Could you ever have imagined Robert Downey Jr. as a cartoon superhero? He’s not the first choice you’d think of, considering his fabled infamy. But the one-time Oscar nominee ("Chaplin") has always been a charmer even during the worst of times. In Marvel/Paramount’s "Iron Man," though, he’s a total winner. Because of him, the movie is going to be the first big summer blockbuster.
Directed by another unlikely player, Jon Favreau, "Iron Man" is the first really great summer hit since "Spider-Man 2" or "X-Men: The Last Stand." Maybe because Stan Lee and the Marvel people have so much editorial control, the film adaptations of their comic books are very strong. "Iron Man" plays like an old-fashioned hit, full of character development, witty dialogue and a plot that plausibly makes sense.
It also has really fantastic special effects. I don’t mean explosions — there are plenty of those. But the whole construction of the Iron Man suit, the learning curve that Downey’s Tony Stark moves along as he invents Iron Man, all of it is simply and expertly revealed. Watching Tony learn to fly as he puts together the pieces of Iron Man is one of the high points of a screenplay that boasts two pairs of writers with different expertise.
One team comes from the movie "Children of Men" that was certainly used for the scenes in which Stark, a war industrialist, goes to Pakistan and becomes a victim of his own weaponry during a brutal skirmish. The other team was employed for the comic book superhero side, i.e. the real fun. I’m assuming this second team is responsible for the stewardesses on Tony’s private plane turning into G-rated pole dancers mid-flight.
Downey is not the only acting asset of "Iron Man." Gwyneth Paltrow is perfect as his sexy assistant, Pepper Potts. An Oscar-winner with a very strange resume, Paltrow is on the right track here. She’s accessible, funny and romantic without being overwhelming or high-handed. No English accent either.
Pepper Potts may transform Paltrow, who’s only 35, back into a movie star and take her off the remote pedestal upon which she placed herself. (Someone should update her imdb page since this role isn’t even listed.)
And don’t miss Jeff Bridges, the most underrated actor of his generation, as Stark’s nemesis, Obediah Stane. Obediah is kind of a Lex Luthor character, complete with bald pate, but Bridges does more than just twirl his mustache. Since he and Downey are each really character actors, their play off each other is lively and fun. Also nice to see: Shaun Toub, of "The Kite Runner," as Stark’s savior in the Middle East.
"Iron Man" is really a comic book hero of the '80s and '90s, so he’s not really part of my nostalgia. That may be a good thing, since I came into the film without any preconceived notions. The fact is, Favreau’s "Iron Man" is damn good, and should kick off the summer box office with a bang.
Friday night: the Tribeca Film Festival got not one but two Oscar-winning Best Actresses into the main theater for a screening of a new family drama called "Lake City."
Sissy Spacek, the star of the film, was one; Jane Fonda, mother of co-star Troy Garity, was another. Not bad!
Garity plays Spacek’s son in the "Ordinary People"-type drama, and he remarkably holds his own without missing a beat in their many scenes together.
Garity has already proven his chops in movies like Barry Levinson’s "Bandits" and Frank Pierson’s "Soldier’s Girl" (he was nominated for an Indie Spirit award in the latter). Now at 35 — and recently wed to the sensational Simone Bent — he’s moving into leading man territory. It’s about time!
At the "Lake City" after party, proud mama Fonda — an astonishing knockout — held court in the West Village drawing room of socialite/producer Alison Sarofim.
A two-time Oscar winner ("Klute," "Coming Home") with several other nominations, legendary La Fonda is looking carefully for her next big role.
She told me: "There is no Katharine Hepburn to do for me what I did for her." Believe it or not, she tells me that when she brought Hepburn into "On Golden Pond," the senior star was 73 years young.
"Just three years older than me now," Jane said. Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, are you listening?
Fonda looks so good that Random House has asked her to write a book on aging, sort of a sequel to a similar volume she did on women and aging back in 1984 when she was — are you ready? — 46.
Fonda says that young girls in Atlanta come up to her and say, "I love your movies."
"They mean 'Monster-in-Law,'" Jane says. The younger generation would have their heads explode if they watched America’s premier actress in "Klute," "Coming Home," "The Morning After," or a dozen more of her famous roles.
But Jane is not letting low youngster recognition stop her. She’s actively looking for a significant role in a major drama with a big-time director. In the meantime, she’s reading scripts like crazy.
On May 12, she and her whole acting family — brother Peter, niece Bridget, son Troy — will get together for the first every Fonda Family Film Festival in memory of dad Henry in Atlanta.
Bridget, Jane says, doesn’t like to look at her movies, so Jane’s had the task of watching all of them and picking clips for the event. “She’s really wonderful,” says the happy aunt.
But she also says that Bridget is semi-retired at this point, so the future of the Fondas rests for the moment with Troy. The legacy is in good hands.
Party turnout included Troy’s co-star Spacek, her old “In the Bedroom” co-star Marisa Tomei with new boyfriend, Brett Ratner with girlfriend Alina, juror Peter Dinklage, New Line Cinema’s co founder Bob Shaye, Sony Music COO Rob Wiesenthal, “Bella” star Eduardo Verastegui, executive producer Weiman Seid, plus perennial star Ann Dexter Jones, whose kids are rockin’ — Grammy-winner Mark Ronson is helping Amy Winehouse with her James Bond theme song (if she’s not otherwise occupied or restrained), twins Samantha and Charlotte Ronson (see under “Lohan” in tabloids) always in the news, and so on.
Robert Townsend — remember when he used all those credit card advances to make his film, "Hollywood Shuffle"? Now he’s directing a documentary about black comedians called “Why We Laugh.”
I’m told he just got Bill Cosby, the king of all black comedy, to join in the fun with Chris Rock, Steve Harvey, George Wallace, DL Hughley, many people with the last name Wayans, Marla Gibbs and Eddie Griffin, among those participating on the joke side. On the serious end: my pal Stanley Crouch, and Cornel West. ...
Tuesday night is an off-night for movie premieres. “Tanks gott!” as a friend of mine used to say. Anyway, two big events: Carly Simon plays a private show at Joe’s Pub in New York City to promote her new album, “This Kind of Love,” on HearMusic (Starbucks, Amazon). There are wonderful new songs on it, some written with Jimmy Webb, and one each by her talented kids, Ben and Sally Taylor. ...
Also Tuesday night, former Entertainment Weekly chief music reviewer David Browne reads from his new book about Sonic Youth at New York City's KGB Bar, 85 E. 4th St. from 7 to 9 p.m. “Goodbye 20th Century” is officially published on May 26. The reading, with Jeff Gordinier and Lisa Chamberlain, is free.
A year ago, I told you that former Simon & Schuster chief Richard Snyder filed suit against Edgar Bronfman Jr. over whose idea it was to buy and destroy the former Warner Music Group.
Last week, Judge Bernard J. Fried of the New York State Supreme Court ruled on a few issues in the suit, not the least of which was that it will go forward. Bronfman wanted it dismissed completely. The judge disagreed.
The judge did dismiss four of the six counts Snyder brought against Bronfman. They were all to do with his compensation from oral agreements between the two men. The agreements, the judge found, were too vague. You’d think a smart guy like Snyder would have had everything in writing. He obviously doesn’t watch “Judge Judy.”
In letting the case proceed to the next level, the judge wrote that Snyder alleges that Bronfman “induced” him “to perform" and "did perform, valuable services for defendant from January 2002 to April 2004, that Bronfman willingly accepted those services, that plaintiff expected to be compensated for his services, and that Snyder’s services reaped a large financial recovery for Bronfman such that in equity and good conscience he should be ordered to make restitution to Snyder.”
Until there are depositions and testimony, we won’t know if it was also Snyder’s idea to gut the company, release few CDs, have almost no hit records and drive the stock price into oblivion. Something tells me he won’t be taking credit for all that stuff, just maybe Linkin Park making U2 sound-alike records.