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James Spader’s Creepiest Performances Before The Avengers: Age of Ultron

When you stop and think about it, Marvel's announcement that James Spader will be playing Joss Whedon's latest Big Bad, the ass-kicking robot Ulton, in 2015's sure-to-be top-grossing movie The Avengers: Age of Ultron... despite what those Jarvis conspiracy theorists would have you believe. No, what's really surprising is that it's taken Spader this long to play a comic-book villain. The dude has been a grade-A onscreen creep since the late '80s, when movies like Less Than Zero pushed him onto a bad boy path that most recently led to his starring role as a Hannibal Lecter-style mentor on NBC's action-packed fall series The Blacklist. Considering his resume, he's the ideal choice to put Iron Man & Co. through their paces. Here are the future Ultron's five creepiest movie roles to date.

5 Things to Expect Now that Ben Affleck Is Batman

Now that we've all had a few hours to digest the head-scratching Ben Affleck is Batman news, here are five things this dubious casting announcement implies.

The World’s End: Childhood’s End

by Ethan Alter August 23, 2013 5:55 am
The World’s End: Childhood’s End

Ever since Shaun of the Dead kicked off their so-called Cornetto Trilogy, Edgar Wright and his regular cohorts Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have repeatedly stated that they aren't mere spoof-meisters à la the classic Zucker-Abrams-Zucker crew or the more recent Friedberg & Seltzer team. Sure, both Shaun and its follow-up Hot Fuzz directly riff on specific genres and films the trio in charge grew up watching, but they aren't an Meet the Spartans-style assemblage of pop culture-derived sketches. Or, for that matter, a Top Secret!-like tapestry of nuttiness mostly untethered to things like plot and character development. Rather, they argue, each of the individual entries in the Cornetto series is a movie unto itself, where they use familiar genre tropes and famous movie scenes they've carried with them since childhood to advance a new story and set of themes. That line of reasoning gets its strongest workout in The World's End, the last Cornetto film and by far the most dramatically ambitious of their collaborations to date.

Much Ado About Nothing: A Joss Whedon Fan’s Early Summer Night’s Dream

As devoted Joss Whedon acolytes know, the Geek God has long had a relationship with the Immortal Bard, staging regular readings of classic Shakespeare plays in his humble home with various cast members from his various TV shows stopping by to speak Shakespeare's speech on their days off from mouthing Whedon's lines. Though these readings were sadly never taped for public consumption, it was a thrill for Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse fans (yes, there really are some of the latter -- I'm one of them) to imagine the possible actor/role match-ups that went on behind the closed doors of the Whedon homestead. How about Eliza Dushku and J. August Richards as Juliet and her Romeo? Or Anthony Stewart Head holding court as Falstaff with Nathan Fillion's Prince Hal sitting at his feet? With Much Ado About Nothing, Whedon finally invites audiences into his living room... literally. This contemporary version of Shakespeare's comedy of (mostly bad) manners was filmed entirely on the grounds of the director's home and features a rash of familiar Whedon faces trading in his pop-culture laced quips for the flowery language of another era. It's a delight for Whedonites, but -- I'm sorry to say -- a rather mediocre production of Shakespeare.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Be My Teenage Dream

by Ethan Alter September 21, 2012 6:00 am
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Be My Teenage Dream

Much like adolescence itself, the new coming-of-age drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower contains moments of beauty and insight drifting in a sea of melodrama. Adapted by author Stephen Chbosky from his 1999 YA novel of the same name (a book I must confess I haven't read), this is the kind of movie that my 14-year-old self probably would have fallen head over heels for, as it effectively transplants the '80s John Hughes model of teenagers with more heart than good sense talking endlessly about their problems to my old stomping ground in the early '90s. Twenty years removed from that time period (not to mention that version of myself), it's still easy to be pulled into the movie by the tug of nostalgia, but I can also see through the story's cracks more clearly, in the same way that whenever I re-watch The Breakfast Club nowadays, I actually find myself sympathizing with Assistant Principal Vernon for having to waste a whole Saturday babysitting a bunch of naval-gazing, back-talking teenagers.

More Cabin Fever: The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion

Still piecing your mind back together after having it blown by The Cabin in the Woods this weekend? Keep your obsessions about the film alive by picking up the photo-heavy, information-dense tome The Cabin in the Woods: The Official Visual Companion, from Titan Books. Here are five good reasons to add this to your bookshelf:

Telling Tales From Development Hell

by Ethan Alter February 28, 2012 6:01 am
Telling Tales From Development Hell

Everyone knows that Tom Selleck was going to be Indiana Jones before his Magnum P.I. commitment passed the fedora and bullwhip along to Harrison Ford instead. But were you also aware that an early draft of the screenplay for the film that would become Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull featured cameos by such characters as Sallah, Willie and Short Round? That's one of the many fun pieces of behind-the-scenes trivia you'll learn in David Hughes's, Tales From Development Hell, which explores the fortunes of some of the greatest movies never made. An updated version of his 2004 tome of the same name, this new edition, which hits stores today, reveals what happened to such high-profile, development hell stranded projects as Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger's medieval epic, Crusade, Darren Aronofsky's gritty Batman reboot Year One and the multiple big-screen versions of Neil Gaiman's beloved Sandman comic. We won't spoil all of the secrets that this enjoyable, well-researched book has to offer, but here are a few choice tidbits sure to whet movie lovers' appetites.

Avengers Assemble!: A Guide to Marvel Studio's Easter Eggs

This week Marvel Studios is releasing Captain America: The First Avenger, a period superhero adventure starring one of their most recognizable characters. But it's also a prelude to the company's next feature, which will be a kind of comic-book movie that hasn't been attempted on the big-screen before: a team-up adventure that unites some of Marvel's biggest heroes -- including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans) and The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, taking over from Ed Norton and Eric Bana) -- to combat a global threat. The title, of course, is The Avengers, the same name of the Marvel supergroup that's been battling bad guys in the four-color pages of the company's comics since 1963. Geek icon (and part-time comics scribe) Joss Whedon is writing and directing the film, which also stars Samuel L. Jackson as the group's leader, Nick Fury, Scarlett Johansson as the leather-jumpsuit clad spy, the Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as the ace archer, Hawkeye. Naturally, a project as ambitious as The Avengers didn't come together overnight. Marvel has been laying the groundwork for this film since the first Iron Man hit theaters in 2008, slipping in visual and verbal references to Avengers-lore in all their standalone superhero features. Here's a film-by-film guide to some of the Easter Eggs that have pointed the way to The Avengers

The Cool Nerd’s Guide to The Incredible Hulk

The excellent comic book review and discussion web site iFanboy recently released a vlog interview with Marvel comics Godfather and mascot Stan Lee. One of the questions asked of Lee, creator of such heroes as Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four, was what one creation of his, and long-time partner Jack Kirby, surprised even him with its level of success? His answer begrudgingly was The Hulk.

The Cool Nerd’s Guide to Iron Man

by Michael Neal May 1, 2008 2:32 pm
The Cool Nerd’s Guide to Iron Man

In most ways a comic book movie is like any other movie: If you have a good story with good acting and good direction, then the film will be good. But let's say your story is about Superman crusading for nuclear disarmament (in the '80s no less), or you've cast Ben Affleck in the lead, or, God forbid, Brett Ratner sits at the helm of it with his giant diamond encrusted megaphone...not good.

The essential part of making a good movie that is based on a comic book is, simply put, to get it right. Getting it right means you nail the hero, the costume and the story so well even Jeff Albertson can't complain. For the studio that means a movie supported by both the mainstream cool kids and comic book schlubs like me -- the multitude of multiple ticket-buying nerds who feed the hype machine and then clamor for more.

So I thought since there are so many new comic book movies on the horizon, and I have such a unique perspective being part nerd and part mainstream cool kid, I would bridge this demographic gap by judging new comic book movies according to my four touchstones of authenticity. Consider me the Obama-figure of unimportant difference, straddling the divide like the Colossus of Rhodes.

TAGS: iron man

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