Our weekly roundup of film reviews returns, courtesy of James Bryan...
This week, Robert Downey Jr. gets suited and booted as Iron Man, more romantic comedy nonsense in Made Of Honour and Joy Division get the referential documentary treatment.
Like the first lamb of spring, the first comic book film of the summer marks the changing of the seasons. With Hellboy, Batman and the Incredible Hulk all just around the corner Iron Man is, appropriately, the first to take to the skies. It aims to be a superior level of blockbuster by employing proper actors and a script that for once, might actually have been written before filming began.
The story is that of billionaire playboy, weapons dealer and inventor Tony Stark who, while held captive in a Taliban cave, creates his swishy iron flying suit. Reviews are generally good, particularly at the Times where this “roaring fairground ride” gets 4-stars and James Christopher confesses, “I enjoyed this film far more than I really meant to,” also writing that the “stunts and special effects are a serious joy”. The Independent agrees (3-stars):
The film’s terrific effects kick in when Tony blasts his way to freedom in his bombproof shell suit. He has rockets in his boots, and flame-throwers in his metal wrists. The magical science is the stuff of gadget wonderland.
The Independent is definitely impressed with the end result:
Iron Man is by the standard of superhero yarns unusually, even uniquely, thoughtful, witty and three-dimensional – a popcorn movie that has some of the satisfactions of a proper three-course meal. Much of this richness comes from Downey, who gives a supremely funny, intelligent performance as Tony Stark
The other critics agree that it’s Downey that elevates the film. As The Times puts it, “Tony Stark is a Molotov cocktail of glamour and scandal, and Downey is all too convincing as the billionaire bachelor.” The Independent describes him as “giving a supremely funny, intelligent performance”. Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian is less impressed with the overall film (2-stars) but does praise Downey as:
such a distinctive, not to say barking mad performer, quite unlike anyone else around, that it is always good to see him. But I can't quite see his Iron Man capturing the imagination.
He finishes with the line, “this is a franchise that is already beginning to rust”. However despite this, Iron Man appears to be a higher calibre of comic book film.
Next up, Made of Honour.
Fans of romantic comedies deserve better than the unbearable clichéd-ridden dross they get served up on a near weekly basis at the multiplex. Surely they have endured enough but still they keep coming, like turds on a conveyor belt. After the dire Fools Gold we now have Made of Honour. It is apparently an “unspeakable wedding romcom about a roguish, yet somehow lovable womaniser…it is plasticky and nonsensical with no one behaving like a real carbon-based life-form.” (The Guardian, 1-star). The Independent (2-stars) has issue with its “failure to resolve the problem of a romantic comedy whose principal male character treats women like dirt.” The Times (2-stars) notes that:
modern Hollywood rom-com convention dictates that one or both of the potential couple must spend 75 per cent of the movie behaving appallingly, just as long as there’s a big, public declaration of love at the end.
So, in essence, don’t go. Please. For everyone’s sake. Then maybe this much-abused genre will finally start to improve.
After last years fictionalised account in Control we now have the documentary version in Joy Division. Telling the story of Ian Curtis and his band through assorted interviews The Times (4-stars) calls it “slightly mythologizing”, the Guardian (3-stars) goes with “blandly celebratory” while the Independent (3-stars) says it’s:
more than a little pretentious – you're left with the impression that their echoey post-punk melancholia was the most important thing to happen to Manchester, and quite possibly Western civilisation, since the Industrial Revolution.
What the reviewers do like is the archive performances and how the surviving bandmates’ “drily funny soundbites puncture the occasionally overly reverential tone.” (The Independent).
Nim’s Island sounds grim, really grim. Don’t take my word for it, take Peter Bradshaw’s (1-star):
This caused my scream of irritation to recur, rising sharply in pitch and intensity like Concorde busting through the sound barrier, so that eventually every pane of glass in the cinema shattered.
The film is some drivel about shy author Jodie Foster going to a tropical island to rescue a little girl whose dad is lost at sea. It’s a “truly ghastly family comedy” with Foster “in what is evidently her first and, I very much hope, last comedy role as an adult.” (The Guardian). The Independent calls it “sickly wholesome” (1-star). The Times (2-stars) gives the ending away clearly hoping it might stop people going.
P2 is a run-of-the-mill take on the classic slasher film that, as our critics note, makes you wonder why they bothered. The Independent (2-stars) calls it “low-grade, derivative psycho-stalker nonsense, with one touch of ingenuity – it's set in an underground car park”. The Guardian (1-star) describes it as “constructed and machine-tooled to shift DVD units in the horror marketplace.” However the Times contradicts all this with 4-stars and the opinion that this is a “virtuoso piece of knife-edge drama” before concluding that “the novel power of the film is how it searches for the psychological tipping point in every scene.”
Next week we’ve got… actually who cares, it’s Indy month! Only three weeks to go before the world’s greatest archaeologist returns in Indiana Jones and The Useless Title. Nineteen long years I’ve been waiting for this. It had better be worth it.
By James Bryan