Following are reviews by Susan Granger of the latest movies in area theaters:
"IRON MAN 3"
Opening with a narration by Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), this chapter in the lucrative billionaire-turned-super hero franchise starts with a flashback to his earlier life as a brash-but-brilliant playboy, spending New Year's Eve 1999 in Berne, Switzerland, with scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), while giving an arrogant brush-off to her partner, nerdy geneticist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce).
Moving into the present, Stark suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after his near-death experience in "The Avengers" and is obsessed with his ever-growing assemblage of multi-colored, metallic suits, each with different weaponry. His new Mark 42, for example, is modular and can be remotely piloted.
This time around, the threat comes from an evil extremist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). Filmed long before the Boston Marathon, the Mandarin's seemingly random, terrorist bombing attacks, nevertheless, strike a discordant note. Meanwhile, Stark's CEO and long-suffering/neglected girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), rebuffs devious entrepreneur Killian with his game-changing, nanobot serum technology known as Extremis. But then Stark's security chief, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), is hospitalized and his magnificent Malibu beachfront compound is obliterated in a helicopter attack. Stark is presumed dead until he surfaces in Tennessee, where he's befriended by a resourceful youngster (Ty Simkins). As inventive Stark rebuilds his high-tech suit and adjusts the priorities in his life, his buddy James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), a.k.a. the Iron Patriot, pursues the Mandarin, discovering that duplicity and double-identity twists abound.
The imaginative screenplay by Drew Pearce and director Shane Black ("Kiss Kiss Bang Bang") contains surprisingly clever, whimsical dialogue and wisecracking one-liners. The jet-propelled CGI action sequences are awesome, including a free-fall in which an Iron Man transforms 13 passengers into an airborne daisy chain and escorts them to safety -- and having armor-clad, super-powered Pepper Potts bashing the bad guy in the explosive finale. Above all: irreverently droll Robert Downey Jr. is terrific!
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Iron Man 3" soars with an exciting, hugely entertaining 8, an eye-popping spectacle that culminates in a post-credits surprise.
"PAIN & GAIN"
"Unfortunately, this is a true story," begins the narration ... Inspired by self-help guru Johnny Wu (Ken Jeong), Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg), a personal trainer at Miami Lakes' Sun Gym, is determined to carve himself a chunk of the American Dream, even if he has to steal it.
In order to accomplish this, Lugo recruits two misguided accomplices: Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie), a bodybuilding co-worker who's struggling with impotence caused by steroids, and Attica ex-con Paul Doyle (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson), a devout, born-again Christian with cocaine-abuse issues. But after the ambitious muscle-bound trio abduct and torture Kershaw in an abandoned dry-cleaning plant over a period of 30 days, forcing him to sign over all his assets, including cars, a local deli franchise and a huge McMansion in an exclusive gated community, the combative Colombian-American hires a retired cop/private detective, Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris), to track them down and try to convince the incompetent Dade County police that a heinous crime actually occurred.
Working from a barely serviceable screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely ("Chronicles of Narnia, "Captain America: the First Avenger"), based on Pete Collins'1999 Miami NewTimes articles about the Sun Gym gang, featuring a veritable tag-team of voice-over recitations, director Michael Bay ("Transformers" trilogy, "Armageddon," "Pearl Harbor," "The Island," "Bad Boys") re-interprets this true crime story as a quirky, chaotic, dunderhead comedy caper that's loaded with viciously graphic violence.
Although Bay describes this as a "small movie," shot in South Florida on a $26 million budget, nearly every woman in this misguided, misogynistic mess is depicted as a sex object, although Rebel Wilson manages to steal some scenes as Adrian's clueless nurse girlfriend. In conjunction, Mark Wahlberg is also promoting his own line of fitness supplements called Marked Nutrition.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Pain & Gain" flexes in with an offensive 4, inflicting much pain for little gain.
"THE BIG WEDDING"
What makes a French sex farce fall flat? Translating it into English and turning what was an amusing trifle into a crass, crude, mean-spirited, smarmy mess. How bad is it?
So awful that even the star-studded, multi-generational cast can barely stay afloat.
"Marriage is like a phone call late at night," intones Robert De Niro, as the dysfunctional family story begins. "First comes the ring, and then you wake up."
Missy (Amanda Seyfried) and Alejandro (Ben Barnes) are getting married. What complicates their nuptials is that Alejandro was adopted as a young boy from Colombia and raised by the Griffins, an upscale East Coast couple who already had two older kids. Alejandro's devoutly Catholic, biological mother (Patricia Rae) is coming to the wedding -- but he never told her that his adoptive parents, Don (De Niro) and Ellie (Diane Keaton), got divorced and Don's been happily cohabiting for the past 10 years with Bebe (Susan Sarandon), who was once Ellie's best friend. Because they all love Alejandro, they agree to "pretend" the divorce never happened. Predictably, the charade backfires when lewd, lecherous Don and giggly Ellie once again share the master bedroom.
Meanwhile, there are the other now-grown Griffin children: unexpectedly pregnant Lyla (Katherine Heigl), who's just separated from her husband, and Jared (Topher Grace), her 29-year-old still-virginal brother, a doctor who immediately falls for Alejandro's sexy, skinny-dipping Colombian sister, Nuria (Ana Ayora).
Based on Jean-Stephane Bron's "Mon Frere Se Marie" (2006), it's implausibly, yet formulaically scripted and ploddingly directed by Justin Zackham, born Justin Eglowsky in Connecticut. (He switched to his mother's maiden name after his parents divorced.) His credits include writing "The Bucket List," "One Chance" about "Britain's Got Talent" winner Paul Potts, and the FX series "Lights Out."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Big Wedding" is a turgid 2. Quickly decline this bizarre invitation.