Tag Archives: Robert Downey Jr.

The Set of 400: #29 – My Favorite TiVo Contract Clause

Today! Because the one man who made a difference five times before is about to make a difference again. Only this time, it’s different –

Tropic Thunder (2008)

Directed by Ben Stiller

Starring Ben Stiller (x2), Robert Downey Jr. (x10), Jack Black (x7), Jay Baruchel (x2), Brandon T. Jackson, Tom Cruise (x5), Nick Nolte (x4), Steve Coogan (x2), Matthew McConaughey (x2), Danny McBride, Bill Hader (x3), Brandon Soo Hoo, Reggie Lee, Maria Menounos, Christine Taylor, Tyra Banks, Tobey Maguire (x5), Yvette Nicole Brown, Jennifer Love Hewitt (x2), Jon Voight (x3), Lance Bass

Hang on a minute – a movie about movies and it was in the epic summer of 2008? There was no way Tropic Thunder wasn’t making this list, right? Maybe it seems a touch high to you? Are people still talking about this film a dozen years on? I think it’s safe to say that even though this movie isn’t all that old, it already feels like something that wouldn’t be made today. I mean, it’s got the universal comedic concept of egomaniac actors and how completely out of touch with reality they can be, but it also has legitimate black face throughout the movie, even if RDJ got nominated for an Oscar in the role. Could this get made right now, given the changes in the world over the past decade? I’d say maybe, but only a 50/50 chance.

Because the movie really does work hard to handle this issue as being actor ridiculousness, and not even remotely a cool thing to do. Brandon T. Jackson’s rapper-actor Alpa Chino is there half the time to keep Downey’s Kirk Lazarus in check, even as he effectively steals the movie. And while this character seems to popularly be the movie’s lasting cultural impact, it is stuffed with tremendous comedic turns – from Matthew McConaughey’s loopy agent Rick Peck to Danny McBride’s special effects expert Cody to Steve Coogan’s Brit director Damien Cockburn. Stiller’s work as over-the-top action hero Tugg Speedman is spot-on, but a touch thankless, as the nominal lead more or less swallowed in the plot, by being the de facto damsel in distress. Jack Black’s Jeff Portnoy gets largely overlooked, which I think is really unfair, as his typically hyper-invested work as this wacky, drug-addled Z-grade comedian delivers a bunch of great moments. And none of this is to ignore the literally amazing work of Tom Cruise, unrecognizably transformed into the vulgar uber-producer Les Grossman – by far the funniest role Cruise has ever played.

His end credits dance sequence is incredible

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The Set of 400: #38 – My Favorite Open Heart Cave Surgery

Today! Because that’s how Dad did it, that’s how America does it, and it’s worked out pretty well so far –

Iron Man (2008)

Directed by Jon Favreau

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (x9), Gwyneth Paltrow (x5), Jeff Bridges (x3), Jon Favreau (x4), Terence Howard, Clark Gregg (x5), Leslie Bibb, Shaun Toub, Faran Tahir, Paul Bettany (x3), Peter Billingsley (x2), Samuel L. Jackson (x11), Tim Guinee

There aren’t a lot of years with multiple films still to come on this list, but 2008 leads the way so far as the top 38 are concerned. 1994 still has three – with the next one arriving on Wednesday – and has already seen seven films make it, but 2008 has four in this group starting today. More surprisingly, maybe, is that there have only been three up to this point – #204 Semi-Pro, #322 Role Models, and #352 Be Kind Rewind. Huh! Saving the best for later, I guess!

But man did I love the summer of 2008. I moved to Chicago at the end of May, living within walking distance of a movie theater for the first time in my life – Shoutout to the Webster Kerasotes! Changed hands but not forgotten! – reunited with the girlfriend after 21 months of long distance relationship-ing, reunited with my high school pal Dave, and basically dragged them to see everything that came out, multiple times. I’d like to say that this was just a hectic adjustment period where I overindulged in cinema-going, but no, this just showed me what my life would become here in the big town. Having moved twice since, I still have never been more than an eight minutes walk from a theater.

Can’t find a picture of the outside, and inside the Webster Kerasotes looks like every other theater ever

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The Set of 400: #215 – My Favorite Dog in High-Heels

Today! Because when the aliens come down to earth, they come inside raindrops, making the rain chubby. Chubby Rain!

Bowfinger (1999)

Directed by Frank Oz

Starring Steve Martin (x5), Eddie Murphy (x2), Heather Graham (x2), Christine Baranski, Jamie Kennedy, Terence Stamp (x3), Robert Downey Jr. (x8), Adam Alexi-Malle, John Prosky, John Cho (x2), Kohl Sudduth

The halcyon days of my second year of college and it’s a movie about movies? Oh man, was there any way Bowfinger wasn’t making this list? I’m not sure how well remembered or regarded this movie is now – it doesn’t seem to be on the tip of anyone’s tongue – but I’ve always been a huge fan of this wacky guerrilla filmmaking adventure. Martin plays the low rent producer/director Bobby Bowfinger, trying to scrape together a minuscule budget science fiction movie without the knowledge of the movie’s purported star, Murphy’s Kit Ramsey. They assault him with actors (who are unaware he doesn’t know they’re in a movie) and perilous scenarios, preying on his temporary psychological problems – exacerbated in no small part due to his affiliation with the Scientology-esque Mindhead. To help with this deception, Bowfinger enlists Ramsey lookalike/gopher/nerd Jiff – also Murphy – for help with doubling, especially in the more terrifying scenes, such as his bold dash across a busy Los Angeles highway.

“Heavenly God! Heavenly God! Heavenly God!”

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The Set of 400: #224 – My Favorite Black Sabbath T-Shirt

Today! Because that’s my secret, Captain – I’m always angry –

The Avengers (2012)

Directed by Joss Whedon

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (x7), Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth (x2), Mark Ruffalo (x4), Scarlett Johansson (x2), Jeremy Renner (x2), Samuel L. Jackson (x2), Tom Hiddleston, Gwyneth Paltrow (x2), Paul Bettany (x2), Clark Gregg (x2), Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Powers Boothe (x2), Harry Dean Stanton (x2), James Eckhouse

Not to be confused with one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen (the 1998 adaptation of the ’60s spy TV show of the same name – list coming in 2023!), The Avengers was not positioned as the Biggest Comic Movie Ever when it was coming out in the summer of 2012. That was reserved for The Dark Knight Rises, releasing nearly three months later, the first sequel ever made to a film grossing over $500 million domestically. However we quickly realized the error of our thinking, as apparently people really did enjoy Captain America and Thor, despite their films having under-performed with the almighty dollar, and when coupled with the juggernaut of RDJ in the Iron Head, well – dough was going to rake down.

Excitement was at an all-time high

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The Set of 400: #242 – My Favorite Music Hall Drunk

Today! Because the tramp can’t talk. The minute he talks, he’s dead –

Chaplin (1992)

Directed by Richard Attenborough

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (x6), Paul Rhys, Geraldine Chaplin, Anthony Hopkins (x4), Kevin Kline (x2), Moira Kelly (x2), Dan Aykroyd (x4), Marisa Tomei (x2), Penelope Ann Miller, John Thaw, Kevin Dunn (x2), Diane Lane, Milla Jovovich (x2), James Woods, Nancy Travis, Matthew Cottle, David Duchovny, John Standing (x3), Maria Pitillo, Deborah Moore

Ah, 1992! Apparently the heyday of my movie watching! The eighth entry from the year of Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, Chaplin had a good hand in stretching my film interests back into the silent era. Now, as we’ve gone over in this space recently, it’s not like this list is teeming with dialogue-free cinema, however, without Chaplin there’s a good chance that none whatsoever would appear. Charlie Chaplin is a gateway into the entire era for most casual film goers, right? Silent comedy, by and large, looks ridiculous now, but at least it’s accessible. People like broad, physical comedy up to the present day, so silents can still be enjoyable, so long as you put aside your prejudice against this form of moviemaking. Don’t lie! Silents are hard, sometimes! One of the only instances where I fell asleep in a movie theater was catching the 1916 Sherlock Holmes starring William Gillette at the Chicago Film Festival a few years back. I was too tired going in! Plus, while there may have been no spoken words, the theater was still plenty loud from the reverberating snores! Everyone I went with fell asleep too! 100% true story. Sorry, Mr. Gillette!

This dude discovering a gun in his hand could only sustain us for so long!

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The Set of 400: #259 – My Favorite Un-Decapitation

Today! Because she has more lines than I do and she’s a goddamn mute!

Soapdish (1991)

Directed by Michael Hoffman

Starring Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Whoopi Goldberg (x3), Elisabeth Shue (x2), Robert Downey Jr. (x5), Cathy Moriarty, Teri Hatcher, Kathy Najimy, Garry Marshall (x2), Carrie Fisher, Costas Mandylor, Sheila Kelley, Ben Stein (x2), Willie Garson (x4), Leeza Gibbons, John Tesh

Another staple of early ’90s HBO, Soapdish isn’t the sort of film 12-year-old Joe routinely watched in those days, but it is a movie I routinely saw, given that I can still quote nearly the entire film. Like, I must’ve seen this movie multiple dozens of times. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a sub-genre I really gravitate to – movies about entertainment – so what if it’s about soap operas? The cast is incredible – six Oscar nominees, not to mention future Lois Lane Teri Hatcher, once and future Princess Leia Carrie Fisher, and a great TV exec precursor role to his TV exec role on Murphy Brown, former TV exec Garry Marshall.

It’s a show that got crazier as it aged, but Marshall’s Stan was a terrific late addition

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The Set of 400: #265 – My Favorite Dora the Explorer Wristwatch

Today! Because I build neat stuff, got a great girl, occasionally save the world –

Iron Man 3 (2013)

Directed by Shane Black

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (x4), Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley (x2), Guy Pearce (x2), Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau (x3), Rebecca Hall, James Badge Dale, Paul Bettany, William Sadler, Miguel Ferrer, Dale Dickey, Stephanie Szostak, Mark Ruffalo (x2), Ty Simpkins

While there are probably more superhero movies on this list than one can be proud of, there isn’t a ton from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most of the better ones simply aren’t eligible yet – even then, I’ve got some issues with the general overall direction of things, as I assume some people do these days. No? Just me?

The highlight of the series for me, still, are the Iron Man films, and basically the Iron Man/Tony Stark character. Thor took a long time to get interesting, Captain America has had good movies but by himself is just okay, The Hulk is great in short bursts but there’s a reason they haven’t tried a third big screen iteration yet – no, Tony Stark is the whole reason any of this works. It’s the deciding factor in choosing The Avengers over Justice League, very generally. (In fairness, I didn’t love Infinity War, and as of this writing none of that has been resolved. But I’m not watching DC movies anymore either, except the Wonder Womans I guess.)

Like, come on, when there’s another Spider-Man sequel already scheduled, I’m not all that upset about his “death”

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The Set of 400: #278 – My Favorite Dirty Harry Inspiration

Today! Because I am not the Zodiac. And if I were, I certainly wouldn’t tell you –

Zodiac (2007)

Directed by David Fincher

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr. (x3), Brian Cox (x2), John Carroll Lynch (x2), Anthony Edwards, Chloe Sevigny, Elias Koteas, Dermot Mulroney, Donal Logue (x2), Philip Baker Hall, Zach Grenier (x2), Adam Goldberg, Charles Fleischer (x2), Paul Schulze, John Getz, June Diane Raphael, Candy Clark, Jimmi Simpson, Clea DuVall

Not so much concerned with unearthing who the killer was (even though it does present a theory), Zodiac primarily follows the lives of San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith and S.F. detective Dave Toschi, and their respective obsessions with the case as it unfolds and in the subsequent years, as the trail runs maddeningly cold. It’s an expansive ’60s/’70s epic in the hands of the premiere murder mystery director of our time (Se7en, Gone Girl) – and one of the sure thing, must-run-out-and-see-whatever-he-does filmmakers – David Fincher.

And it is exhaustive. Covering the source material in great detail, and trying to encapsulate well over a decade in these characters’ lives, the movie naturally was going to be lengthy, but it manages to clip right along, even feeling a bit rushed in parts, pouring out details and recounting theories at a steady clip. But keeping the engine running solidly are the terrific performances of Gyllenhaal and Ruffalo as Graysmith and Toschi, plus a just pre-Iron Man Downey as self-destructive reporter Paul Avery. The Downey comeback was well underway by ’07 – what with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Good Night and Good Luck, and A Scanner Darkly in the preceding years – but Zodiac seemed to cement the fact that he was solidly reliable, and a little over a year later he was superheroing it up at Marvel.

’70s Banner and Stark!

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The Set of 400: #383 – My Favorite Old Timey Boat Construction

Today! Because she mis-interpreted my intention entirely –

Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Directed by Guy Ritchie

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong, Eddie Marsan, Geraldine James, Robert Maillet

I’ve also got a thing for Sherlock Holmes movies, which I recognize is a little specific, given that I’m not a huge Holmesaphile (Sherlockaphile? Moriaritypants? What would you call them?), but as you’ll see in the days to come, there are more movies featuring some version of the Holmes character than you might expect. The hyper-stylized 2009 Guy Ritchie version and its sequel get a bit maligned, I feel, maybe because this performance of Downey’s appears to be all he’s interested in doing over the last decade. That’s a shame, as this totally works for this character (and for Tony Stark, too) and makes for a pretty great interplay with Law’s atypical take on Watson. Bring in fun action sequences, Mark Strong’s totally solid villain, McAdams great trip as Irene Adler, and I frankly don’t get the backlash to this movie. Why the hell is the third film taking so long to come, for Conan Doyle’s sake??

Also, the movie MVP, obviously – Gladstone

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The Set of 400: #397 – My Favorite Endless Novel

Today! Because he probably calls everybody Vernon –

Wonder Boys (2000)

Directed by Curtis Hanson

Starring Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., Frances McDormand, Katie Holmes, Rip Torn, Alan Tudyk, Philip Bosco, Richard Thomas

I loved this movie when I first saw it nineteen years ago – That screenplay! Those characters! – but I’ll admit it may not be holding up quite so well anymore. I’m not sure I ever would’ve had this in the top 100, but 200 seems totally reasonable, had I been ranking down that far in the early ’00s. Something resonated with me in Douglas’s writer cranking out a seemingly never-ending book, amidst the spiraling chaos of his academic environs. I especially remember the ending (not to spoil it, but you have had nearly two decades to watch it by now) being one of the most devastating things I’d seen at the time. I really fancied myself a writer back then, so I think that makes sense. Continue reading

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Carson Daly Joins ‘Today,’ My Quality of Life Plummets

Carson-DalyBad news, America. That late night punching bag and former teen idol with approximately zero talent and charisma, Carson Jones Daly (the man of three last names) is joining The Today Show. Oh sure, this has no real impact on your daily life (or your Daly life). I’m sure you had some vague awareness that the old MTV host was still on television somewhere, and didn’t really care. He’s had a late late night talk show for over a decade, and he functions as the poor man’s Ryan Seacrest on The Voice.

So why is this such bad news? Oh, allow me to explain. Nearly the entirety of my college career saw Total Request Live playing in the afternoons in the Den, the sort-of campus lounge, where you could still smoke and bitch about having nothing to protest. It was at this time that my striking resemblance to the idiot host of this program was first mentioned. Continue reading

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