Iron Man 3

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Ahh, the start of the summer movie season. This is when the Superheroes come out to play. Fans get in line early for these big-budget, star-studded, action-packed films to add to their collection of “have-seen” movies so they can go talk amongst themselves of what went right, what went wrong, and speculation on what the next installment will bring. Tony Stark and the rest of the “Iron Man 3” gang made their debut this weekend, and with great hope from moviegoers all over the globe. I got to the theater and came to a very crowded (to be expected) theater, even for the 10:20 showing. Families put aside bedtime, and date night seemed to center on this film. Squished between popcorn eating, Coca-Cola sipping fans, the lights dimmed, and the movie began.

Okay, now that we are through the opening description of the epic summer movie season, here is my brief synopsis of this film. Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) (Robert Downey, Jr.) is faced with his greatest threat to date, with the terrorist, the Mandarin, sorta kinda played by Ben Kingsley (I won’t go any further than that). There is a threat placed on America, and Iron Man is followed by the press, as usual. He has had enough of dealing with a “coward” as he calls him, so Tony calls out the Mandarin on live television. He goes as far as to give him his home address, inviting a fight. And the fight does come. Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a previous associate of both Tony and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow) comes back into their lives and he does so having performed a great deal of research on cell regeneration, something he uses to his advantage, and something he tries to drag both of them into. Pepper comes into great danger, and Tony must do all he can to save the one thing he says “he can’t live without”.

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I never know quite how to comment on a third film in a series, because I like for a series to be done in three films, and comment on the third by placing a nice bow on my thoughts, but as the film states in the credits, “Tony Stark will be back”. So, I will refrain from my “this is the end of a great trilogy” comments. The fact is, this is a fun film, although I thought there were some weird plot choices, especially when it came to the Mandarin. Although trailers are often misleading, I was excited to see what this boss, played by the excellent Ben Kingsley would do. So, that was a letdown. We struggle with Tony Stark through a lot of his personal trials. He experiences a series of panic attacks resulting from the events in New York (from “The Avengers“) where he nearly died. His relationship with Pepper is a centerpiece to this film as well. We already know that they are in love, but this sheds a lot more light on how much Pepper truly means to him. That is a feature of some of these Superhero movies that I like. I enjoy the human aspect, which is one reason “The Dark Knight” series is my favorite of this genre.

Guy Pearce has a large role in this film, and really should have been featured more in the marketing for this film. But, having seen it now, it does make sense why they would make the choice to divert your attention away from his character. I struggled a little bit with his characters direction, and his motivation for doing what he does. But I do tend to have that issue with a lot of the villains that I come across in my movie-watching. Of course it is all about power, and a lot of times about money, and maybe a little bit of jealousy and revenge. I just hoped for some more depth in his character.

This is not a bad start to the summer movie season. There is a lot to like about this film, but I can’t say that this is my favorite even of this series. The first installment of the “Iron Man” series is without a doubt, the best. The second, I won’t even comment on, but to say that it is not a part of my personal film collection for a reason. If you’re up for a good time, then this film will do the job.

 

– David B. Harrington

Brave

Pixar forever changed the face of animation, when in 1995, they released their debut feature film “Toy Story”. It was the first film to ever be made entirely through use of CGI. The film grossed nearly half a billion dollars and set a very high bar for Pixar and other animation studios to live up to, not an easy task. That being said, Pixar has managed to turn out a plethora of successful films from two more installments of the Toy Story franchise, to “A Bug’s Life”, “Monsters, Inc.”, and my personal favorite, “Wall•E”. I remember as a kid, going through some of my Dad’s old things in our home storage room, and blowing the dust off some old VHS tapes. Among the items were some of Pixar’s original demo tapes for their animated shorts, namely their first entry, “Andre and  Wally B”. My Dad was involved in some of the early graphics in films. He worked on arguably the most popular of Star Trek titles among fans, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”. So, to say the least, Pixar has a very special place in my heart, which started long before “Toy Story”.

Pixar’s latest entry, “Brave” brings a different feel to the long list of titles. The studio was off their game for “Cars 2”, really the first time the studio stumbled, and for me, this film doesn’t fully return to the glory of Pixar perfection. The story has some strong points, and is, for the most part a satisfying feast for the eyes, but the originality that Pixar has consistently brought to the table, lacked. At times I felt like I was watching a revamped edition of “Brother Bear”. Those who have seen that film, and watch this will know what I am talking about. There were borrowed elements that stray from what Pixar is usually able to do, and that is, give us something we have never seen.

(Slight spoiler alert) Merida, our heroine in the film is faced with the challenge of averting the expectations of her mother on her growing into a proper woman. She is faced with several suitors who are trying to win her heart. She wants nothing to do with it, and so she sets out to prove that she can be her own person, and that she doesn’t have to live under the scrutiny and expectations of her overbearing mother. In the process, what is first advertised as a journey of self discovery becomes the story of a mother and daughter understanding and coming to accept one another.

I wouldn’t put this in the category of a film not worth seeing, but for those going to see “Brave” should be prepared to see a film that strays from some of the more key elements of previous successful Pixar masterpieces. It is definitely worth the time to take your kids to. Adults will most likely enjoy the film as well. There are a couple scenes that are a little more directed toward the adults, where you see a little bit of bare booty, but other than that, there is nothing to be wary of when taking the little ones with you. I give this film a thumbs up with some reservations.

-David B. Harrington