Iron Man (2008)

The summer kicks off with its first superhero movie of the year, Iron Man. The first film fully produced by Marvel, Iron Man can quite possibly be one of the best superhero movies in recent history. Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark, a billionaire playboy that specializes in weapons manufacturing and is known around the world for his callous nature. While showcasing a new weapon in Afghanistan, Stark is kidnapped by a group of terrorists who are forcing him to create a weapon for them to use. But crafty Stark has some tricks up his sleeves, as he instead builds a suit of metal that allows him to destroy anything and everything. Upon his return home, Stark has a revelation about the dangers he has unleashed to the world, and from that moment on he vows to protect those who he has put in harms way. Using the schematics he made in Afghanistan, Tony builds the famous red and gold suit that transforms him into Iron Man. He makes it his job to save the world, and he must start by defeating his double crossing business partner Obediah Stone (Jeff Bridges).

There are so many great things to say about Iron Man, that I have no idea where to begin. I suppose I should start with Robert Downey Jr., who's performance is nothing short of perfect. Downey Jr completely epitomizes all that Stark is: a careless, womanizing, quick witted, minor alcoholic, yet remarkably likeable jerk. Portraying Tony Stark seemed perfectly natural for Downey Jr, and truly was an excellent performance. Throughout the film, he was able to maintain a comedic overtone that fit in remarkably well in between the scenes of action and drama. Jeff Bridges was a very convincing bad guy as Obediah Stone, Tony Stark's business associate that becomes the Iron Monger. Completely unrecognizable as a bald man with a beard, Bridges delivers in superb fashion as Iron Man's nemesis. His supporting role contributed an extra boost to the film, and serves as a very good character foil to Tony Stark. Gwenyth Paltrow is Tony Stark's assistant Pepper Potts, who is practically Tony's only family or friend. Paltrow (looking exceptionally beautiful) was a lot of fun in this film, and did a pretty good job of displaying the confusing feelings she has for her boss. Every superhero has to have their love interest, but another thing that makes this film great is that it doesn't throw the romance at you right away. From watching recent Spiderman and Superman movies, you can see romance has kind of overtaken the plot, leaving the viewer with a feeling of almost disgust. Iron Man does not bend and break to this convention, which I find to be very impressive. Rounding off the cast is Terrance Howard who plays Jim Rhodes, decorated army soldier and also pal of Stark. The only thing I have to say about him is to all you comic fans out there, expect a sidekick in Iron Man 2 (and yes, with 104 million dollars opening weekend there will be one).

When I first heard that Jon Favreu was directing Iron Man, I wasn't too happy. Elf was pretty good, and I don't think anybody saw Zathura, but I just didn't think Favreu had what it took to be a superhero movie director. Well I have never been happier to be proved wrong in my life. Iron Man was extremely well put together, and if their ever is an Avengers movie, Favreu should be the one to direct it. He manages to keep a stable level of intensity throughout the action sequences without an excessive use of CGI. Favreu also made use of a technique that I find very effective, which is lack of music during some fighting scenes. This allowed for us to here every thud and clang made by Iron Man, making me feel as though I was there with him.

Iron Man is not completely a summer action flick with no mind though. It address an issue that is running wild in our day, which is the question of weapons manufacturing. Who are these manufacturers really helping? When Tony Stark starts the movie as a heartless war monger, you believe that there is nothing wrong with trying to protect our country by any means necessary. Yet as the movie continues on and his character arc begins to unfold, you see that that way of thinking is flawed, and that we should try to find an alternative to war. This message lies underneath the movie's exterior, which means it doesn't blatantly shove itself into our minds, so if we want to ignore it, we can.
I saw Iron Man 2 days ago, and in that time I have managed to come up with 0 negative comments to make about this film. The only thing that comes close to a negative comment is that I feel the final battle was a bit too short, but given the magnificent hour and 45 minutes that preceded it, I was still fulfilled. Iron Man doesn't suffer from any of the cliches of action hero cinema. The storyline was engaging and kept my interest thoughout, and will continue to hold my interest for as long as this franchise lives. The script was not complicated, nor was the integrity of the film ruined by special effects (You hear that makers of Spiderman, special effects DON'T make a movie!). Iron Man provides sustained entertainment for all of its (approximate) 2 hour runtime, and I would be more than willing to pay another price of admission to see it again. And a word to the wise, stay for after the credits. It is SO worth it. My Rating: (10/10)

P.S.- I am aware of the fact that I have just given a superhero movie the same rating as No Country For Old Men, The Shining, and A Clockwork Orange. I am not high, this film seriously deserves it.

The Mist (2007)

Frank Darabont takes on Stephen King's work yet again by tackling The Mist. Darabont previously directed The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, two films based on Stephen King works, and two films that were absolutely brilliant. Given these past projects, Darabont has a lot of weight on his shoulders to make another masterpiece. The Mist is by no means a masterpiece, but it is an accomplishment that Darabont should be proud of.

Thomas Jane plays David Drayton, a man who lives with his wife and son in a small town in Maine. After an intense storm strikes, an unexplainable mist begins to float through the town. In the beginning, nobody paid any mind to this strange phenomena. But while David and his son Billy (Nathan Gamble) are shopping at the local supermarket, a fellow townie bursts through the doors raving about creatures in the mist. The supermarket is locked from the inside as the mist engulfs it, cutting off the townspeople from the rest of the world. As the threat of monsters becomes more and more real, the desperate inhabitants of the store begin to look for any possible solution to save themselves. A local bible nut named Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden) rises from the crowd to offer salvation through God's will. As the townsfolk begin to choose sides, tension rises in the small store, raising the question, "Who are the real monsters: those outside the store, or those on the inside?"

The Mist is Frank Darabont's first horror film, and he handles the task very well. Acting as director and writer, he does an excellent job of balancing the threat of the monsters and the irrationality of man. With this movie, Darabont shows us what would happen if our life was suddenly cut off by taking away all of our lifelines. The way the characters are shown degenerating into thoughtless drones who flock to anybody that offers hope is an effective commentary on how dependent we are on others. The monsters created by Darabont are in fact scary if not terrifying. The wide variety of creatures that he unleashed to the world kept me eager to see what would appear next. The cinematography was pretty plain, but given the restricted environment he had to work with, Darabont made do with what he had. Fancy camera work was not necessary though, as the true feat was capturing the feeling of desperation and dread on camera. The dialogue at times became stale and sometimes hackneyed, but the rest of the script was well paced and did a good job at getting it's message across.

Thomas Jane does a good job in his role as David, the level headed family man who is just trying to keep his son safe. I say a good job because he neither dazzled me with an outstanding performance nor did he bore me with a terrible one. His compassion for his son felt real and overall Jane was entertaining to watch. But the person who really deserves attention for her performance is Marcia Gay Harden. As God-obsessed Mrs. Carmody, Harden personifies a character who is not particularly likable, but indeed a persuasive and even manipulative hierarch. Chances are you will greatly dislike Mrs. Carmody, but that just goes to show how great Harden's performance is. The rest of the supporting cast provide little as far as entertainment is concerned, with the exception of Toby Jones, who played a supermarket worker named Ollie. Actually, Ollie turned out to be my favorite character of the entire movie. If you watch, you will find out why.

It has been a good year for Stephen King films. First 1408 sent shivers down our spine as one man's life unravels before our eyes, and now The Mist has come to frighten us by showing what happens when you tear the fabric of human nature. Frank Darabont has proved himself to be a great director who has a knack for digging into the core of human emotion. But I cannot say The Mist is without fault. It does indulge in some horror cliches, and Darabont's new ending will definitely be way too much for some to handle. The bitterly ironic ending left me feeling absolutely terrible, and I actually felt like crying when I saw it. Thinking back on it, it wasn't a bad ending, but it was far too depressing to be considered great. Aside from that, The Mist was a very good film, and I recommend it. My Rating: (7.5/10)

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

The Judd Apatow gang take on spoof comedy in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. John C. Reilly plays Dewey Cox, who at a young age, chopped his brother Nate in half with a machete. This tragedy brought contempt towards him from his father, forcing him to leave home with his girlfriend at age 14. Feeling guilty about killing his extremely talented brother, Dewey decides to be double great, for the both for them. Walk Hard follows Dewey's life from his humble beginning's in the music business, to becoming a drug addicted egomaniac. Making fun of everybody from Johnny Cash to The Beatles, Walk Hard reminds me of what a spoof comedy should be. Funny.

Unlike recent spoof movies such as Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, Superhero Movie, and many many others that make me want to vomit, Walk Hard does not rely on pop culture to make it's jokes funny and relevant. What it does rely on is actual comedic ability, and the writers and stars of Walk Hard have plenty of that. In the past year and a half, Judd Apatow has continually proven that he is a force to be reckoned with in the comedic industry. He is very talented in being able to tell what is funny from what is stupid. It has reached a point in time where whenever you see the tag "Apatow Productions" in a movie's credits, you are guaranteed a great movie. Walk Hard marks John C. Reilly's first attempt at being the front man in a comedy film, and he masters the task with ease. Along with an excellent supporting cast consisting of Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Kristin Wiig, and many others, Walk Hard sticks it to every biopic about a musician in recent years. Perhaps the best part of Walk Hard are the other people being spoofed, such as Elvis, The Beatles, and Bob Dylan.

The one downfall of making a spoof movie is the fact that there are going to be a lot of jokes that are hit and miss. Walk Hard is no exception to this fact, especially once you start to get near the end of the movie. The hit and miss ratio begins to shrink greatly once you get past the hour and a half mark. Length is another flaw for this film. Much like Apatow's past movies like Superbad and Knocked Up, the movie begins to sag as you feel like they should be just about wrapping things up. Walk Hard degenerates near the end of its run, as it completely drops its premise and basically jumps off the deep end and does whatever it wants. Luckily, the very end of the film puts things back on track and keeps you satisfied. I also must give kudos to those who wrote the songs featured in Walk Hard. Even with the nonsensical lyrics, I enjoyed basically every song that was sung.

It is about time somebody made a spoof movie that didn't suck, and it makes sense that that somebody would be Judd Apatow. Next time you are in the mood for a GOOD spoof film, watch Walk Hard. My Rating: (7/10)

P.S.- Beware of guy nudity

Funny Games/Funny Games U.S. (1997/2008)

In recent years, the world's horror movies have become showings of glorified torture that does not scare or disturb, but simply disgusts. Austrian director Michael Haneke apparently noticed this trend, and decided to make his own horror movie as a form of commentary on how our existence has become consumed with watching others struggle for their lives. This movie was the original Funny Games, released in Austria in 1997. But in an attempt to reach out to a more global scale, (more specifically, Americans), Haneke remade his own film shot for shot with English speaking actors and a more American setting. This film was called Funny Games U.S. Very creative. Since the American version was a shot for shot remake of the original just with different actors, I will mainly speak of the actors and characters in this version, for redundancies sake. The story centers on George, Anne, and Georgie Farber (Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, and Devon Gearhart), a typical family that has recently arrived at their beautiful summer lake house. Soon after their arrival, the family is confronted by two young men, Peter and Paul (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet), who have simply come over to borrow some eggs. After a small altercation, the family realize Peter and Paul aren't there to play around...or maybe that's exactly why they're there. The 2 young men hold the family hostage and force them to take part in a series of games that ultimately result in death. Can the family win the bet and stay alive for 12 hours, or will these psychotic young men get the best of them?

To reiterate something I mentioned before, the reason Haneke made these films was to point out how we've become obsessed with watching others suffer in the fictional world of a movie. This is blatantly obvious as Haneke actually has the characters address the audience directly on several occasions. The only problem with Haneke's mentality is the fact that other than those little asides to the movie-goers, he doesn't do much to show us the "error of our ways". What he does give us is yet another movie that falls into the category of glorified torture. His directing is much more tasteful than other horror directors, as he doesn't actually show any deaths on screen. This happens to be one of the only redeeming qualities of the films. But at other times, his directing becomes dragged out and simply boring. There were long moments without dialogue or even movement that caused me to believe my screen had frozen. I also found it very disappointing that for a movie called "Funny Games", there weren't many actual games. I think Haneke was trying to go for a psychological kind of game, but if so he failed, because he managed to just bore me.

The acting in Funny Games U.S. was better than that in Funny Games, which is the only reason I am going to give it a higher rating. Tim Roth and Naomi Watts were much more believable as the distraught husband and wife who are being subjected to these torturous games. In the original film, the actors didn't make me feel sorry for them. I remained uninterested in their fates. Even though I watched the US version second and I knew what was going to happen, I still felt more involved and had much more interest in their stories. I also really enjoyed Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet as the maniacal pair that hold the family hostage. But even with the slightly better acting, Funny Games US falls prey to the same problems as Funny Games, which lie mainly in Haneke's poor directing and writing.

Both Funny Games films are about an hour and 40 minutes long, which is the typical running time for a movie. But because of the slow pace and boring directing, both films seem to never end. Although neither are anywhere near as bad as other modern horror films, I wouldn't particularly recommend either of them. But if your interest has peaked, I suggest the American version, just for the better acting. My Ratings: Funny Games (4/10) Funny Games US (5/10)

No Country For Old Men (2007)

Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem, and Tommy Lee Jones face off in No County For Old Men. Easily one the top 5 movies of 2007, No Country For Old Men is an outright fantastic movie. The story centers on Lleweyln Moss (Josh Brolin), a poor hunter who stumbles upon a site of guns, dead bodies, and $2 million cash. Uncaring of how or why these things are here, Lleweyln simply takes the case and heads home. But little does he know that he is not the only person who wants this money. Moss has now been brought under the radar of Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), an insane, sadistic, psychopathic, emotionless serial killer whose weapons of choice are a shotgun and a pneumatic air gun, typically used to slaughter cattle. Chigurh will eradicate any human being that stands between him and his money. As the cat and mouse game plays on between Lleweyln and Anton, Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) follows their every move, as he becomes witness to all the horrible things that Chigurh is capable of.

There is no such thing as a perfect movie, but No Country For Old Men comes damn close of earning the title. Joel and Ethan Coen have time and again proved themselves to be outstanding individuals when it comes to movie making. In their first book to movie translation, the Coen Brothers took Cormac McCarthy's novel and brought it to life with stunning force. The brothers directing is superb, as it is able to keep suspense and interest alive even during long intervals that are vacant of dialogue. The cinematography is brilliant and sometimes gorgeous, even when showing brutal and barbarous acts.
There is not a single performance in No Country For Old Men that earns negative criticism. Javier Bardem's performance as the insane killer Anton Chigurh is absolutely flawless, and the Oscar he won for the role is well deserved. Throughout the film, Bardem's calm, cool, and collected demeanor makes it all the more chilling to see him commit these terrible crimes. His mere presence on screen sent chills through my body and made the hairs on my arm stand on end. No Country For Old Men is not a horror film, but Bardem has managed to create one of the scariest movie villains in history. Josh Brolin gives a very strong performance as Lleweyln Moss, the hunter who unknowingly walks into the storm that is Anton Chigurh. Working exceedingly well with the Coen brothers directing, Brolin's performance makes you feel the fear that his character is enduring as he fights to save his life. It's a shame his performance will receive little recognition in comparison to Bardem's outstanding showing. And what is there to say about Tommy Lee Jones, who is always exceptional in basically every role he undertakes. (The exceptions being the Men in Black movies and Man of the House, which he probably only did because he must have been drunk. That's the only possible explanation.)

No Country For Old Men is put simply one of the best films I have seen. It's haunting brilliance makes you realize that it is impossible to tell what is behind every corner, and what awaits you isn't always pretty. Many people will criticize the ending of No Country as being anti-climactic and disappointing. Well I criticize those people of being unimaginative and close-minded. I admit, at first I was upset by the end, but later on as I thought about it more and more, I realized it really was very fitting and quite satisfying. Sadly, many people do not watch movies to think, because they are simply trying to find instant gratification and want everything spoon fed to them.

At roughly 2 hours in length, No Country For Old Men never ceases to be exciting and will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat with suspense. The only regret I have was not seeing this film in theaters. My Rating: (10/10)

Date Movie/Epic Movie (2006/2007)

There are some movies in this world that make me sick to my stomach because they perfectly exemplify everything that is wrong with this world. Two of these movies are Date Movie and Epic Movie, both written and directed by Jason Freidberg and Adam Seltzer, or as I like to call them, Satan's workers. These men simply have NO idea what a spoof movie is meant to be. They throw pop culture icons on the screen and simply hope it sparks a laugh from the audience. But chances are it won't because they forgot one very important aspect of making a comedy: you have to write jokes! You can't just put actors that look like other actors on screen and say "HAHAHAHA THAT'S HILARIOUS!" That isn't how it works!

Both movies revolve around...well...nothing. There are no plots, as they are just an attempt to fit as many movie references into one 80 minute movie as possible.

The acting is...well technically I'm not even sure if you can call it acting. It's more or less the equivalent of a group of high school friends who got drunk and decided to film a video.

The directing know what, I can't even do it. If I were to review these sickening displays as I would any other film, it would be suggesting that I consider these to actually be movies. To call these disgraceful showings "movies" would be an insult to all actual movies everywhere. Date Movie and Epic Movie shouldn't just be shunned by the world, they should be buried 20 feet under the earth, along with the people that made them.

If you want to watch a REAL spoof movie, watch Airplane. That movie was released in 1980 and still has relevancy today. In 20 years, nobody will remember any of the references that Date or Epic Movie made, making them even MORE worthless. I have to stop typing now. I've become too angry. My Rating (-20/10)

Movies given a 10/10

  • Milk
  • In Bruges
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Dark Knight
  • Iron Man
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Shining
  • A Clockwork Orange