Today's a big day for fan-boys around the world, and an even bigger day for those in New Mexico. Walt Disney Pictures has officially begin production on The Avengers, Marvel Studios' uber-anticipated superhero spectacular which brings together the company's core characters for an expansive action-adventure experience unlike the world has ever seen.
Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, Hawkeye, The Black Widow, Nick Fury and his agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will all assemble for this incredible film, written and to-be-directed by Joss Whedon. According to the official press release, which you can read below, Tom Hiddleston's Loki (who will battle his brother Thor on May 6th) will appear as the villain in the film, though I expect a few other familiar bad guys to show up in support of the demigod. In addition to the press release, have a look at the awesome set photo which shows the chairs of the respective heroes to get you amped up for what is easily the most hyped film of next year!
Production has commenced today in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Marvel Studios' highly anticipated movie "Marvel's The Avengers," directed by Joss Whedon ("Serenity") from a screenplay by Whedon. The film will continue principal photography in Cleveland, Ohio and New York City. Robert Downey, Jr. ("Iron Man," "Iron Man 2") returns as the iconic Tony Stark/Iron Man along with Chris Hemsworth ("Thor") as Thor, Chris Evans ("Captain America: The First Avenger") as Captain America, Jeremy Renner ("Thor," "The Hurt Locker") as Hawkeye, Mark Ruffalo ("The Kids Are Alright") as Hulk, Scarlett Johansson ("Iron Man 2") as Black Widow, Clark Gregg ("Iron Man," "Thor") as Agent Phil Coulson, and Samuel L. Jackson ("Iron Man," "Iron Man 2") as Nick Fury. Set for release in the US on May 4, 2012, "Marvel's The Avengers" is the first feature to be fully owned, marketed and distributed by Disney, which acquired Marvel in 2009. Continuing the epic big-screen adventures started in "Iron Man," "The Incredible Hulk," "Iron Man 2," "Thor," and "Captain America: The First Avenger," "Marvel's The Avengers" is the super hero team up of a lifetime. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series, first published in 1963, "Marvel's The Avengers" brings together the mightiest super hero characters as they all assemble together on screen for the first time. The star studded cast of super heroes will be joined by Cobie Smulders ("How I Met Your Mother) as Agent Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as Tom Hiddleston ("Wallander") and Stellan Skarsgård ("Angels & Demons," "Mamma Mia!") who will both reprise their respective roles as Loki and Professor Erik Selvig from the upcoming Marvel Studios' feature "Thor." "Marvel's The Avengers" is being produced by Marvel Studios' President, Kevin Feige, and executive produced by Alan Fine, Stan Lee, Louis D'Esposito, Patty Whitcher, and Jon Favreau. Marvel Studios' Jeremy Latcham and Victoria Alonso will co-produce. The creative production team also includes Oscar nominated director of photography Seamus McGarvey ("Atonement"), production designer James Chinlund ("25th Hour"), Oscar winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne ("Elizabeth: The Golden Age"), Oscar winning visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs ("Iron Man 2," "The Matrix"), visual effects producer Susan Pickett ("Iron Man," "Iron Man 2"), stunt coordinator R.A. Rondell ("Superman Returns"), and four-time Oscar nominated special effects supervisor Dan Sudick ("Iron Man," "War of the Worlds"). The editors include Oscar nominated Paul Rubell ("Collateral") and Jeffrey Ford ("Crazy Heart"). Marvel Studios most recently produced "Iron Man 2" which was released in theatres on May 7, 2010. The sequel to "Iron Man," starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow as well as Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson and Mickey Rourke, took the number one spot its first weekend with a domestic box office gross of $128.1 million. To date the film has earned over $620 million in worldwide box office receipts. In the summer of 2008, Marvel produced the summer blockbuster movies, "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk." "Iron Man," in which Robert Downey, Jr. originally dons the super hero's powerful armor alongside co-stars Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow, was released May 2, 2008 and was an immediate box office success. Garnering the number one position for two weeks in a row, the film brought in over $100 million its opening weekend and grossed over $571 million worldwide. On June 13, 2008, Marvel released "The Incredible Hulk" marking its second number one opener of that summer. The spectacular revival of the iconic green goliath grossed over $250 million in worldwide box office receipts. Source: Walt Disney Studios, Marvel Studios
Alan Ball (American Beauty Six Feet Under) adapts and directs this film version of the Alicia Erian novel that could have had the urgency of some of his earlier work but fizzles as a sexually coming-of-age tale in the non-descript suburbs of Houston Texas. Jasira (Summer Bishil) is a 13 year-old Arab-American girl who craves attention and normality but can’t seem to find it in her cloistered world. When her mother (Maria Bello) sends her to Houston to live with her temperamental Lebanese father Rifat (Peter Macdissi) she soon discovers her emerging womanhood in encounters with her Army reservist neighbor Mr. Vuoso (Aaron Eckhart)--whose perverse flirting and attraction grows increasingly intense--and Thomas (Eugene Jones) an older black schoolmate whose friendship turns into a physical relationship as well. These episodes and her run-ins with her ultra-strict old world father complicate matters until another neighbor the pregnant Melina (Toni Collette) manages to bring everything to a head. Summer Bishil with her coy combination of innocence and budding sexuality is the embodiment of a modern-day Lolita teasing the men and boys around her with a sweet maturity beyond her 13 years. She is almost like a blank canvas the male characters use to express their own feelings and prejudices. As the creepy neighbor Eckhart crosses the line uncomfortably into pedophilia even though he is clearly given the green light by Jasira. Their scenes together are cringe-inducing and help march the dicey film into exploitation territory. Eckhart is fine in the role but in the scheme of things you have to wonder why Ball put him there in the first place. These sequences sleaze up the proceedings but really don’t contribute much to whatever point the film is trying to make. Jones is appealing and understated as the shy Thomas who thinks he is the first to deflower Jasira. Macdissi could have played the narrow-minded father role on one note but actually elicits a little sympathy making Rifat more empathetic than he appears. Bello. on the other hand. can’t do much in her thankless ill-defined role as his estranged narcissistic wife while Collette is at least warm and believable as a neighbor who takes matters into her own hands. Unfortunately these fine performers deserve better trying to bring the best out of a script that never makes a human connection. Ball who won an Oscar for his brilliant American Beauty screenplay and shepherded Six Feet Under on HBO makes his feature directorial debut here and fails to come up with anything resembling a coherent story. Is it trying to be a sensitive coming-of-age movie? An updated version of Lolita in the Texas suburbs? A polemic on racism and Middle Eastern politics in the post Gulf War world? The point of Towelhead seems buried somewhere in the murky middle and Ball’s claustrophobic direction doesn’t help matters. With American Beauty he had equally challenging material but director Sam Mendes managed to make poetry from it all. Ball falls prey to his own inadequacies and makes a movie audiences are going to feel awfully uncomfortable watching. Towelhead is neither sexy enlightening or touching failing where it desperately hoped to succeed.
Alejandro (Banderas) the former thief turned defender of the downtrodden seems poised to give up his swashbuckling ways as California shifts from Mexican territory to U.S. statehood. But he stubbornly refuses to be domesticated. A rift grows between Mr. and Mrs. Zorro when his wife Elena (Zeta-Jones) insists he’s not there for his spirited young son Joaquin (Adrian Alonso). But even as Elena appears to divorce Alejandro and dally with a mysterious dashing old schoolmate (Rufus Sewell) Zorro remains a much-needed force of good when he discovers a plot that threatens to tear the U.S. apart. Still ranking high among the most beautiful people currently on the big screen Banderas and Zeta-Jones successfully evolve their on-screen relationship to reflect the too-long passage of time between films. If only the arch energy they bring to their banter and the passion they heat their love scenes with weren’t hindered by the clichéd by-the-numbers script. Meanwhile though a semi-believable potential romantic rival to Banderas the ever-arresting Sewell remains one of the most underutilized actors in Hollywood relegated to yet-another period heavy role. Alonso shows pluck as the budding Zorro Jr. but his charisma is dampened by overly cutes-y scenes and too-modern one-liners. Even though both Banderas and Zeta-Jones have emerged as top-flight actors and A-level movie stars since the original the sequel still sorely misses the class and gravitas Anthony Hopkins brought to the first outing. None of director Martin Campbell’s films since The Mask of Zorro have demonstrated the same whip-smart panache and sadly this sequel though serviceable is no exception. He competently carries off the necessary but familiar-feeling action set pieces and at times he lets the simmering sex vibe between his stars run loose albeit briefly on the screen. The film certainly isn’t so lackluster as to provoke bored Zs from the audience but it’s a shame to see El Zorro’s blade this dulled.
Richard Riddick (Vin Diesel) has a really bad rep and with good reason: Five years ago convicted killer Riddick escaped the galaxy's law enforcement during a botched interplanetary prison transfer and has been on the lam ever since. As The Chronicles of Riddick picks up our antagonist finds his relative freedom has been compromised when mercenaries out for the $1 million bounty on his head discover his location and hunt him down. Riddick escapes their clutches steals their ship and sets off for Planet Helion to find Imam (Keith David) the Muslim cleric he rescued in Pitch Black and the only person who could have squealed his location to authorities. But while Riddick's hunch about Imam are correct the cleric has a reason for luring the mammoth murderer out of hiding: Helion is falling to unholy armies of Necromongers--warriors who conquer by force in the vein of Star Trek's Borg. Of course Riddick doesn't give a damn about the Helions or their plight--until he gets wind that the Necromogers want to kill him because of an old prophecy that foresees their end at Riddick's hands. Like it or not Riddick is left with no other choice but to battle the Necromongers.
The character of Riddick is unquestionably what made Pitch Black one of the most sequel-worthy sci-fi films in years. And Riddick would not have been one of sci-fi's most intoxicating characters if it weren't for Diesel. Like his Dominic Toretto in the 2001 actioner The Fast and the Furious Riddick is a villain of few words but when he speaks his carefully chosen words have impact--even if the dialogue is at times overly theatrical. Riddick is the perfect antihero; a cold-blooded and indifferent being who somehow evokes more compassion than the film's so-called good guys. Joining Riddick are some recurring characters including David as Imam but Riddick benefits the most from the addition of some new characters particularly Colm Feore as Lord Marshal the Necromonger leader whose goal is to rid the universe of all human life. Feore channeling nuggets of Julius Caesar into his role makes for one of Riddick's most thrilling foes. Another prominent addition to the cast is Judi Dench who has a surprisingly small role as Aereon an Elemental captured by the Necromongers and used for her special powers including ESP.
Writer/director David Twohy took his horror pic Pitch Black which gained a cult following since it was released four years ago and managed to successfully turn it into an sci-fi actioner of epic proportions. Everything is grander here which is almost a given considering Twohy shot Pitch Black on a dime in Australia using colored filters. In Riddick the director distinguishes the film's different environments--the Necros' mothership Crematoria's cavernous prison and Helion--using warm to cool tones that are dazzling yet more subtle than its predecessor. The CGI effects get a little gamey at times but production designer Holger Gross' gargantuan sets are impressive and help craft Twohy's otherworldly vision into a plausible one. And although Twohy jumps genres from Pitch Black to its sequel his storyline evolves logically from the original premise. But while moviegoers unfamiliar with Pitch Black will be able to follow the story easily enough they may have a difficult time grasping what makes Riddick such a big deal; the film explains the legend but never fully captures its quintessence. This could hurt Riddick's chances to broaden its Pitch Black fan base.