Saturday, May 03, 2008

Iron Man

Iron Man is composed almost entirely of win. There were a few scenes here or there that I just wasn't into. I think the handling of Gwyneth Paltrow's assistant/love interest character Pepper Potts could have been handled in a less obvious, clunky fashion. But that's being curmudgeonly...

The point is, this is a well above-average comic book film, and a big step up for Marvel Studios, better than any of the Spider-Man, Fantastic Four or X-Men films by a country mile.

In fact, I think Bryan Singer and Sam Raimi should be forced to watch Iron Man and then answer a series of "discussion questions" afterwards.

(1) Did you happen to notice that Iron Man was not so deathly serious as to erase out any possibility of fun or excitement? Explain.

(2) Why don't you hire more good, charismatic lead actors? Discuss.

I feel like most comic book films come from a somewhat defensive position, like they have to forcibly prove to us that they aren't just ridiculous adolescent entertainments, but real movies with genuine, important, dramatic stories to tell. I mean, Singer's Superman Returns is just a prime example of this, a film that should be a goofy good time that disappears completely up its own butthole.

Rather than just dive in and have fun with the immense creative and visual possibilities of a movie about an alien who gains superpowers from the Earth's Yellow Sun, Singer wastes 2.5 hours soap opera theatrics or metaphysical blather, turning Superman into some kind of elaborate Jesus allegory. He forgets that his primary mission is escapist entertainment, and only after he's ensured that his movie is watchable can he worry about artistic flourishes and thought-provoking nuance. It's like he feels bad for making a Superman movie, so he just tries to ignore that that's what he's doing..

Jon Favreau takes the opposite approach, and just tries to squeeze every last ounce of zany spectacle out of his premise as possible. He has no illusions about turning in a Best Picture nominee or a mood piece. It's fucking Iron Man, and he lets it be what it is, and it really works.

What we have here is a new twist on Iron Man's origin story. We meet billionaire engineering genius and CEO Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) as he's barreling through the Afghan desert with a consortium of U.S. soldiers in Humvees, returning home from a demonstration of his latest invention, the Jericho missile. Soon after, his caravan's attacked, a bomb deposits some shrapnel in his heart and he's taken captive by terrorists.

In the course of escaping captivity, Stark will invent an armored suit that prevents his heart from exploding, and is capable of wiping out a sortee of terrorists. Oh, and self-propelled flight. After Stark gets home, and begins to deal with the ramifications of his life's work, he decides to use his latest invention to destroy all the damage his weapons have caused humanity. This, of course, causes some conflict with his partners back at the weapons factory and his friends in the U.S. military.

You pretty much get the broad strokes from there. It's hardly a perfect movie. I think there's way too much time spent on close-ups of Stark's gadgets and inventions. A few shots of mechanical equipment busily moving around CGI gears and plates go a long way, and there's probably 10 minutes out of the entire movie just admiring shiny metal.

And, as I said, a subplot about Stark's budding romance with his dutiful but concerned personal assistant, Pepper Potts, never really comes together, and feels kind of stilted. I'm not sure it's Gwyneth Paltrow's fault necessarily that the relationship between Potts and Stark isn't more compelling, but she doesn't exactly light up the screen with her presence either.

But casting Robert Downey Jr., one of the most charismatic actors working today, was truly a masterstroke, and more than compensates for a lot of the movie's relatively minor flaws.

This will probably not go down as Downey's overall finest performance, but I'm willing to bet it will remain among his most beloved and memorable. He's perfect as Tony Stark, the exact right combination of eccentric genius, callous arrogance and self-effacing charm. And the movie's not so overloaded with plot or theatrics that he doesn't have time to just be funny cracking wise. The audience is totally 100% on his side from literally Minute One.

Jeff Bridges is also terrific as Obadiah Stane, Stark's business partner who wants Stark Enterprises to remain in the weapons business. Stane's a successful mogul, and couldn't really be less like Bridges' immortal character The Dude, but it's still kind of a Dude-like performance, laid back and sly and a bit more clever than he lets on. Even after the film gets really effects-heavy and overblown, Bridges continues to actually act rather than just chew the scenery.

Iron Man has some satisfyingly epic action moments, like every good comic book film requires, but I think what really brings everything together this time out are little details. Favreau's a funny guy and knows how to compose a funny sequence, and I actually think he gets more big laughs in here than a lot of mainstream Hollywood comedies. Plus, there's just a lot of great little touches - Stark listening to Suicidal Tendencies while working in his lab, the mechanical arm with a human personality, the unexpected interior of Stark's private jet.

Oh, and you absolutely must remain in your seat until after the credits. Iron Man has, hands down, the best secret post-credit sequence in movie history.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Teasers

The special secret about the Mahalo VLOG Idol competition that's heating up several of the Internets is this...the teasers!

We're not just putting these together in an attempt to get you to watch our show! No! I mean, we are doing that.

But the teasers are really giving you Behind-the-Scenes insight into how the show was made. Think of them, if you will, like the Special Features on the DVD that is Mahalo VLOG Idol.

I really didn't intend for all of this footage to see the light of day...I realize I come off as something of a monster. But that, my friends, is the cost of perfection. Sometimes you have to break a few eggs. And by eggs, I mean Idol host Ryan Budke.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mahalo VLOG Idol Starts...NOW!

Here it is, Day One of our search to find my Mahalo Daily co-host. This whole project has been an amazing amount of fun to put together and I'm really excited that we finally get to share it with you, the Mahalo Daily viewer at large:

The competition really starts to heat up tomorrow with the Cewebrity Panel auditions. Stay tuned...