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Can We Get a Black Widow Movie?

Scarlett Johansson in The Avengers

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Can we get a Black Widow movie up in this? Most of the Avengers – Hulk, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man – are bankable franchises. And fans of those franchises, to be sure, put their butts in seats to the record-breaking tune of a $200 million opening weekend, beating the previous opening record held by Harry Potter’s final installment. So: obviously there are going to be sequels; we are in a golden age of comic book movies.

That having been said, of all the Avengers, the Black Widow – Natasha Romanoff – was, to me and to others, the most interesting. Granted, this blogger has a thing for gorgeous women who can kick ass. And The Black Widow is one of the toughest and most interesting characters ever to come out of comic books. As Karina Longworth noted in her largely unfavorable view of The Avengers in The Village Voice (you can’t win ‘em all), The Black Widow is the true standout character. “The Avengers hints that this former Russian spy with ‘a very specific skill set’ has a complicated backstory—sordid and shameful, perhaps, but also rife with transformative drama, suggesting an arc that’s much more interesting than anything the characters travel here.”

My favorite incarnation of Natasha Romanoff, who’s backstory is indeed shameful and sordid but also quite interesting, is the Frank Miller run. Frank Miller, now famous as a screenwriter (RoboCop2), a co-director (Sin City, with Robert Rodriguez), and producer (300) is also famous for his Noir-ish comic book art and dark stories. Miller inked this gritty, infinitely beautiful series of Daredevil comics in which Widow and The Man Without Fear team up to fight a shadowy underworld cult organization of Ninjas known as “The Hand.” There is black magic and lots of arrows and poisoned throwing stars and martial arts involved. The storyline reached its apex in the iconic Daredevil #188, which, this blogger cannot fail to note, is one of the most breathtakingly cinematically scripted graphic novels.

Few Marvel characters are as ready-made for a film franchise as Natasha Romanoff, who appeared, all too briefly, in Iron Man 2. At various points in her comic book life Black Widow has been a villain – an antagonist of Iron Man – a secret agent on both sides during the Cold War, and, finally, as a superhero. She has been used – as a pawn in a complex geopolitical chess match – by the East and the West. Her motive for being a superhero is redemption.

Like Captain America and Wolverine, Romanoff has lived a longer-than-human-lifespan, getting mixed up in both World War II and the Cold War. One telling of her origin goes back to the 1940s where she, as a child, was rescued from the Nazis by Captain America. Then things go murky, and she is lost – mixed up with the KGB. She was trained as the ultimate spy in “The Red Room” – the former Soviet Union’s answer to the Super Soldier program that gave us the red-white and blue bedecked Captain America. In the 60s, Natasha wore a veil and evening gowns, a sort of cheesy parody of the scarlet-haired Russian spy/ vixen. Now, in her final incarnation — a skin tight black suit and golden wrist bands that fire deadly energy beams — she is an Olympic caliber athlete highly trained in all forms of the martial arts that is seeking redemption for her past sins. Does this not sound like a story made for Hollywood?

Also: Scarlett Johansson would be wildly interested in the role. “I love her origin story,” Johansson told CBS News. “I think it’s just such a riveting one. It’s just steeped in history and the richness to shoot in Russia, perhaps … I hope that the fans’ voice is loud enough and they want to see a Widow origin story, I know Marvel would be happy to entertain that. We’ve spoken a lot about it.”

Clearly, movies based on comic book characters are not going away, not with this kind of money on the table. Even actors – like Patrick Dempsey in the case of a possible Dr. Strange movie – are making sort-of-public appeals, perhaps in the hope of getting a social media groundswell going. I’d like to add my voice to Scarlett Johansson’s sexy rasp in saying that we need to make a Black Widow origin story.

And while we are on the subject of beautiful women who could kick our asses and are former secret agents: Could we get a Spider-Woman movie up in this as well? Just saying, yo.

Would you like to see a Black Widow movie? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Danzig-Portlandia-604-web

Face Melting Cameos

The 10 Most Metal Pop Culture Cameos

Glenn Danzig drops by Portlandia tonight at 10P on IFC.

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Glenn Danzig rocks harder than granite. In his 60 years, he’s mastered punk with The Misfits, slayed metal with the eponymous Danzig, and generally melted faces with the force of his voice. And thanks to Fred and Carrie, he’s now stopping by tonight’s brand new Portlandia so we can finally get to see what “Evil Elvis” is like when he hits the beach. To celebrate his appearance, we put together our favorite metal moments from pop culture, from the sublime to the absurd.

10. Cannibal Corpse meets Ace Ventura

Back in the ’90s,  Cannibal Corpse was just a small time band from Upstate New York, plying their death metal wares wherever they could find a crowd, when a call from Jim Carry transformed their lives. Turns out the actor was a fan, and wanted them for a cameo in his new movie, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The band had a European tour coming up, and were wary of being made fun of, so they turned it down. Thankfully, the rubber-faced In Living Color vet wouldn’t take no for an answer, proving that you don’t need to have a lot of fans, just the right ones.


9. AC/DC in Private Parts

Howard Stern’s autobiographical film, based on his book of the same name, followed his rise in the world of radio and pop culture. For a man surrounded by naked ladies and adoring fans, it’s hard to track the exact moment he made it. But rocking out with AC/DC in the middle of Central Park, as throngs of fans clamor to get a piece of you, seems like it comes pretty close. You can actually see Stern go from hit host to radio god in this clip, as “You Shook Me All Night Long” blasts in the background.


8. Judas Priest meets The Simpsons

When you want to blast a bunch of peace-loving hippies out on their asses, you’re going to need some death metal. At least, that’s what the folks at The Simpsons thought when they set up this cameo from the metal gods. Unfortunately, thanks to a hearty online backlash, the writers of the classic series were soon informed that Judas Priest, while many things, are not in fact “death metal.” This led to the most Simpson-esque apology ever. Rock on, Bartman. Rock on.


7. Anthrax on Married…With Children

What do you get when Married…with Children spoofs My Dinner With Andre, substituting the erudite playwrights for a band so metal they piss rust? Well, for starters, a lot of headbanging, property destruction and blown eardrums. And much like everything else in life, Al seems to have missed the fun.


6. Motorhead rocks out on The Young Ones

The Young Ones didn’t just premiere on BBC2 in 1982 — it kicked the doors down to a new way of doing comedy. A full-on assault on the staid state of sitcoms, the show brought a punk rock vibe to the tired format, and in the process helped jumpstart a comedy revolution. For instance, where an old sitcom would just cut from one scene to the next, The Young Ones choose to have Lemmy and his crew deliver a raw version of “Ace of Spades.” The general attitude seemed to be, you don’t like this? Well, then F— you!


5. Red and Kitty Meet Kiss on That ’70s Show

Carsey-Werner Productions

Carsey-Werner Productions

Long before they were banished to playing arena football games, Kiss was the hottest ticket in rock. The gang from That ’70s Show got to live out every ’70s teen’s dream when they were set loose backstage at a Kiss concert, taking full advantage of groupies, ganja and hard rock.


4. Ronnie James Dio in Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (NSFW, people!)

What does a young boy do when he was born to rock, and the world won’t let him? What tight compadre does he pray to for guidance and some sweet licks? If you’re a young Jables, half of “the world’s most awesome band,” you bow your head to Ronnie James Dio, aka the guy who freaking taught the world how to do the “Metal Horns.” Never before has a rock god been so literal than in this clip that turns it up to eleven.


3. Ozzy Osbourne in Trick or Treat

It’s hard to tell if Ozzy was trying his hardest here, or just didn’t give a flying f–k. What is clear is that, either way, it doesn’t really matter. Ozzy’s approach to acting seems to lean more heavily on Jack Daniels than sense memory, and yet seeing the slurry English rocker play a sex-obsessed televangelist is so ridiculous, he gets a free pass. Taking part in the cult horror Trick or Treat, Ozzy proves that he makes things better just by showing up. Because that’s exactly what he did here. Showed up. And it rocks.


2. Glenn Danzig on Portlandia

Danzig seems to be coming out of a self imposed exile these days. He just signed with a record company, and his appearance on Portlandia is reminding everyone how kick ass he truly is. Who else but “The Other Man in Black” could help Portland’s resident goths figure out what to wear to the beach? Carrie Brownstein called Danzig “amazing,” and he called Fred “a genius,” so this was a rare love fest for the progenitor of horror punk.


1. Alice Cooper in Wayne’s World

It’s surprising, sure, but for a scene that contains no music whatsoever, it’s probably the most famous metal moment in the history of film. When Alice Cooper informed Wayne and Garth that Milwaukee is actually pronounced “Milly-way-kay” back in 1992, he created one of the most famous scenes in comedy history. What’s more metal than that? Much like Wayne and Garth, we truly are not worthy.

Adapt This: “The Avengers: Kree-Skrull War”

avengers kree-skrull war

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With Hollywood turning more of its attention to the world of graphic novels for inspiration, I’ll cast the spotlight on a new comic book each week that has the potential to pack a theater or keep you glued to your television screens. At the end of some “Adapt This” columns, you’ll also find thoughts from various comic creators and other industry experts about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.


This Week’s Book: The Avengers: Kree-Skrull War by Roy Thomas (w), Sal Buscema (a), Neal Adams (a), and John Buscema (a)

The Premise: The Avengers find themselves caught up in a war between two alien races that spills over to Earth, forcing the heroes to fight a war on three fronts — battling the aliens, the frightened people they’re sworn to protect, and the differences between their own values. As the team’s members try to rally and unite against their common foe, their allegiance is questioned when they attempt to protect one of their own, who just happens to be a member of one of the alien races at war.

The Pitch: With all the buzz surrounding “The Avengers” right now, it makes sense to look at some of the existing stories that could serve as the basis for future films. This early-’70s story arc is widely regarded as one of the best ever written for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and allowed some heavy political and social issues of the time to be viewed through the lens of the Marvel Comics universe.

While the details of the story would need to be heavily reworked with regard to the team’s roster and the main characters in order to bring it more in line with Marvel’s cinematic universe, there’s no reason the fundamental themes and questions raised by “Kree-Skrull War” couldn’t make the transition with a modern-era update.

The easiest way of doing so would be to present the war as a conflict between Thor’s people and one of the other alien races revealed in the franchise so far (the Frost Giants or Chitauri, perhaps), and the rest of the pieces should fall into place. However, with an unspecified number of years and at least three movies between now and the start of filming for the “Avengers” sequel, there’s ample time to introduce a few new alien races to the mix such as the Kree or Skrulls. “The Avengers” director Joss Whedon has already proven he can pull off the alien-invasion angle, so upping the ante with two new alien races seems like a natural step.

With a film based on “Kree-Skrull War,” there’s also a nice opportunity to develop the characters of some of the chief players in the Avengers — especially Iron Man, Captain America, and Nick Fury. The story offers some nice “Civil War”-like potential in the way Iron Man and Captain America react to both the alien threat and the way the Avengers’ role in dealing with the aliens is perceived by the public.

For example, Captain America wouldn’t seem too far off-base to side with the government and take a wartime view on engaging both the aliens and each race’s respective allies here on Earth. Iron Man, on the other hand, would seem a natural fit for the opposing viewpoint, and take a skeptical view on the rights sacrificed by a frightened public and their government. And much like the comic-book arc, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. would find themselves caught in the middle of the controversy, torn between their obligations to the government and The Avengers team they helped create.

The Closing Argument: While the post-credits scene in “The Avengers” hints at taking the next chapter in a different direction, adapting “Kree-Skrull War” offers a chance to give all of the same action and effects-driven adventure elements a backbone in serious, real-world issues. Bringing a story like this into the Avengers universe feels like a natural evolution of the over-arching Marvel movie-verse narrative, with the first chapter of “The Avengers” serving as an introduction, and the next chapter looking at how the team functions together over the long term and the way it’s perceived by the rest of the world (and in this case, the universe).


Would “Kree-Skrull War” make a good movie? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

“Avengers” director Joss Whedon thanks his fans in open letter

Joss Whedon on set of The Avengers

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If you’ve been paying any kind of attention to anything in the past week or so, you should be well-aware that “The Avengers,” written and directed by Joss Whedon, has been an absolutely colossal, box office records-shattering hit. As a response to the massive success of his latest film, Whedon recently took to his unofficial official website, Whedonesque.com to issue a “Thank you” letter to his fans that was appropriately, yes, “Whedonesque.”

Whedon’s open letter starts off by explaining that despite the massive success of “The Avengers,” he has yet to have “an emotional reaction to it, like a person would.” He then launches into how he’s been told that his life is about to change, including the ability to finance his dream project, hopefully jokingly pointing that particular film out as being “the reboot of ‘Air Bud’ that we all feel is so long overdue.”

Jokes about dogs playing Jai Alai aside, however, the bulk of Whedon’s letter is taken up by thank-yous and compliments to his fans, slotted in between Whedonesque joke-asides that make the entire thing feel like it could have been a conversation between Buffy and Xander, circa season four – you know, before things started getting really weird and wacky.

What doesn’t change is anything that matters. What doesn’t change is that I’ve had the smartest, most loyal, most passionate, most articulate group of — I’m not even gonna say fans. I’m going with “peeps” — that any cult oddity such as my bad self could have dreamt of. When almost no one was watching, when people probably should have STOPPED watching, I’ve had three constants: my family and friends, my collaborators (often the same), and y’all.

Putting aside my issue with a guy born in New York City busting out the word “y’all,” Whedon’s letter reads as a remarkably open and honest missive to his fans – excuse me, “peeps” – and supporters. Following the letter itself, he goes into a fake Q&A with Rutherford D. Actualperson, in which Whedon expresses his commitment to projects like “Dr. Horrible” and his undying love for the medium of television. Check out the full thing here.

What did you think of Whedon’s letter? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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