Category Archives: ringo starr

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 Let’s face it, the Mandarin is a piece of history, and a rather nasty piece of history, both outdated and racist.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.

Paul McCartney Really Is Dead

Paul McCartney Really Is Dead ~ This one has the also just as intriguing subtitle of “The Last Testament of George Harrison.” It comes from the gist of this documentary being tapes discovered by George Harrison disclosing the horrible secret that has burdened the Beatles for decades – that Paul really is dead. The tapes are George’s confession. Yeah, if you smell the Blair Witch, don’t worry, I do too.

Apparently all that nonsense, all those hints about the hoax that Paul was dead – it was all true. As suspected, Paul dies in a car crash. MI6 has a double, William Campbell, after cosmetic surgery, join the band as Paul. The remaining Beatles, under penalty of death keep quiet, while still leaving clues on their albums and in their music as to what really happened.

Supposedly, the voice of George narrates a somewhat skewed history of the Beatles and thereafter, with these new facts inserted, creating a new truth. All the usual stuff is in here, along with some shocking new bits. One truly bizarre addition indicates that ‘Lovely Rita,’ who witnessed Paul’s death, is actually, wait for it, Heather Mills.

As a kid, it was always fun to find the clues, but come on, we all knew it was a hoax. I gotta give the producers props for trying at least. It gives new meaning to many lyrics previously thought indecipherable, a nice touch. A fun, if at times, rather sinister, faux documentary/conspiracy theory.

Caveman and Company

Caveman ~ Oddly the thought of this movie brings back vivid memories of listening to WIFI-92 FM back in the late 1970s. This, along with flicks like Grease, Sgt. Pepper and Moment by Moment were treated like serious event movies with promotions and contests running constantly on the station. Caveman, notable for its own caveman language and that it featured superstar couple Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach, is actually a pretty funny visual joke piece. It kinda reminds me of what might have happened had Mel Brooks wrote and directed One Million Years B.C.. A hundred times better than any Geico commercial. The funniest part of the DVD however is that if you plug the captions in, all of the nonsense words are there to follow along. Zug zug.

Red Doors and the short subject Educated are wonderful and deservedly award-winning films by writer/director Georgia Lee about the Asian experience in America with quirky funky casts, characters and storylines. I just wish she would get over her seeming obsession with urination. Despite that, highly recommended.

Queen Sized ~ Like Ricki Lake a generation ago with the first version of Hairspray, the star of the new one, Nikki Blonsky, seems to have a stranglehold on every ‘big girl’ role in Hollywood. Here she plays an outcast girl (guess why) who is picked on by the cool kids until she triumphs over evil and becomes the high school Homecoming Queen. Harmless ABC Family fun.


Steambath ~ This was one of the shows that cemented my father’s opinion that Public Television at night was either educational documentaries or pornography. Good thing he never saw “I Claudius” later on in the decade. This was a television adaptation of Bruce Jay Friedman’s brilliant off-Broadway play. As good as I remembered as a kid, and watching it now as an adult I not only get the jokes but I understand just how really good it is.

27 Dresses ~ This chick-lit-style chick flick starring Katherine Heigl of “Grey’s Anatomy” is a bit predictable but on the whole quite entertaining. She plays a woman whose been a bridesmaid twenty-seven times but is secretly in love with the man who’s about to marry her shallow sister. Add in American-talking Brit James Marsden and hilarity ensues. Honestly not as bad as it sounds, and the best part is where Heigl models all twenty-seven bridesmaids dresses. “Really, you can shorten them and wear them again.”