Ad Hoc Review #4

In Review — By on May 7, 2008 at 12:41 am

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Iron Man {movie} – The world of comics books is dominated by two publishing houses–DC and Marvel–each with its own unique universe of superheroes. But while they rarely converge, the DC and Marvel universes often mirror one another. Take, for example, two of the most intriguing characters.

In the DC universe there is Bruce Wayne, a brilliant, emotionally damaged billionaire industrialist and playboy who uses his resources and genius to transform into the crime-fighting hero Batman. In the Marvel universe there is Tony Stark, a brilliant, emotionally damaged billionaire industrialist and playboy who uses his resources and genius to transform into the terrorism-fighting hero Iron Man. While they share many key similarities, they also have traits that make them polar opposites. For example, Wayne is a brooding introvert, while Stark is a gregarious extrovert. But in both cases it is the man under the mask (or titanium helmet) that fascinates us.

Unfortunately, movies based on comics often forget this point. Because they focus on the costume they often fail in the critical component of casting. A prime example is the Batman film series which suffered through three disastrous casting choices (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney) before director Christopher Nolan found Christian Bale. Luckily, Iron Man director Jon Favreau found the perfect lead in Robert Downey Jr. (At first Downey seems to be a strange choice for a superhero. Then when you consider that the character of Stark is a charming, womanizing, alcoholic it seems almost as if the actor was typecast.)

The casting of the other characters is also unexpectedly spot-on. As an actress, Gwyneth Paltrow is usually a bit twee, a bit precious. But in Iron Man she transforms the role of Pepper Potts from a pre-feminist Girl Friday into an admirable servant-leader sidekick. Likewise, Jeff Bridges–bald and bearded–adds layers of nuance to the two-dimensional character of Obadiah Stane.

While the characters and performances are memorable, the plot is standard fare. Indeed, the story is so basic that to describe it would give too much away. Suffice to say that like in most superhero movies the “origins” section is the most interesting (Iron Man has two origins sections, the second being the best part of the film).

Many critics and moviegoers have also tried to discern the politics of the movie. For those so inclined here is all you need to know: Tony Stark loves the American military and acts accordingly in every situation. Whether this makes the movie liberal or conservative is debatable; the fact that such speculation is tedious and boring, however, is beyond dispute.

Just as The Dark Knight claimed the title of Greatest Superhero Movie Ever (DC universe), Iron Man can claim the title of Greatest Superhero Movie Ever (Marvel universe). If there is any justice in the (Marvel) universe we will be seeing Iron Man sequels for several summers to come. Rating: A

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Darius Rucker, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” {music} — Hootie’s gone country? Yep. Darius Rucker, former lead singer of the iconic 90’s band Hootie and the Blowfish, will soon be releasing his debut country solo album on Capitol Records Nashville. His first single, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It”, debuted at #51 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs.

The inevitable question that comes to mind when hearing the single is, “Does it sound country?” After hearing the song most people will conclude, “No, not really.” But this isn’t surprising. Rucker also made a decent solo R&B album that didn’t particularly sound like R&B. And he didn’t sound much like a frat rock singer either, even while heading up the greatest frat rock band of his era. Rucker has a distinctive voice that can handle almost every style of popular music without quite fitting into any specific genre. “Don’t Think” may not be a great country song, but it’s a good Darius Rucker song. And for Hootie fans, that’s quite enough. Rating: B-

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Sara Bareilles, “Love Song” {music} – “Love Song” debuted in June 2007 on the Billboard charts at #100, rose to #4, and since dropped back down to the #8 slot. After hearing the song in commercials (Rhapsody), trailers for chick-flicks (Made to Honor), and on the radio for the past 26 weeks, it’s understandable if you’ve grown tired of the song. But there’s a reason why people can’t stop playing it: Bareilles has created a perfectly crafted pop song.

With McCartneyite skill, Bareilles mixes a bouncy piano line, an incessantly catchy melody, and subtle, superb phrasing to create an aural masterpiece. Close your eyes, listen again, and try to hear with fresh ears the technical mastery of one of the best pop songs of the decade. Rating: A+


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  • http://www.scriptoriumdaily.com John Mark

    Right on all counts, Joe.

  • http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog Michael Patton

    Joe, good call on the Iron Man posting. Great movie, great acting, and great super hero that most have never heard of. Robert Downey Jr. was made for this role and, I suspect, will forever be Iron Man.

  • http://www.dailyduck.blogspot.com Robert Duquette

    Excellent review, Joe. You’re right about the understanding the hero under the mask. The problem with doing justice to Bruce Wayne on the screen is is that it is much harder to communicate through a brooding introvert than through a gregarious extrovert. Soulful stares will only tell so much.
    What are your thoughts on the upcoming remake of the Incredible Hulk? Judging by the trailer, it looks to be truly awful. I enjoyed the last version with Eric Bana. He doesn’t get enough movie roles.

  • http://dontdrinkthekingswine.blogspot.com Daniel Briggs

    Joe,
    “Love Song” is a really catchy song, no doubt. That said, it’s not necessarily the best song to hear day-in, day-out while working out at the school’s gym; trust me on this one. :o) Maybe it works for some people, but I can’t quite muster the appropriate workout grunt when I hear “I’m not gonna write you a love song…” in the background. And when Sean Kingston’s “Take You There” plays right after–they must run the same playlist for months–it doesn’t get much better but it is a small improvement. At least he gives the object of his affection choices: “We can go to the tropics, sip piña coladas; shorty I could take you there. Or we can go to the slums…”
    :o)

  • Eric R. Ashley

    Best superhero movies in order:
    1. Spiderman 1
    2. X-men 1
    3. Iron Man
    4. Spiderman 2
    5. Superman 2 “Kneel before Zod, son of Jor-el.”
    6. Sky High
    7. Superman 1
    8. X-men 2
    9. Batman 2 (with Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman which made the film).
    10. Return of the Dark Knight
    11. Batman 1
    All of these were quite good. After this we see a descent.
    12.Spiderman 3
    13. X-men 3
    14. The other Batman flicks with Batman and Robin being probably the worse although I did like Alicia Silverstone.
    15. Catwoman with Haillie Berry was very bad, but perhaps not worse than some of the later Batcamp movies.
    16. The Incredible Hulk was baaaaaaaad, and not in a good way. It had good bits, but and a nice looking trailer, but it was less than the sum of its parts.
    17. But Superman: Quest for Peace exceeded its horror.
    NOTE: I’m not including Matrix or Hellboy in this summary, or the made for TV Incredible Hulk Meets Thor which was actually better than many at the bottom, or Greatest American Hero or Misfits of Science.

  • http://TheEverwiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Eric, I would add Batman Begins as better than all the Batman movies (live action, I haven’t seen the animated ones). I also thought Daredevil wasn’t that bad.

  • http://salesianity.blogspot.com/ Padre Steve

    Thanks for the comments on Ironman! I was not sure if I wanted to see it, but you made a believer out of me! Thanks! Padre Steve

  • Eric R. Ashley

    Boonton,
    Batman Begins is what I meant for RoDK. I was trying to avoid listing the animated shows (which can be good, but for simplicity’s sake I wanted to hold the list down a bit).
    You make a definitely arguable point. I thought ‘Batman Begins’ was well crafted, but somewhat uninspired.
    Daredevil, I simply forgot it. As well as Elektra (and Elektra was sitting on a table in the room). I’d put them at the bottom of the top list.
    My first watching of Daredevil disapointed me, but the second time I saw it, I kinda liked it.
    And then there were the two Punisher movies. The first with Dolph Lundgren was not that good, but not terrible. It belongs on teh lower list. The second one was pretty decent, and belongs on the upper list, but not near the top.

  • http://cbldf.org Sasha

    I hope you stayed for the post-credit scene when you saw Iron Man. As a comics geek, it sent me over the moon.

  • http://www.ihelpbadcreditbuyers.com foreclosures

    Howard Schultz, the former owner (who sold the team two years ago) has decided to sue the new owners. His goal; to declare the sale of the team null and void as a means of keeping the team in Seattle- and retuning his validity and helping his reputation so he will not be seen as the‘ man who lost the Sonics’. However, I personally fail to see how after two years, Schultz, has any legal claim to‘ undo’ the sale simply to make himself look good. I hope the courts wont waste to much time and tax dollars on this nonsense. The State on the other hand seems to have no problem wasting tax dollars and time on the issue at hand. The State Legislature and the Governor have decided to step in and have recently sent a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern, urging him“ to reject or delay a scheduled vote on allowing the Sonics to move to Oklahoma City”. Somehow I imagine the State has more important things to do than write letters to the NBA. In any case; the team is not a matter of the state what so ever. If the city government in Seattle cared to keep them around they would make an effort; they have not. This is between the NBA, the current owners, the team, and Seattle.

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