Blast Off #30: Black Panther & Captain Marvel lead Marvel’s Movie Rampage on DC

The Team Focus Blast Off is back, with Ernie Estrella making his triumphant return. From The Flash. Arrow, Gotham and Agents of SHIELD to the Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Avengers: Infinity War movies, we’re talking about the comics storm taking place on TV and in Film. How do you think the Film/TV war is stacking up between the two comics publishing behemoths?

Listen to the Team Focus Blast Off #30 with Bags Hooper and Ernie Estrella below:

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Follow @bagshooper and @ernieestrella on Twitter.

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ braves new worlds for Marvel fans to devour

If you’ve been waiting for just one shoe to drop for Marvel Studios and their streak of entertaining superhero films to end with Guardians of the Galaxy, you had better hold your breath… at least until the Ant-Man movie. When first announced, Guardians of the Galaxy was met with skepticism and trepidation (myself included) given that there was no link to the Avengers in any sort, the story took place in deep outer space, and it featured a gun-toting smack-talking raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and a living tree (Vin Diesel). But anyone who has read or is reading the comics, both the current run, and the essential Volume 2 (2008-2010) by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, knew its potential for taking the Marvel Cinematic Universe to places where there are no limits–if they could pull it off. Boy, did they ever.


Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is abducted by aliens shortly after experiencing personal tragedy and 26 years later finds himself in a intergalactic heist story, too far away from Earth to tell if he’ll ever see home again. The only thing he has to remember where he’s from are his memories, an old cassette walkman (that’s before compact discs for all you young-ins) with an eclectic mix tape and an unwrapped present from his mother. His life is like that of a scavenger from the wild west, retrieving artifacts or people and selling them to the highest bidder. He learned much from his abductor, Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) but his latest score draws the attention of the ruthless Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), a servant of Thanos (Josh Brollin) who last made a brief appearance in the credits of the Avengers. Bounty hunters, galactic police, and planet destroyers all come after him and amongst those hunting him down is Thanos’ adopted daughter, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to retrieve the orb.

This cast is extremely charismatic and jells together before too long, which contrasts the Avengers, who by design, bicker and clash constantly. Pratt is going to win over anyone who wasn’t already a fan of his work in Parks and Rec. As the lone link to Earth–actually, there’s a big soundtrack of recognizable rock and soul hits from the 1970s–the audience doesn’t need to work hard to like Quill. He’s a renegade jokester, is brash and arrogant but never tries to skate away from danger. He takes it head on. Though she’s been in other team genre films like The Losers and Star Trek, Saldana gets the right amount of screen time is noticeably at ease as Gamora. As for the rest of the Guardians, Bautista’s Drax is hard to embrace at first, but quickly grows on you by the end of the film and Rocket and Groot as anticipated, steal the entire freaking show.


On the other side, Karen Gillan’s Nebula is a lovely femme fatale in blue, and also sporting that hue is Rooker’s Yondu, who is anything but good, but is not necessarily evil either. It’s clear that there are bigger and badder things in store for Thanos down the road, but Ronan is plenty wicked enough. The subversive relationship he has with Thanos makes for a tumultuous relationship that’s ready to boil over. Unfortunately, with so many moving pieces and characters, Ronan gets a similar treatment to the Red Skull in Captain America, where one can run wild at the thought of his brutality, but we simply  don’t see enough of it. Much of his dirty work is feared through conversations, so there are some missed opportunities there. Don’t worry Marvel-ites, my greed only comes from good results.

For comic book and science-fiction nuts, there’s plenty to gush over, including imaginative spaceship designs, gadgets, quick cameos and eye-gaping worlds realized like the inter-dimensional outpost/observatory, Knowhere. I wished Marvel was a little more creative in the design of its alien races since most are a humanoid form with some differences in radiant body paint and wardrobe and curiously, they all spoke English. Still, these are minor quibbles rather than overall deficiencies, of which there are none that truly weigh the story or pace down.


Fun is an overused adjective to describe Guardians, but it is exactly that in both tone and spirit. Why complicate an uncomplicated film? Humor is infused at all the right spots and calling any specific moment out would just ruin the experience. Viewers will be flooded with that feeling of unbridled joy, more consistently than Avengers, and be rewarded for taking the chance with a ticket in hand. Outside of a few relationships being under developed (Quill and Yondu for example) and some more desired screen time for a few other cosmic beings, Guardians is as tight of a space romp since The Fifth Element. From Rocket and Groot, the dozens of characters introduced, to exploding the MCU far beyond the Nine Realms seen in the Thor films, success was achieved. There was little that misfired. It was ambitious to build several worlds from scratch and hope the audience wants to take a ride with unproven drivers behind the wheel, but they did it and  this is a film that is sure to grow on viewers with each repeated viewing. If you weren’t inundated with fans yelling “Hail Hydra” after The Winter Soldier, just wait for the choruses of “I am Groot!” to ring out.

Director and co-writer James Gunn came up with a terrific tale with Nicole Perlman; they extracted the most translatable elements of Abnett and Lanning’s comic run and executed a polished space adventure with legs. Seeds are planted for the scheduled sequel and future threads into the upcoming Avengers films. Now new franchises can be explored without little effort, like Nova or Adam Warlock. Warner Bros. and DC Comics would never admit to it, but Guardians of the Galaxy achieved everything they wanted to do with Green Lantern and more, with what looked like less effort. That gives hope to the future of Marvel Studios, in being able to sustain itself after Robert Downey Jr. eventually walks away. Eventually, whatever momentum it builds for itself will merge with the Avengers films. Think about that for a second.

Eat like Galactus, Marvel fans, there’s still much more to consume.

Quicksilver Doubles down, Marvel Speedster to appear in X-Men: Days of Future Past & Avengers 2

It’s a boy! In 2014, Michael Fassbender is having a boy – on screen that is. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Fassbender, who plays Magneto, will appear alongside Evan Peters, who has just been cast as Magneto’s son Quicksilver.

Bryan Singer confirmed the news on Twitter:

Before he was an #Avenger, he was just a REALLY fast kid. Thrilled to say #EvanPeters is joining #XMen #DaysOfFuturePast as #Quicksilver.

Quicksilver (aka Pietro Maximoff), Marvel Comics’ mutant version of DC’s Flash, will also be appearing in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers 2. Peters is not been confirmed for both films. Fox controls the rights to the X-Men franchise, while Disney holds The Avengers. So Whedon need not go with Peters in his Avengers sequel.

It’s unclear how Quicksilver will be portrayed in the latest X-Men movie. In the comics, the speedster was part of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, founded by Quicksilver’s father Magneto. At that time, Quicksilver was “evil”, as the name suggested and predominantly wore a green suit. Later, he parted ways with his father and joined The Avengers, donning a blue outfit.

Quicksilver’s twin sister is the Scarlet Witch, real name Wanda Maximoff. The Scarlet Witch is confirmed to appear in Avengers 2 as well. Does anyone smell cross over flick? Don’t hold your breath.

Source: Twitter

Avengers 2 vs. Marvel Studios – Franchise Future in Limbo

Team Focus discusses the fate of the Avengers franchise of movies as contract negotiations go awry, between actor demands and studio budgets. While most will agree that Robert Downey Jr can’t be replaced, especially following the box office sales of Iron Man 3, Marvel Studios may not be against replacing Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson and/or Scarlett Johannsen.

Can Marvel feasibly hold on to Downey Jr and the rest of the cast through Avengers 2 and a subsequent Avengers 3 movie? Team Focus discusses the possibilities in our latest Blast Off.

Listen to the podcast below:

iron man the avengers robert downey jr

Tune in weekly for more discussion by Subscribing to the Team Focus Blast Off on iTunes.

Be sure to Follow hosts Bags Hooper and Ernie Estrella on Twitter for more.

Sorry Hulk fans, Ruffalo smashes Bruce Banner dreams prior to Avengers 2

Mark Ruffalo.

He made us believe in the Hulk once again.

Now, he’s smashing rumors on any new cinematic returns of the Incredible Hulk – prior to The Avengers 2.

“A lot of folks have been asking about the next Hulk,” Ruffalo shared on Twitter. “The next time you see my Hulk it will be in The Avengers 2. No plans for standalone.”

Our hearts bleed to hear the news. The Hulk was done so well in The Avengers. Ruffalo could definitely pull off a standalone appearance and carry a film as Bruce Banner and his Mr. Hyde counterpart. The problem, however, is that the script would need a great writer and director to get attached to the film. Then, the studios would have to front the money to make it happen. Sadly, after 2003’s abysmal Ang Lee Hulk film and 2008’s subsequent Edward Norton reboot (which was mediocre at best, but suffered from several production problems behind the scenes), another Hulk standalone movie will perpetually sit in limbo.

Perhaps if the fans speak out enough, it can happen. But based on Ruffalo’s words, it doesn’t seem likely.

Blu-ray: Marvel’s The Avengers is THE superhero movie to own – for now

When I first saw The Avengers on the big screen I worried if it could be as large and as magnificent on the smaller screen. Few blockbuster films had achieved such success in creating a fun experience and the size of screen help sell audiences on the Marvel Universe gone wild. But believe me, true believers, if you have a tricked out home theater this is one of the essential blu-ray purchases you’ll make this year.

The Avengers accomplished Marvel Studios’ Phase I in spades. It collected all of these larger than life characters established in other films, and put them on a bigger stage against more unimaginable villains for the big screen. They used the solo films to develop these characters and then brought the all-star cast together to accomplish a few more goals–besides making gobs of money, that is: 1) To kick cinema ass. 2) Expand the horizons of the Marvel Film Universe and 3) Begin laying the foundation of Phase II, towards a second Avengers film that would be an ambitious achievement in franchise construction and comic book film history.

The Avengers didn’t let down the audience, it earned all of those multiple viewings, and it brought people out into the theaters in massive waves throughout the summer. Its success also cemented Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and Mark Ruffalo in their superhero roles for the foreseeable future. Robert Downey Jr. is already a fixture amongst moviegoers. It also made us believe that The Hulk can work (in bites) on film, reaffirmed Joss Whedon as a god amongst the geeks and the mainstream, and it made sure that comic book movies are here to stay, for a long, long time.

EDITOR’S PICK: Joss Whedon Presents The Ultimate Superhero Experience

avengers loki

Technically this film is just short of being reference material, but it’s not so much the way the blu-ray was produced, it’s more the way it was shot. One major complaint I had with the film when seeing it in 3D at the theaters was that wearing glasses darkens the already muddy images making scenes like the battle in the woods, and the opening sequence of the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility collapsing almost impossible to view without squinting. Although that’s a trait in Whedon’s work, now that I think about it, several episodes of Angel were also extremely dark to the eye. That hasn’t improved on blu-ray, regardless if it’s in 2D or 3D. Still the film looks great in high definition where the scenes are considerably brighter. Skin tones are natural, filled with warmth, textures look accurate even when it’s made up of computer graphics and fans will wonder at all of the intricate details in costumes.

What will help give the blu-ray ample replay is the audio. Atmospheric sounds and LFE are given a big boost to suck you into your sofa. The final battle scene in New York will be playing in home theater demo rooms for the next year for sure, with its spatial movement of the Chitauri army populating the city. The Avengers has wonderful sound design throughout and there’s never a feeling that you’re not getting your money’s worth.

Special features aren’t as robust as some of the other solo Avengers films, in fact they’re a little on the underwhelming side but there’s a terrific Joss Whedon audio commentary that lays down a track full of anecdotes, dry wit, and technical information for all of the film school junkies. It doesn’t come with any pretention; it’s just straight talk, from one geek to all to the fanboys and fangirls. There’s no shortage of compliments from Whedon to his cast and crew so expect that going in.

Beyond the essential Whedon talk track, the Marvel One-Shot:Item 47 is the other standout supplement, taking a cue from Marvel Studios’ not-so-distant cousin, Pixar in trying to expand out some of the threads planted in the film. I hope they open each of the upcoming Marvel films with shorts. They give the audience a hors d’ oeurve to think about and push out the borders of the Marvel Film Universe and its far reaches.

In Item 47, Jesse Bradford and Lizzy Caplan play a Bonnie and Clyde-like couple doing bank heists with a Chitauri weapon that they’ve been able to work. It makes you buy into the world more and gives a taste of what ABC’s Joss Whedon-produced S.H.I.E.L.D. television show could be like. It’s also a good test to see if minor characters could work on a bigger scale. As I said above, there’s a lot of work to get to the end of Phase II, so every little bit counts, counting short films.

The rest of the disc is filled with the usual unimaginative EPK fluff including a gag reel, deleted and extended scenes, a Soundgarden music video, and two featurettes that skim the surface of what could’ve been.  The Avengers Initiative is a feature to try and bring a second screen experience where you can tap into the S.H.I.E.L.D. database and look up factoids while you’re watching the film. The accompanied DVD only has the two featurettes and Whedon’s commentary.

It’s hard not to feel like another, bigger release of this blu-ray with more bells and whistles is coming, maybe when Iron Man 3 is released in theaters. There’s also a giant, 10-disc box set that’s rumored to come down the line at some point. If Blu-Ray and DVD collectors feel like The Avengers was short-changed when it comes to extras, it’s because they were. But the film will still get dozens of spins in the player and in the end, that’s what counts the most. It’s got action, humor, fantasy, and an overflowing amount of awe-inspiring movie magic, the super hero film of the year is easily this year’s blu-ray to own, even if you have to purchase a better version of it again in the near future.

The Avengers [Blu-ray]

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston and Samuel Jackson
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Writer: Joss Whedon
Studio: Disney/Marvel Studios
Release Date: September 25, 2012

9 / 10

Frank Grillo to play Villainous Lead in ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier’

Disney is the place where announcements are being made this week. First they purchase Lucasfilm and now they’re making more announcements on Phase 2 of one of the upcoming Marvel films, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Frank Grillo has been cast to play Crossbones, an assassin employed by the Red Skull, and the main villain in the Captain America sequel.

frank grillo winter soldierwinter soldier

Comics writer, Ed Brubaker used the mercenary Crossbones as a major piece to his Winter Soldier saga from which the movie is based on. For those unfamiliar with Crossbones, he is more of a hand-to-hand street fighting combatant than he is a super-powered being who is deadly with a wide range of weapons. In Brubaker’s landmark story, Crossbones carried out all of the Red Skull’s dirty work, including the assassination of Steve Rogers.

Longtime BuzzFocus readers will remember Grillo from his role as Nick Savrinn in Prison Break and recently he’s played big parts in some of our favorite films like The Grey and Warrior. He’ll also start in Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film, Zero Dark Thirty and Warner Bros.’ Gangster Squad. His casting is an excellent one in our opinion for Crossbones and the thought of Cap engaged in closer combat excites us too.

Grillo tweeted this late Tuesday night: “Much thanks and appreciation for the kind words. I’m over the moon about being Crossbones.”

Captain America: The Winter Soldier picks up from the end of The Avengers and will feature Chris Evans once again as the lead role of Steve Rogers/Captain America with Samuel Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and Colbie Smulders reprising their roles as Nick Fury, Black Widow and SHIELD Agent Maria Hill. Sebastian Stan will return as Bucky Barnes who we last saw fall off a speeding train into the cliffs of European mountain range. He miraculously survived and eventually becomes The Winter Soldier, a tool of the KGB during the Cold War. Also schedule to be in the film is Anthony Mackie who plays Sam Wilson/The Falcon. Meanwhile the search continues for an actress to play Sharon Carter. Anthony and Joe Russo are directing. The Winter Soldier is set for an April 4, 2014 release date.

Prepare for Ming-Na Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Syfy star lands role on Avengers TV spin-off

Although spinning off a movie into a TV series is never a good idea, when Buffy the Vampire Slayer legend Joss Whedon is attached to it – you have to hope for the best.

Whedon signed Ming-Na will to a role on ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot, the series is a direct spin-off of Marvel’s Avengers movie. We’re fans of Ming-Na from her time on Syfy, with roles on Stargate Universe and Eureka – back when Syfy stood for sci-fi.

Clark Gregg was the first actor tied to the new TV series. Gregg starred as Clark Gregg in The Avengers, where most thought he was dead. Wrong. He’s back and on TV.

ABC green lit the pilot order for The Avengers spin-off in August. The series focuses on the secret organization that governs the Marvel Universe. However, we probably won’t see Sam Jackson as Nick Fury on the TV series, except for maybe a cameo spot or two.

Since the series will be in continuity with the movies, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens if and when S.H.I.E.L.D. gets a full series order. With Avengers 2 already in the works, also helmed by Whedon, he’ll have his work cut out for him trying to keep all the stories together.

Right now, Whedon is the biggest name in comic book adapted projects on the big screen. Christopher Nolan held the position for nearly a decade, before concluding his reign with The Dark Knight Rises.

Source: Deadline

James Gunn is first approached to direct Marvel Studios’ challenging ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

The Marvel Studios’ Phase 2 films are filled with no-brainer sequels from Iron Man 3 to Thor 2: The Dark World. The one in particular that I am most excited to see reach the big screen is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which should be largely based on the landmark Ed Brubaker story that ran in comics in the late 2000s, reintroducing Cap’s WWII sidekick, Bucky as an assassin working for the KGB. Then there’s Ant-Man, which I strangely have all the confidence in the world, given Edgar Wright’s involvement. But the big elephant in the room is the Guardians of the Galaxy– the pivotal film of Phase 2. Marvel is very clear in trying to reproduce the same big screen magic that The Avengers created but up in space–a great challenge no doubt. So why are they talking to James Gunn, Peyton Reed and the directing pair of Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden?

Guardians of the Galaxy

Gunn is their first choice according to THR because of his ability to combine genres seemlessly from comedy and horror to superero dramas. Some of that was developed in creating films for the low-budget schlock factory, Troma Entertainment, as well as directing two low-budget films, the slice-of-life drama about a crime-fighting vigilante, Super with Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page, and Slither, a horror comedy that starred Nathan Fillion and Elizabeth Banks.

That’s a pretty big car being gifted to a director/writer without some major box office success, but Marvel is willing to see how it can make these films and keep the costs down. Sometimes careers are made on calculated risks and there’s a lot to like about Super and I can see how comparisons with Gunn have been made to Avengers director, Joss Whedon. By banking on talent on the rise, Marvel is able to save some money and at the same time help vault the career of a director who has shown the potential to be a blockbuster filmmaker. It’s a smart way to do it, but there’s always the risk of being a flop. So far, Marvel has not swung and missed with its loyal fan base, unlike say Warner Bros. did with Green Lantern but Guardians of the Galaxy will require a similar leap of space faith.

The roster for Guardians of the Galaxy are Star-Lord (weapons combatant), Groot (an alien plant monster), Drax the Destroyer (a warrior with Hulk-like strength), Gamora (an cybernetically-enhanced assassin) and an anthropomorphic military tactician Rocket Raccoon.

Why try to introduce some massive space saga when everything besides Thor has taken place on Earth? For those who stayed through the Avengers‘ credits saw a teaser with Thanos as the big baddie Marvel is building towards in Phase 2. Thanos is one of the cosmic characters in the Marvel Universe and is potentially one of the, if not THE biggest, baddest villains every to be drawn on Marvel’s pages. Thanos has two ties to the Guardians of the Galaxy team.

One is Gamora, the last surviving member of her planet who was saved and then trained by Thanos as his best assassin. She would become his adopted daughter and he gifted her with enhanced speed, strength and agility from Thanos. Then there’s Drax who was once a human named Arthur Douglas. Douglas’ family was attacked by Thanos and his ship when visiting the Earth. His daughter survived, and was taken away and raised by Thanos’ father, Mentor. Fearing Thanos’ power, Mentor tethers Douglas’ spirit to a powerful warrior’s body with superhuman strength and energery blasts and becomes Drax who is repurposed to destroy Thanos. Drax can also sense Thanos’ location with the power of psychic detection.

In case you haven’t noticed, the original roots of the characters from the comics will be a challenge to adapt and establish these relationships to a wide audience. The Marvel film universe tends to build on itself, so let’s see what Thor 2, Iron Man 3 and Captain America 2 establish too that will help audiences embrace what Guardians plans to be.

Having two characters tied directly to Thanos puts a greater importance on Guardians of the Galaxy and it’s connection to Avengers 2. Rather than have Thanos come down and have some gripe with Earth, it sounds like they can lay the motive behind what Thanos has done to Gamora and Drax and have the Avengers be called upon to assist.

I think I’d still like to see some form of Nova or Captain Marvel be introduced as well. Nova has ties to Gamora, is a cosmic character of great legend in Marvel Universe, and is visually cool. Chris McCoy has been hired to rewrite the original script by Nicole Perlman and I don’t envy anyone trying to make sense of this in a screenplay. We’ll see Gunn takes the assignment. Marvel tends to have their priority set with casting and directing and then move down the line should Gunn pass. Boden and Fleck co-directed Half Nelson. Reed directed The Break-Up, Down with Love, and Bring It On. Any one of them would being their own set of question marks.

One thing is for sure, as it continues to develop, Guardians of the Galaxy will be Marvel Studios’ biggest challenge and the one that could make or break Phase 2.

Marvel Studios sets ‘Avengers’ sequel date – plans to smash box office records again in 3 Years

Should we just say it now? Summer box office records will likely be smashed again in 2015 when Marvel’s The Avengers assembles Earth’s Mightiest Heroes again for an untitled sequel.  Walt Disney announced the released date of May 1, 2015 today, in what was the expected target date after Marvel Studios released their film pipeline through 2014 at Comic-Con. As we told you last week, Joss Whedon is all locked up to direct and write. Here’s the revised lineup.

Iron Man 3 (5/3/13)
Thor 2: The Dark World (11/8/13)
Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier (4/4/14)
Guardians of the Galaxy (8/1/14)
Ant-Man (TBD)
Avengers Untitled Sequel (5/1/15) 

Um, yeah. Still no date on that Edgar Wright Ant-Man film. Wright directed some of our favorite films such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Spaced, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, oh and executive produced Attack the Block. What does he have in line before that size-changing Avenger movie? A film called The World’s End, which gets his trusty group together again (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) about a group of friends who reunite 20 years after a failed pub crawl to try it again. Rosamund Pike has just been added to that cast too.

The Avengers 2

“When Hulk see puny Ant-Man?!”

Marvel Studios must be eyeing a release date of Ant-Man in winter of 2014-2015; it would be anti-climactic to come out after The Avengers 2, so it’s got to come out before, right? It’s been speculated that Marvel wants Guardians of the Galaxy to be the gateway film for The Avengers Sequel. It makes sense, unless Ant-Man is going to be a much bigger film than we expect, which it might. We’ll see.

Marvel Studios has to keep pumping out these films because Robert Downey Jr. isn’t getting any younger. He’ll be 50 when the Avengers sequel is released, and I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility to see him be a part of at least a few more Marvel films after that–unless he plans on being the next Harrison Ford who by the way is not letting age get in the way of making a fifth Indiana Jones. Samuel L. Jackson will be 67. Don’t worry, Chris Evans will be made to look like he’s still 30, no matter what.

Want an even crazier thought? Just think about the time it took Jon Favreau to make Iron Man to the release of The Avengers was six years, 2006-2012. Remember, when Favreau used Myspace to get input from Iron Man fans? Okay, maybe I just remember that, but Marvel’s phase 2 will be completed in less than half that time, with at least two television shows up and running in that time on ABC. Wow! This is pretty exciting stuff.

By the way, I’ll argue with those struggling with waiting three… long… years… to see Avengers 2. There are a thousands of comics and graphic novels you can read from now until then that give you the same, if not better experience. In case, you know you want to keep yourself busy.