Will Tony Stark Battle a SPIDER-MAN Villain in "Iron Man 3!?" (UPDATED)

There are pix, it’s been more-or-less¬†confirmed and doesn’t seem like a HUGE story-spoiler, but just in case now’s your chance to look away…

ANSWER: …kinda, but not exactly. Made you look ūüėČ

The buzz on “Iron Man 3” is that it’s going to be a bigger film, thematically and scale-wise, than the other two; but that the story is staying mainly in the realm of super-science/spy/espionage stuff all pertaining to high-tech weapons and especially other guys wearing weaponized exo-suits – with Guy Pierce playing the main villain (loosely culled from Warren Ellis’ “Extremis” story-arc) and Sir Ben Kingsley playing a master-schemer background heavy who may or may not end up being some version of¬†The Mandarin.

Thus far there’ve been a handful of armor-clad hench-baddies announced, none of whom are big names, and the follow-up word was that – like Whiplash/Crimson-Dynamo in the last movie – there would be some character combination/overhaul going on. In any case, thanks to some “spy” pix snapped by The Superficial and confirmed by Latino Review (who’re apparently sitting on a MOUNTAIN of Marvel spoilers they just aren’t releasing yet) we now know at least one of the armored characters who’ll be popping up in some (presumably villainous) form:

LAST CHANCE NOT TO LOOK, KIDS…

4…

3…

2…

1…

Ladies and gentlemen… THE IRON PATRIOT.

Holy shit.

So what’s with the headline? Okay, short version: As part of the fallout from three successive Marvel Comics “event” miniseries – “Civil War,” “World War Hulk” and “Secret Invasion” – The Avengers wound up disbanded, exiled or turned to fugitives. Needing someone to run the government-backed version of The Avengers that had been established by Iron Man’s¬†“side”¬†at the end of “Civil War,” the Pentagon had the brilliant idea of placing things in the hands of a wealthy businessman who was also¬†“reformed” supervillain who’d recently¬†lucked into an act of press-friendly heroism during “Secret Invasion”… NORMAN OSBORN, aka THE GREEN GOBLIN.

Osborn (who’d already been managing a team of “rehabbed” villains as director The Thunderbolts) installed a group of fellow antagonists as the “real” Avengers using the¬†now government-owned names and costumes of the originals, but figured that they also required the symbolism of Captain America and Iron Man for the public to trust them – his solution was to reconfigure one of Tony Stark’s spare suits with Cap’s colors and christen himself a new hero; “The Iron Patriot.”

Obviously, Osborn (who hasn’t even “officially” become part of the new Spider-Man movies yet) is not going to be in the suit in “Iron Man 3.” The spy pix confirm James Badge Dale, already announced as one of the heavies, is wearing it for these shots; so it seems he’s still a bad guy… but his purpose is unclear.

Here’s what intrigues me about this: The visual of a villain wearing what amounts to an even more ostentatious version of Captain America’s uniform (it’s probably too much to hope that Cap himself will show up as part of this) is “edgier” than we’ve come to expect from Marvel to begin with, and the specter of a stars-and-stripes clad villain in a movie set-in and partially-financed-by China raises a certain amount of “hmm…” potential. Iron Patriot’s original function was as a¬†one-man (literal) “false flag” operation, and¬†writer/director Shane Black has repeatedly invoked “Tom Clancy” as the angle the film’s story is working from – are we seeing the beginnings of the film’s plot? Maybe an attempt to start/avert a U.S./China war via a bad guy claiming to represent America?

I like this. I like it a lot.

UPDATED: Latino Review now thinks it might alternate be a similar-looking but less confusingly-backstoried character called “Detroit Steel.” If so, let me be the first to call possible-foul on using anyone named “Detroit” as a villain in these times – that place has suffered enough.

Solidarity

My night-time working background noise is generally The Daily Show and Colbert, followed by the overnight replays of MSNBC’s opinion-show block, followed by a mad scramble to find something – anything – to watch other than¬†Ed Schultz. Before anyone asks, yes – I get my “equal time” fill of right-wing talkers in daylight hours¬†while I’m driving.

NOTE: Remainder of post involves politics. Don’t want to read it? Then don’t ūüėČ


I don’t watch/read/listen to “the news” for information, I do it because I like hearing things argued out by smart people and because the only way to remain aware of media manipulation of info is to stay engaged with it – block it out for too long, and you forget the two key facts of living an informed life: 1.) That there are such things as objective truths – just very, very few of them; and 2.) that everyone is aiming to “sell you” on something, even the folks who truly believe in their heart of hearts that they are not.

Tonight, though, I’ll be paying closer attention than usual to see what – if anything –¬†MSNBC’s top guns (Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Matthews) have to say about the public-pillorying of their fellow host Chris Hayes.

For those who don’t follow this stuff, over the weekend Hayes brought up for discussion his (personal) discomfort with the way terms like “hero” and “valor” are blanketly-applied to military service in and of itself in the context of the Memorial Day holiday; his overall point being that however duly respectful we are toward military service, the very reflexiveness of that respect makes it difficult to approach questions when/why to use military force with the kind of thoughtful skepticism such grave matters deserve.

The timing is, of course, of questionable tact; but the actual commentary is about as bend-over-backwards and qualifier-laden as a “controversial” statement can be and still be a statement at all – he even concludes with “But maybe I’m wrong about that.” This, of course, did not prevent the right-wing media from pouncing on him. They can hardly be blamed for the obvious¬†glee they took in doing so – Hayes’ approach and overall demeanor is practically a caricature of what Michael Bay’s America thinks of when it sneers about “liberal elitism;” and The Right did it’s usual classy job of “taking him down” by inferring that he was effeminate (because, after all, there is no greater sin than to a dumb ol’ GIRL!) and chortling about his use of the phrase “rhetorically proximate,” the kind of big fancy book-learnin’ words that “normal people” would never use.

Hayes has, of course, offered an apology/clarification; which reads as sincere and reasoned but also utterly unnecessary. He didn’t say “soldiers aren’t heroes,” he didn’t even issue a statement of anything other than to offer¬†his own personal view¬†– which he admits is difficult for him to grapple with and may well be incorrect! – for discussion. The only thing he did “wrong” was to do this in the context of the present-day American media culture; where nuance and thoughtfulness are four-letter words.

The problem Hayes faces is that we live in a culture that vilifies any approach to the word that does not exist in terms of simple, basic wisdom. We prefer definitive statements of right and wrong or good and evil to nuance and intellectual inquiry. Something is either an absolute good or an eternal wrong; and to suggest that there may be layers or issues of context is to be uncertain and thus somehow weak. It’s a strain of anti-intellectualism that taints and corrupts just about every facet of our existence; viewed most-glaringly in the way our allegedly modern culture heaps far greater import on religious “truths” –¬†which are by-design¬†simple, easy-to-digest and require very little mental effort beyond blind acceptance – over¬†scientific facts which are¬†often more-difficult to comprehend.

But it also subtly (yet profoundly) colors they way we approach the rest of the world, and the way the rest of the world approaches us: Far, far too much stock is placed “common sense” and “folk wisdom.” We perpetuate the pleasant yet disastrous LIE that “simple truths” that any random dolt can easily understand are innately superior to academic, scientific or merely “complex” solutions that require effort and study to arrive at: The hard, unpleasant fact of the matter is that most of the time the “average joe” and his simple, common-sense answer – however likable and approachable both may be – are going to be wrong; while the “cold” or “detached” intellectual is usually going to be right. Because the world is not simple and grows less so every day.

Folks, when I¬†spout-off about “Thinkers vs. Believers” (and I’m well aware that many take reasonable exception to the terminology which is, ironically, perhaps a bit too simplified for it’s own good) this is what I’m talking about. It’s this horrible, destructive notion of acknowledging the world as a complex place requiring thoughtful, nuanced solutions that – yes! – are indeed better suited to those of an intellectual persuasion is somehow tantamount to weakness. The idea that simplistic, “right or wrong, black or white” decision making – a fundamentally ignorant approach ill-suited to modern life that too many mistake as some kind of anachronistic masculine virtue – carries some kind of moral righteousness.

One is free to agree or disagree with Chris Hayes or anyone else – for my part, I understand and agree with his overall point while understanding the need¬†for sentiment and symbolism in such matters – but the idea that asking the question or having a viewpoint that isn’t 100% binary about such an important issue is everything that is broken and bleeding about American culture handily summarized. Complexity and nuance are not personal failings, they are virtues. “Simple solutions” should be mistrusted and vetted, not deified. Ignorance ought to be a mark of shame, while intelligence and ability to take an intellectual approach should be a mark of great character.

Chris Hayes may or may not have been “wrong,” but his willingness to think about it in the first place makes him the innate superior of every “average”-pandering political hack who spent the weekend throttling him. And I hope that other thoughtful people in the media or otherwise on either “side” don’t give in to the temptation to throw him under the bus for the crime of being a thinking person in a time and place where that is unwelcome.

Back to Melmac

Go ahead and snicker, but we both know that if “Alf” creator/pupeteer/voice-actor Paul Fusco gets his way and a new movie gets off the ground a¬†lot of us are going to go see it.

I don’t know that “Alf” (it means “Alien Life Form”) has the kind of longevity that other properties have had – i.e. I don’t know that anyone born after it went off the air knows/cares that it ever existed; but the basic pitch was “What if E.T. stuck around, and was a sarcastic pain-in-the-ass?”

Part of the running joke of the series was that we only ever heard about Alf’s (real name: Gordon Schumway) destroyed homeworld of Melmac through his own second-hand accounts, and the descriptions vacillated between the entire civilization being as boorish/silly as he was and the occasional bit of unexpected depth or pathos – at one point we learn that Alf/Gordon was some sort of soldier; an “orbital guard” who was spared because he was offworld when Melmac exploded. (I recall that¬†actual cause of the destruction is alluded to have been either a nuclear accident or conflict; though at least once Alf’s answer was “we all plugged in our hairdryers at the same time.) Presumably, a feature film would expand on that sort of material in some way.

If it happens, this would be the second “Alf” movie. The original series was canceled after ending on a cliffhanger where Alf is finally captured by government alien-hunters, and wasn’t “resolved” until a terrible TV movie called “Project: Alf” many years later.

Why We Fight

Another day, another thump from the constant drumbeat by the morally and (more importantly) intellectually bankrupt American¬†right-wing in their increasingly-successful attempts to invent a nonexistant controversy over Katherine Bigelow’s in-production “Killing of Bin Laden” movie.

John Nolte, “Big Hollywood’s” once very talented but now hopelessly-corrupt bossman, has dropped all pretense that the faux-outrage is about anything but dutifully doing his part to stop a movie that might make Obama slightly more popular, writing in his latest screed against the project:

“This bin Laden film needs to scrapped. It is now tainted in every imaginable way — artistically and as it relates to our national security. And if it’s not scrapped, we can only hope that the blowback forever taints those involved.”

At least they’re honest, I suppose…

What truly drives me mad about this nonsense isn’t so much the manufactured “campaign” itself – American “conservatives” behaving poorly stopped being shocking a long time ago. What infuriates me is how little coverage or even FACT-CHECKING this is getting from the rest of the entertainment press.

Somehow, “digging up” the real reason for Paramount bumping G.I. Joe 2¬†ahead nine months is more pressing/interesting than a cabal of political hacks actively trying to destroy a movie because it’s presence might be beneficial to their political rivals. How is this not news? Why am I not seeing people other than ME calling the Breitbart Gang out on this sleazy, disingenous, nakedly-agenda-driven hackery?

The advantage that the right-wing “new media” has is that no one in the legitimate press takes them seriously until it’s too late. These are the people who framed Shirley Sherrod, turned “health care” into a four-letter word and are busily working to “de-habilitate” the late¬†Trayvon Martin’s image into that of a “thug” who deserved his murder; and they keep getting away with it because the “real” media won’t pay them any mind until the damage is already done… refusing to understand that right-wing activism’s ability to weaponize the paranoia and stupidity of the masses has become a potent tool in the age of social-media.

This not (only) about politics, this is about decency and duty: People in the Film Press are, fundamentally, supposed to be here because we love and support films and filmmakers. Katherine Bigelow is a hell of a filmmaker who waited far too long for recognition; and these shameless savages are looking to destroy her unfinished, unseen-by-them-or-anyone-else movie NOT because it’s “bad,” NOT because it’s “wrong,” but because destroying¬†it might help their prefered presidential candidate.

This is something that anyone who claims to hold films and the art of filmmaking in any kind of regard should not simply be “against;” but madly, passionately and VOCALLY against. If we can sign petitions and pimp kickstarters to save old theaters, restore fading prints, promote struggling productions, etc., then surely it’s not only right but righteous that we stand up and say that this disingenuous smear-campaign is wrong and cannot be allowed to rage on unchallenged… that we use our voices to throw a spotlight onto this nonsense. The movie may be good, bad, or average; but it deserves to get made and be judged on it’s own merits – not killed in the crib for the short-term goals of Teabagger political hacks.

This is me issuing a call to all film lovers who read this; particularly those of you with columns, blogs or other movie-related platforms of your own: Don’t ignore this. Don’t let this slide. Speak up. Tell people that this is going on. Support this film and it’s makers. Speak out AGAINST the politically-motivated attempts to preemptively “taint” or damage it. Make sure that people know about it, and make sure that they know the campaign to kill it is bullshit being propagated by activist hacks.

Speak up. Speak out. Don’t let the bastards win this one.

Thank you.

REVIEWERS ASSEMBLE!

Big news, friends.

A diverse group of Boston-area¬†professional film journalists, writers, reporters, critics, commenters, etc. have officially united to form The Boston Online Film Critics Association; and they’ve graciously included me as a member.

There’s a lot of great people in this group – a solid mix of seasoned industry professionals and fresh faces. I reccomend you meet the crew, and keep an eye on what they have to offer.

Here’s a press release laying out the mission-statement. We’re looking to do big things with this, so stay tuned!

Bull. Shit.

Right-wing movie-bloggers¬†– along with¬†politicians of questionable-priorities –¬†spent all eight years of the Bush-era “War on Terror” excoriating “liberal Hollywood” for not churning out the kind of citizen-rallying, Pentagon-collaborative war-themed¬†projects that folks like Capra and Ford produced during WWII. Now they’re so eager to prevent the killing of Osama Bin Laden by SEAL Team 6 from aiding President Obama’s election any further than it already has that they’re desperately trying to damage Katherine Bigelow’s film on the subject (which was in-production BEFORE reality wrote a¬†surprise happy¬†ending for it) by pretending that there’s some kind of “controversy” over Bigelow’s production team having access to the real-life participants in the mission. Never mind the fact that these same bloggers were more than happy to slobber all over “Act of Valor” (which I liked, for the record) which was made with much more filmmaker/SEAL interaction that Bigelow’s people ever had.
I get why they’re pissed off, don’t get me wrong. Republicans have spent DECADES propping up the ideal of stern, square-jawed, conservative caucasian men, preferably with an air of rural machismo – the Cowboy Ideal… reborn!!! – as the only human beings capable of protecting the world from evil via bold political/military leadership; so it’s just killing them that no matter what history will record that it was a black liberal “intellectual” from Chicago who got to give the “take him out” order on Osama Bin Laden. So yeah, I understand. Poor things.

But guys… y’really have to let this one go. Some stuff you just can’t work around – Osama ate it on Obama’s watch, he got to make the call, he got to give the speech, there’s nothing you can do to make this NOT reflect well on him, and trying only makes you look foolish and diverts precious resources desperately needed over in your “Make Mitt Romney Seem Less Like Pod-Person” division. Focus!

The fact is, the movie was already in-production for over a year before the operation took place; so the idea that this was hastily put together as an “election movie” is asinine – unless, of course, people who are deluded enough to believe that Bin Laden’s¬†killing was “stage managed” and the film is part of the conspiracy… but to buy that, you’d have to be dumb enough to believe that¬†the President was born in Kenya, that there are socialist sleeper-agents in the U.S. government in 2012, that Soviet-style communism is still ANY kind of real threat, that Global Warming doesn’t exist, that evolution doesn’t exist, that… oh, right. Nevermind.

3D Saves Another One?

The big shocker of “Transformers: Dark of The Moon” was that Michael Bay’s sense of visual composition and scene-geography, which had regressed into being almost pure ADHD nonsense, had suddenly been restored to something resembling actual filmmaking… and the cause seemed pretty obvious: He’d been made to shoot the movie in 3D, which (presently) requires longer takes and deliberate compositions in order for the effect to work and massively-cumbersome rigs to be created – the process had, seemingly, cured him of his worst habits by effectively strapping a cinder-block to his camera.

Now, it appears 3D might have worked the same magic on another hodgepodge auteur; the badly-in-need-of-a-hit Baz Luhrman. Below, the trailer for his big XMas Oscar Bait release, “The Great Gatsby 3D.”

It’s just a trailer, but if it’s an accurate representation of the final product this is easily the best looking thing Luhrman has ever turned out; all his strengths (opulence, enthusiasm, earnest bravado) with his weaknesses (see: everything after “Romeo + Juliet”) seemingly mitigated by the technology.

What’s left is the truth of the matter: Love him or hate him, Luhrman is perfect for this material; and I’m feeling like it’s going to be a real treat to see a version of “Gatsby” go all-in on the era-appropriate exuberance and ribaldry that previous attempts haven’t quite captured. The “Roaring” 20s is a fascinating period, but it’s seldom been done justice onscreen – partially because so much of what made the period interesting in terms of art, culture, fashion and social behavior went back to being taboo after The Depression/WWII… in fact, in many respects we’re only just now getting back to where we already were then.