Iron Man 2, the expected blockbuster, opens along with a cheeky look at street art and a major documentary festival
Robert Downey Jr. plays a witty Iron Man 2 in the sequel to his mammoth hit of two years ago. It’s looking to be even bigger but is it as good? Please Give asks the question “Can you live well when others are poor?” while a single documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, and a whole festival, take other readings on reality.
IRON MAN 2: At the end of #1, Robert Downey Jr., as arms manufacturer Tony Stark, said publicly that he is Iron Man. Issue #2 starts with the same scene on TV and Mickey Rourke watching and seething in Moscow. He wants revenge for the wrongs done to his scientist father. What a good, economical way to carry over the story into this sequel. Now, if only the whole film had been as efficiently plotted. It could have been just as good as the first. Instead, it gets wobbly. It keeps Rourke off screen much of the way, brings in too many other characters, villains and otherwise, and slows down in the middle with a lot of talk that only people familiar with the source Marvel comic books will appreciate. (There’s a substantial scene tacked on especially for the fanboys at the end of the closing credits).
What made #1 a special hit was the snappy, witty dialogue delivered by Downey Jr. He’s terrific again notably in a wonderful scene before a senate committee as Stark jousts with the chair (Gary Shandling) and a rival (Sam Rockwell) over his high-tech suit of armor. At the office, he and Gwyneth Paltrow, banter like stars of a 30s screwball comedy. He even admits to being a narcissist, quite a change from the first film where he was driven by his conscience. Scarlett Johansson, though, despite the hype, brings only visual embellishment and one derivative action scene. Speaking of action, it comes in three large set pieces, two standard and forgettable, and one, when Rourke attacks Downey on the Monaco Gran Prix race course, exciting. The film is enjoyable but not as good as the first.
(5th Avenue, Dunbar, Rio, Scotiabank and many other theatres). 3 out of 5
EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP: Could it be that “art is a bit of a joke?” Or is that question a tip off that this film is something of a send up? It’s what Banksy is left wondering at the end of this entertaining documentary. He’s the street artist from England who has managed to become highly successful, with gallery shows, books and stunts like placing a Guantanamo prisoner doll in Disneyland, all the while keeping his own identity secret. He appears with his face dark inside a hoodie and his voice slightly altered in this film which he made to illuminate the world of graffiti artists, who spray paint on walls and call it street art.
We see clips of many at work, supposedly filmed by an eccentric Los Angeles acolyte who became an artists himself. Adopting the name Mr. Brainwash, he attracted 4,000 people to his first show. Banksy says he’s perturbed but exactly who is conning who? Doesn’t matter. Enjoy the cheeky fun and the provocative ideas about fame and business among artists.
(The Ridge Theatre, Tinseltown) 3 ½ out of 5
DOXA: Documentaries are more popular than ever. The Globe and Mail called Toronto's annual Hot Docs Festival, which is currently on, a "reality love in." You could say the same about our biggest showcase, DOXA. The festival has 75 films showing between now and May 16, including a special series on justice issues, a spotlight on France and "Canadian films worth missing the playoffs for". That's too many to review here but read the descriptions at www.doxafestival.ca, and see what appeals to you. Here are a few I've noticed:
BANANAS is another examination of an outrage in Latin America. Plantation workers are being poisened by the pesticide they have to work with, Nemagon, which is banned in North America. Dole started but subsequently dropped a lawsuit over the film.
THE TOPP TWINS: I was looking forward to this at VIFF last fall but it disappeared from the schedule. It's partly a portrait and partly a music showcase of the dancing, yodeling lesbian twin sisters from New Zealand. Around here they're fondly remembered for playing the folk festival. Everything I've read says the film is a real crowd pleaser.
DREAMLAND: set out to examine a controversial dam project in Iceland to power a new aluminum smelter. Global economics goes awry and helps bring on the country's financial collapse.
Two Vancouver music films. BLOODIED BUT UNBOWED is about the hot punk scene in the 1970s and
NO FUN CITY finds today's punk bands struggling for venues to play and practice as gentrification advances in their habitat.
Be careful with COOKING HISTORY the film about army cooks. As when it played at VIFF in the fall the notes promise "humour, poignancy and reserve" but inexplicably fail to mention several graphic scenes of animal slaughter including one in which a pig is dragged across a courtyard screaming hysterically apparently aware of what's coming.
(Granville and VanCity Theatres and Pacific Cinematheque)
Also new in theatres …
PLEASE GIVE: Nicole Holofcener writes and directs films about every day urban angst. Friends with Money four years ago dealt with status. This one examines economic guilt among some well-off, comfortable New Yorkers. Catherine Keener buys furniture at estate sales and worries about how much she can mark up the price when she re-sells it.
Oliver Platt, as her husband, has no qualms at all about charging whatever they can get. Together, they’re waiting for an elderly neighbor to die so they can join her apartment to theirs. The old woman’s granddaughters (Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet) complicate that one. And there’s always this issue: how do you live well when there are homeless and poor people down on the street. I’m expecting another smart, well-observed and maybe funny film from this group.
MY DEAR ENEMY: Like The Passenger Side which played at Tinseltown last week, this is a one-day road movie in which two people get to know each other a little better. They’re not Canadians in Los Angeles this time, but two young Koreans who were once romantically linked. The woman of the pair wants the man to pay back some money he borrowed. With her in tow, he visits various other women to ask for a loan. She’s miserable; he’s carefree. The film is a low-key character study about two different approaches to life.
(Subtitled, showing at Tinseltown)
NOTE: All the images are movie stills provided by the studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.