Superheroes

Stan Lee in Superheroes

The Amazing Spider-Man is one of those movies that obtained a solid Rotten Tomatoes score solely on the basis that so many reviews gave it praise that was faintly damning, but still praise. “Not as bad as it could be” was the refrain. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks to be even less successful than its predecessor. If you want to fulfill your superhero needs, there is no shortage of options. You could of course check out the original, far superior Spider-Man films. You could watch any of the better superhero films that are out there, or you could catch a few episodes of the excellent superhero cartoons that exist. But if you’re documentary-minded, then I suggest watching Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle. A three-part series made for PBS, Superheroes is an excellent primer for anyone who knows about costumed crusaders from the movies or the comic books but who wants to learn about the writers and artists behind the characters. It covers the complete breadth of superhero history, starting in the 1930s and continuing on through to today. “Truth, Justice and the American Way” covers from 1938 to 1958, as superheroes were birthed with Superman and eventually made their way to radio, even as comic books were hobbled by a series of congressional hearings. “Great Power, Great Responsibility” shows how Marvel comics shook up the formula in the ’60s and ’70s, while the genre also found exposure on television. “A Hero Can Be Anyone” acts as an overview of modern superheroes, as storytellers have pushed them in new directions while cinematic success […]

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Oscar Ballot 2014

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Watchmen (2009)

Some superheroes have their origins in ways unavailable to your average person. Batman and Iron Man rely on their own personal well-funded technology. Captain American is a result of a highly complex super soldier program. Thor is a space alien god, which could also be said for Superman. And someone like Ghost Rider or Jonah Hex has his origins in the supernatural. Still, there are plenty of superhero origins that rely on pure chance, often a result of a horrible accident. That got me thinking… could an industrial accident really turn you into a movie superhero?

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IntroSuperheroBeatdowns

The boring problem with almost every superhero is that if they existed in real life they would just win all the time. This is why we have super villains, of course, and this is why those super villains tend to get the upper hand at some point in the film. After all, what’s a good third act without some kind of obstacle to overcome? If your character can shoot fire from his or her nipples then the baddies better have some kind of ray gun that shoots ice pasties. Point is, we need a point where the hero gets their ass handed to them – something that some movies handle better than others. Here are eight of the darker moments where the hero hits rock bottom (usually in a pool of their own blood).

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90s superhero teamup

Superhero cinema is experiencing a boom, a resurgence that began right around the turn of the new century. Cape-and-cowl movies haven’t just been legitimized, they are now parlaying their popularity into expanding their mythologies and crafting interconnected on-screen universes. Suffice to say, their foothold on multiplex prominence is sturdy. But it was not always so. Prior to Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man, unless your hero moniker rhymed with Scatcan or Schmooperman, it was unlikely you would get your own theatrical franchise. And even those two tentpole heroes experienced a falling-off and an eventual total lack of quality. Superman was forced to fight Nuclear Man and Joel Schumacher did his very best to further The Dearth Plight. Pursuant to a 1990s kick that which we inexplicably find ourselves on here at Junkfood Cinema (and seriously if any of you happen to know the cure for a bad case of the blands, let us know), we thought we’d take a look at some of the smaller, darker heroes that cropped up like weeds during this strange filmic era. More specifically, we’re going to be examining an important moment in made-up film history. Long before Joss Whedon put together his blockbuster adaptation of The Avengers, an attempt was made by some of the characters from ’90s superhero films to form their own team. According to the New England Journal of Shut-Up-and-Use-Your-Imagination, this attempt failed…miserably. Luckily, we’re bored enough to envision a stenographer on hand for this momentous occasion that unfolded entirely in our heads. Here […]

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As any of us who’ve dressed up as movie characters for Halloween know, it’s the distinctly designed roles that make for the most interesting costumes. Nobody is dressing up as Alex Cross or Aaron Cross this year — not because their movies weren’t popular, but because the characters don’t have a very recognizable look. Peruse the popular suits for sale and clever homemade ideas this year and you’ll find mostly characters who wouldn’t be what they are without the craftwork of costume designers and makeup artists. That’s why I consider theirs the Halloween categories at the Oscars. And yet, the best and most common outfits and frightening faces aren’t necessarily those that tend to be recognized by the Academy. This year’s list of popular movie-related costumes predominantly consists of superheroes, which has been the norm for a while, but there are even more timely examples represented now thanks to the The Avengers featuring so many masked and caped crusaders. Also, we had another movie starring the Caped Crusader. And while once again Linda Hemming will be nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award for a Batman movie (she was nominated for Batman Begins and won for The Dark Knight), it’s very unlikely that The Dark Knight Rises will earn her a second Oscar nomination let alone win (she won her first time nominated, for Topsy-Turvy).

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The Boys Comic Book

Director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Eastbound & Down) might not be the first person you would expect to be pushing to get an adaptation of an ultra-violent Garth Ennis comic up on the big screen, but nonetheless the comedy veteran has been involved in putting together a film version of the creator’s anti-superhero yarn “The Boys” for quite a while now. For the longest time the director was set to put the project together for Columbia Pictures, but those plans hit a snag in February when the studio suddenly dropped it. Nonetheless, the director assured us that the film was not necessarily dead, and that he had multiple studios chomping at the bit to come on board and see that development of the property continued. Though, in the process of kicking the project around from place to place, it had unfortunately gone from being a faithfully hard-R recreation of Ennis’ work, to one that would have to be PG-13. Or, as McKay put it, “It’s now PG-13. But I found cool ways to keep it edgy. Nolan does so much with that rating. I want this movie to have the conceptual floor of MIB: the police for the superheroes, with the bad ass action groove of The Matrix or Oldboy.”

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? The Avengers parodies were inevitable, but animator Junaid Chundrigar just won with a fantastic exploration of The Hulk, Spider-Man, Iron Man and other Marvel heroes on their bad days. Instead of a story, Chundrigar relies on quick, slap-stick style comic moments. Venom struggles with an ice cream cone, Spidey meets a helicopter head on, and a city burns when a meatball gets dropped. It’s funny, and the animation has an adorable Saturday Morning Cartoon vibe that makes this short even more agreeable. No surprise that the fine folks at Short of the Week sent it along – they know quality when they see it. I can’t help but think Joss Whedon would love this. What will it cost? Only 2 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve got Time For More Short Films

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The Avengers want you to see The Avengers in theaters.

It’s been open overseas for a week, already raking in more than $200m, and now The Avengers is landing on U.S. soil with one of the biggest summer openings in history. But does that mean you should see it now? Or do you wait for home video? Sure, there’s plenty of arguments as to why you can wait, including obnoxious crowds, high ticket prices, and the general hassle of getting your butt off the couch and driving to your local multiplex. However, here are seven ultimate reasons should convince you to, paraphrasing Shakespeare, “Get thee to a theater!” and witness Marvel’s greatest achievement in superhero movies.

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Presumably it’s for training, but when Thor goes up against Iron Man, it could be about anything. The drinking schedule, how untidy the Stark HQ is, whether man can make scientific magic the same way Gods can. There’s a lot to fight about, and the trailers all hint that the Avengers are a time bomb waiting to go off. In the new clip from The Avengers, Joss Whedon does the kind of playing that most comic book fans have to do with plastic action figures. He pits two titans against each other, turning Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth into his playthings. Fortunately one of them has a suit that absorbs lightning. Check it out for yourself:

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Not to say that Robert Downey, Jr. and The Hulk aren’t sex symbols. They are. A huge portion of the population probably sees the battles of wit and weaponry in The Avengers trailers and gets a special tingle, but the other stereotypical side of the population that’s already (stereotypically speaking) in the bag for Marvel‘s new movie might be more inclined to see Scarlett Johansson in a low-slung black cocktail dress beat a bunch of guys with broken chair legs. Ask, and ye shall receive. After the adrenaline rushes, Marvel has released a brief scene aiming to get a different kind of bodily chemical flowing:

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There’s something incredible about knowing that a movie exists. Especially now. After years – years! – of speculation, glimmers of set photos and vague comments mined for meaning, there is actually something we can all call The Dark Knight Rises. It’s no longer an idea. It’s a reality. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Christopher Nolan showed his first cut of the movie to Warners, which means that it’s a reality that will undoubtedly go through some more edits and some honing, but it’s a real thing nonetheless. What was just a thought turned into words on a page, and now those words have evolved into something physical and dynamic. It’s nothing short of magic.  

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These items would have no doubt made Simon’s list this week, but they all come with a hefty price tag. Marvel is auctioning off several pieces of screen-used props, and according to The Hollywood Reporter, they’re expected to go for anywhere between $100 – $30,000. So what’s up for grabs? You can check out the full Captain America catalog preview for yourself, but they’ve got everything from director’s chair backs from the production to Captain America’s shield in an ice resin. From concept art to Red Skull’s SS costume to Iron Man‘s Mark II “Autopsy” Suit to a full-scale motorcycle from Captain America to Thor‘s stunt hammer. Profiles in History, the auction house in charge, has got a lot to work with. It’s almost as if they’re selling everything they used to make the movies. The whole thing will be done online, but some of the bigger items will only be available at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo on April 14th. If you’re feeling generous, this Captain America War Bonds Poster would be perfect for my office.  

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While Monster director Patty Jenkins would have been a fascinating choice to direct the upcoming Thor 2, she dropped out after some creative disagreements with Marvel. C’est la vie. Now, after a brief search, the job falls to Alan Taylor. According to Deadline Marienville, the Game of Thrones director will be telling Chris Hemsworth where to point his hammer. What else is there to be said here? The first film had a classically trained Irish talent better known for his Shakespearean work (and for his ridiculous mustache-beard combination in Wild Wild West). The sequel now has an extensive television resume in the driver’s seat – work that spans from the action drama of Game of Thrones to the sassy whatever of Sex and the City to the dry wit of Bored to Death. If Taylor’s previous work is any indication, the second film might become something of a true adult drama. Of course, his feature film work to date includes the historical comedy (that was actually pretty damned funny) The Emperor’s New Clothes. Otherwise, it’s mostly dramatic work at play here. The film is scheduled for release in November of 2013, so they’ve got some breathing room. Plus, Thor will be seen next in The Avengers next summer, meaning we can’t go a year without seeing that cape. We just can’t get away from it. It’s also funny how much the feel of this article would change if the headline had been “‘Sex and the City’ Director tapped for ‘Thor […]

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Wow. Wow is all there is. With all eyes on Christopher Nolan to find a fitting ending for the massive phenomenon that he’s turned into an even more massive phenomenon, the director and everyone involved seems to have pointed beyond the bleachers and out into the parking lot with this full length trailer for The Dark Knight Rises. It’s got Christian Bale getting existential as Batman, Tom Hardy as Bane looking ominous with a bomb and Anne Hathaway representing the unwashed masses as a masked Selina Kyle. In fact, it’s got enough red meat to make any old fan happy – and to prove that Nolan and company are not shying away from the greatness of their challenge.

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Drinking Games

Just because it was raked over the critical coals this past summer doesn’t mean that Green Lantern can’t be fun. And even though St. Patrick’s Day is five months away, this would be a perfect time to get your hands on some green beer and watch the film again on DVD or Blu-ray (or if you’re really ambitious, on 3D Blu-ray). Remember that a Green Lantern’s might comes from the power of will. Here is your chance to test the strength of your will and intestinal fortitude. Who knows? By the end of the movie, you might just believe that you can create things with your mind.

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Hopefully the spoiler warning is loud and clear enough here, and, yes, I still take them seriously. Even if a fancy scientific study shows that we like things that are familiar, there’s still no replacement for being surprised or awe-struck with the wonder of newness. So if you’re avoiding information about Superman: Man of Steel, you can stop reading now. And if you keep reading, simply know that all of this might be untrue – it’s the work of an “insider” with the production that scoop site Comic Book Movie trusts. Their track record is pretty stellar, but nothing is confirmed until it’s truly confirmed.

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“What I’m doing is more important than who I am.” The words of a man wearing a cloth skeleton mask over his face, a fedora, and a full length trench coat that hides every inch of skin. He is inhuman. Completely anonymous. And yet, his words ring true. His actions speak louder than what he’s wearing and who he defines himself as. He’s a real-life superhero. In a cinema world saturated by them, Michael Barnett chose to turn the cameras on those among us who don a cape and cowl in order to patrol the streets. The documentary Superheroes gets to the very heart of noble intentions, dangerous work, and a complex sense of humanity that comes from trying to be something beyond human.

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Director Joe Johnston loves good old fashioned fun. The Rocketeer, Hidalgo, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, and Captain America: The First Avenger don’t contain a dark or cynical bone in their bodies. While some superhero films try to go to darker places nowadays — usually by just having their hero mope around — Johnston has no interest in a sulky hero. Captain America is all about adventure, charms, and simply being a kid from Brooklyn. While many people question if Cap can reach an audience outside of the States, Johnston thinks differently. The Boba Fett and Iron Giant creator didn’t want to make a commercial about America’s awesomeness; he wanted to explore themes that nearly everyone can relate to. Like his previous films, the idea of finding one’s identity and coming of age is present in Captain America: The First Avenger. Despite being a super solider who looks the way that he does, Captain America is like any other kid trying to become the man he’s meant to be. Here’s what Joe Johnston had to say about Raiders of the Lost Ark, fully embracing the color palette of comics, the ego of Red Skull, staying sincere without being cheesy, and why he’s a true film school reject:

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It’s tricky tackling a comic book film. For starters, one is generally adapting fairly fantastical ideas. Secondly, if a comic book film gets too serious, it can easily lose a sense of fun and self-awareness. Director Matthew Vaughn seems to have found a good middle ground for his superhero epic, X-Men: First Class. The genre favorite director could not have made more of a 180° turn from Kick-Ass to X-Men: First Class, both in terms of scope and his approach to the genre. Kick-Ass was the first – or most notable – modern comic book film to turn the genre on its bloody ear. Now, Vaughn is working in the genre he just previously deconstructed, which, as Vaughn says, makes him even better suited for it. Here’s what the candid and always confident Matthew Vaughn had to say about not taking comic book properties too seriously, making a film for his broadest audience ever, and reading fanboys on the internet.

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