Tag Archives: Shane Black

“Iron Man 3” review – Ol’ Shellhead’s Finest Hour?

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Rest assured, would-be viewers of “Iron Man 3” , post-“Avengers” fatigue has not set in.

Rather than find ways to go bigger and invest millions of dollars on a futile, tail-chasing exercise in upping the intensity of the stunts and action, “Iron Man 3” refreshingly realises that less can be more and paces itself accordingly, finding time to fill the screen with both retina-dazzling sturm und drang and funnier, more low-key character moments for the cast.

This is, be under no illusions, quite the funniest “IM” movie so far – the quips, bits of business and situational absurdity are gloriously integrated into the film, balancing the tension and central mystery of the main plotline with moments which let just about every major cast member crack wise at least once or twice (even Tony Stark’s personal A.I. construct Jarvis gets a fantastic, scene-capping one-liner).

It wouldn’t do to spoil the plot for you too much, so let’s just say that the events of the battle of New York have taken a toll on Robert Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark and sent him into a spiral of stress, suit tinkering and general bubble-dwelling which sees him picking fights, seeing the trappings of his life stolen away from him and having to go back to his engineering roots to try to salvage something of value from the wreckage he finds himself wading through.

Going back to basics can be a risky strategy but it really pays here off for writer/director Shane Black and his cowriter, Drew Pearce.  Stark’s gadgets and armour are the main attraction for some, but Black and Pearce choose crucially to focus on Downey Jnr’s quick wits and energy, making this the first “Iron Man” entry that I can recall where the hero spends more of his time out of the suit and employing his ingenuity to solve problems and save the day.  Think the opening 30 minutes of the first movie – but this time, that’s the focus of what Stark has to do this time.

No bleeding-edge, gadget-strewn lab, adorable robot helpers or suit which can blast the bad guys into next week to make things easy – just a fast-talking, goatee-bearded Einstein with no filter between brain and mouth and an abiding desire to sort a particularly thorny terrorist issue who goes by the name The Mandarin.   I particularly enjoyed a sequence during this stretch of the film where Stark has to use the supplies available at a Big Box DIY goods store to cobble together a suitable collection of toys for a smash-and-grab mission – it’s like “Mission: Impossible” if Adam and Jamie from “Mythbusters” were running IMF…

You’ve seen Ben Kingsley as the character if you’ve watched the trailers for the movie, but you probably don’t have any clue as to just how good the British actor is in this film – Kingsley gives a magnetic, compelling turn here and demands your attention whenever the plot compels him to appear on-screen.  It’s best to approach the film on as much of a self-imposed media blackout as you can, so as to avoid some of the plot reveals and spoilers out there in the great digital aether  – certainly, the Mandarin should be seen with as little foreknowledge as possible.

If there’s one member of the cast who didn’t register as well for me, it’s Guy Pearce – his mysterious Aldrich Killian is initially fascinating but soon becomes rather humdrum when his motivations are revealed.  The script falters here a little, too, when dealing with Killian’s mysterious tech think tank, A.I.M.  We veer away from a world where the technology is futuristic but somewhat believable to a world where characters are suddenly doing stuff which is more in the realm of sword-and-sorcery fantasy than the techno-thriller territory of the rest of the film.  And as the film has established that there’s no Asgardian players on the field for this adventure, the disconnect is rather too abrupt.

It’s a minor misstep, though – the film barrels along with verve and that aforementioned embedded funny bone, even chucking in a world’s first, by buddying up Stark with a fatherless kid and making their relationship charming and enjoyable rather than Hollywood saccharine and unbearable.   It all ends with a climax which draws a neat line under the trilogy and Tony Stark himself, allowing Marvel and Downey the freedom to whatever they want with the character – it might mean no more solo Stark movies, it could mean that we just see him in “The Avengers” sequel but it’s a great way to round things off and give both audience and actor a neat grace note for the character to (temporarily) ride off into the sunset…

 

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This is an “Iron Man 3” poster…

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As you may know, Sunday 3rd February 2013 will see devout fans of rugby with padding sit down across the US to watch the Superbowl.  This, for the still uninitiated, involves a great deal of theatrical fuss and sportsball-based pageantry before the real point of the day arrives – advanced trailers for summer movies.

To which end, that most inexplicable of modern marketing trends rears its ugly crown anew – trailers for trailers.  We’re through the looking-glass, people – ads for ads.  What a strange world we find ourselves residing in, and no mistake.

You’ll be able to see new spots for “Iron Man 3”, “Star Trek Into Darkness”, “The Lone Ranger” and “Fast 6” amongst others – and I’m reasonably sure that they’ll be more interesting than lots of financially well-remunerated chaps thanking variously unfortunate deities for intervening in the success or otherwise of their Hand Egg-centric shenanigans.

Related Tomfoolery:

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“Iron Man 3” Teaser Trailer Teaser Tribulation

Lookit! He’s got a new suit!

We live in strange times – witness the trend towards advanced teasers for film trailers.

Yes, that’s right – an advanced glance at an advance glance of a film which doesn’t arrive for months is the newest way that film companies have dreamt up to keep their products in the popular conversation in this age of blipvert attention spans and social media accelerating our expectations for the newest, fastest stuff now.

Getting in the action are Marvel, who engaged in a Facebook ‘like’ campaign to release stills and a 17-second look at the forthcoming trailer for next spring’s “Iron Man 3”, the first movie from the House of Ideas following this summer’s “Avengers” and it’s blockbuster success.  The full trailer is scheduled to show up on Apple’s site on Tuesday, but if you’re spectacularly impatient (and have a Facebook account) you can find a glimpse here…

 

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“Iron Man 3” pic – suit up!

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The Avengers did pretty well at the box office this spring.  It’s as popular as Justin Bieber-flavoured dental braces would doubtless be, if some lunatic made them (idea copyrighted and trademarked, people, step away…).

Accordingly, phase two of Marvel’s ongoing “Avengers” project is in motion, with the justifiably emboldened folks at Marvel sharing with us the first proper set picture from “Iron Man 3” – which you can see above.

We’ve already had a few leaks and sneaky shots grabbed from the film’s shoot in North Carolina, which seemed to indicate the presence of Iron Patriot, which might worry those of us who don’t want to see “IM3” conclude with another mano-a-mano battle between dudes in suits.

I mean, I know that the premise of the character implies a certain amount of suit-bound butt-kicking, but it would be nice if splendid film maker and writing icon Shane Black found a smart way to resolve his story without having steel-on-steel fisticuffs saving the day.

We shall doubtless get to see the first teaser trailer for this threequel by the end of 2012, with the film rocking multiplexes and Repulsing box office records down on May 3, 2013…

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Bane, Nanosuits and unofficial Batman musicals – oh my!

A few bits and bobs of note broke over the weekend and I would be remiss if I didn’t waffle a little about them.

Warner Brothers have confirmed (via self-obsessed movie snarker Nikki Finke) that the final trailer for The Dark Knight Rises will be attached to prints of “The Avengers” when it opens in the US on May 4th.  There’s definite method to this madness – the audience that I saw Wrath of the Titans with the other week seemed surprised to learn that there was a new Batman movie due imminently, so anything that the WB can do to build awareness amongst the normals seems like a good idea to me.

There’s some sporting event or other happening in the UK this summer, you know – it appears to have monopolised people’s attention somewhat.

Meanwhile, back in the land of Marvel, Guy Pearce has apparently signed on to play a leading role in “Iron Man 3” – which is apparently taking more than a leaf out of the Warren Ellis-penned “Extremis” storyline, which is fine with me.  I’m really keen to see what writer/director Shane Black comes up with, particularly as sources close to the production indicate that this is a more real-world/techno-thriller take on Tony Stark and won’t feature another climactic set-piece which involves two or three blokes in variants of the Iron Man suit knocking the crap out of each other.

Yep, I’ll believe it when I see it, too.

No, you're not hallucinating. Well, I assume not...

Finally, and by jingo there’s no way one could top this, the unofficial “Batman” musical is a thing and it’s apparently getting great reviews from people who aren’t insufferable hipsters: I know, right?

But is it as good as the “Predator” musical?  The correct answer to that is, NO, nothing’s as good as the “Predator” musical…

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Whatever happened to action movies?

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An interesting and thought-provoking piece today over at about the unbearable heft of the latter-day action movie – as you may reasonably fear, it set me thinking…

The premise of Simon Brew’s feature is that contemporary action movies fail because they have concerns which are impossible to relate to – who, amongst us, will ever be called upon to duke it out with our giant robot buddies and face off against meaner, bigger robots in a tumultuous struggle to save our very planet?

There can be no inherent suspense or drama in a premise like that because we can’t relate to it – we can only behold it, with mouths wide and brains in idle, as one would take in a theme park ride.  As an audience, we’re hostages to which ever kitchen sinks the film maker chooses to lob at us (in 3D!).

It wasn’t always this way.

A man of thought and action in nice Tweed - that's what's missing nowadays...

Harrison Ford used to own the summer movie-going season by playing broadly plausible, fallible and identifiable action heroes who were at least as gifted with thought as talented with fists.   Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan, Dr Richard Kimble – not an indestructible, CG-assisted, weightless sketch drawing of a character amongst them.  If you wanted a moderately grumpy voice of reason who could kick your ass and fix your roof, Ford was your man.

I love a superhero movie as much as the next nerd but I have to confess that the last couple of decades have robbed the honest-to-goodness action movie of a lot of its impact – why would you pay your cash to see an actor in their thirties foil conspiracy and bust crooked cops when you can have a quippy stud in a unitard fling cars and thunderbolts at your barely believing noggin (in IMAX!)?

This isn’t a thinly veiled pitch for a return to the glory days of Shane Black penned, acerbic crime thrillers (Hell, even the Black-meister’s now writing and directing the third Iron Man for Marvel, which actually seems like a good fit), as that era had more than it’s fair share of unwatchable crap.  But it would be nice to balance out the CG juggernauts with smaller scale action fare which has a more human-sized premise to induce mayhem and reduce metropolitan property values for our entertainment.

Perhaps our collective world view is now so jaded that a nineties action movie can’t seem like anything but a quaint remainder of when film directors really had to blow things up with practical explosions as opposed to giving Chip, the ILM work experience guy a plate and letting him go nuts with his PC.  I’d like to think not – but a glance at this summer’s putative blockbusters-in-waiting is short on old school action heroes and big on funny book follies.

You’ve got your Jeremy Renner rebooted “Bourne” spin-off, soon-come Superman Henry Cavill in “Bourne”-like The Cold Light of Day and the unapologetically retro sequel to old school icon Sly Stallone‘s “The Expendables” to look forward to if you prefer to have your asses kicked by veterans rather than n00bs, but the real-world action is thin on the ground this year.

I’ll be honest with you – I love my Sci-Fi, horror and fantasy, but I miss the 80’s and 90’s lunk heads, heroes from a time when all you really needed to make it big in Hollywood was a dubious mullet, noxious reactionary politics and a million-dollar grin.

"Go on, mention 'Tooth Fairy' one more time..."

My point, and I think I do have one, is this – why the hell isn’t Dwayne Johnson doing this kind of stuff and being the biggest movie star in the world?

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Christmas Films for people who don’t like Christmas – “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”.

At this time of year it’s easy to forget that not everybody celebrates Christmas.  This could be due to your cultural or religious  identity.  It might be due to your personal circumstances.  You might, like me, be a miserable sod who hates false bonhomie, targeted marketing and the ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’ advertising which infests many Western cultures from November 1st until the end of the year.

It’s inevitable that many of us will lock horns with Christmas at some point of the season, and to mitigate the annoyance which the Festive Season so often brings with it, I thought that I’d recommend some movies for you to escape into which don’t have much in the way of holiday cheer.

"Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" - Iron Man and Iceman do Black Friday...

When it comes to movies which subvert the holidays and provide succour for the godless, Shane Black is very often my go-to guy.

Holly Jolly Mayhem for all the family

In the 1990’s, he was the proverbial Hot Hollywood Screenwriter, with credits which included “The Last Boy Scout” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight”.  If you’re saying  to yourself, “But Fluffrick, both of those movies were set at Christmas and used the Festive Season’s tropes subversively in an ironic counterpoint to Black’s clearly more cynical point of view on said cultural touchstones”, then gift yourself an iTunes download because you’re wholly correct.

Shane Black doesn’t like Christmas very much.  He doesn’t care for happy endings especially.  What he does like is down-and-out heroes achieving some form of personal redemption and foiling some awful plot against a backdrop of tinsel, reindeer and neo-noir grimness.

In “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, Black’s directorial debut, he weaves a complicated and eccentric tale of pulp crime novels, petty criminals, Hollywood royalty, Gay private eyes, Robocop knock offs and omniscient voice overs and delivers a fantastic, downbeat movie with very little in the way of Jolly Old St Nick and rather more in the way of corrupt Tinseltown players corrupting absolutely everything that they touch.

Robert Downey Jnr is glorious in it – he’s a wiry, too smart for his own good petty crook who accidentally gets to fly out to Hollywood to audition for a film role and find himself enmeshed in murder and a mystery from his past.  He’s more than ably matched by Val Kilmer, whose wit and charm in this film really makes you wish that he’d segue into character parts as his apparent real life eccentricity more would make him a shoe-in for indie fare.

Probably shouldn't look at his right hand. It's a spoiler...

The Los Angeles depicted in this film is largely predicated around the fringes of stardom and the hidden hands which expertly drive the entertainment business from without and hide its worst excesses from disapproving public view.  The sense that you get from this film is that Hollywood is clearly a place that you wouldn’t want to spend too much time in – if you don’t have a service to offer than be commoditized or exploited then you won’t last very long.

Downey’s character, Harry, is a disruptive influence in this all this.  He didn’t plan on being an actor, doesn’t quite know what he’s going to do with the opportunity and is compelled to forget all about it when Hollywood politics inject and  the larger mystery of his childhood friend Faith (Michelle Monaghan) and her labyrinthine familial issues presents itself and drives the plot forwards and sideways- ultimately, this is a ”sins of the fathers” story,  but the choices and presentation distinguishes it and saves it from being just another tale of murder in high society.

72.5% of random internet pervs are now Netflix streaming this film as you read this caption.

So, we’ve got a fantastic cast,  keen intelligence wielded lightly, a great sense of place, a winning mix of hearty chuckles, measured cynicism and bone-crunching violence, a plot which contrasts the optimism and shining lights of the holiday season with the broken lives and dimming aspirations of the Hollywood Party Set.  It’s a finely detailed and often non-linear take on the crime genre, which respects its audience to have their wits about them and follow Black as he weaves his tall tale.

It's one way to spend the holidays...

Sure, there are some issues to take into account – Downey Jnr and Michelle Monaghan as high school sweeties back in the day.  Sure… – and a sense that Kilmer’s character being gay is a neat way to chuck in the odd homophobic barb that he can casually swat away – but the overall picture is a splendid way to spend a couple of hours.

Put it on your (Not) Christmas list – you’ll be glad that you did.

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