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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By Odin’s beard, the trailer for “Thor” hath appeared online!

The trailer for the first 100% 3D live-action superhero movie — at least that I can think of — starring Christopher Helmsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and a bunch more folks is online.

According to earlier slightly spoilery reports, Thor’s funny book alter ego, Donald Blake, shows up at the end of the movie somehow. Neither hide nor hair of him here, however. Also, it looks like maybe a bit more of it is set on earth than those earlier reports indicate.

  

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TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “Masterpiece Mystery!: Wallander”

The last time Kenneth Branagh turned up at a TCA event, he was promoting HBO’s “As You Like It,” a project that he directed and for which he provided the script adaptation from the original Shakespeare play. This time, however, he’s in front of the camera, starring as the titular character in “Wallander,” the “Masterpiece Mystery!” production based on Henning Mankell’s novels about Swedish police inspector Kurt Wallander.

There have been plenty of “Wallander” films made in Sweden, but this is the first time the books have received an adaptation for an English-language audience, and given how many Wallander adventures there are (eight novels, several short stories), this has the potential to be a lengthy gig for Branagh.

But does he want such a gig?

“I’d certainly be very, very happy to make some more of them,” he said. “I get rather superstitious about assuming the audiences may want to watch it for years to come. I think that when we approached it, we were very aware of how many excellent detective stories there have been on television and that we had to really earn our right to be there. There are another seven books that could potentially be adapted. And I think we would very much like to and are very much looking forward to planning another three. But when we all met as a creative team just before Christmas and had a chance to sort of debrief after the screening of the three films in the UK, I think we were very thrilled with the reaction, which had been very positive, and very excited about that, but we did feel there was an enormous amount of work still do, excitingly to do, in terms of developing the character. So I think we’ll just…if we’re lucky and, as my mother would say, if God spares us, we’ll take the next three, if we can, and do them and hopefully learn from some of the things that we wanted to develop on this time. Whether that then develops into years to come remains to be seen.”

Branagh’s “Wallander” co-star, Tom Hiddleston (who plays Martinsson), showed his age when discussing how the two had worked together briefly in the 2001 TV production, “Conspiracy.”

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