Iron Man 2 Jon Favreau’s much-anticipated follow-up to his breakthrough 2008 blockbuster is less a comic book flick than it is a superhero version of Arthur the Oscar-nominated 1981 comedy that starred Dudley Moore as a drunken wise-cracking dilettante. In his second turn as Tony Stark Robert Downey Jr. recasts the billionaire inventor as the Dean Martin of industrialists strutting from one star-studded event to another on a bacchanalian victory tour dishing out choice one-liners and stirring up minor controversies for his exasperated babysitters Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Don Cheadle) to quell. Whether gloating about his achievements at a defense industry expo upbraiding Senators during a congressional hearing or getting wasted and donning his armored powersuit to play DJ at his birthday party there's no telling what kind of madcap mischief Tony Stark will get himself into next!
The Tony Stark Comedy Tour for what it’s worth is a supremely entertaining ride (credit screenwriter Justin Theroux at the very least with crafting the genre’s most quotable film of all time) but I’m fairly certain Iron Man 2 is supposed to be an action film not the Marvel Follies Variety Show. Surely there must be a supervillain lurking in the shadows a frighteningly powerful menace preparing to unleash its destructive might upon the world?
There is — well kind of. The primary antagonist of Iron Man 2 Mickey Rourke's hulking Ivan Vanko (aka Whiplash) is certainly a fearsome beast baring his blinged-out grill and electrified tentacles but he gets all of five minutes of meaningful screen time in the sequel — hardly enough to establish him as a worthy foe for the great Iron Man. Perhaps producers found Rourke’s chosen dialect learned from John Malkovich's Rounders School of Exaggerated Russian Accents (“I vant my bort!” he furiously declares when separated from his pet parrot) to be less compelling in post-production.
More likely they became enamored with Sam Rockwell in the role of Justin Hammer Stark’s resentful business rival and Whiplash’s principal financial backer. It’s certainly understandable. Exuding the hubris and insecurity of a sardonic Mark Cuban (but capable of amusing us with more than just an underachieving basketball team) his performance is easily the best of the film surpassing even that of the great Downey. (Which makes perfect fodder for conspiracy theorists who wonder why Rockwell was the only member of the main cast not to get his own poster.)
The only problem is Rockwell’s Hammer is a venture capitalist not a comic book supervillain and every second he spends on the screen — as enjoyable as it is — is a second that could have been devoted to dimensionalizing Rourke’s character or crafting a badly-needed action sequence to enliven the talky second act.
It’s little wonder then that Stark continues with his feckless self-destructive ways unconcerned with the threat posed by the Hammer/Whiplash collaboration. He's got bigger problems to worry about — namely his inability to find a suitable replacement for palladium the substance inside the Arc Reactor that powers both his suit and his heart and which also happens to be slowly killing him.
Thankfully Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. arrive at his compound to stage a kind of intervention bearing a powerful dual-pronged Deus Ex Machina device that instantly wrests our hero from his para-suicidal stupor — just in time to build the upgraded powersuit he’ll need to thwart the army of powerful robot drones that Whiplash is about to let loose upon on the unsuspecting citizens of Queens New York. Whew! Favreau steps up the action and delivers a suitably big finish but don't blink when Iron Man and Whiplash meet on the battlefield because you might just miss it.
Given that Iron Man 2’s director and writer have both spent the bulk of their movie careers employed as actors it comes as little surprise that they chose to focus the action on Downey and Rockwell as the two rank head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. I just wish they found room in between the one-liners for a few more explosions.
Shooting on the romantic adventure film Beyond Borders starring Angelina Jolie will begin Thursday in northern Thailand. Co-producer Lloyd Phillips told The Associated Press on Wednesday that main filming on the movie will wrap up following about five weeks of shooting in the country. The Thai locations will stand in for Cambodia in the 1980s during the devastating rule of the Khmer Rouge. In the film, Jolie plays a married American socialite in London who falls in love with an idealistic doctor played by Clive Owen. Filming began in December, with previous shooting done in Namibia, standing in for Ethiopia, and Montreal, standing in for London and Chechnya. Beyond Borders, directed by GoldenEye's Martin Campbell, is expected to be released around Christmas.
It's absolute rubbish. That's what Madonna's spokeswoman told Reuters about media reports that the pop icon had made a series of unreasonable demands before taking to the stage for Up For Grabs debuting next month in London. Recent press reports claimed Madonna demanded a raised stage to stop fans from rushing her, theater staff were told not to have eye contact with her and cast members were told not to call her "Madge." Up For Grabs debuts in London May 23.
Noah Wyle, ER's handsome Dr. John Carter, and his wife, Tracy, are expecting their first child in November, the AP reports. Wyle, 30, met Tracy Wyle, a makeup artist, on the set of The Myth of Fingerprints in 1996. They became engaged on Valentine's Day in 1999 and have been married for about two years.
Supermodel Claudia Schiffer will marry her boyfriend, British producer Matthew Vaughn, before the end of the year, Ananova.com reports. Schiffer's mother reportedly told Germany's Bunte magazine that rumors of the couple's split were false and that her daughter will "marry within the next six months." Schiffer, the one-time companion of magician David Copperfield, and Vaughn, who produced Guy Ritchie's films Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, live together in London's Notting Hill.
Former Beverly Hills, 90210 star Jason Priestley will drive for Kelley Racing in the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series, the AP reports. The 32-year-old actor has competed in several racing series before and has worked as a TV commentator at Indy Racing League races.
Pippi, Ozzy Osbourne's little black Pomeranian, is missing. A regular fixture on the MTV series The Osbournes, Pippi has apparently been lost for two months. According to MTV.com, the family is offering a $500 reward for any information leading to the dog's retrieval.
In the Biz
Billy Bob Thornton has been cast in the title role of Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa, Variety reports. The Dimension Films comedy, which is set for a Christmas 2003 release, follows two con men who travel to malls dressed as Santa and his elf.
Darren Star, the creator of HBO's successful comedy Sex and the City, will direct a film adapted from the book Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl: A Nancy Chan Novel by Tracy Quan for Sony's Revolution Studios. The book, based on Quan's Salon.com column, centers on the diary of a call girl working on Manhattan's Upper East Side, Variety reports.
Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnettare in talks to star in another Revolution Studios project about a pair of cops who become involved in a crime that revolves around the music business, Variety reports. The untitled police drama will be helmed by Ron Shelton, who wrote and directed White Men Can't Jump and Tin Cup, and is set to begin production this fall.
CBS chief Leslie Moonves said Tuesday the network likely would not air the Robert Urich movie Not in Our House because of its rough subject matter. According to Reuters, Urich plays a pedophile in a story about a family a year after an incestuous relationship comes to light. The film co-stars Meredith Baxter.
Francophone Celine Dion will headline this year's Billboard Latin Music Awards in Miami Beach, Fla., on May 12, the AP reports. The Canadian singer's song "My Heart Will Go On" became the first and only English-language single to top the Billboard Hot Latin Tracks chart. Dion will join previously announced performers Marc Anthony, Jaci Velasquez and Thalia.
Will Smith may have walked away from this year's Academy Awards empty-handed, but the rapper-turned-actor hasn't lost steam. According to MTV.com, Smith's next album will hit stores on June 25 and will feature two singles from Men in Black 2. Smith has not released new material since Willennium in 1999.
Rosie O'Donnell presented Gene Wilder with the first-ever Roche Beauty of Giving Award on Wednesday at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York. The award was handed out as part of the Cosmetic Executive Women's Beauty Awards. Wilder is the founder of Gilda's Club, a support network named after his wife, Gilda Radner, who died of ovarian cancer in 1989. O'Donnell also praised the beauty industry's commitment to charities that support women with cancer.
Warren Beatty and Kevin Spacey will be honored at this year's San Francisco Film Festival. According to the BBC News, Beatty is being awarded the Akira Kurosawa Award for lifetime achievement in film directing, while Spacey is being honored with an acting award. The festival opens today and closes on May 2.
Science fiction writer Damon Knight died Monday at a hospital in Eugene, Ore., of age-related causes, the AP reports. He was 79. Knight, whose final novel Humpty Dumpty: An Oval was published in 1996, was also an influential teacher, critic and organizer, helping to found the Science Fiction Writers of America. He also served as editor for the science fiction anthology series Orbit. Knight is survived by his wife, two daughters, two sons, two stepsons and seven grandchildren.
Jimi Hendrix's father, James Al Hendrix, died in his sleep at home Wednesday after a long battle with congestive heart failure, the AP reports. He was 82. Hendrix, a former Golden Gloves boxer, worked as a plumber, electrician and gardener before retiring in 1979 due to poor health. Hendrix is survived by daughter Janie and son Leon.