May 3rd, 2008

IRON MAN (2008) ****

I’ve been up for almost twenty hours now and have to be at work early tomorrow (technically this) morning, so I’ll make this review short and sweet.


Me and the wife made like a cigarette truck and hauled our butts up to the Diamond State Drive-In Theater, Delaware’s only drive-in ( to see a double feature of Iron Man and The Forbidden Kingdom. 


Since Marvel Comics got tired of the big studios messing up their potentially lucrative superhero properties, starting with Iron Man, they’re doing it all by themselves now.  First time up to the plate, they knock it out of the park. 


The alcoholic, womanizing industrial billionaire and high tech weapons manufacturer Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) gets kidnapped in Afghanistan by a radical group of terrorists and gets coerced into building them a weapon of mass destruction.  Tony says uh-uh and builds himself a suit of armor instead and equips it with a machine gun, a flamethrower and a rocket pack, and precedes to do a reverse 9/11 on them asshole Afghanis.   When he returns home, he modifies his armor and sets out to help people instead of profit off of them, much to the chagrin of his business partner Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges).  Stane steals Stark’s blueprints and builds himself his own suit and the two go toe to toe for the final showdown. 


We’re talking the cinematic equivalent of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, here.


In fact, this movie features some of the finest scenes of men dressed in robotic suits kicking the crap out of each other since Robocop 2.  (And if you all know me, you know of my unhealthy love for Robocop 2, which means that last sentence is nothing short of the highest praise I can give by law.)


Iron Man is an origin story so there’s going to be more story than action, but that’s okay cuz I’m kind of a sucker for origin stories.  But if you want action, Stark’s escape from Afghanistan wearing his clunky armor is nothing short of awesome.  Although nothing else in the movie comes quite as close to topping that scene, it’s still one of the coolest things you’ve ever seen in a superhero movie, period.


Director Jon Favreau (who also has a small role) does an excellent job blending the effects with the human element of the story and gets some truly great performances from his actors.  Downey is simply fantastic and everyone else around him is rock solid too.  A movie like this one thrives on supporting characters and people like Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow and Terence Howard help Downey out immensely and allow him to shine that much brighter.  Oh, and stay glued to your seat until after the credits.  You’ll be glad you did. 


As far as comic book movies go, it’s not quite up to par with say, The Shadow, but it’s still much better than most of the stuff Marvel has been making lately and good enough for it to fly straight to Number 2 on The Video Vacuum Top Ten of 2008, right below Rambo and just above Shine a Light. 


After Iron Man was over, The Forbidden Kingdom was up next and even though I already reviewed it a while back, I’ll hit the highlights again:


Jackie Chan fights Jet Li.  You want more reasons to see this flick?  How about Jet Li pissing in Jackie Chan’s face?  You’re sold now I bet aren’t you?  How about Jackie Chan doing some of the best drunken boxing since The Legend of Drunken Master?  Have you got your tickets yet?  Do the words Best Kung Fu Movie of 2008 mean anything to you?  What if I told you that The Forbidden Kingdom is also the odds on favorite to win the coveted Video Vacuum Award for Best Screenplay for having Jackie Chan say the immortal line, “Crouching Tiger, Spanking Monkey!”  If you couldn’t figure it out by now, I’m talking about *** ½ and a rock steady Number 5 spot on the Top Ten. 


Do yourself a favor and take someone you love to the drive-in tonight. 


In the Deathstalker movies, it never really mattered who played Deathstalker as long as producer Roger Corman made a quick buck.  In Part 4, Rick Hill returns from a two picture absence to reprise his role as Deathstalker.  He may not be the greatest actor in the world, but at least he LOOKS like a Deathstalker.  (The guy from Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell looked more like a Weeniestalker if you ask me.)


So anyway, the plot of this one has Deathstalker rescuing a chick from a race of German Sheppard people who try to rape her (doggystyle of course).  He helps her out, but then runs into a lot of flashbacks from the first movie.  (Corman always did know how to save a buck.)  What happens next is basically The Quick and the Dead, except with broadswords and loincloths instead of pistols and cowboy boots, as Deathstalker signs up to participate in a sword fighting tournament.  The sponsors of the competition, a sex starved queen and her crusty magician, take the losers and turn them into stone, with the intention of building an army of invincible soldiers.  It’s up to Deathstalker to stop the no-good nympho and save the day. 


Nobody was really making a lot of sword and sorcery movies in 1990, but they sure as heck were making a lot of movies with the number 4 in the title, so it was okay. 


I don’t know whether or not you’d call this a “good” movie, but if you’re the kind of person that enjoys seeing muscular, well oiled dudes draped in fur pelts wielding gigantic swords, then you may enjoy it.  For me, things kind of fell apart once they introduced the whole stone warrior subplot.  It made little sense and everything was resolved way too easily.  It also didn’t help that all the sword fighting scenes looked like they were choreographed by Stevie Wonder and edited by Helen Keller.


Sure this movie’s action sequences were some of the lamest since the invention of the medium, but I have to admit, this flick did a lot of things right.  No matter how many times I rolled my eyes every time Hill minced around while narrowly avoiding being hit by a plastic Rite Aid sword, there were some great stuff sprinkled here and there that made this crap worth sitting through.  There was topless female mud wrestling, guys running around with bear skin rugs over their faces, lesbians giving each other sponge baths in mead barrels, dog-faced women dressed in dominatrix get-ups, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling rejects beating the snot out of bull dykes, medieval food fights, lots of women with breasts the size of fully ripe cabbages running around with no tops on, heads got cut off, and arms got ripped off.  This movie also featured more mullets on display than a Molly Hatchet concert, so that alone is worthy of some praise.   


Also, you have to respect a movie that’s only 78 minutes long, especially when the first 8 minutes are almost exclusively flashbacks from the first movie and it contains 4 minutes of opening and end credits, leaving only 66 minutes of actual “movie”.


And then there is the smoking hot Maria Ford as Deathstalker’s arm candy who gets to show off her ample assets.  As a B Movie Actress, Ford never really got her due (check her out in the immortal Angel of Destruction if you don’t believe me) and her magnificent frame and impeccable beauty is easily the best thing about the movie. 


Writer/director Howard R. Cohen was also responsible for those dreadful Saturday the 14th movies.  He didn’t exactly know which side of the camera you were supposed to look through when it came to filming the action scenes, but that’s just dandy by me, because anybody who can write dialogue like, “Women zap your vital juices!” is entitled to a free pass every now and then.


AKA:  Deathstalker 4:  The Darkest Hour.