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Iron Man 2 (2010)

I wanna make Iron Man look like an antique.

— Justin Hammer

I thoroughly enjoyed the surprise hit, Iron Man and I was eagerly anticipating this sequel, Iron Man 2. I had to go into boot camp put the kibosh on that. When I came back, everybody was meh with it. People were saying this just a bridge between this and the upcoming Avengers movie. I blasted this film on a recent LAMBcast without watching a single frame of the movie. I wanted to make sure were my unfounded criticisms were validated and they were for the most part.

After revealing to world that he is Iron Man, Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey, Jr.)  popularity has skyrocketed to epic proportions. With notoriety comes a detractor like Senator Stern (Garry Shandling) who summons him to the Arm Services Committee to recommend giving up the technology to the US government, because it is a weapon in a civilian’s hands.  Stark’s inflated ego tries to dodge giving the Iron Man suit away as his rival, Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) tries to embarrass him with turning Col. Rhodes’s (Don Cheadle) word on him. Hammer is found out by Stark to have tried to replicate the technology to sell it to enemies of the US.

His company is in shambles with Tony headlining the year long Stark Expo while his trusty assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) tries to fan the fires. Tony has enough to deal with the core that is keeping the shrapnel from getting into his heart is unstable and is contaminating him from the inside out. Stark is worried that his time in running short and needs to find a successor. He quickly appoints Pepper as Chairman/CEO of Stark Industries. Potts replacement, Natasha Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) is brought in and the women get off on the wrong foot.

During the Monaco Grand Prix, Tony brazenly commandeers a car to race it when the event is rudely interrupted by Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) who replicated the core technology to use for his whips on each hand. A fight ensues between Vanko and Iron Man. When Vanko is defeated, he is hauled off to jail where Tony visits him to see why Vanko attacked him. Vanko explains about his father working the same technology with Tony’s father, Howard (John Slattery) decades earlier. Justin Hammer enlists Vanko to develop personal Iron Mans of his own to bring down Stark.

I think that the massive success of the first movie tainted the quality of this movie. It seems a bit bloated with the meandering dialogue that went nowhere. The character acted like they were children. Bickering back and forth would turn you off. The wow factor of the first movie was not here. I thought the supporting people were completely wasted here. They have a little dialogue to say and they are gone for fifteen minutes. It was great that they introduced Tony when would get drunk, but I thought the climax of that was a bit too much for my taste. The only person I liked was Rourke. He was deliciously evil that I couldn’t wait for him to pop back on screen.

Judgment: The magic of the first movie could not be replicated in this movie. It was a cheap imitation.

Rating: ***

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The Spirit (2008)

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My city, I can not deny her. My city screams. She is my mother. She is my lover, and I am her Spirit.

— The Spirit

Universally panned by critics and the word mouths of the entire internet, The Spirit was unfortunately brought to us by writer/director Frank Miller who tried to parlay his successful collaboration of Sin City into this movie. It delivered on the pure suckage that it was promised.

The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) is a crime fighter and notorious womanizer that lives in the fictional Central City. He is constantly fighting the Octopus (Samuel L. Jackson) that gets into his mind about why he could withstand a lot of punishment and is able to heal himself. Octopus and his partner in crime, Silken Floss (Scarlett Johannson) and his team of idiotic goons Pathos, Ethos, Logos (all played by Louis Lombardi) look for a vase filled with blood of Heracles to make him immortal like a god.

The Spirit teams up with a local detective that loves the word “goddamn” Dolan (Dan Lauria) and a rookie with high pitched voice, Morgenstern (Stana Katic) to uncover any connection between the random crimes to the Octopus, and a beautiful jewel thief named Sand Saref (Eva Mendes). She wants to attain the ultimate prize, a lost artifact from the Argonauts, Jason’s Golden Fleece.

The movie is classic style over substance. Having a comic book writer, as film director does not go hand and hand with Miller being more interested in the visual look of the film that he forgets to realize that the actors need to be on the same page with the look. The actors struggle to make this movie make any semblance of coherent sense, but they fail because Miller dropped the ball actually directing them.

Macht throws on his “I’m Batman” Christian Bale voice having long conversations with himself and loving his pussycat. Jackson is like a chicken with its head cut off talking about eggs for some reason. Johansson is so wooden; you believe that her soul was missing. Mendes’s character is obsessed with shiny anything and her ass that wants to be a femme fatale, but it makes you want to kill yourself. Sarah Paulson as The Spirit’s love interest, Ellen Dolan acted like she was in a bad soap opera. It’s a damn shame.

The movie is hallow. The action is over the top and cartoonish. It’s laughable. The plot is non-existent and filled with plot holes. You don’t have any idea what the fuck is going on. Who are these people? Are they living in the 1940s? Present day? The dialogue is atrocious with such gems as “Shut up and bleed,” “I’m gonna kill you all kinds of dead,” and “All the enemy has is gun to knives. I have the entire city as my weapon.” Are you serious?

Please, Frank Miller, I implore you. If you want to direct another movie, stop and think. Take some classes about the art of filmmaking. With this movie, it looked like you were mocking it. You didn’t care about the joy and satisfaction of making a competent movie. Collaborate with other directors. Stick your feet in with short films to gain some experience. Something.

Judgment: If you are a person that enjoys shitty movies, this one is the Holy Grail for you.

Rating: *

He’s Just Not That Into You (2009)

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We are all programmed to believe that if a guy acts like a total jerk that means he likes you.

— Gigi

Being that I don’t have a vagina, I did not read the Greg Behrendt/Liz Tuccillo self-help wake-up call to women, “He’s Just Not That Into You.” I watched the Sex and the City episode where Berger tells Miranda that the guy she went out with is not into her. Now, we have the big screen adaptation of the best-selling book. It’s not that bad.

It is an ensemble piece centering around a trio of co-workers: Gigi, Janine, and Beth (Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Aniston aka “Jen3“) that are restless in their pursuit of love.

Gigi is classic case of a clueless woman that microanalyses the motivations of the men that she dates until a bar owner, Alex (Justin Long) gives her a much needed wake up call.

Janine is married to Ben (Bradley Cooper) who is trying to hook up with a yoga instructor/budding singer, Anna (Scarlett Johannson) who is semi-interested in real estate broker, Conor (Kevin Conolly) who went on a date with Gigi whose roommate is Alex. Confused yet? It’s like a long episode of Coupling.

Beth has been dating Neil (Ben Affleck) for seven years and she is feeling the itch. She wants to get married, but Neil doesn’t believe in marriage. This causes a rift in their relationship.

Anna is inexplicably friends with Mary (Drew Barrymore), an online magazine editor that is having dating troubles of her own with men and the latest modern technologies.

This movie tries to be different than the typical rom-com fodder out there, but it still suffers from the same conventions. It was nice that there was some role reversal with some of the male characters being the “woman.” It was refreshing.

Judgment: If you want to see a charming movie, check this movie out.

Rating: ***1/2

The Prestige (2006)

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Never show anyone. They’ll beg you and they’ll flatter you for the secret, but as soon as you give it up… you’ll be nothing to them.

— Alfred Borden

After seeing the craptacular spectacle that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I wanted to see a better Hugh Jackman movie. I thought that I might see The Prestige. This movie came out in 2006 with the double bill of it’s companion piece, The Illusionist with Ed Norton, Paul Giamatti and Jessica Biel.

This movie is currently #82 of the Top 250 of All Time on IMDB. I think that this movie is overrated. I love Christopher Nolan, but this movie is a mess. When you get the twist, the rest of the movie makes no sense. I will discuss the ending in the spoiler section.

Based on the novel of the same name by Christopher Priest, brothers Christopher and Jonathan Nolan tried to make another Memento, but Memento was more clever than this movie. It was contrived to say the least.

It is almost the turn of the 19th century, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are rival magicians that are trying to upstage each other.

After a freak accident that leads to the death of Robert’s wife, Julia (Piper Perabo), Robert is determined to make Alfred pay from his crime.

The movie mainly focuses on “The Transporting Man” trick with the magician disappearing from one door and appears at another door when an flying object is at play.

Angier’s mentor, Cutter (Michael Caine), the assistant, Olivia (Scarlett Johansson) tell Alfred not to pursue upstaging Borden. It would only lead to disaster. Angier doesn’t want to hear it. His hard-headness leads into bizarre obsessive stalker territory.

Next, Angier is so consumed with his determination to beat Borden that he enlists a mad scientist, Nikola Tesla (David Bowie) and his assistant, Alley (Andy Serkis) to make a device to replicate himself. (This is not a spoiler. It’s revealed at the beginning of the movie.) Even Tesla tells Angier not to go ahead with the trick.

I was bored throughout the movie. It was over two hours long. It felt even longer. The plot is ridiculous and improbable for turn-of-the-century London.

Judgment: Avoid this movie like the plague.

Rating: **

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Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)


Here is another movie that have been nominated for 4 Golden Globes recently. Best Actor for Javier Bardem, Best Actress for Rebecca Hall, Best Supporting Actress for Penélope Cruz and Best Picture – Comedy.

This is a movie that I actually liked. It was showing at one movie theater here in Houston. I saw the movie yesterday.

This movies is the latest Woody Allen movie in European tour after he abandoned his beloved New York City behind a couple of years ago. After I was disappointed with his latest efforts, I was surprised that I loved this film. I heard that Allen was offered some money from the Spanish government to film a movie there. Here Vicky Cristina Barcelona is born.

The movie is about a pair of friends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) visiting Barcelona for a couple of months. Vicky is a timid college student that is studying the Catalan culture of Spain. She is engaged to Doug (Chris Messina) that is working in New York. Cristina is free-spirited woman that does not want to led a boring life. She is trying to find herself and passion for something more in life.

They stay in the house of Vicky’s distant relative, Judy Nash (Patricia Clarkson) and her husband, Mark(Kevin Dunn).

One night when they are out at an art gallery, they meet a broodingly handsome painter, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). Cristina is immediately attracted to him. Out to dinner, they run into Juan Antonio, who blatantly propositions them to a threesome at his house in Oviedo. Vicky brutally rebuffs him, but Cristina is gung-ho about bedding down a total stranger.

Eventually, romantic entanglements occur between Vicky and Juan Antonio, Cristina and Juan Antonio and also between Cristina, Juan Antonio and his spitfire ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz).

Everybody was salivating with the kiss between Cristina and Maria Elena. It was very sweet. Nothing sexual.

During the course of the film, the personalities between Cristina and Vicky switch. Cristina wants to be in a monogamous relationship with Juan Antonio, but Maria Elena is a complication in the matter. Vicky takes a chance at being reckless with her relationship toward Juan Antonio and her engagement to Doug.

I liked this movie better than “Scoop” or “Cassandra’s Dream.” It was on par with “Match Point.” The scenery was wonderful. It reminded me of the time when I visited Spain over a decade ago. Fond memories.

I will say that I have a problem with the narration by Christopher Evan Welch. It does not need to be in this movie. I think it was very lazy in that respect. Why can’t we have silence? Contemplation? I wanted to have that period to reflect the action of action. I don’t need everything being spelled out to me.

Lastly, I think that Woody Allen did a disservice for the Spanish characters in this movie. The male as the stereotypical Latin lover/Lothario character and the female as the spitfire. Really, Woody? We have seen these archetypes again and again.

My rating: ***1/2 stars.

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