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.

Moon – Solar System week

In honor of my father-in-law, a retired professor of astronomy, this week we will spend exploring our solar system in the movies. Today we will feature the moon. The simply titled Moon is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Moon (2009) – Rated R for language.

“As he nears the end of a lonely three-year stint on the moon base Sarang, astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) begins to hear and see strange things. It is not long before Sam suspects that his employer — the conglomerate LUNAR — has other plans for him. Featuring Kevin Spacey as the voice of a robot, this sci-fi thriller also stars Matt Berry and Kaya Scodelario. The film was an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival. “

This is the first feature for writer/director Duncan Jones. His name hides the fact that he is the son of rock star David Bowie (Yes he is Zowie Bowie!).

There is precious little violence and sex in the film. Because of this, it is to the credit of Jones and fellow writer Nathan Parker that the dialogue is not toned down to specifically receive a box office friendly PG-13 rating. They allow profanity to be where there would normally be profanity.

Duncan Jones does a wonderful job of directing. He keeps the special effects to a bare minimum thus not distracting from the story. He is a great storyteller. In other hands Moon would have had *TADA* reveals. Here it is more of slowly dawning realizations than surprises.

This is basically a two-man show. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a very lonely miner on the dark side of the moon. He has to carry the whole film on his shoulders and does so quite well. Often his roles simply require him to mug and smirk (which he can do easily). Thankfully this role really requires him to show his acting chops.

Our other main character is GERTY, the base computer. GERTY is very clearly modeled after HAL from 2001 though GERTY is far more complex and better realized. GERTY is voiced by the always wonderful Kevin Spacey. They give GERTY a variable Smileyface face.

Last year we had a bonanza of Science Fiction movies. J.J. Abrams did a marvelous job of re-imagining the Star Trek universe. Peter Jackson helped fund a big-screen adaptation of the Alive in Joburg short by Neill Blomkamp. The result was the apartheid parable District 9.

We also had Avatar. While Avatar was certainly the 800-lb gorilla, offering a unique experience with incredible special effects, I actually found it to be the worst James Cameron film I have ever seen – and I watched Piranha II: The Spawning!

In point of fact Moon and Avatar are almost polar opposites. Avatar is all flash and no substance, Moon is all substance and no flash. Avatar had wooden pretty boy Sam Worthington and Moon has the surprisingly versatile Sam Rockwell. the dialogue in Moon is natural and well thought-out – the dialogue in Avatar is downright embarrassing.

Moon is slow-moving but yields a rich reward. I highly recommend this movie that unfortunately passed under the radar last year. It is that rarity these days – intelligent science fiction.

People Watch: Matt Berry has a tiny part as Overmeyers. He is more familiar to British TV audiences as Douglas on The IT Crowd.