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Five questions “The Avengers” didn’t answer

Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans in The Avengers

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Unless you’ve been in a media blackout the last few days, you know that “The Avengers” broke all sorts of records this weekend.

And while I’ve gone on record with my fondness for Marvel’s superhero team-up extravaganza, I had a few questions that went unanswered when the credits rolled in “The Avengers.” From the whereabouts of War Machine to the ancestry of the film’s alien invaders, here are five of the biggest questions I was left pondering after watching the big-screen debut of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. (Oh, and for anyone who hasn’t seen “The Avengers” yet, be warned: this will contain some big spoilers!)

1. Where was War Machine?

Last seen in “Iron Man 2,” Iron Man’s armored, heavily weaponized counterpart piloted by James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle) was conspicuously absent from “The Avengers.” One can’t help wondering what sort of threat was more deserving of War Machine’s attention than an army of aliens and an angry god threatening to take over our entire planet. After all, if one highly mobile, flying tank with energy weapons can do that much damage to an invading army, how much of Manhattan could’ve been saved if Iron Man and War Machine were on the case?

2. Are the Skrulls around?

Long-rumored to be the villains of “The Avengers,” the Skrulls are a race of shape-changing aliens that the superhero team has battled with many times in the comics world. Marvel successfully pulled one over on all of the outlets that claimed to “confirm” the Skrull’ presence in the film, though, and made the Chitauri the common foe that forces Earth’s heroes to unite. It’s worth noting, however, that the Chitauri were introduced as an alternate-universe version of the Skrulls in The Ultimates, a comic book series that reimagines the Avengers in a more modern-day setting, but the alien race was later reclassified as an off-shoot of the Skrulls. So are the Skrulls still out there, threatening to infiltrate Earth? As one of the Avengers’ recurring enemies, it would be surprising to see the studio ignore the shape-changers’ potential.

3. Is Bruce Banner in control of Hulk?

At the end of “The Incredible Hulk,” a brief shot of Bruce Banner’s eyes going green hints that he might be gaining control over his monstrous alter ego, and that seems to be the case in “The Avengers,” too. When Banner (Mark Ruffalo) smiles and tells his teammates that he’s “always” angry, then intentionally turns into Hulk, it would certainly seem that the man and monster are at least somewhat united in purpose. So what happened when he went all “Hulk smash!” on Black Widow and Thor? I can’t help wondering what the real dynamic is here, and how conscious Banner is of Hulk’s actions. We certainly see a bit more awareness (and even a sense of humor) in Hulk during “The Avengers,” so here’s hoping another solo film featuring the green giant will shed more light on the relationship between Banner and Hulk.

4. What is The Council?

At several points during “The Avengers,” Nick Fury is shown arguing with a shadowy group of advisors he calls “The Council.” So what is this mysterious organization? Its members seem to outrank the S.H.I.E.L.D. chief, so I can’t help wondering whether the group is some part of the U.N. or another international organization that only exists in Marvel’s cinematic universe. Could they have been the real group pulling the strings throughout all of Marvel’s movies? This might seem like a small thread to pull, but there’s reason to believe a big web could be at the other end of it.

5. The Infinity Gems, I presume?

The post-credits scene reveals that Thanos, one of the Avengers’ greatest enemies, played a role in pairing Loki with the Chitauri for the invasion of Earth. Thanos is best known in the Marvel Comics universe as a powerful alien who once sought after — and eventually wielded — the Infinity Gauntlet, a golden glove with six powerful “Infinity Gems” embedded within it. The gems each control one element of the universe (time, space, mind, soul, reality, and power) and when wielded collectively, make whoever wears the glove practically invincible. The Infinity Gauntlet actually appeared in “Thor,” and Marvel carted the prop to Comic-Con last year to show it off, so now that we’ve seen the big-screen version of Thanos there’s reason to believe he’s up to his old tricks again.

So my final questions fall along these lines: Is the Tesseract one of the Infinity Gems? And what about the orb in Loki’s staff?

Given its ability to open a portal to the Chitauri fleet, there’s reason to believe the Tesseract is the Space Gem. And with Loki using his staff to control Hawkeye and other members of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s not too far-fetched to think that orb is the Mind Gem. Could we have already seen two of the gems Thanos will go after in his bid for power?

What were some of your post-“Avengers” questions? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Bill and Teds Bogus Journey Everett

Die Laughing

5 Depictions of “Death” in Comedy

Catch Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey this week on IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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With Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey airing as part of IFC’s Rotten Fridays, we got to thinking about how exactly the character of Death made his way onto the screen – and onto the poster – of a 1991 comedy sequel.

Ingmar Bergman’s depiction of Death in his 1957 classic The Seventh Seal set the tone for how most people think of The Grim Reaper. Portrayed by Bengt Ekerot, Death was a chess-playing philosopher, answering deep existential questions while capturing your rook with his knight. In Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Death is partial to board games.

Here then is the journey of Death in movie comedies, from Bill & Ted to Whoopi.

1. The Dove / De Duva (1968)

Three years after The Seventh Seal hit theaters, this short film parodied as much Ingmar Bergman as could fit into 14 minutes. The centerpiece is of course the pale-faced and shrouded Death, challenged this time in a game of badminton. It’s also the film debut of Madeline Kahn, who would go on to become the queen of parody with Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety and Blazing Saddles.


2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail trailer (1975)

One of the greatest comedies of all times parodies one of the greatest movies of all times –- but only in the trailer. Referring to the director and title by name, this preview promises something “all rather silly” when compared to The Seventh Seal. To wit: Death takes a pie to the face.


3. Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

Bill and Ted
Orion Pictures

If Death can play chess, then why not Twister, Clue and Battleship? Of all the comic portrayals of Death in movies, this is the one that holds up best. William Sadler brings a vulnerability to the role while never losing Death’s sense of menace. Like the Bill & Ted movies, it’s brilliantly smart and stupid all at the same time.


4. The Last Action Hero (1993)

"Ian
Columbia Pictures

This action-comedy-trainwreck acknowledges The Seventh Seal as a movie and then takes a big leap as the character of Death leaves the land of Ingmar Bergman and jumps into the world of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ian McKellen (the Bengt Ekerot of our day) takes over the role and wreaks havoc in 1990s America.


5. Monkeybone (2001)

Monkeybone
20th Century Fox

Whoopi Goldberg plays Death in this bizarre 2001 comedy, where Brendan Fraser’s comatose cartoonist must get an “exit pass” from Death in order to return to the land of the living. Also, Death has a giant robot. It’s a weird movie, folks.

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Rick Moranis Honey I shrunk the kids

Rick of Time

10 Best Rick Moranis Roles

Catch Rick Moranis in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

Everyone loves Rick Moranis. It’s just the truth. This month on IFC, you get a chance to rediscover his awesomeness in Honey, I Shrunk the KidsAs you enjoy that family comedy gem, here are a few other roles that showcase Rick Moranis’ greatness.

1. Little Shop of Horrors, Seymour Krelborn

Only Rick Moranis could play a character that you still root for even though he’s murdering people and feeding them to an alien plant. Audiences loved Seymour so much, the studio had to reshoot the ending of the film. Originally, the film ended like the original Off-Broadway play, with Seymour and Audrey being eaten and Audrey II taking over the world. Test audiences couldn’t stand the fact that they were killed, so a new ending was shot with our leads victorious and the film became one of the best movie musicals of all time.


2. Ghostbusters, Louis Tully

In a film with so many comedy legends, it would have been easy for Rick Moranis to fade into the background as the hapless Louis Tully. But he more than holds his own up against the rest, making Tully just as funny as he is pathetic. And when he goes bug-eyed as Vinz Clortho, Keymaster of Gozer, that’s when the fun really starts.


3. Spaceballs, Dark Helmet

You don’t often think of James Earl Jones and Rick Moranis being typecast together. But in Mel Brooks’ goofy send-up of Star Wars, Moranis takes on his version of Darth Vader. As Dark Helmet, Moranis is a perfect mixture of occasionally threatening and mostly inept. If Brooks ever decides to revisit the Spaceballs franchise on the big screen, hopefully he’ll find a way to bring Dark Helmet into the new Star Wars universe.


4. Parenthood, Nathan Huffner

Directed by Ron Howard, Parenthood is a wonderfully truthful movie about marriage, having children and the dangers of oral sex while driving. Moranis plays Nathan Huffner, an intellectual who’s more interested in raising his daughter as a science experiment than being a loving father. Though there are many comedic moments, this is a much more understated performance for Moranis. And he gets easily the sweetest moment in the film when he serenades his estranged wife in front of her students.


5. Strange Brew, Bob McKenzie

Bob and Doug McKenzie were breakout characters from SCTV that were originally created by government demand — the CBC mandates that a certain percentage of all shows in Canada have specifically Canadian content. So, Moranis and Dave Thomas thought of the most stereotypical Canadians possible and the McKenzie brothers were born. The duo appeared on SCTV, in Pizza Hut and Molson commercials, on a platinum-selling comedy album and their big screen debut, Strange Brew. It’s a tale of poisoned beer, mind control plots and an escape from an insane asylum. Plus, it’s a loose take on Hamlet. Probably not what you’d expect from characters made as a joke, but that’s what makes Bob McKenzie a great and surprising “hoser.”


6. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Wayne Szalinski

In this 1989 classic, Rick Moranis plays a bumbling inventor who accidentally shrinks his kids and neighbors to the size of ants. Though that may sound horrifying, Moranis is great as a man who’s thrilled that something of his finally worked and just as comically terrified by what he’s done. With impressive special effects for the time, the film still holds up as a fun family comedy.


7. My Blue Heaven, Barney Coopersmith

Did you know that Rick Moranis was in a comedic version of Goodfellas? My Blue Heaven, starring Steve Martin and Moranis, came out one month before Scorsese’s legendary Mob film. Though the silly comedy and gritty gangster drama may seem completely different, both are based on the life of Henry Hill, known as Vinnie Antonelli in Heaven. Moranis plays the average neighbor who tries to keep former mobster Vinnie (Martin) in line so he can remain in witness protection. Though Goodfellas was based on a novel about Hill’s life by Nicholas Pileggi, My Blue Heaven was written Nora Ephron, who happened to be married to Pileggi at the time. It’s a small mob world.


8. The Wild Life, Harry

This ’80s teen comedy has been mostly forgotten, but it’s notable not only for a performance by Moranis as a trendy manager with very big hair but it’s top level cast. Eric Stoltz, Randy Quaid, Lea Thompson and a bleached blonde Chris Penn all star, with a soundtrack by Eddie Van Halen. It’s all the more surprising that this film isn’t better remembered, since it was writer Cameron Crowe’s follow up to Fast Times at Ridgemont High.


9. Head Office, Howard Gross

This 1985 satire of the corporate world stars Judge Reinhold as a new employee who gets mysteriously promoted within a huge company and learns of the seedy underbelly of business. The film features a few subplots, one starring Danny DeVito and one with Moranis as a failing executive whose screaming idiocy is a great parody of the executive top brass. Though it may not be much of a parody, since we’ve all probably experienced our fair share of screaming, asinine bosses.


10. Brewster’s Millions, Morty King

In Brewster’s Millions, Richard Pryor finds out he’ll get a $300 million inheritance only if he can spend $30 million in one month. (If only we all had such troubles.) As Pryor’s character gets more attention for his big spending and eventual mayoral campaign, he attracts a bunch of odd characters. One of which is Moranis as Morty King, King of the Mimics. It’s a small role where he plays a guy that always repeats everything that’s said, but Morty has got a great costume and Moranis plays this confident weirdo with delightful skill. Also, the idea of anyone crowning himself “King of the Mimics” for doing a trick that little brothers use to annoy everyone is a pretty insane thought.

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Jay Pharoah SNL

The Great Pharoah

Catch Jay Pharoah Post-SNL On the Oddball Comedy Festival

The Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival kicks off August 25th in West Palm Beach, FL.

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Photo Credit: SNL/NBC

Like autumn leaves or an Italian government, Saturday Night Live cast members seem to change with each passing day — and this upcoming season is no different. Earlier this month, it was announced that regulars Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah will not be returning for SNL’s 42nd season, however you can still catch Pharoah and his incredible comedy chops — seriously, did you see him do Leon in the “Bern Your Enthusiasm” sketch? — on tour with the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival.

The 28-year-old comedian is confirmed for the Portland and Seattle shows on September 17th and 18th, but lineups are subject change. You can also catch other great comedians on the tour, including Documentary Now! writer John Mulaney and Maron star and alt comedy favorite Cameron Esposito.

The Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival kicks off August 25th in West Palm Beach, FL. Check out the official site for the Oddball Comedy Festival for tickets and more information.

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