Martin Freeman’s Character Revealed and First Look at ‘Captain America: Civil War’ Villain

Say what you will about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the talent in their films is second to none. You have The Avengers, as well as Oscar winners Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, Jeff Bridges, Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Tommy Lee Jones, and eventually Cate Blanchett in Thor: Ragnorak. Then there’s the award winning Sherlock tandem of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

We knew already that Cumberbatch will be starring as Doctor Strange in his upcoming standalone film, November 4th, 2016, but now we have actual clarity on Freeman’s role.

Empire Magazine has confirmed that Freeman will play Everett Ross, the Joint Counter Terrorist Centre official that will help introduce Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman) to the MCU. With SHIELD in recovery mode after the HYDRA breach, the JCTC is filling in as the new government entity/liaison to superheroes, like Captain America and Iron Man. Ross’s relationship with Black Panther may be why we see the “Prince of Wakanda” aligned with Tony Stark in Civil War trailers.

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Also making Civil War news today is Frank Grillo (The Purge 2, Warrior) and his first look for the film. Remember how Grillo’s Brock Brumblow turned on Captain America and SHIELD as a Hydra sleeper-cell? Well he survived a massive Helicarrier crashing down on him in Winter Soldier, assumed the identity as “Crossbones”, and is ready to exact his revenge on Steve Rogers and company.

Underneath the mask and armor, Brumlow should be ugly as hell with all his scars and burns. So far, Crossbones is the only actual villain we know about in the film, despite all the epic heroes turning on each other. He’ll have HYDRA backing him up for sure, but we’ll see who else might be working with Crossbones before Civil War’s release May 6th, 2016.

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It’s Good to be a Geek

I envy everyone who attended San Diego Comic-Con 2015 this past weekend. Attendees were lucky enough to witness first looks at upcoming Star Wars, DC, and Marvel films. Fortunately, those of us who couldn’t attend have the internet and access to the streaming of panels, and releases of footage (official or leaked). Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice finally gave us their first full trailerDeadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Suicide Squad headlined with panels and trailer presentations that made their way to the internet shortly after. Even THE MUPPETS made their presence felt, discussing their mockumentary series that will air on ABC later this year. The biggest takeaway from the SDCC weekend may have been exactly what all of us young (and old) padawans have been waiting for…Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens coming to life.

If you’re like me, you salivated at the idea of “real sets” and  “practical effects”, which were missing from Episodes I-III…and Jurassic World for that matter. (CGI takes the magic away from things, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

This past weekend, overall, was an excellent reminder of how good it is to be a geek these days. A generation that grew up on comic books, video games, and Superhero cartoons are now being treated to a Hollywood that appreciates those mediums. Before the first Iron Man movie, did you expect to see a full timeline of Avengers/Marvel films scheduled through May 3rd, 2019? Following Revenge of the Sith, Did you imagine Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford would team up again as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo? You’re lying if say you did…Or have a time-traveling DeLorean in your garage.

While we have new Superhero films hitting theaters every 3-4 months now, television has caught up to the big screen as an excellent resource for geek entertainment (and distraction). What Marvel has accomplished with feature films and creating an epic universe for the Avengers, DC has done on the CW network with Arrow, The Flash and the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow…

Fox’s Gotham and ABC’s Agents of Shield series are fun, but not nearly as compelling as the stories presented in the Arrow/Flash universe (which I wish the DC film division took notice of). Meanwhile, Netflix has entered the ring with excellent original programming. The first season of Daredevil cleansed the pallet of a fans who were left with a bad taste after the previous adaptation, starring Ben Affleck. It also opened the door to a universe that will involve 4 other Marvel series on Netflix, including Jessica Jones later this year, then Luke CageThe Iron Fist, and then The Defenders. 

Recently, I’ve noticed a contrarian and trendy narrative in TV shows, such as Community and Mr. Robot, that suggest people are suckers for enjoying Superhero films. In the writers’ opinion, we’re all lemmings for going to the movie theater and paying money for these films, and that’s just simply wrong. Just about every one of the Marvel films consist of better stories and dialogue than you’ll find in any of other franchises getting recent installments (looking at you Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys and ALL of the Transformers films). I also think those are counter-culture comments being made for the sake of being counter-culture. Consider that a win, Geeks. You are today’s “culture”, and it’s wonderful.

Have you ever Googled the definition of “Geek”? The definition isn’t particularly flattering and may have been written by Biff from “Back To The Future”…

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Yep. straight from Google. (Google is a jerk sometimes). Those who believe in the “unfashionable” and “carnival performer” assumptions are the same people who made fun of you to feel better about themselves and are probably looking forward to their high school reunions way more than the average person should. 

The truth lies somewhere in the sub-definitions. “A knowledgeable enthusiast” (obsessive is a bit strong) or one who “becomes extremely excited about a subject” sounds more like a typical fan than a “socially inept person”. It also applies to more than comic books, video games, and superheroes. If you are amped up for next seasons for The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, or even less fantasy-driven shows like House of Cards or Empire, you are indeed a geek. If you are checking every new beer you try on the Untappd app, you are a geek. If you are over-preparing for your upcoming fantasy football draft or really looking forward to when Blackhawks tickets go on sale, you are a geek…not a freak.

Geek is fun. Geek is chic. Geek is “normal”…I use the term “normal” very loosely because I don’t think there is such thing as normal. We all have different backgrounds, different interests, different hobbies, and different experiences. When we can bond on any of those different things, then maybe we start to feel “normal”. Being a geek is sort of like that.

I love that I can discuss the things I get excited about on this website like movies, music, TV, sports and food, because I know there are many who share these same interests…many of whom, are in fact geeks (whether they identify as such or not). It’s a community that grows everyday thanks to social media and the ever-evolving entertainment culture, one that can be both appealing but sometimes over-critical.

For now, it’s just simply good. I mean, who ISN’T geeking out about Star Wars returning this Winter?

[Update]

Of course as soon as I mention it in this post, Warner Bros releases the Suicide Squadtrailer. Enjoy!

Have something to add? Continue the conversation on Twitter @Mike_PiFF03

Time To Exhale – Avengers: Age of Ultron

A week after the premiere felt like the proper amount of time to digest Marvel’s “Phase II” epic, Avengers: Age of Ultron and to comprehend what that was I saw in IMAX 3D.

Rather than write a “review” of the movie, I consider this as a collection of thoughts and reaction regarding what I saw on the screen and heard from people after. If you haven’t seen the film, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. THERE ARE PROBABLY, MORE THAN LIKELY, SPOILERS! I would recommend going to see it and coming back to this for discussion though.

So let’s begin now…

Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t great, but it didn’t have to be…

The movie itself was a blast. The action scenes were incredible and it was cool to see each Avenger have fighting chemistry with their teammates right off the bat as they took on Baron von Strucker’s snow covered Hydra base…most notably the combo uses of Thor’s hammer and Captain America’s shield. The banter and Joss Whedon’s influenced snappy comebacks also kept the mood light…not just with the Avengers while they experienced their own turmoil, but with Ultron himself (which I’ll talk about further on).

However, the editing was choppy and there were some excruciatingly slow moments that took away from the action packed ride. A comment from WGN and Rivet Radio host James VanOsdol stuck out to me on Twitter when he referred to it as “The Age of Dulltron”,  right before I went to see the movie. I really don’t blame him for thinking so, but I also found a lot of the film to be more necessary than anything.

Much of ‘Age of Ultron’ was heavy for character development and plot…especially for what’s to come in “Phase III”. (Here Come Some of Spoilers so it’s on you now if you haven’t seen the movie) 

I’ll begin with the day dreams that Scarlet Witch placed in each of the Avengers’ minds, whom were effected:

Tony Stark: Tony is the first to have a spell casted on, which sparks the creation of Ultron…and his apparent “heel turn“. While getting a good look at von Strucker’s basement weapons of mass scariness, Scarlet Witch casts her spell, which forces Tony to envision his greatest fear…He sees all of his Avengers teammates laid up on meteor-like platform, either dead or dying. It looks like something we’ve seen Thanos standing upon in his collective brief appearances. Tony is the last Avenger standing while Captain America grabs for him, and in his dying breath says “You could have saved us.” And so begins the tension we see between Tony and Cap throughout the film, foreshadowing to the plot of Captain America III: Civil War.

Tony also gets a good look at what appears to be a fleet of aliens on their way to annihilate Earth…So much for Earth’s mightiest heroes. My instant thought was, “Is this a look at the eventual endgame film, Infinity Wars?” This would be a good time to call the Guardians of the Galaxy, right?

Thor: This was the other more significant vision that was casted by Scarlet Witch. During the run-in with Ultron in Wakanda, Scarlet Witch’s purpose is to tear apart the Avengers from within their minds. Thor’s dream involves him seeing Asgard in absolute terror, and a one-on-one battle with Heimdall (played by Idris Elba). Heimdall blamed Thor for what appeared to be war and destruction in his supposed kingdom, which eludes to the next Thor film “Ragnarok”. Ragnarok refers to Asgard’s version of the apocalypse. With Loki on the throne posing as Odin and Thanos in hot pursuit of infinity stones, seems like a recipe for that kind of disaster. Thor’s vision does prompt him to further investigate the significance of the infinity stones and who may be after them, so it all makes sense.

Black Widow: Natasha’s vision seemed more relevant to the present than what could happen in the future. It also gave the audience some insight to how she came to be and how she views herself. I actually correlate it more with the storyline from the ‘Agent Peggy Carter’ series, as we saw Russian girls being trained to become absolute killing machines for presumedly Hydra. I’ll go into Black Widow’s storyline (and apparent backlash) later, but this dream did seem to go on for too long.

Captain America: I don’t think Scarlet Witch’s spell caused conflict for Steve Rogers as much as it helped him overcome a hurdle in his arc. The hopeless romantic in me was excited to see Steve finally getting that dance with Agent Carter, even if it wasn’t real. Captain America’s mindset had been stuck in the past for more than 3 films now and it was about time for him to leave it there. Having the opportunity to start SHIELD back over and run the New Avengers training facility gives him purpose again. Captain America can finally be the new man that came out of the ice…not the one that was frozen there.

I’d be terrified to see what Bruce Banner saw in his vision…

Ultron was SO James Spader…

It was really hard to not picture Red from ‘The Blacklist’ or Robert California whenever Ultron spoke…

Ultron was very much more human than I anticipated. He cared about being compared to Tony Stark. He cared about what he looked like. And he cared about Scarlet Witch…That last part may have surprised me the most.

I liked that about Ultron. He showed some vulnerability throughout the film that you don’t get from robots or computer programs, like Jarvis. That’s what made Vincent D’Onofrio’s adaptation of The Kingpin so good in Daredevil. At times, you found yourself rooting for the villain…until he did something so despicable that it was hard to keep the pom poms up.

I never found myself rooting for Ultron, but I did consider him to be likable. He was very witty, with some Tony Stark influence. A comparison to Loki would be fair, with better one-liners. Ultron didn’t seem to like hurting innocent people, not until the end at least. Even when he cut off the hand of Ulysses Klaue (played by Andy Serkis…yes, the same guy who does the voice of Gollum from Lord of the Rings) in a fit of rage, he felt bad about doing it…at first.

You could try to compartmentalize what Ultron was doing. He was designed by Tony to protect the Earth, not necessarily humans. And although an attempt to eliminate billions of people sounds pretty harsh, he did seem to care for a few…the Inhuman Maximoff twins, that is. But at the end of the day, Ultron wasn’t going to do much past this film and it’s for the better that The Vision took care of that.

The Black Widow thing…

There has been a lot of backlash toward the way Black Widow was depicted and I don’t really get it. Are superhero romances a little weird in movies that are meant to be that action packed? Maybe…But didn’t it make sense? A comparison I liken Natasha and Bruce Banner to is that of another Joss Whedon produced couple…Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

Referring to the vision she had under Scarlet Witch’s spell, Natasha explains that she is no less of a monster than Banner is as the Hulk. There’s nothing wrong with sympathizing with two characters you don’t expect to do so with. Like Buffy, Natasha has lived a life of killing and sticking to the mission. Like Angel, Banner has always been the one terrifying EVERYONE. What’s the matter with either of them growing in a way you wouldn’t expect?

Then there is the perception that Black Widow was portrayed as a “damsel in distress.” – You realize that the Avengers wouldn’t have found Ultron if she hadn’t been taken captive and created her own makeshift radio/homing beacon, right?…And continued to kick ass in an almost impossible battle.

Other things…

  • The introduction of Klaue and Wakanda segway to the eventual debut of Black Panther, who was confirmed today to appear in Cap 3: Civil War along with Ant-Man. Since Wakanda is now officially part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’ll see more references in Ant-Man this summer or perhaps get the debut of Black Panther/T’Challa
  • The “my girlfriend’s better than your girlfriend” argument Thor and Stark have is adorable, but I wish Jane Foster and Pepper Potts were actually in the movie.
  • When do Agents of SHIELD finally appear in the Marvel films? With Agent Coulson “dying” and igniting the team in the first film, wouldn’t they be thrilled to see him in the second? The Agents would probably have loved dealing with the Maximoff twins as well.
  • I liked the Avengers take on Quicksilver. Obviously with FOX having the rights to X-Men, he had to be very different than the Evan Peters version. Still good, but THIS will forever be one of my favorite superhero movie scenes ever.
  • Hawkeye may have been the funniest character in the whole movie, and having him as a moral compass (kind of like Coulson) was refreshing compared to the first film.
  • The Vision RULES! And that’s all I’ll say about that.
  • With Thanos assumedly jumping into the action, how soon do we see him come face-to-face with an Avenger? My bet is Thor 3: Ragnarok, as he is hunting for the Infinity stones in Asguard’s keeping. Thanos would also bring the type of chaos that Loki would want…and also regret.
  • Anyone else stay ALL THE WAY TILL AFTER THE CREDITS? Of course you did. And you were disappointed when you found nothing, like I did.

Comment here with your own thoughts and reactions. You can also Tweet me @Mike_PiFF03.