where medical examiners are cutting open a skull of a corpse that was killed by the disease and what they see prompts one of the examiners to furiously tell his partner to leave and when asked if he should call someone he replies, “Call everyone.” Its little things such as that which made me laugh pretty heartily because I immediately imagine the literal logistics of that line. Beyond those moments there are a lot of very engaging moments that are born from the political ramifications of characters actions, the human drama of other plotlines and the real life medical red flags and consequences that such a disease could set in motion.

Lastly, I loved the score of this film. Cliff Martinez created a score that often makes the film feel like a horror film while also making it even more entertaining to watch from scene to scene. The music also gives the film a bit of an old school horror vibe with the dark synth tones but at the same time a bit of a sci fi edge to it as well. All the while with everything going down the film is comprised mostly of dramatic tension between grieving families, stumped medical experts, a sleazy blogger and the panic of the millions of citizens feeling the fear of what could happen to them at any second.

Steven Soderbergh has proven himself to be a skilled director in the art of the ensemble film and CONTAGION is no exception. However, I would argue that the ensemble nature of the film is one of the movie’s weaker aspects because it becomes difficult to connect with any one character in a story as frighteningly plausible as something like a disease epidemic that’s killing mass quantities of the world’s population. CONTAGION is a great depiction of the big picture created by the situation but I couldn’t help but feel there is a much more powerful personal story that could have been fleshed out and had a greater effect. Soderbergh’s film looks and feels like a prequel to the underrated viral thriller CARRIERS though CONTAGION has a much larger scope but accomplishes similar goals as far as the horror of our vulnerability to disease. I believe that CONTAGION is a film that will birth legions of new germaphobes and one that will send existing germaphobes into a state of absolute panic by how plausible the events in the film could be.

Rating: 7/10