Downey’s still flying high in rock-’em, sock-’em Iron Man 3

by Mark Burger

In movies, good things rarely come in threes, so it comes as a welcome surprise that Iron Man 3 is as enjoyable as it is. The film occasionally plays fast and loose with the Marvel Comics mythos, but it respects it, and if Iron Man 3 is the conclusion of a trilogy, the trilogy goes out on a high note.

Once again, Robert Downey Jr. plays billionaire Tony Stark and his metallic alter ego Iron Man. Having basically helped save the universe in last summer’s The Avengers — which is repeatedly alluded to here — he’s still a bundle of nerves and neuroses, which Downey continues to play in affectionate, animated (no pun intended) fashion.

There is, of course, a plot here — something about world domination (what else?) — and a couple of new archvillains in the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), who’s something of a distaff Osama bin Laden, and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), a quintessential mad scientist whose perfect hair and gleaming smile are a dead giveaway that he’s up to no good. Pearce and the always welcome Kingsley bring a fresh infusion of wicked energy to the proceedings.

Director/co-screenwriter Shane Black, assuming the directorial reins from executive producer (and co-star Jon Favreau), doesn’t skimp on the spectacular visual effects and action setpieces, even if the story gets a little lost in the mix (it hardly matters), nor does he tamper with the ingredients that made the first two Iron Man films so successful.

Gwyneth Paltrow is back as love interest and perennial hostage Pepper Potts, and Don Cheadle reprises his role as Stark’s stalwart buddy Col. James Rhodes. A little more Cheadle wouldn’t have hurt, but that can be said about most of the films in which he’s appeared. Rebecca Hall, James Badge Dale and Ty Simpkins also appear to good effect, and it’s particularly amusing that the president is played by William Sadler and the vice-president by Miguel Ferrer, two actors who have specialized in devious screen turns in the past.

Series fans can expect the requisite Stan Lee cameo, the obligatory post-credit gag (it’s a good one) and some sly in-jokes. As big-budget, high-concept, high-tech summer blockbusters go, Iron Man 3 is an engaging and entertaining one. Maybe it could have been a little shorter, but more bang for the buck is hardly an unexpected or unwarranted approach. The 3-D, incidentally, adds absolutely nothing.

Errors of the Human Body , the feature debut of director Eron Sheean, is a credible and creepy medical shocker that offers a modern-day variation on the Frankenstein formula. Once again, mankind’s scientific and technological advancements supersede the emotional (and physical) ability to deal with them, the end result being catastrophic. It worked for Mary Shelley, and it still works.

Michael Eklund, recently seen as the psychotic villain in The Call, plays an American geneticist working in Germany to GREENSBORO_ATS_0510 study a rare virus that claimed the life of his young son. In his zeal (he brings home the wrong mouse), he creates a far more vile strain of the virus — within himself. He’s his own Frankenstein monster, a danger not only to himself but to those around him.

Somewhat slow pacing — all the better, perhaps, to elevate the story’s paranoid tone and theme of isolation — and a strangely muted and ambiguous denouement tend to dampen the film’s overall effect, but there’s enough here to intrigue those viewers with a taste for terror.

Gimme the Loot , which marks a lively and brisk feature debut for writer/ director Adam Leon, is something akin to an urban fairy tale, despite the abundance of four-letter words (some very creatively employed) throughout.

Newcomers Ty Hickson and Tashiana Washington play a pair of graffiti writers whose ultimate goal is to spray-paint the New York Mets’ Home Run Apple. To some — to many, actually — this might seem an act of vandalism, but to them it’s a statement, a way of achieving a moment of fame, as well as a measure of street credibility.

Leon exhibits a keen feel for New York City and its denizens (the wackier, the better) in this spunky, funky slice-of-life tale, with bright work from young players Hickson, Washington and Zoe Lescaze (as a feckless pothead). Yet toward the film’s end the momentum falters precipitously. Maybe it’s because we know they’re not going to hit that apple. Maybe it’s because we knew they never would.

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