Iron Man

The Gift Guide: Collectibles

It’s the final countdown. Dunuh na naaaa. Less than two weeks to go until Christmas, so naturally now’s the time to start buying things. Who needs organizational skills when you can imbue that action-film frenzied spirit into your final rounds of festive gift buying? Since I’m the collectible fiend around these parts, I’ve been tasked with listing the essential holiday gifts from that world for every film fan. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve mentally spent way too much money in compiling the list myself. But hey, occupational hazard. Anyway, here follows 15 of the must-have collectibles for this holiday season, some regulars of the Merch Hunter column will recognize, and some will be brand new. Either way, they’re what movie lovers want. As this is my handiwork, you can expect a general mix of the uber-expensive and ultra-collectible as well as the affordable and accessible, more charming options. No snob am I….

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Culture Warrior

Last week, we explored the concept of shoving products into movies, but there’s an equal and opposite marketing method where movies are shoved into product commercials – especially if the character is an iconic one. There’s a distinction to be made here about the difference between celebrities endorsing colognes and fictional characters doing it, although the line can definitely be blurred. Movie star endorsements are as old as the medium, whether it’s Buster Keaton slugging out the chalk for Simon Pure Beer, Charles Bronson going overboard with his self-sprinkling of Mandom, Arnold Schwarzenegger scream-laughing for a Japanese energy drink, or Abraham Lincoln selling us churros. And that doesn’t include all the normal, run-of-the-mill advertising where an actress loves a brand of make-up or a wrestler loves beef jerky. A human being selling out is one thing, but there’s something especially heinous about a character being used to market a product because it’s an element of art forced into a square hole of commercialism. Oftentimes its done without the creator’s consent (or consent is contractually taken away from the starting block). In most cases, the original actor doesn’t even have to be involved (for better or worse), especially if there’s a costume involved. In its rawest form, it’s the uglification of something we love. This list is light-years away from being complete, but it hopefully shows a well-rounded view of different types of movie characters in commercials throughout a few different time periods.

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Culture Warrior

Buried deep within this sentence (Doritos are delicious) is an advertisement. Did you catch it? You probably didn’t because it was so subtly subliminal, but that’s exactly how product placement has worked for a century to varying degrees of success. After all, there’s a thin line between using real-life products in a film to create a sense of verisimilitude and using them to promote the product in question. Where that line is drawn is up to each person. One person might see a kid reading “National Geographic” in It’s a Wonderful Life and think it’s quaintly appropriate while another person might find it craven and conspicuous. To the same extent, different film productions have delivered brands with means ranging from the slyness of near-imperceptibility to almost Doritos-Scorchin’-Habanero-Flavor levels of obviousness. It’s far from new, and even though sold items have sneaked their way into movies for almost one hundred years, there’s been an explosion in recent decades, seeing a new revenue stream for studios and a new annoyance for film fans.

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What is Movie News After Dark? The more appropriate question would be: what isn’t Movie News After Dark? We open tonight with a look at The Avengers, or at least the version that will appear in the comic book prequel Marvel will release leading up to the release of the film. It’s a bit of art that we missed last week, so what better way to begin this week than with some good old hero money shots. In other Avengers news, production in Cleveland is done. Sadly, this means that my lovely home town will no longer be interesting, even to the people that live there. Hi mom!

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The mere concept of Cowboys & Aliens had potential for summer greatness. This could have been crazy, ambitious, and all kinds of weird. Imagine cowboys getting into shootouts with bug-eyed creatures packing high-tech weaponry. Sounds awesome, right? Only a tad of that awesome made it to the screen, and overall, it’s good. One would think director Jon Favreau would use his clout from two hit films to craft a blockbuster with a little audacity, but he didn’t. Like his other works, this is about as safe as most blockbusters come, and that’s fine, mainly because the director is still miles ahead of most journeyman filmmakers. There’s a clear passion for clean fun in his movies, something many blockbusters lack. Iron Man, Zathura, and Elf are all audience-friendly fare that don’t have a lick of divisiveness, and Cowboys & Aliens fits in comfortably with those films. Faverau is, at the end of the day, a solid popcorn filmmaker. Most of his efficiency behind the camera shines through in Cowboys & Aliens, as do a few of his weaknesses. Here’s a little of that awesome and a bit of the weaknesses. Note: This list does include spoilers.

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Those who know me well, know I have some problems when it comes to holding on to my money, especially when confronted with delicious, belly-warming movie merchandise. Seriously, it’s a disease – though not one I am actually particularly ashamed of – which hasn’t exactly cost me relationships, but has cost me a lot of respect at least. Over the past ten or so years, since I succumbed to the need to seek out and purchase these pretty treasures, I have spent thousands of pounds (remember I’m a Limey) supplementing my now vast DVD and Blu-ray collection with the best the market has had to offer me. Hundreds of those pounds went to securing (finally) all of the Star Wars Mr. Potato Heads that I foolishly chose to collect only when most of them weren’t bloody well available any more. That’s just how I roll. The idea of this column then is to share my obsession – to point out the greatest in new and legendary merchandise, and to suggest three essential purchases every week for discerning collectors and casual fans alike. Since Comic-Con 2011 has just closed its doors, leaving a vapor trail of teasers and pre-orderable goodies, it’s probably most appropriate this week to offer up three of the coolest items announced at the expo. They’re all improbably expensive, but hey, who needs food when you can have things like this instead…?

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He might not be the richest Avenger. It’s pretty hard to compete with the billions upon billions Tony Stark living on, but Captain America does hold the 2011 title. At least for opening weekend numbers. Captain America: The First Avenger topped Thor by just over $100,000 to have the biggest opening for a super hero movie this Summer. Yeah, that’s a pretty in-depth quantifier that only puts it in contention with three other movies, but when those movies are Thor ($65.7m opening), X-Men: First Class ($55.1m opening), and Green Lantern ($53.1m opening), you can go ahead and hand out the bragging rights. Of course, The First Avenger came nowhere near the opening numbers for either of the Iron Man movies, and Marvel and Disney may start moving towards pimping Robert Downey, Jr. in their Avengers marketing if they want next Summer’s film to have massive numbers.

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The huge box office and critical success of the original Iron Man came as a bit of a surprise to everyone. Iron Man, while having a long publishing history, has never been one of those mainstream, iconic super heroes like a Batman or a Spider-Man. Despite that, director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr. absolutely nailed the character so perfectly that everyone fell in love with the film. And now that ol’ shellhead has had a feature film that was such a mainstream success, perhaps the argument could start to be made that he is a character on par with the Batmans and Spider-Mans of the world. So, a lot of people were understandably upset when it was announced that Favreau, a guy who did so much for the character, wouldn’t be returning to the director’s chair of Iron Man 3. The guy they got to replace him, however, has a pretty great pedigree, and it turns out that he’s already helped out on this series before. In a Q&A at the Hero Complex Film Festival, Downey tells a story about how he and Favreau went to the new director, Shane Black, when they had reached a stumbling point on one of the past Iron Man films: “I said, ‘We should talk to Shane.’ And I was like, ‘Shane, we can’t really pay.’ And he was like, ‘Bring me some salmon and some blueberries.’ And we went to Yoda’s house in Miracle Mile and it wound up coming in […]

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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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The 3rd Swing, the Accounting Assistant and the Lead Greensman couldn’t be happier for the resurgence of the after credits stinger. Finally, rightful dues can be paid! Thanks in part to the continuing expansion of the Marvel Movie Universe, tagging on one more scene after the final spate of legalese climbs up the screen is becoming common practice. There are few better ways to rouse a crowd then zing ‘em with one more late-game joke or build early anticipation for a possible sequel with a teaser scene. Plus, you make them sit through all the “Thank Yous.” Everyone wins! The post-credit is a relatively new invention – most films weren’t obligated to list the crew members’ names until the ’70s – but in a short amount of time, filmmakers have already proved that the creative possibilities of a last-minute tag are endless. Check out a few of the best post-credit scenes from the past thirty years. All the clips are fast-forwarded to the good parts:

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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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Jon Favreau announced today that he won’t be returning for Iron Man 3 which seems just as well. Iron Man 2 was a mixed bag, and Favreau already seems to be moving onto the next stage of his career with Cowboys & Aliens. Unfortunately, the man leaves a large director’s chair to be filled – a chair that comes with a lot of expectations and responsibilities alongside what must be a cave-full of fun to be had playing around with Tony Stark. There’s no secret formula for choosing the right director for a project, especially when its the third in a series. We here at FSR wouldn’t recommend Brett Ratner or Joel Schumacher based on past performance in taking over franchises on the third film, but finding names that actually make sense is a little more challenging. We’ve done our best to come up with at least six individuals that would be up to the task in one way or the other (or because we’re infinitely interested in seeing what triumph or train wreck they would come up with). Without further ado, go ahead and read our list of six directors that should take over Iron Man 3 so you can get started on violently explaining why we’re wrong.

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Yesterday we took you out into the middle of New Mexico and behind the scenes of Cowboys & Aliens. Today, we continue our week-long set visit report by talking with director Jon Favreau. I’m standing in the middle of the desert, and Jon Favreau is holding an alien arm up toward my face. There’s this look in his eyes that reads as a mix of sheer excitement and a hopefulness that the group surrounding him approves of his alien arm. From the amount of questions buzzing him like airplanes taking a pass at a giant ape on the top of a tall building, it seems like they do. Favreau has navigated a jungle-like career (which started in earnest when he met Vince Vaughn on the set of Rudy) in order to stand in front of some sun-stroked journalists with a piece of painted plastic in his hand. That career has taken him from the college of PCU to the fighting style of Friends and through indie acclaim, Comic Con domination, and into the metal suit of Iron Man which, of course, led him to New Mexico in more ways than one.

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Excuse me if this seems like old news, but I like it so it’s happening. As you may have noticed, Disney’s winter hopes hang on the success of Joseph Kosinski’s big budget, CGI spectaculathon Tron Legacy. And they are marketing it appropriately so, with countless posters, banners and boutique shops in Las Angeles where you can buy yourself one of those fancy Daft Punk suits. They’ve even bled the digital revolution into other areas of pop culture, including the comics of Disney’s newly purchased venture, Marvel Enterprises. And while we’d usually scoff at such blatant cross-marketing, we can’t help but admit that the Tron universe version of Iron Man is a total badass, as are several other characters. See for yourself after the jump.

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Iron Man 2

Everyone’s numbers were just a little less than predicted, but in our second weekend into the Summer 2010 movie season, we’ve established two things. Iron Man 2 is no Iron Man and Russell Crowe and is no Denzel Washington.

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Is Iron Man 2 an escapist, crowd-pleasing piece of big-budget popcorn entertainment, or a two-hour ad for neo-capitalism? Can it be both?

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Favreau isn’t locked in as director yet, but he wants the job, and he wants the biggest bad guy of them all.

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Iron Man 2

The dust has settled on the first, Summer, weekend box office of 2010. While Iron Man 2 didn’t break too many records, it still came out pulsar cannons blasting, and comic book/movie fans gave it 133 million votes of confidence.

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kevin-reportcard-header

This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr welcomes the summer movie season by handing out a grade to Iron Man 2.

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We’re not saying he should take on nine villains in the next film, but here are a few to choose from who are up to the task.

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