Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
How did they get from Blade to the Beatles of superheroes in just over a decade?
One of the highlights of last year's Comic-Con was when the cast of Marvel's 'The Avengers' assembled onstage in Hall H for the very first time.
Credit: AP Photo/Denis Poroy
It was over a decade ago, and my writing partner and I found ourselves seated in a conference room across a table from Avi Arad and Kevin Feige. We were at Lionsgate, and the reason for our meeting was to pitch our version of "Deadpool." At the time, Lionsgate had struck a deal with Marvel to make movies based on their lesser-known characters, many of which they had inherited from Artisan.
We ended up not getting the job, but that was my real introduction to the team who were determined to turn Marvel into a viable movie studio, and in the years since, I've watched as they have slowly but surely pulled off what I would have sworn was impossible as I was growing up.
Now, as "Captain America: The First Avenger" opens in theaters and next summer's "The Avengers" wraps up shooting, it's time to look back at how Marvel got here, what they did right, what they did wrong, and where all of this could be headed next.
How does this last step on the road to 'The Avengers' stack up?
Chris Evans is ready to punch WWII in the face. Yes, the entire war. That's how big a badass he is in 'Captain America: The First Avenger'
Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount
"Captain America: The First Avenger" is one of the finest movies yet from Marvel Studios, and a big departure in tone and storytelling from most of the films they've made so far. It is a strong indicator that the more willing the studio is to experiment, the more exciting the payoffs can be. In this case, there's no clear precursor to this one in anything else Marvel's done, and it feels like branching out and trying something this different freed them up. It helps that director Joe Johnston shot the film like he had something to prove and Chris Evans appears to have been born for this role. Everything came together here in a way that I'm not sure anyone could have predicted, and that indefinable chemistry is one of the things that makes this feel so special.
The first and most immediate difference between this and the other movies Marvel has made so far is the time frame over which the story plays out. The film starts in the present day, then flashes back to the early days of WWII. The main story plays out not over days or even weeks, but over years. It is, in essence, a look at the entire WWII career of Captain America, and his origins as Steve Rogers. It isn't structured like a typical superhero film, either. It focuses on two main arcs over the course of its running time. First, there's the story of Rogers, a skinny weakling with a lion's heart who is chosen to be the test subject in the Super Soldier program headed by Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) and how he learns to handle the power he's been granted. At the same time, we follow the efforts of Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), aka The Red Skull, whose HYDRA is starting to outgrow its origins as the dark science division of the Nazis thanks to his discovery of a strange glowing cube that once resided in the vault of weapons kept by Odin in Asgard. The collision between these two story arcs is what keeps driving the movie forward, but there is plenty of room built in for digressions, and the end result feels like reading an entire collection of issues of the same book.
We discuss how to be a strong woman in the Marvel Universe
Hayley Atwell had the charm turned up to high at the press day for 'Captain America: The First Avenger'
My favorite television series of all time is Patrick McGoohan's original "The Prisoner," which is why I never ended up seeing the new AMC version of the show. I just couldn't bring myself to watch and subject myself to something that would, at best, suffer by comparison and, at worst, infuriate me beyond reason.
What I think I missed by avoiding the series was an introduction to Hayley Atwell.
I've seen earlier films she was in, but in smaller roles. It's TV where it appears she's had her biggest parts so far, like "The Prisoner," "The Pillars Of The Earth," and "Any Human Heart." Haven't seen a one of them, though, so when I sat down for "Captain America: The First Avenger," it was basically my introduction to her, which actually worked for the character she's playing, Peggy Carter.
Turns out mockingjays are surprisingly fire-resistant
Jennifer Lawrence stars as Katniss in the film version of 'Hunger Games' next spring
There is a danger in playing to the fanbase on something like "The Hunger Games," because ultimately you don't need to convince the fans. You need to convince people who have never read one of the books, and when you're kicking off a campaign, first impressions can be very important.
Lionsgate premiered the motion poster for "Hunger Games" today, and it's an interesting first image to share with an audience. Obviously, if you've read the series then you understand the importance of the Mockingjay pin, and you know what it means to Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the lead character in the series. But if you haven't, I'm curious what you'd make of the image.
Lionsgate has some time to start to really teach people about the world of Panem and the idea of the annual contest between the 12 Districts that make up the country, each of them forced to hand over two young people as tributes who will fight to the death. This first film is the easiest to explain because it's all focused on that contest. Over the course of the next two stories, the story becomes something far larger and more sprawling, and Lionsgate will be able to build onto whatever foundation they lay this time in selling those movies.
Plus we geek out over the idea of a 'Boba Fett' movie
Joe Johnston's all smiles when discussing his new film 'Captain America: The First Avenger'
Even after a disappointment like "The Wolf Man," I find myself excited to sit down with Joe Johnston. As I said to him when I walked into the room for our interview this weekend, it's hardwired into me at this point because of "Star Wars." Johnston's design work is so much a part of my overall aesthetic sense of what is good that it's impossible for me to imagine a film world he wasn't part of.
It's particularly exciting to sit down with someone after you see a film you enjoyed, and in the case of "Captain America: The First Avenger," this may be the most purely enjoyable film Johnston's ever made. I like several of his films, like "The Rocketeer" and "Jurassic Park III," but I don't think he's ever quite put it all together in as satisfying and consistent way, and this is exactly the moment you want to sit down to talk to a filmmaker.
Find out why he almost didn't take the role
Chris Evans would probably have a career if he weren't so horribly ugly.
Credit: Marvel Studios/Paramount
It's hard to believe, but with this Friday's release of "Captain America: The First Avenger," Marvel will have finally introduced all of the pieces of the puzzle that is "The Avengers," and we'll have more on that this journey this week. For now, though, it's almost time for audiences to get their first look at one of the most earnest and sincere of all of the superheroes, and I'm curious to see what people make of the movie.
I don't think I'm breaking embargo to say that I thought the movie was preposterous amounts of fun, and I was very happy to sit down with Captain America himself the day after seeing the film. I first spoke to Evans when they were promoting "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," and that was before he'd agreed to play this part. As much as I've liked Evans in roles he's played in the past, though, I really didn't have any idea how he was going to approach the dual role of Steve Rogers and Captain America, and it sounds like he didn't, either.
Easy-going actor signs on for truly despicable role
Kevin Costner, seen here at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in 2011, is due for a great career year in 2012 with roles in the new 'Superman' film and Quentin Tarantino's 'Django Unchained'
Credit: AP Photo/Phil Klein
By now, I've learned to have faith regarding Quentin Tarantino and his casting. I may not love the choice of Jamie Foxx for Django, the lead in his upcoming movie "Django Unchained," but I understand that there were more factors that went into it than just "Hey, let me hire anybody I feel like hiring." The only thing that scared me about Foxx when he was announced is that we haven't really seen him play period like this before, and he's such a thoroughly modern guy that it is hard for me to imagine.
Kevin Costner, though? Man, that's perfect.
I am actively anticipating what happens when "Django Unchained" is released, because it is the single most incendiary thing Tarantino's ever written, and a damn good story besides. It's one thing to provoke, and that's easy. But when you create great characters, spin a great yarn, and you manage to provoke at the same time, that's something special, and that's exactly what it feels like "Django Unchained" is going to pull off.
One trivia question and you could be in the theater on Friday night
Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg co-star in the new comedy '30 Minutes Or Less'
Credit: Columbia Pictures
One of the new trends that I really like at Comic-Con this year is more screenings of finished films. I'm a big fan of that, and I think there's no better word of mouth than when people get to see an entire movie. So far, we've heard about "Captain America," "Attack The Block," and of course, "Cowboys and Aliens," but now we're also pleased to announce that "30 Minutes Or Less" is going to be screening on Friday night, the 22nd, and we've got a way for you to attend that event.
It will be an event, too, since Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, Michael Pena, and director Ruben Fleischer will all be there to introduce the film before it starts at 8:00 PM and then do a Q&A afterwards. It's such a quick flick, too, running a lean 90 minutes, that you can do this and enjoy it all and still have plenty of time for trouble on Friday night.
I got a chance to see the film last week, and while I won't be running a full review until the week of release, I enjoyed it. It's another of this summer's R-rated comedies that take full advantage of the rating, and it's all about chemistry. Aziz and Jesse Eisenberg are both very funny in it, and Michael Pena continues to prove himself one of the strangest and funniest guys working right now.
Justin Lerner's debut feature hinges on a very special lead performance
Evan Sneider is the star of the unsettling and unusual 'Girlfriend'
Credit: Wayne/Lauren Film Company
It's not often that I can honestly say that a movie strikes me as completely original, but that is true of Justin Lerner's new film "Girlfriend," opening today in New York. It's the sort of film I have trouble even assigning a genre as I watch it, and I strongly encourage you to get out and support this tiny indie right now while you can, and maybe we'll see this one get a wider release, which it absolutely deserves.
I'm curious what the order of events was for this one. The lead in the movie, Evan Sneider, is a young man with Down's Syndrome, and I'm curious if the role was written for them or if they went out and found Evan after writing the script. It's one of those cases where the film wouldn't exist without Evan, and I'm not sure this is the sort of thing you could even put together if you didn't know you had the exact right person to play the part. Sneider's work in the film is accomplished and moving and, again, original. I'm so used to the ingrained idea that any time you see someone with Down's in a key role in a film, they'll be portrayed a certain way, that when you see something like this that throws rules out the window, it's enough to make the experience deeply unsetting.
Paramount's ready to wrap up 2011's summer of superheroes
Chris Evans straps on some red, white, and blue in 'Captain America: The First Avenger'
Credit: Paramount/Marvel Studios
I'm seeing it this weekend, and here's how you know I'm genuinely excited: I hate traffic in Los Angeles worse than I hate anything, and I am driving into Carmageddon not once, but TWICE this weekend in order to both see the film and talk to the cast and the director. There are not many movies coming out this summer that could get me to do that.
If you're going to be in San Diego for Comic-Con and you want to see "Captain America: The First Avenger" on Thursday, there's a 10:00 AM screening at the Horton Plaza Theater, and it's going to be complete with special guests and special surprises. It is worth making the effort for this one. We've got 30 pairs of tickets to give away, and I wish you luck. I'll just say this... the people who saw it tonight who I talked to sounded happy about what they saw. I'm avoiding any more footage or scenes or spoilers at this point because I just want to see the movie and see it all put together.
And if it weren't enough for us to hand out 30 pairs of tickets for you, we have something else as well, a brand-new poster for the film that brings together almost all of the film's major characters, with an imposing and decidedly evil Red Skull looking down at everything.