Watch the Bard Week – Shakespeare in Love

Shakespeare in Love is currently available on instant Netflix

One-Line Review: Overrated by the Academy, Shakespeare in Love is still quite good.

Shakespeare in LoveShakespeare in Love (1998) – Rated R

Young Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) is forced to stage his latest comedy, “Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter,” before it’s even written. When a lovely noblewoman (Gwyneth Paltrow) auditions for a role, they fall into forbidden love — and his play finds a new life (and title). As their relationship progresses, Shakespeare’s comedy soon transforms into tragedy. This bittersweet romance won seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actress.”

While Shakespeare in Love may not have deserved all of the accolades it received, it is undeniably good. Shakespeare in Love won seven Oscars and was nominated for six others. Gwyneth Paltrow took home the gold as the romantic lead as did Judi Dench as Queen Elizabeth. Geoffrey Rush was delightful as Philip Henslowe and received a nomination but had to content himself with his statue for Shine.

Joseph Fiennes (Ralph’s brother) is the titular Shakespeare. Future Oscar Winner Colin Firth plays Lord Wessex. Ben Affleck plays Ned Alleyn. An uncredited Rupert Everett is Christopher Marlowe.

The greatest feat Shakespeare in Love pulls off is how neatly everything fits together and most of the credit must go to the writers. The movie was written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. They won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Stoppard had previously dabbled in Shakespeare when he wrote Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead.

While Shakespeare in Love is a lot of fun, I thought that year’s Elizabeth and Saving Private Ryan were much more serious and, more importantly, better films but second-guessing the Oscars is a national pastime.

People Watch: Once again look for a younger Jim Carter (Downton Abbey’s Mr. Carson), this time as Ralph Bashford.

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.

Iron Man 2 – Marvel Superhero week

This is Marvel Superhero week – why? Because even though I am almost 50, I still love comic books. Iron Man 2 is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Iron Man 2 (2010) – Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.

Wealthy inventor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) — aka Iron Man — resists calls by the American government to hand over his technology. Meanwhile, Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) has constructed his own miniaturized arc reactor, causing all kinds of problems for our superhero. Sam Rockwell, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson co-star in director Jon Favreaus sequel based on Marvel comic book characters.

I loved the first Iron Man movie. I loved the handling (and updating) of the origin story as well as leaving enough room for the emergence of a good villain to quickly be trounced but mostly I loved it as a wonderful vehicle for Robert Downey Jr. and his quirky acting style.

Robert Downey Jr. does get to shine here as well but more attention is paid to the other characters (as compared to Iron Man which was basically a one-man show). Gwyneth Paltrow and Jon Favreau return as Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan and are given more substantial roles. Paul Bettany again voices Jarvis.

For some reason Terence Howard was not asked back to play Lt. Col. James Rhodes. Instead he was replaced by Don Cheadle (who I have loved since he played Mouse in The Devil in a Blue Dress). The first line Don utters is “Look I am here, its me, deal with it, lets move on” which is a very humorous response to the whole replacement fiasco.

To more closely tie-in The Avengers event in May 2012, Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Nick Fury as does Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson. Scarlett Johansson plays a kick-butt Natalie Rushman AKA Natalia Romanoff AKA…

Everyone performs well and it is nice to see so many Marvel heroes onscreen (Iron Man, War Machine, Nick Fury, Black Widow) and allusions to several others (Black Panther, Captain America, Thor). The post-credit sequence remains intact.

Having said that, director Jon Favreau has tried to pack way too much into the movie much like Sam Raimi did on Spider-Man 3 (though it does not experience anywhere near that level of failure). The main plot deals with Whiplash trying to take revenge on Tony Stark but there are separate subplots involving a Senate sub-committee, SHIELD, Rhodey, blood poisoning, Justin Hammer, Natalie Rushman, and more.

I suspect that Marvel pushed Favreau to do too much with this film. The result is that while the film is quite enjoyable, it seems to come across more as a series of requisite scenes than as a whole story. While disjointed, it is still very shiny and fun.

People Watch: Look for the standard Stan Lee cameo as well as Christiane Amanpour, Larry Ellison and DJ AM Adam Goldstein playing themselves.