Review: Iron Man 2 (non-spoiler)

They don’t build ‘em like they used to, and they don’t make Iron Man movies like they used to, either. Iron Man 2 is basically more of the same — but slightly less entertaining. And that’s the movie’s only real flaw: It’s just not as fresh and original as the first film. If you loved the first one, you will be very happy with this one.

Robert Downey Jr. is still the center of the film, and he still plays playboy inventor Tony Stark as light a mixture between a petulant child, a nerd, Hugh Hefner — and Capt. Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. The self-indulgent Stark is (sort of) reined in by his coolly-efficient assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) — until he realizes that she really is better at doing his job than he is.

Stark’s job in this movie is to fend off rival industrialist Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), who could be Stark’s less-competent twin. Hammer teams up with Russian madman Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who feels that his father was cheated by Stark’s father, Howard, and creates a supersuit of his own that employs energy whips to incapacitate his foes. Rourke certainly looks and sounds like a survivor of a corrupt Russian prison system, but Vanko’s motives are only barely hinted at — a weakness of the script, not Rourke, who gives it his all. He makes Vanko mad in the sense of being both angry and crazy.
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LOST 6.14: The one with all the deaths

WHY?

Why? Why did Sun, Jin and Sayid have to die?

Simple. They gave their lives in service of the story. Because their deaths added to the drama. Because a higher power — the-powers-that-be behind LOST — realized that sometimes story threads need to be snipped rather than tied off. Because TPTB have set the endgame in motion, and after six seasons, this all has to mean something. Plus, the characters died heroic, self-sacrificing deaths — the best kind possible, I suppose.
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GLEE 1.17: Don’t give a damn ‘bout my bad reputation

GLEE got off to a rough start for me this week, because I actually did not like the opening number, a rendition of “Ice Ice Baby” performed by Will (Matthew Morrison). I don’t have a problem with Morrison’s rapping – I really enjoyed his versions of “Gold Digger” and “Bust a Move” for example; it’s just that something about “Ice Ice Baby” left me cold. In fact, it wasn’t just Will. I thought the backing vocals were off as well. Maybe the song just wasn’t mixed properly from broadcast. I’ve been trying, but I can’t recall another performance on GLEE that I really actively disliked.

In another misfire, Sue Sylvester did another video, which meant the wonderful Jane Lynch got to perform with guest star Olivia Newton-John on a refurbishing of her hit “Physical.” I thought the vocals were electronically manipulated a little too much, but perhaps the producers had to do it to cover up some mistakes. Sue herself suffered from the mistake of giving Kurt access to her office, so he was able to get hold of video of Sue rocking out to the original “Physical.” The video went viral on the Web (after the gleeks uploaded it) and Sue was humiliated — on a global scale. Of course, in Sue’s case, everything is larger than life, right? Still, it was shocking to see Sue on the other side of the popularity coin – as the butt of “slow-motion laughter.”
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DOCTOR WHO 5.3 (31.3): Victory of the Daleks is made of win!

New Doctor, meet new Daleks

The latest episode of DOCTOR WHO to air here in the states, “Victory of the Daleks,” is notable for being the 11th Doctor’s first run-in with the pepperpots and for being…well, a win for the Daleks.

To be sure, the Doctor repelled the Daleks’ last run at Earth, but it turned out the mutants were not really invading this time; they were trying to perpetuate the sinister species – and they used the Doctor to do it! How ironic: The Time Lord who passed on the chance to smother them in the cradle way back in “Genesis of the Daleks” is now responsible for their rebirth as a new and “improved” race of relentless killers.
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DOCTOR WHO Coming Attractions: The Time of Angels

Next up for USA fans is “The Time of Angels,” which sees not only another appearance of Alex Kingston as River Song, but the return of the creepy Weeping Angels!

As far as I’m concerned, the Weeping Angels are already way up the Pantheon of Great Doctor Who Monsters after just one appearance, so I am foaming at the mouth to see what happens in this two-parter. Part of me is concerned that the Angels not be tainted by a return engagement, but they are just too compelling to remain one-off adversaries, and I am certain Steven Moffat will put a wonderful new spin on his creations.

Check out these preview clips at the Blogtor Who site to see Matt Smith‘s 11th Doctor and Karen Gillan‘s Amy trying not to blink…

Review: Clash of the Titans (2010): Crackin’ on the Kraken

Clash of Titans is one of those remakes that was in no way really necessary, but with a stubbornness that would make Zeus proud, Hollywood went ahead and did it anyway – and the result demonstrates the folly of messing with movie gods like special-effects wizard Ray Harryhausen.

Even more than featuring Laurence Olivier playing the king of the gods and Harry Hamlin in a toga, the 1981 original is known for Harryhausen’s legendary stop-motion animation effects. In his final feature, Harryhausen animated Calibos, Medusa, the Kraken and all the rest by hand; he more than just a true craftsman, he was an artist with puppets. There was no reason to remake this movie unless the effects were going to completely blow the classics out of the water – and that just does not happen in the 2010 version. Granted, the computer-generated creatures move a lot more quickly and smoothly, and yes, the giant scorpions look impressive, but – why are there giant scorpions in this movie? More importantly, the creatures that Harryhausen lovingly brought to life frame-by-torturous-frame had a sense of personality that soulless CGI lacks. The ballyhooed 3D effects (tacked on as an afterthought following the runaway success of Avatar, at the expense of delaying release) add absolutely nothing to the viewing experience. The movie was not filmed with the intention of utilizing 3D all along, so the effects clearly are not used to best…er, effect.
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STARGATE UNIVERSE 1.15: Lost

Greer\’s long, dark night of the soul

Okay, I do not believe anybody saw the end of this episode of STARGATE UNIVERSE coming – I mean, Scott, Eli and Chloe left behind again? And this time, Destiny is leaving whichever galaxy it was in…

This was a great episode for Sgt. Greer (Jamil Walker Smith), as viewers really got a peek inside his head. It was also a significant episode for T.J., as she finally told Col. Young that he is the father of her baby.

Setting the stage, Riley helpfully explained via kino that Destiny’s stargate is much more primitive than the gates used in the Milky Way (or Pegasus), which is why each time Destiny drops out of FTL, it is only within range of a limited number of other stargates. Unlike the gates viewers are familiar with, the Destiny’s does not have the capability to dial any desired gate in the galaxy. That helped set the stage for the race to locate Lt. Scott, Sgt. Greer, Eli and Chloe before Destiny moved out of range. But then it was determined that the ship was leaving the galaxy – meaning no more gates at all for possibly a very long time.
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HAPPY TOWN 1.1: Are you happy now, ABC?

Unless you have been avoiding ABC programming entirely for the past few months, you are doubtless aware that the network had a new crime series, HAPPY TOWN, debuting this week. This question is: Was it worth the saturation promotion and megahype?

Well, not really. HAPPY TOWN is enjoyable enough, but in no way is it groundbreaking appointment television. The bizarre serial-kidnapper whodunit invites – make that begs – comparison to TWIN PEAKS by openly aping the iconic series with everything from its rustic small town to its quirky residents to a sheriff investigating a bizarre murder. In this case, the victim has a railroad spike driven into his head, resulting in a hole that goes clean through his skull, allowing sunlight to shine through. While somewhat novel for network TV, this is no Laura Palmer, the homecoming queen “wrapped in plastic.”
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