AVENGERS & FOURTEEN TELEVISION SHOWS CANCELLED
THE GLORIOUS CORNER
Story By: G. H. HARDING
|Robert Downey Jr.|
AVENGERS ASSEMBLE --- OK, I finally saw the long-awaited Avengers sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, from Marvel this weekend. But first, a few observations. During the trailers, I saw two more Marvel-produced films: the Fantastic Four re-boot and Ant Man, starring Paul Rudd and Michael Douglas . . . and they both looked great.
The SRO audience at the showing I attended was pretty much all kids, but there were more adults than I would have thought and the usual sprinkling of fan-boys and girls. When it comes to this type of picture, that demographic always bestows on movie crowds a certain bit of cred, right?
The movie deals with Ultron, the artificial-intelligence (AI) life form that Tony Stark (a.k.a., Iron Man) and Bruce “Hulk” Banner had hoped to create as an iron shield around the Earth. Things go awry, and you can probably guess the rest.
Truth be told, in the original Marvel book’s original story, “Hank Pym,” no less a character than Ant Man was the one who created Ultron. Only the true-blue and hardcore fans of the comic will notice this change, though. Regardless of that small change, the new storyline works remarkably well.
Face it, these Marvel movies are the new blockbuster gems of our age. Robert Downey, Jr. has indeed made this Iron Man role entirely his own. He remains spectacular in the part; and after three solo movies and this—his second journey in the Avengers—he remains spot-on perfect.
Mark Ruffalo, always a personal favorite, is great as Banner/Hulk; and Johansson’s quiet moments with Ruffalo are pure gold. Also terrific in the film are Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye and Chris Hemsworth as Thor.
There are also many, many cameos (Nick Fury, The Falcon, etc.) from other Marvel characters, as well as the proper introduction of The Vision (one of my favorite Marvel characters ever!). It’s all brought together in one flick, and it all works.
There’s a moment in the film where all the Avengers have to retreat to a safe house. While I won't spoil the moment, suffice it to say that it’s a terrific emotion-packed sequence. Unexpected, but brilliant.
James Spader (who voices Ultron) is great, too; in many ways, hearing his distinctive voice made it feel like I was watching a two-hour episode of The Blacklist.
Considering how much he had to deal with, director Joss Whedon has done just a phenomenal job. The story is tight, and the action sequences are mesmerizing . . . I loved it. Now I can’t wait until they release Avengers 3!
MILK & HONEY --- Last night’s penultimate episode of Mad Men, “The Milk and Honey Route,” was a disturbing installment on many levels. Betty is sick, and may even have died by the time the episode ends; I thought this because a letter that Betty instructed Sally to open and read only in the event of her death . . . is opened and read.
Don Draper continued on his road trip, only to stop at a no-motel somewhere. After befriending a bunch of veterans, Don is given a beating the next morning as some money is stolen. (A similar thing happened in David Fincher’s film last year of the bestselling Gillian Flynn novel Gone Girl—but if you’re going to borrow an idea from that book and film, you might as well borrow from the best!)
By the end of the episode, we watch as Don gives his car key to the man who took the funds. He leaves quickly and Don remains on a bench in the scene.
I can't believe that everything will be wrapped up in next week’s final episode—but if anyone can do it, it’s Matt Weiner.
It also appears, by the way, that Don is through with New York City and the advertising game. He may very well revert to his original identity (“Dick Whitman”) in the show’s final installment. I can't quite fathom that next week will be the end of the show. I am missing it already.
RON HOWARD’S BEATLEMANIA --- Here’s an update on Ron Howard's upcoming documentary on The Beatles. The rock doc, now in post- production, will focus on the band's touring years in the early to mid-1960's, when the Fab Four invaded America and helped spread Beatlemania from its origin point back in England to encompass practically the entire world.
“This has been a fantastic project to be involved with!” Howard said via Facebook. Along with interviews and stock footage, Howard will incorporate amateur video footage from Beatles fans to recreate previously unseen concerts.
Additionally, Apple Corps (still the group's management organization) has opened its vast archives to Howard for the film. His is recognized as a fully-authorized documentary that is being produced with full cooperation of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono Lennon, and Olivia Harrison.
This will be Howard's second music documentary, following the Jay-Z festival film Made in America in 2013.
Howard’s next feature film release will be the nautical epic In the Heart of the Sea starring Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker and Cillian Murphy. It is set to open in theaters on December 11.
Right now, Howard is in Italy with Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones filming Inferno—the third film in bestselling author Dan Brown’s “Robert Langdon Series” following The Da Vinci Code (2006) and 2009’s Angels & Demons.
CLOSING NOTES--- On my way to the movie theater, I stopped in at Barnes & Noble and went to view the music section. I was astounded by just how many books I found there. Rock bios on the likes of: Eric Clapton (two different books), Kurt Cobain (also two books, plus the incendiary and deeply personal HBO-produced documentary Montage of Heck—probably the definitive story of Cobain’s tragically short life, with his daughter Frances Bean Cobain in the mix as one of three executive producers on the project), Herbie Hancock, Black Sabbath, Stevie Nicks, Jim Peterik, Mike Rutherford (he of both Genesis and Mike + the Mechanics fame), Lou Reed (written by Victor Bockris), Kim Gordon, David Bowie, John Lydon, Duff McKagen, Patti Smith, Billy Idol, Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, Carlos Santana, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Paul Stanley (Kiss), Slash, Bobby Hart (one half of songwriting team Boyce and Hart), Mick Fleetwood, Ann Wilson (Heart), Jerry Lee Lewis . . . the selection and variety is simply amazing! And there are a bunch more in the pipeline, like a tell-all from John Oates (the member of Hall & Oates who looks the most like Howard Stern’s producer, Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate) and a long-awaited one from John Fogerty . . . I've never before seen such a wide selection of top-notch books available in this genre . . .
Well, it looks like Ryan Seacrest will have to change his trademark sign-off “Seacrest Out!” to “American Idol out!” That’s right, it has been formally announced by FOX that the upcoming 15th season of American Idol will be its last. The show is being canceled. From my own vantage point, I think that they might well have canceled the show five years ago instead of waiting until now. I truly don't even know anyone who is still watching it. The only show of this kind that seems to have maintained a major network rating has been ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Everyone has their opinion, but I'm thankful that the show brought forth both Adam Lambert and Jennifer Hudson—and, of course, the mixed brew of twitchy and bitchy that was the essence of Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell as side-by-side music judges. It will be interesting to see what is done in the final season—but honestly, the show jumped the shark a few years back. Wonder if Brian Dunkelman will be back for the final installment. Dunkelman was of course, the original co-host along with Ryan ...
Speaking of cancellations . . . Fourteen (count ‘em!) TV shows were canceled last week in a span of 24 hours. That must be a new record. More details Wednesday, but let's just restate our belief that the last TV season was certainly not among the best . . .
And, how good was Florence + The Machine on SNL this past weekend? Superb!