A Late Iron Man 3 Review

Iron Man 3

First, I have to stress how grateful I am for this, the age of the comic book movie. I grew up with the TV series, The Incredible Hulk, being the pinnacle of what could be achieved with the Marvel Universe. The new integrated Marvel movies are simply wonderful.

Still I have to rag on Iron Man 3. Iron Man 3 is fun if you check your brain at the door and it suffers unfairly for being the first after Whedon’s masterpiece, The Avengers but it is a pretty awful sequel.

My wife is an accountant and a darn fine one if I may say so. I value the profession but I have rarely seen a movie that smacks more of being made by bean counters than Iron Man 3.

A child factors majorly into the picture, presumably to show that Disney touch. He is a decent enough child actor but it smacks of trying to capture the youth market. As usual there is plenty of product placement throughout the film.

Obviously, comic book movies tend to skew heavily male. To combat this, Pepper Potts’ (Gwyneth Paltrow) role has been considerably beefed up in Iron Man 3. This is a very good decision and has a nice payoff towards the end of the film but I think the decision was made demographically and not say, thematically.

For the nerds, we have a wonderful after-credits sequence with a surprise guest star. For the hardcore Iron Man nerds, we have a look at a large number of alternate Iron Man suits, including one that looks like the Hulkbuster.

Iron Man 3 has one of the stupidest plots ever. You have not one, not two, not three, but four separate characters at four separate times placed in, as Dr. Evil would say, unnecessarily slow dipping mechanisms. Yes, the good guys get captured at a near constant rate and the villains keep them alive to explain their evil plans. Don’t worry though one of the major villains kills a minor villain to presumably show that they are evil. This is unbelievably lazy screenwriting.

There are three scantily clad young ladies, I.e. eye candy, that are not apparently evil yet are strangely in a position to know all about the evil plot without doing anything (as is a fourth character but no spoilers). The entire last act makes absolutely no sense but, again, no spoilers. Let’s just say that there is almost no aspect of the chief villain’s plot that makes a lick of sense.

The only redeeming qualities are the cast and some nice action sequences. Robert Downey Jr. spends a lot of time out of the armor. As in Avengers, Paltrow spends a lot of time barefoot so she doesn’t tower over Downey yet she wears high heels in the presence of Rebecca Hall to assert her dominance. Fun but dumb is okay for summer I suppose.

Aliens Attack! Species Edition

Those aliens just can’t beat us down. Species is currently available on instant Netflix.

One-line Review: Gorgeous alien models (Giger and Henstridge) enlivens otherwise routine move.

Species (1995) – Rated R

“When government scientists (led by Ben Kingsley) receive a transmission from space containing alien DNA, they create the ultimate femme fatale: a hybrid woman named Sil (Natasha Henstridge) with supermodel looks, deadly shape-shifting abilities … and raging hormones. When Sil escapes, a team of specialists scrambles to find her before she can reproduce, culminating in a fright-filled climax in the Los Angeles sewer system.”

“Nobody ever asked me to find anything they didn’t want dead.”

Species is definitely a guilty pleasure. It is neither written nor directed well and the acting is all over the place, in spite of the cast. Roger Donaldson (Cocktail, Dante’s Peak) is an adequate director but is often too by-the-numbers to produce something memorable. Dennis Feldman has seven writing credits – three of them are Species films.

Donaldson assembled a nice cast of solid ‘B’ performers. Ben Kingsley is our resident Frankenstein, Xavier Fitch, tampering with the forces of nature. Kingsley proved he was a great actor with Gandhi but since then has appeared in anything anyone asks him to. As usual Michael Madsen plays the killer, though no one seems to get the performance out of him that Tarantino does.

Marg Helgenberger is actually good as Dr. Laura Baker. The same cannot be said of the normally reliable Forest Whitaker as the world’s most clueless empath, Dan Smithson. Alfred Molina rounds out the cast of hunters as the hapless Dr. Stephen Arden.

The real find here, of course, is Natasha Henstridge in her debut performance. She is really good here channeling a Daryl Hannah Splash-type of alien and the camera loves her. From her emergence from the womb, naked and completely covered in KY (I swear I’m not making that up), well let us just say that she had me at hello. I liked her so much that I watched several more of her movies before I realized that I really just liked her as Sil.

The other real star here is H.R. Giger’s creature design. He does a wonderful job of creating monsters that convey an uncomfortable level of sensuality. His Alien design was so classic that it helped spawn a whopping five sequels and now a prequel (of sorts) in Prometheus. His Sil design is reminiscent of the classic Alien crossed with a human which, not coincidentally, is pretty much what Sil is.

Not only is Giger a great artist but he had such a commitment to the project that when MGM canceled the ‘nightmare train’ shoot because it was too expensive, Giger put up a hundred grand to film it. I like that they kept it because it looks neat but it is not actually integral to the plot.

The film is somewhat by-the-numbers. Sil, an unstoppable alien hybrid, escapes from a scientific facility and ;earns human behavior while trying to find a mate. The government assembles a team of experts to hunt her down but can they find her in time? This formula and the other factors would have produced a classic film had portions of this movie not been so terribly stupid.

Notes to filmmakers: Cyanide gas is invisible. Arcade games should be plugged in. Empaths should be empathic. Lab grown aliens do not have pierced ears. You don’t need an empath to state the obvious. You don’t need a psychologist to state the obvious. You don’t need a biologist to state the obvious. Oh fine – let’s just say you don’t need to state the obvious. For goodness sake, learn to hide the boom (Film 101).

Species is a guilty pleasure that I enjoy in moderation but the script is deeply stupid. Every one of the hunters states the obvious repeatedly and almost none of what they say or do requires the expert knowledge they supposedly possess.

People Watch: Look for Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn, Shutter Island) as the young Sil (prior to her transformation into Natasha Henstridge). Patricia Belcher, Caroline on Bones, appears briefly as a hospital admittance clerk.

Bloodrayne – Videogames are bad for you week

This is videogames are bad for you week. Bloodrayne is currently available on instant Netflix.

Bloodrayne

AVOID: Bloodrayne (2006) – UR – This movie is unrated

The theatrical version is rated R for strong bloody violence, some sexuality, and nudity. Presumably the unrated version is a little stronger.

“A half-human, half vampire sets out to destroy her vampire king father in this Gothic horror film based on the video game. Bloodthirsty Lord Kagan (Ben Kingsley) wants his daughter to become a full-fledged vampiress, but fanged femme fatale Rayne (Kristanna Loken) denounces her father’s legacy and instead joins up with a trio of vampire hunters (Michael Madsen, Michelle Rodriguez and Matt Davis). Billy Zane and Udo Kier co-star.”

“Keep your friends close, your enemies closer”

Yes this film doesn’t even bother with its own dialogue. It simply borrows from other films. When it does have original dialogue that dialogue is awful.

“Where are you going?” – “I’m going on my own.”

Thankfully there isn’t as much shaky cam, jump cutting, shifting camera angles and out of focus photography as in yesterday’s Alone in the Dark II but all are present to an annoying degree here as well.

Kristanna Loken, last seen as the hot Terminator in Terminator 3, is actually an ideal choice as Bloodrayne. It seems a shame that they didn’t keep the Nazi setting of the game. My guess is that Uwe Boll must have had easy access to medieval costumes. Also of course since much of his financing is German, Nazis probably don’t play well there.

The stupidity on display here is amazing. Vladimir (Michael Madsen) has a wrist-mounted mini-crossbow that apparently can reload itself. Characters are not so much killed by others as they do fall on other character’s weapons. Every unimportant character (villagers for example) is dressed in completely drab clothing, most lacking any color at all.

At one point the heroes get ‘black powder from China’. Is this somehow better than the gunpowder that Europeans had had for hundreds of years by this point?

No one looks askance at Bloodrayne’s midriff and cleavage baring outfit, much less that she seems to be the only character allowed outdoors in the color red. Don’t even get me started on the tattoo she sports. Also it apparently only takes Bloodrayne two seconds to completely drain a vampire of blood.

I love how the monastery has been guarding a sacred artifact for centuries yet Bloodrayne shows up and minutes later she has not only killed the guardian and foiled the videogame like puzzle, she also has the artifact. The monastery is then completely wiped out in a hilariously bad gorefest.

The only bright spot in the film is a single scene with a must be slumming Geraldine Chaplin (The Four Musketeers, Jane Eyre). She plays a fortune teller and in spite of all the other good actors in the film, she is the only one to give a good performance.

In fact I shouldn’t let the good actors off so lightly. Michael Madsen appears to be pretending that he is in a completely different film. Michelle Rodriguez just plays the same tough girl she always does – it would be nice to see her play against type sometime. Ben Kingsley is completely and somewhat inexplicably dreadful.

By all means AVOID this movie. If by any chance you missed any of the hilariously bad gore effects, don’t worry. They replay all of them at the end of the film in a flashback.

People Watch: Meat Loaf appears as Leonid. He is billed as Meat Loaf Aday – is this to distinguish him from all the other actors out there named Meat Loaf? At any rate his scene is the most embarrassing one in the film.