The Avengers

‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Gremlins’ at 30: A Requiem for the Special Effects-Heavy Comedy

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We tend to think of the releases of iconic movies as standalone events, like the world came to a crashing halt so everyone could go stand in lines around the block for Star Wars or Jaws or Jurassic Park. But the movies are a business, and rare is the week that doesn’t see multiple releases, which can make for some interesting juxtapositions. (True story: the big movie on Star Wars opening weekend was supposed to be Smokey and the Bandit.) Most of the time, such competition falls into the realm of counter-programming, which was what made June 8, 1984 so peculiar: the two new wide releases of that day were both pitched towards the same general audience, the families-and-teens crowd that had become the bread and butter of the summer movie business. Both would open well — only separated by about a million bucks — and would end up the second- and fourth-highest-grossing movies of the year. More importantly, both would remain beloved pop culture classics, buoyed by a uniquely ambitious mixture of genres that is seldom attempted today. The films were Ghostbusters and Gremlins, and they both turned 30 years old yesterday.
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How to Make a Great Superhero Movie: Hire a Comedy Director

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If you look up the filmographies of Anthony and Joe Russo, directors of the new (and very good) Captain America: The Winter Soldier, you’re not going to see much that screams SUMMER TENTPOLE ACTION MOVIE MAKERS. Their only two previous features were the mostly unseen Big Deal on Madonna Street remake Welcome to Collinwood and the mostly unloved Owen Wilson comedy You, Me and Dupree. And then you will find lots and lots of television comedy, everything from the monkey-doctor comedy Animal Practice to more acclaimed programs like Arrested Development, Happy Endings, and Community. The natural assumption is that the powers-that-be at Marvel who handed the Russo brothers the keys to Captain America were taking a big chance. But Marvel has reached a point where it’s actually more unusual for them to pick conventional action directors for their films — in fact, what’s making their big-screen efforts stand out from the blockbuster pack is their tendency to place them in the hands of, when you get down to it, comedy filmmakers.
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10 Movies You’ve Been Watching in Altered Versions

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Some play tennis, some memorize baseball stats, some decorate toilet seat lids. Point is, everyone’s got a hobby, but Christopher Orgeron spent his past two years of free time on a genuinely unusual project: restoring The Dark Crystal to its original, darker version. Wait, you’re thinking. I didn’t know there was an original, darker version of that, especially since the version they released was such hardcore nightmare fuel if you were a small child in the early ‘80s (OK, now I’m just projecting). Well, if you do enough poking around in Hollywood history, you’ll find there was an original, darker version of a whole lot of movies, which studio execs and other muckety-mucks demanded filmmakers brighten up before they saw the light of a projector.
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‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Is Not the Next Great Joss Whedon Show — Yet

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Few shows this fall — or in anything resembling recent memory, really — have premiered with the kind of ballyhoo that’s accompanied Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. A television spin-off of the über-profitable cycle of Marvel film adaptations that culminated in last year’s The Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. plays like a direct sequel to that movie, with Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson resurrected for starring role and a “special guest” appearance by Cobie Smulders’ Agent Hill. Most importantly, last night’s debut episode was directed by The Avengers’ Joss Whedon, who co-wrote (and co-executive produces) the show with brother Jedd and sister-in-law Maurissa Tancharoen, with whom he previously collaborated on Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog. Alas, in spite of those credentials and a few other friendly faces (hiya, Ron Glass!), Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is not the Next Great Joss Whedon Show — at least, so far.
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Joss Whedon’s Guide to Life

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As you may have heard, everyone’s favorite vampire slayer-creating, Avengers-assembling writer/director, Joss Whedon, gave the commencement speech at his alma mater Wesleyan University, and unsurprisingly, it was kind of great. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise; throughout his career, both in the dialogue he’s written and the many good interviews he’s given, Whedon always comes across as an old soul filled with great wisdom. So with that in mind, here’s a couple dozen nuggets of advice from your self-appointed “Uncle Joss.”
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‘Iron Man 3,’ ‘The Avengers,’ And the Thrill of Authorial Voice in Blockbusters

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Iron Man 3 opens with an arresting image — the destruction of three Iron Man suits, right in a row, bang bang bang — and a voice over from Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark, a bit of business about facing your demons that quickly degenerates into gibberish. “Never mind, I’m gonna start over,” he says, and the screen fades to black, thus concluding the first of the film’s many assurances that, while it is a mega-budgeted summer tent-pole movie, it is also the work of devilishly clever writer/director Shane Black — whose previous collaboration with Downey, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, included one of the most blissfully self-aware narration tracks in all of moviedom (“Don’t worry, I saw Lord of the Rings, I’m not gonna end this like 17 times”). And that’s the key to the movie’s success: beyond all the explosions and action set pieces and 3D wizardry, you can still hear a writer with a distinctive, entertaining voice. And that’s what separates films like this from their blockbuster brethren, which too often were clearly created by a committee.
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