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Iron Man 3 (2013)

Note: This will be as spoiler-free as I can possibly make it. If there’s something I just can’t avoid, I will warn you before you read on.

To say that Iron Man 3 was an anticipated film would be an incredible understatement. Marvel’s first follow-up to last year’s incredible The Avengers (my review), this film had quite the expectation to live up to. Did it? For the most part, I think so.

Iron Man 3 picks up presumably a few months after the events of The Avengers, with Tony and Pepper back home in Malibu, but something’s different…Tony can’t sleep. Haunted by the alien invasion in New York and determined to protect “the one thing [he] can’t live without,” Pepper, Tony spends all of his time designing and building new Iron Man suits and fighting off panic attacks. To put things in perspective, the suit in The Avengers was Mark VII, while his newest suit in this film is the Mark XLII (that’s 42, for those not versed in Roman numerals). When a terrorist calling himself The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) hits Tony close to home, he must overcome his personal struggles in order to protect the woman he loves and to stop the imminent threat of The Mandarin. Along the way, we are introduced to blasts from Tony’s past, including Rebecca Hall as Maya Hansen and Guy Pearce as Aldrich Killian.

Much like Christopher Nolan’s final film in his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises (my review), this is an Iron Man film with more Tony Stark than Iron Man (in fact, there are quite a few comparisons that could be made to The Dark Knight Rises, but I’ll save those for another time) – but don’t worry, there are still plenty of great moments with the suit. I personally really enjoyed seeing more of Tony Stark as Robert Downey, Jr. Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark, as we see a more humanized version of the character. He is a real person who struggles with real people problems just like you and me, bringing  an interesting contrast between Tony Stark as Tony Stark and Tony Stark as Iron Man and a lot more to the table than just RDJ flying around in a suit behind a mask. He has a scene or two with Don Cheadle as Col. Rhodes in which both men are without their suits and are forced to rely on their own abilities and instincts to solve their problems rather than rely on their armor. RDJ’s likability in the role shines brightly throughout the film, with another side of the character coming out with the introduction of a new character, a boy named Harley (Ty Simpkins). Harley’s father left him seven years previously, and his mother works at night, so he is often alone. When Tony Stark steps into his life, he’s dragged into Tony’s mission. Stark treats Harley like an adult, which, though it sometimes means he makes snarky or “rude” comments (including a quip about how leaving is what fathers do and that he should man up and suck it up), it shows that Stark respects Harley enough to speak with him honestly and as an equal. The banter between these two characters works incredibly well, with their time onscreen together being some of the best moments of the film. Guy Pearce does an admirable job in his role, though I don’t want to delve too much into his character…spoilers and all that.

Almost every film comes with its disappointments, and Iron Man 3 is no exception. The funniest film of the three, I actually thought that the writers tried to bring too much humor to the table, with some of it feeling forced or unnecessary. I don’t want an Iron Man film that is taken 100% seriously, but I do think that the film as a whole could have survived with fewer attempts at getting a laugh. For reasons that I won’t list here, I was very disappointed with Ben Kingsley’s character, The Mandarin, and, while I thought that Guy Pearce did a decent job as a sort of supplemental villain, a better Mandarin would have been preferred. Lastly, Gwyneth Paltrow, though she does a fine job as a dramatic actress, is not an action star and should not have ever been given the opportunity. That being said, the chemistry between her and Downey, Jr. is palpable and never feels canned, instead flowing rather naturally between the two actors in a great way.

I didn’t fully flesh out my complaints due to spoilers, but, as I said, I enjoyed the film for the most part; in any case, it was a huge improvement over the awful Iron Man 2, so we should all rejoice for that. Six years after the release of the first Iron Man film, Robert Downey, Jr. continues to slip as effortlessly into the role now as he did then, and it manages to be a worthy followup to The Avengers. With decent performances all around and an enjoyable score from Brian Tyler, Iron Man 3 pleases for the most part and leaves me hoping that we see plenty more of Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark in the future.

-Chad

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content


Flight (2012)

With films like Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump under his belt, as well as my favorite Christmas movie, The Polar Express, Robert Zemeckis has long been my favorite director. However, his exploits in the field of motion capture animation over the past decade, while memorable and still of great quality, left a little more to be desired. When I saw that he would be directing Flight, his first live action venture in over a decade, I knew it would be on my list of must-see films. Now that I’ve seen it twice, trust me: it should be on your must-see list as well.

Flight has very little to do with actual flight, though it does feature a rather fantastic (and sobering) crash sequence. Focused around an airline pilot who successfully crash-lands a doomed plane, saving 96 of the 102 people on board, the film focuses more on the pilot’s substance addiction and personal growth than on anything else. Denzel Washington stars in his best role (my opinion) as Whip Whitaker, who, after landing the plane, is thrown into the middle of an investigation to see whether it was his actions that caused the plane to fall out of the sky in the first place or whether it was simply an equipment malfunction within the plane itself.

The stress of the investigation worsens Whitaker’s already bad reliance on alcohol, and we watch his world fall apart as a result. He is divorced from his wife and estranged from his son, and even his new friendship with a recovering heroin addict, Nicole, becomes strained when his over-drinking becomes a threat to both himself and to those around him. In the end, Whitaker is given an opportunity to make a decision…his choice will surprise you and is highly reflective of the change inside of him.

Flight is about love, recovery, lies, and responsibility. Denzel’s all-star performance, as well as excellent performances from Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, and a particularly fun one from John Goodman, make this film more of a character study than anything else.  It is yet another high-quality film at the hands of Robert Zemeckis, who appears to step right back into the swing of live-action as if he never left it. It is thoughtful (and the ending is very Forrest Gump-esque, if I may say so) and makes you want to question your own character: do I do anything like this that alienates me from the people I love? The ending is one of my favorite endings of any film I’ve seen in quite a while; Denzel’s final monologue is one of the best I’ve ever heard.

It’s so good, everyone. Go see it!

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence