May 9, 2013
Iron Man 3 (** ½) PG-13
It’s hard to imagine a film featuring any of the characters in the Marvel Comics universe being a total disappointment. The closest any of these films came to being a dud was Thor, and in spite of its shortcomings there were a few things to admire about it from time to time. The problem that plagues virtually all of these films, a lack of the human element, is the same thing that dogs Iron Man 3. When the film is focusing on Iron Man’s interpersonal relationships, as it does when Tony Stark befriends a lonely boy in the film’s mid-section, the picture sings. It’s when the film becomes bogged down in the sort of spectacular action set pieces that the Marvel films are renowned for that a sense of déjà vu sets in and the mind begins to drift to such thoughts as ‘Did I leave the iron on?’ As usual it’s difficult to say that the latest Iron Man is a waste of time but you can’t help but leave the theater feeling that there’s a missed opportunity somewhere inside the film’s 130 minute running time.
The plot of the film is neatly linked to the Avengers film from last year in which the character of Iron Man played a crucial role. That’s something I liked. I’m glad that director/co-writer Shane Black, the scribe behind the first Lethal Weapon film, chose not to ignore those events and neatly worked them into the plot of Iron Man 3 by having Iron Man’s alter ego, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), suffer from anxiety attacks every now and then.
Robert Downey, Jr., in Iron Man 3 - which is a huge hit
Those anxiety attacks are a problem that rears its ugly head at the most inopportune times as the world finds itself at the hands of a villain calling himself Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and laying claim to a series of deadly terror attacks. It’s up to Iron Man to save the day but not before Mandarin lays waste to Tony Stark’s headquarters, nearly killing his bodyguard, Happy (Jon Favreau, director of the first two films) and assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), in the process. This event sends the superhero back to square one. Along the way, Iron Man/Stark befriends a fatherless boy (Ty Simpkins, the kid from the horror film Insidious) and receives assistance from his trusted confidante Colonel Rhodes (Don Cheadle). Stark simultaneously attempts to unravel how his ex-girlfriend, Maya (Rebecca Hall) and an inventor (Guy Pearce), whose invention for regenerating body parts he dismissed years ago, play into all of this, something I won’t elaborate on so as not to reveal spoilers.
Iron Man 3 is technically proficient and features solid work from its cast. The good performances, in particular, should not be a surprise as the problems with these films do not lie in the actor’s abilities or lack thereof but rather in the characters as written. Paltrow’s Pepper Potts has even less to do here than in the last film and though I did enjoy Stark’s scenes with the kid, I think the film could have benefitted from more of them. It’s yet another example of the human element that sometimes gets lost in the Marvel film universe.
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Peeples (**) PG-13
By DAVID GERMAIN
AP Movie Writer
The people of Peeples make a better impression than most collections of oddballs in the weary mold of comedies centered on meeting the prospective in-laws.
They still overstay their welcome, though.
With a long, boring buildup that finally pays off with scattered laughs in the second half, Peeples also manages to leave a better impression than the “Tyler Perry Presents” tag on the posters might imply. This is broad comedy, but nowhere near as broad—or boorish and shrill—as producer Perry’s own family adventures (for disclosure’s sake, there are screechy relations here, but Perry’s Madea fortunately isn’t among them).
Craig Robinson moves up from caustic supporting player on The Office to show himself an engaging romantic lead in the chubby, lovable, gregarious Jack Black school, while Kerry Washington lightens up from heavier drama as the love of his life, a daddy’s girl whose daddy, naturally, doesn’t approve.
Screenwriter and first-time director Tina Gordon Chism (her previous scripts include Drumline) crafts a predictable Meet the Parents riff, though she fills it out with a pleasant supporting cast of kooks who, while not always interesting, at least are not off-putting.
Washington, Robinson & Greer in Peeples
Robinson’s Wade Walker is a children’s entertainer who somehow landed gorgeous, career-driven United Nations lawyer Grace Peeples (Washington). They’ve been together for a year, yet Grace hasn’t introduced Wade to her well-to-do family (the “chocolate Kennedys,” Wade calls them, staring at a photo of the Peeples clan looking rich and beautiful).
After Grace ducks out for an annual gathering at the family’s Long Island vacation home, Wade decides to force the issue, crashing the party intending to propose to Grace over the weekend, in the bosom of her family. Yeah, that’s a plan that’s sure to work out well for him.
From there, Chism just keeps piling up dumb decisions, silly missteps and skeletons in the Peeples family closet, all intended to wring maximum awkwardness out of the weekend.
Of course, everything Wade does puts him at odds with family patriarch Virgil Peeples (David Alan Grier), a stern federal judge who thinks no man is good enough for his daughter, especially not a guy whose classroom repertoire includes a ditty about saying it, not spraying it, to discourage kids from peeing in their pants.
The others in the Peeples fold—matriarch Daphne (S. Epatha Merkerson), daughter Gloria (Kali Hawk) and her best pal Meg (Kimrie Lewis-Davis), and teen son Simon (Tyler James Williams) generally take a shine to Wade. But they all have secrets, which Wade, through his outsider eyes, is able to penetrate, hindering his efforts to ingratiate himself to the family.
As if we didn’t have enough complications and inexplicable actions, Wade’s brother (Malcolm Barrett) decides to pop in on the Peeples, too. Chism already strains credibility to have Wade show up uninvited; she’s pressing her luck having his brother barge in.
These all are amiable people, decent people, sometimes funny people. But unfortunately, the peeps of Peeples just aren’t very memorable people.
Iron Man 3 is playing everywhere; Peeples opens Friday, May 10, at the Carmike in Hickory and elsewhere in North Carolina.