Hedge Fund – Super Rich Super Heroes in The Great Recession

Guest Written by Mark Gundle

In a global sense, the economy isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders. Massive debt, shrinking job markets, unfair tax brackets, and slow deaths of the middle class in several countries are all contributing to the continuing unrest and discomfort that are plaguing people across the globe. Four years after the US government announced its financial crisis that seemed to take the whole world with it, not much has changed for the common man. Progress, while being made, is being made at a snail’s pace. With all this weighing on the shoulders of those not taking home six-figure paychecks, it’s only natural to want to escape from the world for a bit, which could be part of the reason that summer flicks have been making record amounts of money. In particular, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises have broken records in record time.

Which brings us to the point of this little article today, children; in a struggling economy, what do we make of heroes whose superpower is basically an infinite money cheat?

The recent trend in comic book films has been to make the characters relatable to the audience. Granted, Marvel has been doing this for far longer a time than DC (since at least the early 1960s, when a young high-school student got bit by a radioactive spider), but DC has definitely tried to pick up on that trend in recent years, and doing so has been one of the reasons for the New 52 relaunch. Yes, this is the company that has the unreachable bastions of cardboard-personality perfection that are Superman, the Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern and the like, but give credit where it is due; at the time they were created, that’s what people wanted (a case could be made against Superman, though, as he was a MUCH less empowered being during his first run in the late 1930s). Relatable characters are a thing now. And as far as movies go – especially recently – they’ve gone the extra mile to ensure that. The Spider-Man movies have always had Peter Parker’s everyman lifestyle at the forefront in some way, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy has examined Batman as being much more like any of us than practically any previous incarnation, and every movie leading up to The Avengers has had their eponymous characters have at least one very vulnerable, very human moment that everyone in the audience could connect to, and helps to build the all-important suspension of disbelief (no, seriously, it’s crucial).

But money? It’s a hit. Take the two most popular characters from the summer’s two most popular franchises. You know who I’m talking about. Don’t play that game.

Tony Stark. Iron Man. He’s a cool exec with a heart of steel, as his 60s theme song puts it, and nobody watching the films would really disagree. We look at Tony Stark and we see one of the common people; someone who would rather be at an AC/DC concert than the opera, and who would spend all day tinkering in his garage if given half a chance. So let’s take a look at his checking account, eh?

Assuming the infographic  is true, this is a guy who has enough personal wealth to trump some national GDPs put together. He’s constantly tinkering with the Iron Man, and such tinkering does not come cheap. He already has a top-of-the-line house, a whole fleet of luxury cars, and the production capital to build one of these suckers in his garage, and that’s BEFORE building the Mk. II prototype. For me, the suspension of disbelief isn’t broken by him having all this. The suspension of disbelief is broken when he continues to build the blasted things, each one an upgrade on the last.

Keep in mind that, prior to this, he sent his company into an economic nosedive by shutting down the weapons division it was famous for. As a board member, it’s likely that he was paid in stock rather than cash, so that would have severely curtailed his income. His stock crashes, and while it could be assumed that it eventually picked back up, we’re still dealing with a guy who is spending MASSIVE amounts of money on one-off suits of powered armor, with costs going from $80,000,000 for an unarmed steel prototype to a jaw-dropping HALF BILLION for the latest model (in fairness, though, War Machine wasn’t really his doing).

For all of his cool and all of his awesome, where the HELL is he getting this kind of money? With any luck, it’ll be explained, but holding out hope is foolish; this is a country where even presidential candidates don’t have to share their tax returns, right Mitt?

Anyway…

Bruce Wayne. Batman. He had an infographic himself for the Dark Knight iteration of the character, and while it’d be SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper to get those wonderful toys, it’s still a heart-attack inducing nine figure sum we’re looking at. Not something your average schlub could scrape together working overtime, that’s for damn sure.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman, however, gets major points for actually addressing Wayne’s wealth in all three movies; he’s head of the company because he bought a majority shareholding, there’s a scene or two dedicated to business upkeep, and the most recent movie has him robbed of his billions and his company on the brink of failure (two seemingly-independent events, mind you). In the most basic sense; this incarnation of Bruce Wayne, while still stupidly rich, does NOT have a limitless bank account, and these movies work harder than any other work before them to prove that. Even using the stuff already on hand is a bit of a double-edged sword; yes, he wasn’t blowing away millions by his lonesome, but the stuff in his storage shed is STILL worth more than any of us will ever make ever. $10,000 for communications? $18,000,000 for a tank? $1,000 for a BULLETPROOF JOCK STRAP?

But hell, compared to other versions of the character, this Batman is SLUMMIN’ it. He didn’t really pay out of pocket for much of his equipment, and generally seems to be a much more bare-bones type of crime fighter. His car’s not as tricked out, his plane’s not as capable, his suit’s not as invincible, and his cave is still VERY much a cave instead of a secret high-tech hideout in comparison to other versions. And while Bruce himself had just about all of it in storage beforehand, his company still suffered. Funds channeled from R&D into a super-secret hedge fund, the CEO putting on the appearance of a careless tool, and using company money to supply an all-out assault on crime has left Wayne Enterprises on the brink of bankruptcy.

And in a world where even juggernauts like Freddie Mac get cast down from their gilded thrones, that’s probably the LEAST responsible thing to do.

But that’s not the point of this article, to debate business sense or to say that either Batman or Iron Man aren’t heroes. If they weren’t, we wouldn’t love them. The idea here is to ask why, given that it’s such a sensitive and yet such an important issue in today’s world, they can still be relatable. Did I answer my own question? Yes and no. Yes, it can make folks rather uncomfortable, and not making mention of the Stark / Wayne / McDuck money pool is probably a good idea from that angle. No, that doesn’t mean that by not addressing the no-limit credit cards means we’re just going to assume that these guys are just regular Joes who got lucky. Remember; many of us are scraping to get by, and rather than use the money to better the lives of people in the simple /obvious / risk of death-free way, they spend untold millions on miniature nuclear reactors and Sound-O-Vision to clean up the streets the hard way. As Alfred points out in The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce could have kept his company afloat by putting his Bat-toys on the civilian market. And while Obadiah Stane was an evil money-grabbing bastard, he did have a point in saying that the miniaturized Arc Reactor could save the company; that thing alone would have pulled up the company’s stock back to par and then some, even if used for the wrong reasons.

I found it funny that the most popular superheroes of 2012 are the ones that are closest to irrelevance, as far as the all-too-precious relatable factor is concerned. And while both companies do bang-up jobs at present their characters as ordinary human beings, they conveniently neglect to address how big a part the silver spoons they were born with played in their ability to transcend the ordinary and place them in the super pack.

Walking Dead Season 3 Preview Weekend!

The Walking Dead, an AMC hit series based upon a graphic novel, has brought the horror of a blockbuster zombie films to television and does it over and over every week! Telling the story of sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) who wakes from a coma to find the civilization destroyed, and the world over run by decomposing corpses that move and feast on the living. We follow Rick as he seeks out his family and safety from what may very well be the end of the human race. With two seasons under its belt, the show is priming for a third season which is said to be even more heart pounding than its predecessors.

Season 2 of Walking Dead ended on such an intense note, that it left viewers crying in outrage as they were forced to wait until Season 3 to see the fate of what was left of the team that we met in Season 1. Well, cry no longer my friends, as AMC has announced that on this weekend (July 7th and 8th) they will be hosting a special Preview Weekend to help placate the fans.

This weekend will include a 19 episode marathon of the hit series, showing from beginning to end of the road which we have walked on so far. Each episode will be introduced by Chris Hardwick from the Season 3 set in Atlanta. Following the marathon, an original episode of ‘Talking Dead’ hosted by Hardwick, which will air once and only once. In this Talking Dead Hardwick will show a scene from Season 3, as well as new interviews with members of cast and production. After the Talking Dead, AMC will place the cherry on top by showing a never before seen black-and-white Walking Dead pilot episode, which will follow the original story of to the comic series which inspired the show.

While this is not the type of preview week I would like (personally, I think the name is a tad bit misleading), it will probably keep me comfortable until Season 3 starts in October. The team decided to release this preview a week before ComicCon. Will this weekend help gain the show even more popularity, or alienate more fans of the comic? There is only one way to find out. Barricade your living room, turn on your TV and get comfy for this Zomb-tastic weekend.

Below is a preview for Season 3, with interviews from various cast members. Beware, there are spoilers that hint at the events of Season 2, so if you have yet to finish up, don’t watch this video.

Check out the original article from AMC’s blog Here.

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I hope that you enjoyed this article; feel free to leave comments of your thoughts below and remember to like the post, follow the blog and our twitter (@TheNerdNexus) for further updates.

Film Review: The Amazing Spiderman

By Guest Writer, Donald Gori

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Film Information

Title: The Amazing Spiderman

Film length: 136 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure/Superhero

Staring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, and Rhys Ifan

Average online rating: 7.0-8.0

Rating: PG-13

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You all know the story: a teenager gets bitten by a spider, giving him super powers, which he then uses to protect New York City from the various villains constantly threatening the populace. Through a long comic series, several animated shows, and three movies, we have absorbed the mythos of Peter Parker to the point where it may seem like any attempt to retell his tale should, theoretically, fall flat. Nobody likes hearing the same story over and over, after all: we get it, move on.

The Amazing Spiderman, directed by Mark Webb, written by James Vanderbilt, and starring Andrew Garfield in the titular role, doesn’t try to hide the fact that yes, this is another Spiderman movie. What it does do is remind you precisely why Spiderman is as popular now as always. Especially after the (in my opinion) disaster that was Spiderman 3, the series needed a fresh start, a fresh face. There were things that worked in the Tobey Maguire trilogy, and there were things that did not. Amazing chiseled down the expansive tale of Peter to deliver an experience that is as every bit as satisfactory as one could hope, removing rather cliched aspects of the old trilogy while embracing classic Spiderman aspects into a blend that is refreshing, tasteful, and, most importantly, just damn fun.

The following is the author's description of t...

The new Spiderman

The story opens with a young Peter, only four years old, being left with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May by his parents, whom are biological researchers for Oscorp. Where they went, and what happened to them, is left rather vague and open ended for the entirety of the movie, though there are clues as to their possible whereabouts and fate. Flash forward to present day where Parker is just another teenager in high school where he is often ridiculed and picked on. His entire personality is exemplified by his awkwardness: Peter is very shy, withdrawn, and, ultimately, alone. It’s not hard to sympathize with him as he is subjected to a vicious beating by jock/bully Flash simply for doing the right thing, with nobody coming to his aid. Aside from Gwen Stacy, giving our hero an early crush even though it seems unlikely that a guy like him could ever have a chance with the lovely Emma Stone, but I’ll get to that later.

His early trials set him up as the Peter Parker that most know him as: ultimately he’s just another nerdy kid getting stepped on left and right, though one can’t help but smile a bit as he takes it all in stride. Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Peter, however, really sets this apart from the older trilogy. Many times Peter does not say much, and what he does manage to get out is often stammered and hushed. There’s very little confidence in him, though his home life does provide a bit of support.

Uncle Ben and Aunt May are well portrayed: a loving family that has raised Peter like he was their own son. Ben is strict, May is more accommodating, but both clearly care for Peter’s well-being and it is here that Peter seems to belong. That is, until a fateful trip to Oscorp. It’s here that we meet the movie’s main antagonist, Dr. Curt Connors. A man well-known for his work on “cross-species genetics”, particularly with lizards, Peter is led to him as he may have information on what happened to his parents. From there, you know what happens next: the bite of a spider and Peter’s life is forever changed.

I won’t give too much in the way of plot, because you already know the plot: Spiderman fights bad guy, saves the day. What I will delve into are the directions that Amazing goes in portraying its stars, and damn do they shine.

Spiderman has been unique in the idea that is has often never truly focused on Spiderman himself. Bruce Wayne is Batman, that’s who we care about. Clark Kent is Superman, Steve Rogers is Captain America, and so on. The difference here is that Spiderman is Peter Parker, not the other way around. This is not the story of a superhero, this is the story of a kid coming into his own as a man and rising up to do the right thing. Uncle Ben’s death is still shown (you knew it would be), but the impact it has is profound. There is no more of the “With great power comes great responsibility” gimmick; it’s cheesy, overplayed, and just groan-worthy by this point. The movie does still capture the idea that Peter should push himself to the moral high ground, but it leaves it all in a rather grey area for the majority of the film as Spiderman relentlessly hunts down his Uncle’s murderer. Even when Peter tries to defend Spiderman’s (re: his) actions to Gwen Stacy’s father, George Stacy, Captain in the NYPD, it quickly gets thrown back in his face: the Webslinger had spent weeks hunting down a particular individual, profiling the people he goes after, leading Captain Stacy to remark that Spiderman appeared to be less about fighting for good and more on a quest of vengeance, if anything.

This isn’t to say that Peter is necessarily bad, however. There is a clear progression in his actions and persona once he begins to become Spiderman, though. Geeky, quiet Peter quickly becomes a wise-cracking badass once the hood comes on. The duality between these two portrayals is clear and flows seamlessly throughout the movie. In one moment Peter is failing miserably at trying to ask Gwen out; In the next he’s berating a thief holding a knife to him for his “work uniform”. We get to see Peter’s power grow and how he adapts to it, how he makes it work for him. Some of the best scenes, to me, are simply watching Peter figure out how everything works when being Spiderman, including watching him clumsily swinging on steel chains in an abandoned dock warehouse, inspiring him to build his iconic web-shooters. The audience gets to feel that growth, experience that sensation of discovering something for the first time.

The shift in Peter’s dynamic from rogue vigilante to true hero is shortly after his first encounter with Dr. Connors in his new form as Lizardman. Whilst trying to rescue a young boy from a burning car, Peter tells the child to put his mask in; “It’ll make you strong,” he tells him. It’s easy to see that this is exactly how Peter, himself, sees it. As his teenage self he is weak and flawed: his Uncle chased him out into the midnight of Queens after a fight, leading to Ben’s death. He handed over the equation necessary for Dr. Connors to complete his work and undergo his change into a murderous monster, an equation his father had apparently kept secret for good reason. With the mask on, however, he faces down gangster and supervillain alike with no fear, protecting Gwen and keeping New York safe. The change in posture, in dialogue, it’s incredible to view: one gets a far better sense of Peter owning up to who he is and what he can do by watching him evolve through situation after fight after defeat, rather than hearing a constant voice over in Maguire’s head reminding him, “Hey, by the way, you’re a superhero: Might want to act like one.”

The rest of the cast does their job splendidly. Emma Stone gives Gwen Stacy, Peter’s love interest, a smart, sharp, and sassy opposite to Peter’s gawky and bumbling nature. Their relationship isn’t all sunshine, and her fears and concerns are both entirely valid and believable. Her father wears a gun and badge, she reasons: she isn’t sure he’ll come home every night, just as she begins to worry that Peter might not after he reveals his secret life to her. Likewise, Dennis Leary puts Peter in his place as Gwen’s father, reminding him (and the audience) that there are plenty of men and women getting paid to risk their lives on a daily basis to protect the streets: their heroics should not be overlooked just because of some goon in spandex, after all.

Rhys Ifans brings a unique side to the villain of this movie in his role as Dr. Connors. His work in biology is meant to help people, including himself: as he assures a group of prospective interns at Oscorp staring at his amputated right arm, “Don’t worry: I’m a Southpaw”. His research on cross-species genetics (combining dna and traits of animals with those of other animals [such as humans]) is to produce a cure for maladies that plague mankind. He is, in effect, a hero himself, trying to better all humans through his research. His descent into the animalistic Lizardman is well documented, leaving him a villain that is not so comically evil as has been done-to-death. Connors is trying to better humanity, heal humanity through his work, only to have Oscorp take it from him with the intent to inject untested serum into unwilling participants. He becomes Lizardman not just to heal his damaged arm, but to protect his life’s work, to see that it is used for good. It is his methods that are vile, not his prospective goals.

Moving away from the characters, the actual filming itself deserves some praise. The cinematography is exceedingly well done: no more choppy fight scenes where you can’t tell what the hell is going on. What I also initially thought was going to be just a cheap trick turned out to be wildly cool: the first-person view point of seeing Spiderman in action. For the very first time, we get to see what it’s like to swing from skycrapers, to crawl up glass windows sixty stories up and plummet to the streets below. It’s not overdone at all, being used at only a few points, but it’s certainly a new experience.

The musical score as well is worthy of attention. It’s neither overpowering nor low-key, and each piece is designed to fit the moment at hand, rather than scenes being built around musical arrangements. After all, the music is simply there to add to the film, not overwhelm it (you hear me, Dark Knight?). From triumphant strings as Parker outwits foes while soaring through the city streets of Manhattan to jarring, eerie strikes of the piano as Lizardman is stalking Gwen inside the Oscorp tower, it’s good to hear a moment being set right from the first note. As a musician myself, it’s truly appreciated.

Now, the film does have a few problems worth mentioning. For one, pacing issues: it’s rather slow to start: Peter Parker is Peter Parker for a long time before we ever first see him in the red-and-blue, and some scenes are, perhaps, a bit unnecessary. Two, while Dr. Connors is a well-done villain, Oscorp itself does have a bit of that “comically-evil” side to it. Come on, a billion-dollar corporation that can’t afford to pay a few human test subjects and instead tries to draw them out of a Veteran’s Hospital? Have a heart, Norm, soulless as it may be. Three, there are a few plots that are not tied up by film’s end. Now, it’s entirely clear that this is meant to be an extended series, though, so such answers most likely will come with time.

Aside from such minor concerns though … It’s Spiderman. Spiderman as he was meant to be. You wanted it, I wanted it, what more is there to complain about when you’ve got Peter thwipping someone’s mouth shut just for kicks?

We’ve been getting slammed with superhero movies left and right. I myself am still riding off of the high that was The Avengers. Maybe there’s just a few too many superhero movies being released and being worked on. But, these are stories we grew up on. These are stories we love and cherish. The reason we keep shoveling out money to see Christian Bale growl at extras and Robert Downey Jr. play Robert Downey Jr. in a robot suit is because we want to. We enjoy doing so. Yes, we’ve heard the same tale a hundred times before. But when it’s taken from such a refreshing angle, with a cast that clearly wants to be there are much as we want to see it, I’ve got no problem sitting there in that seat to hear it for the hundred and first time.

The Amazing Spiderman is the story of Peter Parker, the one you already know. It’s about a teenage boy going from awkward geek to super hero. It’s about coming of age, of accepting who you are and what you are supposed to do. It’s about love, and loss, and the powers that can motivate us to become extraordinary.

And it’s truly deserving of its name.

Plus, seriously, just web-shoots a guy in the face. Hilarious.

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I hope that you enjoyed this article; feel free to leave comments of your thoughts below and remember to like the post, follow the blog and our twitter (@TheNerdNexus) for further updates.

Dredd (2012) Judge Dredd Remake

Now here is a topic that everyone (nerds and non-nerds alike) love to speak about. Remakes/Reboots.

Today we will be talking about a reboot of the Judge Dredd. The original Judge Dredd movie was released in 1995, based upon a strip from the British comic 2000 AD, starring Silvester Stalone, who portrays Judge Dredd, a futuristic super cop who is a part of the Hall of Justice. As a ‘Judge’, Dredd exercises the authority of Judge, Jury and Executioner, settling matters of futuristic crime in one felled swoop. With such a cool concept for the comic strip, it seemed only natural that some ambitious Hollywood suit would want to make a movie out of it.

Unfortunately for him and us, the movie was an atrocity. I am a huge lover of Scifi and their movies, yet even so, Judge Dredd was painful to watch. The combination of bad acting and terrible writing made the movie almost impossible to take seriously. I read somewhere that the movie was attempting to be both a hardcore, gory, gritty action film, and a parody of one. Some points of the movie definitely made people pause it and ask themselves why the hell they were watching this film. With such a weak film as the foundation for a franchise, it is understandable why a reboot is in the works seventeen years later.

This is a reboot, not a remake, meaning that the plot from the first film is entirely scrapped. Now the remake revolves around taking down a drug syndicate in Mega City.

With this reboot, Karl Urban replaces Sylvester Stallone as Dredd, and he must now take down a new foe. A new drug, named SLO-MO is spreading through Megacity. Produced and pushed by an organization run by Madeline ‘Ma-Ma’ Madrigal (Lena Headey), Dredd is ordered to eliminate Ma-Ma and stop the production and distribution of this dangerous narcotic.

This movie has some promise, as CGI and Set-design technology has come a long way since 1995, meaning that a beautiful and realistic future city can be portrayed, however I have some reservations about the cast, particularly with Karl Urban. I am a fan of Lena Headey, who is in other great works such as 300 and Game of Thrones, yet Karl Urban has failed to impress me in his movies (Doom, Priest, etc). Sure, he makes for a solid secondary actor as he has proved in films like the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Riddick, but as the main character, I am worried that me screw up Dredd’s portrayal. Yet there is hope, as it seems he has the Dredd scowl perfected; lets hope he has more than just the scowl.

Hopefully the producers will go right with this one, and keep the ominous climate that hovers around Judge Dredd present within the film, rather than disrupting it with some ridiculous comic relief moments spawned by a silly sidekick (Yes Rob Schneider, I mean you).

From the preview, we can see that the film has promise to be impressive in visual terms, however will it be a block buster movie? This has yet to be seen, and won’t be seen until the movie’s release, in September 21, 2012. Can Karl Urban portray Dredd with just the right amount of badass bravado? Will Lena Headey steal the show?

All of these questions are what will be waiting for Dredd when it is released in theaters, though perhaps the best question to ask would be “Can this movie do what its predecessor failed to do?”.

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I hope that you enjoyed this article; feel free to leave comments of your thoughts below and remember to like the post, follow the blog and our twitter (@TheNerdNexus) for further updates.