Video Verdict: ‘Iron Man 3’

Robert Downey Jr. reprises the role of Tony Stark in the superhero drama “Iron Man 3.”

Robert Downey Jr. reprises the role of Tony Stark in the superhero drama “Iron Man 3.”

This week, “Iron Man 3” is the only major theatrical release making its way to the small screen because most other studios decided to bow to its blockbuster might.

Iron Man 3

3½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content.
Disney
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, digital download and on demand

After a tremendous franchise introduction, the “Iron Man” series fell into a sophomore slump. “Iron Man 2” wasn’t nearly as witty or fun as its predecessor, so it was a big deal when the metal-clad hero regained his luster in the 2012 blockbuster “The Avengers.” Fans should be equally excited about his showing in “Iron Man 3.”

Shane Black, previously best known for writing the “Lethal Weapon” franchise, co-wrote the screenplay and took over directorial duties. Black maintains the style of the first two movies, but offers added punch with an improved plot and better pacing.

In “Iron Man 2,” Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), the billionaire playboy who wears the Iron Man armor, spent half of the movie battling his own demons. This was interesting, but it reduced the relevance of all the supervillain stuff. That’s not a problem with “Iron Man 3.”

Although Stark is still narcissistic and troubled, his personal concerns pale in comparison to the evil he faces. An international terrorist who calls himself the Mandarin seems bent on world domination, and the man is bold enough to launch a direct attack on Stark’s home. This not only amounts to a slap in the face, it puts Stark’s beloved girlfriend, Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow), in grave danger. Humbled and licking his wounds, Stark fights back with the help of his long-time friend and fellow armored hero, Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle).

Because Stark is attacked so directly and successfully, “Iron Man 3” has a dark edge. For a change, it’s easy to imagine Iron Man coming out on the losing side of the battle, and Stark operates with a sense of desperation through much of the film. That doesn’t, however, mean “Iron Man 3” is somber. It’s not.

The best thing about Downey’s portrayal of Stark is that the character is both witty and vain, meaning he has no trouble verbally abusing his enemies, even when they’re giving him a thrashing. That makes “Iron Man 3” as funny as it is exciting.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include a making-of feature and a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming Marvel Comics movie “Thor: The Dark World.”

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Hannibal” – Season One: First 13 episodes of NBC’s dramatic series focused on serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and his relationship with an unwitting FBI agent (Hugh Dancy). The characters, of course, were taken from writer Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter novels. Laurence Fishburne also stars.

“Redemption”: Drama featuring Jason Statham as a former Royal Marine who gets sucked into London’s criminal underworld. When he discovers that his girlfriend was murdered by some of the criminals he knows, he seeks revenge. Written and directed by Steven Knight, writer of “Dirty Pretty Things.”

“Kings of Summer”: Coming-of-age comedy about three teenagers who decide to spend the summer living together in the woods. Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie and Megan Mullally star. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts.

“In the House”: French suspense film about a high school teacher who becomes obsessed by a fact-based story that a student is writing. Co-written and directed by Fraçois Ozon. Presented in French with English subtitles.

“Three Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman: Criterion Collection release highlighting the cinematic collaboration between Hollywood star Ingrid Bergman and Italian director Roberto Rossellini. The collection is interesting from both an artistic and historical standpoint because the two ended up marrying after a scandalous affair. The included films are “Stromboli,” “Europe ’51” and “Journey to Italy.”

“Modern Family” – The Complete Fourth Season: ABC’s Emmy Award-winning mockumentary about American family life is still going strong. This release contains all 24 episodes from the last season.

“2 Broke Girls” – The Complete Second Season: This popular sitcom will return to CBS in the fall. In the meantime, fans can dip into the 24 episodes presented here. The “Odd Couple”-style plot revolves around two waitresses who dream of running their own cupcake shop. One (Kat Dennings) was raised poor. The other (Beth Behrs) grew up wealthy but lost everything when her father was convicted of fraud.

“Room 237”: Documentary film that deconstructs perceived themes in director Stanley Kubrick’s seminal horror film “The Shining.” Directed by Rodney Ascher.

“South Park” — The Complete Sixteenth Season: Ten most recent episodes of the boundary-pushing animated series created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The show is returning to Comedy Central for a 17th season beginning Sept. 25.

“Man of Tai Chi”: Keanu Reeves makes his directing debut with a drama about a young martial artist (Tiger Chen) who ends up in an underground fight club. The movie is slated for a limited theatrical release starting Nov. 1, but it will be available on demand Sept. 27. Reeves also stars in the film.

Horror films from Scream Factory: It makes sense that Scream Factory, a sub-label of the video distributor Shout! Factory, would roll out a bunch of scary movies in advance of Halloween. This week’s batch includes John Carpenter’s 1987 thriller “Prince of Darkness” and the two follow-up films to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”: “Psycho II” and “Psycho III.” Both movies feature Anthony Perkins as his signature character, Norman Bates. Perkins also directed the latter film.

“Halloween” – 35th Anniversary Edition: Fans and critics alike consider director John Carpenter’s “Halloween” one of the most influential horror movies of all time. Anchor Bay is giving it the deluxe treatment with an anniversary Blu-ray release featuring a new audio commentary with Carpenter and star Jamie Lee Curtis.

“Hawaii Five-0” – The Third Season: The original “Hawaii Five-0” ran from 1968 to 1980, and this remake is doing well. Alex O’Loughlin stars as Steve McGarrett, head of a special police task force in Hawaii. A faithful crew, including Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan), helps McGarrett nail bad guys. This release includes all 24 season-three episodes.

“Dear Mom, Love Cher”: Cher’s new solo album hits stores this week, and Lionsgate decided to ride its coattails with a documentary about her family life. The film features interviews with Cher’s mother, Georgia Holt, along with other members of the singer’s family. Written and directed by P. David Ebersole.

“Barabbas”: Television movie based on author Par Lagerkvist’s award-winning novel. The story is centered on Barabbas, the Biblical figure who was imprisoned with Jesus yet was released rather than crucified. Directed by Roger Young.

 

– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. For more of his work visit http://www.ForrestHartman.com. E-mail him at forrest@forresthartman.com.

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