Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Capsule Reviews!

Since this is a geek blog, I thought it certainly appropriate to comment on two films that I actually got to see in the theater, a rare treat for me as the parent of two young children!

Iron Man
Though one of my earliest comic-book memories was some early issue of Iron Man (I’m sure it was drawn by Gene Colan), I’ve never otherwise been a fan of the old shellhead. But for some reason, I sensed in the previews for the movie a real winner that would be entertaining and fun, and I was not disappointed. Robert Downey, Jr., was an inspired choice to play Tony Stark, and as in the Spider-Man films (and Marvel Comics in general), director Jon Favreau does a terrific job of credibly making a character like Iron Man part of our real world. Perhaps the highest praise is the fact that one of my non-comics fans buddies attended the film with me and enjoyed it immensely.

My one disappointment was the climactic fight scene. Given how strong the movie was, my friends and I agreed that the film deserved a more exciting climactic sequence. The chemistry and romantic tension between Downey’s character and Gwyneth Paltrow was also a big plus.

Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull
My wife and I had the fortune to catch this movie opening weekend at the Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California. Located just outside my alma mater, UCLA, it was a chance to see it in one of L.A.’s classic big-screen movie-house theaters, where I recall seeing many of the big event films of the 1980s and ‘90s. Indeed, it seemed like the ‘80s all over again, because we actually had to get on a line that snaked around the block after we purchased our tickets—something I haven’t done much in this era of saturated multiplexes!

Lucas, Spielberg and Ford faced a tall order: to make an aged series relevant and exciting again for a new generation of filmgoers who have been weaned on expensive action films with high quality special effects, while bringing along those who grew up with the Indiana Jones series, beginning with Raiders of the Lost Ark.

While the movie didn’t break new ground or take the series to a whole new level—and it certainly stayed true to the series' formula—within those parameters the film more than delivered. Harrison Ford does look markedly older, but they didn’t try to hide that in the film. (Regardless, one’s gotta be impressed at how physical Ford still is at 65.) Cate Blanchett was impressive as the movie's villainess, proving that fine acting can even elevate a popcorn movie like this, and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself invested in Shia LaBeiouf and his character. And the 1950s milieu worked. It’s likely the last one with Ford in the title role, a worthy addition to the other films, and a great way to go out.

I actually saw one other fun foreign-language film over the Memorial Day weekend, but I've save that for a future post....

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