Iron Man

Film, 2008

I read a lot of superhero comics as a kid, and I can’t think of many of them that I was less interested in than Iron Man. He always seemed bland to me- the costume, Tony Stark’s genius and wealth, his powers, all of it. So I was pretty surprised last summer when this came out and looked like a sharp, fun watch. In the end it was pretty much what I expected, after hearing so much about it. Robert Downey Jr’s charm and delivery are far and away the best part, and Faverau does a fine job directing. I was under the impression that I was going to hate Gwyneth Paltrow, but I thought she was actually good, and Jeff Bridges’ tremendous acting chops manage to come out a couple of times. The inter-character banter is really fun- it’s fast and witty and the characters speak over and interrupt each other in a way makes it all seem a little natural. The worst thing about the movie, and it really brought the movie down a couple notches for me, was the music. Seriously, how are filmmakers still using heavy metal guitar riffs to convey badassness? Laughable. I know Marvel has a slate of other superhero films on deck, and Iron Man makes me worry about them. How, in a post Dark Knight and Watchmen world, are people going to be able to take Marvel’s fun filled properties seriously? 3

Pineapple Express

For me, this movie suffered from a bit of trailer fatigue; the trailer was so fucking good that it set the bar really high for me, and I ended up enjoying it less from having looked forward to it for so long. Even so, I really liked it. It was every bit as good as I thought it was going to be, if only a little slower. For me, the incredibly polished direction didn’t totally gel with the type of raw improv the actors are known for, but they were both great in their own right. A few of the best scenes and Danny McBride’s performance lift it above and beyond. 4/5

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

I find that del Toro’s movies are only as good as they are bad; for everything that makes them great, there’s something that makes them not great. But in the end, I think the good outweighs the bad, and what you’re left with is a movie you really enjoyed… with just a few nagging points that you can’t let go of. This is the case again with Hellboy 2. The visuals are undoubtedly some of the technically best and most beautiful ever committed to film, and the pace of the thing and it’s action scenes are relentlessly fun; you’re never bored. But I just wonder why they felt like they had to make it so STUPID? Stupid jokes and stupid characters (especially when compared to the material they’re based on). Don’t get me wrong- I LOVE stupid jokes. And there are a few here that work. But more often than not, I thought they fell flat. I was also pretty disappointed in Jeffery Tambor’s boring performance, as he was one of the best parts of the original. I think what they really got right with this one over the original is that they stopped trying to make a visual version of a Mike Mignola comic, and just tried to make it a Guillermo del Toro movie. 3.5/5

Straight to Hell

I love Alex Cox films; the manic energy of them, the beauty of the cinematography, the offbeat performances, the rich themes- but mostly just how enjoyable they are. This one, however, never totally came together for me. It was fun to watch, but a bit drag-ass. It was fun to watch Strummer, Costello, , Richardson, Rude and Jarmuch play criminals in the desert. And it was pretty nuts, but not enough inspired moments to completely sustain it’s short running time. Although I get the impression that it probably ages well. 3/5

Spider-Man 2

This movie is great, maybe my pick for best superhero adaptation ever. It’s fun, moving and has just enough (and the right kind of) savagely slapstick Raimi direction to give it a great personality. I really appreciate how it pushed big budget films to focus on characterization and story; a lesson that Iron Man learned, and Speed Racer (I hear) did not. 3.5/5

Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome

Film, 1985

Amazing post-apocalyptic costume and set design elevates what was already a thoughtful film about the way humanity navigates itself into contemplative eye-candy. 4

Spider-Man 3

Film, 2007

Not as bad as at first glance, but nothing can save the bad writing and boring direction of this film (not that anything even tries). But it’s not a COMPLETE drag, as a couple of great moments temporarily uplift the audience (Harry’s butler, Peter and Harry teaming up at the end, and Bruce Campbell’s best work in recent memory). 2.5

The Wages of Fear

Film, 1953

I’m having trouble coming up with another movie that comes close to this one on terms of sheer intensity. The definition of “edge of your seat thriller”, masterfully composed. Great, great movie. 4.5

No Country for Old Men

Film, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, we once again live in world where the Coen brothers make good movies. It seems trite to use words like “contemplative”, “sprawling” or “intense” when talking about the Coen’s movies, but suffice it to say the acting, plot, pacing, and cinematography are all breathtaking. 4