apsule reviews of 'Iron Man' and other films

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

- "Iron Man" " Much of the allure here comes from the fact that we are indeed talking about a man " a real man who has lived a life and made mistakes and experienced regret " not some scrawny, teenage boy who received his superhero powers through a bite from a radioactive spider. No offense to Spidey, the Marvel Comics hero who's already provided billion-dollar summer blockbuster fodder. But there's just something more relatable about Tony Stark, even though he's a playboy industrialist of staggering wealth and arrogance. And in the hands of Robert Downey Jr., he's absolutely riveting.

Downey may have seemed an unlikely casting choice at first, but it's difficult to imagine any other actor in the role; he's so quick-witted and he makes such inspired decisions with dialogue that, at times, might have seemed corny otherwise. Throughout his eclectic career he's always been capable of both great charisma and vulnerability, and both are on display in this, the biggest movie of his life.

"Iron Man" is also a blast " the perfect start to the summer with its shiny mix of visual effects, elaborate set pieces and humor. This is also the biggest movie of director Jon Favreau's life, and he juggles all the complicated, expensive toys deftly.

Downey's Tony is abducted by insurgents while demonstrating his weapons company's latest missile to the U.S. military in Afghanistan. While in captivity, he's ordered to reconstruct the missile but instead creates a suit of armor and becomes a weapon himself.

Jeff Bridges is deliciously villainous as Tony's top executive, Obadiah Stane, with Gwyneth Paltrow bringing understated smarts and class to the role of Pepper Potts, Tony's right-hand woman. PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and brief suggestive content. 126 min. Three and a half stars out of four.

" Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

- "Made of Honor" " The whole point of a romantic comedy is the comfort of the ritual " the familiarity of it all, as if you're wrapping yourself in a warm, snugly blanket of knowledge that the two attractive, charming leads will surely end up with each other in the end. The outcome is never in doubt, despite the various contrived obstacles that pop up along the way.

This is especially true of "Made of Honor," because it's pretty much a remake of a movie you've already seen: 1997's "My Best Friend's Wedding." The only difference is a reversal in gender roles " so daring! This time, Patrick Dempsey plays the one who realizes he's in love with his best friend (Michelle Monaghan), and when she announces she's getting married, he tries to undermine the wedding from the inside. Because, you see, she's asked him to be her "maid of honor."

The title is a pun, get it? Dempsey and Monaghan have a likable screen presence individually and together, which makes the movie from British director Paul Weiland ("City Slickers II " The Legend of Curly's Gold"; enough said) vaguely tolerable for a little while.

But then the pratfalls and the plotting become painfully cliched, and all you can do is check your watch and wait for the inevitable mad dash to blurt out some long-overdue I-love-yous.

Kevin McKidd co-stars as Monaghan's seemingly perfect fiance, a Scottish duke, and Sydney Pollack classes things up in a few scenes as Dempsey's wealthy, oft-married father, but his presence amid such lazy schlock is baffling. PG-13 for sexual content and language. 101 min. One and a half stars out of four.

" Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

- "Redbelt" " A martial arts movie by David Mamet. It sounds like a jarring combination at first, as if the two just don't to go together " until you learn that Mamet himself is a purple belt in Jiujitsu. Clearly, this is a subject that's dear to his heart. Then you realize while watching "Redbelt" that many tenets of the sport " the ideas of control, manipulation and one-upmanship " jibe perfectly with themes the playwright, director and screenwriter has explored for years in some of his best-known works such as the plays "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "Speed-the-Plow."

And so "Redbelt" makes sense in its own weird way: a mix of sports-flick cliches and Mamet's patented rat-a-tat writing. It's "Rocky," it's "The Karate Kid" " only with more stylized, rhythmic dialogue.

Several Mamet regulars show up (Ricky Jay, Joe Mantegna, David Paymer and Mamet's wife, Rebecca Pidgeon) which does put us in somewhat familiar territory.

But it's Chiwetel Ejiofor, the film's star, who commands our attention. As the unflappably moral, placid jiujitsu instructor Mike Terry, Ejiofor can be both attractive and warm, fierce and intimidating.

A series of strangely intertwined events forces Mike into the ring, a place he's never wanted to be, to fight for $50,000. Among the players pushing him into battle are his sexpot wife (Alice Braga); a jittery lawyer (Emily Mortimer); an aging movie star (Tim Allen); a producer (Mantegna); a loan shark (Paymer) and a shady fight promoter (Jay). It goes without saying in Mamet Land that none of these people can be trusted. R for strong language. 99 min. Two stars out of four.

" Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

- "Son of Rambow" " Like "Be Kind Rewind" from earlier this year, this small comedy has a love of movies and is bursting with unbridled imagination. But unlike Michel Gondry's film, which got too gooey toward the end, "Son of Rambow" maintains just the right tone throughout with its guileless, makeshift charm.

Writer-director Garth Jennings ("The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy") based the story on his own preadolescent adventures, and his affection for this time in his own life and a period in pop culture that influenced him, is evident without seeming self-indulgent.

He follows two 11-year-old boys who become unlikely friends in early 1980s England: the quiet, sheltered Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) and the brash bully Lee Carter (Will Poulter). Lee coerces Will into performing stunts for his movie, a take off on "First Blood" titled, appropriately, "Son of Rambow."

Will, who's been raised in the conservative Brethren religion, is overwhelmed by the idea of seeing a movie, much less making one, and gladly finds ways to sneak out of prayer meetings to frolic with Lee in the woods. The bond that forms between these two newcomers is believable and never sappy, even when the inevitable misunderstanding threatens to tear them apart.

Jules Sitruk is a scene-stealer as an ultrachic French exchange student, with his Stray Cats hair and Michael Jackson "Beat It" jacket. And speaking of music, children of the '80s will enjoy the soundtrack, which includes songs from Duran Duran, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure. PG-13 for some violence and reckless behavior. 96 min. Three stars out of four.

" Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic


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