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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Predator (1987)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, R.G. Armstrong, Shane Black, Kevin Peter Hall

Directed by John McTiernan

Expectations: High. One of my all-time favorites.


OK, I’ve dicked around with enough questionable Arnold films such as Jingle All the Way, Hercules in New York and Batman and Robin. It’s time for the big guns; it’s time for Predator, baby!

I have an interesting history with Predator. I grew up in a family that scraped by any way they could, and in a house of movie lovers, that meant recording as many movies as possible off of TV. I grew up watching Predator in its edited TV form thanks to a broadcast one night on FOX, so after seeing that version 50+ times, the legitimate theatrical version will forever seem like some sort of extended, unrated cut to me. For whatever reason, even though I’ve seen the real version a number of times now, the “new” scenes never make enough of an impact on me to override my memories and therefore they always feel fresh.

Predator kicks off in style with a cool space intro scene (half of which was missing from my original copy), followed by an equally cool scene of Schwarzenegger and his team arriving at a remote HQ by helicopter. There’s no dialogue, instead we hear the thunderous and incredible score from Alan Silvestri. This is absolutely one of my top film scores of all time, and it’s never far from my mind. Every time I hear it, I get pumped to arm wrestle my buddy standing up, to shoot indiscriminately with a mini-gun into the dense jungle, to call an alien an ugly motherfucker. The score’s main theme, which kicks off the film, manages to simultaneously evoke the military team aspect of Arnold and his men, the jungle setting, and the alien predator hunting them down for sport. While I’m tempted to say something about wishing that Silvestri was still delivering scores on this level, after something as amazing as this and Back to the Future, I think he’s given enough. Silvestri has many other strong scores from this period (I’m especially partial to the fun steel drums of the Summer Rental score), but for me Predator and Back to the Future are the pinnacles of his career, elevating their movies infinitely higher than would otherwise be possible.

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