Iron Man was entertaining enough, I guess, and the principal actors were all certainly very fine, but it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth nonetheless. Trying to make a rock-em, sock-em comic book movie relevant or timely or whatever by setting a major portion of the plot in Afghanistan seems, rather than allowing the one to enrich the other, kind of an insult to both. In his Chicago Reader review, J.R. Jones bemoans the fact that Favreau as director makes no direct commentary on the fact that the Tony Stark character acts as a metaphor for the U.S., but I think Jones is slightly off the mark. I think using Stark's single-minded mission to destroy the weapons he's sold to the 'bad guys' as such a driving force of the plot and such a hinge for his character arc implicitly acknowledges that everybody knows this is how arms get distributed to questionable people with questionable motives, and everybody knows this is the same charade of self-righteousness we've been watching on TV every day since 9/11. It's so obvious that it needn't be remarked on. But, the fact that it needn't be remarked on doesn't take away from the reality that it's a pretty despicable thing to build a supposedly escapist summer blockbuster around, a blockbuster where we're supposed to cheer for these virtuosic displays of ballistic might.
Redbelt was likewise a bit of a snooze-fest and letdown. Over the course of his career, Mamet has perhaps done his job too well--by continually railing against seedy, amoral Hollywood wheeling and dealing, he's made it impossible to believe that anyone would be as starry-eyed and gullible when confronted with the kind of too-good-to-be-true offer from a solicitous actor/producer team that Chiwetel Ejiofor's Mike Terry character is handed. (Esp. a character with the avowed integrity and honor issues that he has.) Though the plot strained credibility in many places, I'm always happy to watch Ejiofor do anything, and I thought the casting of Tim Allen was inspired.
I suppose I should have had problems with Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but it won me over in spite of myself. Sure, the female characters were fairly one-dimensional and disproportionately hot in comparison to their more schlubby male counterparts, but I felt like, on the whole, it had a pretty good sense for all the different kinds of stuff that hangs in the air, unspoken, between people--between old lovers, new lovers, friends that aren't really friends, and people you feel threatened by. Plus, when is Paul Rudd going to step away from these disposable comedic walk-on roles and start carrying movies on his own again? He's a demonstrably better actor than most of the guys in Apatow's stable and shines with a ridiculous amount of on-screen charisma. When he breaks into a smile in that scene when he's trying to figure out how old he actually is, I felt like my retinas were being seared. Damn.
I've been listening to Dirty Projectors' Rise Above a lot lately and liking it a ton. Since I have absolutely no familiarity with the Black Flag album it's re-creating/reenvisioning, though, I find myself listening to Rise Above in much the same way that I used to listen to original cast recordings for musicals I'd never actually seen performed. There's something enjoyably elliptical about just jumping in blind and assembling the plot, such as it is, to the best of my abilities with the clues left behind by the music and lyrics. This way of listening has also helped smooth over some of the songs' sudden crazy tempo shifts and jarring vocal affectations--they're easier for my ears to acclimate to if I hear them as out-of-context scene changes and moments of character development.
Speaking of character development, I've spent the last three evenings immersed in the Scott Pilgrim books (and plan to finish the fourth today)--holy crap, I'm just completely in love with this series now. It's so smart and funny and delightful. And Canadian. I don't think I've grown so attached, so quickly, to a group of characters like this since I first started getting into Deadwood. I just want to give them space to continue to rattle around in my brain like a catchy power pop melody. So good!