Tag Archive: gwyneth paltrow


iron man 3Dir. Shane Black
(2013, PG-13, 130 minutes)

The first thing that came to mind while watching Iron Man 3 was how much better superhero movies need to get about women. Just one day ago I watched the terrific second part of Feminist Frequency’s critical analysis of the problematic roles of women in video games, and here is a movie that makes her point for her.

There are two major female roles. The first, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), more or less runs Stark Industries and manages Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) dysfunctional life, but before long she is damseled by the screenplay – that is to say, she is kidnapped and rendered helpless so that male characters can fight over her. Pepper gets two moments of heroism, but both are the result of technology or augmentation inflicted on her by male characters.

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Dir. Steven Soderbergh
(2011, PG-13, 106 min)

What’s interesting about Contagion you probably won’t notice except in hindsight: there’s no melodrama in it. The things we might expect to find in an all-star Hollywood thriller are notably absent here. There are no grandstanding speeches, no Jack-Bauer-of-the-CDC medical hero who plays by his own rules, no mustache-twirling evil general leading a government conspiracy, no Shyamalanian eleventh hour twist. It’s almost completely straightforward, built on the inherent tension of a storyline that, to be sure, doesn’t need any enhancement: a few sudden, isolated deaths around the world snowball into a global epidemic.

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Robert Downey Jr., in 'Iron Man'

Dir. Jon Favreau
(2010, PG-13, 124 min)
★ ★

Either I’ve changed since 2008 or Tony Stark has. In the first Iron Man film, I remember being charmed by the billionaire arms manufacturer, a vainglorious man-child who approached superheroism like a playground. But in Iron Man 2 he’s much less charming. His brashness has become shtick. He’s not just making a spectacle of himself, he’s making a spectacle of being a spectacle, self-consciously showing off like it’s a marketing ploy. Step right up and behold Tony Stark’s ego! He wisecracks at Congressional hearings. He recklessly drives his own race car. He jumps out of a plane and lands on stage at his own weapons expo in full regalia, and when he takes off his armor his tuxedo is still well-pressed and his hair still perfectly coifed. “I’m an incorrigible brat, but that’s why you love me,” he seems to tell us. I’m not sure I even like him this time around.

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Joaquin Phoenix and Vinessa Shaw, in 'Two Lovers'

Dir. James Gray
(2009, R, 109 min)
★ ★ ★ ½

The ending of Two Lovers does not come as a surprise, as might be the intent of other films about love triangles, which seek to divide our sympathies and confound our expectations. Explains writer-director James Gray in the DVD audio commentary, he hopes his film is predictable, but not in the way of formula films. He echoes exactly the feeling I had when watching it for the first time. There’s an inevitability in the fates of its characters, whom the screenplay observes so well that their behavior moves us, but doesn’t surprise us.

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On DVD: “Iron Man”

Dir. Jon Favreau
(PG-13) ★ ★ ★

I admit, I bring too much reality to movies like this. Like how I couldn’t help but wonder how Iron Man stayed in the air when he flew. Hand and foot rockets always pointed straight behind him, he’s all thrust and no lift. Or how the computers all seem a little too futuristic to be credible in the present day, even for a billionaire who built his first circuit board at age four. Or how it strains credulity that a weapons developer would ever make the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. I know, I know. Lighten up, you’re thinking. But I’m a stickler.

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