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Review – Captain America III: Civil War (12a) [2016]

Captain America 3 - title banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Directors:

  • Anthony Russo – LuckyYou, Me & DupreeCommunityCaptain America II, The Avengers III: Infinity War: Part I
  • Joe Russo – Welcome To CollinwoodArrested DevelopmentYou, Me & Dupree, Captain America II, The Avengers III: Infinity War: Part I

Cast:

Music Composer:

Six weeks ago, Batman v Superman (BvS) finally arrived in cinemas. It was essentially about 100 minutes of a jumbled nothingness in order to get two superheroes to take opposing sides and smash each other black and blue. It was a tremendously disappointing film. So upon entering Captain America III: Civil War, with the prospect of a dozen superheroes taking sides and smashing each other up, was one right to be apprehensive? Hell no!

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) have a sensible discussion about the pros and cons of signing up the Sokovia Accords.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) have a sensible discussion about the pros and cons of signing up the Sokovia Accords.

Put simply, Captain America III begins shortly after the events in Sokovia (the final battle in The Avengers II: Age of Ultron). The world is furious with the Avengers due to the amount of death and destruction they caused. As a result, the UN have issued the Sokovia Accords and want to ratify them, to ensure that the Avengers will be unable to act without UN approval in future conflicts. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) agrees with the need for the accords and general oversight since he feels guilty for the carnage the Avengers caused; particularly as he created Ultron.

However, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) disagrees. He believes in his own judgement and claims to know when it is best for the Avengers to act, not the UN. This splits within the Avengers down the middle as some take Stark’s side while others take Rodger’s side. Complicating matters further is the return of Roger’s friend, Bucky, aka the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Stark believes he is a great danger, but Rogers does not. And so the civil war begins.

Captain America III is a lot of fun. It is 147-minutes of continuous smash ups involving our favourite Avengers characters (minus Thor and the Hulk), with some aspects of a storyline (or three) in between all the fighting. Unsurprisingly, the plot makes little sense. But to give directors Anthony and Joe Russo credit, the plot for Captain America III makes considerably more sense than BvS (despite having three times as many characters). In addition, the tone is consistent and enjoyable due to its carefree comic nature, in stark contrast to BvS’s imbalance of ultra-seriousness and unrealistic, over-the-top fight sequences.

Captain America (centre) and his side of the civil war, consisting of Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Anti-Man (Paul Rudd) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie).

Captain America (centre) and his side of the civil war, consisting of Bucky (Sebastian Stan), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Anti-Man (Paul Rudd) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie).

Another element of Captain America III that the directors get right is the lack of background for all the characters upon their introductions, including the new Peter Parker/Spiderman (Tom Holland). That is not to say that the introductions aren’t done well. On the contrary, they are apt and very amusing too, but more in a welcome back way (with the exception of Spiderman) rather than in the form of long-winded origins stories. (Take note Zack Snyder: when something has been done well already, i.e. Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s background in 2005’s Batman Begins; or has been overdone badly, i.e. how Peter Parker got his Spidy-powers in 2002’s Spiderman and 2012’s The Amazing Spiderman, there is no need to put in the same tale again that cinema-goers are tired of, and especially not in slow-motion.)

Captain America III gets a lot right. Nevertheless, it is too long and the constant bashing that the superheroes do to each other does become repetitive. One can have a snooze in the movie, wake up and still be watching the same fight scene or a different one. It really makes no difference. Nothing of lasting consequence ever happens.

Team Iron Man, consisting of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle). Spiderman (Tom Holland) is also on Team Iron Man, but he is not in the picture.

Team Iron Man, consisting of Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and War Machine (Don Cheadle). Spiderman (Tom Holland) is also on Team Iron Man, but he is not in the picture.

Also, like in Captain America II, Civil War’s storylines run out of puff long before the film’s climactic battle(s). Viewers can be forgiven for forgetting (or even for failing to understand) why Captain America and Iron Man are fighting one another by the end. Then again, one could say that about pretty much all the Marvel comic-book films really. And, strangely enough, that is the point: it doesn’t matter. That is why viewers like Marvel comic-book films and why the studios keep churning out more of them.

Over-all, Captain America III: Civil War is an entertaining, light-hearted film. It is funny and action-packed. Yes, those who have seen other Avengers-related films have probably seen it all before, but who cares? Audiences go into comic-book films, like Captain America III, wanting to enjoy themselves, to watch an ensemble of superheroes beat each other up, and to laugh. The movie delivers, which is more than what can be said for another film about an ensemble of superheroes that fought one another recently.

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Review – The Judge (15) [2014]

The Judge - title banner

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Director:

  • David Dobkin – Wedding Crashers, Fred Claus, The Change-Up

Cast:

  • Robert Duvall – The Godfather I-II, Deep Impact, Jack Reacher, Racing Legacy
  • Robert Downey Jr – Chaplin, Zodiac, Iron Man I-III, The SoloistThe Avengers Assemble I & II, Captain America III
  • Vera Farmiga – Dust, Source Code, Safe House, The Conjuring I-II
  • Billy Bob Thornton – Armageddon, Monster’s Ball, Eagle Eye, London Fields
  • Leighton Meester – Gossip Girl, Date Night, The Roommate, By The Gym
  • Vincent D’Onofrio – Guy, Men In Black, Escape Plan, Jurassic World
  • Jeremy Strong – The Happening, Lincoln, Zero Dark Thirty, Selma
  • Ken Howard – Melrose Place, Michael Clayton, Rambo, The Wedding Ringer
  • Emma Tremblay – Elysium, The Giver, Santa’s Little Ferrets
  • Sarah Lancaster – Saved By The Bell: New Class, Everwood, Dr Vegas, The Good Doctor
  • David Krumholtz – Sausage Party

Music Composer:

All parent-child relationships are fraught with layers and complexities. Regardless of whether a parent and child have a good, bad or ambivalent relationship, the relationship is always coloured by past events and the personalities of the individuals involved. Despite The Judge being ostensibly about a judge in the docks, the film interestingly tells us more about a difficult father-son relationship than about being a judge.

Hank (Robert Downey Jr) reunites with his father, Judge Joseph (Robert Duvall), who virtually shuns him.

Hank (Robert Downey Jr) reunites with his father, Judge Joseph (Robert Duvall), who virtually shuns him.

The Judge begins with Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr), a defence barrister in Chicago, learning that his mother has died and that he must return to Calinville, a small town in Indiana, for the funeral. In Calinville, Hank reunites with his brothers, Glen (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Dale (Jeremy Strong), as well as his father, Judge Joseph Palmer (Rubert Duvall), whom Hank has a problematic relationship with, and vice-versa.

However, one night, Judge Joseph comes home with the side of his car damaged with blood stains on it. Soon, the police come round and question him about a dead body. Then, they charge Judge Joseph with murder. That is when Hank steps in to defend his father.

The Judge is a stimulating film with much going for it. The dialogue is well written and the acting is brilliant across the board; especially, Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall. Both are fantastic and the two men have a great, if challenging, rapport. Downey Jr may (inevitably) dominate the film with his trademark fast-talk and arrogance. But unlike his (pathetic) attempts at giving himself a weakness in Iron Man III, in The Judge he genuinely shows audiences vulnerability in his character; not least in his fractured relationship with his on-screen father. Reflexively, Duvall gives viewers an interesting take on the difference in being a good judge and a good father due to Judge Joseph’s relationship with Hank.

Hanks meets Samantha (Vera Farmiga) for the first time in two decades, to put some spark back into their long lost romance.

Hanks meets Samantha (Vera Farmiga) for the first time in two decades, to put some spark back into their long lost romance.

Downey Jr and Duvall aside, the rest of the cast all play their roles decently. However, there are too many extraneous characters that add little to the storyline, or rather the storylines because The Judge tries to be three films in one. That The Judge cannot determine what sort of film it wishes to be is the root of its problems.

Predominately, it is a family drama. This plot is the strongest of the plots and the one with the most detail. Arguably, if the movie had just stuck to being about the Palmer family (and its dynamics) it would have made for a fascinating (and succinct) hundred minutes. But instead, The Judge has elements of a legal thriller and a romantic comedy about it, which bloat the movie’s running time to 141 minutes.

The legal thriller storyline feels like a side issue throughout the film, which is odd considering the movie’s title. Relatively little time is given to this particular plot, but all the same it is an intriguing and worthwhile storyline; it gives one an insight into how difficult it must be for a judge to work out what is (and what is not) the truth of a case (which holds great significance currently in light of the conclusion of the Oscar Pistorius sentencing); and, moreover, some of the courtroom duels between Hank and Prosecutor Dwight Dickman (Billy Bob Thornton) are highly entertaining. Credit must also be given to Director David Dobkin for giving the central protagonist a worthy adversary and not a second-rate nitwit, like in other legal thrillers, such as The Lincoln Lawyer.

Judge Joseph, in the unfamiliar position of being on the receiving end of questions while in the dock.

Judge Joseph, in the unfamiliar position of being on the receiving end of questions while in the dock.

Nevertheless, if the legal thriller elements of the film feel like a sideshow, the romantic comedy sub-plots feel pointless and often inappropriately timed. Sarah Lancaster’s, Vera Farmiga’s and Leighton Meester’s characters add an (inane) contrivance that The Judge would have been better without, while some of the (otherwise brilliant) exchanges between Hank and Judge Joseph should have occurred at more suitable times and places. Inane contrivances and revelations at unsuitable times are clichés that romantic comedies regularly adopt to make their stories more interesting than they really are, and Dobkin knows this all too well from having directed 2011’s (the forgettable) The Change-Up. The Judge would have made for a far more realistic film, with a more consistent tone, if Dobkin had focussed the film on the family drama and added more to the legal thriller elements, and not felt the need to dabble again in the mire of a romantic comedy.

All-in-all, The Judge is a very good film. It has been well directed, written and acted; the handicap is that Dobkin could not make up his mind as to what genre of film he wanted to make. Otherwise, the movie would have been among the best of 2014. Despite that, The Judge gives audiences some terrific performances and scenes, as well as an appreciation for a complex and layered father-son relationship. Above-all, The Judge illustrates that one can be a don in their profession, but that does not necessarily make one a good mother/father, and that past experiences with one’s kids can have a great impact on one’s personal and professional career.

PG’s Tips

Review – Iron Man III (12a) [2013]

Iron Man 3 - title banner

Star Rating 2.5/5

Director:

  • Shane Black – Lethal Weapon I-IV, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Doc Savage

Cast:

Music Composer:

  • Brian Tyler – Battle: Los Angeles, The Expendables I & II, Now You See Me

In The Avengers Assemble, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) showed his true colours by stating that he is a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” Indeed, one who has read the Marvel comic-books, or seen Iron Man I & II and The Avengers Assemble, or all of them, knows that Stark thinks highly of himself. But from the trailer of Iron Man III, it appeared that one would see the vulnerable side of Tony Stark for a change. Is this the case?

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) up at night, working on his numerous projects which he occupies himself with, since he cannot sleep.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) up at night, working on his numerous projects which he occupies himself with, since he cannot sleep.

Iron Man III begins with a flashback to New Year’s Eve 1999/2000 when Tony Stark, with scientists Maya (Rebecca Hall) and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), rejects an offer to invest in Extremis, an organisation that deals with experimental treatment to regenerate human limbs that have been severed.

Thirteen/fourteen years later, Stark is having nightmares about the alien invasion that occurred the previous year in The Avengers Assemble. He is suffering from insomnia and anxiety, whilst trying to love Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Yet, the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) is wreaking havoc upon America with a string of terrorist attacks, using advanced weapons. Soon, he destroys Stark’s house, many of his Iron Man suits, and effectively sends Stark into the wilderness. Stark must find a way back and stop the Mandarin from unleashing more chaos, or else America will fall.

Iron Man III revolves round Tony Stark, and his quick, funny/brash responses. On the periphery, there is a plot (of some sort), some Transformers-style action scenes, plenty of explosions and fire-power, as well as sophisticated special effects in abundance. The problem is that audiences have seen all of these already, and it is starting to get very tedious.

At 133-minutes, Iron Man III is a long film that disappointingly doesn’t add anything new to the series. Worse, after 30 minutes the plausibility of the storyline ceases to exist, and it lazily goes from one plot contrivance to the next. If that doesn’t illustrate Shane Black’s contempt for the audience, the last scene renders all but the first 30 minutes of the movie as a waste of time. Couldn’t Black have just cut out all of the excess baggage and got straight to the chase? (Or, alternatively, forged a plot that actually works?)

The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), looking and preaching much like Osama Bin Laden, in a broadcast threatening to destory America if the country does not change its ways.

The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), looking and preaching much like Osama Bin Laden, in a broadcast threatening to destory America if the country does not change its ways.

Iron Man III also suggests that the franchise is starting to suffer from the issues that are synonymous with other series, like Pirates of the Caribbean, Die Hard, and Fast and the Furious: notably, going on too long, laziness, repetitiveness, and going back in time to make (semi-)viable storylines. The very fact that Iron Man III starts by going back in time should set alarm bells ringing in one’s mind. If the franchise has not bothered until now to mention important things that the key character has done, why should viewers believe that they are significant?

With the exceptions of young Ty Simpkins, who is cute and amusing, and Ben Kingsley, who is brilliant as the terrifying (Osama Bin Laden-like) Mandarin, the rest of the cast could not be more two-dimensional if they tried. Robert Downey Jr. plays the same energetic, narcissistic character (himself) as he did in Iron Man I & II (not to mention in The Avengers Assemble, Sherlock Holmes I & II, and Due Date). Yes, Stark is smart, sharp and impertinent, and Downey Jr. does this well (as we know he can). But, in Iron Man III, Downey Jr. was meant to display his character suffering from insomnia and panic attacks. One is hard-pressed to find an instance of Stark genuinely looking like he was suffering from such problems, which is poor on Downey Jr.’s behalf. It is a shame, too, because one might have seen Downey Jr. actually challenging himself for a change.

Gwyneth Paltrow, playing as Stark’s secretary, is little more than a one-dimensional, pointless blonde doll. Despite loving a man who loves himself more than he loves her (or anyone else for that matter), it is difficult to empathise with Pepper as she is so bland.

Stark in a broken Iron Man suit and in the winter wilderness of Tennessee. How will he ever get back if he is to save the country he has sworn to protect?

Stark in a broken Iron Man suit and in the winter wilderness of Tennessee. How will he ever get back if he is to save the country he has sworn to protect?

Rebecca Hall’s performance suffers from similar problems as Maya’s character is not especially interesting, nor well defined, and her importance to the plot is dubious at best. Don Cheadle plays decently enough in his simple role as Stark’s (patient) understudy. Guy Pearce once again plays another egotistical, two-dimensional individual (he’s making a habit of this following his roles in The Count of Monte Cristo, The King’s Speech and Justice). At least, though, the cosmetic department did a fantastic job on him. In the first scene, Pearce is unrecognisable, which is a great contrast to Stark failing to even have bags under his eyes when (supposedly) suffering from major sleep deprivation. Would it have been so hard to have put eye shadow under Downey Jr.’s eyes?

Over-all, Iron Man III is much the same as the previous two Iron Man films. It follows Tony Stark being Tony Stark; Stark flies and fights in his Iron Man costume; and there are special effects galore that one’s seen before. The movie tries to show us some of Stark’s weaknesses, but fails miserably at this and the attempts at doing so are feeble. Moreover, the laziness of the entire production suggests that the franchise is drained of ideas and lost for care.

PG’s Tips

Review – The Avengers Assemble 3D (12a) [2012]

Star Rating: 4/5

The Hulk, Iron Man I & II, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were all made to ready audiences for The Avengers Assemble, the culmination of Marvel’s superhero comic-books turned movies. But could throwing together a bunch of supernaturally-gifted souls work in practice? The Avengers Assemble demonstrates the folly of those who doubted the project.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) at SHIELD, puts the Avengers Initiative into motion to save (or avenge) the world from Loki.

The film kicks off with Loki (Tom Hiddleston – Thor, Midnight In Paris, Black Wings Has My Angel) opening up a portal to Earth. After seizing control of the minds of Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner – The Town, Mission Impossible IV, Mission: Impossible V) and the scientist Erik Selvig (Stellen Skarsgard – Angels & Demons, Thor, Romeo & Juliet), Loki steals the Tesseract, the translucent and supernaturally-powerful cube that belongs to King Odin of Asgard.

Fearing the worst for Earth, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson – Star Wars I-III, Iron Man I-II, Captain America II), the director of SHIELD, reactivates the ‘Avengers Initiative’ to bring together a group supernaturally gifted individuals to save the world against foes beyond man’s conventional capacity. Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson – The Prestige, Iron Man I-II, Her), Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo – Shutter Island, The Kids Are Alright, Thanks For Sharing), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man I-III, Sherlock Holmes I-II, Due Date), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans – Fantastic Four I-II, Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America II) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth – Star Trek, Thor, Snow White and The Huntsman) all answer the call.

Despite their differences, the group must co-operate in order to defeat the onslaught upon Earth that Loki shall unleash with the power of the Tesseract behind him.

The villain, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), smirking as he tells Nick Fury that nothing can stop his plans from coming to fruition.

There is nothing remotely complex, original or realistic about the storyline for The Avenger’s Assemble. Nevertheless, it is greatly entertaining. It has plenty of action scenes and an amusing clash of egos (of Godly proportion) between Thor and Iron Man.

Without being a comedy, the film is littered with banter and jokes. This is because (thankfully), like in This Means War, none of the actors in The Avengers Assemble take their roles earnestly. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark would have looked utterly preposterous if they had tried to seriously discuss astrophysics before turning into a green beast or donning an iron costume.

The Hulk and Iron Man might be the most dominant characters in the film, but director Joss Whedon gives each member of the cast a chance to shine. He gives them all a back story as well. This does not mean that the protagonists in The Avengers Assemble are any less divorced from the society that they have promised to defend; and nor does it mean that they have the depth of the Bruce Wayne of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy or some of the mutants in X-Men: First Class, such as Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr and Raven. Yet, it ensures that Whedon’s comic-book heroes are not mere kick-busters in ludicrous outfits either.

The Avengers in action. Captain America, the all-American hero wearing the stars and stripes, leads the group as they attempt to defend the world from the metal monsters coming from outer-space.

Irrespective, though, of whether the narcissistic Tony Stark has come to like his assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow – Iron Man I-III, Contagion, Thanks For Sharing), as much as he likes himself, or if Bruce Banner explains the injustices that have led to him turning into a green monster when he gets angry, the special effects are consistently brilliant throughout The Avengers Assemble. Again, there is little new to behold (the highly destructive flying caterpillars have become standard among alien invasion movies since last year’s Transformers III), but the effects assist the action scenes remarkably well. Even the 3D works a treat!

Over-all, The Avengers Assemble is a thoroughly entertaining and humorous movie. It has an affable group of protagonists, who all seem to have great chemistry on set, plus fantastic fighting scenes and superb special effects. The film might not be original or complex, and it certainly has no deep moral message. Yet, The Avengers Assemble is everything that a light-hearted, comic-book, superhero movie should be. Bring on the sequel!

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