Iron Man 3: snappy, fast-paced, and surprisingly vulnerable

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you will, no doubt, be aware of Hollywood’s latest obsession with superhero movies. Almost every second month, another one hits the big screen. But despite this now regular occurrence, cinema-goers have yet to tire of the genre, with each new creation raking in the mega-bucks. Iron Man 3 is no different.

Enter Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr); the witty, self-deprecating, bad-boy billionaire anti-hero. First introduced to the masses five years ago in the blockbuster Iron Man, Tony is as charismatic as ever, but, character-wise, is a long way from the carefree hero we once knew.

In Iron Man 3, Tony is still reeling from THAT final scene in The Avengers. (If you have’t seen it, I won’t ruin it for you. You can read my review of The Avengers here and decide whether or not to rent it).

Referring to it as the “New York” incident, Tony’s basically suffering from a bad dose of post-traumatic stress disorder — the sort of psychological damage that’s generally denied most superheroes and, in my opinion, what sets Tony apart from the others on this occasion.

The symptoms, which include panic attacks, insomnia, and night terrors, all take their toll on his relationship with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) causing Tony to spend most of his time creating more Iron Man suits and leaving civilian-saving duties to Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle).

But when new threats are revealed in terrorist leader The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and bitter scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), Tony must figure out a way to save himself, and the World, from the powers of evil.

Throughout the movie, Director Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), takes full advantage of Downey’s gift for snappy one-liners and fast-talking banter. He also does something not many other superhero directors attempt to do; he spends a lot of screen time focusing on Tony’s anxiousness and vulnerability. We see him as a man with real emotions, and a man who realizes what’s important — the people he loves.

All in all, a great movie that does nothing to make me tire of the superhero genre. Exceptional cast, breathtaking special effects, and many a laugh-out-loud moment. As with all the Marvel movies, stick around for the credits and you’ll find a final scene… which promises to tie in nicely with 2015’s sequel to The Avengers. I, for one, cannot wait.

Flight: No nosedive for this blockbuster

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Director Robert Zemeckis is back with Flight, his first live-action film since 2000’s Cast Away (his last few films – The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol, all animations). In Cast Away, the movie began with an intense plane crash sequence. In latest flick Flight, he follows that same pattern, with one of the scariest plane crash sequences in the history of cinema.

Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is a very experienced, very trusted airline captain who just happens to have a bit of a drinking and drugging problem. The night before a trip from Orlando to Atlanta, Whip partakes in excessive amounts of booze and some recreational cocaine with sexy stewardess fuck-buddy, Katerina (Nadine Velazquez), and on the flight itself, dumps a couple of mini vodka bottles into his orange juice.

Disaster strikes mid-flight, however, when the plane begins a deadly nosedive due to a mechanical failure – the plane crashing into a collision course that would surely have killed all 102 passengers if not for Whip’s impeccable flyboy skills. Whip remains cool, calm and collected and pulls off an incredible emergency landing by inverting the plane completely – something only very few pilots could have managed. As a result, only six souls were lost.

Back on the ground, battered but essentially unharmed, Whip finds himself the subject of an investigation by the NTSB – a troubling development, considering the empty vodka bottles and a post-crash toxicology report.

Enter Whittaker’s union rep (Bruce Greenwood) and lawyer (Don Cheadle) – the only individuals standing between Whip and some serious jail time.

Stories about alcoholism can only end one of two ways however: The guy is either going to have an epiphany and come clean, or something bad is going to happen. Zemeckis meanders through the story taking a bit too long to wrap up subplots dealing with Whip’s love interest (Kelly Reilly), an incredibly funny scene with John Goodman as Whip’s cocaine-supplier and a drawn out legal battle resulting in a public hearing where Whip must re-live the events of the crash.

While we never really delve into the reasons why Whip has given his life over to booze and drugs, Denzel’s stellar performance reminds us that whatever it is, it’s genuine. The movie belongs to him throughout – his performance so strong, so engaging, that it covers many of the story’s weaknesses.

When Whip defiantly insists that no one else could have crash-landed the broken plane, you believe it. Not because the movie’s story proves it, but because of the power of Washington’s performance: No one else could have played this difficult role so well.

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