May 11 2010

Iron Man 2

On Saturday, we went to see the latest Marvel Comics superhero movie. “Iron Man 2“, directed by Jon Favreau and starring the usual cast of characters (sans Terrence Howard as Rhodey, for whatever reason), should have been as good as the original but sadly (and not unexpectedly) it wasn’t. While there was plenty of armored combat, repulsor beams, explosions (there MUST ALWAYS be explosions!), humorous dialogue, pseudo-science gizmos, Marvel universe cross-referencing, and Scarlett Johansson (who looks like a dwarf next to Gwyneth Paltrow)… the movie became bogged down by shortcomings more than it was buoyed by its flash, action, and volume (I can’t remember a movie being this loud since hearing thundering bass of “Earthquake” (1974) in the next cinema over from where I was watching some drowned-out kid’s movie… which escape me). Anyway, the movie was enjoyable but not great. Why wasn’t it great? Well, read on… but be warned, the details are SPOILER HEAVY.

Now, before I go too much further, I should point out that Iron Man has always been one of my favorite (if not THE favorite of my) comic books. I write about a lot of things on this blog that I’m not an expert on (not even close!) but I’m very familiar with the Iron Man canon (post-Tales of Suspense, pre-Bendis retcon). I have an Iron Man #1 (1968) which I cherish above all my other comics (which is to say: it is rarely touched by photons); I also have read nearly every Iron Man issue from 1968 through 2009 (even though many were reprints). That being said, there was no chance in Hell that I was going to miss seeing the movie on opening weekend, especially after the great job they did with the first one. We found seats toward the back of the theater (the place was packed) and waited for the lights to go down. After some forgettable trailers, the movie started, and my excitement died soon after.

Where to begin? The Iron Man Dancers (you probably saw them in the movie trailer) were ridiculous. I understand they were meant to be evidence of Tony’s inflated ego, but they looked more like the cheerleaders from “BASEketball” (1998). Why would Tony build a suit (the War Machine prototype stolen by Rhodes) with a self-contained power-source when just a few scenes before he was claiming that the armor was more of a prosthesis (powered by his arc reactor heart)? The use of a prototype of Captain America’s shield to align a particle accelerator? *sigh* The creation of a new element: Unobtanium was lame, why go that route again (too soon!)? It would have been so much more believable if the City of Tomorrow infrastructure showed Tony a way to properly shield his body from the palladium (Pd) (that was poisoning him), rather than give him a blueprint for a new element (that could be synthesized in his basement). And finally (though there were more) his deus ex machina laser lance that ended the movie’s penultimate battle in a decidedly un-Iron Man way (pre-Secret Wars); I guess the uni-beam isn’t flashy enough anymore? Also appearing was Mickey Rourke (enjoying a Hollywood resurgence in a series of brutish roles) as a Russian version of the villain Whiplash (not canon, but no problems there). Scarlett also put in a commendable performance as super-spy assassin Black Widow. I’m sure much of her acrobatics were computer generated but it was still nice seeing her wrap her thighs around the heads of half a dozen men (even if she did proceed to snap their necks). Sometimes you just need to thankful for what you get get!

All told, “Iron Man 2” is an action packed movie and plenty of fun. Lower your expectations a bit before you find a seat and make sure to stay through the credits for a tiny preview of what’s coming next…

“If you could make God bleed, people will cease to believe in Him. There will be blood in the water, and the sharks will come.” – Ivan Vanko

3.5 out of 5

May 4 2010

Europa and the Pirate Twins

Currently, I’m in the midst of a large book which I probably won’t finish until sometime in June. Rather than let this fabulous blog languish until then, I’ve decided to begin something new. Of all the categories I initially proposed to write about, “Music” has been the most neglected. So here then, is the first entry of Dennis’ Favorite Songs. The crowd goes… well, let’s face it… there’s no crowds here, so I will bask in the warm glow of the internet’s indifference. Ahhh… sweet anonymity.

I originally toyed with the idea of creating a Top 10 favorite songs list but the more I wrestled with it, the more I was convinced that it couldn’t be done. I like too many songs. Instead, I’m going to write about those songs that I’ve given a 5-stars rating in iTunes. What does 5-stars mean? I give 3-stars to songs that I don’t mind listening to. I give 4-stars to songs that I enjoy (would listen to more than once, in a sitting). I give 5-stars to songs that stand out, for one or more reasons. These might be particularly evocative, reminding me of some time or place in my past. They might be very upbeat, with a reliable track-record of being able to lift me from whatever funk I might be in. They might be terribly downbeat, with the ability to bring me back to center when jumping around just doesn’t seem appropriate. Whatever personal or magical reason it might be, some songs just overshadow the rest. For me, Thomas Dolby‘s 1983 hit “Europa and the Pirate Twins” is one of those songs.

I’m not a huge fan of pop music. Growing up in the Eighties, I promised myself I wouldn’t look back in the years to follow and get all nostalgic about the crap spilling out of the radio and MTV. That being said, not everything was crap. “Europa and the Pirate Twins” hit a chord with me early on. Here was a song about childhood friends growing-up, going their separate ways, and never being able to reclaim the imaginative adventures they once shared as children. To me, this was a song about the death of youth’s insouciance. I used to listen to it again and again on my Walkman as I mowed the backyard, reluctant to let go of the only life I’d known, and terrified that my imagination would wither with age. Were my fears justified? In some ways, yes. In other respects, I can’t remember a time when I was carefree. At least I still have my friends.

“We swore a vow that day: We’ll be the Pirate Twins again…”

5 out of 5