Top 10 moments from Avengers: Age of Ultron (spoilers ahead)


Here are my Top 10 moments from Age of Ultron. There is no standout like the “Puny God!” scene from the first Avengers movie, but still plenty that I will look forward to when I watch the movie a second time.

1. The opening battle slo mo shot.

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2. At the party: James Rhodes/ War Machine tells a joke.

3. At the party: Romanoff and Banner have a moment.

4. After the party: Finding out who’s worthy.

5. After the party: “There are no strings on me”.

6. Ulysses Klaue loses an arm; what will he gain? Stay tuned for Black Panther in 2017.

7. Iron Man brings ‘Veronica’ to the Hulk.

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8. Hawkeye’s safe house.

9. The Vision is born…and he’s worthy.

10. The climactic battle: “All of you against all of me”.

Honorable mention: The running joke after Captain America chastises Iron Man for use of a curse word; Iron Man continues to push the boundaries, with statements like “I hope you weren’t playing hide the zucchini!”.

Lots of ‘geek out’ moments for comic book fans. Enjoy!

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Marvel line-up 2015-17: Part 1


With the recent announcement of new Marvel films by their head honcho Kevin Feige, I figured it was time to write an updated version of the Marvel line-up post I had published in Dec 2012 for the period 2013-15. I also figured that if Hollywood can break up a movie into 2 parts (Kill Bill Vols I and II, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2), I can go one better and break this up into 3 parts. So here’s the line-up for 2015; although this year was already covered in my original post, there are updates and minor changes, so it’s worth revisiting.

Avengers: Age of Ultron. Releases in May 2015 – Joss Whedon’s follow up to the most successful Marvel movie of all time is eagerly anticipated, to say the least. The trailer which was leaked and then formally released a couple of weeks ago and the mega-poster which was launched at Comic-Con a few months back have all stoked the flames of anticipation.

We can expect this film to have the biggest opening weekend of 2015. All the familiar characters return – Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hulk, Hawkeye and Thor. We have two new characters – the brother-sister duo of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch (of whom we saw a brief glimpse in the post-credits scene of Captain America: The Winter Soldier earlier this year), we have a crazed super-robot Ultron as the villain (voiced by James Spader) and most exciting of all for me, the introduction of Vision. Vision is an android whose origin is closely linked to that of Ultron in the comic books; I am looking forward to seeing how he fits into the story in the movie version. You can see him floating in the air in the far left upper corner of the mega-poster. Comic book fans know about his future connection to Scarlet Witch.

Ant-Man. Releases in July/ August 2015 – This film was originally slated for November but has now been moved up to the latter part of the summer. The director has also changed, with maverick Brit Edgar Wright departing due to creative differences and being replaced by 50-year-old journeyman rom-com director Peyton Reed. This is an unusual choice and I would say that Ant-Man is Disney/ Marvel’s riskiest venture, a tag that was formerly attached to Guardians of the Galaxy. In the case of Guardians, all doubts vanished when that first trailer was released and likewise we will be waiting to see Paul Rudd in action (and in costume) when the first trailer comes out. The movie will definitely have comedic elements, but with the change of directors, we can expect it to have become much lighter; Edgar Wright after all is the guy who gave black humour a new genre setting with the zombie-comedy Shaun of the Dead, whereas Peyton Reed is the guy who directed Jim Carrey in Yes Man…you get the picture. As it is, I was a bit apprehensive when Paul Rudd was announced to play the superhero; I’m not a big fan of his movies. But the concept art poster released during Comic-Con looks quite heroic and I’ve been reassured by the rest of the casting featuring Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly and Corey Stoll (as the villain Yellowjacket).

The Fantastic Four. Releases in August 2015 – 30-year-old rising filmmaker Josh Trank’s reboot of this iconic Marvel property was originally slated to kick off the 2015 summer but has now been slotted in just one week after Ant-Man. Why would Marvel give its two titles so little breathing space? Because The Fantastic Four is being produced and distributed by rival studio Fox who doesn’t care one bit about what impact its release would have on Disney/Marvel’s Ant-Man. The casting also created some controversy for its divergence from existing Marvel canon; the Johnny Storm/ Human Torch character is being played by an African-American actor, Michael B. Jordan, whereas his sister Sue Storm/ Invisible Girl is played by white actress, Kate Mara. No one is really very sure why Fox would want to make such a fundamental change and what Marvel feels about that. The release date plus the poor reviews of the original Fantastic Four movies (from 2005 and 2007) mean that Josh Trank has to create an awesome product to relaunch the franchise. Fox needs to keep releasing new FF movies (they have already scheduled a sequel for July 2017) otherwise the rights will revert to Marvel. Trank is a highly regarded young filmmaker. Fox ‘discovered’ him when they released his low budget found-footage superpower-themed debut film Chronicle to healthy box office and critical acclaim in 2012. He has also recently been picked by Disney to direct a Star Wars spin-off movie due for release in 2018. So we may be pleasantly surprised by an innovative new take on Marvel’s ‘first family’. There has not been a single piece of marketing released so far, so Fox is clearly biding their time until they have something exciting to reveal, either in the form of concept art, character posters or a teaser trailer.

Previewing the ‘Super Summer of 2015’: Part 1


Studios always block out their launch weekends 2-3 years in advance, partly as a signal to other studios to ‘get out of the way’. This also creates a lot of buzz in advance which is always good for the studios. After all, it’s never too early to get excited about upcoming movies; and observers are certainly getting worked up about the ‘Super Summer of 2015’. The period from March to July will feature 4 superhero films, a creepy new film from Tim Burton, new entries in the Jurassic Park, Terminator and Star Wars franchises, a live-action re-telling of an animated classic and a risky sequel to a mega-hit after a gap of 20 years. As was the case with this summer, with so many big names ready to duke it out at the multiplexes, there will surely be some high-profile casualties.

I’ve decided to break this down by studio, just to get a sense of how each of them is managing its portfolio for that summer. Part 1 will have the Disney releases and Part 2 will have all the rest.

Disney

There is no such thing as a sure thing in the movie industry, but at the moment, the smart money is on Disney winning the summer crown in 2015, having clearly emerged as THE industry powerhouse over the past few years. Their current status can trace its roots back to their acquisition of Pixar in 2006, followed by Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm last year. This breadth of product has allowed them to take big risks and win big; this also means Disney can bear the impact of big budget failures like John Carter and Lone Ranger in the last 2 summers.

2015 is the year when it all comes together with each of their divisions having something big to flaunt.

Disney’s summer begins very early; in fact it begins in early spring with the release of their big budget live action remake of Cinderella, directed by Shakespeare thesp turned director Kenneth Branagh. This would be Disney’s 2nd live action remake/ update of an animation classic in two years. In 2014, the Mouse House releases Maleficent with Angelina Jolie in the title role as Sleeping Beauty’s nemesis. Both Maleficent and Cinderella are being put together as tentpole family entertainment films (market research executives would say that they tick ‘all four quadrants’ – male, female, under- and over-25); both lead and supporting roles are filled with actors who have both box-office drawing power and acting chops. For example, Cinderella features Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. Sparks will certainly fly!

The summer then really kicks off with the release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which brings back all the big Marvel superheroes, this time fighting the criminally insane, sentient robot Utron, voiced by James Spader. Joss Whedon is back in the director’s chair and I am excited to see 2 new superheroes, Magneto’s twin children Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.

Disney started building this franchise in 2008 by creating an unexpected monster hit with Iron Man, who was essentially a Tier 2 character in the Marvel universe. Their magic formula consisted of the following ingredients – the superhero is played by a charismatic actor who can also act, the heavy action is leavened with doses of humour, the smart but low-key female love interest is played by an accomplished actress who generates lots of chemistry with the hero and finally, the fanboys are kept happy with cameos and post-credit sequences that give them glimpses into the larger Marvel universe. After Iron Man’s success, this formula was successfully replicated from 2010 to 2013 and looks set to continue for the next couple of years into 2015, which will mark the culmination of their ‘Phase 2’ movies.

The summer will also end with a Marvel-Disney release, this one being the launch of potential new franchise with Ant-Man. This character is one of the more complex superheroes in the Marvel Universe. In the original comics, Ant-Man is the alter ego of a brilliant scientist named Henry Pym, who figures out how to shrink himself and use a special helmet to communicate with ants. He is one of the founding members of the Avengers group. The same technology allows him to increase his size and become the superhero Giant-Man/ Goliath. He later suffers a nervous breakdown and takes on a new insect-themed identity – Yellowjacket – with no memory of his association with the Avengers. He is also the creator of Ultron (yes, he is clearly as disturbed as he is brilliant). Clearly, the comic book continuity is going to be thrown aside in the movie world, as Ultron will have a different origin earlier in the summer before Ant-Man is introduced to audiences. I am really curious to see how Ant-Man is brought to life on the big screen, as the movie is being directed and co-written by Edgar Wright, who is better known as the man behind bizarro-comedies like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and this year’s The World’s End. Marvel is taking a calculated risk by working with Mr. Wright, but why not? They will need to bring in some variety of characterization and tone into their movie portfolio if they don’t want to bore audiences with a sea of sameness. The industry is expecting casting announcements for Ant-Man to be made soon.

But the real jewel in Disney’s 2015 summer crown, the film which is expected to top the box office, is J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII. Naturally, speculation has been rife about the storyline of the next installment, but it is a given that it will include the next generation of Jedi in the Skywalker family, as well as feature the return of actors Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher to reprise their roles. Although the second trilogy released from 1999-2005 made lots of moolah, it is commonly considered to be a critical disappointment for several reasons – overuse of digital backgrounds and props, poor casting choices, generally wooden acting and the lack of chemistry between Hayden Christiansen and Natalie Portman. However, there is hope for the new trilogy. Lucasfilm is now headed by Kathleen Kennedy, who for years has been the producing partner behind all Steven Spielberg’s successful films, besides working with other giants like Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood (she has been co-nominated for 8 Best Picture Oscars, including ET, The Sixth Sense and Lincoln). Mr. Abrams certainly knows how to keep the action going and how to generate lots of tension among the characters. He works with elaborate sets, so no fake-looking digital landscapes hopefully. However, I we will have to put up with lens flare.

inside outIn mid-June, we get to see an interesting new project from Pixar called Inside Out. This is the story of the 5 personified emotions (Fear, Sadness, Joy, Disgust and Anger) that live inside the head of a 11-year old girl. Pixar released this concept art last month.

There was to have been a 6th Disney blockbuster that summer, but thankfully they have pushed Pirates of the Caribbean 5 to 2016 or beyond.

The other 4 studios are releasing 7-8 big movies between them and hoping that they can survive the Disney onslaught. I will cover those in Part 2.

My Top 10 Avengers moments (lots of spoilers here)


Director Joss Whedon has had only one previous theatrical release, the 2005 ‘space opera Western’ Serenity which grossed US$ 38 million worldwide. By the end of its first week, his new movie The Avengers would have made back its US$ 220 million production budget at the box office. From then on, it’s gravy.

The movie has an exciting blend of snappy dialogue and action set pieces. The script works hard to set up the relationships and dynamic between the different characters. The only disappointment is Maria Hill who comes off looking like Nick Fury’s secretary, rather than the character who will become interim Director of SHIELD.

I’m not going to review the film; there will be plenty of good reviews online. I just want to post my Top 10 favorite moments from the film…there are spoilers here, but even so, I have tried not to reveal too much for those who haven’t seen the film, but can’t stop themselves from reading ahead!

10. Tony Stark – Pepper Potts – Agent Coulson banter; Stark doesn’t seem to appreciate Potts being on a first name basis with “Phil” 🙂

9. Dr. Banner ‘Hulks Out’ for the first time; the Black Widow is in the way.

8. The villain for Avengers 2 appears.

7. Agent Coulson fires a gun and then checks out.

6. Hulk grabs a falling Iron Man.

5. SHIELD research facility implodes.

4. Dr. Banner says “I’m always angry” then turns to face the Chitauri creature.

3. Capt. America and David Banner think the SHIELD aircraft carrier is going to submerge…but we know better, don’t we?

2. Black Widow vs. her Russian interrogators…many uses for a chair.

1. Hulk vs. Loki on the roof of the Stark Tower. Soon after, Hulk says “Puny God”.

The last scene was the most satisfying; I think everyone in the audience felt that way and we could have happily sat through a few more seconds of that.

I think it’s pretty certain that The Avengers will overtake Spider-Man (US$ 403 million) as the top grossing Marvel film at the US Box Office and Spider-Man 3 (US$ 890 million) as the top grossing Marvel film worldwide.