DID YOU READ

5 Things We Love About “The Avengers,” No Spoilers

032212-avengers-imax

Posted by on

The Avengers” hits theaters this weekend, uniting solo-film superheroes Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk on the same screen in a cinematic team-up of epic proportions.

You can read my spoiler-free early review of “The Avengers” that went up earlier this week, but just in case you’re still on the fence about Marvel’s blockbuster (and because I enjoyed it so much I still have lots to say about it), I came up with a list of five elements — free of spoilers — that really stood out as the high achievements of Joss Whedon’s new superhero adventure.


What They Say & How They Say It

We’ve come to expect clever, quirky dialogue from Whedon’s projects, but there was some concern early on that his style might not mesh with the established tone of the films that preceded “The Avengers.” All that worry was laid to rest about five minutes into “The Avengers,” though, as the characters have only gotten better under Whedon’s guiding eye. It’s no small feat to make the conversational moments in a film like this just as interesting as the action scenes, but co-writers Whedon and Zak Penn have done just that, and given fans quite a bit of cheer-worthy material that doesn’t involve any smashing, flying, or trading punches. Some of the scenes featuring Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) are particularly great, though it’s Loki’s scene with a different character that really stole the show. You’ll know it when you see it, trust me.


The Incredible Hulk

Edward who? I enjoyed “The Incredible Hulk” and Edward Norton’s portrayal of Dr. Bruce Banner, the mild-mannered scientist who becomes a raging behemoth when he gets stressed out, but the Hulk of “The Avengers” is by far the best version of Marvel’s green giant that I’ve seen on the big screen so far. As Norton’s replacement, Ruffalo does a nice job of making us forget that he’s the third actor to play Bruce Banner in the last 10 years, and his scenes alongside Downey and the rest of the “Avengers” cast are some of the film’s best moments. I’ve never been a big fan of Hulk as a character, but if I had to identify one breakout character in “The Avengers,” it would be Hulk — and if I had to choose my favorite scene in the film, it would involve Hulk and Loki. That says a lot.


The Hero/Villain Permutations

Early on, I tried to keep track of all the different ways the “Avengers” creative team combined the various heroes and villains in the film, from the inevitable fights between the good guys to their super-powered, cooperative attacks on the bad guys. I stopped about halfway through the movie, as the list just got too long. Basically, if there’s a combination you wanted to see in the film, you’ll get it. What’s more, all of the team-ups (and brawls) feel organic to the story, which is something that can’t be said of many other films that feature a cast of characters this large and this high-profile.


The Trickster God

I said it in my review of “The Avengers” and I’ll say it again: the smartest move Marvel made for “The Avengers” was to bring back Tom Hiddleston as Loki. From the moment the god of mischief appears on the screen to his final scenes in the film, Hiddleston embodies everything a live-action version of the character should be. And while we got a taste of how good he was in the role during “Thor,” his role in “The Avengers” gives him an opportunity to play off actors like Downey and Samuel L. Jackson — and it’s an understatement to say he simply holds his own. Hiddleston manages to combine the great Shakespearean elements of the character with a sense of bitter malevolence that makes him a pitch-perfect villain for the team to tackle, and I can’t help hoping to see more of him in future Marvel movies.


The Post-Credits Scene

Naturally, I won’t spoil anything about the scene here. Just know that the now-expected post-credits scene signals big things for the Marvel movie-verse in the years to come, and the introduction of one of the Avengers — nay, the entire Marvel universe’s — greatest villains.

How psyched are you to see “The Avengers”? Let us know in the comments below.

Underworld

Under Your Spell

10 Otherworldly Romances That’ll Melt Your Heart

Spend Valentine's Day weekend with IFC's Underworld movie marathon.

Posted by on
Photo Credit: Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection

Romance takes many forms, and that is especially true when you have a thirst for blood or laser beams coming out of your eyes.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a werewolf, a superhero, a clone, a time-traveler, or a vampire, love is the one thing that infects us all.  Read on to find out why Romeo and Juliet have nothing on these supernatural star-crossed lovers, and be sure to catch IFC’s Underworld movie marathon this Valentine’s Day weekend.

1. Cyclops/Jean Grey/Wolverine, X-Men series

The X-Men franchise is rife with romance, but the steamiest “ménage à mutant” may just be the one between Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Their triangle is a complicated one as Jean finds herself torn between the two very different men while also trying to control her darker side, the Phoenix. This leads to Jean killing Cyclops and eventually getting stabbed through her heart by Wolverine in X-Men: The Last Stand. Yikes!  Maybe they should change the name to Ex-Men instead?


2. Willow/Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon gave audiences some great romances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — including the central triangle of Buffy, Angel, and Spike — but it was the love between witches Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) that broke new ground for its sensitive and nuanced portrayal of a LGBT relationship.

Willow is smart and confident and isn’t even sure of her sexuality when she first meets Tara at college in a Wiccan campus group. As the two begin experimenting with spells, they realize they’re also falling for one another and become the show’s most enduring, happy couple. At least until Tara’s death in season six, a moment that still brings on the feels.


3. Selene/Michael, Underworld series

The Twilight gang pales in comparison (both literally and metaphorically) to the Lycans and Vampires of the stylish Underworld franchise. If you’re looking for an epic vampire/werewolf romance set amidst an epic vampire/werewolf war, Underworld handily delivers in the form of leather catsuited Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and shaggy blonde hunk Michael (a post-Felicity Scott Speedman). As they work together to stop the Vampire/Lycan war, they give into their passions while also kicking butt in skintight leather. Love at first bite indeed.


4. Spider-man/Mary Jane Watson, Spider-man

After rushing to the aid of beautiful girl-next-door Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), the Amazing Spider-man is rewarded with an upside-down kiss that is still one of the most romantic moments in comic book movie history. For Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), the shy, lovable dork beneath the mask, his rain-soaked makeout session is the culmination of years of unrequited love and one very powerful spider bite. As the films progress, Peter tries pushing MJ away in an attempt to protect her from his enemies, but their web of love is just too powerful. And you know, with great power, comes great responsibility.


5. Molly/Sam, Ghost

When it comes to supernatural romance, you really can’t beat Molly and Sam from the 1990 hit film Ghost. Demi Moore goes crazy for Swayze like the rest of us, and the pair make pottery sexier than it’s ever been.

When Sam is murdered, he’s forced to communicate through con artist turned real psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg in her Academy Award-winning role) to warn Molly she is still in danger from his co-worker, Carl (a pre-Scandal Tony Goldwyn). Molly doesn’t believe Oda is telling the truth, so Sam proves it by sliding a penny up the wall and then possessing Oda so he and Molly can share one last romantic dance together (but not the dirty kind). We’d pay a penny for a dance with Patrick Swayze ANY day.


6. Cosima/Delphine, Orphan Black

It stands to reason there would be at least one complicated romance on a show about clones, and none more complicated than the one between clone Cosima (Tatiana Maslany) and Dr. Delphine Cormier (Evelyne Brochu) on BBC America’s hit drama Orphan Black.

Cosima is a PhD student focusing on evolutionary developmental biology at the University of Minnesota when she meets Delphine, a research associate from the nefarious Dyad Institute, posing as a fellow immunology student. The two fall in love, but their happiness is brief once Dyad and the other members of Clone Club get involved. Here’s hoping Cosima finds love in season four of Orphan Black. Girlfriend could use a break.


7. Aragorn/Arwen, Lord of the Rings

On a picturesque bridge in Rivendell amidst some stellar mood-lighting and dreamy Elvish language with English subtitles for us non-Middle Earthlings, Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) bind their souls to one another, pledging to love each other no matter what befalls them.

Their courtship is a matter of contention with Arwen’s father, Elrond (Hugo Weaving), who doesn’t wish to see his daughter suffer over Aragorn’s future death. The two marry after the conclusion of the War of the Ring, with Aragorn assuming his throne as King of Gondor, and Arwen forgoing her immortality to become his Queen. Is it too much to assume they asked Frodo to be their wedding ring-bearer?


8. Lafayette/Jesus, True Blood

True Blood quickly became the go-to show for supernatural sex scenes featuring future Magic Mike strippers (Joe Manganiello) and pale Nordic men with washboard abs (Hi Alexander Skarsgård!), but honestly, there was a little something for everyone, including fan favorite Bon Temps medium, Lafayette Reynolds (Nelsan Ellis).

In season three, Lafayette met his mother’s nurse, Jesus, and the two began a relationship. As they spend more time together and start doing V (short for Vampire Blood), they learn Jesus is descended from a long line of witches and that Lafayette himself has magical abilities. However, supernatural love is anything but simple, and after the pair join a coven, Lafayette becomes possessed by the dead spirit of its former leader. This relationship certainly puts a whole new spin on possessive love.


9. Nymphadora Tonks/Remus Lupin, Harry Potter series

There are lots of sad characters in the Harry Potter series, but Remus Lupin ranks among the saddest. He was bitten by a werewolf as a child, his best friend was murdered and his other best friend was wrongly imprisoned in Azkaban for it, then THAT best friend was killed by a Death Eater at the Ministry of Magic as Remus looked on. So when Lupin unexpectedly found himself in love with badass Auror and Metamorphmagus Nymphadora Tonks (she prefers to be called by her surname ONLY, thank you very much), pretty much everyone, including Lupin himself, was both elated and cautiously hopeful about their romance and eventual marriage.

Sadly, the pair met a tragic ending when both were killed by Death Eaters during the Battle of Hogwarts, leaving their son, Teddy, orphaned much like his godfather Harry Potter. Accio hankies!


10. The Doctor/Rose Tyler, Doctor Who

Speaking of wolves, Rose “Bad Wolf” Tyler (Billie Piper) captured the Doctor’s hearts from the moment he told her to “Run!” in the very first episode of the re-booted Doctor Who series. Their affection for one another grew steadily deeper during their travels in the TARDIS, whether they were stuck in 1950s London, facing down pure evil in the Satan Pit, or battling Cybermen.

But their relationship took a tragic turn during the season two finale episode, “Doomsday,” when the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and Rose found themselves separated in parallel universes with no way of being reunited (lest two universes collapse as a result of a paradox). A sobbing Rose told a holographic transmission of the Doctor she loved him, but before he could reply, the transmission cut out, leaving our beloved Time Lord (and most of the audience) with a tear-stained face and two broken hearts all alone in the TARDIS.

“The Avengers” review: Impressions of a Marvel masterpiece

030912-avengers-2

Posted by on

Four years ago today, “Iron Man” arrived in theaters and kicked off a bold, long-term plan (by Hollywood standards, at least) that would see four different Marvel superheroes appear in their own solo movies, then unite in a single film featuring not just all of the previous films’ stars, but many of their supporting cast, too.

It was a plan that seemed to disregard the inevitable clash of egos and all of the other behind-the-scenes elements that often doom a franchise before it gets started. And because of that, it was a plan everyone wanted to succeed, but quietly expected to become another ambitious failure.

Yet here we are, four years to the day after Robert Downey Jr. became the living embodiment of armored superhero Tony Stark, and “The Avengers” is riding a wave of positive buzz as it approaches the finish line and its long-awaited premiere.

Even more unbelievable, though, is that despite all of the odds against it and the stratospheric expectations heaped upon it, “The Avengers” still manages to not only live up to those expectations, but to exceed them with an epic adventure that’s just as impressive as its larger-than-life characters.

Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans in 'The Avengers'

For a film that required so many prologues to get to this point, it’s surprising how little up-front exposition is required to bring newcomers up to speed with “The Avengers” universe. While the film clearly assumes some familiarity with the main characters and a few basic plot points of the preceding films (“Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Thor,” “Iron Man 2,” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”), co-writers Joss Whedon and Zak Penn have done a great job of weaving any necessary information into the early portions of the film and making the exposition feel organic.

The premise of “The Avengers” is this: Thor’s evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has returned, and he plans to use the Tesseract (the powerful, glowing blue cube last seen in “Captain America”) to take over Earth. When Loki proves too powerful for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. to take down on their own, all of the characters from the previous Marvel Studios films team up to defeat Loki and the alien horde helping him.

It’s a plot that seems laughably old-school in its simplicity, but its genius lies in how this bare-bones narrative foundation allows the film’s talented cast and creative team the room to do what they do best.

A scene from The Avengers

From start to finish, “The Avengers” is a film that draws heavily from classic comic-book tropes. An early misunderstanding has the heroes fighting each other before they eventually realize that they’re on the same side, and the combination of personalities on the team has the expected oil-and-water chemistry. As in all good crossovers, they eventually put aside their differences and cooperate for the common good (in this case, saving the Earth).

It’s the sort of adventure that comic fans are accustomed to seeing in print, but just like the best comics, “The Avengers” truly shines in how it fills out its narrative skeleton and the area around these tropes with vibrant storytelling, compelling character development, and moments filled with so much heart – and humor – that the entire package stands on its own.

Initially, what’s most surprising (though in hindsight, not very surprising at all) is how well director Joss Whedon’s focus on dialogue, humor, and character development drive the film forward and make the moments without action just as enjoyable and interesting as the action sequences. At times, it’s hard to tell where Downey’s clever repartee as Tony Stark ends and Whedon’s influence on the character begins, but it’s easy to see the writer/director’s signature all over Mark Ruffalo’s version of Bruce Banner and – more noticeably – his green alter ego, Hulk.

With Hulk, Whedon somehow manages to find the sweet spot between the raging, uncontrollable behemoth of the 2008 film and a new side of the character that makes him the source of some of the film’s funniest moments. This new dynamic is presented as a natural evolution of Bruce Banner’s relationship with the beast inside of him, and Whedon finds a humor-rich vein to mine in the creature’s lack of impulse control and primitive take on the events transpiring around him.

Marvel’s wise decision to bring back Tom Hiddleston as Loki also pays off in a big way, and the British actor not only holds his own against the film’s cast of heavy-hitters, but draws your attention every moment he’s on screen, oozing with all of the charisma you’d expect from the god of mischief. At times, he’s almost too good, as his scenes with Chris Evans make Captain America seem, well… a little bland in comparison.

Thankfully, for every scene featuring Loki and Captain America, there’s another that puts Loki and Tony Stark in the same room and lets Hiddleston and Downey put on a two-man show as trickster god and narcissistic genius, respectively.

Samuel L. Jackson in The Avengers

It’s worth noting that “The Avengers” doesn’t fail to appease on the fan-service side, either. Over the course of the film, nearly every permutation of hero and villain finds its way to the screen at one point or another, and Whedon masterfully balances the roles each character plays in the big-picture story. Much was made of the dynamic between Captain America and Iron Man in the run-up to the film, with fans wondering how the two characters could possibly share the same screen. “The Avengers” director makes it seem easy, though, and neither Captain America nor Iron Man – nor Hulk or Thor, for that matter – feel relegated to supporting roles.

The most important takeaway from “The Avengers,” however, seems to be the film’s triumph as a comic-book movie that defies the trend toward dark and gritty superhero stories.

Where many films adapted from comic books have kept things at street level, “The Avengers” soars through the air at every opportunity and chooses bright, witty, and unabashedly heroic over dark, grim, and conflicted. Possibly the greatest compliment that can be paid to “The Avengers,” however, is that the film comes the closest of any recent superhero movies to capturing that sense of wonder and spectacle that first turned many kids into lifelong comics fans.

Yes, on top of all the expectations the film lives up to and all of the obstacles it overcame to get to this point, “The Avengers” greatest accomplishment could be this: its ability to make an entire audience feel like children reading their favorite comic for the very first time. It’s a quality that precious few comic book movies seem to capture these days, so let’s hope it’s enough to make audiences assemble for “The Avengers.”

“The Avengers” hits theaters May 4.

Kevin Feige says they’ll continue the Marvel movies “James Bond”-style

Marvel characters

Posted by on

Breathe a sigh of relief: Marvel doesn’t have plans to reboot any of their “Avengers” characters’ storylines once the actor playing them departs the franchise.

That being said, don’t expect the storyline to end just because someone doesn’t want to stick with the series. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently chatted with Badass Digest about the plan for future Marvel movies, and he said that they’ll probably try to continue on with the character like the “007” movies do with James Bond.

“I think Bond is a good example,” Feige said. “Let’s put it this way: I hope [Robert] Downey [Jr.] makes a lot of movies for us as Stark. If and when he doesn’t, and I’m still here making these movies, we don’t take him to Afghanistan and have him wounded again. I think we James Bond it.”

It’s an interesting decision to make, and one we’ve already seen Marvel do before. When they wouldn’t/couldn’t bring Edward Norton back to play the Hulk in “Avengers,” they replaced him with Mark Ruffalo and kept on doing as they were doing.

Considering comic book iterations of characters change just about every time a new writer or artist comes on board, this isn’t such a strange decision. But that doesn’t mean that Marvel is going to go out of its way to boot the actors they started with.

“I think [the character] can age with the actor, if the actor stays with it,” Feige said.

Speaking of reboots, prequels and other ways to reenergize a series, Feige said he has seen “The Amazing Spider-Man” and loved it. He thinks that the terminology behind the film might turn some audiences off to it, and that’s a shame.

“I think the term reboot has got to go. I think it’s like after the ‘Star Wars’ movies nobody likes the idea of prequels, and reboots have turned into the same thing,” he said. “It means ‘Oh they’ve run out of ideas! It’s bad.’ I’ve seen ‘The Amazing Spider-Man.’ It’s awesome. It’s totally fresh and unique.”

Would you want to see an “Iron Man” movie without RDJ? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter!

Powered by ZergNet