Sunday, May 11, 2008

"Ironman": A Movie Review

Everyone enters the theater with some sort of prejudice towards the film they are about to see: they are absolutely smitten with the leading lady or leading man; they were amused or enthralled by the trailer; they hate one of the supporting actors. My admitted prejudice towards “Ironman” was that it was yet another superhero in a long line of “X-Mens,” “Spider-Mans,” and shiny new “Batman” franchise. I wasn’t sure what a man in a suit of armor could do that would wow even the overeager fanboys. But I was also thrilled for the formerly troubled Robert Downey, Jr. finally landed a lucrative franchise.

Usually one’s prejudices are either upheld by their biased towards the leading lady or man or whatnot, or they are dashed in a rather spectacularly fabulous ways or steadfastly upheld. After watching twenty minutes of previews (and yes, getting teary-eyed at the Heath Ledger-focused “Dark Knight” trailer) and all of “Ironman,” I will enthusiastically admit that my prejudices and expectations of “Ironman” were spectacularly and fabulously dashed.

“Ironman” is two hours of adrenaline-packed, surprisingly endearing thrills in a slick package. Downey plays Tony Stark, the second-generation genius-turned-weapons manufacturer, who lives in his own detached world where he has rationalized that safety lies with the country that has the biggest missile silos. He, like most gazillionaires, lives in a world where he gets whatever he wants and his petulance is tolerated because of the size of his bank account. However, when he is violently kidnapped and held captive in Afghanistan and forced to build a replica of Stark Industries newest missile system, Stark realizes what his genius has unleashed on the world. Of course, trapping a genius in a cave with an arsenal usually won’t end well for his captors. Stark builds a suit that turns him into a one-man warmonger and he literally flies to freedom. Irrevocably changed by seeing his own weapons kill the very people he built them to protect, Stark reinvents his suit and uses it to destroy his own weapons that were sold his enemies.

Downey, who has always seemed unique and unfairly talented, breaths so much life into Tony Stark, that it is so easy to fall in love with his narcissistic, womanizing, larger-than-life personality. He lives a lonely life, but we see how he talks to his robots and computers—things he literally gave life too—that they are his family.

Gwyneth Paltrow adds a delightful spark to the usual flat and antiquated role of the secretary/love interest. Although, I dramatically rolled my eyes when Pepper Potts was running around during the finale in five inch Christian Louboutins, she managed to update a generally flat and lifeless character. But seriously, can’t an empowered personal assistants run for her life in some Nike Shoxs?

With the movie making an astounding $101 million in its opening weekend and plans for a 2010 sequel already in the works, it’s obvious that “Ironman”—the first movie from Marvel Studios benefited from the knowledge procured by previous superhero franchises. Directors can clearly see what works and what doesn’t. Consequently, “Ironman” was tightly packed in consistent action, a simple, albeit predictable plot peppered with the eccentricity of Downey, playing on family-friendly versions of his own past demons. Also, “Ironman” was created because of Stark’s overwhelming “with great power comes great responsibility” philosophy made famous by “Spider-Man;” it has the uber-cool gadgetry of “Batman;” and possesses the jaw-dropping visual effects of “Transformers.”

Downey seems so happy about “Ironman’s” success that he’s practically levitating. And he should be. His eccentricity and sordid past probably helped him create the most loveable, fun, angst-ridden silverscreen superhero to date, and managed to check my prejudices at the door.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

"Made of Honor": A Movie Review

I went to see “Made of Honor” not because I find Patrick Dempsey oh so dreamy, but because it looked like a cute rom-com that would inspire and nurture my inner hopeless romantic. I’m a sucker for sappy, New York-based movies that promises pretty dresses, squishy confessions of love and flowers in bloom. Unfortunately, “Made of Honor” is a mindless fluff of a romantic comedy that would have come dangerously close to plagiarizing the plot from my Julia Robert’s “My Best Friend’s Wedding” if they had lifted any of the endearing moments, acts of sheer desperation or chemistry between co-stars that made the 1997 vehicle such a success.

Patrick Dempsey plays Tom, the inventor of the coffee collar, who is now ridiculously rich and has nothing to do but drive his cool cars around Times Sqaure, bed gorgeous women, and create ridiculous rules for his one-night stands for no explained reason. Although I’m sure it stems from his father’s never-ending string of marriages and divorces. Michelle Monaghan played Hannah, Tom’s supposed best friend. As we’ve seen in the trailers for the movie, Tom thinks he has the “perfect set-up” because he can sleep with beautiful women at night and spend his free time with Hannah during the day as they have done since they first met in college.

When Hannah, a restoration artist, leaves for six weeks to go to Scotland, it is only in her absence, that Tom realizes how much Hannah means to him and how much he actually loves her, which is something he could only say to bitches of the canine variety. Hannah comes back engaged to a Scottish Duke, and she asks Tom to be her Maid of Honor for a destination wedding in just a fortnight.

The entire idea of a man being a bridesmaid could have triggered thousands of stereotypical gay jokes because of most men’s intrinsic homophobia, but thankfully the movie handled that aspect with an open-minded sophistication that made for a lot of smart laughs. Dempsey, who has built a career on being the sensitive, sexy metrosexual, can hold his own in a scene with five other women, but also exudes some well-groomed masculinity that people won’t see in “Grey’s Anatomy.”

All is fair in love and war, but Dempsey’s Tom never got the memo as he never played dirty to stop the wedding. He agreed to become the MOH in order to “destroy the wedding from the inside out”, but he never really did anything that crazy to sabotage a marriage that was obviously based on purely on physical attraction and nothing more. In “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” Julia’s desperation over losing her best friend and the love of her life made her do absolutely terrible things, like almost ruining her best friend’s career, in order to keep Michael (Dermot Mulroney) from marrying Kimmie (Cameron Diaz).

I felt the chemistry was a bit lacking between the two stars, and that probably stemmed from the fact that they look more like siblings than lovers, and not because they are bad actors. The screenwriters also make Hannah’s betroved seem perfect in the beginning, but then tear him down by time they reach the vivid green of Scotland, which weakens the entire idea while saving Dempsey from looking like a backstabbing, selfish schmuck for ruining his best friend’s wedding.
Ultimately, “Made of Honor” was really made as yet another vehicle for Patrick Dempsey, who’s careening towards overexposure, and lacked the drama and yearning of its girl-centered predecessor. “Made of Honor” is, however, a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon.