Box Office Preview: ‘Avengers’ and Something About a Hotel


The Avengers

As I discussed over at Real Men Read Comics, Marvel has been building towards this one for a long time. After a long wait and perhaps too many attempts to connect the dots, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the gang are coming together on the big screen.

I’ve actually got something nice to say about a new release, maybe even a few nice things. This is groundbreaking territory.

“The Avengers” was written and directed by Joss Whedon. This is the dude who brought us “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” and “Firefly.” If you don’t know what “Firefly” is, you need to find out. It’s on Netflix instant, so go on, get. I’ll even give you the link. Like his projects, Whedon has built up quite the cult following over the years. And, as if all that wasn’t enough, he co-wrote “Toy Story,” for which he was nominated for an Oscar. That’s right folks, motherfucking “Toy Story.”

“The Avengers” has all most of the stars of the individual films back in their roles. We’ve got Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America, and most importantly, Robert Downey Jr. in his perfectly sardonic portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man. Now, Mark Ruffalo may have replaced Eric Bana, er, Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk, but that’s probably a good thing. If you’re sick of all these different Bruce Banners flying your way, don’t worry, Ruffalo recently signed a six-picture deal to play The Hulk.

Let’s not forget about the supporting cast, rounding out the team are Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. But wait, there’s more, Tom Hiddleston will reprise his role from “Thor” as Loki, the film’s main villain. Hiddleston also played a brilliant F. Scott Fitzgerald in “Midnight in Paris.”

One of the ways you know a superhero movie, is great is when the dialogue is better than the action sequences. This is what we got in “Iron Man,” when oftentimes Tony Stark was more gripping with his super suit off than on. You should expect no less from Whedon, and according to Bullz-eye’s David Medsker, the Joss has delievered:

Once Whedon gets the cast in the same room and gives them the chance to interact as people rather than superheroes, the movie blossoms in a strangely wonderful way, one where it’s easy to wish that they would keep talking, rather than ramping up for the butt-kicking that is just around the corner. Indeed, until the climactic battle sequence, the action plays second fiddle to the talking, and as odd as that sounds for a superhero movie, it’s the right call.

If all this wasn’t enough, “The Avengers” has been certified fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, sitting at a 93 on the Tomatometer. For once, I’m actually excited.


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The only other film getting a wide release this weekend is “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Believe it or not, John Madden was actually able to direct a film that doesn’t star Brett Favre. Hold on. I’m getting word that it’s a different John Madden, the “Shakespeare in Love” John Madden. Oh, well things make more sense now.

Kidding aside, this is a film about a group of British seniors, including Academy Award-winners Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, who decide to “outsource” their retirement to cheaper and seemingly exotic India. When they get there, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel doesn’t look quite as it did in the brochures so both hilarity and drama ensue. The film also stars Penelope Winton, whose interactions with Maggie Smith in “Downton Abbey” are fantastic, so hopefully we get some of that here.

There’s a reason no other movies are being released this weekend, studios were scared of “The Avengers,” and rightly so. But it’s pretty clear that “Hotel” is “The Avengers'” antithesis, and so too is its target audience. That said, with its award-winning cast and 78 rating on the Tomatometer, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” seems to be well worth seeing in its own right.

  

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Comic-con — notes written with tired feet

Comic-Con has gotten so enormous and so unfriendly to writers (and, in different ways, other folks I’m sure also) that it even nearly did in a high end reporter with gazillions of studio contacts like Anne Thompson. I’ll save my no doubt semi-cynical reflections on the thing for later, but here are just a few movie stories from the con that I have time to write about it in a very brief window.

* You might consider going from Tolkien to a ride at Disneyland a major artistic comedown, but Guillermo del Toro obviously thinks otherwise and is a huge fan of what I admit is also my favorite ride at the park. The Wrap has more, oddly enough with no mention of the mansion. Was this another event? Still nice to see that the monster-loving del Toro’s uncensored speaking style hasn’t been cleaned up by PR standards and practices.

People Guillermo del Toro

Also from “The Wrap”: Dominic Patten writes that Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch” lived up to its name.

* I can’t watch the video here, but you can apparently see a now-bearded Joss Whedon personally confirm that Jeremy Renner will, indeed, play Hawkeye in “The Avengers.” Oh, and I guess that means that Whedon really is directing it, after all, official like.

* “The Green Hornet” is sounding a bit more fun to me.

* The perceptive and usually geek friendly Ms. Thompson was not personally wowed by “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” but she reports the audience at the screening she attended was. She does however have a video interview with writer-director Edgar Wright, which I haven’t had time to watch yet.

* I just had a bit of snafu/disappointment in terms of getting some good stuff for later on “Green Lantern” but the folks in Hall H had their geek buttons well pushed, it appears. (Not among them, a friend of mine here, who waited 2.5 hours in line and didn’t make it in, six people from the front of the line. He should have made it three hours.)

* An item having nothing to do with Comic-Con. According to a sexual harrassment suit, Casey Affleck appears to have a problem. I hope it’s only a legal one.

* Meanwhile, back in the real world where people pay to see movies, “Inception” is ruling the roost but sharing some of the wealth with the Angelina Jolie action vehicle, “Salt.”

Angelina Jolie in an arresting moment in

  

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It’s your end of the week movie news dump.

Posting over the next few days is going to probably be news-free, so we’ll make hay while the cinema news sun shines. We start off with casting news.

Jeremy Renner in * Jeremy Renner of “The Hurt Locker” is “near a deal” to play Hawkeye in the Avengers film to be (theoretically) directed by Joss Whedon, who hasn’t said a word officially to anyone in months, as far as I can tell. Renner is a smart choice. Playing a character who hasn’t previously been introduced is going to be a special challenge in this movie and actors without real ability and charisma probably need not apply.

* So, if the Wrap is correct, Brad Pitt likely won’t end up staring in the U.S. remake of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” It looks like that will be Daniel Craig, instead. Having seen the Swedish film, it seems to me he’s a much better fit for the part of the male lead. The character has a bit of a hang-dog, defeated quality to him that just doesn’t fit Pitt. I think Craig can pull that off easily. He should probably gain or lose a bit of weight for the part. This guy might do okay with woman, but he’s a coffee-and-cigarette addicted journalist, not a perfectly exercised super-spy.

* Speaking of matters Bondian, as per the Playlist, Christopher Nolan is describing his very highly anticipated “Inception” as his Bond film, in a way.  I’m personally not a fan of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” but it’s an interesting model, nonetheless.

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