Tony Stark, still stressed out from the events the occurred in The Avengers, picks a fight with a mysterious terrorist known only as The Mandarin. Stuff happens and he eventually wins.
I really enjoyed the first Iron Man film, it managed to be a witty counter-point to the dour hero cliché. Iron Man 2 was weakly plotted rubbish, but Tony Stark was the best part of The Avengers. So it is at least theoretically possible that Iron Man 3 could have been a fine film. Sadly, the film makers seem to have forgotten what made Iron Man so much fun.
First the good parts. Iron Man 3 is well put together and contains lots of fairly well directed action. Fans of things zipping around and exploding will not be disappointed. The acting is appropriate with Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin being a particularly entertaining standout.
The main problem with Iron Man 3 is the plot. The villain is suitably comic-booky, but his plan doesn’t really make a lot of sense and Tony Stark only gets involved for the most tenuous of reasons. This leads to a long sequence where Stark bonds with a kid who teaches him the real meaning of Christmas. Or something. I don’t know, it was pretty lame and saved only the kid actually being a pretty good actor. There are a few laugh-out-loud moments but the film jumps tone so often that it is had to make out what the producers were going for, action comedy or just gritty action. It is a little jarring.
Of course, it all comes to a suitably grand finale which might have been a neat surprise if it wasn’t spoiled in the trailer. At least Pepper Potts gets her own subplot, even if it goes nowhere. Also, Iron Man 3 contains the single most blatantly silly product placement I have ever seen, I hope Oracle paid well because they certainly got some screen time.
Iron Man 3 is not a terrible film, just a very forgettable experience. Recommended only if you like this sort of thing.
Aliens arrived and tried to take over Earth. The humans beat them back, all-but destroying the surface in the process. Now decades later, a couple is assigned to look after the massive reactor plants producing the fuel required to power humanity’s migration. The fuel plants need protecting because some of the aliens are still around and seem pretty bitter about losing.
Oblivion is a decent attempt at an action sci-fi blockbuster. It is entertaining in all the right ways and gorgeous to look at. The design work is fantastic from the cool house in the clouds that the couple live in to the blasted landscape of the ruined Earth, to whatever process they used on Tom Cruise to make him look 20 years younger. It all looks impeccable.
You may not want to read the rest of the review, so I will just up front say that Oblivion is a decent film if you like this sort of thing, with a few lapses that prevent it from becoming really great. Oblivion really isn’t clever enough to avoid spoiling but if you really don’t want to know anything stop reading now…
A medical researcher working on a drug to help the brain repair itself finds himself raising a super smart chimp called Caesar from infancy. Although the researcher has the best of intentions events conspire to take Caesar from his home and Caesar must learn some hard truths about humans.
Nobody really needed a prequel to Planet of the Apes but if one had to be made then at least they put some effort into it. The story is well told, if a little formulaic for the first half with bland stock character humans (well-intentioned scientist, evil corporate executive, etc) but the apes are fantastically rendered. Caesar is portrayed with vigour and sensitivity that the other characters lack and the film comes alive when it follows him.
The best part of the film occurs about halfway through, where Caesar is locked up with a bunch of other apes and must learn to survive. This sequence, almost entirely without dialogue, is impressively staged. The special effects are likewise excellent throughout.
The main problem with Rise of the Planet of the Apes (apart from the mouthful of the title) is that it starts and ends too early in its story. Although the film tries to inject some pathos with the scientist’s family, ultimately all we want is to see some damned, dirty apes. Then once the apes finally get around to rising, the film ends just as things are getting interesting. The original Planet of the Apes could be read as a commentary on race and class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes has its moments but refuses to hammer home any particular point.
Maybe I am asking too much of my ape-related entertainment, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is highly recommended anyway.
Organised crime in the year 2072 has a big problem – how to best dispose of people it doesn’t like. The only logical solution is to send the victims 30 years into the past to be killed by a waiting hired gun. One such assassin makes a good living doing this until one day the target appears and looks at him with his own eyes – they have sent his older self back to be killed…
Sometimes a film turns out to be much better than it has any right to be. Looper’s complicated premise should result in a complete mess of a movie, but a matter-of-fact handling of time-travel consequences, and a plot that veers in interesting directions keeps the audience on board. The direction is great, with some very neat and simple sequences conveying some quite complex ideas.
Of course, not everything is perfect. The premise relies on a particular brand of causality that strikes me as improbable. In fact, at one point in the film one character tells another (and the audience) that it doesn’t matter and to just accept that time travel works a certain way. Good advice, but the plot is logical enough once you swallow the setup. Also, if we are being picky, Bruce Willis looks nothing like Joseph Gorden-Levitt, even allowing for a 30 year gap.
But Looper is a well-made sci-fi film, it has a really groovy 70s sci-fi novel feel to it, relying on plot and dialog instead of padding things out with mindless action.
Highly Recommended (IMDB)
Douglas Quaid, a blue collar worker in the future, is having dreams of being somebody else, somebody who leads a much more exciting life than he does. He decides one day to visit Rekall, a company that specialises in implanting memories so that he can at least enjoy the fake recollection of being a spy. But perhaps he was a spy all along…
Total Recall (2012) is the remake of the 1990 action film. This review is going to unfairly compare both films instead of judging the new one on it’s merits. That’s what you get if you remake a classic.
The plots are broadly similar. Quaid discovers he might have been an agent working who was secretly with the resistance, or possibly a double agent working for the government all along. He kills a lot of people while being shot at, and (spoiler alert) saves the day at the end. The big difference is that in the new movie Quaid never goes to Mars – instead the setting is a post-apocalyptic earth with only two cities still remaining in Britain and Australia, linked by an tunnel that goes through the planet. This is inventive but is not well used by the story. Everything could have easily happened in a single city without changing anything else. Also there are no mutants. But there is a prostitute with three breasts. But no dwarf with a machine gun. But more robots. It’s a mixed bag.
Total Recall 2012 isn’t actually a bad action film. The special effects are really well done, it is generally well directed and you can tell what is going on. But it is just an action film, with almost nothing else going for it. The set pieces are amazing but there are very few scenes in between to let the complex premise develop. At best we get a few lines of clumsy exposition. In the original Total Recall, Quaid meets all sorts of characters that reveal bits and pieces of the plot. Here the plot is literally spelled out for the audience via lame plot device #7 – the newscast. Four or five times during the film, the characters will pass a TV screen and catch up on current events. It deflates what little charm the film had.
Talking of the original Total Recall – that film contains one of my favourite scenes of all time: