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9 Films You Forgot Robert Downey Jr. Was In

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You know him as Iron Man, the wise-cracking millionaire playboy turned tech-savvy superhero. But Robert Downey Jr. enjoyed a long and varied career before he snapped into the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). We’re looking at films you forgot Robert Downey Jr. was in.

Before Marvel, there were the wilderness years. It’s common knowledge that Downey Jr struggled with drink and drug abuse. He even did a stint in prison as a result of his misadventures. His rise from recovery to super-stardom since 2008 is little short of miraculous. And let’s face it – Hollywood loves a comeback.

But this isn’t the whole story. Downey Jr. starred in a host of great movies, long before he donned the red metal suit. Let’s take a look at nine of those, starting with the most recent and working back to his baby-faced youth.

1. Zodiac (2007)

It’s the year before he debuted for Marvel Studios. Downey JR played seasoned journalist Paul Avery in David Fincher’s true-life serial killer tale.

A cynical, wise-cracking alcoholic. The role might have been tailor-made for the actor, who channels his easy charm into a performance so subtle, it was overlooked at awards season.

The perfect foil to Jake Gyllenhaal’s puppy-dog enthusiasm, Downey JR excels in this standout performance.

2. A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Genius director Richard Linklater took cult sci-fi author Philip K. Dick’s novel of mind-bending druggy paranoia. Then assembled a stellar cast for this highly original film.

Using rotoscoping, a technique where animators paint over filmed frames, Linklater cast Downey Junior as Keanu Reeve’s skin-headed, opinionated housemate Barris.

The freewheeling comic dialogue is perfect for Downey’s scattershot style. Later exhibited when he became Tony Stark in Iron Man.

3. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Downey Jr is searingly powerful in this independent crime drama which also features Channing Tatum and Shia La Boeuf.

A latter-day Mean Streets, the film is set in the 1980s and present-day New York. It’s a semi-autobiographical character study by director Dito Montiel.

Downey Jr plays Dito, a writer returning to his old neighborhood with mixed feelings about his ailing father, with whom he clashed as a boy.

La Boeuf plays 1980s Dito, which makes this the film where Shia La Boeuf grows up to be Robert Downey Jr. Wishful thinking, some might say.

4. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

This independently-financed action-comedy was screenwriter and director Shane Black’s comeback film. After the million-dollar spec script bubble burst in the 1990s, Black was persona non grata in Hollywood. He enlisted equally blackballed stars Downey Jr and Val Kilmer for his directorial debut.

Against all odds, they created a film that critics enjoyed, although audiences mostly stayed away. The film plays like a crazy pinball machine of twists and wisecracks. Downey Jr breezes through it with ineffable charm, even when a dog eats his finger.

5. Wonder Boys (2000)

It’s fun seeing Downey Jr playing a gay character for a change. As a publisher who seduces and toys with the affections of Tobey Maguire’s wannabe writer.

In a supporting role, Downey Jr plays it rather straight, leaving most of the witticisms to star Michael Douglas.

It’s a generous and roguish performance to add to his varied repertoire. The film also provides the answer to a perfect pub quiz movie trivia question – “in which film does Iron Man end up in bed with Spiderman?”

6. Bowfinger (1999)

It’s tough playing straight man to Steve Martin on a career-high. But Robert Downey Jr almost steals his scenes as smug Hollywood studio executive Jerry Renfro.

In a film that also features the comedic talents of Eddie Murphy playing two contrasting characters, Downey Jr. more than holds his own. He’s in a role where’s he’s required to do little but look slick and ridiculously handsome. Nice suit too.

7. Heat and Souls (1993)

In 1993 Downey Jr worked with the legendary Robert Altman on his Hollywood-set ensemble movie Short Cuts. In the same year, he also made this, largely forgotten, high concept comedy from City Slickers director Ron Underwood.

Downey Jr plays a man inhabited by the souls of four recently-deceased people with business on earth to complete.

The actor clearly relishes the challenge of playing four contrasting roles, including two female characters. His bouncing back and forth between the clashing personalities is a comic tour-de-force in an underrated and remake-worthy movie.

8. Chaplin

This is the film for which Downey Jr won his Academy Award, and rightly so.

Playing comedy icon Charlie Chaplin was a huge challenge for an actor who’d been stuck in mushy rom-com and dumb comedies for the best part of a decade. Richard Attenborough clearly saw more than just a likeness in the young actor. Here he displayed a previously unexplored gift for physical comedy.

Although critics were a little cool about the film, Downey Jr’s performance was singled out for praise. His career should have taken off. Alas, some unfortunate life choices (and career choices) kept him from superstardom for a little longer.

9. Less than Zero (1987)

Even before his Oscar, there were glimpses of real talent in the 22-year old star.

There’s a feeling that the “out of control” drug-addled character he plays in this long-forgotten 80s drama isn’t so much of a stretch for him. Two years before the better-known Drugstore Cowboy, Bret Easton-Ellis’s expose of the young and privileged of Beverley Hills allows Downey Jr to act everyone else off the screen. He even steals the scene after his character’s demise – that’s the sign of a charismatic actor!

Whether he’s a lowlife, a charmer, a silent screen star or a black single mum (in Heart and Souls – seriously), Robert Downey Jr has always been the comeback king. He’s worked hard to enjoy his newfound mega-stardom. Perhaps it’s time to cut the wisecracking reprobate some slack?


That’s our list of nine movies you forgot Robert Downey Jr. appeared in. Did we miss any? Which was your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.


Check out more of our MCU articles HERE.

Read about IMDB information on Zodiac HERE.

Read about IMDB information on A Scanner Darkly HERE.

Read about IMDB information on A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints HERE.

Check out IMDB information on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang HERE.

Read IMDB information on Wonder Boys HERE.

Check out IMDB information on Bowfinger HERE

Read IMDB information on Heart and Souls HERE.

Check out IMDB information on Chaplin HERE.

Read more about Less than Zero on IMDB HERE.

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Jungle Cruise – Review

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Walt Disney Studios

Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt swing in with force in Disney’s new Jungle Cruise. And while the movie has fun callbacks to the Disney Park ride and a clever plot, if this movie is trying to be the next Pirates of the Caribbean, it falls short. Here’s our review of Jungle Cruise.

SPOILERS: Warning there are spoilers ahead.

Plot

To be honest, I was expecting a much less creative plot from this movie. Following suit with typical adventure movies, I was expecting this film to be a less-funny version of the Jumanji reboot. But the plot has an unexpected emotional centre and a clever twist. And while the film suffers from CGI villain goopiness, it gives the CGI villains actual heart and motivations.

The film centres on Lilly (Emily Blunt), a botanist in search of a healing petal. The petal is said to be able to cure any illness and resides deep in the Amazon Rainforest. She is accompanied by her little brother, McGregor (Jack Whitehall) and their hired skipper, Frank (Dwayne Johnson).

But a curse resides around the petal. Spanish conquistador Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his crew went in search of the petal four hundred years ago. The petal can only be found with an arrowhead sacred to the Umbala or Headhunter tribe of the region. When Aguirre and his crew are on the brink of death, the Umbala tribe saves them. But Aguirre betrays them to get his hands on the arrowhead, and the chief of the Umbala tribe curses Aguirre and his party. They can never stray from the river, or the rainforest will take them. For four hundred years, they’ve lain dormant, having strayed too far from the banks of the river. They cannot die.

Now the arrowhead rests with a sexist scientific community. Lilly steals the arrowhead, just before it was set to be sold to Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons). Joachim works for the German government during the height of World War One. He believes that the petal will not only bring victory to Germany, but will make him a world ruler. (How he thinks it will do that is unclear).

As Lilly, McGregor, and Frank make their way down the Amazon in search of the Petal, Joachim follows and occasionally attacks them in his submarine. Deciding he needs more help, he wakes up Aguirre, now a monster of the Amazon, and his crew. Aguirre, who is now made out of snakes, and his two colleagues, one of which is made out of honey and bees and the other mud and tee frogs, are sent on Lilly’s trail.

What happens next is the usual adventure. White water rapids, a run-in with the Umbala tribe (who become allies), submarine fights, swinging on jungle vines; you name it.

But after a run-in with Aguirre, Lilly learns the truth about Frank. In a plot twist I absolutely did not see coming, it turns out that Frank is actually Francisco, Aguirre’s cartographer. We learn that Aguirre was not looking for the petal for glory or gold, but to save his deeply ill daughter. Aguirre and Francisco grew up together, and they were willing to do anything to save his daughter. But when Aguirre betrays the Umbala tribe, Francisco tries to stop Aguirre. Francisco was also cursed to be unable to leave the riverbank, but Aguirre kept returning to fight and defeat (stab) Francisco.

Tired of constantly getting stabbed, Francisco traps Aguirre in a cave. Letting the Amazon have him and turn him into the monster he is today. Francisco then built a town on the river banks, built a boat in search of the petal, gave up, and now runs river cruises.

While the plot is very complicated, it’s easy enough to follow while watching the film. I will say that the motivations of Joachim are a little hard to follow. But the plot twist with Frank was very clever. It gives a CGI-heavy Aguirre a human heart. Now all he wants to do is break the curse and be allowed to die. To do so he needs a petal. The plot in and of itself was much more clever than I expected.

Characters and performances

One character that pleasantly surprised me was McGregor. At first, I thought he was merely queer-coded. He definitely fell into some gay stereotypes, but I thought that was all it was going to be. A guy who was subtly a little queer. But, when Frank asks him why follows Lilly, even through a jungle, he gives a surprisingly candid answer. He explains to Frank that he is gay and that Lilly is the only one who supports him.

When the world turned his back on him, she stood with him, and for that, he would “follow her into a volcano.” This is the first time I can remember that a Disney character was very, clearly openly gay. Disney has had about a dozen “first gay characters,” but all of them have been off to the side. None of them has stated their sexuality or been open about it. McGregor not only states it outright but is not ashamed of it and it is not his only character trait. He becomes brave and capable and is a good friend to both Frank and Lilly. It was really surprising to see good representation from Disney in this film.

Emily Blunt also gives a wonderful performance (as she always does). She’s headstrong and stubborn, but kind. The sexism was a little on the nose, with a tired bit about how she wears pants, but she was delightful.

And Dwayne Johnson was… okay. He plays the exact same character in every movie he’s in. And while his performance was good in this movie, I can’t help but think that another actor could have done better. He and Emily Blunt have a romance in this movie, but they have absolutely no chemistry. It was hard to believe their romance. I think another actor could have added a little more to Frank’s character. Frank is an interesting character, and another actor could have done more with him. This movie might have been better without Dwayne Johnson.

This movie also might have been better without Joachim. His motivations were really hard to follow. At the end of the day, he was just another stereotype of a German general who only complicated the plot.

Summary

It feels as though Jungle Cruise might be Disney’s attempt to re-make the magic of Pirates of the Caribbean. But I can’t see this film becoming a franchise. The first Pirates movie is masterful, with amazing rewatchability. But Jungle Cruise, while fun, is forgettable. It’s not a movie I see myself rewatching anytime soon. If this is an attempt to create a new franchise for Disney; it falls short. But, the film was fun to watch and was a good movie theatre experience.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 5/10


Thank you for reading our review of Jungle Cruise. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Read our review of Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place Part Two HERE.

Read IMDB information about Jungle Cruise HERE.

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