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Marvel creates official movie timeline leading up to “The Avengers”

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Need any more proof that the Marvel movie universe hinges around Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man? Well, just check out the studio’s official Cinematic Universe Timeline from their new Art of the Avengers book. The timeline puts the events from the six Marvel movies in chronological order, spanning from 1000 years before Tony Stark declared he was Iron Man right up until the start of “The Avengers.”

All joking about Iron Man aside, the timeline offers a really great look at how all the pieces came together to lead up to “The Avengers.” It even offers some more context to the events that occurred after “Thor,” “Captain America,” “The Incredible Hulk” and “Iron Man 2″ to set up what is happening as “The Avengers” begins.

For example, Tony Stark began construction on the Stark Tower at around the same time Loki arrives on Earth and Captain America was discovered in the Arctic. We were able to parse that out from the set up in “The Avengers,” but we didn’t realize before reading this timeline that the events of “Thor,” “Iron Man 2″ and “The Incredible Hulk” were all supposed to happen in the same week.

No wonder Nick Fury looked so stressed out by the time “The Avengers” began.

Similar infographics have been made before, but we’re glad Marvel decided to come out and set the record straight on the chronology of their big screen stories. Hopefully three-ish years down the road we’ll see another one of these that adds all the events that lead up to “The Avengers 2,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” or whatever other big ensemble flick Marvel concocts next.

Many thanks to @MarvelFreshman, who scanned the massive timeline and put it online. You can click on the image below to open up the full-size version of the timeline in a new window.

Are you glad Marvel released an official timeline? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

Joss Whedon is uncertain about directing “The Avengers 2″

Joss Whedon on set of The Avengers

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Fans are clamoring for Joss Whedon to return as director for “The Avengers 2,” which is already being planned. Even Marvel seems to want the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator to come back for the film, and they rarely have directors come back for a second go with their movies. The big question is whether Whedon wants to come back.

Apparently, that’s not an easy answer for him.

“You know, I’m very torn,” Whedon told The Los Angeles Times. “It’s an enormous amount of work telling what is ultimately somebody else’s story, even though I feel like I did get to put myself into it. But at the same time, I have a bunch of ideas, and they all seem really cool.”

The Times interview discusses the many comparisons that can be made between Whedon’s script for “The Avengers” and his previous works, and that conversation seemed to highlight Whedon’s biggest qualm about helming a sequel: he doesn’t want to repeat himself.

Though Whedon has written a movie that was a sequel in the past (he penned the script for “Alien: Resurrection,” though director Jean-Pierre Jeunet deviated from it significantly), he has never written a direct sequel to his own work. The closest he’s come is making the movie “Serenity” to cap off his television show “Firefly.” The fact that “The Avengers 2″ would not only be a sequel, but also be based on someone else’s work, seems to be giving Whedon pause.

“I’m not going to do the same thing on purpose; I’m going to do the same thing because I’m creatively bereft, and I’ve run out of ideas,” he joked about the comparisons the Times made between “The Avengers” and his previous works like “Buffy,” “Firefly” and “The Astonishing X-Men” comic book series. “Awkward…”

Would you want to see “The Avengers 2″ if it’s not directed by Whedon? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

“The Avengers” hits $1 billion worldwide, moves ahead of “The Dark Knight”

A scene from Marvel's The Avengers

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The box-office victories keep rolling in for “The Avengers.” Not only did the first joint production between Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios hit the $1 billion mark in worldwide ticket sales this weekend, but it also surpassed “The Dark Knight” to become the 11th highest-grossing film of all time.

The $1 billion box-office tally is especially notable due to “The Avengers” reaching that mark in just 19 days, despite only showing in the U.S. for 10 of those days. Joss Whedon’s superhero team-up film has now earned an estimated $373.2 million in North America and $628.9 million internationally.

“We’re obviously thrilled with the global success of The Avengers,” said Robert A. Iger, Disney’s Chairman and CEO, in an official statement regarding the film’s record-breaking second weekend. “It’s a fantastic movie and an extraordinary franchise that will continue with more great stories and compelling characters for years to come.”

“The Avengers” is the first Marvel film to reach the $1 billion mark, and the fifth Disney film to do so after “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “Toy Story 3,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” and “Alice in Wonderland.” Its worldwide tally of $1,002.1 million this weekend puts it just ahead of “The Dark Knight,” which has earned $1,001.9 million since premiering in 2008.

Among all of these other accolades “The Avengers” is also the fastest film to reach $200 million in the U.S. (it reached the mark in three days), the fastest to reach $300 million (nine days), and it now ranks as the highest gross for a Saturday ($69.5 million) and Sunday ($57 million) of all time.

Basically, the future has never looked brighter for Marvel’s cinematic universe.

Of course, all this success made it somewhat of a given that a sequel to “The Avengers” would get the green light, and Disney gave it the official go-ahead last week. The plot of that film — and all of the Marvel movies that will premiere in the meantime — remains securely under wraps, but that hasn’t stopped us from making a few guesses, as well as a few requests.

The next Marvel Studios movie to hit the big screen will be “Iron Man 3,” due out May 3, 2013.

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