AVENGERS: END GAME
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth
Directed by: Anthony and Joe Russo
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 3 hrs 1 min
I think it’s ironic that the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is opening the same week that the 25th James Bond film is announced. James Bond first hit the screen in 1962 with “Dr, No.” The MCU began in 2008 with “Iron Man,” And while some of the Bond films have been hit or miss (I’m looking at YOU, “A View to a Kill”), I don’t think I’ve ever given an MCU movie a rating less than four stars. Sadly, our rating system only goes up to five, because otherwise I’d give “Avengers: Endgame” six!
NOTE: THIS WILL BE A SPOILER FREE REVIEW
“Endgame” picks up where “Avengers: Infinity War” ended…with half of the world’s population vanishing in a literal puff of smoke after the evil Thanos (a superb James Brolin) has donned his gauntlet, studded with the Infinity Stones, and snapped his fingers. Unfortunately half of the people eliminated included some popular figures from the MCU, including Black Panther and Spider-man. Those that have survived mourn their lost colleagues, with Tony Stark (Downey Jr, the backbone of this franchise) taking the loss of Peter Parker badly (I will say that, of all the characters that were lost in “Infinity War,” the loss of Parker hit me he hardest – Tom Holland has really inhabited the character). The remaining Avengers gather and try to figure out how to return their world to the way they knew it.
I really can’t share any of my favorite moments for fear of giving away a plot point. I will say this; you will laugh. And you will cry. And you will go through every emotion in the middle. For the last eleven years we have met, and grown with, these characters. We are as protective of them as we know they would be of us. And the final chapter of this saga is one for the ages!
Starring: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn
Directed By: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
Running Time: 124 minutes
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
It only took 21 movies for Marvel and Disney to finally release a female-led superhero film, and it’s not about Black Widow. It’s the kind of some comic book fans have been clamoring for, for about a decade now. For those fans, I have to warn you up front, this isn’t the monumental moment you’ve been hoping for.
“Captain Marvel” is an origin story in reverse. When we first meet Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers (Larson), she goes by Vers and is having her skills crafted under the observant eye of the Kree military. She’s in a unit that serves as an important cog in the intergalactic war between the Kree and Skrull. Honestly, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you have a lot of movie binging to do. The film really doesn’t pick up pace until “Vers” is stranded on Earth after being ambushed by some Skrull. It’s on Earth that she not only chases down the Skrull, but begins chasing down fleeting memories of a life she’s forgotten.
The first 30 minutes or so are pretty rough, even if you understand and know all of the necessary backstory that’s been glossed over in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Thor” films. It attempts to juggle exposition, mystery, and introductions, while handling them all poorly. The exposition isn’t interesting, we already know who “Vers” is, and Marvel is generally terrible about disguising their surprise villains. The movie actually gains momentum and gets a lot more fun when Danvers crashes through the roof of a Blockbuster Video, one of the dozens of reminders that this takes place in the mid-90’s.
As a child of the 90’s, all the winks, nods and nudges are welcome, but they ultimately come off as pandering. The movie feels like it needs to tickle some nostalgia bones, in lieu of character building or plot development. That being said, I don’t mind a little Nirvana or No Doubt in my soundtrack or jokes about how painfully slow computers and the Internet used to be. Millennial inside jokes aside, it’s on Earth that Danvers runs into a young Nick Fury (Jackson), which helps serve as a bit of an origin story for the Avengers initiative.
The 70-year-old Jackson and the 29-year-old Larson are actually a dynamic duo. Their green screen scenery chewing brightens up some otherwise dull moments. It’s regrettable that Marvel missed out on giving them some 90’s buddy cop tropes to gnaw on. “Captain Marvel” may have actually worked better as a parody or homage of films like “The Last Boy Scout” or “Bad Boys.” Luckily these two stars share a lot of screen time and seem to feed off each other’s energy.
“Captain Marvel” is what we’ve come to expect from these yearly Marvel traditions, a lot of CGI, fun set pieces and eye candy for the masses. I actually had quite a bit of fun when I wasn’t analyzing its flaws. So if you want a mindless superhero film, then that’s what you get. That being said, it’s still above the mindless action of Snyder’s DC films because it doesn’t bog the fun down with a bleak atmosphere and outlandish character interactions. For others who are expecting a little more or something a lot more audacious, you’re out of luck. Disney probably over thought this one a bit; and it shows.
If it weren’t for Larson and Jackson, the film may have been a forgettable dud in the same vein as “Thor: The Dark World” or “Iron Man 2.” Those two wring out so much from a minimal script. The writers seemed to be more interested in padding time and setting up a payoff, which never pays off. The film has about half a dozen writers and doesn’t do anything remarkably different with tone or style, like “Thor: Ragnarok” or “Black Panther” managed to do in recent years. “Captain Marvel” is the kind of film you could nitpick to death if you don’t turn your brain off. Everything from visual effects to casting choices is suspect and up for ridicule.
I actually didn’t have high hopes for “Captain Marvel,” so I may not find it as underwhelming or disappointing as some people. Whereas a film like “Wonder Woman” felt like it was breaking new ground, “Captain Marvel” seems to tread water. A lot of that may be due to Disney’s weariness of trying something outlandishly new or daring with its multi-billion dollar baby. Disney could merely be testing the waters. You should be frustrated if the next female superhero film from the studio powerhouse is another cookie cutter film. A progressive step requires a fresh idea, not a copy-and-paste formula that’s slowly becoming stale.
Starring: Josh Brolin, Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr.
Directed By: Anthony and Joe Russo
Running Time: 149 minutes
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
I can’t fathom the immense pressure the creators, directors, writers, producers and studio had going into “Infinity War.” Marvel has spent the past decade crafting content that not only stands on its own two feet, but was meticulously building towards this moment. Since Thanos first reared his ugly purple head in a post-credits scene in the first “Avengers,” fans knew that this monumental occasion was eventually going to happen. With lofty expectations, I’m happy to report that “Infinity War” delivers on nearly every level.
I usually type out a short summary or try to set-up the plot at some point early on in my reviews, but I feel like it’s a moot talking point because if you’ve kept up with the Marvel movies or have a good idea of what’s going on in them, you don’t need me to paint a picture about the Infinity Stones, the Infinity Gauntlet or the fight to save the universe. But I also know you don’t need me spoiling anything, so I’ll stay quiet on the specifics. However, I will say that it only takes the first five minutes of the film for “Infinity War” to knock viewers right in the jaw and set the tone.
Getting every character in one film, give or take a few, is an impressive feat on its own. But what’s cleverly done by Marvel’s creative crew is dividing our favorite heroes into different groups to tackle different tasks. The film pairs similar personalities that bounce or conflict well with each other. It also keeps the movie from being inordinate and having too many egos talking about the same thing or over each other, something that “Age of Ultron” ultimately suffered from. So there’s the possibility that fans of certain characters might be disappointed by the lack of screen time for their favorite hero or character.
That being said, Marvel’s gotten a lot better recently at villain building and Thanos (Brolin) may be the pinnacle. Not only is he fierce and overwhelmingly magnetic in his scenes, he’s a sadistic joy to watch stomping around the scene as he articulates his thoughts on death and the balance it creates. There’s also this shocking amount of softness to the character that we’ve rarely seen before with any other Marvel bad guy, except for maybe the one in “Black Panther.” While most of Marvel’s villains have been evil for the sake of being evil or because of their own vanity, Thanos seems genuine in his wickedness, because he’s not only a conqueror, but views himself as the universe’s scales of justice.
There’s a surprising amount of emotion and laughs mixed into the film’s bleakness and knockdown fights. “Infinity War” is never crushed under the utter weight of its own ambitions, serving up a worthy spectacle for audiences along with a captivating storyline that feels rich in content, but never bloated. This ambitious project, 10 years in the making, is not to be missed, but also raises the stakes even higher for when the Avengers assemble again in 2019.
If you’ve made the right decision this Valentine’s Day weekend and have checked out Deadpool then you may not have heard Greg LaSalle but you definitely saw him. Sort of. LaSalle is one of the tech wizards behind the Academy Award winning MOVA Facial Performance Capture system used in bringing Deadpool’s X-men reinforcement, Colossus, to the screen. While Colossus’s body and voice were provided by actor Stefan Kapicic, LaSalle stepped in front of the MOVA cameras to give the metallic facial performance.
The morning after Deadpool made its New York debut amidst a Deadpool fan costume contest, I sat down with LaSalle for a conversation on Deadpool, other Marvel films and this amazing process used to bring characters such as the Incredible Hulk and Thanos to life.
Lauren Damon: Did you go to the fan premiere last night?
Greg LaSalle: Oh yeah, that was a lot of fun.
How many Deadpools showed up?
LaSalle: Oh you mean the people who dressed up? Oh I don’t know, I think there were quite a bit. I think they chose like seven of them or something, it was pretty funny. One in a tutu, I mean…it was hysterical.
Are you someone who goes to conventions in general seeing that?
“Avoid them like the plague!”
LaSalle: [laughing] No, it’s not that, you know it’s just I have so many things to do. I don’t get a chance to do that very often.
Can you talk about what MOVA Facial Performance Capture is?
LaSalle: I’ll start by telling you first a little bit about what motion capture actually is–which is where you would wear the reflective markers. And that system, those systems were actually developed to deduce where a skeleton is moving. So as those cameras became higher resolution, people started shrinking the dots and gluing them to people’s faces. The data set you get from that is only like 200, 250 points. So a friend of mine in the bay area decided that he would fund the development of research to find out how to actually capture the entire surface of the skin deformity and that’s where MOVA comes from. That development.
So it’s super high resolution, it captures about 7000 data points, all the wrinkles, all the subtlety of the performance is captured. So it’s basically like capturing a scan per frame of the film of the actor. And then about two years ago Digital Domain developed a technique to take those and apply them mathematically to a computer generated character. So the entire performance gets carried over so it really looks, you know, all the performance is captured.
I heard that it’s captured through paint instead of dots?
LaSalle: We apply, it’s invisible makeup in white light that just is applied as a random pattern and then the system has strobing black lights and white lights. So certain cameras take a picture when the black lights are on and all they see is this random pattern makeup. And that’s what’s used to create the scans and track the points across the face.
Seeing as you worked on both Avengers and Age of Ultron and a couple years had passed between them, did the process for capturing the Hulk change? If you worked on the Hulk?
LaSalle: I did, in the first Avengers that’s what it started out as actually, it was before filming was working with Industrial Light and Magic to capture Mark [Ruffalo] to see how he would move as the Hulk. On set they used a bit of different technology so this new technology that we used for Colossus is actually the first time it’s been used. This mathematic transferring of the performance. Things like in the past, like in Avengers, we surveyed the actor. We’d get all the information about how the actor’s face would move and then companies would build a rig which is just a way of animating and when you run a slider, the lip goes up and it goes up as if it was the actor. But it doesn’t have all the subtlety and nuance of the variation in a performance. The new technology the does.
Did you have any hand in that Hulk-smashing-Loki scene?
LaSalle: Well we only specialize in the facial stuff, so only the expressions part of–but that was my favorite part of the first Avengers movie. That ‘boom boom boom!’ [LaSalle does some pretty accurate Hulk smashing motions] It’s a shame though to see Tom Hiddleston beat up like that because he’s such a nice guy.
You captured his face for that? Wasn’t it just grunting?
LaSalle: Yeah yeah…It’s so many years ago now and we’ve done so many things that I can’t remember exactly what we did. If I remember correctly, they put a pipe with some foam on the end and they kept [jabbing motions, laughing] like they’re pushing the back of [Tom’s] head so that he’d [jerks his head]…It was very strange!
What did you work on for Age of Ultron?
LaSalle: Actually I only did the–Thanos. Working with Josh Brolin.
Also on Guardians of the Galaxy too?
I don’t know if Marvel would let me ask you but when is he coming back?!
LaSalle: That’s really funny because I was convinced while we were filming Age of Ultron that they’re gonna–I just have this feeling that something will happen. I mean he’s like the baddest dude in the whole universe and they have to do something–
Yeah coming up of course we have [Captain America] Civil War, that’s Earth-bound but [Thor] Ragnarok is coming and that’s out there! He’s waiting in the wings…
LaSalle: I mean I wish I could say. I’m not privy to those kinds of things to begin with. But it would be really cool to see a bad ass movie with Thanos. I mean they have so many characters and so many things to do. Kevin Feige–he’s the president of Marvel–knows this universe probably better than Stan Lee and he has this all mapped out in his head. He knows exactly what he’s doing.
Do you keep up with the other projects in between what you’re working on?
LaSalle: I don’t actually like actively keep up. I look for within the industry, what we could work on and how we could pull things off.
So working as Colossus, you’re performing his scenes and they just transfer your face into his?
LaSalle: Yes, in simple terms, yes. It creates a scan first and then this fancy math transfers that by figuring out where–you teach it ‘Okay, this is where the center of my cheek is and this is the center of where Colossus’s left cheek is’ and it mathematically calculates what else is going on in that area. It transfers it.
How did it come to be this split performance where you’re on the face and Stefan Kapicic provides the body and voice?
LaSalle: Tim Miller understands this technology really well, so he figured he could take the best of what different people had to offer and Frankenstein all that together. And he was adamant about having an authentic Russian voice. I believe he even recorded another and he just didn’t like it and then he found Stefan. And I think it works extremely well. It’s a pretty cool way of using the technology.
What was the most fun about being Colossus?
LaSalle: Well I’ve known Tim for a long time and I just like working with him. He’s fun, he’s actually a lot like Deadpool in his comedy and the way he’s sarcastically funny. So I enjoy working with him on that. But I also did the tests which we did like six years ago so it’s been really awesome to see it finally get made. So just the general overall feeling of being happy about that.
Was Tim involved at all in how Deadpool was treated in [2009’s] Wolverine?
Was there discussion about just getting away from that entirely?
LaSalle: Tim is a huge comic book fan. He reads a ton, he likes graphic novels. He knew that he wanted to take what’s on the page and have that be what’s in the film. He wasn’t going to mess with it, he wanted to–as a fan he knew that that’s what everybody wanted to see. That’s what he wanted to do.
How instrumental was Ryan Reynolds also in getting this?
LaSalle: I think it was a collaborative effort because they all have their understanding of the character so they–and Tim is great that way. I know he had people that they discussed it: ‘This is what I’d like to see, this is what you’d like to see’ and then they figured out a way to get that all to happen.
This is your second time in front of the camera [after an appearance Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb] is this what you’d like to do more of?
LaSalle: Well I think it’s fun, I’ve been acting for a while and that’s why Tim gave me the part. But I like to do both. I think it’s fun to play the computer generated characters because you get to do really wacky stuff. And then but I also like really small, intimate type live action things. So I’ve been shooting a few short things.
What’re some of your favorite films this past year?
LaSalle: Oh, I liked the Big Short, I liked Trumbo if you’ve seen that. I thought Trumbo was really good.
Yeah, it was weird to watch that in the context of “Award season” since there’s so much of Oscar in the storyline…
LaSalle: I know! You gotta block all that stuff out. Well it’s so interesting too. I mean it’s doubly cool that it’s true.
Do you have more acting roles coming up?
LaSalle: I just finished filming, ironically with Blake Lively [married to Reynolds]. A movie with her called All I See is You which there’s what we call invisible effects. It’s a live action movie but they wanted to use this new technology to drive her newborn baby being born and a character that she sees in her head. So I played both of those parts.
Playing a fetus?!
LaSalle: Not the fetus! As soon as it’s born I had to do the scenes of taking the first breath of screaming and crying and opening the eyes and looking around. They wanted all this subtlety. They figured a live performance would do that more than trying to animate all that subtlety into it.
[This next question features discussion of a specific Deadpool moment, so for the SPOILER-shy, skip down past this one!]
Does that mean you had anything to do with Deadpool regrowing a baby hand? [A brilliant moment after Deadpool cuts his off to escape Colossus’s handcuffs]
LaSalle: (Laughs) No! No. It’s so funny because I’d known that he cuts his hand off for a very long time but I never go to see anything–I only knew because Colossus ends up with his hand. And I never knew what happened. So when he cut his hand off, the first time he saw the movie it was like ‘OK now how does it grow back? How does it grow back?’ And then they even made that funny, it was awesome. I didn’t know what to expect because I don’t like to see the movie until they’re completely done because there’s just so many things that pull you out of it, you know? So I wanted to wait til it was done and I think that all this talk–the blood and the guts and the R-rating, it’s perfect. I don’t care!
It would be weird if you had this much violence and then just no blood, it’s annoying when PG-13 movies do that–
LaSalle: Plus it’s there because it needs to be, a couple of short seconds and it’s not gross. It’s just real.
Back to Deadpool , considering there are so many films now in the ‘Marvel Universe’, what do you think is most appealing about this character, what does he bring?
LaSalle: Well I think his authenticity to the original character. And the comedy. I mean I think there’s a lot of funny stuff in the Avengers movies and some of the other stuff, but that’s what Deadpool’s character is built around. And I think that that just makes it’s different and stand out.
If Deadpool had to be pitted against any of the Avengers, who do you think would win out?
LaSalle: Oh…This might sound bad but I think Deadpool is way smarter than those other characters. So I think he’d win a lot of stuff. Because he thinks differently than they do.
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, James Spader and Samuel L. Jackson
Running Time: 141 minutes
Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars
We’re already ten movies into the Marvel Cinematic Universe when we wade into the battlefield with Ultron this first Summer Movie weekend so I think it’s a pretty fair assumption that most people have taken a stance on whether or not they’ll be grabbing a ticket for this latest offering. I know I’m betraying the idea of a critic’s ‘power’ here, but honesty’s the best policy. And honestly, we’re seven years in here and I’m on board despite it not always being the smoothest of rides. That said when it comes to this, the culmination of Marvel’s “phase 2”, I was a bit overwhelmed. Age of Ultron is more of everything. How could it not be on the heels of its predecessors? There’s more characters, more back stories, and inevitably more destruction. The former two will always play better than the latter for me but I can’t deny that Whedon’s film is an often wow-inducing spectacle that leaves our heroes on intriguing and unstable grounds.
As we learned from Iron Man 3, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is capable of accidentally creating some demons. In that solo story, it just happened to be a slighted science colleague, but in Ultron he really steps up his screwup game. The Avengers have been tracking down the scattered physical remnants of their 2012 outing, Loki’s mind-controlling scepter included. With that ‘glowstick of destiny’ finally in the capable hands of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Stark’s vision of utilizing Artificial Intelligence in his technology to protect the Earth from off-world threats can be realized. But faced with the prospect of the scepter being returned with Thor to Asgard, he does a rushed job of instilling his AI, Ultron, with a peace-at-ALL-costs mentality. And after raiding the internet and all the digital files of humanity, Ultron notices that it’s really the humans who always are in the way of peace. Oops, our evil robot threat is born. When Ultron beams his programming across the globe to the HYDRA facility from whence the scepter came, he picks up two ‘enhanced’ twins (read: evilly experimented on to the point that they’re super. Or as Cobie Smulders’s Agent Hill sums them up, “he’s fast and she’s weird”) in the form of Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who have their own axe to grind with Mr. Stark, a former weapons dealer lest we forget.
Ultron himself is menacingly played by James Spader via motion capture that is really chilling, especially in his zombie-like entrance. I hadn’t bought into a CG villain like this since Davy Jones in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. As a character born of quip-master Stark, he has a wicked sense of humor that these films always benefit from, even if he’s not as clever or fun to watch as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Furthermore, it’s always a risk with comic book franchises to load their sequels with new characters but for me the twins were completely welcome additions. Olsen is particularly compelling as Scarlet Witch, whose powers to access the minds and darkest fears of her opponents induce some emotional, trippy visions for our core heroes. Later we’re introduced to the sublime Vision (played by Paul Bettany, on screen in the flesh, finally! Rejoice!) whose amazing origins are a bit too spoilery to divulge here but he is really a marvel (sorry) to behold. His introduction is one of the quietest sequences and winds up being the most entrancing. I suspect he, more than Ultron, will be what gets the most people talking in the category of new characters.
What’s interesting about Ultron as the chief villain is the gray area he thrusts the Avengers into. It’s all well and good when a mysterious army descends upon New York to be defended by the group, but when they are the creator of the threat, the onus to protect civilians is that much greater. Thus for better or worse, much of our battle sequence time is dedicated to getting the innocent populous out of range. A novel concern for a blockbuster really, though one wonders how much care they receive from the Stark Relief Fund in the aftermath what with their country destroyed…This responsibility is what causes the most strife amongst our original team. With the next Captain America film being Civil War—a comic book conflict that saw Cap and Stark fighting over a government registration of the super powered— it’s really exciting to see that seed of disagreement take root, evencoming to blows in a way they hadn’t since Thor was still a stranger to humans.
As you may have guessed with all my talk of hero in-fighting and quiet sequences being the best, I truly believe that the real power in these films ultimately comes from the scenes where things aren’t exploding. These actors have lived in these characters for years now and Whedon wisely gives them a couple extended sequences in which they just get to be human for a while. Of course they would all try and lift Thor’s hammer (side note: Thor in a red sports coat? Four for you wardrobe department), and hey, maybe some of them even have a family life, how crazy. There’s especially touching exchanges between Ruffalo’s Banner and Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanov, both damaged in their own ways, that remind you just what an amazing caliber of actors this cast contains. Not to mention it’s especially pertinent to highlight their humanity in the face of legions of evil robots. I came away wishing for more of this in fact, since as far as I counted the film had four major city-leveling sequences to the first film’s two. Still, the destruction-fatigue continues to be offset by the cleverness embedded in the action—Cap’s shield certainly is a team player, even if that Hammer isn’t—and the cool new players in the field.
Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
I wish I had a book like this when I was a kid. “The Avengers Storybook Collection” is a must have for any parent with young boys or even young fan girls for that matter! There is nothing like getting ready a story filled with heroism, adventure and action just before going to slip. These stories are fun, exciting and feature some of our favorite Marvel superheroes. Even though, my daughter is a little young for this one, she still loves it and already came name every character on the cover!
Official Premise: Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Falcon are Earth’s Mightiest Marvels-the Avengers! Join them as they work together to battle against sinister Super Villains such as Ultron, Thanos, the Masters of Evil,and more, to keep the Earth safe. Featuring 20 explosive stories of good vs. evil. Avengers assemble!
Let’s hope that this Storybook Collection is the first of many. There are literally an infinite collection of characters that they can include in future collections. This one has 20 stories included with all of the favorites like Iron Man and Captain America but I would love to be able to introduce my daughter to some of the lesser known characters as well. They could even do a female superhero only book OOHHHH OOHHHH or even better a villains only book. Who wouldn’t want to read a new story featuring everyone’s favorite Avenger villain, Loki! Fingers crossed!
Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
For those wanting to brush up on all things Avengers prior to the release of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” the lasts release from author Peter A. David and Thunder Bay Press should do the trick. “Marvel” The Avengers Vault” is a 176 page hardcover release that is as the title suggests a vault of information related to each of the core Marvel Avengers. The book is broken down by chapter with each chapter being dedicated to one of 4 characters Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk. Each page of the book features beautiful full color art work printed on high quality paper. Another plus, the book is laid out very much like a comic book as each chapter delves deep in to the characters origins. If that alone isn’t enough separating each chapter are numerous envelope pages which include some really cool collectibles such as Iron Man concept art, (reproduction) Jack Kirby art and Captain America’s Sentinels of Liberty membership card to name just a few of these great extras.
Though the book appears to be aimed at hardcore Avenger collectors I found it to be very accessible and fun for all ages. Even if you skip the text readers can enjoy all of the really great art work from the four characters comic history all in one place. To close out the book readers are a treated to a glimpse of other upcoming Marvel heroes (Ant Man, Captain Marvel and Black Panther) who will be making their way to the film screen very shortly. Author Peter A. David really hit a home run with this book so if you are looking for something that can hold you over until the May release of “Age of Ultron” this book will certainly do the trick.
Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
Having a daughter, I have to try and cross her over from Princesses as much as I can while keeping the balance. She is already big on Star Wars, which is a score for daddy. So next to tackle is superheros. “Happy Holidays! From the Avengers” is a great way to start because my daughter loves the Holiday season and these characters are animated very well in this book to welcome a younger audience.
Official Premise: It was supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but after battling monsters and villains, the mighty Avengers just weren’t in the holiday spirit. Not even gifts form the Wasp could make their day merry. But who was that dashing through the snow? Could he save the Avengers and their holiday season?
The book also includes a read-along CD with none other narrating it than the voice of Stan Lee! This may not do anything for the younger kids but it is sure to grab the parents attention and get points in their book. It will also allow parents to share the information about Stan Lee to future get the younger kids involved in the history of the creator and the characters. Great book for younger kids, looks to enjoy the holidays with their favorite superheros.
- Book Review “Disney Frozen: Elsa’s Gift”
- Book Review “Barbie: A Special Christmas”
- Book Review “Disney Fairies: Bedtime Fairy Stories: A Treasury”
- Book Review “Walt Disney’s Classic Storybook (Volume 3)”
Photos by Liz Phillips
Note: There are spoilers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier within this article.
For New York City-bound Avengers fans looking to bridge the Marvel Cinematic Universe gap between April’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and August’s Guardians of the Galaxy, they needn’t look any further than Discovery Times Square’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. Located in the heart of midtown, the exhibit replicates an actual SHIELD base with state of the art interactive exhibits and Marvel artifacts. We got the chance to tour this unique experience during its preview period in late May and were glad to return last week to see its completion and test whether we were worthy of our newly-issued SHIELD ID cards.
Upon entry into the exhibit, “probationary” level agents are scanned and welcomed with an official message from none other than Agent Felix Blake (Titus Welliver). After Blake’s message, the entry room gives way into the further secret headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D. It should be noted for anyone reading this in confusion in light of what occurred in The Winter Soldier that this exhibit hails directly from Phase 1 in the MCU timeline, right after the events of the Avengers. Though it begs the question: How awesome would a HYDRA station be? Bring on the digitized Dr. Zola and his databanks brain, Marvel! But I digress.
After briefing, each Avenger gets highlighted starting with beautiful costume displays of the SHIELD agents Black Widow and Hawkeye (even if the mannequin’s arms don’t hold a candle to Mr. Renner’s). Beside them are the suits of SHIELD higher-ups Agent Phil Coulson and Director Nick Fury. Like most all of the props on view throughout the exhibit, the costumes are accompanied by touch screens giving in-depth info on the items on display. Other noteable props we encountered on our tour included Loki’s infamous helmet and scepter, the Tesseract portal device and of course, Captain America’s iconic shield.
What makes this exhibit special however, beyond its wealth of actual props and costumes, is that ID everyone was issued. As the station’s staff move recruits from the designated rooms of Captain America, The Hulk, Thor and Iron Man, would-be agents can scan into interactive exercises that test their skills versus the Avengers. Spoiler alert: None of us are stronger than Steve Rogers. It also allows users to share some of their results with Facebook if they chose to connect with the social network upon registering their ID.
Unsurprisingly, the most interactive room is that of Tony Stark himself where visitors can watch themselves get suited up on screen and maneuver Iron Man in his virtual garage or operate an actual robotic arm.*
The largest space belongs to Thor, whose costume from the first film is cleverly displayed as a gift from Asgard to Midgard. Beside it, S.T.A.T.I.O.N. boasts apparently the largest holographic projection in North America, that of Thor’s legendary hammer, Mjolnir. Across from these artifacts, agents can virtually manuever through stars in a program the center developed in collaboration with NASA. Jane Foster would be proud.
Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. at Discovery Times Square is now open and you can find ticketing information on their official website.
(Special thanks to Heather for being our model agent!)
*Our team discovered an amusing Easter egg in regards to this arm, clearly the exhibitors know their NYC audience! Head on over to our TUMBLR page to enjoy our short video as well as additional photos from the exhibit.
Titus Welliver first joined the Marvel universe in the short one-shot, “Item 47”. Taking place in the aftermath of the Battle of New York in 2012’s The Avengers, Welliver played SHIELD Agent Blake. The short saw Blake sending Agent Sitwell (later of “Hail HYDRA” fame, boooo, hiss!) to recover a lost Chitauri weapon from a pair of common criminals on a bank robbing spree. There it was implied he was previously the superior agent to Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson. No surprise then, with Coulson’s resurrection, Blake too cropped up on ABC’s Agents of SHIELD.
Now that SHIELD has a temporary NYC home at Discovery Times Square’s Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. with Agent Blake inducting new agents on a daily basis, Welliver dropped by for a tour with his family last week. He gamely tried out several of the interactive exhibits and visited with some important Marvel props (including Item 47 itself). I was happy to get to tagalong with them, along with the exhibit’s executive director, Mark Smith. Both men were extremely knowledgable on their Marvel comics and it was a pleasure to see the exhibit in the company of these enthusiastic fans.
Lauren Damon: When you did Item 47, did you know Agents of the SHIELD could be happening?
Titus Welliver: No, Agents of SHIELD was probably in the works at that time, I didn’t know that they were going to do an Agents of SHIELD show. So when I did Item 47, it was just–I flipped out. I was so excited to do it. Because Blake and in that he’s kind of a Walter Mitty character, you can kind of tell he’s just champing at the bit to get out in the field and do something.
LD: Agent Blake’s background is having been a superior officer to Agent Coulson, did you and Clark Gregg have any discussion on their roles before the Avengers?
TW: No, I mean we didn’t. Clark was my roommate in college, so we’ve known each other for a really long time so he sort of hinted after I did Item 47 that there was stuff coming down the pipe. So when we actually got to work together it was pretty funny for us because we were such total goofoffs in college and now we’re like these Agents of SHIELD being all serious standing on the helicarrier so it’s really fun.
LD: Your SHIELD episodes aired prior to The Winter Soldier premiering, after those events, where does that put Agent Blake?
TW: Well they’ve got to reconstruct SHIELD now from the ground up now that’s it’s been so heavily compromised and destroyed. So it will be interesting to see how they resurrect SHIELD within–and as you saw on the show, it ended on a pretty bleak note. So…those writers are so good. They’ll find a way to bring it back up and I’m just happy for the show because I think it’s a smart show. I don’t think we’ve had anything like that you know, maybe The X-Files sort of the closest comparison I could come up with. And that was a phenomenal show. But with the science and the whole
Marvel universe, because everything is so interconnected, the places they can go are kind of endless.
LD: Finally, who is your favorite Avenger?
TW: My favorite Avenger? Captain America.
TW: I mean…ahhh that’s hard! I mean, I like them all. But yeah, I’m a huge Captain America fan from way back and I have probably about eighty-five percent of the original Captain America comics. So yeah, I’m a big geek.
Fittingly, in Captain America’s space at the Discovery Center, I asked Mark Smith how they went about choosing which of Captain Rogers’s props would be placed within the exhibit:
Mark Smith: It’s based on the storyline really. So with Captain America, the rebirth pod was a big part of that. The initiation of the super soldier program itself so we wanted to make sure we had real props and costumes and pieces from the movie to be able to then blend into the storyline about how Captain America is the super soldier.
Marvel’s Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. is now open at 44th street in New York’s Times Square, you can read more about visiting the center at its official website . In the meantime, Titus Welliver can currently be seen in “Transformers: Age of Extinction”.
Disney Interactive today released additional details and a new trailer for Marvel’s The Avengers Play Set which will be available for Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition). Slated for release this fall, gamers will be invited to take part in a brand new true-to-property storyline crafted with the help of award-winning Marvel comic writer Brian Michael Bendis and featuring The Avengers Super Heroes Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Captain America, Hulk and Hawkeye.
Play Set: The Avengers Play Set is the first play set to be announced for Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes and features Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow, with Captain America, Hawkeye and Hulk sold separately. Players will take the role of earth’s mightiest heroes as they try to put an end to Loki’s cold-hearted plans to invade New York City. Along the way, they will learn that Loki isn’t working alone and that this is but the first step in a villainous plot that threatens the entire planet. The Avengers will need not only their strength and wits, but also the technology and insight of S.H.I.E.L.D. to have any chance of saving the world.
Toy Box: In the all-new Toy Box 2.0, players will be able to use Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and all of The Avengers characters, plus hundreds of Marvel-themed items, locations, props and vehicles, to create new and exciting adventures in customized worlds.
The Avengers Play Set and new Toy Box mode will be included in the Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes Starter Pack. Additional Play Sets and characters will be announced in the coming months.
- Disney and Marvel Team Up for Super-Powered Sequel – Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes (2.0 Edition)
- Full Character Lineup Revealed for “Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth”
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- Full Character Lineup Revealed for “Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth”
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Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars
When I saw that Sony and Marvel were teaming up for another animated feature film, I was psyched. I loved what they did with the past short series with Blade, Wolverine and X-Men. The animation style is reminiscence of a Japanese anime and the characters are given a slick make-over. As the title suggests, this film focus on two Marvel popular characters, Black Widow (voiced by Jennifer Carpenter, TV’s “Dexter”) and The Punisher (voiced by Brian Bloom, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3”). Don’t let the cover art fool you either with the image of Iron Man, Thor and Hulk, since they along with a few other Avengers appear for a few minutes in the last few minutes of the film. This is a Black Widow and (some of) Punisher story solely. Parents need to note this is a very HARD PG-13 rating, very violent for sure. Overall, I thought it was worth a watch, but nothing amazing.
Official Premise: After interfering with a top secret mission, THE PUNISHER is taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. AGENT and AVENGER, BLACK WIDOW. At the orders of Director Nick Fury, Punisher and Black Widow are sent on a mission to stop LEVIATHAN, a global terrorist organization that plans to sell stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. technology to the highest bidder. Now, the vigilante and spy must work together to prevent this technology from falling into the wrong hands. The fate of the world, and of the AVENGERS, hangs in the balance.
“Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher” is packaged as a Blu-ray/DVD combo with an HD Digital Ultraviolet copy included. Sony has always delivered consistently great animated titles. This film is no different it is a solid Blu-ray presentation. The animation style looks very sharp and the colors are very clear. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track works well with the action scenes especially the final act, which is pretty epic. In terms of special features are two making-of Featurettes & Blu-ray Exclusive Conceptual Art Gallery. The two featurettes are “Espionage and Punishment”, which dives into how these characters were adapted into this anime style. The Vigilante Vs. The Spy” takes a look at these two characters from an origin perspective.
Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: October 30, 2012
Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars
When it comes to “Marvel’s The Avengers”, they are the hottest ticket in not only film this year but also anything having to do with media in general. So the release of “Marvel Avengers: Battle For Earth” is not a shock. The game is a head-to-head fighting game where you can put iconic Marvel superheroes and villains against each other. You can choose from 20 classic Marvel characters, each one that is equipped with four unique superpowers. But this isn’t your typical fighting game you have to use motion to fight and trigger attacks using the Kinect. But it is met with mostly mixed results.
Like most fighting games there is a wide variety of game modes including Co-op, Campaign, Arcade, Challenges, Versus, and Tournament. Concerning the fighting system, it is decent and definitely not the worst I have ever come across, there is your typical use of Super Attacks, Velocity Boost, Breaker, or Frenzy to battle your opponents. On the plus side that didn’t make it a total bust for me, there is tons of extras to unlock as you go through the battles like unlocking unique outfits and collector cards.
The character line-up avaialble for “Marvel Avengers: Battle For Earth” is Black Widow, Captain America, Doctor Doom, Dr. Strange, Hawkeye, Human Torch, Iceman, Iron Man, Loki, Magneto, Phoenix, Queen Veranke, Scarlet Witch, Spider Man, Storm, Super Skrull, The Hulk, Thor, Venom and Wolverine.
I did enjoy getting a chance to control both the heroes and villains of the Marvel universe using my movements but it did get a little tiring. The capturing of my movement was also quite accurate. The graphics are also quite impressive with some sharp shading. I mean it is not super high-def but I feel that that was the angle that they were going for, more of a comic book look and not so polished. In the end, this will surely be loved by energetic kids under the age of 12. Adults might enjoy playing but will most likely loose interest after a short while.
Product Description: “Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth” is the ultimate superhero brawler. It features 20 different characters, including Avengers such as Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America and Thor, as well as other fan-favorite Super Heroes and Super Villains from the Marvel Universe. Players will use motion gameplay to execute explosive super attacks, unleash devastating special moves and play with friends or against the AI in a wide variety of game modes.
Ubisoft revealed the full lineup of Super Heroes and Super Villains for Marvel Avengers Battle for Earth and key art created by Marvel Comics artist Stefano Caselli. Fans will get to play as 20 different Marvel characters including:
1. Black Widow
2. Captain America
3. Doctor Doom
4. Dr. Strange
6. Human Torch
8. Iron Man
12. Queen Veranke
13. Scarlet Witch
14. Spider Man
16. Super Skrull
17. The Hulk
About Marvel Avengers Battle for Earth:
Marvel Avengers Battle for Earth is the ultimate super hero brawler set in authentic comic book-style art environments based on the iconic Secret Invasion storyline. Battle for Earth provides endless entertainment through a variety of gameplay modes including co-op, campaign, arcade, challenges, versus and tournament. Fans will enjoy embodying their favorite Marvel super heroes or villains within the game including Avengers Captain America, The Hulk, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Loki.
Developed by Ubisoft Quebec, Marvel Avengers Battle for Earth will be released in North America on Kinect for Xbox 360 on October 30th and Nintendo’s Wii U system this Holiday.
For more information on Marvel Avengers Battle for Earth, please visit: http://AvengersBattleforEarth.com