|KATM media outlets
|KATM featured weekly
|KATM on RT
|Vidcast Starring KATM
|NOTE: THIS SITE ONLY LOADS CORRECTLY WITH EXPLORER AND MOZILLA BROWSERS - SORRY SAFARI USERS!
|Buy the KATM Book
|Has there been a more pleasurable comeback than Robert Downey Jr.’s which kicked into high gear
with Iron Man in 2008? Nearly destroying his once red hot film career after years of battling various
addictions Downey was just about counted out. And at 43, it was almost inconceivable that he’d be
headlining an action franchise. But it turned out that the strength of Iron Man – a sort of cross
between Transformers and Swingers thanks to Downey’s Tony Stark character – was mainly due to
Downey’s exuberant performance in the leading role.
And that is the problem with Iron Man 2, the eagerly anticipated sequel that is the official start of
the 2010 summer blockbuster sweepstakes. Returning scriptwriter Justin Theroux and director Jon
Favreau have fallen into the familiar sophomore blockbuster trap that insists More Is More when it
comes to the second time around (the typical approach to any megahit sequel). They’ve loaded the
movie with so many plot points, big budget action sequences and a plethora of extraneous characters
– none of which quite fit together – that they lose their leading man in the process – at least the
leading man that made the original such a fun ride. Tony Stark, the ring-a-ding-ding swingin’
bachelor of the original who melted hearts straight and gay is in evidence, all right, but now he’s
either a distracted narcissist hemmed in by everyone wanting a piece of him or an anxiety stricken
The opening sequences introduce this new, egomaniacal Tony who has brought peace to the world
thanks to his Iron Man suit and the reflected glory of his cockiness is intoxicating and Favreau plays
on this with a quick series of glittering opening scenes. Tony the playboy seemingly only wants to
party and the hell with the Congressional hearings (which introduce us to Garry Shandling as a
smirking Republican senator and Sam Rockwell as a smarmy arms dealer – both inspired casting).
But the opening is a tease – no one really who has any input into Tony’s life wants to let him (or the
audience) alone to have fun and maybe tinker away in his groovy glass and chrome Malibu cliff top
Not Don Cheadle (stepping in for Terrence Howard – a refreshing change), Gwyneth Paltrow as the
returning fuss budget assistant Pepper Potts, or Scarlet Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson sporting
an eye patch as representatives of (I think) a league of peacekeepers (I’m not a comic book reader
and was clueless about the back story on these two). Everyone nags and nags and nags Tony who
takes none of it in which after awhile becomes annoying, too.
Instead of Tony having a rollicking good time as opposed to a desperate good time (in order to
distract him from the toxins in his body that are slowly killing him), the movie becomes as fidgety as
its leading character, flitting from scene to scene until you feel mentally whipped and just wish that
the movie would calm down for one second and the scriptwriter would give Downey something other
than a battery of snarky quips to lob at all the other characters and more, for all the other characters
to clear out and give the guy (and the audience) some peace.
But just at that point the plot, which has been hinted at in a pre-credit scene, arrives in the form of
Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko, a Russian villain, complete with toothpick and a body full of tattoos,
cracking a set of super powerful whips, knifing race cars and folks in half, out to get revenge on Tony
because Tony’s dad thwarted the genius that was Mickey’s dad, leaving him to die an alcoholic in
Siberia. But after his big set piece in which he cracks those super duper electrified whips during a
charity racing event, publicly humiliating Iron Man and nearly killing him and the jail break that
follows his arrest, Rourke pretty much spends the rest of the movie behind a computer terminal,
punching keys and chewing on an ever present toothpick. Too bad because Rourke with his burned
out, lived in face and body, is potentially a great villain who commands the screen with little effort
and sports a pretty good Rusky accent to boot.
After wishing for Favreau to slow the movie down and give us some in-depth time with Tony he and
Theroux do just that – but it’s in service to the not particularly fresh plot machinations that clog up
the middle of the picture (like that damned card game that stopped Casino Royale in its tracks for
nearly 40 minutes). We want more of those Tony Stark inventing sequences in which he zips around
in the Iron Man suit or more of a particularly promising back story about the rocky relationship
between Tony and his dad glimpsed in a 60s era advertising film (played with natural affability by
Mad Men’s John Slattery) but Theroux lets that intriguing relationship slip away.
And why are there repeated shots of Paltrow and Johansson – the only women with names or
identities beyond bimbos with implants in the movie – slowly, painfully klunking across the room or
up or down stairs garbed in those skintight pencil skirts and stripper stilettos? Whose fetish is this
satisfying? Paltrow, who was amusing and smart in the first go round is now made the CEO of Stark
Enterprises but she comes off as a kvetch and inept, hobbled and mostly left on the sidelines as is
ScarJo until she momentarily gets into sort of Batgirl mode and kicks some security guard butt
(though it’s still not clear who the hell she is).
It’s left to Rockwell – who is a hoot – to offer a jolt to the leaden middle section as the rapacious
weapons manufacturer angling for a big Government contract and a piece of the Iron Man suit action.
He has a particularly fun speech rattling off the assortment of weapons in his arsenal to a speechless
Cheadle (the scene reminded me a tad of DeNiro in Taxi Driver picking out his guns from the creepy
dealer in the tatty hotel room).
Favreau, who also returns on camera as the chauffeur, has delivered a picture that gleams and pops
with color and endless glossy surfaces and as sequels go, it could have been more bloated, more
disjointed and much less satisfying (Transformers 2 anyone?). As is often the case with sloppy
seconds, Bigger ain’t better and Iron Man 2, a case study for excess baggage, lives up to that
definition. It isn’t nearly as much of a thrill ride as its first go round (and its two hour running time
feels much longer – it’s nearly as long as this review) but even though it spends an inordinate
amount of time blocking the view and talents of its biggest asset, its star, there’s still enough
Downey and copious amounts of attendant razzle dazzle to make this a cautious recommendation –
you’ll come out feeling like you’ve eaten way too much and will realize, with slight dismay, that the
gigantic meal wasn’t particularly satisfying.
Truly terrifying movies – the ones that grab hold of an audience of strangers and hold them in a vise
grip until they are deliciously terrified as one shaking entity, barely daring to breathe – are
increasingly rare experiences for jaded filmgoers. But even the jaded will quickly recall a movie that
scared the bejesus out of them; that was a little too horrify; too close to the bone to let go of.
That was my experience with the original 1984 version of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I didn’t see it in
a theatre and hadn’t really heard much about it. But one Halloween during my punk/goth phase in
the mid 80s my oldest friend and I found ourselves at a party where we knew very few of the guests.
We were drawn to a darkened, nearly deserted basement by the promise of “scary movies” and
there, by the glow of a tiny television set, that’s where we both fell under the spell of Nightmare.
Writer-director Wes Craven’s terrifying idea that the villainous serial killer Freddy Krueger could only
kill when his victims fell asleep was simple but brilliant. The original film featured not only a
nightmarish vision of suburbia where it became difficult to discern between fantasy and reality, eye
popping visual effects, an evocative electronic score, but best, an eccentric lineup of actors including
Robert Englund as the maniacal Freddy, back from the dead to reclaim the children of his original
murderers who burned him alive, wielding his razor-gloved hand, Heather Lagenkamp as the spunky
heroine Nancy, Johnny Depp as her sweet but ill fated boyfriend, and Ronee Blakley and John Saxon
as Nancy’s divorced parents. Somehow this rag tag group fit perfectly together. These disparate
elements added up to a classic hybrid of the genre – horror and gore mixed together – it was one of
the first of the American slasher films. So successful was the original that New Line, which was put on
the map with the movie, went on to order up eight additional Freddy flicks, a television series, and
pretty much every kind of ancillary merchandise one can think of.
Naturally, with other cash cow horror franchises being remade for a new generation it was only a
matter of time before A Nightmare on Elm Street joined them. This new edition, starring Jackie
Earle Haley in the Freddy Krueger part has been touted as a “re-imagining” but it is anything but
that. Though there have been changes here and there including a sequence in which we see some of
Krueger’s back story, there’s nothing particularly fresh or inventive in this new Nightmare. The movie
has none of the arresting visual quality of the original and not a single actor in its cast with much
personality – though Katie Cassidy (daughter of one time teen heart throb David) has a certain
something and, had she played the Nancy role, would have been believable taking on Krueger. But
the young actress who gets the Nancy/heroine part speaks with her mouth closed and shows none of
the grit or intelligence of the original character. She fights back by default. The same can be said of
the pasty white faced young man who plays her boyfriend and portrays anxiety on screen really, really
well (this young actor also appeared to much better effect in A Haunting in Connecticut).
As for Haley, his comeback role as a child molester in 2006’s Little Children hasn’t really paid off
unfortunately. Since then he’s been featured as the creepy superhero Rorschach in Watchmen, an
inmate in the asylum in Shutter Island, and now another child molester, this time a murderous one
(who is now shown to be a horndog as well – this Freddy doesn’t just want revenge, he wants sex, too
– at least with his lady victims). The movie may lead to another eight sequels but like The Omen
reboot a few years back one wonders why younger audience members don’t just get the DVD of the
superior original and save themselves time.
As for this old time horror film fan, I didn’t feel a moment of the delicious fear/fun that happened
when I experienced the first Nightmare (and I know I still have the capacity for this – I site the recent
Paranormal Activity as an example). But I did feel a very strong emotion. This happened during the
sequence when our clenched mouthed heroine headed up to the attic to look through old, old boxes
from her childhood stored there, covered with dust and apparently forgotten. As she dug around
looking for more info on the murderous Freddy the camera focused on another box clearly labeled
“1996 – first grade.”
I’ve never felt so old or experienced such an immediate, emotional sock in the jaw – clearly my days
as a coveted moviegoer are over.
I suppose I had just better toddle back to the latest Meryl Streep or some other inspiring Clint
Eastwood movie crafted for older folks like myself; or better yet, just stay at home and watch an old
black & white on TCM, maybe crochet or work on my jigsaw puzzles as I watch with the subtitles on
because I can’t hear a gold darned blasted thing!
But as I do so I’ll leave something behind to chew on: if this is the kind of vapid stuff that’s being
touted as a “reboot” and being made “just for the kids” as this new Nightmare clearly was I’ll not just
gladly stick with the old stuff, I’ll thumb my nose at the filmmakers who couldn’t be bothered to try
and come up with something at least halfway inventive and instead offer this exercise in bland movie
laziness – and the audience members who accept movies like this. You don’t know what you’re
Drop dead Freddy.