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…
Jan Grefstad’s Hollywood Cinema (its full title, I don’t know who Jan Grefstad is) is a charmingly untouched cinema on Avondale’s main street. Most of Auckland suburban cinemas have long since been demolished, re-purposed, or remodeled into high-class boutique cinemas, but the Hollywood has remained more or less untouched. I think the seats are modern, but the layout in exactly how I remember in the old cinemas – a “circle” balcony above a larger area for the stalls.
The Hollywood’s main claim to fame is its huge Wurlitzer theatre organ, a fantastic beast of a thing. The pipes are hidden in rooms behind the screen, and it is capable of all sorts of fantastic sounds – from bells to drum rolls. It can also remotely play the piano on the other side of the stage. The best part is that the whole console is on an elevator, raising up out of the stage with the organist when needed.
Today I went along to see the Wurlitzer being played by a professional organist accompanying Charlie Chaplin’s silent film, The Gold Rush. The organ was put to good use, providing wall to wall music in every scene of this entertaining film. It is not something I would do all the time (I am not quite in the target demographic just yet) but it was the perfect way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.
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.
Ralph is the bad guy is a (fictional) 80′s video game. He does his job well, but at the end of the day when the patrons have gone home and the arcade is empty he just wants a little respect from the other characters inhabiting the game. One day he snaps and leaves his cabinet, but his goal of finding recognition brings disaster to his game, and others in the arcade.
Wreck-It Ralph is one of those films could have easily coasted along on the premise and filled 90 minutes with bland pop-culture references and fart jokes. In a film targeted at children, what more do you need? But Wreck-It Ralph decided to aim for families instead, and the result is actually a satisfying story, albeit one that ticks off the demographic boxes a little too neatly. You can just about hear a studio executive in the background saying “wait, make that character a girl. And that music should be more 90s. We just got the Nestlé account, put in a joke about Nesquik!”
That said, if anything Wreck-It Ralph skews towards the older crowd. As someone who grew up with arcades I recognised many of the referenced games but I can’t imagine many children these days knowing who Q*bert is, or even PacMan. Even the “modern” games the Ralph jumps into are fairly old, as is the concept of an arcade itself. But the concept lends itself well to lots of fish-out-of-water hijinks, I loved the amusing little details and the plot actually has a twist I didn’t see coming.
It’s not all perfect, but it is refreshing to see an entertaining film suitable for children yet interesting enough for adults.
Recommended if you like this sort of thing.