Category Archives: iron man

The Secret of Iron Man Three

Iron Man Three ~ This movie is not what you think it is. The trailers give you something that is compelling, but it’s not the film, not really. We’re not talking about false advertising, no, what you see in the previews you get in the movie, it’s just Iron Man 3 (or Iron Man Three as it’s actually called in the credits) is a different kind of superhero film, hell, it’s a different kind of film, period.

Now I’ve already talked about that fact and more about director Shane Black’s approach to Iron Man Three in my spoiler-free review over at Biff Bam Pop! some months back (read it here). But what I’m going to talk about here is very spoiler special heavy. It’s the big secret of Iron Man Three, we’re going to talk about the Mandarin. Spoilers away, be warned.

Now this is not new territory for me either, I talked about the Mandarin before in my article about the forgotten foes of Iron Man, but this will be very specific to bringing Mandy to the big screen, and in the year 2013, that is not an easy job. Let’s face it, the Mandarin is a piece of history, and a rather nasty piece of history, both outdated and racist.

In the comics, the Mandarin is an Asian villain in the tradition of other such masterminds like Sax Rohmer’s classic, but racist stereotype, Fu Manchu. He was created in an age when in the comics every hero fought against the Red Menace, the Communist threat, and yes, the Yellow Peril. We as a nation were recovering from the Korean War, entering into the Viet Nam War, and in the midst of a deadly game of mutually assured destruction in the Cold War. The Asian race was a direct threat.

The Mandarin was a schemer, a manipulator, a mastermind. He worked behind the scenes, he controlled multiple villains, and sought to overthrow not only America, but our entire way of life. But that was the 1960s, and it was racist. That crap don’t play now, and quite honestly the Mandarin, although Iron Man’s archenemy from early on, has not weathered the storm, one of political correctness, well after all these years.

Enter the phenomenon that is the Robert Downey Jr. and the Marvel Cinematic Universe it started. After two Iron Man movies, and a billion dollar blockbuster Avengers film, where do you go? Is it time for Iron Man to finally face his greatest foe on screen? Yes, but in our politically correct world, with a mainstream audience who may or may not have a background in the comics source material, how do you pull it off.

Easy answer? You lie, you dazzle them with trickery. You get your cake, and you eat it too. Sir Ben Kingsley, first, is inspired casting for the villain. And in the previews, the image he gives us is both Marvel Comics Mandarin and Middle Eastern terrorist pimp daddy, an updating to be awed. This new Mandarin is one who both strikes by surprise like the 9/11 bombers, and announces his attacks like the monsters who have beheaded hostages on video on the internet.

An early interview before the film came out asked if Sir Ben had done any research on the Mandarin character, and he said that he had not, and that he did not intend to. This sent fanboys into a frenzy. The fact is that Sir Ben didn’t need to. His character was not really the Mandarin – in fact, the whole concept, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was a fake, a deception, a farce.

The Mandarin didn’t exist, he was just an actor, a puppet of the real villain. Sir Ben never needed to know anything about the source material, his character was a construct, and one lovingly performed with the proper fierceness, and comedic flair once revealed (loved the Ringo Starr-esque affectation). Kingsley’s performance was golden, in so many ways, he was menacing, and ridiculous, and done right. That’s right, I said, ‘done right.’

There were fanboys who fumed about this as well, but the truth is – it was impossible to transfer the comics character to the screen in our world of political correctness. Sorry, folks who just don’t get it, but wake up, the Mandarin is a racist stereotype. And also be aware, there are folks who think the villain as he appears in the movie is also a racist stereotype, one of our current Middle Eastern terrorist enemies.

And therein lies the problem, as much good will as Iron Man, the Avengers, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe have engendered with mainstream audiences, it would all fall apart tragically if the Mandarin were portrayed as a sneering Asian madman bent on world domination. In my opinion Iron Man Three does it right, giving us the best of both worlds.

Hobo with a Shotgun

Hobo with a Shotgun ~ Yeah, so I finally saw this. The number of times this film has been recommended to me by friends whose opinions I respect, and even those I don’t, is countless. Many of those friends have even nagged me with occasional “Did you see it yet?” inquiries.

The title revealing subject matter and the way sometimes I was recommended or asked about the flick has made me wonder about the sincerity of these friends. Ya know how someone will take a bite of something terrible, and then, not wanting to be the only one who is suffering, will offer you a taste? Yeah, that’s the vibe I have gotten in the past from Hobo with a Shotgun.

Right off the top, I have to give props to the director Jason Eisener and the cinematographer Karim Hussain. The color of this flick is insanely vibrant, no doubt a thematic choice to cash in on the 1970s action exploitation vibe that drives the picture. Even the movie poster reflects that homage, sans the Technicolor of course.

Based on the originally fake trailer from Rodriquez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse, the movie delivers its particular brand of hyperviolence almost from the start. Rutger Hauer is the hobo in question, and runs afoul of The Drake, the warlord who rules Hope Town. yeah, that’s the name, or in light of events and graffiti, it’s now called Scum Town.

Hauer is good here, playing apathetic at first and more than a little crazy, much better than his recent turn in “True Blood” as a subtly and hilariously similar character type. Actually had Sookie’s gramps been more like the hobo, it might have saved this season. When a shotgun eventually makes it into the hobo’s hands, he decides to become a crazed force for good, battling the bad guys and inspiring the frightened townspeople.

Trust me, this hyperviolent tale of good vs. evil set in a hellish Technicolor suburban wasteland sounds much better than it actually is but its misshapen heart is in the right place. Hauer watches and reacts for the most part, but for the rest of the cast it’s an over the top acting massacre that would make Lloyd Kaufman of Troma positively jealous.

Speaking of which, if you love Troma Films, you will love Hobo with a Shotgun. On the other hand, if you don’t, this movie is not for you. And neither is it for the squeamish. Either way, the color is fabulous. And maybe Robert Downey Jr. can fight The Plague in Iron Man 4

Swingers

Swingers ~ Well over a decade before he revolutionized the superhero movie and created the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man, Jon Favreau wrote and co-produced this dramedy for guys in the spirit of Diner that almost definitely inspired all the fictional parts of HBO’s “Entourage.” Man, Swingers is the flick.

These adventures of a group of neurotic struggling actors are as much classic Woody Allen and prime “Seinfeld” as they are 1960s Rat Pack. And the dated ‘lounge-speak’ that every drunken player/loser spouted back in the 1990s until you wanted to punch them, when done right, by the originals, and in context, is mesmerizing.

Style and substance, great characters and dialogue, and a killer soundtrack – this movie is money, and it knows it. Recommended.

Total Recall

Total Recall ~ I thought it might be worth taking another look at this 2012 remake of the 1990 scifi classic, especially in the light of seeing Iron Man Three and Star Trek Into Darkness, as well as anticipating Man of Steel later this month. All of these films have one thing in common. Everything you think you know is wrong, here’s the new spin, enjoy the irony and the fun references to what you thought was going on.

Anyone walking into Total Recall, or any of those other flicks, is going to get what they thought they would, and that’s part if the ride. And rollercoaster ride is principally what Total Recall is. It barely ever stops from start to finish, the action is full on forward, barely giving the viewer time to catch their breath.

Those expecting star Colin Farrell to play Arnold Schwarzeneggar are to be disappointed. This flick is both a remake of the 1990 film and loosely (as loosely as the original) based on the Philip K. Dick story, “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” Keep in mind, the original protagonist was based on Richard Dreyfus so Farrell is not right either. As far as cast goes however, only he and antagonist, Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad,” really shine.

The setting is different, rather than Mars, this is set fully on Earth, even as Earth as a tunnel through the world from London to Australia features solidly. It’s still a dystopian future, and our hero still has memory issues and may not be who he thinks he is. Same s#!t, different day, if you’ll pardon the expletive.

The references are plentiful and amusing, as long as you’re not a purist to the first movie, or the story. Just sit back, turn off your brain and enjoy the ride. I loved the flying car chase, amped up unbelievably over the one in The Fifth Element, and the more original vertical/horizontal elevator chase. Bring seat belts!

And if you’re a fan of Philip K. Dick, don’t forget about the Radio Free Albemuth Kickstarter, as mentioned on this week’s GAR! Podcast.

The Avengers on Biff Bam Pop!

For more than a decade I wrote monthly reviews of the current Avengers title from Marvel Comics at the Avengers Forever website. When that site closed up a few years ago, it left a void in my life as well as in the lives in many of the folks who hung out there. A version of Avengers Forever does exist on the Facebook here, but it’s just not the same.

This month at the Biff Bam Pop! pop culture website, it’s Mighty Marvel Month, and to celebrate, I have jumped back onto the Avengers bandwagon with a vengeance.

Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll find:

Avengers NOW!, an overview of the Avengers franchise in the Marvel NOW! era.

Age of Ultron: Book One and Age of Ultron: Book Two, writer Brian Michael Bendis’ final storyline for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as their greatest enemy finally wins and takes the Earth.

Avengers Assemble Annual #1, a special spotlight on classic Avenger, the Vision, and his return to greatness.

Avengers #7, and how the New Universe fits into writer Jonathan Hickman’s plans for his eighteen member roster of Avengers.

And finally, there’s the new trailer for Iron Man 3 right here.

It has felt very good getting back into the driver’s seat. If you’re not into the Avengers, or comics, you could also check out my reviews of the latest albums from Adam Ant and David Bowie, and of course, you can find all of my Biff Bam Pop! work here!

The Potato That Slices You!

The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast for the Week of 11-7-2012

The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast is shot live every week at All Things Fun! – the South Jersey/Philadelphia area’s best comics and gaming store, located in West Berlin, NJ.

Co-hosts Ed (All Green Lantern) Evans, Allison (No Marvel Girl) Eckel, and Glenn (Batwing Again?) Walker discuss the new comics out this week in wicked high definition video, and also available on the YouTube. See it here!

Discussion featured in this week’s special post hurricane episode includes: Action Comics #14, Green Arrow #14, Earth 2, the Batcave, Dial H #6, Rotworld, Green Lantern #14, Iron Man #1, Deadpool #1, Ed’s Marvels including the final issue of Avengers Academy, Avengers #33, the final issue of Defenders, Life with Archie #24, Allison’s kids comics, New Crusaders #3, Road to Oz #3 (of 6), Danger Girl GI Joe #3 (of 3), Freelancers #1, Transformers Regeneration One #85, The Shadow #7, Shadowman #1, Dejah Thoris, stiffies, and Ed’s trades, toys, and manga.

Be sure to check out the crazy new All Things Fun! website, and the All Things Fun! Blogs, by Allison and Glenn, now featuring The Vidcast Drinking Game so you can play along at home, and ATF! on YouTube (don’t forget to subscribe to the channel while you’re there, and leave a comment or two on the Vidcast as well!).

And be back here every Wednesday (or Tuesdays at midnight) to watch the new broadcast, and thereafter throughout the week!

Remember, every time Glenn says ‘awesome,’ or Allison says ‘mash-up,’ take a shot!

This Week’s All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast

The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast is shot live every week at All Things Fun! – the area’s best comics and gaming store, located in West Berlin, NJ.

Co-hosts Ed (X-Men) Evans, Allison (Two Marvel Girl) Eckel and Glenn (Bazongas) Walker discuss the new comics out this week in wicked high definition video, and also available on the YouTube. See it here!

Discussion featured in this week’s Special Dinner and Bazongas Episode includes: Green Lantern New Guardians #12, Batman Inc. #3, All-Star Western #12, Firestorm #12, The Flash #12, Voodoo #12, Before Watchmen Dr. Manhattan #1, Amazing Spider-Man #692, Invincible Iron Man #523, Punisher comics, Cap and Namor vs. Nazis, Archie marries Wolverine, Brilliant #4, Star Trek #12, Bionic Man #12, Archie #636, America’s Got Powers #3, Ed’s trades, and Doctor Who accessories.


This week our special kids segment returns, featuring Thomas giving us the ten year old’s perspective. The discussion included: Adventure Time #7, Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man #5, Super Dinosaur #13, the Batman Brave and the Bold trade, the TARDIS lunchbox, and other fun stuff.


Be sure to check out the brand spankin’ new All Things Fun! website, and the All Things Fun! Blogs, by Allison and Glenn, and ATF! on YouTube (don’t forget to subscribe to the channel while you’re there!).

And be back here every Wednesday (or Tuesdays at midnight) to watch the new broadcast, and thereafter throughout the week!

Remember, kids, you can’t copyright evil.

The Avengers

Marvel’s The Avengers ~ I think I need to inform folks where I’m coming from on this one. One could say I’ve been waiting for this movie for over forty years easily. I learned to read on comic books, thanks to my cool big sister. First there was Batman, obviously influenced by the 1960s TV show, then I started reading my brother’s Flash and Justice League. I was solidly a DC Comics guy as you can see, and then I discovered the Avengers. It would be quite some time before I became a regular Marvel reader but I knew instantly this was a different kind of comic. Avengers became one of my favorite comics, even today. So much so did I love the Avengers that for almost a decade I regularly reviewed the title online. Yeah, I’m a hardcore Avenger-phile. This movie is a little kid’s dream come true.

In another sense, you could say I’ve been waiting for this movie realistically, and hopefully, since the end credits of Iron Man. Can I express my elation the first time I saw those few seconds when Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury wanted to talk to Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man about the ‘Avengers Initiative’? No, I can’t. I am as speechless now as I was in 2008.

Who would have thought Marvel Comics/Marvel Studios could have pulled this off? Not only have they created a cinematic continuity, a movie universe as tight and intriguing as their comics universe, they also changed the way we watch movies. Does anyone (at least anyone who knows) not stay until the final credits any more. This is something that John Hughes used to do for a gag. It’s something the James Bond films used to do to reveal the title of the next installment. Marvel has made it a genre-wide trick of the trade. You stay until the screen has no more light, period.

Speaking of James Bond, the other achievement Marvel has taken on is the building of a successful movie franchise – the Marvel Cinematic Universe, of which The Avengers is the seventh, or the sixth, depending on whether you count Ang Lee’s Hulk or not. I think all of this would have been impossible without Iron Man, and especially Robert Downey Jr. Downey is the secret weapon, the gateway drug, if you will. Without Downey, I doubt that this film would be as mainstream as it is. It’s not just comic book folks who are seeing this movie, it’s everybody. Comics aren’t just for nerds anymore, or at least comic book movies aren’t. This weekend’s box office, threatening to become the biggest opening ever, is proof of that.

Besides Downey as Iron Man, and Jackson as super spy Nick Fury, Chris Evans returns as the title role from Captain America The First Avenger, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, along with Oscar winner Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye from that same film, and Scarlet Johansson returns in her role as the Black Widow from Iron Man 2. Unfortunately, negotiations broke down with The Incredible Hulk‘s Ed Norton, so the role of Doctor Bruce Banner is more than adequately filled by Mark Ruffalo. As much as I like and liked Norton in the role, I like Ruffalo even more. This is a good thing.

Also returning from the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe flicks are Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, Stellan Skarsgard as Erik Selvig from Thor, Gwenyth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Paul Bettany as Jarvis in the Iron Man films, and of course the big bad, Thor’s brother Loki, as played by Tom Hiddleston. Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster from Thor is mentioned but unseen. Cobie Smoulders is the perfect Maria Hill and although uncredited and only doing one very funny and wonderful line of dialogue, Lou Ferrigno voices the completely CGI Hulk. It is a stellar cast, top notch all the way, and all of the primaries – the Avengers, Fury, Loki, and the rest shine like stars when on screen. All are skillfully performed.

If I had to find fault, if I absolutely had to find a flaw in the film (other than characters or storylines I would want to see) it would be the lack of character development. But even that’s not a flaw. The four majors have had at least one movie each to explore that before we got to this point. We get sweet spotlights on the two Avengers without movies, Hawkeye and the Black Widow, displaying their talents and personalities, and Nick Fury will have his own film upcoming for us to delve more into his character. So really, on that point I can’t complain. What is really great about this is all of them come to this film fully formed. Especially in the cases of Captain America and Thor, their movies were essentially origin stories, now, here in Avengers we get to see what they can really do. These are not flaws.

I will try not to give away plot points, or any of the Easter eggs found in the film, but I will give director and co-writer Joss Whedon and his co-writer Zak Penn all the props possible for creating what is, without a doubt, the best superhero movie ever made, period. Let’s see Whedon have a Wonder Woman script or a “Firefly” sequel turned down in Hollywood now. The man, to borrow the line from Titanic, is the king of the world today. Everything was perfect, from the characters to the dialogue, the special effects, the humor, right down to the two (count ’em, two) after-credits scenes, one of which will be having fanboys and girls squeeing with delight. Marvel’s The Avengers is awesome.

The little kid in me who was mesmerized by his first Avengers comic book more than forty years ago was spellbound in the theatre. From Project Pegasus to the Black Forest to the SHIELD Helicarrier to downtown Manhattan, the Avengers were truly Earth’s Mightiest Heroes on the big screen. The first confrontations between the heroes, and the heroes and the villains, are well done and believable, not just slugfest for the fun of slugfest. When Captain America confronts Loki in Germany, I had a lump in my throat, I was like, “It’s the real Captain America.” The scene is that good.

The special effects are stunning. I love the way Thor’s hammer always returns to him, and his effects are perfect. Cap’s superhero costume, which I initially thought would look silly works wonderfully. If there’s anything cooler than the SHIELD Helicarrier, it’s the battle on board the SHIELD Helicarrier. Non-believers will see why Hawkeye is one of the coolest Avengers. The interaction between the characters is priceless, and in the final battle, their teamwork whether all together or in smaller teams is right out of the comics. It’s beautiful.

I will probably see Marvel’s The Avengers again a few more times in the theatre before it comes to Blu-Ray and DVD. Yeah, it’s that good. The 3D effects are good, but let’s keep in mind it still looks amazing in 2D, so you don’t have to sell blood to see it. Highly recommended. A definite must see for comics and non-comics fans alike. This is the movie of 2012.

The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast for the Week of 5-2-2012

The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast is shot live every week at All Things Fun! – the area’s best comics and gaming store, located in West Berlin, NJ.

Co-hosts Blue Lantern Ed Evans, Honorary Avenger Allison Eckel, and the Glenn Walker of Earth 2 discuss the new comics out this week in two fun video segments, in wicked high definition, and available on the YouTube. See it here!

Discussion featured in this brand new extended episode includes: Free Comic Book Day 2012, the Batman Court of the Owls hardcover signed by Scott Snyder giveaway, the FCBD comics, Avengers and X-Men titles for the week, Invincible Iron Man #516 by Matt Fraction, Spider-Men, Earth 2 #1 by James Robinson, Action Comics #9, Night of the Owls, Red Lanterns #9, Dial H #1 by China Mieville, Teen Titans Annual #1, Smallville Season 11 #1, X-O Manowar #1 from the new Valiant Comics, Avengelyne #8 by Mark Poulton and Owen Gieni, Dynamite’s The Spider #1 by Davis Liss, Voltron Year One #2 sans Voltron, guess who Archie marries this week, Allison’s kids comics, and Ed’s trades.

Be sure to check out the wild new All Things Fun! website, and the All Things Fun! Blogs, by Allison and Glenn, and ATF! on YouTube.

Special thanks go to Dina Evans who keeps us all in line, and on the straight and narrow, and runs the show from behind the scenes. And be back here every Wednesday (or Tuesdays at midnight) to watch the new broadcast, and thereafter throughout the week!