"Dads leave, you don’t have to be such a pussy about it." – Tony Stark, 'Iron Man Three'
Greetings from the apocalypse! Free Comics? An "Iron Man" sequel that doesn't suck? Genre festivals, eccentric painter docs and serial killer biopics? Have I been irradiated and gone to heaven? Nope, it's all happening man, it's all happening …
Friday, May 3
POW! IN THEATERS
As a raving fan of Shane Black and Robert Downey Jr.'s first collab, the neo noir comedy "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang," I had hoped that this director/star combo would hit it out of the park with "Iron Man Three." Well, frankly, Shane hit it out of the park and into the stratosphere, mesosphere, ionosphere, etc. Pulpy, groovy, bang-up fun, this is the best cinematic iteration of ol' shellhead yet, and while Joss Whedon got the quipy part right in "Marvel's The Avengers," this one perfectly balances the humor and the pathos that has defined the character since the first film. SO GOOD to see Downey out of the suit and kicking ass. I think this might be the first action movie since "Aliens" to deal head-on with a hero suffering PTSD from the preceding movie. They knew all the traps of bringing a cute kid in, and poked fun at every single one. Gwyneth Paltrow and Rebecca Hall both sizzle (in one case literally), elevating the female leads well beyond damsel in distress territory. The way big baddie The Mandarin is handled is probably gonna piss off hardcore fans, but bully on you Ben Kingsley, you are the coolest dude who ever lived.
The word "Extremis" may sound like some kind of advanced sports deodorant, but it's actually the near-invincible genetic technology that serves as Tony Stark's primary problem in "Iron Man Three." While the movie deviates significantly from the book, it doesn't stray far from the central ideas writer Warren Ellis and artist Adi Granov created for a 2006 run in the comics, all of which is brought to animated life in "Iron Man: Extremis." This series, available on HULU fo free yo, takes the entire graphic novel and simply animates Granov's art to give those too lazy … er, busy to read a chance to catch up and familiarize themselves with "IM3" characters like Aldrich Killian and Maya Hansen. Here's the first of six episodes below:
BASIC CABLE BLUES
Producer Kevin Feige and his Marvel geek brain trust got the ball rolling on their Movieverse in 2008 with "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk," which air at 7 p.m and 1 p.m. respectively on FX. The first inklings of a cohesive series of crossover films can be found as Nick Fury and Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. hint at that Avenger Initiative, while a clever RDJ cameo in "Hulk" has Tony Stark looking pretty stoked about that team they're putting together. Both films strike a high note in terms of playing Marvel fun with just the right amount of verisimilitude, but if you're a glutton for punishment, you can also "enjoy" its lackluster, Mickey Rourketastrophe sequel "Iron Man 2" Sunday on FX at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Robert Downey Jr. isn't the only one getting his hero on this weekend, since Entertainment Weekly's CapeTown Film Festival 2013 is turning red capes into red carpets. Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre has Snake Plissken himself, Kurt Russell, on hand to "Escape From New York" tonight at 7 p.m., while Saturday has three "May the 4th be with you!" screenings of "Return of the Jedi." Sunday is the real treat, with Neil Gaiman presenting "Coraline," Richard Donner never saying die for "The Goonies" and Monty Python madman Terry Gilliam appearing in-person for his dystopian masterpiece "12 Monkeys."
If you prefer your genre fare blood-caked and in as remote a location as possible, then the first-ever Stanley Film Festival is gonna be your jam May 2-5. Located in Estes Park, Colorado in the ominous shadow of the Rocky Mountains, this is the place that inspired both Stephen King's novel and Stanley Kubrick's movie of "The Shining." Actually, that film is shown on continuous loop on guest room televisions. This weekend they're showing it immediately following a screening of doc "Room 237" in a special free outdoor screening with Kubrick's assistant Leon Vitali present. Other creature features include "The Purge," "Black Rock," Elijah Wood's remake of "Maniac," "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane" and "V/H/S 2."
Saturday, May 4
POW! IN THEATERS
Jeffrey Dahmer, 17 kills; lightweight. John Wayne Gacy, 33 kills; just clownin' around. Richard Kuklinski? This guy murdered well over 100 people, and possibly as many as 250. He was the Babe Ruth of whackin' people for the mafia, or just hobos/random guys off the street for practice. Finally someone has made a movie to memorialize this twisted sunuvabitch's legendary streak from 1948 and 1986, named after his affectionate moniker "The Iceman," since he liked to freeze bodies to disguise time of death. Psycho du jour Michael Shannon plays Kuklinski and Winona Ryder plays his unsuspecting wife, who didn't know the man who fathered her two lovely children was a murder MACHINE. Chris Evans plays his partner in crime and James Franco cameos as his most sadistic kill.
PAY CHANNEL PAYBACK
TV has more mafia hitmen than you can shake a stick at tonight, with Martin Scorsese's '70s Las Vegas epic "Casino" on Cinemax at 1:30 p.m., but that's just a setup for the main event: the Cable premiere of "Looper" on Starz at 9 p.m. (repeats at 7:40 a.m. Sunday). Rian Johnson's sci-fi Möbius strip pits futuristic mob ice man Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) against an older, balder version of himself (Bruce Willis), but that cool-sounding time travel premise is just a pretense for bigger ideas involving psychokinesis, predestination, memory and loss. If you didn't catch the BEST movie of last year, the time is NOW.
Every year the comic book industry bands together to make the public at large more aware of their wares with a little somethin'-somethin' called Free Comic Book Day. All day today stores will have plenty of funny books up for grabs, including titles featuring movie heroes like Batman and Superman, "Marvel's The Avengers 2" villain Thanos and a de rigueur Dark Horse "Star Wars" book. Get 'em while they're hot, kids!
Feel the power of love tonight at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, California where they're engaging a Flux Capacitor for an '80s time travel night Double Feature: "Back to the Future" and "Donnie Darko." Both take place at the ass-end of the Reagan-era when teenage loners (c'mon Marty McFly, what kind of teen hangs out with a wigged-out 70-year-old scientist?) used time travel to change people's fates for the better, or at least to avoid hallucinogenic rabbits. The double feature runs twice starting at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m,. or you can stay home from 2:10-8 p.m. since Encore is showing the entire "Back to the Future" trilogy.
For my East Coasters, at 3 p.m. today AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland has three Buster Keaton shorts with live musical accompaniment by Alloy Orchestra, including Old Stone Face's screen debut in Fatty Arbuckle's "The Butcher Boy," playing a bloody surgeon in "Good Night, Nurse!" and playing every part (including the audience) in "The Play House."
Sunday, May 5
NETFLIX RECOMMENDS WITH A VENGEANCE
I recently caught the 2012 doc "Beauty is Embarrassing" on Netflix Instant, and damn if this wasn't one of the most enjoyable pieces of pure eye candy bliss my eyeballs have absorbed in a good long while! This week's much-recommended "Survivor of Thunderdome" chronicles Wayne White, a wackadoo from Tennessee who became one of the artistic geniuses behind "Pee Wee's Playhouse" in the '80s. After getting burnt out on television and music video work, he began a series of popular "word paintings" where he integrated 3D phrases into cheap landscape paintings, phrases like "STARF**KER" and "GOODLOOKINGPEOPLEHAVINGFUNWITHOUTYOU." He is awesome, see this doc, that is all. Period.
PAY CHANNEL PAYBACK
This is a comic book-y kinda weekend, but if Iron Man is too shiny for you let's take a trip to the sewer and get grimy as "Punisher: War Zone" decapitates your weekend at 6:30 p.m. on IFC. Though a massive bomb on release, this third (third!) attempt at bringing Frank Castle's brand of vengeance-dispensing to the screen has been building steam for cult reappraisal over the last few years. Chief among its defenders: jovial nerd supreme Patton Oswalt, who has held screenings and appeared on podcast "How Did This Get Made?" with director Lexi Alexander, where he exclaimed the virtues of Ray Stevenson's pudgier take on the character, and that "There are scenes that look like they smell bad, and I mean that as a compliment!"
YOU DOWN WITH VOD?
It's staggering to think that Martin Scorsese hasn't worked with his actor muse Robert De Niro in nearly twenty years since "Casino," but perhaps the most overlooked item in their filmography together is 1982's vicious satire "The King of Comedy." In honor of its 30th Anniversary, De Niro presented a newly restored version of the film at his Tribeca Film Festival, and now it's available in Digital HD for the first time on iTunes. De Niro plays Rupert Pupkin, a fanatic comedy dweeb who gets his shot at the big time when he kidnaps Johnny Carson-esque Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). It's a scathing indictment of the cult of celebrity, one which seemed far more ludicrous before the advent of Snooki.
As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …