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Category — Dramatics

Shane Black’s Back! – IRON MAN 3

Most franchises fizzle out, lose steam or simply get run into the ground. In some rare cases – I’m looking at you Harry Potter – they actually get better and better as they approach the end of their saga. The Marvel run (separated chronologically into “Phase 1″ and “Phase 2″) shows no sign of dissipating as it aims for the upper echelon of comic book cinematic history. Simply put, Iron Man 3 is a solid chapter in Tony Stark’s arc, that rare third installment that’s strong enough to stand alone and smart enough to mine the past. But you’re one of the critics who hated Iron Man 2 (2010). You ask me, “Hey Rockie, what makes this IM so special?” Well, look no further than the film’s director – Shane Black, who’s has been a consistent Hollywood talent for decades, the man who pioneered blending hard R action with hard R humor like some crazy sleazy alchemist. His scripts for the Lethal Weapon films (directed by ) still impress with their seamless blend of action and character, and my personal favorite – The Last Boy Scout (1991) – is a sublime marriage of Black’s WTF? loaded script with Tony Scott‘s slick direction. And who knew that his directorial debut, the underrated Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) would be a hint of things to come – as he then joined up with  for a voiceover-fueled neo-noir and now does so again, on a much grander scale. Over the course of Black’s IM3, as Tony Stark has to dig deep to conquer his problems, we get a glimpse of that sardonic, action-packed, character-centric humor that made Black a millionaire screenwriter. When we meet Stark he’s reeling from the New York attack that took place in The Avengers, manically struggling to juggle his Mach suits and personal life, and feeling vulnerable and exposed. He’s a man with a lot of gadgets who’s in constant need of human support: whether from his constantly put-upon girlfriend Pepper Potts (), complete strangers (he teams up with a small boy in whom he sees a lot of himself), or the hilariously named Iron Patriot (Don Cheadle), a militarized version of Stark himself. When a new terrorist threat (The Mandarin – an instant classic thanks to Sir Ben Kingsley and some clever writing) invades the defenses of the President Of The United States (what the William Sadler!?), Tony’s arrogant hubris bubbles over – a theme intrinsic to the Iron Man series and character. Not only does Stark have the Mandarin to deal with but also AIM – a group of scientists led by Guy Pearce – which IM3 ushers into the Marvel film world for no doubt future fun. All this – and the steady array of innovative Mach suits concocted by the brains behind IM3 – makes for a wonderful mix of action/adventure which will dazzle and amaze. There are some great supporting roles on display, including Rebecca Hall, adding some twitchy-face action, and the underrated James Badge Dale (check him out in my personal fave The Grey) as an explosively scene-chewing henchman. And have I mentioned this film is hilarious, with well-placed humor nicely balancing the action out? I have? Ok. Point is I loved Iron Man 3 because it manages to do everything right, taking elements of part one (the prototype tech and ‘geez, I hope this works’ shenanigans), elements of part 2 (‘A God Can Bleed!’), and introducing us to new elements (War Machine/Iron Patriot), all while managing to entertain and never stalling in the process. And by turning Stark into a humbled human this installment has made him into an even greater hero, one you actually care about. It’s a solid “Phase 2″ kick-off with Shane Black proving he’s the man for this (and other) job(s).  Hey Marvel: more like this please!


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Great Scenes – MARATHON MAN

In honor of the late Sir Laurence Olivier’s birthday (May 22, 1907) I thought we’d run one of the great actor’s most memorable scenes – the torture scene from John Schlesinger‘s Marathon Man (1976), adapted for the screen by the great William Goldman from his own novel. I love these epic thespian face-offs – like when Pacino and DeNiro met in Michael Mann’s Heat – because of the competitive tension lying just beneath the surface. When you consider the fact that Olivier is torturing Dustin Hoffman – one of the most celebrated of the next generation of superstar actors – it lends the proceedings a little extra flavor, whether real or imaginary. Either way, it’s a fantastic scene that shows off the acting chops of both men. Is it Safe? Yes. No. I don’t know. What the Hell are you talking about, Sir Larry?

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May 22, 2012   No Comments

Great Scenes – BOOGIE NIGHTS

In Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Boogie Nights (1997), actor Don Cheadle portrays porn star Buck Swope, who when he ain’t performing in adult cinema is selling stereos and stereo accessories to 70’s era audiophiles. We first meet Buck in mid-sale-pitch, with a customer (Michael Stein, the original Dirk Diggler) on the hook and ready to bite. But Buck tries too hard, pushing the TK421 (a sweet Star Wars reference) in a somewhat repulsive fashion that sums up his character’s earnestness. Easily one of the best all time on-screen fails, Cheadle’s performance is incredible – so damned determined to sell the product even as his naivete undermines his efforts: I mean, we in the audience know the fight is over before it begins – Swope’s the only one who doesn’t. So many little details crackle with inspiration: the slow push-in on the Boss as he watches a clueless Buck; Buck gyrating to his awful music while sipping coffee. I imagine PTA cackling away behind that camera, doing his best to get the scene. One of many films I wish I could watch again for the first time, Boogie Nights is packed with so many great moments it’s hard to single out one – but this is the one that speaks to me most, and best captures the sad, pathetic ambition of all the characters in the film.

[Rockie’s note: sorry in advance for making you hop on over to youtube, but it’s WORTH it.]

Buck Swope and The TK421

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November 21, 2011   No Comments

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