The summer movie season kicks off this week with Iron Man 2, yet another sequel that seems to have succumbed to the Hollywood notion that bigger is better. Director Jon Favreau and lead dude Robert Downey Jr. are joined this time by a lengthy list of intriguing supporting actors (Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke and Garry Shandling) and what seems to be a radically heightened set of expectation. (See Steven Rosen's mixed-to-positive review below.)
It’s not hard to fathom why they would want to jump on the bandwagon: Favreau is a competent director who balances broad entertainment value with at least a semblance of narrative wit and special-effects acumen. And then there’s the presence of Downey, one of the few contemporary Hollywood “stars” who still radiates a sense of devilish unpredictability.
On the other end of the cinematic spectrum, Thomas Balmes’ documentary, Babies, looks at various approaches different cultures bring to rearing newborns, and A Town Called Panic is a whimsical, cult-ratified animated tale from — of all places — Belgium.
BABIES — Thomas Balmes’ documentary takes viewers on a global cross-cultural journey inside the experiences of four newborns from Namibia to Mongolia to Tokyo to San Francisco. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG.) Grade: B
IRON MAN 2 — Director Jon Favreau deserves credit for trying to infuse the sequel to 2008’s Iron Man with equal parts pleasure, wit, intelligence, silliness, self-awareness and steely action-movie grit. In other words, the director tries to make it a worthwhile vehicle for the acting ability of his star, Robert Downey Jr. And Favreau succeeds enough to make it enjoyable by the standards of summer-movie comic-book adaptations/sequels. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Steven Rosen (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B-
A TOWN CALLED PANIC — This whimsical, thoroughly Belgian import imagines a primary-colored world in which the tiny toy cowboy, Indian and horse figures we all had as children (well, those of us who grew up in a pre-Transformers world) come alive and find themselves in all manner of goofy yet compelling adventures. The subtitled, French-language film has won a cult following already. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Marc Savlov (Not Rated.) Grade: B-