Iron Man 3

120px-Film-stripFirst cinema film in almost two-and-a-half months around work, baby and other commitments. It better be worth it…

Iron Man 3

“Where’s my sandwich?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Nasty bad man starts blowing places up and Iron Man / Tony Stark decides to stop him

See it if you like: well, Iron Man and Iron Man 2. Dur.

So how does this do as a rounding-off to what’s apparently going to be a trilogy? Very well, in my opinion. Not perfect, but good.

As has to be the case, it’s much “bigger” in terms of wow factor than the previous two. How you manage to top that kind of thing on an ongoing basis is probably what limits most films to trilogies. Iron Man 3 manages it without getting (too) stupid and also without just being a repeat of the first two.

There is a little less of the wise-cracking in this one, and this is in part due to the overall darker tone. IM3 has a much more complex plot and a much nastier villain to go with the increased action quotient. The effects are also staggeringly good as well, due in part to the huge digital effects crew listed in the end credits.

For once, though, Robert Downey Jr has serious competition as the best actor. Ben Kingsley is simply superb as the evil Mandarin, a terrorist seeking to overthrow – or destroy – the US government.

There are some nice moments with Stark dealing with children in various situations which manage not to be at all mawkish, and an under-running theme of “how did you get out of that wormhole in New York?”

As ever, no spoilers, but there is an end-of-credits sequence. I shall say no more.

Oh, do watch the start of the credits up until the part where the big text list appears even if you’re not staying until the end. They’re made up of flashes from all three films, put together in a 1970’s-esque TV montage. It seems to suit the Stark image perfectly.

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Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia poster
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Escaping from a hot day, I managed to catch my first film for a week. Another in a string of computer game adaptations: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

“You can’t have an ostrich race… when you only have one ostrich!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: orphan boy is rescued by king and goes on to (go on, you knew it) save the world. Using sand.

Computer game adaptations have had a hard time of it in Hollywood. Mario Bros wasn’t that bad. But around the same time you had Street Fighter which was crap (well, it had Van Damme and Kylie Minogue – it never stood a chance). The more recent Doom adaptation pretty much sucked, too. I am happy to say that PoP:tSoT bucks the trend slightly.

First of all, it has an actual story. I have no idea how closely this relates to that of the game on which it’s based, but it’s a good one. A nice plot with layers, twists and believable characters. OK, it’s silly as well. Come on, it’s a fantasy film.

Next up, it has a good cast. And, more importantly than just shoving actors in for the sake of it like the aforementioned failures, PoP makes full use of them. Ben Kingsley is slightly typecast as the hard-nosed brother to the king, but as ever puts in a wonderful performance. Jake Gyllenhaal hams it up as the lead, Dastan. And the gorgeous Gemma Arterton alternately makes you drool and want to slap her as befits her spoilt high priestess character.

Visually, it’s a complete treat. The skips between built sets and CGI are flawless which makes it seem enormous in scale. There’s a good use of quick camera pans and twists to enhance the action without leaving you wondering what direction you’re looking in (future James Bond directors, take note). One part in particular I liked was the Hassansin’s lair – very much like a Persian version of Q’s lab from the Bond flicks.

The stuntwork in particular should be enjoyed. The fight scenes and the like hark back to the original game and it’s motion-captured lead sprite. If free-running was a sport in ancient times, Dastan would have been a gold medallist.

If there’s a downside, it’s that the film drags a bit. Although there’s no real fluff or waste in the storyline, it’s just a little too long especially when it’s being targeted partly at kids who don’t often have the attention span to eat a whole ice cream before it falls to the floor.

Otherwise, it’s a cracking little action film.

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Shutter Island

Shutter Island (film)
Shutter Island

I wasn’t planning on seeing Shutter Island as the handful of people I know who did catch it had complained it was too long. But my dad liked it, so I gave it a shot on Sunday afternoon.

Shutter Island

“You’ll never leave this island.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Two federal marshals investigate an escaped patient on a secure island facility… or do they?

I’ll try to keep spoiler-related commentary till the end, as there is a twist in this tale. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a Fed with a rather stressed-out past. He and his partner are sent to Shutter Island, a secure facility for the criminally insane set on a rock in the middle of the ocean.

The facility is run by the slightly scary Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) who can’t explain how one of their inmates escaped from a locked cell. Very mysterious.

As the story progresses, the film gets more jumpy. Not as in “scary” – it skips about from topic to topic. Flashbacks start to appear in dream-like sequences as Daniels starts to dream and become ever more paranoid about the actions of the Doctor, the other island staff and the patients. Questions are unanswered or avoided, the patients seem to be acting in collusion with the staff - or scared of them.

There are some lovely sequences, in particular the dream where Daniels holds his dying wife as she turns to ash and blows away. Very well done and the special effects lend it a wonderful dream-like quality.

The acting performances are superb across the board. Being a Martin Scorsese film it’s not surprising that it’s beautifully presented as well. However, I do have some issues that I’ll go over at the end as they could relate to spoilers. I did find that it ran on too long, though. I guessed the “twist” very early on – about 10-15 minutes in, which is a shame. However, at the point where the pieces really do start to drop, the film should be on it’s final run-in. And it’s not. From this point, there’s maybe 45 minutes to an hour to go which is too long.

I’d be interested in reading the source novel to see how it’s paced, but the film is just a little too slow. A shorter running length would have had more impact, I feel. Still, a very good story and a superb cast.


You have been warned.

Alright. At the end of the film you find out that Daniel is actually mad. However, I guessed this very early on. How? Well, I’m not sure if this was deliberate on Scorsese’s part or not, but the editing throughout the film is very disjointed. Someone holds a cup, the view changes and they’ve already put it down. Someone lights a cigarette with one hand, the camera changes angle and they’ve moved it from their face to their side.

Now, this happens in films. Usually you spot this once every few minutes. But in Shutter Island, especially near the beginning, I was finding discrepancies almost every time the camera view changed in a scene. As I said, this could be poor editing. Or it could be the director hinting that things aren’t as they seem. Deliberately disjointed if you like. Which does make a lot of sense later on when we realise that what’s “happening” is predominantly in the mind of the main character.

What does anyone else think? Am I being overly analytical? Was the editor just smoking crack the week he did the work on this film? Or was Scorsese being really clever?

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