Iron Man 2

elementstruth-1

Like many readers of this site, I love comic books. I grew up reading them, so when Hollywood finally started to really get superhero movies right in the mid-to-late 2000s, I was overjoyed. Of course, I had been enjoying superhero movies long before Iron Man and The Dark Knight. As a child of the 70s and 80s, I grew up watching superheroes on television and in the movies when radiation was the key element of heroic transformation and spandex was the fashion standard. Going back to the 80s, these comic book movies have their own Kryptonite that causes problems for them. It seems that one of the best ways around a mysterious substance or miracle solution is to encounter an unknown element, or to discover a new one if you don’t have the expertise to just create it in your own home laboratory. And this got me thinking… where do all these unknown and new elements come from?

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IntroRevenge

As the Oldboy remake approaches, the subject of revenge is no doubt teeming in everyone’s heads – at least in terms of punishing the people who decided to remake Oldboy. While there are so many lists out there about the most “brutal” or the most “satisfying” revenge films, perhaps it might be fun to explore the strangest, if not most laughable ways people enacted their justice.

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Mondo

For years — literally since before it was cool and you could call the shop at the S. Lamar Alamo Drafthouse and check to see if they had a particular poster in stock — we’ve been covering the work of the folks at Mondo. We’re cinematic art hipsters like that. And over the years we’ve seen them do some really great things, including series-upon-series of actually licensed posters for Star Wars and Star Trek alongside hundreds of other properties. The diversity of the work is a testament to how hard these folks work behind the scenes to secure the rights to even do the art in the first place. Unlike the Wild West of Etsy, if you want to become a popular art boutique selling posters to fanboys, you need to get your legal documents in order. That’s what makes some of the work they do so impressive. Anyone could doodle a poster and print out a few copies, but securing the rights and curating art from some of the world’s finest working artists is something special. One of the key licenses that Mondo has worked with over the past few years is that of Marvel Studios. In conjunction with a number of great Disney properties and of course, those killer Star Wars prints, their recent success has been built pretty steadily in the past half-decade over their ability to secure the biggest names in characters — Captain America, Thor and even this week’s guest of honor, Iron Man. Speaking of the latter, this […]

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The Avengers

Editor’s note: The Avengers hits DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, so we’re reposting this list of scenes we love, originally published the weekend of the film’s release, on May 6, 2012. This week, on a very special edition of Scenes We Love, we explore all that came to pass during Marvel’s run up to the $200 million dollar bohemoth known as The Avengers. As those who follow things like news and film will note, 5 movies came before the keys were handed over to Joss Whedon, who expertly wrangled together the largest personalities in the Marvel Universe to create a spectacular start to the summer of 2012. And while there were so many memorable scenes from each of the films that came before — and many still from The Avengers itself — I tasked myself with choosing just one from each film. Though in fairness, choosing one from The Avengers came with extra difficulty, as I’d rather not spoil any of the big screen fun you’ll undoubtedly have. Perhaps we’ll come back and update the list when The Avengers reaches DVD. For now, here are six Scenes We Love, from Iron Man to The Avengers.

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There used to be a time when only die-hard comic book fans knew what Stan Lee looked like. His likeness appeared in many of the Marvel comic books for the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but to the average person, he was nothing more than a guy with some shaded glasses. Then Hollywood started putting the guy in some movies. He’s never had a very big part, but to honor the man for helping to create some of the most legendary superheroes (and some of the biggest moneymakers for the movie business), Lee has been given customary cameos in almost every major movie that has been made from characters he helped create. Those who have seen The Amazing Spider-Man (which should be most of you faithful readers, by now) were treated to one of his best and funniest cameos yet. And with more Marvel movies coming down the pike, he’s sure to show up many times again. This gave us a chance to look back on his many appearances over the years and assemble a list of his ten best cameos. Excelsior!

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Aural Fixation - Large

With The Amazing Spider-Man swinging into theaters this weekend, I wanted to take a moment to look back on past superhero movies – not to analyze the characters, the various actors who have played them, the directors, the reboots, remakes, or re-imaginings – I want to talk about the music. (Because, you know, that’s what we do here.) The music, which accompanies these larger than life films full of cutting edge technology, vehicles, and gadgets, but often sounds like it was pulled straight out of the ‘90s rock scene. I have rounded up five songs from various superhero movies that seem a bit out of place alongside the web slinging, Hulk smashing action on screen. These songs usually end up playing over the film’s credits (and rarely end up in the movie itself), but even as a footnote, these particular tracks never sound quite on par with the films they are featured in. The songs attempt to add to the emotional undertone of the film or provide one last blast of adrenaline as you walk out of the theater, but with all the high octane action seen on screen, it is strange to see these films paired with songs that do not quite match their tone and pacing.

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Drinking Games

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new superhero movie kicking off the summer movie season. Joss Whedon’s The Avengers assembles Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain American (along with Hawkeye and Black Widow, neither of whom got their own movie). Many superhero fans are preparing for this release by watching the first five films from Marvel Studios, which lead up to this blockbuster: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America. Or, they’re planning on seeing them in a long-form marathon leading up to the midnight release of The Avengers. Both are good ideas. Whether you watch these films on video at home or are doing so at a theater that serves alcohol, assemble some adult beverages for yourself and play along.

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Say what you will about AMC theaters being one of the central powers in the heartless, corporate multiplex system that currently controls film exhibition in this country; over the past couple years they’ve really made an effort to put together some cool events that cater to film fans. Whether it’s their yearly marathons of the Best Picture Nominees, or special re-releases for classic films hitting anniversaries, or themed marathons promoting a big release, AMC proves that, even in the multiplex, love for the movies isn’t dead. And, you know, they have to be making profits off of these things or they wouldn’t keep doing them, but let’s focus on the love right now. Their latest marathon will be taking place on Thursday, May 3rd, in conjunction with the release of Marvel’s big tentpole feature The Avengers. Starting at 11:30 a.m. participating theaters will be running through all of the Marvel Studios movies that have become the build to The Avengers, all culminating with the midnight premiere of the new film. Keeping track of these superhero movies is hard though, and it feels like Samuel L. Jackson has showed up after the credits of half the movies released over the last few years, so exactly which movies will AMC be screening?

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Culture Warrior

Themes of identity, difference, stigma, and othering are explicitly or implicitly present in much of the X-Men mythology, whether expressed through comics, television shows, or films. While I was never a devotee to the comics, as a fan of the 90s animated television series and (some of) the recent slate of Hollywood films (that have, as of this past weekend, effectively framed the continually dominant superhero blockbuster genre), I’ve always been fascinated by the series’ ability to take part in the language of social identity issues. Fantastic genres like horror and sci-fi have often provided an allegorical means of addressing social crises (vampire films as AIDS metaphor, zombie movie as conformist critique, or Dystopian sci-fi as technocratic critique, for example). The superhero genre has possessed a similar history in this capacity, even though it has thus far been mostly unrealized in the medium of film. As big entertainment, superhero films ranging from the first Spider-Man to the Iron Man films have bestowed narratives of exceptionalism and wish-fulfillment rather than shown any aspiration towards critique or insight. Perhaps The Dark Knight is most involved example of social critique thus far – a film that explores themes surrounding the personal toll on fighting terror and the overreaches of power that can result in the name of pursuing safety. What X-Men: First Class (almost) accomplishes is mining fully the allegorical territory made available by its fantastic premise in a way that few previous comic book films have.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly round-up of all that is interesting. Being based in Austin, TX, it’s also obligated to include something that will give off the vibe that it’s “keepin’ it weird.” The folks at LucasFilm ominously dropped the above image in my email inbox this evening. No press release, no notes. Not even a response to my “WTF is this? Also, tell George I said what’s up!” follow-up. On May 4, all will be revealed. My best guess is that we’ll be given a look (via StarWars.com) at what will be included on the upcoming Blu-ray release. If it’s the original theatrical cuts, expect internet mayhem rivaling the Osama Bin Laden is dead news. This is important stuff, people.

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Culture Warrior

Ideology is inescapable from cinema. I’ve yet to encounter the situation in which Paul Narboni and Jean-Luc Comolli’s thesis from their essay “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism,” in which they assert “all cinema is political,” isn’t true. Movies are products of various industries, are situated within a  culture, and emerge with assumptions intact surrounding the values intrinsic to that culture, and thus movies are inevitably, in some way or another, products of ideology. How this ideology functions in cinema can be explicit or implicit, didactically deliberate or simply a rarely acknowledged and often expected trope, but ideology persists in cinema nonetheless. Whether it’s an argument made by an advocate documentarian in an independent production or the story of a superhero whose heroism venerates individual accomplishment in big studio tentpole filmmaking, ideology is articulated through movies. But while ideology is always present in cinema, individual films should never be reduced to ideology. I’m certainly not saying that cinema and ideology should be evaluated separately, or should not examined as mutually determining of one another, but we should acknowledge that when we examine cinema and ideology, we are in many ways examining two things which are not separate, but are different in many ways. The reason this particular topic has come of interest to me this week is, not surprisingly, because of the release and subsequent reactions to Paul Johansson’s adaptation of Ayn Rand’s controversial magnum opus Atlas Shrugged. I’m not interested in talking about the film nor necessarily the reaction to it specifically (in full […]

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At the end of the 90s, famous Oscar show writer and Celebrity Fit Club contestant Bruce Vilanch claimed that, “Generally with the Oscars…there isn’t much you can do until the nominations are announced. Then you know what kind of year you’re dealing with – what’s been overlooked, what the issues are.” He was talking about preparing to write the show, but it applies to everyone from the directors, producers and stars on down to the fans. It’s fun to guess around the water cooler (your office still has a water cooler?), but until now, it’s all been speculation. Thankfully, almost all that speculation has been spot on, so we can all continue our conversations about whether Black Swan will beat The Social Network for Best Picture. Whether Natalie Portman has any true competition for Best Actress. Whether, most importantly of all, Colleen Atwood will beat Mary Zophres for Best Costume Design. Here they are. The 2011 Academy Award nominees:

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It’s that time of the year again: that brief span of time in between Christmas and New Year’s when journalists, critics, and cultural commentators scramble to define an arbitrary block of time even before that block is over with. To speculate on what 2010 will be remembered for is purely that: speculation. But the lists, summaries, and editorials reflecting on the events, accomplishments, failures, and occurrences of 2010 no doubt shape future debate over what January 1-December 31, 2010 will be remembered for personally, nostalgically, and historically. How we refer to the present frames how it is represented in the future, even when contradictions arise over what events should be valued from a given year. In an effort to begin that framing process, what I offer here is not a critical list of great films, but one that points out dominant cultural conversations, shared trends, and intersecting topics (both implicit and explicit) that have occurred either between the films themselves or between films and other notable aspects of American social life in 2010. As this column attempts to establish week in and week out, movies never exist in a vacuum, but instead operate in active conversation with one another. Thus, a movie’s cultural context should never be ignored. So, without further adieu, here is my overview of the Top 10 topics, trends, and events of the year that have nothing to do with the 3D debate.

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The movie world is so affected by Jon Favreau’s departure from the Iron Man franchise that there’s even speculation that some sort of BFF break-up between the director and Robert Downey Jr was to blame. That will most likely never be proven (until the tell all book comes out in three decades), but it’s clear that fans are reaching for any sort of explanation that rationalizes why the man who was at the forefront of the Marvel solo launch would choose to walk away from his creation in its adolescent phase. The reason, however, is less important than the simple fact that leaving was absolutely the right thing to do.

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If you are anything like us, 2010 has felt like much of a let down at the movies, especially lately. What with all of the talk about the year’s final tentpole being a bust and the Golden Globes nominating a movie with Christina Aguilera not once, but twice, it’s easy to see how post-cinemadum depression may be setting in. Then we watched this incredibly well edited video from an artist named Gen-I. It’s called Filmography 2010, and it makes 2010 feel like it might actually have been a good year at the movies.

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The race for the Oscar for Best Visual Effects is on, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has put it into full gear by releasing the list of films that will comprise the final 15 contenders. As you might remember from previous years, this only the first cut. Over the next few weeks, the Academy’s visual effects branch will narrow the list down to seven films, then watch 15-minute clip reels and bring it down to five nominees for a January 25th announcement. Which leaves us the never-difficult task of picking through the list and deciding two things: which films we think deserve the 5 nominations, and which five films will actually get the nominations. First, lets take a look at the list.

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Join us each week as Rob Hunter takes a look at new DVD releases and gives his highly unqualified opinion as to which titles are worth BUYing, which are better off as RENTals, and which should be AVOIDed at all costs. And remember, these listings and category placements are meant as informational conversation starters only. But you can still tell Hunter how wrong he is in the comment section below. This week sees a handful of older flicks seeing their DVD debut or reissue including the terrifying Dark Night Of the Scarecrow, the silly Private Eyes, and the ridiculously bad Madman. There are also a bunch of rentables this week including Iron Man 2, The Killer Inside Me, Rich Man Poor Man, and more.

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This Week in Blu-ray

Even in the midst of the madness that is Fantastic Fest, I’m here to bring you the best high-definition disc buys, rents and well… avoids in This Week in Blu-ray. I wouldn’t miss another opportunity to write about my own favorite super hero, Iron Man, or the chance to talk about the feel-good movie of the year (Babies). And perhaps throw in a few titles from last week’s selection, including that big mess of a film that Ridley Scott put out earlier this year and something about a family, modern or otherwise. It’s a big week in Blu-ray, so lets get started… …right after the jump, that is.

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Culture Warrior

For better or worse, this summer of movies is over, and now we’re in the early-Fall transition into the inevitable season of so-called “serious” awards-friendly films, films that supposedly say a lot about human nature and our time and place as a culture. However, I’ve always contended that it is often the films that seemingly exist only for “entertainment’s sake” that have the most to say about culture, mainly because they operate in such a way that allows us to turn our minds off, passively consume them, and therefore go along unquestionably with the socio-political presumptions explicitly or implicitly embedded within their narratives. Such films that purport to exist solely for entertainment value often end up telling us a lot about how and what we think about the present, and it just so happens that these types of films are most often relegated to the summer months. Summer movies in 2010 ranged from highbrow to lowbrow, blockbuster to indie to sleeper, with head-scratchers and brain-cell-killers alike, but many of these films, intentionally or not, had something to say or assume about the present cultural moment.

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Marvel Third Tier Characters

Moviegoers across the world are nothing if not sheep. The most recent works of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich have proved this to be true. If you make it loud and shiny, you will find a big audience. Although, when it comes to comic book movies in 2010, the sheep seem to be frozen stiff. From Kick-Ass to The Losers to this weekend’s Jonah Hex — if you aren’t Iron Man, you aren’t making a splash. It’s enough of a mid-level comic franchise catastrophe to have companies like Marvel Studios rethinking their strategy.

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