Dom Hemingway just got out of jail. Dom wants what he's owed. That may turn out to be a tall order.
Natasha Romanoff, aka the Black Widow, is back and, trust us, Scarlett Johansson isn't complaining about it. The 29-year-old ingenue is playing the super spy with a dark past for the third time and in the third different franchise in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," Johansson actually has another movie opening on April 4 (although in limited release), Jonathan Glazer's acclaimed mini-masterpiece "Under the Skin" The two movies could no be more different from each other if you tried. "Winter Soldier" is a superhero thriller with political undertones to modern day concerns over the NSA. "Skin," on the other hand, is one of the most daring art films to challenge audiences this century.
Asked if she considers movies like "Skin" (and to a lesser extent "Her") a break from big studio productions, Johansson insists her work in the Marvel universe isn't that different from an art house indie.
"I have the good fortune of in this Marvel Universe of working with actors I've always admired and actors I've known for a along time," Johansson says. "Sam Jackson this is our fourth film together. Chris Evans this is also our fourth film together. I've known Chris for over 10 years. Rob Redford I worked together when I was 12 on 'The Horse Whisperer.' And it's funny, Sebastian and I were on Broadway at the same time. In some ways, these Marvel movies feel huge, it's not that different from making a smaller more intimate film."
"Skin" (which was no. 2 on my top 10 of 2013 following its Telluride Film Festival premiere) finds Johansson as an alien construct who starts to emotionally connect with the humans she's hunting and harvesting. The character is far from the now snarky Avenger The Black Widow (it's been a growing personality trait for Natasha). Instead, "Skin" finds the actress delivering an almost completely silent performance unlike anything she's ever even attempted before.
"That experience was absolutely out of this world and really wild and really unique," Johansson says of "Skin." "It will always be with me because it was also such as stretch for me. I pushed myself into all sorts of discomfort. But, [with the Black Widow] you want to up the ante with each one of these installments so you're not tired to watch and you're not just phoning it in and the character continues to be interesting and enigmatic."
In "Winter Soldier," Romanoff teams up with Steve Rogers, aka the Star-Spangled Super Soldier (Evans), to try and stop S.H.I.E.L.D [REDACTED] from launching a satellite system that will kill anyone it believes could be a threat based on a computer's analysis personal information. At one point in the story, Romanoff has to decide if she can live with fighting for the greater good even if it means details of her clandestine and killer past will be revealed in public. So, no, the only female Avenger (currently) doesn't get off easy. It goes without saying that Marvel has secret plans for many of its characters, but Johansson said the idea for Widow to star in the sequel to "Captain America: The First Avenger" didn't come about until she was doing promotion for "The Avengers" two years ago.
"[Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige and I] just talked a lot about it and what would bring these two characters together. They seem to be on opposite ends of the moral spectrum. We just don't want to bring these characters together [just] because we can," Johansson reveals. "What is their working relationship like? What do they bring out of one another? we realized they are kind of similar. Unexpectedly these two characters are a lot more like each other than the other Avengers, probably besides Hawkeye. Even though Hawkeye and Widow have this great past. They are similar are the surface, but different types of people. [On the other hand,] Cap and Widow are both really reluctant superheroes. They got in this game without a choice. They also ave this hunger to discover the truth. They may be part of the lie and Widow may be more willing to be part of that than Cap, but at the same time they don't want to be lied to."
Johansson ends with the intriguing thought that, "It's interesting to see these two characters that put up these walls. Once you start chipping away at them that they actually have something in common."
For more on Johansson's opinions of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Under the Skin" watch the embedded video at the top of this post.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" opens nationwide and in IMAX on April 4. "Under the Skin" opens in limited release on April 4.
The Hollywood machine isn't the studio-based system that it was in the mid-20th Century. An almost conspiratorial corporate entity that would spend years cultivating and curating movie stars. But, to some extent, it still exists in 2014. Through publicists, agents and even studios, the industry still tries to "create" new stars. And, for better or worse (depending how you see it), it's mostly male actors that get this treatment today (although any leading lady in a Michael Bay film may qualify outside of Scarlett Johansson). Some happen almost by accident (Robert Pattinson), some have delayed debuts (Chris Hemsworth), many aren't worthy of the hype (Alex Pettyfer) and a few may take decades before they are deliver on their potential (Matthew McConaughey). Next weekend the big screen adaptation of "Divergent" is hitting theaters and, all of a sudden, people are going to start talking about Theo James.
Yes, Chris Evans has a full beard. No, super fans, it's not for "Avengers: Age of Ultron."
Miles Teller and Jai Courtney are no strangers to the Hollywood movie making machine. Miles has won critical acclaim for roles in films such as "The Spectacular Now" and the upcoming Sundance hit "Whiplash" as well as candidly charm audiences in mainstream fare like "Footloose" and January's "That Awkward Moment." Courtney is an Aussie TV veteran who was "showcased" alongside Bruce Willis in "A Good Day to Die Hard" and had supporting roles in "Jack Reacher" and "I, Frankenstein." Both men will be seen next in Neil Burger's "Divergent," but it goes without saying that most movie fans are interested in their next big projects.
Relative newcomer Michael Lannan and acclaimed director Andrew Haigh ("Weekend") have created a remarkable new series with "Looking" that just wrapped up its first season Sunday night. Already picked up by HBO for another season, the show centers on Patrick (Jonathan Groff), a somewhat naive video game developer in San Francisco on the cusp of turning 30 and finally coming into his own. He's surrounded by two friends who have some issues of their own; Dom (Murray Bartlett) and Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez).
Jonathan Groff is an amazingly nice guy. No, really. It's not just an act. There are many actors who would blow off an interview after a scheduling mishap, but not Groff. Either he was raised by saints or he really believes in his new HBO series "Looking."
Or, maybe it's a combination of both.
A week ago the 86th Academy Awards wrapped up what was one of the closest Best Picture races in history. An awards season full of unexpected distractions, pretenders and results came to an end. Many in Hollywood could finally take a deep breath and exhale.
You've got to have some sympathy for the minds behind HBO's "Looking." It's not easy to create three-dimensional characters with less than 30 minutes of story over eight episodes. Especially, when you have - in theory - three "main" characters whose stories you are trying to tell. Patrick, the centerpiece of the show, has been expertly crafted by co-creators Michael Lannan and Andrew Haigh as well as star Jonathan Groff. As we reach the conclusion of the first season, his BFF's Dom and Agustin finally beginning to feel almost as real.
[Apologies for the 24 hour delay in this week's recap. There was this little event called the 86th Academy Awards that probably prevented even you from catching this episode on its first airing.]
If there is one thing we've learned seven episodes into "Looking," it's that no one is going to stay happy for long and each of our three heroes may have serious self-destructive tendencies.