Marvel Unveils ‘Avengers 2’ Title Card and More

This title image for the 'Avengers' sequel was unveiled Saturday.

This title card for the ‘Avengers’ sequel was unveiled Saturday.

Marvel Studios held their annual panel in San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H Saturday, revealing a trove of information about their upcoming second phase of superhero movies.

Perhaps most significantly, the title of the sequel to last summer’s  The Avengers, set for May 1, 2015, was revealed to be Avengers: Age of Ultron.

For readers not familiar with the comics, Ultron was a sentient robot originally created by Dr. Hank Pym, aka Ant-Man, who has yet to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ultron was created for good but soon became obsessed with power, modifying himself and eventually warring with Pym.

The Comic-Con teaser seems to suggest that Marvel may not be following the comics to the letter on this one. The title reveal began with a video of Iron Man’s mask. As members of the Avengers repeated lines from previous movies, the mask was spun around, battered and distorted, eventually morphing into Ultron’s distinctive fanged metallic skull.

If this footage is to be believed, Marvel may adapt Ultron’s origin story to make one Tony Stark his creator, holding off on introducing Pym until his planned solo movie, to be directed by Edgar Wright, in Phase Three. Director Joss Whedon offered no clues.

Marvel also teased the rest of its upcoming slate:

Thor: The Dark World (Nov. 8, 2013) – Little more than some extra footage from the upcoming sequel was revealed, though Tom Hiddleston appeared as Loki to whip the audience into a frenzy. From what we know already, The Dark World will take Chris Hemsworth’s hammer-wielding demi-god to more alien worlds as he battles the Dark Elves, led by the mysterious Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Thor will team up with erstwhile brother Loki and love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) as he attempts to stop the Dark Elves from destroying worlds he has sworn to protect and everyone he holds dear. The film, directed by Game of Thrones helmer Alan Taylor, will have a grittier, more Viking-influenced feel, according to insiders.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4, 2014) – Most of the cast members appeared at Comic-Con, including Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson (reprising her Black Widow role in a bigger part), Emily VanCamp (as mysterious Agent 13) and Sebastian Stan (as the titular antagonist, one of Cap’s close friends from the ’40s brainwashed by the villainous HYDRA organization). According to producer Kevin Feige, the film is “a 70s political thriller masquerading as a big superhero movie” and will find Cap taking on a powerful enemy in Washington, D.C. Frank Grillo will appear as villain Crossbones. Anthony Mackie will also feature as flying hero Falcon. As directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, the film will deal with Cap’s adjustment to modern life and his growing relationship with Black Widow. Robert Redford, not in attendance at Comic-Con, will play shadowy villain Alexander Pierce. A fight sequence between Cap and Crossbones in an elevator was screened, along with some lines from Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury.

Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1, 2014) – Surprisingly, lots of cast members from James Gunn’s oddball sci-fi space-set adventure showed up at Comic-Con. The story will find an American pilot teaming up with alien ex-cons to transport a powerful artifact. Footage screened showed protagonist Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) attempting to steal an artifact from a temple before encountering Djimon Hounsou’s Korath, and a futuristic mug shot scenario where each member of the Guardians is profiled. Here’s a run-down of who’s who:

Peter Quill/Star-Lord – Chris Pratt beefed up to play the film’s lead protagonist, a devil-may-care gunslinger with an alien father and human mother. Wanted on charges of “minor assault,” according to the footage.

Yondu – Michael Rooker shaved his head for the role of the Guardians’ founding member, an expert hunter.

Gamora – Avatar actress Zoe Saldana is under heavy makeup as green alien assassin Gamora, the adopted daughter of heavyweight villain Thanos. She’s the last of her species, according to Saldana.

Drax the Destroyer – Wrestler Dave Bautista plays a human reborn as a green warrior with the sole purpose of killing Thanos, after the villain murdered his family.

Ronan the Accuser – Lee Pace will be portraying a villain, the leader of the evil Kree race.

Korath the Pursuer – Djimon Houstou took the role of one of Ronan the Accuser’s Kree allies to set an example for his young son, who is a big fan of superhero movies.

Nebula – Doctor Who actress Karen Gillan revealed at Comic-Con that she had shaved her head to play the villainous Nebula, a space pirate.

The Collector – Benicio del Toro signed a multi-picture deal with Marvel before signing on to play the ancient Collector, a being who finds interesting lifeforms to keep for himself.

Yet to be cast are the voices of Groot, a tree-like member of the Guardians, and Rocket Raccoon, a pint-sized Guardian. Thanos, who cameoed at the end of The Avengers, is rumored to be making an appearance.

Source: EW.

Image Courtesy: Marvel.

Review: Iron Man 3

 

Stark and Potts prepare for battle.

Stark and Potts prepare for battle.

The last time Robert Downey Jr. suited up for adventure without his super-powered pals, the result was a stalled, inferior sequel that made many question how sustainable the Iron Man franchise actually was. Everything that was enjoyable about the original Iron Man – quippy dialogue, exciting action sequences, and an energetic, devil-may-care feel –  vanished in Iron Man 2. And so, Marvel had a lot riding on Iron Man 3 – its responsibility was nothing less than to revitalize the franchise, deliver a massively entertaining popcorn flick, and ensure that people would be asking for more Iron Man for years to come.

Luckily, director Shane Black  (Lethal Weapon) came through with flying colors. He made many great moves with his addition to the franchise, including a change in tone and terrific plot twists. The script (which Black co-wrote with Drew Pearce) is smarter than most, highlighting Tony Stark as a real character and setting up worthy adversaries for him instead of resting on its laurels with big-budget special effects and the movie’s all-but-guaranteed box office success.

The threequel picks up a few months after the Battle of New York featured in The Avengers. Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), once a smug billionaire with playthings of mass destruction, is carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Suffering PTSD after an encounter with a Chitauri wormhole, Tony can’t sleep. He spends his days in isolation, tinkering away in the basement of his cliffside Malibu home, drifting away from his girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). When agents of the Mandarin, an elusive terrorist played by Ben Kingsley, attack him at his home, destroying the personal world he has fought so hard to protect, Stark suits up again to strike back. Along the way, he uncovers the secrets of a top secret super soldier experiment called Extremis and crosses paths with remorseless scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce).

This third installment in the series is noticeably darker and more serious than its predecessors – the villains of the film are remorseless sociopaths, and Stark’s trademark playboy lifestyle has been shoved aside to portray Stark as a damaged man after the events of The Avengers. Black succeeds in moving the movie along at a breakneck pace, and the story is never heavy or grim enough to forsake its fantastical comic-book origins. The film’s only big flaws arrive in the form of its villains; though the Extremis mutants, glowing with molten heat, are terrific to look at on the screen, their motivations leave a little to be desired, and Pearce’s Killian ultimately becomes a little too megalomaniacal for the film’s own good. However, the finished product is so sleek and fun that it’s easy to overlook the film’s weaker aspects.

Black’s greatest tricks in Iron Man 3 are the sharp plot twists that he conjures up, especially around the Mandarin. The movie’s twists lend it an intelligence that both of its predecessors lacked; for the first time in the entire Marvel franchise, I felt intellectually involved in a superhero movie. As much as it is a fun, go-for-broke comic book spectacular, Iron Man 3 also has a lot on its mind, about politics, about identity, about the nature of heroism, and in particular about America’s War on Terror. Stark says early on in the film that, through his own arrogance, he has created “demons,” and the idea of individuals creating their own adversaries to have someone to fight is a non-too-subtle comment on American foreign policy that manifests itself in a huge way with the Mandarin’s storyline. To say anymore would be spoiling one of Iron Man 3‘s biggest and best surprises.

Black directs his action sequences with a pedal-to-the-medal urgency that the previous films lacked. The Mandarin’s assault on Stark’s home with attack helicopters is a heart-pounding, harrowing sequence, as Stark struggles to utilize his latest invention (armor that literally flies at him piece-by-piece, knocking him around a fair deal as it attaches) while his home crumbles around him. When Stark comes across mutated Extremis soldiers, glowing with molten heat, the ensuing battles decimate entire towns and one large jet but never lose their sense of immediate danger. And the finale, as Iron Man and his suits face off against the Extremis mutants on an oil tanker, is a jaw-droppingly ambitious, endlessly inventive piece of movie magic.

Iron Man 3 benefits from Black’s penchant for spur-of-the-moment humor; Stark’s one-liners have never been better, and he doesn’t even have the best ones. There’s a terrific sight gag with an impeccably-timed turning helmet and hilarious deliveries from everyone from Stark to a nameless Mandarin henchman (after watching Iron Man decimate his fellow henchmen, the poor guy begs, “Don’t shoot, please! Honestly, I hate working here, they are so weird”). Iron Man 3 also features one of the most fun and unexpected pairings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe;  when Stark crash-lands in a rural Tennessee town, he is forced to team up with Harley, a precocious, potato-gun-wielding kid (played by Ty Simpkins) who gets a fair number of great lines of his own.

All of the performances in Iron Man 3 are terrific. Downey Jr. finally gets to show off his dramatic range in this installment, presenting a more haunted Stark, plagued by nightmares and terrors he can’t accept. His manic energy is less of a playboy swagger this time around than an ineffective mask behind which he hides his crippling insecurities and anxieties. Watching him struggle to stay functional throughout the movie adds a human element to the larger-than-life character. Funnily enough, he spends less time in the suit in this outing than in the previous installments (it can even be remotely controlled at this point), but that doesn’t necessarily feel like a bad thing. When Stark infiltrates the Mandarin’s hideout using only weapons he cobbled together from a Home Depot, it’s more exhilarating than anything he does while inside his armor. Ultimately, it becomes clear that the idea Iron Man has transcended the suits and weaponry – Tony Stark, in his transformation from playboy to selfless hero, can truly claim by the end of the film that, even without his suits, he will always be Iron Man.

Kingsley walks a delicate line with his Mandarin, but it’s a beautifully measured, consistently surprising performance, and as he growls lines like “You’ll never see me coming” with a Joker-meets-Colonel Kurtz malevolence, you can tell that Kingsley is having a blast. Guy Pearce, at his nastiest, plays Killian with a sneering viciousness. Whereas the Mandarin is more a physically jarring villain, Killian appears as a wolf in sheep’s clothing but is ultimately no less deadly. Paltrow makes the best of the little she has for most of the movie, but she emerges as a kick-ass heroine reminiscent of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in the glorious finale. Don Cheadle, as Tony’s iron-clad buddy Colonel Rhodes (known to the press as War Machine and Iron Patriot), brings a physical spryness and nervous energy to the role that Terrence Howard (who played Rhodes in the first Iron Man) clearly lacked. Sadly, Rebecca Hall is woefully underutilized as a botanist involved with the Extremis program, barely sticking on screen long enough to register. Finally, Simpkins is a terrific addition as Harley, making me hope that Marvel finds a way to include him in future movies.

Iron Man 3 proves that there’s still a lot of life in this franchise, though it will be hard for other directors to top the thrills and smarts of this installment. Black’s blistering, boisterous direction and intelligent script ultimately elevate this threequel above typical blockbuster fare. If Marvel wants to keep their franchises fresh, they need to try to replicate this movie’s success by thinking creatively with their directors and storylines. Because it’s brave, smart, and surprising, but most of all because it’s overwhelmingly entertaining, Iron Man 3 is a ride well-worth taking. A-

Image Courtesy: ScreenCrush.

DVD Review: Captain America – The First Avenger

Captain America faces off with HYDRA troops.

Captain America faces off with HYDRA troops.

In 2011, a year that was oversaturated with comic-book movies, this one stands out. Boosted by a slew of great performances and exciting action sequences, Captain America succeeds with style. The story, set during World War II, starts with a scrawny asthmatic weakling named Steve Rogers being repeatedly turned away by recruitment officers because of his physical attributes. His desire to join the army stems from the purest of purposes: he is a true patriot, with a strong sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. He gets his chance to fight when he is selected by a scientist to become a ‘supersoldier’, incredibly strong not only in mind but also in body. Rogers soon meets a formidable opponent in the form of the mysterious, cruel Red Skull, a Nazi in charge of the evil HYDRA division determined to harness an extraterrestrial power to destroy the United States.

Chris Evans, who previously portrayed the Human Torch in the lackluster Fantastic Four films, is excellent and believable as Rogers. He fully brings to life the larger-than-life Captain America figure, playing him with straightforward sensibility and an air of humility even in the face of the character’s extraordinary achievements. Hayley Atwell, who plays the beautiful, no-nonsense Peggy Carter, is both witty and appealing enough to make the audience fall for her as quickly as Captain America does. Hugo Weaving plays the Red Skull with bravado and an air of menace, while Tommy Lee Jones has great fun as a grizzled, cranky Army colonel.

While the idea of a Nazi trying to take over the world has been used to death, and the dialogue is straightforward enough to make me wish that the screenwriters had tried a little harder, Captain America is mostly a thrilling, pleasantly old-fashioned super-hero flick that does a better than average job of creating a likable hero, and introduces the Captain. What it has working for it is that it is undeniably fun. Whatever its shortcomings, the film is a straight-up good time. B+

Image courtesy: Uwire.

Movies to Look Forward to in May

The Great Gatsby – Baz Luhrmann’s lavish take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of love in the Roaring Twenties will certainly be a treat for the senses, but I’m optimistic that it will also highlight the story’s fascinating characters and remain faithful to Fitzgerald’s weighty themes of corruption, extravagance, and heartbreak. With actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, and Joel Edgerton on board, and Baz Luhrmann’s distinctive visual flair, this Gatsby is actually starting to look pretty great. DiCaprio looks perfectly cast as the titular Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire who embarks on an affair with the shallow, materialistic Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan). This adaptation has a lot of potential, and if it is received with the same adoration that readers still show the novel after more than half a century, Gatsby could be the runaway hit of the year.

DiCaprio channels his inner Gatsby.

DiCaprio channels his inner Gatsby.

Iron Man 3 – In this, the third outing for Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, the man in the iron suit is confronted by his most dangerous foe yet, a mysterious terrorist called the Mandarin. As Tony’s personal world is torn apart by a ruthless foe, he embarks on a quest for vengeance. With Lethal Weapon helmer Shane Black at the wheel, Iron Man 3 is poised to erase the empty, dull spectacles of its predecessor with a more grounded, intense, and certainly dark storyline. When you look at the supporting cast, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, and (in an inspired bit of casting) Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin, Iron Man 3’s critical and commercial success are all but assured. A smaller but just as action-packed superhero piece might be just the kick Marvel needs to start its Phase Two group of films after the colossal grandeur of The Avengers.

Tony Stark rallies his troops in this official concept art.

Tony Stark rallies his troops in this official concept art.

Star Trek Into Darkness – It took long enough, but geek god JJ Abrams’ follow-up to his 2009 resuscitation of the Star Trek franchise is finally here. And, like Iron Man 3, JJ Abrams is taking the crew of the USS Enterprise on a darker, more serious adventure this time around. When an unstoppable terrorist attacks Earth and targets Starfleet, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew track him to a war-torn world, where they find themselves fighting for their lives. The film’s ace in the hole is certainly its villain, played by Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch, about whom Abrams and the rest of the cast have been strangely silent. Whoever Cumberbatch turns out to be (my money’s on a relation of Khan), audiences are in for an exhilarating space adventure.

Spock and Kirk face off against new adversary John Harrison.

Spock and Kirk face off against new adversary John Harrison.

Fast and Furious 6 – Usually, I wouldn’t get excited for a Vin Diesel action vehicle, especially a sequel. However, the Fast series’ last two installments have been surprisingly solid popcorn flicks with originality and a gleeful devil-may-care feel. This time around, the series moves even further away from its street-racing origins, as Dom Torreto (Diesel) and his crew team up with former adversary DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to take down criminal mastermind Owen Shaw. Torreto must try to keep his emotions in check when he learns that his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), whom he believed dead, is alive and working with Shaw. Expect another edge-of-your-seat blockbuster with flair to spare.

A member of Torreto's team takes a leap of faith.

A member of Torreto’s team takes a leap of faith.

Images courtesy:

http://thegreatgatsby.warnerbros.com/

http://www.hdwallpapers.in/

http://www.startrek.com/article/a-look-at-2013-star-trek-into-darkness

DVD Review: The Avengers

Courtesy The Weeklings.com.

The Avengers assemble during a New York battle.

Marvel’s fans, particularly those of the die-hard comic-book variety, are a patient bunch. For 4 years, they watched and waited in nervous anticipation as the studio baited them with post-credit teasers that worked to slowly draw together the characters from five different superhero box-office successes. Marvel’s build-up to The Avengers was the most drawn-out in Hollywood history; since 2008’s Iron Man, through 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, Marvel was slowly putting the pieces together for one colossal blockbuster. The hype around it was massive, perhaps more than any other film ever made. And it fell to Joss Whedon, a relative unknown to mainstream audiences, to make a film a capable of living up to it. Whedon, a geek god thanks to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Serenity and Dollhouse, had never even been near a movie of this magnitude before.

Luckily, both for The Avengers and his career, there’s not a trace of jitters from Whedon here; he directs with the eye of a true fanboy, making sure that there’s not a dull moment between the heavy-duty, jaw-dropping CGI battles that appear often, but not too often, throughout the film. He also has a keen eye for humor; this is the funniest Marvel movie by far, and the audience I saw the film with back when it was in theaters roared so hard and so often that entire lines of dialogue went unheard. And that’s a shame, because the screenplay is a gem, giving every character, even the one described as “a giant green rage monster” by his fellow heroes/misfits, time to shine along with some killer one-liners. Take for instance the wonderfully snarky and egotistical Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) , who taunts his teammates even as he quietly pulls them together, nicknaming long-locked, arrogant Norse god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) “Point Break” and “Shakespeare in the Park,” while christening expert archer Hawkeye “Legolas.”

The Avengers begins with a bang, as eye-patch-wearing super-spy Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, finally in a substantial role after being delegated to second-long post-credit teasers for far too long) barely escapes a top-secret SHIELD (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) base being brought down, in true blockbuster fashion, by the diabolical Norse god of mischief Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who has returned to wreak havoc on Earth after being chased off by his brother Thor last year in the latter’s stand-alone film.

Unfortunately, the movie has no choice but to reel it back a bit after the opening, as the superheroes are introduced. Among the freaks of nature Fury attempts to pair together in order to stop Loki from destroying the world are WWII-era super-soldier Captain America (Chris Evans), re-awakened after 70 years on ice, the beautiful, deadly and and aptly-named femme fatale Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and good-natured scientist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who has an unfortunate tendency to destroy everything around him as the monstrous Hulk when angered. So many characters need time to develop, and Whedon knows that, taking the time to flesh them all out suitably. As the superheroes come together, it soon becomes evident that the biggest threat to the team is not Loki; rather, it’s their own lone-wolf tendencies and inflated egos. Some of the better scenes in the movie involve the heroes clashing with each other; a forest-set brawl between Iron Man, Thor and Captain America results in the utter destruction of the forest itself, while a thrilling sequence taking place aboard a massive airborne SHIELD base sees Black Widow fleeing a vengeful Hulk.

Ultimately, the Avengers find their way to New York City, where a massive battle ensues between the six teammates and an army of aliens called the Chitauri led by Loki. The effects are Oscar-worthy, and the action seamlessly follows all of the characters as they work to evacuate innocent New Yorkers and repel the invaders. In spite of this, however, the finale is the movie’s weakest link. As the robotic space-ships ravage the city, there is an unmistakably Transformers-esque vibe; the aliens are expendable unknowns and the film does nothing to change that. What saves the scene is that, unlike Transformers, this team of heroes is endlessly entertaining to watch, whether it’s the Hulk doing some good old-fashioned smashing or Hawkeye shooting arrows from the rooftops with enough accuracy to make Robin Hood blush. It’s no wonder that, when the camera pans across all of the heroes preparing for battle in the middle of the war-torn city (the money-shot to end all money-shots), the audience erupted into cheering and applause.

As far as the acting is concerned, there isn’t a mediocre performance in the bunch. Chris Evans is believable and winning as the idealistic fish out of water Captain, Robert Downey Jr. plays Stark with his trademark blend of panache and smarmy irreverence and Mark Ruffalo is the best Hulk yet, playing Banner as a funny, bashful guy willing to acknowledge and sometimes even accept “the other guy.” Tom Hiddleston makes for a great villain, playing Loki with a snakelike malevolence and psychotic charm that was sorely lacking the last time he played the character. Even Scarlett Johansson, whose character is required to do little other than look sultry, is charismatic enough to warrant a Black Widow spin-off, which I have no doubt will eventually happen.
In conclusion, while The Avengers is far from perfect, it is everything that I hoped it would be and more. Spectacular action sequences, a phenomenal cast of characters and Whedon’s irresistible knack for comedy combine to make The Avengers not only the biggest comic-book movie of all time, but also one of the best. A-
Courtesy: The Weekling.