Posts Tagged ‘robert downey jr.

02
May
18

‘Infinity War’ Shows That a Good Thing Can’t Go On Forever

avengers_infinity_war

I gots no mo’ money for Marvel.

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey, Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlet Johanson, Chris Pratt, and every-other Marvel character actor save Jeremy Renner and Paul Rudd.

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

*WARNING! THE FOLLOWING REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!*

Everybody dies!

Wait. Let me start over.

Comic book heroes and heroines for me growing up were mostly on TV. The only access I had to comic books happened to be my dad’s collection which harbored “Flintstones,” “Twilight Zone,” “Boris Karloff,” and others while the TV showcased the supers – “Superman,” “Spider-Man,” and “The Incredible Hulk.” While writing this sentence I just realized the irony of TV shows turned into comic books and comic book heroes turned into TV. But enough about me – my point is that I never really grew up following any Marvel or DC series so please understand that when I grade, or review, these films I come from a middle ground between cinema and understanding the comic book world as much as I can. With that being said let me go into this one:

I can’t really say where any of this left off because the Marvel movies go in the order they want to go instead of “The Avengers,” “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” Trying to watch them strictly in that order is tantamount to playing “Another Brick in the Wall Part 1,” “Part 2,” and “Part 3.” Sure, you get the gist but there’s that feeling that a lot of crap is missing between the parts; same thing here. I could also go on and ask why “Captain America: Civil War” wasn’t renamed for the “Avengers” (it’s not a Captain America story!) but at this point it really doesn’t matter.

Our story starts off with purple galactic villain Thanos (played/voiced by Josh Brolin) having already obtained one Infinity Stone obtaining the second (a blue one) from Loki (Tom Hiddleston) while Thor (Chris Hemsworth) pleads against this. There’s some fighting and Hulk is tag-teamed to kick some Thanos only for things to go badly: Hulk is hurt and magically transported back to Earth to warn of Thanos while Loki is killed and Thor left to die in the vacuum of space. Moving on…

Meanwhile on Earth the Avengers, post-banishment, are scattered to the four winds. The Hulk arrives at Dr. Strange’s (Cumberbatch) place and together they go to contact Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) who then wants to contact Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) but instead winds up in a melee against alien thugs sent by Thanos to retrieve the Infinity Stones left on Earth, one notably held by Dr. Strange because it can shift time. Joining that fight is Spider-Man (Tom Holland) who follows along to help Stark/Iron Man save Dr. Strange but even moreso to keep Thanos from getting that stone.

And on the other end of the galaxy happens to be… the Guardians of the Galaxy. Responding to a distress call they pick-up the free-floating body of Thor who commands them to a special place whereby he can have another hammer made that can defeat Thanos. Good idea in principle. Gamora, Drax, and Peter Quill decide to hunt down Thanos to try and keep him from getting another Infinity stone and which leaves Rocket and Groot to help Thor out.

Am I missing anyone? Oh yeah – Captain America, Black Widow, and Falcon are flying around evading capture by the authorities. Scarlet Witch (Olsen) and Vision (Bettany) are hunkered down in the Scotland. Hawkeye and Ant-Man are on “house arrest.” And let’s not forget Black Panther presiding over Wakanda.

“Everybody got that?” -Dark Helmet, “Spaceballs”

What follows is a mess of a film. Not even a fun mess like, say, “Smokin’ Aces.” A character from one set of circumstances will fall into the scene of another and vice-versa. Instead of all of the Avengers coming together its more like, Superhero Clique Number One stumbles upon either Thanos, a representative of Thanos, or one of the other superhero cliques. It’s two-and-a-half hours of this, folks. If all you want out of a film is superheroes fighting each other or taking swings at the latest villain, then this is your movie. There’s a lot of that to be had. If you’re wanting something a bit more… this is only slightly less disappointing than the prior “Age of Ultron.”

The biggest issue with this mess is that, overall, it’s dumb. It reminds me of the TV version of Stephen King’s “It” where Pennywise, the clown in the sewer, was finally shown to be a giant alien praying mantis. I was entirely with the whole shebang up to that point. “What?!? A friggin’ praying mantis?!? You gotta be kidding me!” “Infinity War” is very much like that. How come the 20+ superheroes can’t get together to take down the -supposedly baddest villain in the universe? Speaking of dumb if these Infinity stones are that important to Thanos then why even bother with Ultron? Here’s a creation, oversaw by Thanos, set to destroy the Earth by using a nuclear device to blow-up a city in Earth’s stratosphere. It’s like it was an afterthought. “Well, I couldn’t blow up the Earth… What? They have TWO Infinity Stones? I could use those. Good thing that Ultron didn’t blow it up.” Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

“That ending was trash.” – Guy sitting a few seats away from me in the theatre.

Honestly there’s nothing more that I can tell you about this film. If I spoiled it for ya, sorry. I will say that not EVERYONE dies – I counted at least seven supers that survived but yeah, a lot of people die. If you want to know how, and why, check the movie out. Should you watch it? Sure, but prepare to be disappointed if you’re wanting some form of the “hero” arc. With that in mind I paid a little over $5 and I was still mad. Just sayin’

My grade: C-

 

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30
Dec
09

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes

Winding his way down on Baker Street…

Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Strong. Directed by Guy Ritchie. Based on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sherlock Holmes is back in the latest adaptation from director Guy Ritchie. The story begins with the illustrious English detective (Robert Downey, Jr.) infiltrating a building’s basement, slowly closing in on a sacred ceremony. Friend and assistant Dr. John Watson (Law) is blocks away and not far behind, bringing with him Scotland Yard’s finest presided over by Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan). Meanwhile, back at the ceremony, a woman in a white dress lies on a stone slab and convulses as incantations are muttered by guys in black robes surrounding her. Watson quickly joins Holmes and they stop the ceremony, arresting its leader Lord Blackwell (Strong).

Blackwell is tried, convicted and sentenced to hang. For his last request he calls for Holmes. Holmes is in a slump, having no clientele for weeks and spending time with experimentation over socialization. Watson is moving out and planning to wed Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly). Answering the request Holmes visits Blackwell at prison who tells him that three people will die and he cannot do a thing about it. Also, Holmes will question his sanity and he will rise from the grave. Blackwell is subsequently hanged and Watson confirms that he’s dead.

Or is he? Holmes and Watson are called down to the cemetery because Blackwell has apparently risen from the grave. Preceding that long-lost love and cat burglar Irene Adler (McAdams) re-enters Holmes’ life. She needs him to find out about a guy named Reordan (Oran Gurel). Who she is working for and why is a mystery. Holmes finds Reordan in Blackwell’s coffin and while the whole scene looks like dark magic, to Holmes it smells like something else. Holmes is then abducted by a Secret Society that keeps order in England and who are afraid of Lord Blackwell as well as the black magic he wields.

Caught between a conspiracy, a secret order, and dark magic, Holmes and Company must keep themselves alive long enough to figure it all out. When Irene is nearly cut to pieces Holmes gets away unscathed –until barrels filled with explosives almost take his life, along with Watson and Adler. He’s woken to find that Blackwell, who is now calling the shots over Scotland Yard, wants him brought to his justice. The game is afoot (had to put that somewhere in here) as Holmes uses his wits, strength, and powers of deduction to stop Blackwell and save Parliament.

I liked it. It may not be the best movie of the year (ok, it’s not) but it’s far from the worst and a decent addition to the Sherlock Holmes catalog. I found the movie to be entertaining, witty, funny at times, and decently original.

Let me start off with what worked for the movie. First, it’s difficult to have a character such as Sherlock Holmes and “re-invent” him. The guy has been in movies since 1905 and TV since its inception; Basil Rathbone is the most renown of actors to have played him. Add to that our society’s cynicism (I’m not saying it isn’t undue) about re-inventing characters for franchise (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Daredevil, etc.) and there are some heavy odds to battle. I’ll give Guy Ritchie the fact that he did a fairly solid movie without relying on too much substance.

Instead of making an “origin” story, or basing the film on a previous book, Ritchie instead opted to craft a creative story that involved dark magic, a difficult subject to tackle in the mystery/suspense genre. “X-Files” pulled it off pretty well, but a late-19th century detective dealing with black magic? Current culture might not be on the boat with that idea, but I found it original enough to keep my interest.

While “Snatch” had amped the style found in “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” Ritchie has kept a good deal of his filmmaking style down (undoubtedly hampered by Madonna). This, his first post-Madonna feature, has him back telling a solid story and taking a few risks (original story). One scene has Holmes in a boxing match. With the folk music playing in the background, it felt like the bare-knuckles boxing match in “Snatch.” Also, there are jump-cuts and fast edits that Ritchie fans will be familiar with. Lastly, the recap on how Holmes “figured it all out” was pretty cool.

One thing I have a problem with is the formula for a Sherlock Holmes movie. Although I will state that as of this writing I have not read any of the books, I know the formula: mystery that leads to a rapid resolution at the end where everything is explained (best used in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”) It works for this film because the ending justified the means of getting there, but the “non-motive” formula (where the reason why is really thin and it’s merely an explanation of how things got to where they did) is not conducive to our “CSI” society. Or maybe that’s me.

On the downside, I wanted more –umph- from the movie. I felt like it was too soft, like Ritchie wanted to make something geared more for teenagers and maybe senior citizens instead of adults or kids. I hoped for something great but the return was good/better than mediocre. Plus some of the CG of olde England didn’t feel finished or detailed enough.

As for RDJ as Holmes… interesting. Sherlock Holmes has always been a stoic, staid character. In this movie Ritchie, and Downey, portray him as more of a discombobulated scientist-meets-detective. Law as Watson has more control over emotion and deduction than Holmes. I’m not saying this is bad, just different. McAdams’ Adler is limited, as is Strong’s Blackwell.

For better or worse the movie set itself up for another Sherlock movie, almost shamelessly. We find that Adler worked for someone named Professor Moriarty (longtime arch-nemesis of Holmes) so we’re setup for a face-off between Moriarty and Holmes, should that ever happen. I honestly hate when movies do this and funny enough, most of the time when they do it’s a movie that doesn’t get a sequel (see: “Flash Gordon,” “Daredevil”). Yes, we know the bad guys are out there waiting, but please don’t make it so obvious.

Should you see this movie? I vote that it’s a solid rental/matinee. It’s enjoyable and you’ll laugh a few times. If they work up to a bigger and better “Holmes” movie, more power too them. Otherwise, this one may be forgotten.

My grade: B

15
Aug
08

Movie Review: Tropic Thunder

 

 

Get on da choppah!

 

Starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr., Steve Coogan, Nick Nolte, Matthew McConnaughey, and Tom Cruise. Directed by Ben Stiller

 

Before the movie even starts, we’re introduced to fake trailers for films the characters are advertising: Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller) is an action movie star who has to save an Earth that has been cooled-over in “Scorcher VI: The Meltdown.” Jack Fortnoy (Jack Black) plays every character in a comedy about a family who lives together and farts together in “The Farties: Fart Two.” Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a monk having unholy carnal relations with fellow monk Tobey Maguire in “Satan’s Alley.”

 

The movie then starts with narration by Nick Nolte (who plays Four Leaf Tayback) who recounts a story about a group of ten guys who went into the jungles of Viet Nam: four of the men came back. Of those four, three wrote books. Of those three books, two were published. Of the two, one got a movie deal…

 

And so begins the story of the making of the most expensive war movie ever made.

 

After an opening that’s more than a whiff of “Apocalypse Now,” things go wrong. We’re slowly introduced to the characters: Tugg Speedman is an action movie star whose career is on the skids because of too many “Scorcher” movies, and “Simple Jack,” a box office bomb where he played a mentally handicapped guy who could talk with animals. Jack Fortnoy is a comedian whose renown for farting is only matched by his drug addictions (which includes sniffing glue). Kirk Lazarus is a 5-time Oscar-winning Australian actor who undergoes experimental pigmentation surgery to play the black Sergeant; he never breaks character “until the DVD commentary is finished.” Added to the mix is Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson) a hip-hop artist who hocks his energy drink Booty Sweat as well as his protein bar, Bust-A-Nut. Last is Kevin Sandusky (Jay Baruchel), the nerdy white guy who did something none of the others did: he actually read the book AND the screenplay.

 

When director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan) is threatened by producer Les Grossman (Tom Cruise) who wants to shut down the production, he turns to the sage advice of Four Leaf Tayback, who tells him, “you gotta put them in the real shit.” Jumping into a chopper the next morning the platoon, along with director, Tayback, and pyrotechnics guy, fly into the jungle. Cockburn tells them that they’re making it “real,” and that cameras are placed in strategic areas to give a gritty feel to the movie. After Cockburn steps on a landmine and blows up, the actors are by themselves with at least 3/5 of them believing what Cockburn said.

 

As they traverse through the jungle they’re spotted by the Flaming Dragons, an Asian heroin-producing faction. The group winds up separating and Tuggman eventually gets caught and tortured, then made to perform the entirety of “Simple Jack” (“Dodgeball” never made it to their video store?) The rest of the group now must band together and bring back Tuggman.

 

There ya go. That’s the story pretty much summed up. While everything that was funny was in the movie, the movie has points that are a lot funnier. Like when Tuggman kills a panda (inside movie joke). Or when Lazarus has the “never go full retard” speech with Tuggman. Or when Fortnoy is tied-up to a tree and wants loose, and describes what he would do for the person who helps him out. Or when Lazarus (who looks more like Rayden than a rice farmer) sprays bullets from a machine gun on each arm. Or even when Grossman yells into a phone, “I want you to take a step back and f- yourself in the face.”

 

Aside from the blatant ripping on “Apocalypse Now,” and “Platoon,” and shallowness of the characters involved, the underlying theme of it all is reality versus fiction. When even the guy who wrote the book the screenplay was based on is a fake, what is real? Where do the lines between fact and fiction lie? Then again, maybe I’m looking too deeply into it all.

 

While there are some general LOL moments, and some stuff I got that other people didn’t, I felt like I had ordered fast food as opposed to a full meal. Maybe I wanted a little more from the movie, or maybe I was over-hyped. Either way, it was good but not a lot more than surface level.

 

My grade: B