Thanks For Sharing


Release: Friday, September 20, 2013 (limited)


….and now that you have, please don’t ever share again. It might cost us our friendship.

So said Gwyneth Paltrow to Mark Ruffalo’s Adam, who’s celebrating five years of celibacy. Well, maybe ‘celebrating’ is a poor choice of words for this situation, but still. Ruffalo plays a dude who is reticent to having any kind of relationship with another woman at this stage in his life, and the other two lead roles here in Tim Robbin’s Mike and Josh Gad’s Neil, have at some point invariably come to this conclusion in their own journeys through rehabilitation.

The three meet in a support group primarily for sex addiction. The opening scenes show them sharing anecdotes, as well as informing each other of any progress they might be making day-to-day. Each of the three main characters is at a different stage in that progression towards health. For Mike, he’s a recovering alcoholic as well as a former abusive husband and father and has been for years seeking solace in therapy. For Adam, this means being five years removed from his last sexual encounter. Then there’s Neil, who seemingly can’t get a grip on anything at all and it would be a miracle if he went a day without masturbation. Initially, his character would appear to be the most chronic sufferer of a disease which many might view as simply an excuse or a reason to be antisocial. Thanks For Sharing attempts to rectify the stigma, but in so doing, director Stuart Blumberg causes more of a blemish on the subject because it’s far too preachy.

The acting all around is something close to remarkable and has little, if anything, to do with the depressing nature of this film. Ruffalo and Paltrow have great chemistry — not just in the bedroom, either. Tim Robbins is a heartbreaking central figure in that, in some sense, he’s the oldest of this trio and would thereby seem to be at a more advanced stage in his rehab; to assume as much would be a gross oversight though. He’s very much still dependent on therapy.

Then there’s Josh Gad, who I’m slowly starting to build much respect for. He continues to take on roles that are self-deprecating but he manages to portray them in such a way as to come off as ‘the loser,’ but a lovable loser. His Neil might be the best showcase of Gad’s talents. A few other supporting roles contribute, and not the least of which is Pink (a.k.a. Alecia Moore)’s Dede, who joins the support group further into the film; as well, Patrick Fugit plays Mike’s son, Danny, who suddenly reappears in Mike’s life at perhaps an inopportune moment.

There’s no denying Thanks For Sharing‘s bold subject matter — sex addiction is quite the taboo topic and this very fact begs a lot of interesting questions and suggests many an intriguing angle that the director might have and should have taken. Instead, Blumberg relies on old-fashioned romantic-comedy formula to get us through the awkwardness of it all. Relationships are developed as well as they are lost with the snap of a finger. While this is an oversimplification of certain developments and won’t make a great deal of sense until you watch the film yourself, it greatly detracted from any of my intrigue I had going into this film, and quite frankly the management of the relationships — namely between Ruffalo and Paltrow — was intensely annoying and equally so, too-pat and Hollywood-ized.

Let’s get one thing straight: the topic up for master debating in this motion picture is anything but glamorous. Yet Blumberg hires some pretty damn good looking people to bring a deeply personal — and to be repetitive, tabooed — story to the big screen. Please forgive me if the next statement comes off as cruel, but Josh Gad seems to be the most accurately cast actor to fulfill the requirements of a dramatized pervert. He’s a great actor. And he looks the part. I have a very difficult time doing the same with Mark Ruffalo (all Hulkified and shit) and the gorgeous Pepper Potts. There’s an element of insincerity in the cast’s attractiveness that simply doesn’t gel with what is at times some pretty excruciating material.

As Phoebe, Paltrow rarely has been more enticing, but still the object of her affections can’t trust her seemingly good intentions. One of the first things she tells Adam is that she “will never date another addict.” Having much difficulty in finding the right moment, Adam can’t bring himself to admit his problems to her; and then when that day comes, things go down just as one might expect. However, the movie cannot exactly be blamed for forcing an all-too conventional relationship into the story. Adam and Phoebe’s relationship is anything BUT conventional. Yet it’s still somewhat wholly unsatisfying and frustrating.

Fortunately, and to reiterate, the same things can’t be said of Gad’s Neil and his own journey. He becomes more of a centerpiece than Adam in some ways. And one of the more interesting threads ongoing is the complicated relationship between Neil and Adam. Partnered together in the rehab program, Adam is Neil’s “sponsor,” which roughly translates to some kind of confidant. At times, Neil is a gut-wrenchingly tragic character, but he has far more redemption than Adam seems to get or deserve. The same might have applied to Tim Robbin’s Mike had his character not been written as purely a stereotype. While the relationship between him and his son served as a heartwarming subplot, his place in the universe, his “kind” is chalked up to nothing more than a series of cliches.

In short, Thanks For Sharing is one of those hodgepodges of great talent mixing with sub-par material and gratuitously somber direction. There are great moments throughout — particularly pertaining to the meetings with everyone admitting their stories to one another — but there’s rarely a scene that doesn’t beg the question, “This couldn’t have been handled any better than this?” As its Blumberg’s debut feature, perhaps its just inexperience. I applaud him for embracing such a polarizing issue like this, but unfortunately this just feels far too safe for a drama, and too stiff to be labeled comedy for me to definitively approve of the guy as a director just yet.


2-5Recommendation: There are a lot of lessons to be learned from Blumberg’s first film; however, it’s not developed enough to recommend fully. Catch it on a rental or Netflix or something later; this won’t be anything that will be remembered too soon, which is a shame, considering it’s one of the more interesting-sounding films I had heard of this year.

Rated: R

Running Time: 112 mins. 

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Iron Man 3


Release: Friday, May 3, 2013


“Did you see that?!” Yinsen, the doctor, implored a despondent Tony Stark to try and grasp the severity of the situation that lied before both of them, “Those are YOUR weapons. . . in the hands of those murderers! Is this what you want? Is this the last act to define the great Tony Stark…?”

All those years ago, back in that damp, dark cave the character and morality of one Tony Stark was called into question as his own company’s precious goods wound up in the hands of a terrorist organization. How he would respond to such a moment — whether to take action or to just sit by while terrorists reaped the benefits of his life’s brilliant and ambitious work — would not only come to define our lead character, but it would set the tone for our future enjoyment of Marvel’s latest creation: the Iron Man trilogy.

Indeed, Stark has come a long way since then. His character over the last four or five years has been idolized; his iron — okay, fine, his titanium alloy suit —  adored and dissected by fans and critics alike. But with the arrival of the third and final installment, Stark is faced with new challenges — ones that seem to echo the sentiment of that one question Yinsen had asked, before Stark made his first stab at being the high-tech hero in 2008. With the threat of the dreaded Mandarin, he must again look within himself for a way to not be selfish, to put what matters the most before him. Can he change? And what kind of events are going to transpire to make him want to?

Iron Man 3 is a departure from the previous two for a few reasons, while managing to cling on to many of the qualities that have made Downey Jr’s Iron Man the lovable character that he’s become. One difference is who’s in the director’s chair: Shane Black takes over for Jon Favreau, who this time is in front of the camera playing Pepper Pott’s hilariously overzealous body guard, Happy Hogan. Another deviation from the other films is this one catches Tony at his most introverted. He will have to look inside himself to find a way to fight the evils that face him here:  his home comes under attack, as does Pepper and Stark now finds himself having to revert to basics to protect that which matters most to him now. Whereas in the first, and in particular the second one, most of the story was spent developing the world of Tony Stark, what he had within his physical capabilities.

The third iteration of the Iron Man is no novel idea, however. We’ve seen a plot like this in many other hero stories that have been converted to the big screen. Being the capstone to one of Marvel’s more successful franchises, Iron Man 3 pretty much necessitated that the plot be more formulaic than original. This is not to say it’s boring, or that the story is baseless. With a few exceptions, the Marvel comic’s story is well-adapted. As the audience for the contemporary story, we’ve reached a point where we feel we intimately know the man behind the suit, and with Black’s brand of humor infused in virtually every element, we get a script and story we not only like but deserve. Black’s tongue-in-cheek is a great send-off for Stark and while we can’t help notice the well-worn territory we walk through, the hilarious and heartfelt nature of Black’s storytelling is well worth the entry fee. And then some.

Extremis, a miraculous breakthrough ‘medicine,’ developed by another brainiac named Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), gives people the ability to regenerate body parts that have been lost to injury, birth defect or disease. Originally applied to plant life by another doctor years ago, Extremis is the latest business enterprise peddled by the overly excited Killian who is now trying to convince Pepper Potts, now CEO of Stark Industries, to invest in his think tank’s genius new idea. Seeing the obvious drawbacks to the methodology — in order for this to work, one has to have their DNA encoding manipulated, and you know, that just sounds kinda risky — Pepper turns Killian’s offer down. This sets in motion a series of events that will pit Stark’s love for himself against his love for another person in what can only be described as a battle of epic and laugh-out-loud proportions.

While the nature of being the final chapter in a trilogy tends to drown a piece in sentimentality, perhaps more than it rightfully should, the way Iron Man 3 closes out is surprisingly understated — despite the requisite gigantic action sequence at the end. I suppose that could easily be identified as a weaker ending than some might expect, but I honestly thought the conclusion fits quite well.

Along with a few rather large surprises, there is opportunity aplenty to go see this film multiple times in theaters and discover some new fun within its warped and twisted metal and gadgetry. In particular, Downey Jr.’s interaction with a Tennessee boy when he crash lands there on part of his mission to discover where and when the Mandarin has been attacking, is particularly entertaining, despite also being the movie’s most cliched moment. Thanks to the new director, it is actually these otherwise cheesy moments that wind up being some of the more humorous and attention-keeping. Black saw the second film, then realized that a Transformers-esque action-sequence that lasts forever does not a good movie make. He decides to play to his strengths, and fortunately, his strengths play much to our appeal.


4-0Recommendation: As a whole, the new Iron Man films have been very well received the world over. This third edition is as reliable as any of them for the thrills, laughs and commanding screen presence from Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man 3 also marks the reuniting of actor and director from the tongue-in-cheek 2005 murder-mystery Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. If that is any kind of marker, it is a decent predictor of the comedic rapport we’re going to experience between Shane Black and the Iron Man. Those who loved the first two are likely to not change their mind with this. And, of course, the story’s ultimate armor  is that even non-fans of the comic are apt to take warmly to this farewell.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 130 mins.

Quoted: “All right? Just play it cool, otherwise you come off grandiose.”

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