Friday Flicks: Is Iron Man 3 the Best Blockbuster of the Year?

TIME breaks down which films to see and which to avoid this weekend.

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Iron Man 3

He’s back. Not content with bringing his industrialist figure of Tony Stark, who transforms into Iron Man, to the big screen on a bunch of occasions, Robert Downey Jr. returns for the dreaded threequel. Why dreaded? Because the third part of a well-established franchise can often fall flat (Spider-Man 3, The Godfather Part 3, to name but two examples). But with Iron Man 2 not exactly receiving gushing reviews, and the fact that Downey has teamed up again with director Shane Black (they made the entertaining Kiss Kiss Bang Bang in 2005), perhaps all involved with Iron Man 3 are playing with house money.

As for the plot, Stark is in a spot of bother, what with his personal world coming crashing down around him, due to his latest enemy, the Mandarin (portrayed by Ben Kingley in quite possibly his best role since playing the terrifying Don Logan in 2001’s Sexy Beast). But Stark being Stark (as well as Iron Man), he makes it a personal mission to find those responsible.

TIME’s movie critic Richard Corliss has described Iron Man 3 as a movie of “nifty thrills and ruthless sauciness”:

Besides rehabbing a hero who overcomes anxiety to save the world and defeat the terror-industrial complex by the simple matter of cloning his body armor, the movie proves that there’s still intelligent life on Planet Marvel. As you’re propelled out of the theater on IM3′s hydraulic lift of pleasures, you’re likely to say, “That is how it’s done.”

Other reviewers are mainly calling the film a return to form. “Black proves the perfect blacksmith, forging smart new tech and scenarios for the swaggering super-genius. If this does turn out to be Downey Jr.’s final solo outing, it’s a very strong exit,” concludes Empire. “The movie has some claim on being the best of the series, thanks largely to the input of its co-writer and director, Shane Black … for the way it introduces into action movie conventions transformative aspects like bathos, deadpan comedy and humdrum detail,” notes the New Statesman. But the Village Voice can’t be persuaded by Downey, Black and the rest (which include Gwyneth Paltrow and Guy Pearce): “The big problems with Iron Man 3 are less specific to the movie itself than they are characteristic of the hypermalaise that’s infected so many current mega-blockbusters — too much plot, too much action, too many characters, too many pseudo-feelings.”

MORE: Marvel’s Pumping Iron Man Three Flexes Its Worldwide Muscles

Love Is All You Need

Pierce Brosnan’s latest role, in Susanne Bier’s Love Is All You Need, is that of an Englishman living in Denmark. He’s a lonely, middle-aged widower and estranged single father to boot. However this turns out, it’s a heck of a departure from playing James Bond.

Meanwhile, Ida (Trine Dyrholm) is most definitely not a Bond girl. She’s a hairdresser, recovering from illness, and has just been left by her husband for a younger woman (talk about adding insult to injury). But the movie’s protagonists put their personal issues behind them to set off for Italy to attend the wedding of Patrick and Astrid, Philip’s son and Ida’s daughter.

It certainly sounds intriguing and the Oscar-winning director of In a Better World seems to have come up trumps yet again. “The cliché-averse will doubtless resist, but the laughter and tears here are never less than fully earned. A lovely film,” is Time Out London‘s verdict. “The slick, unapologetically commercial film … has sweetness, charm and a generosity of spirit that will find many takers,” concludes the Hollywood Reporter. But the Guardian isn’t willing to be carried along for the ride, noting that “it looks weirdly like a romcom pastiche, not cynical, but not properly inhabited; it doesn’t taste of romance or comedy any more than Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup cans taste of soup.”

Q&A: Pierce Brosnan

The Iceman

Tagline: Loving husband. Devoted father. Ruthless killer.

Every week, it seems as though there is a movie “inspired by actual events,” and The Iceman is the latest entry. Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) was the eponymous Iceman, and Israeli-born director Ariel Vromen (Danika) tracks the notorious contract killer from his early days in the mob until his arrest for the murder of more than 100 men (when he was finally caught, in 1986, neither his wife nor daughters knew about his real profession). The impressive cast includes the likes of Winona Ryder, James Franco, Chris Evans and David Schwimmer.

And impressive can pretty much sum up the critical reaction. “A stylish and compellingly grubby attempt to discover what kind of man would be capable of such a prolonged and industrious murder spree,” points out the Daily Telegraph. “This is Shannon’s movie and underlines his status as arguably the most exciting U.S. screen actor since Pacino and De Niro were in their heyday,” raves the Independent. And Variety is almost as giddy, when discussing “a finely chiseled thriller that reflects the cold-blooded efficiency of its murderous subject in every frame and detail.”

TIME REVIEW: A Killer Role for Michael Shannon

NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: This week has thrown up arguably the best reviewed movies of the year to date and there’s plenty of plus points among the three. The choice depends on whether you want to go down the road marked blockbuster, romance or, ahem, “inspired by actual events.”

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