Rush Hour 2 (2001)

Starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, John Lone, Zhang Ziyi, Roselyn Sanchez, Alan King, Harris Yulin, Kenneth Tsang, Don Cheadle

Directed by Brett Ratner

Expectations: Moderate.


One one hand, Rush Hour 2 is a perfect sequel to the original film. Everything that worked is kept for round two, and because it’s set in Hong Kong it’s instantly more interesting to look at than the first film (no offense, Los Angeles). It seems like the filmmakers felt that this was enough for a sequel, because in terms of story Rush Hour 2 is nothing more than an inverse of Rush Hour. They even do some of the same jokes with the opposite lead saying the lines. I can’t argue that it doesn’t work, because the overall level of entertainment is pretty high throughout the film, but it still seems kinda lazy. I mean, can you imagine if a Star Wars film just rehashed the original Star Wars and thought that would be enough to carry a sequel? 😛

LAPD cop James Carter (Chris Tucker) is on vacation in Hong Kong, visiting his friend and Hong Kong policeman Lee (Jackie Chan). Lee can’t seem to leave his work behind, and while Carter is lamenting this point to Lee (and the audience), Lee receives a call to question noted criminal and triad boss Ricky Tan (John Lone) about a deadly explosion at the American Consulate. And just like that our comedic buddy cops are back on the trail of justice.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-PosterStarring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Claudia Kim, Linda Cardellini, Thomas Kretschmann, Andy Serkis

Directed by Joss Whedon

Expectations: Superhero high.

threestar


Let’s just get it out of the way: Avengers: Age of Ultron is not as good as the first Avengers film. It simply does not deliver that same sense of fun comic book action, but the good thing to note is that Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn’t really attempt to hit those same notes. It’s fundamentally a different type of film; it’s much darker in tone, and its main purpose seems to be more about setting up future films in the series than telling its own interesting storyline. Part of my problem with Marvel’s Phase 2 films is that they were all fairly unrelated to one another, lacking in even the relatively sparse world-building that existed in the Phase 1 films. Consequently, Avengers: Age of Ultron bears the weight of tying everything together, and this makes it feel like more of a big puzzle piece than a coherent picture all its own.

This isn’t inherently a bad thing — in fact, these threads that lead directly towards Infinity Gauntlet (and less so towards Civil War) were among my favorite scenes in the film. I’ve been a supporter of Marvel’s unprecedented way of bringing comic book storytelling to the big screen, but the main fault in that method is that everything takes so long. The first hints of the Infinity Gems were probably six or seven years ago at this point, and that’s a crushingly long time to wait for something to develop. These are the times I wish I had no knowledge of these things, as then these moments would just be mere hints at something to come instead of ruthless teases. And to think we’re still three years away from actually seeing Thanos bring all the gems together and kick some major ass with them. Sigh.

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Iron Man 3 (2013)

ironman3_3Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Stephanie Szostak, Paul Bettany, William Sadler, Dale Dickey, Ty Simpkins, Miguel Ferrer

Directed by Shane Black

Expectations: Moderate. I do like these Marvel movies, but I’ve heard mixed things.

threehalfstar


It’s always good to see a movie for yourself to form your own opinion. If I had believed the majority of what I’d heard about Iron Man 3, I might have passed on it. Of course, I’m much too invested in Marvel’s cinematic universe experiment to quit now, but to illustrate a point let’s just say that I might have skipped it. In doing so, I would’ve skipped my favorite of the Iron Man films. Iron Man 3 is entertaining from start to finish, filled with humor and excitement and growth for the on-screen Tony Stark character that excites and satisfies completely. This is exactly what the Iron Man films needed after the fun, but ultimately forgettable Iron Man 2.

In the aftermath of the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark is shaken and unable to focus on anything but his work. He’s dealing with anxiety issues that he’s never had to contend with before and it frightens him. Meanwhile, a mysterious terrorist calling himself The Mandarin has arisen, giving Tony Stark a threat unlike anything he’s yet faced. For a summer blockbuster, it’s also strangely set at Christmas, but it isn’t just “colored lights in the window,” as this backdrop provides a depth that enhances the story’s resonance.

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Flight (2012)

flight-posterStarring Denzel Washington, Kelly Reilly, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Tamara Tunie, Nadine Velazquez, Brian Geraghty, Peter Gerety, Garcelle Beauvais, Justin Martin

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


The elements for a fantastic movie are in place, but Flight is much too long-winded and unfocused to get its point across succinctly. I really did like the film, don’t get me wrong, but there’s only so many scenes of Denzel Washington throwing caution to the wind and getting drunk that I can take. I suppose that’s all part of his journey, but it felt long to me. In any case, at its heart Flight is a movie about alcoholism. Anyone who’s dealt with an alcoholic (or with addiction itself) can tell you that it’s a frustrating experience, and Flight recreates that frustration wonderfully. I’m unsure if that’s a compliment, but I’m pretty sure it is… I think.

Flight tells the story of Whip Whitaker, a pilot with a serious substance abuse problem, particularly vodka and cocaine (but he’ll take what he can get). If only someone had told him about all the great low cost and free rehabs for addicts out there. Anyway, the film opens on the aftermath of a night of sex and heavy drinking, and in just a few hours Whip must pilot a commercial airliner from Florida to Atlanta. It’s a short flight… what could go wrong? Everything, apparently. Once in the air, the turbulence is immense, but despite his drunkenness he’s still a good pilot who’s confident and able to do his job. This flight sequence is unforgettable and incredibly well-done, easily the most thrilling and memorable scene in the film. Shame it comes at the beginning, especially in such a long, understated character study.

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Mini-Review: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jon Favreau

Directed by Jon Favreau

Expectations: Low.


I’ve tried to write something about Iron Man 2 for the past week or so and every time I get a couple of paragraphs in I lose interest. This is an adequate analogy for the film as it’s fun while you’re watching it, but there’s absolutely no substance backing it up. It’s a blockbuster, so I don’t necessarily need substance but Iron Man 2 fails to make it up with the killer action sequences and mind-numbing explosions that you expect. It has its share to be sure, but none of them are all that great. Probably my favorite moment of the film was watching Robert Downey Jr. work with his holographic hand-controlled computer interface, which was a fun advancement on the tech seen in Minority Report.

Overall, I liked the cotton candy of Iron Man 2 though. Mickey Rourke, despite a poor accent, is a great addition to the cast. It’s unfortunate that his part in the film is rather minor, as he has to share the villain limelight with Stark’s failing heart. As much as I love Don Cheadle, he is a step down from Terence Howard for this role. Cheadle seems much too soft, but does come into his own by the end of the film, when both Downey and him are suited up and ready to go. Scarlet Johansson is another wasted person, completely superfluous to the film and the story. It’s nice to lay the seeds of The Avengers movie within this film, but for me the S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff was pretty forced. Fuck it though, Sam Jackson as Nick Fury was fairly fulfilling and promises good things to come.

If you liked Iron Man, give this one a go with your brain set to mild indifference. If you go in riding high, you will only be disappointed with this sequel. It fulfills the childhood dreams of watching dudes in robot suits shoot lasers and shit, but not much else. The character relationships are incredibly shallow here and seem to marginally move past what was laid out in the first film. It’s fun and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it definitely leaves you wanting.

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