'Iron Man 2' not as humorous, fun as original

Daily Pilot

Having successfully subsidized world peace, Tony Stark has now become more of a supersized three-ring circus in "Iron Man 2," and that's the crux of this sequel in a nutshell.

Aside from nifty special effects, the original film had star Robert Downey Jr.'s sly, offbeat humor at its core. It was more than just the sum of its techno wizardry and explosions — there was a real sense of fun.

There is still fun to be found in "IM2" — just few and far between. As Stark wannabe Justin Hammer, Sam Rockwell is stupidly funny. His splotchy palms, stained with self tanner, tell you all you need to know about him. Garry Shandling's snarky Sen. Stern gets the biggest laugh — but not until the very end.

Such a plethora of underused talent here — from Gwyneth Paltrow to Mickey Rourke's creepy Ivan Vanko to Don Cheadle, they're bland even in iron suits. Samuel L. Jackson ("do I look at the eye or at the patch?") could have phoned it in.

Scarlett Johansson is — big stretch — a sultry new assistant, but the biggest mystery is where she finds room in her catsuit to pack a curling iron.

I'm sure there will be an "Iron Man 3" — let's hope the third time will be the charmer.

A real reality in 'Babies'"Babies" is as simple and charming as the smile of a happy infant. This joyous documentary by director Thomas Balmes closely follows four newborns through their first 18 months of life and learning. Born to parents from the four corners of the world, we can compare their diverse cultural attitudes toward child rearing.

One baby grows up in a tent on the grassy prairies of Mongolia. Another baby lives in bustling Tokyo. One toddler crawls on the ancient plains of Africa. Another baby lives in San Francisco. The crisp 80-minute running time quickly cuts back and forth between the four very different cultures. Yet the obvious milestones reached by all the babies reveal what is truly universal amid the outward disparity of their lives.

There is no narration and very little language. It's all about the delight of being a tiny child exploring the world for the first time.

Discovering their toes, their toys and the joys of bonding with their mothers needs no explanation.

There is a mild PG rating due to some infant and maternal nudity, but it's very appropriate to the story. With all the nonsense "reality" shows on TV, "Babies" is much closer to the real thing.

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