' Iron Man 3'
3 stars = Good
Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) cannot sleep, suffers anxiety attacks that hit like a punch to the gut and is haunted by what happened in New York with the Avengers. "I'm a pipin' hot mess," he admits to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) in "Iron Man 3."
He cannot explain beings or things he experienced -- gods, aliens, other dimensions. "I'm just a man in a can."
But he may be the only man with or without his advanced armor who can save the world when a terrorist hijacks the airwaves, triggers a series of bombings and ramps up the threats and fiery destruction that hit Tony where he lives, literally and figuratively.
"Iron Man 3," directed and co-written by Pittsburgh native Shane Black, is able to poke fun at both the larger Marvel Comics universe of The Avengers and the popularity of Iron Man/Robert Downey Jr. The billionaire industrialist encounters a fan who interrupts a phone call to announce, "Mom, I need to call you back. Something magical is happening."
Is that something "Iron Man 3"? No, but it is more entertaining and streamlined than "Iron Man 2."
One nifty twist comes out of left field, a sky-high scare that will make you long for the safety of the upside-down flying in "Flight," and be sure to sit through all of the credits for a bonus scene in which the gentle joke's on Iron Man.
Extras include commentary with director Black and screenwriter Drew Pearce; gag reel; deleted and extended scenes; featurettes "Marvel One Shot: Agent Carter," "Deconstructing The Scene: Attack on Air Force One"; "Marvel's Thor" and "Marvel's Iron Man 3 Unmasked."
' Unfinished Song'
2 1/2 stars = Average
"Unfinished Song" is like a bowl of soup that, on the menu, sounds rich, flavorful and filling. But when it arrives, your spoon bumps into precious few veggies, the broth is thin and the meal leaves you hungry.
In this case, the attraction is a cast led by Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp, with Gemma Arterton and Christopher Eccleston in supporting roles.
Ms. Redgrave's Marion and Mr. Stamp's Arthur are proof that opposites not only attract but sometimes marry and stay together for decades.
Despite a losing battle with cancer, Marion is a friendly, happy member of a senior citizens choir whose director (Ms. Arterton) makes bizarre choices of costumes and songs.
Arthur is a literally buttoned-up pensioner who is devoted to his wife but finds the choir silly or a "flaming nuisance" when members appear outside the couple's bedroom window to cheer Marion. He almost never smiles, enjoys little and has a distant relationship with his adult son (Mr. Eccleston).
Eventually Arthur lapses into utter loneliness and purposelessness and then tries to fight his negative nature and embrace new challenges.
But "Unfinished Song" must follow the poignant playbook, even if it's hard to believe that grumpy, rigid Arthur would or could change, even a tiny bit.
Director-writer Paul Andrew Williams calls "Unfinished Song" semi-autobiographical, citing his grandparents for inspiration.
However, he fails to lay the foundation for scenarios he presents, and the whole endeavor feels precious and predictable.
Nothing wrong with being heartwarming, but there's just not enough kindling tossed onto this film fire.
Extras include outtakes and deleted scenes.
' Room 237'
2 stars = Mediocre
The "experts" interviewed in "Room 237" are either geniuses or -- to use the technical term -- nuts.
They dissect "The Shining," Stanley Kubrick's 1980 adaptation of Stephen King's novel starring Jack Nicholson as an aspiring novelist who takes a job as an off-season caretaker at a Colorado resort.
In his first feature film, director Rodney Ascher interviews a journalist, a professor, a musician, an artist and "an erudite conspiracy hunter" about the clues and messages they claim are hidden in virtually every frame of "The Shining."
They suggest the movie is really about the Holocaust or genocide of Native Americans (that image of the Indian on the baking powder!) or how Kubrick helped to fake the Apollo moon footage, for starters.
The New York-born Kubrick, who moved to England and lived there for nearly 40 years, is not around to talk about "The Shining." The reclusive perfectionist died in 1999 at age 70, and when scholars or fans mention his work, "The Shining" usually isn't at the top of the list.
"Room 237," which takes its name from one of the hotel rooms, makes no allowance for coincidence or continuity errors or convenience, as with the choice of a German-brand typewriter. Everything is fraught with meaning here, which is amusing but laughably so; you may find yourself thinking or muttering, "Puh-leeze!"
The documentary dispenses with any chance to set the record straight by talking to Stephen King or star Jack Nicholson or Shelley Duvall, who played his wife, or Danny Lloyd, who portrayed their son.
The New York Times tracked down Kubrick's longtime assistant, Leon Vitali, and he watched the movie and said: "I was falling about laughing most of the time. There are ideas espoused in the movie that I know to be total balderdash."
Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar and a typewriter is just a typewriter.
Extras include commentary with Kevin McLeod, a key figure in the online examination of Kubrick's film; "Secrets of The Shining" panel discussion from the first Stanley Film Festival at the hotel that inspired Mr. King's novel; deleted scenes; a making-of the music featurette.
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• "Hawaii Five-0: The Third Season": Alex O'Loughlin anchors the team as the leaner, meaner version of Steve McGarrett.
• "Scooby-Doo! 13 Spooky Tales: Ruh-Roh Robot!": The 12 mysteries include the new cartoon "Scooby-Doo! Mecha Mutt Menace."
• "Dear Mom, Love Cher": A look at Cher's close relationship with her family, including her mother.
• "Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series": Includes 13 episodes and two Christmas specials.
• "Gene Simmons Family Jewels": Final season of the cable reality show about the Kiss member.
• "Redemption": A man (Jason Statham) sees the efforts to put his life in order fail because of London's criminal underworld.
• "Anything Is Possible": A young boy must strike out on his own after his mother goes missing.
• "Dark Girls": An exploration of the prejudices dark-skinned women face throughout the world.
• "The Lady Vanishes": New version of the 1938 Hitchcock classic.
• "South Park: The Complete Sixteenth Season": Includes 14 episodes of the animated series.
• "2 Broke Girls: The Complete Second Season": Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs star in the CBS comedy.
• "The Kings of Summer": Three teenage friends decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land.
• "Two and a Half Men: The Complete Tenth Season": CBS comedy starring Ashton Kutcher.
• "Halloween": The John Carpenter horror classic is being released to mark the 35th anniversary.
-- By Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers
First Published September 26, 2013 4:00 AM