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The cast of The Avengers are many things: talented, good-looking, charming and some of the biggest stars on the planet. It seems like everywhere you look lately there’s always at least one member of the team in the news, on movie screens or on the cover of a magazine at any given moment. The buzz surrounding them hasn’t diminished since Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson wrapped up the Captain America: The Winter Soldier press tour, either. If anything, it’s only gotten stronger as we reach the peak of blockbuster season and head into Oscar territory.
And with good reason: the cast of The Avengers is having a pretty great year. But which one of them is having the best 2014 of them all? Is Johansson’s second blockbuster of the year – this Friday’s Lucy – enough to balance out Mark Ruffalo’s awards buzz? Can Chris Hemsworth come out on top due to good looks alone? We've broken down the Year in Avengers:
7. Robert Downey Jr. What He’s Done: Played a supporting role in Jon Favreau’s sleeper hit Chef; starring opposite Robert Duvall in The Judge, which will be released in October; named the highest-paid movie star in the world for the second year in a row How He’s Doing: Pretty good. Not like, Tony Stark pre-arc-reactor-good, but pretty darn good.
6. Jeremy Renner What He’s Done: A guest stint on the epic two-part episode of Louie (the two-part episode “In The Woods”); receiving awards buzz for his starring role in Kill the Messenger, which hits theaters in October How He’s Doing: You know, sometimes you just have to take some time an build up your critical acclaim.
5. Chris Hemsworth What He’s Done: Helped his wife, Elsa Pataky, raise their twin sons, who were born in March, as well as their 2 year-old daughter How He’s Doing: Have you seen him? He’s doing great.
4. Mark Ruffalo What He’s Done: Earned an Emmy nomination for his performance in A Normal Heart; starred in the charming but not-great Begin Again with Kiera Knightley; starred in the highly-anticipated Foxcatcher, which will finally open in November How He’s Doing: Aw, look at him riding a unicycle on a talk show! Isn’t he charming? No, don’t think about Begin Again, just focus on the charm.
3. Tom Hiddleston What He’s Done: Earned an Olivier Award (the UK equivalent of the Tonys) for playing the title role in Coriolanus; starred opposite the mystical Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive; had a cameo in Muppets Most Wanted; starred in a Jaguar commercial that was banned in the UK How He’s Doing: If the Loki fans say he’s doing well, then we do too. (We’ll say whatever they want, honestly, we’re a little scared of them.)
2. Chris Evans What He’s Done: Starred in the post-apocalyptic indie hit Snowpiercer; his directorial debut Before We Go is premiering at TIFF in September; filmed A Many Splintered Thing which is slated for release later this year How He’s Doing: He just spent four months hanging out with Anthony Mackie – he’s having a great year.
1. Scarlett Johansson What She’s Done: Dated Jon Favreau in Chef; kicked serious butt as a super-powered party girl in Lucy; terrified men everywhere in Under the Skin; got engaged to a handsome Frenchman; got pregnant; will reportedly get married in August How She’s Doing: 2014 is pretty much Johansson’s year. The rest of the Avengers are just living in it.
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Here are this week's highlights from VH1, Celebuzz, Flavorwire, and Hollywood.com.
The Dark Side of '90s Nostalgia Between the "Fancy" video being played on a loop and the recent premiere of Girl Meets World, nineties nostlgia seems to be at an all-time high. But not everything you loved back then holds up as well as Clueless and My So-Called Life two decades later, VH1 is going to prove it with their rundown of 20 '90s bands you're ashamed to have loved.
You're About to Get Shell-ShockedAnd trust us, Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa, and Ty Dolla $ign more than deliver on that promise with their theme song for the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Celebuzz has the song, along with some more amazing/terrible lyrics and the criticism that it sounds "exactly like a Michael Bay movie feels."
Weird Al Has a Big Dictionary The smartest man in music released his 14th studio album this week, and it rocketed to the top of the charts on the back of his hilarious parody songs and clever wordplay. In celebration of his achievement, and the joy that Mandatory Fun has brought, FlavorWire has ranked all 8 of the music videos Weird Al has released along with the album.
Treat. Yo. Self... To Retta's Twitter As Donna Meagle, Retta consistently comes up with some of the greatest comebacks, one-liners and truth bombs to come out of Pawnee, Indiana. But she's not just hilarious on television; she's hilarious all the time, and thanks to her Twitter account, you can enjoy her wisecracks as they happen. Hollywood.com has all of her greatest tweets complied in one place to brighten up your day.
Getty Images/Anthony Harvey
Since Gwendoline Christie joined the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII back in June, rumors have leaked that Brienne of Tarth will be going over to the Dark Side. According to Badass Digest, Christie will play an imperial Commander – specifically, the commanding officer who hunts down John Boyega’s character after he deserts his post. But as exciting as the idea of Christie playing the antagonist is, there’s a bit more to this rumor, as the site also posits that her role was originally written for a man.
Send your minds back several months, when casting announcements for the film were just a distant hope and every actor in Hollywood was reportedly in talks for the role. Around that time, Benedict Cumberbatch was one of the names being thrown around for a part, and as Badass Digest says, he was in talks to play an Imperial Officer. According to one of their sources, a major role in the film was re-written from male to female, all of which leads them to believe that Christie’s role is indeed the one that has been gender swapped.
It might just be a rumor, but it’s an exciting one, and outlets and fans have already shown support for director J.J. Abrams’ decision to make such a progressive change to the Star Wars universe. Casting a woman as an authoritative villain isn’t unheard of, but it is rare, and giving the role to someone like Christie over an actor like Cumberbatch is an interesting, unexpected twist on the typical sci-fi archetypes. It’s always a big deal when major blockbusters have better roles for female character than just being the films’ eye candy or damsel in distress, but to have Abrams make such a significant change to this particular universe also helps modernize things a bit. The original films might have had a strong female character in Leia, but she was the only prominent female character; by contrast, Episode VII seems to be lining up several complex, surprising roles for their actresses, including Lupita Nyong’o’s rumored Sith and Daisy Ridley’s alleged Jedi knight.
Whether we like it or not, roles like an Imperial Commander are generally thought of as male ones, and so casting Christie in such a role subverts the typical expectations that the role would be played by the standard “British white guy” that has become the go-to type for blockbuster villains. It opens the door for more women to take on roles like that, ones that we might subconsciously consider to be a manly character, which in turn opens the door for more Hollywood blockbusters and sci-fi projects to diversify their cast lists a bit.
But even though we might automatically consider an Imperial Commander to be a man, it might not have be written that way in the first place. There’s nothing in the character description to suggest that it wasn’t a gender-neutral role all along. It’s entirely possible that the script has always called for a woman to play the part, especially since Cumberbatch was in talks for the film back when they were using a script from Michael Arndt. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan have since taken over as writers, so it’s entirely possible that this Imperial Commander is a completely different one than the character that Cumberbatch was up for.
Still, even if the role was meant for Christie all along, it’s hard not to get excited about seeing such a talented actress get a prominent, compelling role. Her performance as Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones has proven that she can be both compelling and compassionate, both of which will likely come into play in her Star Wars role. In fact, she might even be better suited to this role than Cumberbatch would have been, as she has a great deal of experience portraying a character that is often authoritative and intimidating. Whether or not the Imperial Commander role was written for her, it’s hard to imagine anyone, male or female, who could do a better job with it than Christie could.
Besides, if she’s half as good with a light saber as she is with a sword, she’ll have no trouble keeping the entire galaxy in line.
The Weinstein Company
Sundance is long gone, Cannes sailed away months ago, and both Tribeca and the Los Angeles Film Festivals have cleared away until next year. But when one major film festival ends, another starts putting its lineup together, and this time, it's Canada's time to shine. The Toronto International Film Festival, which will run from September 4 until the 14, has unveiled the list of titles they'll be premiering this year, and it's packed with under-the-radar indies, highly anticipated returns from accliamed directors, and of course, several likely awards contenders. But with nearly 60 films all making their debut in Toronto this fall, it can be hard to pick out the good from the bad and the exciting from the ones you've probably seen before. In an attempt to simplify the decision-making process for you, we've highlighted some of the most exciting films to hit north of the border this fall.
The Imitation Game Who’s Involved: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kiera Knightley, Matthew Goode and Charles Dance star What It’s About: The British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing, who helped the Allies win WWII by cracking German codes, and was then prosecuted by the government for being homosexual. Thoughts: Finally, a cast good enough to convince you that math is interesting for two hours.
The Last Five Years Who’s Involved: Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan What It’s About: A musical that tells the story of a married couple’s five-year relationship – his perspective runs from the day they met to when it all fell apart, and hers from the end back to the beginning. Thoughts: The perfect example as to why you should pay attention when your theater nerd friend tries plays you cast recordings.
Foxcatcher Who’s Involved: Bennett Miller directs; Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, and Mark Ruffalo starWhat It’s About: Based on a true story, it follows two championship wrestler brothers and the tragic consequences that they face after getting involved with an eccentric millionaire coach. Thoughts: We really are going to have to come up with the Tatum equivalent of “McConaissance” sometime soon.
A Little ChaosWho’s Involved: Alan Rickman directs; Kate Winslet, Stanley Tucci and Rickman star What It’s About: A landscape gardener finds herself struggling with the politics of Louis XIV’s court and her own demons after she’s hired to work at the Garden of Versailles. Thoughts: You had us at “Rickman.”
The Riot Club Who’s Involved: Lone Scherfig directs; Sam Claflin, Max Irons, Natalie Dormer and Jessica Brown-Findlay star What It’s About: A privileged young man is inducted into the “Riot’s Club,” an exclusive, wild group of young men full of debauchery and bad behavior, during his first year at Oxford. Thoughts: Look! It’s that guy from that thing! And that girl, from that other thing! I like them. They should be in more things.
Before We Go Who’s Involved: Chris Evans directs; Evans and Alice Eve star What It’s About: Two strangers bond over the course of one night in Manhattan, and the conflicts in their lives allow them to explore more about each other and themselves. Thoughts: Captain America is directing movies now!
Warner Bros. Pictures
This Is Where I Leave You Who’s Involved: Shawn Levy directs; Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver, Connie Britton and Jane Fonda star What It’s About: Four adult siblings return to their childhood home after their father dies. Dysfunction and hijinks ensue. Thoughts: Does Driver say “outer space” in this? Can we re-write the script so that he does?
Men, Women and Children Who’s Involved: Jason Reitman directs; Jennifer Garner, Adam Sandler and Judy Greer star What It’s About: A group of parents and children navigate the way the Internet has changed their relationships and lives. Thoughts: Well, it’s got be better than Labor Day, right?
Miss Julie Who’s Involved: Liv Ullman directs; Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell star What It’s About: Set over the course of one night in the 1880s, an aristocratic woman and her father’s valet struggle for power. Thoughts: Should we also be thinking about the “Farrellissance?”
Nightcrawler Who’s Involved: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, and Bill Paxton star What It’s About: An ambitious journalist becomes involved with the world of LA nighttime journalism, and the line between spectator and perpetrator becomes blurred. Thoughts: Oh, so this isn’t an X-Men solo film? That’s slightly disappointing.
Rosewater Who’s Involved: Jon Stewart directs; Gael Garcia Bernal stars What It’s About: The true story of Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, who appeared on The Daily Show before being imprisoned for five months by the Iranian government. Thoughts: This is the movie that gave us Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and for that we shall always be grateful.
The Theory of Everything Who’s Involved: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Emily Watson, and David Thewlis star What It’s About: The life and relationship of world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane Wilde from their first meeting at Cambridge through Hawking’s diagnosis through their numerous accomplishments. Thoughts: Oscar Season 2014: Alan Turing vs. Stephen Hawking in The Battle of the British Genius Biopics.
Whiplash Who’s Involved: Damien Chazelle directs; Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons star What It’s About: An ambitious jazz drummer who enrolls at a prestigious music conservatory, but must endure the brutal, intense tutelage of a brilliant, drill sergeant-like teacher in order to achieve greatness. Thoughts: Look, we’ll stop talking about this one once it finally comes out, and not a moment sooner, okay?
The Rock has quite a lot cooking at the moment. In addition to recently wrapping on the seventh installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise, he’s got an epic starring vehicle in Hercules hitting theaters on Friday, and he’s all but confirmed that he’ll soon be donning the golden cape of Shazam onscreen soon (via TotalFilm). Between the blockbusters, the action-packed period pieces and an upcoming tenure as a superhero, there’s no doubt that Dwayne Johnson is a bona fide box office star. But even though he can bring people into a movie theater, people still seem reluctant to view The Rock as a legitimate actor.
After all, the first time that the public got to know Johnson, he was vamping in the wrestling ring and earning dramatic close-ups with the lift of his eyebrow. When he first began branching out into acting, via goofy action films like The Mummy Returns and The Scorpion King, people were understandably reluctant to accept this giant goofball as a real thespian. But it’s been almost a decade since Johnson left wrestling behind for movie sets, and despite racking up dozens of credits and hit films, he’s still more closely associated with the ring than with Hollywood.
But Johnson is a talented actor. Despite a few early cinematic disasters, he’s steadily delivered entertaining, compelling, layered and even moving performances. He’s charismatic and appealing, both on and off-camera, and his resume of characters is more diverse than you might realize at first glance. He’s got basically everything he would need to become a major movie star, and yet we’re still hesitant to give him that title. We had no problem with Channing Tatum’s transition from dance films and rom-coms or Terry Crews’ growth from an NFL player to one of the funniest character actors in Hollywood. So why can’t we see Johnson in the same light?
Is it because he was so well known as an athlete that we can’t help but associate him with sports (or whatever pro-wrestling qualifies as) rather than movies? Or is it because his first forays into acting were characterized by box office flops and cheesy kid’s movies? Can we just not see the man who made Tooth Fairy as a legitimate actor, despite the numerous successful films he’s made since?
It could be that we, as an audience, need to see Johnson in a completely different light in order for us to really let go of his wrestling past. Matthew McConaughey was just the Southern guy from those bad rom coms until the one-two punch of True Detective and Dallas Buyers Club, and people didn’t start taking Tatum seriously until he teamed up with Stephen Soderbergh for Magic Mike and let his comedic talents shine in the Jump Street flicks. Perhaps Johnson needs to find a more serious project with a prestigious director in order for us to really appreciate his talents. Meanwhile, his next two features, Hercules and San Andreas, are more likely to be perceived as mindless action movies he can add to a long list of blockbusters.
All of this puts a lot of pressure on his potential performance as Shazam. While many of the performers who have taken on superhero roles are highly-acclaimed character actors, like Robert Downey Jr., Christian Bale, or Mark Ruffalo, the genre has a long history of casting people who look the part, even if they can’t quite act it. If the Shazam film doesn’t do well, both Johnson’s athletic background and hit-and-miss film history will likely be blamed for the flop, and it could erase a lot of the goodwill that he’s earned over the years as an actor.
However, if it does well, it could be exactly what Johnson needs in order to be seen as a legitimate actor and movie star. Before he set off after John Connor in The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger was best known for being a body builder, but after that film became a hit, he was regarded as an actor first and foremost (even when he became a politician). Shazam could do the same thing for Johnson, and finally help the public see him as more than just the goofy wrestler with the eyebrow and the catchphrase. Considering DC has had a patchy track record when it comes to superhero films lately and the fact that Shazam isn’t as well-known to the general public as Batman or Superman are, audiences probably won’t have very high expectations for the film, which should make it easier for Johnson to exceed them, and reintroduce himself to the world as an actor.
And if that doesn’t work, there’s always True Detective Season 3, right?
Just when you thought Marvel couldn’t possibly have anything left to announce after last week’s revelations about Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the studio took advantage of everyone’s lowered guard on Friday night to unveil the release dates of five new films (via The Playlist). Though the dates are just placeholders at the moment, it does show that Marvel has enough confidence in their blockbusters and the mapped-out future of their cinematic universe to plan out releases through to 2019. The studio has yet to drop any hints as to the identities of these scheduled films – though they are expected to make some major announcements at this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con – but that hasn’t stopped fans and critics speculating as to when we will next see some of our favorite superheroes.
We do know that one of those dates will belong to the third installment of the Avengers films, which will mark the end of the studio’s third phase of films, and bring the first major, overarching storylines to an end. Other slots are rumored to belong to the third Thor and Avengers films, and while those are likely guesses, we can’t help but hope that some of those proposed dates might be reserved for something different, something even more exciting than the follow-up to the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. or the rising threat of Thanos. We already know that after Age of Ultron drops in May of 2015, we’ll finally get Ant-Man two months later, and Captain America 3 in 2016, but we have some ideas for what we’d like to see Marvel release in the following few years, along with what we think they actually will release.
July 8, 2016 What We’d Like: A Black Widow film. Of all the possible female-fronted superhero films that Marvel could make, Black Widow seems most likely to get the first one. After all, Scarlett Johansson has been part of the MCU for years now, and her character has become a fan favorite, as well as an integral part of the Avengers team. 2016 would be the perfect time for her to finally get a solo film, since the effects of Captain America: The Winter Soldier would still be rippling through the universe, and whatever happens in Age of Ultron is likely to raise the stakes of Natasha’s past being revealed even further. What We’ll Probably Get: The first installment in the Dr. Strange franchise. The film already has a director lined up and the lead is expected to be announced at Comic-Con, so it seems as if the wheels for this one are steadily in motion. The release of Ant-Man in 2015 will mark Marvel’s shift towards a new group of characters and a new phase of the MCU, so it would make sense that they would want to roll out new heroes together.
May 5, 2017 What We’d Like: If Marvel’s planning to unveil their new characters together, this would be the time to make a Black Panther movie. The studio has been rumored to be planning one for several years now, with everyone from Idris Elba and Falcon himself, Anthony Mackie, rumored to be in talks for the lead role. Marvel’s also expected to make some kind of announcement about the film this weekend, which means that a possible 2017 release date isn’t entirely out of the question. And since T’Challa is such a major force in the comics, it would be the perfect time to integrate him into the universe. What We’ll Probably Get: It’s got to be Thor 3. Thanks to the massive success of last year’s Iron Man 3, May seems to be the best time for Marvel to roll out the third installments in their franchises. They’ve already got Captain America scheduled for the spring of 2016, and since both that film and Thor 3 are likely to have major impacts on the third Avengers, this seems to be a great spot to allow the after-effects to really resonate.
July 28, 2017 What We’d Like: Guardians of the Galaxy 2. We know that the first one hasn’t even hit theaters yet, but we’re incredibly excited to see this merry band of misfits to team up and protect the galaxy. Saving the second for 2017 would make it the perfect halfway point between Age of Ultron and the third Avengers film, much like how the studio lined up the first Guardians of the Galaxy to bridge the gap between the first two Avengers films. It should also provide a nice break from the characters in the Avengers, since most of them are likely to get solo films of their own in the intervening years (sorry, Hawkeye). What We’ll Probably Get: Guardians of the Galaxy 2 seems like a safe bet for the summer of 2017. Plus, if the first film does well after its August 1 release, it would make sense for Marvel to hold the second one to the end of the summer, much like how they’re filling the spring with threequels.
November 3, 2017 What We’d Like: Captain Marvel is long overdue for entry into the film universe. November would be the perfect time for Carol Danvers to make her big screen debut, especially since female-fronted action films have done extremely well there in recent years with The Hunger Games trilogy. There would be a bit less competition there than a summer release date would have, which might make a hesitant studio much more likely to take a chance on a new property. Plus, it would allow her to interact with the Guardians of the Galaxy – her powers come from an interaction with a Kree alien, which would make more sense in that universe than the Avengers’ – which would give those films the same kind of continuity that the Avengers films have. What We’ll Probably Get: Third time’s the charm right? That will probably be the rationale behind the Planet Hulk movie that will most likely hit in November of 2017. Mark Ruffalo has dropped a lot of hints about the possibility of a Hulk solo film, and Marvel is rumored to be making some kind of announcement about it this weekend, so it wouldn’t be a total shock if the studio decided to take on more chance on the big green guy.
July 6, 2018 What We’d Like: If there’s any time to test out a possible Young Avengers film, the summer of 2018 would be the best time to do so. Sure, part of us just wants to see Kate Bishop and co. sass people while saving the world, but it would also be pretty easy to build the Young Avengers into the MCU, thanks to the Netflix series that will introduce Jessica Jones, who first discovers the team. It would also allow them to introduce new characters that could be incorporated into the third Avengers film, or even set up their possible takeover of the MCU after Phase 3 is complete. What We’ll Probably Get: Though many are predicting that this is when Marvel would roll out a potential Black Widow movie, it seems a bit more likely to be a sequel slot. The most likely candidate would be Ant-Man 2, since the first one will hit theaters in July of 2015, which would give the studio plenty of time to work out a creative team – and if it has any of the issues the first one did, they’ll need that extra time – and the impact the character will have on the third Avengers film. Ant-Man is a goofier superhero, so a summer release seems like a solid fit for the follow-up film.
November 2, 2018 What We’d Like: There are a few possibilities we’d be open to for the fall of 2018; it would be a good time to roll out a Black Panther 2 or a Captain Marvel 2, since, in a perfect world, those characters would have movies by then, and also be playing a significant part in the MCU. We’d also take a Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch spinoff film, although that might be a bit difficult for Marvel to work out; the characters are being split between the MCU and the X-Men universes, and contract issues might prohibit them from being the leads in their own film. What We’ll Probably Get: If July gets the Ant-Man sequel, expect November 2018 to be all about Dr. Strange 2. The timing would be right, especially if he’s going to be joining the Avengers for their third outing, and as Thor: The Dark World proved, the fall is a good time for superhero blockbusters that deal with a bit more magic, mysticism and planet-hopping than their summer counterparts do.
May 3, 2019 What We’d Like: There’s only one option for the final open slot: Avengers 3. Like we said earlier, May is the perfect time for Marvel to release its threequels, and May would be the perfect time of year to wrap up the third phase of the MCU, as it would leave them the option to release something from outside this particular continuity in the summer – like a third Guardians of the Galaxy – or to simply leave the summer months alone so that fans can really soak in the actions and consequences of the third Avengers film, and since Marvel’s the kind of studio to go out with a bang, they’ll probably need all the recovery time they can get. What We’ll Probably Get: This is definitely the slot for Avengers 3. Nothing else would even remotely make sense here, and we’re completely happy with that.
Looks like Westeros could use a Jerry Springer of its own. Despite leaving the show in a shocking, violent manner three years ago, Sean Bean revealed to Vulture that he wants to make another appearance on Game of Thrones… if only to settle a custody dispute. The former Ned Stark was delighted to find out that the show might be planning some flashbacks in the upcoming season that would allow him to drop by the Seven Kingdoms and clear up some “unfinished business”: “I'm obviously not Jon Snow's dad. And you need that to be revealed at some point, don't you? So Bran would kind of be the one having the flashback, and he would see Ned praying, right? And revealing those things?”
Before you get too excited, though, nothing about the flashbacks or Jon Snow’s true lineage has officially been confirmed, but it does seem as if Bean agrees with the popular fan theory that posits that Jon is actually the son of Ned’s sister, Lyanna Stark, and Rhaegar Targaryen. The theory, which is based on several key pieces of evidence presented in the books that unfortunately didn’t make their way into the show, states that Lyanna and Rhaegar ran away together, and when Ned found her in the middle of the war, in a bed filled with blood, he made her a promise that he kept for the rest of his life. That promise was to raise her son as his own, and keep him safe from Robert Baratheon, her betrothed, who would kill the baby for being a Targaryen. As the series has grown in length and popularity over the years, this idea has become one of the most dominant points of speculation, and a video breaking down all of the evidence supporting it recently went viral.
While we still have to wait for George R.R. Martin himself to confirm or refute the theory, it would have a major effect on the series if it were true. Firstly, being the son of Rhaegar would not only mean that Jon is Ned’s nephew, but Daenerys’ as well, which gives him a claim to the Iron Throne. In fact, it would give him a better claim to becoming King of Westeros than the one Dany has, since he would be Rhaegar’s immediate heir. However, it seems unlikely that Jon would be able to actually rule the kingdom, since unless Rhaegar and Lyanna married in secret, he would still be a bastard. He could, of course, be legitimized in some way – much like Ramsay Bolton was at the end of Season 4 – but even then, as a member of Night’s Watch, he wouldn’t be allowed to own property or wear a crown. Depending on what happens in the sixth book, he might be able to find a loophole in those rules, but as of right now, Jon’s loyalty is to the Wall.
Therefore, it’s hard to really predict the exact repercussions that Jon’s true lineage would have on Westeros as a whole. Some fans have speculated that having both Stark and Targaryen blood would make Jon the “Song of Ice and Fire” that is mentioned in the title of the series. Since some Starks are wargs, and some Targaryens have the kind of powers normally associated with dragons, it could be possible that Jon has some kind of power as well, which Martin will likely reveal later in the series.
The “Ice and Fire” could also have something to do with Dany. Fans have been waiting for her and Jon to interact for years now, and if they are related, that could make a meeting between the two much more likely. Perhaps their shared lineage would allow them to form an alliance of some sort, as Dany’s army and Jon’s command of the Wall would be beneficial to both of them. Alternatively, it could create some kind of competition between them, especially since Dany has lived her whole life believing that she is the only person in Westeros who should rightfully inherit the Iron Throne.
There’s also been speculation that Jon being Lyanna’s son makes him the third part of the Three-Headed Dragon that is if often talked about, which prophecies the person meant to rule Westeros. Some fans believe that the three people who make up the dragon’s heads are the children whose mothers died in childbirth: Dany, Tyrion, and Jon. Martin noting that Ned made his promise to Lyanna while she was in a “blood-soaked” bed seems to imply that she died giving birth to Jon, which makes him a likely candidate to be one of the dragon’s heads. Others think that the Three-Headed Dragon is made up of three people with Targaryen blood, since Aemon I conquered Westeros with two other people, and so Jon, Dany and Maester Aemon would be the ones the prophecy refers to. Alternatively, being the embodiment of the “Song of Ice and Fire” thanks to his parents could mean that Jon is Azhor Ahai, the prince who has been promised by the Lord of the Light to lead the people out of darkness. If fans have correctly predicted what will happen in Book 6, then it seems like Jon might indeed be the savior of the Seven Kingdoms.
Regardless of whether any of this is true, Jon discovering who his parents really are would be important to him on a personal level, as it would finally give him a sense of self and belonging. He has spent his whole life feeling like an outsider, and he has never been able to fit in with any group. If he can learn where he truly comes from, he might be able to find some kind of inner peace, and then maybe he can stop moping around so much. Still, we’ll have to wait until Martin finishes the series in order to find out if any of these theories are correct, and get the answers we’ve been clamoring for. Although, at the rate he’s going, we’ll probably never get any answers at all.
This Post Contains Spoilers for the Upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy!
With all of the attention surrounding the Avengers franchise in the last few days, Marvel wanted to make sure the world didn’t forget that they have another team of superheroes hitting screens in just a couple of weeks. And the way they chose to go about that was by revealing a cast list that let some of the most exciting, buzzed about and truly bizarre cameos in Guardians of the Galaxy slip to the entire Internet. According to Stitch Kingdom, cult favorite Nathan Fillion will be appearing as “Monstrous Inmate,” – which is a bit of a letdown, considering the amount of press his cameos has generated over the past few months – Stan Lee will play “Xandarian Ladies Man,” and Howard the Duck will be making an appearance as himself.
Yes, you read that last sentence correctly: Howard the Duck will be in Guardians of the Galaxy. It hasn’t be revealed why, when, or how he will make a cameo, but he will be there, and Stitch Kingdom has the casting scroll to prove it. But as absurd as it seems to have Howard the Duck, who despite his divisive feature film is a Marvel fan favorite, appear in Guardians of the Galaxy, it doesn’t even come close to topping the list of the most bizarre character crossovers and cameos. Seriously, there are things out there that are stranger and more confusing than the prospect of Howard hanging out with Rocket and Groot. Don’t believe us? Take a look for yourself:
Charles Barkley and Godzilla The union of the five-time NBA All-Star and two-time Hall of Famer and the giant mutant lizard that has been known to both spit fire and shoot lasers from his eyes was originally conceived as a Nike ad, and later expanded into a comic book. Because nothing says “cool sneakers” like a basketball-playing kaiju that can’t actually fit his giant feet into shoes. Also, who was buying that comic book?
Spider-Man and Ren and Stimpy There was once a time when you hadn’t properly made it until your cartoon got its own comic book. Unfortunately, some shows just aren’t meant to be read, and Ren & Stimpy is one of them, so when the comic book (unsurprisingly) failed to sell, they brought in the big guns: Spider Man. In true Ren & Stimpy fashion, Spidey took on Powdered Toast Man, that beloved vigilante superhero/breakfast food spokesman. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it was like to read a 12-year-old's fever dream, this is the comic for you.
Superman and the Quik Bunny Spider-Man isn’t the only superhero to succumb to some very obvious product placement. Superman one teamed up with the Quik Bunny, purveyor of powder that makes your milk brown, in order to fight the Weather Man, a lame villain with fourth-tier powers and a costume that made him look like he was starring in a community theater production of Robin Hood. At least Spider-Man had the dignity of fighting with a fictional breakfast-hero.
Inspector Gadget and Mario and Luigi Remember the Super Mario Bros. Super Show!? No? Well, that’s probably for the best, but it does mean that you missed seeing Inspector Gadget, the world’s more over-equipped and incompetent detective, get his various malfunctioning parts fixed by Mario and Luigi, who are supposed to be plumbers. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it goes horribly wrong, to no-doubt hilarious consequences. Clearly, the moral of this episode was to play to your strengths, and maybe not to call a plumber to fix a wire problem.
Archie and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles On some level, this one probably makes some sense. After all, Archie and his friends are teenagers, and so are the Ninja Turtles. Both groups like pizza and video games and, from the looks of the cover, dance parties. But what’s really strange about this crossover is that it happened as the result of the Turtles being spit out by a giant cow head, which apparently allowed them to hop through various dimensions. Mutant ninja turtles or no, there had to be an easier way to get these guys to Riverdale.
Arthur and Mr. Rogers In what is perhaps the most well-meaning, mild-mannered crossover of all time, Mr. Rogers appeared on an episode of Arthur that centered around Arthur being embarrassed that the friendliest man on television was going to be staying at his house. Of course, this conflict is solved with a charming heart-to-heart that taught children that real friends don’t make fun of their friends for what they like. Unless that thing is Transformers. Not even Mr. Rogers can endorse Michael Bay.
Marvel Superheroes and Guiding Light You know who’s really into comic books and superheroes? The kind of people who religiously watch daytime soap operas – we’re assuming that was the pitch that got Guiding Light to team up with Marvel on a crossover episode that saw soccer mom Harley Davidson Cooper gain superpowers after being struck by lightning on Halloween night and transform into Guiding Light. (Seriously.) The saddest part of this is that Marvel clearly didn’t learn anything from their failed experiment at reaching a new audience, since they had the Thor announcement revealed on The View.
Batman and Robin and Scooby Doo When it comes to crime-fighting teams, there are two that stand above everyone else: Batman and Robin and the Mystery Gang. So teaming them up on The New Scooby Doo Movies to uncover a hooded counterfeiter who’s been sending the Penguin and the Joker fake money makes perfect sense, right? Sure, if you live in a world where Mrs. Baker is on the same level of super villainy as two of the most iconic comic book villains of all time. Fun fact: this episode was so poorly received that Batman later made fun of it in an episode of his own.
Cartoon All-Stars to the RescueThe plot of this movie sees cartoon favorites like Winnie the Pooh, Alvin and the Chipmunks, the Muppet Babies, the Looney Toons, and the Smurfs come to life in order to convince Michael to stop smoking pot, drinking, and stealing from his sister’s piggy bank for drug money. Because if anything is going to convince someone to stop doing drugs, it’s a bunch of cartoon characters who suddenly come to life and sing songs about life choices. Clearly, all D.A.R.E. really needed to be effective was Daffy Duck.
It’s been a big week for Marvel fans. First, the company unveiled the new Thor, a woman who takes over the title and responsibilities of the God of Thunder after the current Thor is deemed unworthy to wield Mjolnir, and then the first look at the villains of The Avengers: Age of Ultron was revealed along with their new, Iron Man-centric backstories. But Marvel wasn’t quite done yet, and on Wednesday night, they turned to The Colbert Show to reveal that Sam Wilson, better known as Falcon, would be carrying the shield as the new Captain America.
The shift-in-power comes after Steve Rogers’ body has been drained of the super serum that turned him into Cap in the first place, which resulted in him rapidly ageing to better reflect his 95 years of age. Since he’s no longer to be the hero that America deserves, the mantle falls to his good buddy Sam, who will officially make his debut in the stars and stripes in All New Captain America #1. Iron Man will also be getting a makeover alongside Thor and Cap, and in the Superior Iron Man #1, fans will see Tony Stark move to San Francisco in his new, shiny silver suit, in order to make some changes that not all of the Bay Area’s residents take to, resulting in a darker, more temperamental hero. Of course, all of these changes lead to one big question: how will this affect the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thus far, the two have operated as separate continuities, but both the solo and Avengers films take their cues from the comics. But while it’s likely that Tony’s new attitude might bleed over into his movie counterpart, the real thing that fans are wondering is whether or not Anthony Mackie will get to inherit the shield from Chris Evans. And it’s a possibility we’ve been thinking a lot about as well.
Why We Might See Mackie as Captain America: Though it’s the first time that Falcon has inherited the title of Captain America, he has a long history of carrying the shield whenever Steve is hurt or otherwise incapacitated, and has temporarily filled in for Cap multiple times over his fifty year run in the comics. Although Bucky Barnes’ stint as Cap is better known, Sam actually has a bigger history in the stars and stripes to draw from. Picking Sam as the new Cap would open up a lot more possibilities for the writers in terms of the stories they could tell and the comic books they could draw from.
Depending on how many movies Evans has left in his contract, it could also allow them to switch to a new Cap sooner than they could with Bucky, who at the end of The Winter Soldier still doesn’t remember anything about his life before becoming a HYDRA super-assassin. Passing the mantle to Falcon would allow them more time with Bucky’s story, and they wouldn’t need to rush through his discovery and recovery process in order to get him into Cap’s uniform quickly. Bucky’s story is a complex, compelling one, and it would be a shame to see the films bypass a lot of what makes it so interesting simply to rush him into a new uniform. The recent films’ focus on the psychological consequences of being a superhero has been one of the most engaging and entertaining parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Bucky is a prime candidate to explore more of those issues, and to add new layers to the story.
At this point in the films, Sam is in a better position to take over for Cap. His dedication to helping Steve, no questions asked, and to supporting him on his quest to repair the damage that HYDRA has done to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the American people is very reminiscent of Steve’s willingness to do anything to protect America, its ideals, and its people. Like Steve, he is a good guy through and through, the kind of person who would protect, inspire and encourage the American people, which is exactly what Captain America is supposed to do. Sam already embodies much of what makes Captain America the hero he is, just a little flashier and a little louder. Mackie is also in a slightly better position to inherit the franchise than Sebastian Stan is. Though both are talented actors who have been working for a long time, and are just starting to break through to the mainstream, Mackie is a bit more well-known and dynamic than Stan, which will no doubt come in handy with all of the press and fan attention that the actor who plays Captain America will have to deal with. And like both Evans and Stan, Mackie is a fan favorite, having won over everyone with his enthusiasm for his character. Nobody loves Falcon more than Mackie, and nobody would love being Cap more than Mackie would.
Why We Probably Won’t See Mackie As Captain America: Unfortunately, it seems seriously unlikely that we will ever see Sam inherit the title of Captain America on the big screen. Since Marvel plans out every part of their Cinematic Universe well in advance of the films’ release, they have been laying the seeds for Bucky to take over for Cap for some time now, dropping hints in both Captain America films that foreshadow his eventual ascent to the title. It seems unlikely that they would abandon the foundations that they have been laying for years now in order to give Sam the shield, even if it would be a smart decision.
Making Falcon the new Captain America would also risk angering the very vocal subset of fans who are reluctant to see any drastic changes made to the characters that they have become so comfortable with. Any time a character’s race gets changed – like when Miles Morales became Spider Man or Michael B. Jordan was cast as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four or Samuel L. Jackson was picked to play Nick Fury – some fans get upset about it, and because their negative outlook gets attention from both press and other fans, the studios become convinced that their position is the one that the entire fandom holds. Studios aren’t going to want to risk alienating a major part of their audience, and so they continue to make the safest choices imaginable. Why else do you think it’s taken so long for us to get a female-fronted superhero film?
Despite the quality of their films and the diversity of the heroes and comic books they have to offer, Marvel is still focused on pleasing their fans in order to make money. That means that if they think that audiences will be happier watching the white dudes they’re comfortable with save the world, that’s what they’re going to give them. It doesn’t matter how many issues Sam’s tenure as Captain America sells, or how much praise the books get, transitioning from Evans to Stan is the safer choice, and therefore the one most likely to make the most moviegoers happy. By catering to the fans who make the most noise, even if they’re the smallest subset of the fandom, Marvel will feel like it’s catering to the entire fanbase, which is why it’s so difficult to get Hollywood studios to break away from their standard formula.
On top of that, there’s no telling exactly how long Sam’s run as Cap will last. Comic books are constantly revamping and rebooting themselves, which means that plots are constantly being retconned and changed. If Sam is only going to have a short run as Cap, then the filmmakers might be hesitant to restructure the films around this new development, especially if they’re worried about how fans will react. Yes, Bucky’s time as Cap wasn’t particularly long, but the shift in power has been around long enough that they not only know how fans feel about it, but they’ve also been able to work out how best to incorporate it into the films.
We might only get to see Sam as Captain America in the comic books, but at least we have the knowledge that even that is enough to make Anthony Mackie the happiest person on earth right now. And when Mackie's happy, everyone is.
Entertainment Weekly/Marco Grob/Marvel
There are dozens of superhero movies in theaters, in the middle of filming and still in development, but the biggest and most exciting of all is 2015’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Thanks to the track record of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the massive, rippling consequences of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, fans are dying to find out more about the next adventure of Cap, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and the Hulk. Entertainment Weekly was kind enough to oblige with their annual Comic-Con preview issue. First, they unveiled Ultron on the cover, giving everyone a look at the super-powerful, hyper-intelligent AI that the Avengers will be facing this time around. If his appearance reminds you of a particular genius/billionaire/playboy/superhero, that’s because it’s supposed to.
Turns out that Ultron is actually a creation of Iron Man himself, which director Joss Whedon revealed in an interview. What was intended as a kind of AI sidekick for the team backfired with spectacular results, creating the villain you see before you, and forcing the Avengers to face the only thing more difficult to fight than an army of teleporting aliens. Whedon’s reveal is the first major hint we’ve gotten as to the plot of the film and how it will handle the aftermath of The Winter Soldier, so we thought we’d break down everything that EW revealed in order to determine how much we actually know about the next Avengers movie, and how much we’re still guessing at.
What We Know: As we saw in Iron Man 3, the Avengers are having a difficult time dealing with the consequences of saving the world. Now that SH.I.E.L.D. is no more, they have to take care of every threat themselves. So Tony, in an attempt to give the team some time to recover, invents Ultron, a “self-aware, self-teaching, artificial intelligence designed to help assess threats, and direct Stark’s Iron Legion of drones to battle evildoers instead.” Of course, the whole thing ends up backfiring and creating perhaps the biggest threat to humanity the world has ever seen.
According to Whedon, Ultron isn’t evil so much as he is lacking in human emotions. Once he realizes that the biggest threat to life on Earth is humanity itself, he decides to eradicate it in order to – in a roundabout, overly-logical way – save the planet. Unfortunately for the Avengers, since Ultron is so self-aware and constantly learning, he figures out that he’s not just a robot, which would be easily destroyed, but a computer program capable of uploading itself to the Cloud and then replicating in increasingly more complex and powerful forms. Basically, they’re keeping everything that made Ultron such a long-standing, formidable villain, but reworking his origin somewhat for the modern age.
What We Don’t: Also featured in EW’s preview are the twins (the Marvel Cinematic Universe can’t actually call them mutants), Petyr and Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, and although we know that they’ll play a significant role in the film, we don’t know if they’ll be on the Avengers’ side or on Ultron’s. They were introduced in a mid-credits scene during The Winter Soldier in the custody of Baron von Strucker, and the magazine seems to hint that they might not be the good guys. We're curious as to how they manage to join up with the Avengers in the first place, and how much of a hand Baron von Strucker will have in that introduction...
We'll have to keep speculating about that, since we also know nothing about how big of a role Strucker himself will play in the new film. Casting Thomas Kretschmann to play him seems to suggest that he’s going to be very important very soon – if you’ll recall, Thanos didn’t get an official voice until recently – but most of the Avengers’ focus so far seems to be on Ultron. Although, considering the fact that this film seems to get a new villain every time we look away, that's proabbly a good thing. And speaking of Thanos, we’re still not sure if he’ll be making an appearance in Age of Ultron, or if he’ll be content to just torment the Guardians of the Galaxy for now.
What We Suspect: The other new addition to the cast, besides Quicksilver and the Scarlet witch, is Vision, who in the comics is an android created by Ultron in order to enact revenge on his creator. However, a few months ago, it was reported that Paul Bettany, who voices Tony Stark’s AI butler, JARVIS, was doing makeup tests for the character, which led some to speculate that JARVIS will be turning to the dark side. EW’s reveal of Ultron’s new origin seems to fit those suspicions quite well. After all, if one AI that Tony has created has turned evil, what’s stopping the other one from switching allegiances as well? And even if Tony isn’t the reason that JARVIS has gone bad, it would make perfect sense for Ultron to turn him against their creator. Granted, we could be wrong, and they could have just been using Bettany as a temporary stand-in, as the studio refuted, but this is all lining up rather nicely, so we’re going to trust our gut on this one.
Now all we need is for someone to confirm whether or not Sam Wilson and Falcon will join up with the team, and we can really start to get excited.