sam rockwell

[Movie Review] Edgy Advertising Pays Off for ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’

threebillboards_posterThe world Martin McDonagh creates in his latest flick Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one where there are no consequences for the horrible things we do to one another. It’s of course not necessarily a rule as some actions do carry consequences, but not in the traditional sense of how we expect those to be punished for things like–kicking children in their genitals, throwing people out of windows or throwing molotov cocktails at a police station. It’s also the type of world where the characters in spite of all their flaws and curt behavior to one another have an underlying care for one another that’s not uncommon amongst small town folk. It may only come out during some of the more dire situations and stuffed down even under duress, but it’s there and McDonagh encapsulates it brilliantly.

Several months following the brutal rape and murder of Angela Hayes her mother, Mildred (Frances McDormand) is struck suddenly with an outside-the-box idea while driving home along the highway where her daughter’s crime occurred. There, three tattered billboards stand, unused since the 80’s and Mildred wants to use them to send a message to the small town’s chief of police Bill (Woody Harrelson). The message is simple–that she hasn’t forgotten that no killer has been caught and wants answers. The billboards are innoffensive but concise and have an adverse effect on the police’s overall empathy for Mildred even as Bill regrets how the case turned out. They do however get the town stirred up which leads to the towns underlying tensions to manifest in wild and potentially dangerous ways.  (more…)

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Mini Reviews: The World’s End, This is the End, Thanks For Sharing and more!

theworldsend_posterThe World’s End – It’s been a bit since Edgar Wright directed a film with his two buddies Simon Pegg and Nick Frost- sure we’ve seen Pegg/Frost together in the nearly terrible PAUL, but I’ve been jonesing for a return to the SHAWN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ type of collaboration. Thankfully 2013 granted that wish with THE WORLD’S END, a film that combines almost all of my favorite things- comedy, action, awesome fight scenes, aliens and drinking.

Wright’s latest effort follows Gary King (Simon Pegg), a man obsessed with completing a legendary pub crawl that he and his friends fell short of years before. Gary manages to talk each of his friends- who don’t think too kindly of him anymore- to accompany him on the pub crawl once again. When they arrive back in town they find their home isn’t quite what it used to be and find themselves not just fighting for their lives, but for the fate of the world.

THE WORLD’S END is the ending chapter of what Wright dubbed the Cornetto trilogy- starting with SHAWN OF THE DEAD, then with HOT FUZZ and ending here in his latest sci fi romp. Now while I believe the film is very funny, filmed spectacularly well and acted just as well- there’s something about the last act that just didn’t fall into place for me.

I don’t have too many big gripes that ruined the movie for me and truth be told with a few more viewings it could end up being my favorite of the aforementioned trilogy. However, after the first one it did leave a little to be desired and luckily I feel this will hold up very well with multiple viewings. Overall THE WORLD’S END is a well shot, funny and exciting little sci-fi buddy comedy that continues to prove just how talented and imaginative Edgar Wright is as a director.

Rating: B+

thanksforsharing_posterThanks For Sharing – I often feel like guys claiming they have a sex addiction to be kind of a joke- a problem for the privileged man, or just a man in general. If there’s one film that truly gets the low lows of the addiction and makes a case for the treatment of such an addiction, it’s SHAME. I’ve grown a bit more sympathetic of the proclaimed addiction, but a movie like THANKS FOR SHARING kind of puts a dent in that sympathy- even if I did get a few good laughs from it.

Who knew that the Hulk suffered so much from an embarrassment if riches in the hanky panky department? THANKS FOR SHARING follows a handful of men as well as one women (played by Pink) as they struggle with the rigors of sex addiction. Mark Ruffalo leads the charge as a man that’s been “sober” for five years and is scared to venture into a relationship with the Gwyneth Paltrow in fear that his addiction will take over.

Ruffalo’s story has the majority of the screen time, followed by Tim Robbins’ older addict that now takes pride in helping people with a variety of addictions, Josh Gad as a perverted doctor that masturbates excessively and lastly Pink who just can’t resist the urge to screw any guy simply because she doesn’t know how to relate to them. Performance wise everyone is actually pretty great, but I feel like Robbins is far more watchable than the rest while Ruffalo just seems to phone it in.

It’s kind of nice to get more of a comedic approach to sex addiction since the drama that is attempted at in regard to it is contrived and silly at times. When We finally get a glimpse at what Ruffalo’s character goes through when his addiction takes hold, it’s the antithesis of what I feel is a joke about the addiction. It’s small lines here and there that serve as why sex addiction is a problem more than the actions- though Gad’s perverse work behavior does give a bit of insight to why it should be contained at times.

THANKS FOR SHARING mines very little that I find meaningful as a drama and succeeds mostly in the comedy, but doesn’t use it to its full potential. It’s great to see Tim Robbins putting in some great work, Josh Gad continues to make somewhat of a name for himself and even Pink adds a bit of fun to the proceedings. Overall the film isn’t quite heavy enough or fun enough to be as memorable as it seems it wants to be.

Rating: B-

thisistheend_posterThis is the End – Time after time chances to see THIS IS THE END in theaters passed me by. It’s a shame really, because I feel like the theatrical experience of this would have been one of the best of the year. The shared experience of enjoying a good laugh with a lot of people is exceedingly rewarding- but on the other hand, the type of comedy at play can also be very polarizing. Male humor is startling and awkward when it’s at its best and it’s something that can disgust and repel members of the opposite gender. THIS IS THE END might easily be one of the funniest films I’ve seen this year, but it loses momentum in the last act and is admittedly a bit awkward to watch if you have a significant other that isn’t digging the vibe it’s putting out.

I love how easy this movie is to describe- what would a bunch of comedic celebrities do when the rapture hits? The answer- argue about their bodily fluids and find varies avenues to take jabs at one another in hilarious ways. The actual story beyond the basic set up is the friendship between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel as they’ve grown apart over the last few years and they attempt to respark their once strong relationship.

It might be presumptuous to assume this humor is easily consumed by all males, given how subjective comedy can be. Essentially, the humor here is Apatow-esque if Apatow was an extremely immature college student baked out of his mind and had a thing for 90’s boy bands. The raunch factor isn’t totally out of Apatow’s wheelhouse, considering the actors here gained notoriety from films like KNOCKED UP or 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and TV shows like Freaks and Geeks or Undeclared. Also, the improv nature of the script might wear on some viewers that get a little fatigued by the constant back and forth banter between each character.

The budget is obviously low when you get into shots of the actual apocalypse which lends to the cheap aesthetic that is carried throughout, but the actors are so sharp and clever with their lines that it’s easy to overlook the effects issues that take over during some scenes. The final act of the film is where the film almost completely jumps off the track and the momentum all but dies out. The interactions between characters as the ending finally starts coming into place is extremely weak and the acting is kind of embarrassing- and given the characters are playing exaggerated versions of themselves it doesn’t even come across as naturalistic either. I have fewer problems with the final scene than I do witch the few minutes leading up to it, but it still isn’t near as strong as the rest of the film.

THIS IS THE END flirts with perfection in the face of an obviously low budget and with an extremely simple plot, but trips and falls flat on its face in the home stretch. The humor is laugh out loud funny almost all the way through and even has enough bloodshed and apocalyptic imagery to please horror buffs as well. If you’re a fan of the improvisational style that the actors involved are known for then THIS IS THE END has more than enough good to overcome the extremely weak ending. Be warned that if vulgar humor and imagery even slightly offends you, this might be one to just let slip by the wayside.

Rating: B+

thewaywayback_posterThe Way Way Back – I have a real soft spot for coming of age movies. Everything about them seems to hit all the right chords and turn me into a sappy mess. Particularly stories about the awkward kid that is picked on, left out, looked down upon and can’t seem to find his place- I’m sure one could deduct why that speaks to me. The process of that character finding himself, letting go and being themselves when they find the right people is something that just makes my cold heart turn to mush. THE WAY WAY BACK is a perfect example of everything I just talked about with some incredibly fun and touching performances to bring it all together.

I already kind of summarized exactly what the film is about- an awkward kid, Duncan (Liam James), is on vacation with his mom, his mom’s bf and his mom’s bf’s daughter at a beach house. Duncan’s mom’s bf Trent (Steve Carrel) is a dick and his daughter is your typical annoying teenage brat and his mom seems to put up with more than she probably should in regards to Trent’s behavior and attitude. While on vacation Duncan meets Owen (Sam Rockwell) who manages a water park in the area and the two quickly strike a friendship that brings Duncan out of his shell.

Written and directed by the Oscar winning duo Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (writers of THE DESCENDANTS) the film is not without its beautiful scenery, but more than anything else it’s the relationships and the dialogue that make THE WAY WAY BACK what it is. Sam Rockwell knocks it out if the park in every scene he’s in as a guy that is incredibly comfortable with who he is and lives every moment to its fullest without taking life too seriously. The script is not overly complicated and sticks to the basic fundamentals of a coming of age story, but in that lies it’s strength. It’s relatable to people of all walks of life and accessible for people of all ages.

THE WAY WAY BACK is a sweet and heartwarming coming of age movie with a scene stealing performance from Sam Rockwell. There’s plenty of laughs, drama and angsty teen goodness for the film to find fans of any age. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash prove once again they have quite the talent for human stories with charming humor and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Rating: A-

monstersuniversity_posterMonsters University – It took years for me to finally check out MONSTERS INC and even then it was only because my wife kind of convinced me to watch it with her. I was a little ashamed of myself since at the time I was in school studying computer animation and while watching that film it reinvigorated my love of the forum. Disney/Pixar fueled my love of animation- specifically CG animation- for so long and to have that gap in my movie knowledge was very disappointing to myself. I preface that only to limp into my nearly mirrored thoughts on MONSTERS UNIVERSITY.

This film serves as a prequel to MONSTERS INC where we see the origins of Sully and Mike’s friendship and what lead them into becoming scarers. The animation style is exactly the same and rather than going for a lot of realistic mapping in favor of an incredibly slick and colorful cartoon-esque animation which is beautiful and stunning in its own right.

The Pixar quality is upheld in every aspect and the only place I could possibly acknowledge a flaw is that it’s so like many of Pixar’s other efforts including MONSTERS INC that it’s become a little redundant. However, I feel like that complaint is utterly useless and silly that we would feel incensed to complain about an embarrassment if riches in quality family entertainment. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is far beyond other Disney/Pixar disappointments such as CARS AND CARS 2 that it feels petty to say a movie is bad simply because it’s as good but maybe not better than movies from the studio we previously loved.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is a great follow up to the original film and follows in its monster sized footsteps maybe a little too much for some. Regardless of the similarities to other movies in the Pixar cannon I believe the film is of extremely high family entertainment quality and one that will please audiences of just about any age- though the kiddos are likely to be more head over heels for it than anyone else.

Rating: B+

whd_posterWhite House Down – Having already seen a White House swigs movie this year and hating the crap out if it I did not have high hopes going into WHITE HOUSE DOWN. I find most of Roland Emmerich’s effects heavy action movies charming on some level, but not one have I felt intellectually challenged by one and this film is not the exception. That being said, I kind of loved this movie even with how incredibly mind numbing and stupid the entire thing was.

Channing Tatum stars as a secret service hopeful currently serving protective duty for the Speaker of the House. He takes his daughter on a tour of the White House after his interview for the secret service doesn’t pan out. While on the tour a group of highly trained mercenaries enact an elaborate takeover of the White House in aim of kidnapping the president and carrying out a plan that has disastrous goals.

All the Emmerich staples are here- incredibly dumb action, goofy one liners, pretty great special effects (one of the many things it has over OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN) and a somewhat bloated run time. Despite its length the film is always entertaining in spite of how dumb it is and you can always see what is happening quite clearly, something else the other White House takeover movie failed spectacularly at.

I’m not foolish enough to sit here and tell you that WHITE HOUSE DOWN is a good movie, but it does exactly what it sets out to do which is be entertaining. It didn’t win me over with stellar writing or even story elements that make any sense whatsoever; it won me over by simply not taking itself too seriously and delivering set pieces that are fun to watch and by being one of the movies it’s easy to shut one’s brain off and enjoy for a short period of time. Every now and again it’s nice to enjoy those empty cinematic calories.

Rating: B

purge_posterThe Purge – Like many other things I think sound like good ideas I sometimes have little faith that they are actually good ideas ideas. When I first watched the trailer for THE PURGE I thought it was an insanely cool concept, but I had strong doubts that it would deliver anything on the level of what I hoped. To an extent I was right, but truth be told this film surprised me and I actually liked far more than I thought I would based on my doubts.

As I debated the concept of THE PURGE, the more ridiculous it became. A distant future where crime is essentially non-existent except for one night a year where, for 12 hours, all crime including murder is 100% legal. The possibilities are endless and instead of exploring those possibilities it focuses on on family headed by Ethan Hawke who are extremely well off due to Hawke’s stellar selling abilities of a heavy duty home security system that nearly everyone in their neighborhood has purchased. The doors close and when the annual Purge begins a bloodied man is seeking help and the son inexplicably shuts the security down long enough to let the man in and inviting a group of psychos looking for him to come down on the house and stop at nothing to get their prey.

The most disappointing thing about THE PURGE is that with all the things that could be done with the concept is that it is staged almost completely within the one house. The tension is great and the performance from the “polite stranger” that wants nothing more than to kill the man Hawke’s family has in their house is nothing short of fantastic in a crazy entertaining sort of way. Everyone else is frustrating beyond belief just because of the actions they make throughout. Stupid horror movie character cliches are out in full force in almost every frame of this film which piles on to the disappointment of the one location nature of it all.

The twists and turns are all equally ridiculous but certainly help to offset the frustration of the characters. What I love is everything that the concept brings to light- the nature of the Purge itself and the social climate it suggests. I only wish that there had been more background on the New Founding Fathers and more insight/visuals as to what is happening all over during the Purge. We can only hope that if there is indeed a sequel it delivers a little more on these levels.

THE PURGE is nowhere near a perfect film- stating the obvious- but it is far more entertaining than it has any right to be given the character flaws and disappointment regarding the one location setting. You should see it if for nothing else than to see Rhys Wakefield’s bizarre but incredibly watchable performance as the film’s main protagonist. There are flaws aplenty, but there is a lot of potential in this concept to carry a franchise and hopefully they improve in the areas this one kind of drops the ball.

Rating: B

internship_posterThe Internship – Eh, that’s really all I have to say about Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s latest team up. In the interest of conversation I will elaborate…I guess. I didn’t really have motivation to see THE INTERNSHIP at all, but alas I decided to give it a shot. For the majority of the film it completely justified those feelings and it’s not until the end that it gets into a few “okay” moments that at the most didn’t make me hate myself for riding it out.

Google has a reputation for being an awesome place to work and that’s pretty much all this movie is- even though it does everything it can to paint the people that work there as petty judgmental jerks. Wilson and Vaughn are watch salesmen with zero other skills and when the company they work for goes under they are forced to enter a job market they have almost no hope of successfully navigating. Obviously the next logical step is to apply for internships at one of the most highly sought after place to work in the world with no skill sets. They inexplicably get the opportunity and the rest of the film continues along the same lines of ridiculousness as the set up.

The most relatable aspect of the film is only that if you had nothing to lose why not try and crowbar your way into one of the most profitable businesses in the world. Beyond that, this movie is just stupid. It’s nothing but long shot scenario after long shot scenario that after some point my eyes were rolling so much I was dizzy. Is it not enough to watch two middle aged men with zero tech skills bs there way into an internship filled with hundreds of more than qualified younger applicants that we also have to watch a geek get a girl that’s 1,000,000 times out of his league? These are just some of the frustrating underdog themes at play here and they are all beyond generic.

It isn’t without its crowd pleasing elements and my heart is not made of stone as I mentioned in the end I didn’t completely hate myself, but there just isn’t enough here that I was happy with what I watched. THE INTERNSHIP is loaded with jokes that either don’t work or are recycled from other mediocre movies featuring Vince Vaughn. Rent it if you dare, but you won’t be any wiser to the charms of Google, the heartwarming nature of underdog stories, or that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were ever good actors.

Rating: D+

theconspiracy_posterThe Conspiracy – Found footage movies are in need of a bit of an overhaul in my opinion. I do enjoy one on occasion, but let’s face it, they are getting a little stale and for the most part, there’s nothing all that new about the slew of recent offerings. THE CONSPIRACY isn’t entirely the saving grace of new found footage movies, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The film has footing in real conspiracy theories that have popped up in recent years and uses them to weave an incredibly intricate little story that has a pair of documentary filmmakers making a film centered on a conspiracy lune that shouts his theories on street corners from a loudspeaker. When that man goes missing one day one of the filmmakers, Aaron, takes it upon himself to find a pattern in the research that was left behind. What he uncovers leads them into the heart of an incredibly dangerous secret society.

I don’t want to say THE CONSPIRACY is 100% original as it borrows bits and pieces from found footage faux documentaries that came before it, but it does weave those elements in a way that at the very least makes it feel new and exciting. The way that a lot of the actual conspiracy theories are mixed in with the plot heightens the rest of the film giving it some extra punch from start to finish.

The actors aren’t particularly memorable, but the situations they find themselves in make for some incredibly tense and freaky moments leading up to a finale that is quite frightening. However, as great as the finale is, the actual end of the film left a lot to be desired as opposed to if it had ended immediately after the final bit of action.

THE CONSPIRACY is a fantastic addition to the found footage universe and one that in spite one or two hiccups is a memorable little shocker with some incredibly spooky moments. The use of blurred faces and distorted voices during the finale are nightmarish and help to make the film stick in your head long after it’s over.

Rating: B+

Movie Review: Seven Psychopaths (2012)

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Having just recently taken the time to check out IN BRUGES and really liking it I was pretty excited to take in Martin McDonagh’s newest film SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS. From the get go the dark humor and violence kicks into high gear and I was giddy about how awesome the rest of the film was going to be. For the next 45 minutes or so I felt my excitement for the film grow and then it started to coast a bit until it finally started a slow but steady decline before. McDonagh’s mostly hilarious jab at the movie industry comes out firing, but starts shooting blanks a little over halfway through.

Colin Farrell stars as Marty, a screenwriter working on a script about Seven Psychopaths and is not quite sure how to finish it. Marty’s friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) has a thing for kidnapping dogs and collecting the reward money with along with Hans (Christopher Walken). One day Billy and Hans kidnap a Shih Tzu that belongs to the crazy and irrational gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson) and Marty gets tossed into the midst of the cat and mouse game as Charlie tries to hunt down his dog.

The premise seems ripe for some really goofy comedy and for the most part it delivers on the laughs due in large part to the ridiculousness of a dog napping plot. During the first half of the film the script is full of snappy dialogue between characters and a great deal of really funny moments. Somewhere down the road the film just veers off its path and loses everything that was making it special. The finale tries hard to introduce the humor present in the first half, but never regains its footing.

The standout performance belongs mostly to Walken, although Harrelson has a handful of pretty great moments while Rockwell and Farrell trade back and forth with mostly boring character beats and moments that border on crossing into something interesting. Rockwell stands out more than Farrell, but even his character just is kind of there during the finale and offers nothing all that interesting to pull anyone back in after the film begins to drag. Farrell’s character is who I blame for making the film lose any or all of its momentum. Whenever Marty starts musing about his script and his vision of it the result is something akin to a cinematic lullaby that nearly talked me to sleep a few times.

I’m not sure where the fingers should be pointed in terms of the finale half of the film. It loses a good portion of its energy leading to the final scenes, but the first half is so much fun that it becomes frustrating just how far it veers from the spirit it started out with. Despite a few jokes in the finale the writing doesn’t even seem to be presented with the same vision of the rest of the film which makes for a very conflicting experience.

On one hand I wanted to like the movie so much more than I did based entirely on my first impression- but on the other you can only hold on to first impressions so long before you start to come to terms with the fact that the first impression may be the peak of the enjoyment you’re going to get. McDonagh’s SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS had so much potential to be something spectacular with an amazing cast and some great writing, but somewhere down the line McDonagh slows things down only to try to ramp them up again right before the finish line and by then it was just a little too late. SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS may be a bit disappointing in the end, but is so much fun out of the gate that it at least deserves a test drive.

Rating: B-

Movie Review: The Sitter (2011)

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As much as I love Jonah Hill I feel like I really dropped the ball by not recognizing the first red flag attached to THE SITTER. I don’t have an extensive knowledge of all things that David Gordon Green has been a part of over the years but I’ve seen and liked PINEAPPLE EXPRESS before seeing and loathing YOUR HIGHNESS. I can’t say that I’m surprised I didn’t enjoy THE SITTER that much but I am at least happy to say I liked it more than YOUR HIGHNESS- which really isn’t saying that much.

Jonah Hill plays a guy, Noah, who gets stuck babysitting a few kids so that his mom can get herself back on the market for a party where she is being set up with a potential beau. When he gets to the house with the kids he is babysitting he learns quickly that he might have his hands full as one has severe anxiety issues, one is a dolled up celebrity enthusiast and one is an adopted boy obsessed with bombs and fireworks. When his girlfriend teases him with the possibility of having sex with her for the first time he takes the kids out on an errand to score some drugs and deliver them to the party she is at- nothing could possibly go wrong right?

Set aside the fact that this movie feels like its way passed its “Best if used by” date and judging the film on its entertainment merits alone it’s still very stale. The script, the jokes and just about every other aspect of the film is lazy minus just a few bright spots that are due in large part to Jonah Hill and Sam Rockwell. The film opens on a cringe worthy note with Hill’s character performing oral sex on Ari Graynor’s character and it’s followed by an awkward exchange where it’s apparently a well known fact that fat guys are naturally great at cunnilingus- which is a joke that Kevin Smith has been selling much better for years now. The film is just full of recycled elements from previous films that it tries to take advantage of in order to make a quick buck.

It’s not all doom and gloom as there are sparse moments of humor either in side comments that seem improvised, but mostly because I like Jonah Hill as much as I do and that Sam Rockwell is the film’s biggest saving grace. Hill gives the film a shot, though even he seems a bit bored with the material at times, but Sam Rockwell came in ready to just ham it up and his scenes are the best in the film. Rockwell is always great as a bad guy and here he gets to be that but also an incredibly likable bad guy that you know will kill you but at least he does it while treating you like a friend. The sad part is that he comes and goes a few times during the film and when he leaves you can feel the wind leave the sails.

There’s nothing done from the director’s chair that makes any of the proceeding look or feel any more interesting either. The screenplay does not aim to be anything more than generic so it would take a very ambitious eye to elevate the material and Green must have been just as bored with the material as I was because it’s the kind of film that he could haves easily phoned in while reading the sports section from the toilet every morning.

If there was any other aspect of THE SITTER worth praising outside of Hill and Rockwell the film might have snuck its way into a recommendation. As it is though the film is really only worth checking out if the batteries run out of your remote while you’re flipping through channels and somehow stops on this. You will still hunt furiously for spare batteries but might get a few laughs before you give up and just leave it on in the background while you surf the internet or do household chores.

Movie Review: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Going in to see the continued antics of Tony Stark and his powerful alter ego Iron Man, I was hoping for a superhero sequel that I enjoyed leaps and bounds over the first, much like I did with Spiderman 2. However, I was aware it wasn’t likely to hit that level since I enjoyed the first Iron Man far more than the first Spiderman, so it seemed my expectations for Iron Man 2 would be far too high. I am here to tell you that this is a sequel that, like many, just couldn’t surpass the same level of splendor as the first.

Iron Man 2 starts with a world that supposedly is enjoying a time of peace with Iron Man patrolling the world, disposing of threats wherever they appear, or so we assume. We never get to see Iron Man laying waste to groups of bad guys looking for trouble, or intervening in any kind of world conflict that would explain his stranglehold on terrorism and crime. Instead we see excess of Tony Stark’s inflated ego and sarcastic personality we were able to get to know very well in the first installment. Meanwhile, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), the son of a figure from the Stark family’s past is gearing up to teach Tony a lesson he won’t forget.

Along with Rourke we have a handful of new faces fighting for screen time. Sam Rockwell plays rival arms dealer Justin Hammer, Scarlett Johansson as Natalie Rushman, as well as expanded roles for Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Don Cheadle as James Rhodes (we miss you Terrence Howard), and even director Jon Favreau as Tony’s driver Happy Hogan.

I enjoyed Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man the first time around, and while he’s still very much in tact here it borders on excessive at times. I had hoped that since the origin and set up were out of the way, there would be more balls to the wall action in store this time. Sadly action is obviously a second or even third thought here. We get even more character work with all the new faces, many of which seem unnecessary, and forced in due to the whole Avengers side plot they are working in. Much of that side plot and the sequence at the end of the credits are not there for an audience member like me, who doesn’t read comic books. They are there to service the comic book fans, and I understand that, so I just enjoyed what I could of it.

My complaints about the lack of action, fan service, and lackluster character work aside, I enjoyed the film overall. I love Downey as Tony and Rourke as Ivan (though he’s not used nearly enough). Ivan could have been a very compelling and intimidating presence in Tony Stark’s world, but instead we get just enough to make us salivate for an epic ending, only to fizzle out like Justin Hammer’s Bunker Buster aka “the Ex Wife.” I really would have loved more scenes like the fight on the Monaco racetrack.

The action is enjoyable, but abbreviated and never reaches a real level of tension and danger. You never get the sense that the characters are in danger. The effects are very good and give us a decent payoff with the absence of tension. Downey is likable as ever, even if he seems more like a caricature at moments, but just as charismatic as in the first movie. We get to see him struggle with his responsibilities as Iron Man a little which I always enjoy in superhero films.

The standout performances aside from Downey are what we get to see of Rourke, and Rockwell. Hopefully, Justin Hammer’s role is expanded more if we get another sequel. Also, we should hope for some more epic action sequences since we now have two character development movies out of the way.

If not for a few compelling new characters, serviceable action when actually presented on screen, and a very humorous script, Iron Man 2 may have been a huge disappoint. Luckily the final product has a lot of entertainment value despite its abbreviated ending.

Movie Review: Moon (2009)

Moon is the story of Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) stationed on the far side of the moon, coming to the end of his three year contract with the company Lunar Industries. His job is to mine the surface of the moon for Earth’s now primary energy source Helium3. Relieved that his time away from his wife and young daughter is nearing an end, Sam is involved in an accident while completing a routine task, and once awakened from the incident he begins to uncover startling evidence that things are not what they appeared to be, and struggles to figure out just where he fits into Lunar Industries’ plans.

To give away too much more about the story would lessen the experience as you watch the movie unfold. The director, Duncan Jones, does a fantastic job of presenting a story that is extremely engaging and absolutley amazing to look at. The atmosphere created here is stunning, and I found myself immersed in the scenery and drawn into the story up until the very last second.

The performance by Sam Rockwell is phenomenal, which is a relief for a movie that requires one person to carry the film on his/her shoulders. The only other voice we are treated to, aside from brief radio contact with headquarters, and video conferences with Sam’s wife and daughter, is Kevin Spacey as “Gerty” the AI computer there to help Sam through the duration of his time on the moon.

Overall, the anchoring performance by Sam Rockwell and the amazing look and stunning visuals make Moon a stellar experience well worth the time spent watching. Duncan Jones has given us one of the best sci-fi experiences in recent memory.

Rating: 9/10