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Marvel chooses Ava DuVernay as director for Black Panther movie & she turns them down

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UPDATE 05.07.15:

Following weeks of speculation and excitement on social media “Selma” director Ava DuVernay has confirmed that she has passed on the director’s spot for Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ project. Speaking to Essence magazine DuVernay confirmed “I’m not signing on to direct Black Panther. I think I’ll just say we had different ideas about what the story would be. Marvel has a certain way of doing things, and I think they’re fantastic and a lot of people love what they do. I loved that they reached out to me. I loved meeting Chadwick (Boseman who will play Black Panther) and the writers and all the Marvel execs….in the end it comes down to story and we just didn’t see eye to eye. “Better for me to realize that now than cite creative differences later”.

The confirmation will come as a disappointment to fans of the director and Marvel who had high hopes for DuVernay’s take on Marvel’s first black superhero. It’s rumoured the character will make his first appearance in the upcoming “Captain America-Civil War” which is currently filming and due for release next spring.

 

Film Review: Avengers Age Of Ultron

Written by Graeme Wood
03.05.15

 

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Joss Whedon set the bar of expectation high with the first Avengers film in 2012 and the sequel employs a similar palette with a satisfying if mixed results. Presented with a number of seemingly impossible boxes to tick, from pleasing fans, children and adults, introducing new characters, joss-whedonprogressing the threads of Marvel’s TV franchise, pointing the way ahead for character’s individual movies and ensuring some decent action figures along the way you’d be surprised if Whedon didn’t drop the ball somewhere along the line. However, Whedon is a writer who is always able to find a lighter moment to punctuate what could otherwise be a po-faced affair and in the midst of skull crushing and building destruction he’ll add a knowing gag or character beat that reminds us these are (mostly) human heroes not without their flaws. If some of the plot doesn’t necessarily pass rigorous inspection, the sheer momentum of the movie ensures it sails through its lengthy running time like a breeze. It’s never boring, always restless with ideas and frequently thrilling. In contrast to almost every other superhero movie it is perfectly paced too.

We open with the Avengers in full effect and for those who have followed the Marvel characters on AgentsOfShield_Marvelboth small and big screen events tie in neatly with the current story from TVs Agents of Shield, though for those who haven’t been watching both this doesn’t take away from a standalone story in this film.

Here we see what is likely to become the film’s renowned signature shot an especially impressive slow-mo tableau of our heroes united and all leaping in to battle the hordes of Hydra soldiers. The team are attempting to recover Loki’s staff from the first film, having been stolen by Hydra following the collapse of SHIELD in the second Captain America film -The Winter Soldier. With the staff back in their possession its revealed properties open up an intriguing possibility for inventor Tony Stark who driven by a sense of failure wants to protect his friends and more importantly the world.

Stark has always seemed less of a team player and though he comes through in the end there is a sense that he is dismissive of others and always far too pleased with himself. As played by Robert Downey Jr, always a captivating screen presence, this has been a hard act to match though this film sees a more even spread. Stark’s pursuit of a laudable-but impossible-goal drives him to set in motion the creation of a new nemesis in the form of Ultron. It may have a moniker suggesting a 70s floor cleaner but this super adaptable artificial intelligence becomes the most dangerous foe the team has faced because, as one character put it, he is everywhere. Not just a series ofUltron_avengers interconnected and constantly evolving robots but living inside the Internet too. Voiced with casual menace and sardonic pleasure by James Spader Ultron’s intent is to realise Stark’s idealistic vision of a totally peaceful world by wiping out everyone and forcing mankind to evolve over. Not exactly what you might expect a super intelligence to come up with but the parallel here is with Stark who has also evolved himself by creating the Iron Man armour. Cleverly, Whedon uses the mind controlling powers of new arrival the Scarlet Witch to shorthand the fears, doubts and inner feelings of our team so we never have to second guess their motivations.

Conceptually Ulton’s plan may be a stretch and his powers do ebb and flow dependent on the demands of the narrative yet Spader’s fruity vocals and an effectively expressive CGI are sufficient to render it convincingly powerful.

Whedon is also aware enough to second guess some of our doubts and address them in the narrative, there is no doubt that Ultron is a suitably big bad foe able to create divisions within the team an aspect that Whedon returns too never allowing the film to get lost amidst the increasingly big set pieces in the second half.
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Chris Evans’ Captain America proves to be the biggest beneficiary of this approach, his no frills moral stance putting him on a collision course with Stark’s ‘the end justifies the means’ ideals. The difference in their characters means their scenes together provide a cornerstone to the film and a signpost to what will unfold in Marvel’s Phase 3 movies.

Also pleasing is that Hawkeye and Black Widow, characters without their own showcase and who tended to become side-kicks in the first film are given much more satisfying and developed arcs this time around. Scarlett Johansson’s scenes with Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner are touching and subtly played even if the Hulk itself is sometimes a sledgehammer too many. While Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton provides an unsuspecting humanity and heart at the centre of the film which grounds our characters and determines their mission.

Among the new arrivals we’re introduced to the Maximoff twins Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, however due to the X-Men and Mutants belonging to Fox studios the twins are introduced here as AgeUltron_Quicksilverenhanced experiments rather than Magneto’s offspring. While their place in the plot is earned as individuals they fail to make much of an impact as interesting characters, particularly as the cast keeps growing. Making worthwhile cameos and even managing to expand their characters in the brief time on-screen are Don Cheadle (War Machine), Samuel L Jackson (Nick Fury), Anthony Mackie (Falcon), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Idris Elba (Heimdal) and Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter) Marvel’s watchword – ‘It’s all connected’ – never ringing truer.

The final character to be introduced is a Paul Bettany as The Vision tipping the balance perhaps a little too much as his powers seem to conveniently mop up any gaps in the skills of the others and providing the key to defeating Ultron. Nonetheless the team rally into battle in the final act and the action is impressive. Whedon’s use of Italy, Bangladesh, Johanesburg and Seoul and locations provide a suitably refreshing and global feel to the proceedings which lifts the action sequences far above the norm.

Though the outcome of the battle is rarely in doubt Whedon ensures that it doesn’t come easily and it’s not without a cost, while the cinematography and direction ensures these scenes continue to hold our attention. By the film’s close we see some intriguing story threads laid for the next sequence of Marvel’s cinematic universe and a new team of Avengers ready to continue the good fight under the leadership of Captain America. However, one must wonder if subsequent Avengers movies helmed by Anthony and Joe Russo can possibly ever match the verve of the first because Whedon has ensured these are the cream of an increasingly overcrowded market.

The Age of the Black Superhero?

Written By Olu Alemoru
Freelance Journalist
April 2015

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Depending on your point of view feisty Fast and Furious actress Michelle Rodriguez may or may not have put her foot in her mouth not so long ago admonishing “minority” thesps for “stealing white Michelle-Rodriguez1people’s superheroes.” The instant backlash brought an apology and explanation exhorting black creatives to come up with our own superhero mythologies.

Historically, we did. Outside the mainstream Marvel/DC duopoly, the modern day black superhero movement was given a boost by the likes of Dawud Anyabwile, creator with his brothers of the 90’s Brotherman Comics Series (which is being re-launched this month as a graphic novel via crowdfunding site Indiegogo) and the late Dwayne McDuffie, writer/producer on the animated Justice League series and co-founder of pioneering minority-owned and operated comic book company Milestone Media.
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But maybe that kooky Rodriguez lass is on to something!

While the second Avengers, “The Age of Ultron,” looks set to crush all comers this summer, last October Marvel announced the big budget feature debut of Black Panther (with Chadwick Boseman portraying the King of Wakanda). Boseman’s – who starred as Jackie Robinson in “42” and James Brown in “Get On Up” – Panther will take his bow in “Captain America: Civil War” before his big solo outing slated for November 2017.

MICHAEL-B-JORDAN_HUMAN-TORCBut if you can’t wait for that then later this year the Disney-owned entertainment behemoth and Netflix will unveil Luke Cage (starring American television actor Mike Colter) as a recurring character in “Marvel’s A.K.A Jessica Jones,” before spinning him off in his own series in 2016. Throw in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as DC’s mooted anti-hero “Black Adam,” the re-imagining of characters like The Human Torch (Michael B Jordan) in “The Fantastic Four” and Heimdall (Idris Elba) in “Thor” (with the yelping fanboy backlash) and one might conclude we’re on the cusp of a black Superhero age?

Naturally, a call through to Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige or one of his executive team might answer the question definitively, but a reporter’s dogged phone and email attempts through a Disney senior PR didn’t bear fruit.

However, surveying the eye-catching slate of properties Marvel Studios announced last November running through to 2019, Q.E.D., one might say. BlackAdamDriven by the creative deconstruction of the Marvel and DC’s comic universes (or political correctness/white liberal guilt/publicity stunts say the yelpers) it seems that things are shaking up in the fantasy world – super heroine Carol Danvers, a.k.a “Captain Marvel,” makes her debut on July 6, 2018 – and make no mistake.

Sheena C. Howard, an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Rider University, Mercer County, New Jersey and the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con Eisner Award Winner (known as the “Oscar” of Comics) agreed. Howard, who is gay, became the first black woman to win the award. “I think major companies are realizing that they can diversify classic characters, without completely alienating their historical target market (White males),” she replied via email. “This is simply maximizing their profits and the rewards of this diversity are much greater than the costs. I do not think the same Avenger audience will be flocking to the theatres to see the Black Panther movie. There will be some overlap, but there will also be some new faces in those seats. The comics industry has tapped into a new fan base, which includes women and racial minorities.”

However, seasoned Hollywood artist/animator and Creative-Art Director at Brice Productions, Jerry Lee Brice, begged to differ. “No, I don’t think this is a special age for any race of character in the commercial marketplace, but (it is) a good time to introduce new superheroes that reflect the diversity that the latest U.S. census shows that we have,” he stated. “As a black American, I do enjoy and welcome the opportunity to see superheroes that look like me.”

Brice also took on the fanboy backlash, arguing that it was “just a reflection of our nation’s difficult relationship with race.”

He added: “So I don’t think much about what fanboys like or dislike, really, because I understand that in the commercial marketplace, once you expand the dynamics of the team, you increase the audience for that title, and as long as the characters are fictional, whatever the race or sex they are does not matter as much as the writing.”

Echoing the bottom line ethos of Hollywood when it comes to such cultural matters, Dr. David Huxley, a Senior Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University’s School of Art, kind of hedges his bets on whether we’re in for a new Superhero age.

“Marvel, when challenged about the lack of black Superheroes in the 1960s and 70s, answered that the titles they’d tried, like Luke Cage, just weren’t successful enough,” said the graphic novel and comic book specialist. “I suspect the same commercial imperatives remain – if Black Panther is popular in the Avengers he’ll get his own franchise – just as with comics it’s the numbers that are the bottom line [and] I suspect that as long as it’s not seen as tokenism there is no reason why this couldn’t be the right time. Hollywood has enough successful black actors to make it work.”
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ONES TO WATCH

A futuristic Nigerian Superhero (no, not this author – yet), a feisty turn-of-the-century gender-bending inventor and an android with a secret past.

Since time waits for no man or woman, talented black creatives are taking full advantage of mainstream crowdfunding hubs, Kickstarter and Indiegogo, or forming their own studio entities with their own moolah.

Here are three that are worthy of attention:-
1. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/44069577/exo-the-legend-of-wale-williams-part-one
2. http://reelrepublic.com/EJ-Whitaker-Coming-Soon.html
3. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/473463284/cannon-busters-the-animated-series-pilot/description

Chadwick Boseman Rising Star

By Leslie Byron Pitt
25.11.14

 

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Chadwick Boseman already has two iconic African-American parts under his belt and with his upcoming role as Black Panther in the upcoming Marvel features; Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther, Boseman looks set to become one of his generations top African-American leading men.

The talented Boseman was born in 1977, in Anderson, South Carolina to Nurse Carolyn, and furniture businessman Leroy Boseman. A graduate of T.L Hanna High School in 1995, Boseman later graduated from Howard University in Washington D.C with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in directing, before attending the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England.

Before embarking on a television career, Boseman worked as a stage actor, performing in a number of stage productions as well as writing and directing his own work. One of his most notable stage roles is the 2002 play Urban Transitions: Loose Blossoms. Written by Ron Milner, Urban Transitions is an edgy drama in which the fast and loose income from drug running, slowly inflects a newly suburban African American family. His performance earned him an award from AUDELCO, a committee which strives to stimulate interest and support in performing arts within black communities. From a writing point of view, his most notable work, was his third play, Deep Azure, a hip-hop theatre production, in which a black, anorexic woman’s fiancé is shot by a black police officer. The play, which is loosely based on an actual shooting was nominated for a Jeff Award in 2006.

It was 2003 in which Boseman gained his break on television with a variety of TV episodes, including Third Watch, ER and Law and Order. Around this time, as well as starring film shorts, Boseman made sure to keep hold of his behind the scene passions. He wrote and directed the 18 minute short Blood over a Broken Pawn (2008), which deals with a traumatized coffee shop owner stumbling into a dangerous situation with a chess master after an altercation with an innocent child.

From 2008 Boseman found himself in more prominent roles, including considerable appearances in the taut mini-series Persons Unknown, created by Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie, and Drama series Lincoln Heights, in which he plays injured Iraq War veteran, Nate. The shadow of war also followed Boseman in a leading role as a troubled veteran alongside Troy Kittles (Olympus has Fallen) in 2012’s The Kill Hole. During this time, Boseman found himself in episodes of hit shows such as Fringe, Justified and Castle.

In 2013 Boseman made the jump into movies, performing as one of Baseball’s most famous stars; Jackie Robinson, in the biographical feature 42. The film, written by Academy Award winner; Brian chadwickbosemanHelgeland became the best premiere for a Baseball film in Hollywood History with a $27.3 million opening weekend. Despite only being released theatrically in the U.S and Canada, the film grossed a total of $95 Million and surpassed its $40 Million budget. 42 has been well received by audiences and critics alike, with Boseman’s performance has the stoic, yet heroic Robinson garnered high praise. 42 gained high praise when it was endorsed by the first lady, Michelle Obama at a screening and film workshop, which Boseman also took part in, at the White House. Mrs Obama was quoted to have said that “We believe everybody needs to see this movie.” the kind of praise that many hope more black movies will achieve in the future.

In 2014 Boseman has turned that praise into Oscar Buzz with his most electrifying performance to date. Get On Up; the celebratory biopic of James Brown, has had nothing but superlatives placed on the 37 year old’s performance as Brown. John Patterson (Guardian) described the display as chadwick-boseman-as-james-brown“volcanic”, while Tim Robey (Daily Telegraph) states that the performance holds a “wicked attitude”. In my own review of the film for kushfilms.com: I considered Boseman’s poise and understanding of Brown as a persona is just too strong to ignore. It’s a performance is so powerful that you can see the cast running off the energy it creates.

In an article for the Guardian, it had been stated that there was pressure on the director; Tate Taylor, to place a rapper in the main role. Such a cynical commercial ploy was quickly nixed by Taylor, who could only see Boseman in the part, based on a hunch. Boseman himself considered the role to be too big a role for an up and coming actor, and almost dismissed it based on the fact he had just played Jackie Robinson. To find out that after accepting the role, Bosemon had only 6 weeks to learn the various moves of Brown before principal photography, only makes the performance even more impressive.

The part of Brown has generated a healthy amount of Oscar buzz for the young actor, but it’s his next role, that should help take him into the upper echelons of Hollywood’s movers and shakers. It has been recently announced in October, that Boseman has signed a five movie deal with Marvel to chadwick_boseman_black_pantplay Black Panther in his own feature film, and including a supporting role in Captain America 3: Civil War. The role marks a significant movement for the Marvel studio diversifying their movies towards other markets. Comic fans may know more about Panther than many of the laymen who paid their money to see The Avengers, but many felt the same about Ironman in 2008. Boseman has shown the ability to take a larger than life character and ran with it and the match-up could be a landmark point in the current successful comic book cycle.

The future does indeed look radiant with this handsome, young talent. Boseman’s upcoming prospects may allow him not only climb the Hollywood mountain as an actor, but possibly allow him to propose further projects with his name at the writing/directional helm. While such a statement can currently only be raised as an assumption, I must admit that the future of African American Film is sparkling a little brighter.