Review: The Nice Guys

THENICEGUYS-660x330 Director Shane Black’s latest is a comedic whodunit starring Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, and Angourie Rice that takes place in the captivating 1970s L.A. scene. In the style of his previous career rejuvenating Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Black is able to take two actors known for more action and heavy drama roles and place them in an environment that in a way seems more fitting for them. The Nice Guys is simply one of the best movies of the year so far. From start to finish it sets up and delivers on everything it promises beat for comedic beat.

Private detective Holland March (Ryan Gosling) can’t catch a break no matter how hard he tries. With a winning personality he charms old ladies out of extra money for cases he’s hired on, he fumbles around L.A. making the occasional discovery but mostly wasting his and everyone else's time. Holland eventually gets a visit from Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) to “encourage” Hollard to drop the current case he is working. Jackson is a low level enforcer who spends his days using brass knuckles to deliver brutal messages to would-be pedophiles and other nuisances like Holland. Eventually things come together as Holland and Jackson are forced to join forces to find the location of a missing girl named Amelia (Margaret Qualley). Their team up takes them on an exploration of the nightlife of 1970s L.A., from pornstar parties to exclusive car shows and everything in between. The atmosphere of the film is one of its greatest assets. Director Shane Black is able to recreate the magic of that time and place with great costuming, excellent location shooting, and a stellar needle drop soundtrack.

During their search for Amelia, the two men run into other mob enforcers, contract killers, and enough alcohol to drown Holland’s sorrows in all the while making their seemingly simple job that much more interesting. The two are then joined by Holland's daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice), a precocious 14 year old that keeps Holland on his toes and settles Jackson’s more violent nature. There are so many wonderful performances in this film but the three leads are able to stand out without any problems. Russell Crowe’s Jackson Healy is one part lovable rogue, one part-terrifying thug. He balances so well against the fumbling Ryan Gosling, who in my opinion steals damn near every scene he’s in. You really do identify with Holland March as the audience going through this insane shoot-em-up journey and laughing all the way. Last but certainly not least is Angourie Rice. Even though she is only 14 years old, she is just as smart, funny, crass, and irreverent as her other co-stars. She certainly has a bright future ahead of her. This year has been filled to the brim with super heroics and CGI fests. It’s nice to get a small break from that and watch a film that is simple in nature but delivers on a grand scale.

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Review: Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 The latest installment in the series that kicked off a phenomenon in modern movie history has arrived. Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3 is the first real leap for that summer blockbuster brass ring. The hype for everything Marvel after last year’s juggernaut, The Avengers, has put this movie on everyone’s radar. The general rehashing of past films won’t cut it. So how does Marvel take on the Herculean task of matching the hype?

With new director Shane Black at the helm its hard to see how this movie could fail. Having such writing credits from fan favorites like Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Good Night under his belt, Black was poised to bring a fresh perspective to the franchise. Black definitely delivers in this capacity. Iron Man 3 feels nothing like the two previous movies directed by Jon Favreau. Frankly, it has a completely different feel than all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. I can tell you right now that extreme fanboys will not appreciate the subtle nuances of this movie, but rather will complain about things like “he isn’t in the suit enough.” Marvel had the task of trying to make you truly care about Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and his life post Avengers. This is difficult, as a viewer you just want the hero to suit up and stop the bad guys. Sadly, that is not all that makes a hero a hero. Tony Stark is more Tony than he has been in all of his previous appearances.

The movie starts out with an interesting premise of the United States being terrorized by a figure known as The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). This character plays similar to a movie version of Osama Bin Laden. A fearsome deliverer of threats and kept promises via television broadcasts. The similarities of the challenge to America as a superpower is pretty striking and heavy for a comic book movie. Notions of are you really the good guys? plays pretty heavily in The Mandarin’s modus operandi. Brutal in his tactics the villain drives the virtuous hero, Tony, to the razor’s edge. We see Tony dealing with the aftermath of The Avengers and a newfound shake in confidence. The nuance of emotion that the character goes through is surrounded by clever jokes very much in the Shane Black playbook. By far the funniest movie Marvel has been able to pull off thanks largely to the line delivery by Downey Jr. As in the other appearances of the character, Downey just shines.

The movie makes excellent work of tying together all three Iron Man movies. We even see a familiar face from a prominent and influential character from the first outing. I found the supporting cast to be quite beneficial. Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) was an excellent asset to play off of Downey and the Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) character. All the main screen actors helped to deliver a new type of Marvel film, one with a serious tone. The brutality of this movie was rather surprising. It helped to really ratchet up the tension and dire circumstances that everyone found themselves in. I was forever surprised as to how far they were able to push this terrorism theme. I think the entire movie is sort of a metaphor for where the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is going post Avengers. The movie is about coming to terms.

Coming to terms with terrorism, true villains of the world, loss, and a myriad of other things. Tony works to come to terms with who he is. He spends most of the movie outside of the suit trying desperately to get back into it; his security blanket. The MCU has been playing it fairly safe up until this point and now with Phase 2 they can’t reach for their security blanket anymore. They have to shed those preconceived notions and branch out anew. Tony started it all so he is the perfect choice to be our view into the next phase. While I thought Iron Man 3 was unconventional in its story and not inline with what we’ve previously seen, I really enjoyed it. A man on the run trying to discover what and who he is. Based loosely on the Extremis comic storyline, but more importantly the 5 Nightmares comic storyline. This is where I think most extreme fanboys will lose it. They were hoping for the overly science fiction aspects of Extremis, but got the slow and intelligent burn that is the 5 Nightmares story. Dealing with Tony’s major fears as Iron Man the 5 Nightmares is exactly what the Tony Stark character needed. A kick in the ass to reboot him for the bigger battles to come. Getting past his own personal demons was the only way for him to face what comes next. For that reason I say Iron Man 3 as a solid start into the madness that is Marvel Phase 2. Can’t wait for Thor: The Dark World!

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