“Black Widow” Final Trailer Review!

The final Black Widow movie trailer goes in a different direction than its two predecessors, focusing on the personal relationships between our protagonists, and the grim drama about to unfold as our team of antiheroes and misfits face off against the powers that be within the Russian government. There’s still plenty of cool, exciting action to be seen (Taskmaster especially keeps getting power upgrades in every new trailer), but director Cate Shortland was chosen for her work with intense, intimate dramas – and that’s exactly what she’s going to deliver.

Natasha Romanoff, our Black Widow, struggles with guilt from never having returned to Russia to help her family (they use familial terms to address each other, but it’s still unclear whether that means anything, considering Natasha supposedly never knew her biological family) escape from the clutches of the KGB Red Room training program that turned them all, including Natasha herself, into highly-skilled assassins. Natasha’s “sister” Yelena Belova and “mother” Melina Vostokoff were some of the lucky ones who weren’t entirely brainwashed to the point of becoming “Manipulated: fully conscious but no choices”, as Yelena describes the other Black Widows in the program.

But the other Black Widows, with their elegant, perfectly synchronized fighting techniques, aren’t even the most dangerous threat to Natasha and her team: Taskmaster, the head of the Red Room and a warrior armed with photographic reflexes that allow him to perfectly emulate any opponent’s techniques (in this trailer, we see him memorizing moves from Natasha’s iconic hallway fight scene in Iron Man 2 and using Black Panther’s signature Wakandan fighting style, which includes mock panther claws), he’s their biggest threat. Obviously, it’s hard to piece together where everything we see in the trailer happens in the context of the film, but it looks to me like he goes after each of Natasha’s team individually in the third act battle – and I guess we’ll just have to wait and see who survives his killing spree.

Unfortunately for Natasha’s family, this is the type of film where characters are expendable, no matter how lovable and sweet: which means it’s possible that any or all of the trio (excluding Natasha, since this film is a prequel and we know she lives) will be snuffed out in a blaze of glory during their attack on the Red Room. Personally, I’m guessing it will be Red Guardian, Natasha’s gruff, bear-like father figure – and I suspect that Yelena could die a fake-out death, only to be revealed as alive in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline. It would be sad to see any of them go, as they all look like fun characters, and their playful banter with Natasha about good posture is instantly endearing.

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As for Natasha herself, we may finally get a deep-dive into her troubled psyche. In this trailer, we see her fighting to retain her own identity while trying to live on the run and undercover, shedding one fake name only to adopt another, taking Melina’s advice never to “look into the past”. But here she is, faced with the conflict that will determine who she is and what she stands for: although this movie takes place in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, after we had already seen Natasha in several movies, this is the moment that will turn her into the hero who gave her all to help defeat Thanos. This is the moment she stops being one of the Red Room’s countless faceless Widows, and becomes the one and only Black Widow. “At some point we all have to choose between what the world wants you to be, and who you are,” Natasha declares at one point in the trailer: this movie is about her, making that fateful choice.

Are you excited to see the transformation of the Black Widow? What’s your favorite part in the trailer? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8.7/10

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“Black Widow” Super Bowl TV Spot Review!

Marvel Studios’ Black Widow is only a few months out, and with a new line-up of character posts, special Twitter emojis and recently revealed tie-in merchandise, the film’s marketing campaign is heating up. Tonight, we’ve got a new Super Bowl TV spot that gives us tiny glimpses of new material: nothing too substantial, but just enough to keep us talking.

The brief teaser, which highlights each of the characters who make up Natasha Romanoff’s team of Russian special agents, features a voice-over from Romanoff, the Black Widow herself, who tells us that the Avengers weren’t her first family – before she was the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s super spy and legendary assassin, she was a member of the Red Room program, which trained her (along with her “sisters”, Yelena Belova and Melina Vostokoff) to be the world’s most lethal killers. Now, in the Black Widow movie, she’s taking on the Red Room with the help of her comrades, and facing off against an impressive roster of villains.

We still haven’t seen the face behind Taskmaster’s skull-shaped mask, but we’ve now got more proof that he is indeed displaying his comics-accurate abilities, such as the photographic reflexes that allow him to copy any opponent’s fighting moves – in this new trailer, he flips his shield in a manner reminiscent of Captain America’s classic move, implying that at some point he fought the First Avenger.

The trailers for this film have been careful to avoid showing any spoilers, and this one is no different. We still have no clue what will happen to Natasha’s family on their mission deep into Siberia: a theory created soon after the first trailer’s release suggested that Natasha could be seen holding Yelena Belova’s jacket in a scene after a helicopter crash, leading the internet to believe that Belova might have died in the crash. That theory is disproved by this new TV spot, which shows the whole family safely reunited at the crash-site and gathering in a circle to hold hands – with Natasha being the only member of the team to stand to the side.

What do you think of the TV spot, and do you think any of Natasha’s family are doomed to die in the hotly-anticipated Marvel thriller? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 6.5/10

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“Black Widow” Special Look Review!

In what could technically be considered the second trailer for Marvel’s Black Widow but is instead being called the first “special look”, ex-KGB assassin Natasha Romanoff is forced to reunite a lethal team of trained killers to take on a new wave of Black Widows, and all the might of the villainous, government-operated Red Room program that created both them, and her.

This special look gives us a hint of what has spurred the events of the Black Widow movie, which take place after Romanoff went on the run following Captain America: Civil War but before Thanos’ invasion in Avengers: Infinity War. All the way back in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Natasha made a brave decision to leak all of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agency’s deepest, darkest secrets (including her own) onto the internet in an attempt to expose the far-reaching corruption of organizations like HYDRA. In this teaser, Natasha seems to reference that, saying “I was trying to do something good” when asked why she’s suddenly being stalked and hunted by Russian operatives.

But Natasha learned a lot from her mentor Nick Fury, and one of his lessons must have been how to assemble a great team – because she’s got the help of some of the deadliest Russians ever to bear arms in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at her side in her fight: Yelena Belova, her “sister”, whom we still don’t see wearing her iconic spider-eye mask, much to my dismay; Red Guardian, (played by David Harbour, currently the only member of the main cast without an Oscar nomination in real life), who appears to be something of a father figure to Natasha; and the mysterious Melina, a white-suited martial artist who has a certain maternal charm in one scene, and then cold-blooded killer instincts in another.

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These four are up against the Taskmaster, who has a much better showing in this teaser than he (or she?) did in the movie’s first trailer, which earned him/her a bunch of criticism for looking like a Power Ranger in the light of day. Interestingly, all of his/her scenes here are at night – and they look fantastic. In the first trailer it was hard to tell whether the character (who in the comics is legendary for his “photographic reflexes”, which allow him to mirror any opponent’s fighting moves) was displaying his/her unique power-set, but here there can be no question, as we see the masked mercenary perfectly replicate not only Natasha’s moves as they fight on a Budapest bridge, but also those of Natasha’s dear friend Steve Rogers, even employing the Captain’s very same shield-tricks. In the comics, Taskmaster is typically a man named Tony Masters – but it looks like Marvel could be shaking things up, because a couple other characters in this same movie have already been shown to have skills like “photographic reflexes”: Yelena Belova copies Natasha’s moves as they fight in her shabby apartment, and Melina emulates the fighter’s classic superhero pose at one point – and the “new wave of Widows” all seem to move in perfect harmony. Considering that all these characters originated in Russia’s Red Room, another possibility is that Taskmaster is the head of the program, or even the very first Black Widow (who in some comics is also Natasha’s identical clone, if I remember correctly).

So what do you think of the trailer? Do you think it’s a good idea for Natasha to work with a team, or will they stab her in the back (figuratively or literally)? Share your thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 7.8/10

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“Little Women” Non-Spoiler Review!

A century and a half has passed since Louisa May Alcott first set pen to paper and sat down to write the semi-autobiographical story of four sisters’ journeys towards adulthood, but the tale of the “little women” is still just as relevant and iconic nowadays as it was back in 1868. And visionary director Greta Gerwig has lovingly (and masterfully) crafted an adaptation of Alcott’s classic that is not only faithful to the original book, but more in line with both modern sensibilities and Alcott’s own feminist philosophy than any previous iteration.

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Gerwig has, first and foremost, chosen to tell the story in a non-linear fashion: while this decision may confuse the unwary (which is why I’m warning you in advance), it is a conscious choice that enables Gerwig to have what are essentially two stories simultaneously playing out onscreen, linked through flashbacks, flash-forwards, and what some may view as a bit of fourth-wall breaking – one story being the first half of the novel Little Women, covering the March sisters’ adolescence and happy, hazy childhood, awash in golden lighting; the other being the novel’s latter half, the grimmer, bleaker post-Civil War era, in which the March sisters have all grown up and gone their separate ways, and heroine Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) is beginning to more closely resemble Alcott herself. But while this might at first appear to be a narrative trick to keep the story compelling, it becomes clear in the film’s final minutes that there’s a shockingly exciting reason for the non-linear structure, one that will make Gerwig’s Little Women a topic for debate for many years to come. Keep your eyes peeled, for Gerwig drops plenty of clues and hints as to what’s coming in the finale, but you still might be caught off-guard if you’re not looking – or you might even miss it altogether.

Little Women is beloved because of its cast of extremely relatable and interesting characters, many of whom are best known to movie-lovers through the 1994 adaptation of the novel that starred Winona Ryder as the rebellious, free-spirited heroine, and a young Christian Bale as her love interest, charming, carefree Laurie. But Gerwig’s Jo and Laurie are slightly more modernized than the prim and proper couple of that film: Laurie, here excellently portrayed by rising star Timothée Chalamet, is a gentle, easygoing, and somewhat gender-neutral character who feels like the perfect soulmate to Saoirse Ronan’s socially awkward but passionate Jo – neither is entirely comfortable within the constraints laid upon them by their gender, but neither can do anything but fight the system in small ways – whether that means marrying for love or trying to establish their own place in the world. To reinforce the essentially gender-fluid relationship between the stars, Gerwig even had Ronan and Chalamet swap articles of clothing onset in order to break down the boundaries between them.

Personally, I’ve always been a huge fan of Jo March: it’s sort of a mandatory thing, I think, for most writers. We love her not just because of how sympathetic her daily struggles are, but because of how she chooses to use the written word as a weapon in her fight – hers is a pen far mightier than any sword.

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But Gerwig also allows the other March siblings to have their chance to shine: romantic, idealistic Meg (Emma Watson) is finally given a leg to stand on in her ongoing struggle with her character’s critics and detractors, who have always claimed she’s the least feminist of the sisters, and the most outdated in this modern age. Petty, vainglorious Amy (Florence Pugh) is actually respectable in Gerwig’s film – yes, she’s still a brat, but she’s also forced to grow up too quickly and bear a heavy burden upon her shoulders; she’s the only one of the March sisters who has a chance of marrying well, and for women in Alcott’s era, marriage was a woman’s only respectable method of achieving success. Amy’s speech to Laurie in which she details all the ways in which marriage is nothing but “an economic proposition” is one of the film’s most powerful scenes. Then there’s poor Beth (Eliza Scanlen), who is crucial to the story’s plot but still never quite rises above being the shy, pious outlier in the group without very much to say or do.

On the sidelines, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep have small but excellent performances as Marmee and Aunt March, respectively. Streep, especially, is a delightful addition to the cast with her biting wit, passive aggressive humor, and dainty mannerisms. Louis Garrel has the thankless job of portraying Professor Friedrich Bhaer, one of the most purposefully disappointing characters in Alcott’s novel, but he plays the role as well as he possibly can.

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Little Women is also an exceptionally beautiful film, with a myriad of dreamy, pastel-colored scenes that look almost like they leaped straight from the painter’s canvas onto the big screen (a special shout-out goes to cinematographer Yorick Le Saux, who apparently had the camera follow the Marches like a “fifth sister”, dancing and twirling with them on their youthful frolics and adventures, giving the audience a chance to feel even more connected to the close-knit cast). The production and costume design are superb: every detail of the March family’s dark, cozy homestead and every accouterment of high-society Parisian fashion is lovingly crafted.

Greta Gerwig deserves the Oscar for Best Director, and the fact that just this morning it was revealed that she is one of a multitude of talented women not on the Academy Awards shortlist for that honor is a travesty. What she has designed, directed and delivered is a love-letter to both Alcott’s novel and to Alcott herself, who was forced to play a part all her life and sacrifice her artistic freedom. A century and a half later, Gerwig has finally done justice to this author’s work in a way that seemed almost unimaginable to me, going into the theater. Little Women is an instant classic, despite how hard Hollywood will try to ignore or downplay this incredible work of art.

Movie Rating: 9/10

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“Black Widow” Teaser Trailer Review!

A decade in the making, the Black Widow solo movie is finally on the horizon, with a teaser trailer that has my heart racing and tears flowing. It’s emotional, it’s powerful, and it’s long overdue. The character of Natasha Romanoff had to endure setback after setback before getting to this point – and even now that she’s here, it’s a bittersweet victory for the character, who died in Avengers: Endgame. This movie is set to be a prequel, exploring her origins, and how she became the most fearsome assassin, spy and heroine the Marvel Cinematic Universe had ever known.

And the trailer gives us a tantalizingly brief glimpse into that story: we are quickly re-introduced to our protagonist, Natasha Romanoff, at a dark time in her life – sometime just after Captain America: Civil War, according to rumors. On the run from the government, she assembles a ragtag team of her Russian friends and former adversaries to help her infiltrate the notorious Red Room that created her and an army of other fiercely skilled (and perfectly choreographed) Black Widows.

Along the way, she will cross paths with the deadly Taskmaster, a master tactician and warrior armed with photographic reflexes which allow him to mirror the fighting techniques of any opponent. While his outfit leaves much to be desired (he’s being unfavorably compared to a Power Ranger online), it’s to be hoped that his superpower will make him a worthy adversary of the Widow’s. There’s also a fair amount of suspicion that Taskmaster won’t end up dying, but will instead return further down the line as a member of the Thunderbolts, a team of reformed villains from the Marvel comics – whose lineup also includes another Black Widow star, the antiheroine Yelena Belova. Belova, who I talked about many months ago, has finally made her onscreen debut in this trailer – and Florence Pugh is clearly having the time of her life playing the dangerously aggressive younger “sister” of Natasha Romanoff, armed with vicious sarcasm and a heavy Russian accent.

The trailer also reveals Rachel Weisz as the character Melina, and David Harbour as the Red Guardian, a genetically-enhanced superhuman created by the Soviet Union as an answer to Captain America at the height of the Cold War. Both characters seem to have come out of hiding or retirement to join Natasha’s desperate endeavor, though it appears that Melina still has some connections to the Red Room, as she is seen conversing with an unnamed character, possibly played by Ray Winstone, who appears to be the head of the covert operation.

Natasha herself is off the charts in this trailer: she’s always had to rely heavily on her wits in the Marvel Universe, since most of the Avengers’ enemies tend to be gods, cyborg superhumans or alien warlords who probably aren’t going to be too fazed by bullets and martial arts, but here, in her own territory, on her own terms, she has no reason to hold back. And that is the coolest part of this whole trailer – for the first time, Natasha Romanoff is on her own, without anyone telling her what to do or where to go. And assuming all goes well, Natasha will finally be able to prove, once and for all, that she always was a heroine – she never needed the “redemption” that the Endgame writing team had to offer her.

The next era of Marvel history is about to dawn, and it’s Natasha who will guide us into that new day.

Trailer Rating: 9.5/10

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“Little Women” Trailer Review!

Visionary director Greta Gerwig is bringing the story of Little Women back to the big screen this Christmas, and it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. This is an adaptation of the story that turns the spotlight on 19th Century gender politics, and the four March sisters who learn how to navigate an oppressive society without sacrificing any of their freedom and passion for life. This is, according to Gerwig, a story drawn not only from Louisa May Alcott’s original novel, but from the author’s personal worldviews and other writings: it is a message about what defines true love, perseverance and resistance.

It leads to an unusual but exciting first trailer for the film, which seems both old-fashioned in its setting and peculiarly modern in its attitude; even radical at times. Saoirse Ronan, the film’s lead actress, portrays Jo March, the eldest of the four sisters and the writer of the group, who tries to publish a novel in which the lead character, a woman, doesn’t marry – something to which her publisher strongly objects; Emma Watson is Meg March, who, of course, does end up happily married, despite Jo’s insistence that she should follow her dream to become an actress – she’s seen as one of the weaker characters in the story by some modern critics, but Watson is clearly making her much more sympathetic; Florence Pugh is Amy, the self-absorbed “last hope” of the March family; and Eliza Scanlen is Beth, the family’s quietest, most soft-spoken member, who also receives the least screentime in the trailer. All four are forced to look at their lives in new ways, as they experience the turbulence of first love, marriage, motherhood, grief and the pain of growing up and out of their naive innocence.

Meryl Streep also makes an appearance as the short-tempered and domineering Aunt March, easily stealing her scenes in the trailer. We’re in for a definite treat here, with Streep bringing wit and charming elegance to the role of the elderly matron, whose callous exterior hides a gentle heart.

The main takeaway from this trailer is that this Little Women is awards-season gold: a close, intimate study of the era’s views on gender, and the slowly blossoming feminist movement, witnessed through the eyes of four independent and strong-willed heroines. I won’t spoil the story for anyone new to this, but I can assure you it’s perfect material for Christmas: it has heart, personality, and plenty of tearjerking moments, and there’s a strong emphasis on family.

And if you’re not into historical fiction, don’t fear: the first trailer for Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding’s holiday rom-com, Last Christmas, apparently drops tonight, so I’ll probably review that too.

Trailer Rating: 10/10

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The “Broken Women” Of “Black Widow”.

Last night, I began my coverage of Marvel’s San Diego Comic-Con panel with a brief post about what had been revealed at the Black Widow presentation; there seemed to be very little at first – it was a prequel, Florence Pugh would play Yelena Belova, and the film’s villain would be Taskmaster. And that seemed to be it. Boy, was I wrong.

Since then, there’s been a bunch of interviews with the cast of Black Widow (who are about to head back to London for more filming): a lot has been revealed, and we’re going to have to go over it all. Forget basically everything in my initial post. There’s a lot to talk about now.

The big thing about the film, apparently, is that it’s a drama: what with Black Widow herself being something of a small-scale superhero, it makes sense to focus on finding creative ways to make this film stand out, since, honestly, in a universe where Captain Marvel can punch spaceships out of the sky with her bare hands and Thor can harness the power of a dead star, Black Widow’s skills with a baton just aren’t gonna cut it. Scarlett Johansson has revealed that this film is much more intellectual than other Marvel movies: she gets to “talk more” than ever before, and says that there’s a lot of dialogue. It’s an introspective movie that will explore Black Widow’s mental and emotional state during a very interesting period of her life, when she was a fugitive in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. It looks like, during this time, Black Widow is on her own and trying to figure out her purpose in life when her past suddenly catches up with her and takes her on a wild ride back to places she remembers from her youth – the Red Room and Budapest, for example. The Black Widow we see here is someone who’s a little out of her element, and more than a little scared of what’s happening all around her: but we know from Avengers: Endgame that Widow will eventually pull herself back together and find her moral compass once again, only to have to sacrifice everything she’s won to save the world. Prediction: this film will prove, once and for all, that Black Widow is the most tragic character in the entire MCU.

What she finds on her journey will surprise her: first up, we have Florence Pugh’s character, Yelena Belova. We have a few new details on this elusive Russian assassin – she’s got a complicated history with Black Widow. The footage shown to the crowds at Comic-Con depicted Belova first attempting to murder Widow by strangling her with a curtain before sitting down with her to share a drink. Pugh says that Belova is very strong, but is dealing with her own issues – I think we’ll see Belova struggling between sticking with the Red Room that she’s known for her entire life, or leaving to follow Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, into the great unknown. It’s becoming more and more likely that Belova chooses to take on the mantle of “Black Widow”, when she learns of Romanoff’s self-sacrifice. Can you imagine how shocked the remaining Avengers will be when Belova arrives and introduces herself as Black Widow?

Now, we have a tidbit of information that has me flabbergasted: there’s no Taskmaster in this movie, apparently. Turns out, the footage shown at Comic-Con did not show the hooded villain as was previously reported – no, the character seen in that footage (footage which has not been released online) was a woman, Melina, who becomes the Iron Maiden character from the comics – the footage apparently showed Melina and Black Widow fighting in the wreckage of a fiery car crash. This character will be portrayed by Rachel Weisz, who says of Melina that she is an embittered woman who has been cycled and recycled through the Red Room program five times already, but had never been able to match the skill and prowess of her antagonist, Black Widow. She also mentioned that Melina is part of some scientific project which she couldn’t describe in any detail.

It looks like these three women will be at the center of the film: just as Captain Marvel explored the power of female friendships, Black Widow will probe deep into even more complex relationships of hatred, fear and resentment, as all three are trying to survive in a dangerous world.

But the two confirmed male characters both have interesting storylines as well – David Harbour confirmed that he is playing Alexei, the Red Guardian, a superhuman character born from Cold War conflicts; basically, the Soviet Union’s answer to Captain America. Considering that the Soviet Union disbanded quite some time ago, it would be interesting if Red Guardian was a relic of bygone days, someone who isn’t quite sure what he’s meant to do in a post-Cold War world: rather like Black Widow herself. Harbour promised that his character is very complex, which sounds awesome.

O.T. Fagbenle, meanwhile, is apparently not playing the villain, as previously speculated: instead, he’s a self-described “fixer” named Mason, who helps Natasha because of his romantic feelings for her. He’s a shady guy, who operates an extensive underworld of secret contacts and is always ready to help out his highest-paying customers by giving them emergency backup. He sounds like an interesting fellow, but we don’t know very much else about him yet.

So, now that we’ve gotten all this additional information; what do you think? Are you excited for Black Widow? Do you like the thought of it being a drama? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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“Black Widow” Is A Prequel!

Marvel Studios has officially begun its conquest of the next few years of cinema and culture, with an absolutely outstanding array of new films and TV shows being revealed at San Diego Comic-Con – the entire world responded accordingly, pushing Avengers: Endgame past its box-office competitor Avatar to make it the highest-grossing film of all time, while also managing to dominate social media, with all of Twitter’s top ten trends being Marvel-related, from Kate Bishop to Thor: Love And Thunder. Marvel has also given me quite the headache, giving me endless topics to discuss for the next few days, or possibly weeks – and discuss we shall, starting with the first film to be released next year (but the last film to be announced by Marvel president Kevin Feige at tonight’s showstopper presentation).

Black Widow, officially confirmed for a May 1st, 2020 release date, with David Harbour, Rachel Weisz, Florence Pugh and O.T. Fagbenle set to star alongside Scarlett Johansson’s KGB assassin in what will be a semi-prequel movie set in between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, during a time in which Black Widow was a fugitive from her own government: it was not revealed whether or not Captain America, Falcon or Winter Soldier would be in the film. It appears that large parts of the movie will be set in the fabled city of Budapest, though it is still unclear whether the events depicted there are flashbacks to the battle of Budapest referenced by Black Widow and Hawkeye in The Avengers – and Jeremy Renner was not among the cast members revealed for the film, so there’s a possibility Hawkeye isn’t even in it. Footage from the upcoming film was shown to a cheering crowd (who all received Black Widow hats afterward): the brief sizzle-reel showed Black Widow fighting Florence Pugh’s character, confirmed to be Widow’s antihero nemesis and “sister-figure”, Yelena Belova – called it! – before moving on to an intense brawl with the film’s main villain, Taskmaster, seen sporting his iconic shield: still no word on who will be playing that character, but we do know that David Harbour will portray a man named Alexi – in other words, Harbour will not be playing her father, Ivan, as was previously believed by many theorists. I’m still holding onto hope that my theory about Widow’s father being the Eternal, Ivan Druig, is correct. Eternals had its fair share of surprises during their opening presentation, but we’ll talk about that in a separate post. It was also confirmed that Fagbenle’s character “has feelings for” Black Widow, which is interesting. It wasn’t said whether she reciprocated his affections, or not.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to cover the rest of the SDCC reveals tomorrow morning – Black Widow happened to be the least eventful of Marvel’s many panels, so it was easy to talk about all the basics. Stay tuned for discussion of Lady Thor, the Multiverse, Kate Bishop, Eternals casting and more!

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“Black Widow” Movie Adds Another Black Widow!

There’s a lot of news to cover on this front: I would have posted much earlier, when there was a report that Ray Winstone had joined the cast of Marvel’s Black Widow solo movie, but I suspected that a bombshell report would drop in a few days more, so I waited patiently – and I was rewarded.

Black Widow is currently filming in the city of Budapest – an iconic locale in Marvel lore, having been mentioned as the site of some huge battle/catastrophic event by Black Widow herself, and fellow spy Hawkeye, multiple times throughout the Marvel movies. While some maintain that the city is probably being used simply as a stand-in for Russian locations, it gives us at least a little glimmer of hope that we will finally see the origins of this oft-mentioned, never-explained anecdote.

Whether or not we do, we will undeniably see the origins of the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff – the movie is rumored to be a prequel, exploring Natasha’s years working as a KGB assassin and then as a rogue agent defecting to S.H.I.E.L.D. While this might seem disappointing to fans who want to see the character in the present timeline, you can expect the film to drop all sorts of hints and clues about things that will be very important to the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel president Kevin Feige made this very clear, while also being very vague, when he said, while being interviewed, that, even though he can’t say whether it’s a prequel or not, “there are ways to do prequels where you learn all sorts of things you never knew before”. He actually said quite a few interesting things: I recommend you check it out for yourself here.

Those “things we never knew before” might include all sorts of things – events, big battles, encounters with other superheroes. And that’s what leads us back to Budapest for a minute, just so we can take a look at some very interesting details that might have been inadvertently (or deliberately?) revealed in behind-the-scenes images.

WARNING: this might be considered a spoiler to some, so if you don’t want to know any of the characters who might be in the film, you should go now! Also – Avengers: Endgame spoilers!

The image in questions shows Scarlett Johansson’s stunt double (maybe, we’ll get to that in a moment) riding a motorcycle at dangerously high speed through the streets of Budapest, sporting a long red braid – still no sign of the iconic short red bob-hairstyle that would definitively mark this as a prequel. Her hair still looks very much like how she wore it in her latest appearance in Avengers: Endgame. She’s not alone on the motorcycle: behind her, with arms wrapped around Natasha’s waist, is another woman, with a blond ponytail. She could be anyone, right?

"Black Widow" Movie Adds Another Black Widow! 5
Twitter | @builtfromhope

Well, it could be – except those two women on the motorcycle are apparently stunt dummies, not even stunt doubles. In other words, they’re basically pre-packaged mannequins: who come in packages. Which would necessarily be marked with the name associated with the mannequin inside the package. See where I’m going with this?

Yep, Twitter user @bestofwidows shared pictures of the boxes which apparently carried those dummies – one marked Natasha, the other marked…Yelena.

And the reaction from the general audience is probably similar to Thanos’ when he encounters Scarlet Witch in Endgame“I don’t even know who you are.”

Oh, but you will. Yelena Belova is one of only a handful of well-known characters from the Black Widow comics – a dangerous assassin in her own right, equal to Romanoff in strength and agility, and a student of the Red Room program. Belova has been both a villain and an antihero in her comics appearances, but her most notable run has her initially working against Romanoff, only to team up with her and bring about the defeat of the Red Room. She is virtually a clone of Romanoff in every way, and even uses the moniker “Black Widow”, except that her hair is typically blond. Black Widow actress Scarlett Johansson supposedly had her character dye her hair blond in Avengers: Infinity War as an homage to Yelena Belova – which, naturally, has now begun sparking some rumors that the Black Widow in Infinity War actually was Yelena Belova, and that in this prequel we’ll discover that there never was a Natasha Romanoff or something like that. It’s a cool premise, but highly implausible: more likely is that a young Yelena will be introduced in this upcoming movie and will then make an appearance in the present timeline soon after – similar to how Captain Marvel’s prequel origin film ended with a startling post-credits scene of her arriving at Avengers HQ after the events of Infinity War.

There’s still the slim chance that this movie isn’t, in fact, a prequel: why haven’t we seen Natasha’s classic hairstyle? Why does she seem to be dressed in civilian attire in all the behind-the-scenes photos, such as she wore throughout Avengers: Endgame, rather than her black outfit? I can’t answer those questions yet, but I can propose a theory. Two, in fact.

My first theory relies on the movie being a prequel: I suspect that Budapest is not serving, at least in this case, as a stand-in for a Russian city. I think what we see here is a young Natasha Romanoff rescuing Yelena Belova from the clutches of their KGB captors, trying to bring her into S.H.I.E.L.D custody with her: something will go wrong, and Yelena will not be saved. In this scenario, we might also see Natasha’s friend and lover, Hawkeye, and maybe a team of S.H.I.E.L.D agents attempting to assist the Russian rogues. Ming-Na Wen of the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has already expressed her wish to be in the Black Widow movie, portraying a younger version of her character, Agent Melinda May. This would be the perfect place to have her appear: and with the recent cameos of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D actors Clark Gregg and Patrick Brennan in Captain Marvel, plus James D’Arcy of the TV show Agent Carter appearing in Avengers: Endgame, it seems like Marvel has begun to embrace its outlying spinoffs for the first time since Avengers: Age of Ultron.

My other theory, while much more unlikely, has basically the same premise, but the setting is now sometime in the post-Endgame universe. Here, Natasha would be brought back to life (there are dozens of theories on how this could be achieved), and would go on a search for her father, Ivan, whose identity was finally revealed to her after years of searching in Endgame, shortly before her death. As one of the last things Natasha would remember, it would make sense for her to try and find her father and any living family members, after being resurrected – this hunt would take her to Russia, where she would run into Yelena Belova and a similarly-resurrected Red Room. It’s unlikely, but still worth mentioning.

Either way, we now know that Yelena Belova is indeed going to be in the Black Widow movie – most likely portrayed by Marvel newcomer Florence Pugh, whose likeness the blond stunt-dummy apparently carries, and who recently arrived in Budapest.

The last bit of news concerning the movie comes from a small, blurry photograph of the film’s first official logo:

"Black Widow" Movie Adds Another Black Widow! 6
Twitter | @ripmarvel

Prepare yourselves for May 2020, folks. We’re in for a ride.

 

You can also watch my video review of this news story on YouTube!

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First Look At Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women”!

Greta Gerwig, visionary director of the 2017 critical darling Lady Bird, is teaming up again with her Academy Award-nominated star, Saoirse Ronan – but now they’re heading all the way back to the 19th Century for a romantic historical-fiction romp. And this time, Gerwig’s status has allowed her to muster an impressive cast alongside Ronan, including Beauty & The Beast‘s Emma Watson, screen legend Meryl Streep, actress and director Laura Dern, Oscar-nominee Timothée Chalamet (also from Lady Bird), and rising star Florence Pugh. The ensemble of stars will be donning petticoats, sunbonnets and dainty pastel outfits for their outing in Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women, a book that has been adapted to the big screen precisely ten-thousand times – fine, seven, but that’s still too many.

First Look At Greta Gerwig's "Little Women"! 7
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Even though the first photos released today have all the misty-eyed stares and tidy drawing-rooms that are stereotypical of all adaptations of 19th Century romances (literally, every adaptation of a Jane Austen novel ever), don’t expect the movie to be as blatantly prim and pristine as it appears on the surface: Gerwig has made it clear that, during her research on Little Women author Louisa May Alcott, she became deeply interested in the period’s gender norms and views on feminism, especially – issues that were also close to Alcott’s own heart, and which naturally appear in the film, in the form of subtle social commentary: Gerwig even seemed to imply that Ronan and Chalamet’s androgynous appearances made them perfect for the kind of story she’s telling, one in which her protagonists will throw out the restrictions of their heteronormative lifestyle in favor of a more relaxed semi-platonic relationship and free love. All that is fine, but when Gerwig described the main characters as an “intellectual hippie family”, I’ll admit that’s what truly perplexed me, and got me thinking: who wants a Little Women adaptation when we could have Little Women Go To Woodstock?

Ronan will portray the novel’s heroine, Josephine “Jo” March, in the film: March’s rebellious spirit and relentless determination made her one of literature’s earliest great female role models, and I can’t think of a better fit for the role than the equally inspiring Irish actress. Emma Watson, on the other hand, will be perhaps trapped in the role of Meg March, whom critics have often derided for being an introverted and unambitious character who steadfastly remains devoted to her home and husband. Hopefully Watson can get past those criticisms with a stellar performance. Eliza Scanlen and Florence Pugh are the young sisters, Beth and Amy respectively, who are nearly identical when the story opens: Beth, shy, diplomatic and gentle-tempered; Amy, artistic, delicate and pampered.

First Look At Greta Gerwig's "Little Women"! 8
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And of course we can expect Meryl Streep to be the powerhouse that she is, in the role of Aunt Josephine (not to be confused with the Aunt Josephine of A Series of Unfortunate Events). The cranky and discouraging widow with a heart of gold, her archetypal character will probably have a large number of scene-stealing moments – thankfully, the rest of the cast ensures (or should ensure, at least) that Streep doesn’t end up stealing the entire movie.

So what do you think? Are you excited for Little Women? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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“Black Widow” Begins Filming!

Marvel’s highly-anticipated Black Widow solo movie was expected to begin filming next month, at Pinewood Studios in London, but apparently things have been moving quicker than anticipated, as leaked photos show that Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson has arrived in Norway.

Johansson touched down in the Ørsta Municipality in a private plane, but cameras still managed to catch a glimpse of her (or, at least, someone who looks identical to her) being driven around the picturesque Norwegian landscape. However, it seems like the actress is here, not for sightseeing, but for filming, as other photos show signs with Black Widow‘s working title “Blue Bayou” written on them in a distinctly Cyrillic typeface. The Russian assassin Natasha Romanoff is clearly on her way to Norway.

"Black Widow" Begins Filming! 9
@bestofwidows | Twitter

There’s no good reason as to why, just yet, but it’s easy to imagine that Norway, with its fjords, mountains and miles of uncharted wilderness, could be the perfect place for some impressive action sequences, or a secret KGB hideout. Norway is also, notably, where Thor builds New Asgard in Avengers: Endgame, but it seems unlikely that there’s any correlation – Black Widow is expected to be a prequel, set before the events of Romanoff’s first appearance in Iron Man 2. Other rumors, yet to be confirmed, suggest that the movie will take place in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, following Romanoff as she flees from the law and the restrictions of the Sokovia Accords, helped by a rogue Steve Rogers. The problem with that scenario is that the film would kind of need…Steve Rogers, not to mention Falcon, and possibly Scarlet Witch and Vision. Those would be all great additions to the film’s cast, admittedly, but this is a solo film, not a team-up, and Captain America’s time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is supposedly over. It’s probably best to keep the focus on Widow herself, and have it be a prequel, where we can finally learn the truth about the Red Room program, and maybe even see some classic comics characters like Yelena Belova (expected to be portrayed by Florence Pugh, of Fighting With My Family).

That doesn’t rule out the possibility of characters like Hawkeye and Nick Fury appearing, since both had close relationships with Black Widow. And it seems likely that we’ll finally see what happened in Budapest. Rumors have been circulating like wildfire – most recently, some speculation that star David Harbour will be playing The Thing, one of the Fantastic Four, in Black Widow…despite the fact that this (a) makes no sense, and (b) wouldn’t work due to the timing of the Disney/Fox merger.

One last thing to note is that Scarlett Johansson was wearing the red braids she sported in Avengers: Endgame, not the iconic short red haircut seen in earlier films, or even her curly hairstyle from Iron Man 2. While it’s possible that this was Johansson’s own stylistic choice, it’s definitely an intriguing one, one that might bode well for the many people who want this movie to be a sequel. The behind-the-scenes video showing Johansson’s hairstyle can be found here.

With filming having now begun, expect more updates, castings, and theories to follow!

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What’s Next For The MCU? Phase 4 Predictions.

The ending of Avengers: Endgame leaves us with a bittersweet taste in our mouths. Things have changed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for better or worse, and now we have to continue on in a world that deals with Endgame‘s ramifications – a world with some new characters we don’t yet know much about, new storylines we’re not yet emotionally invested in: where do we go now, and who can we expect to see more from in the coming years?

Naturally, there are major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I encourage you to go do so – like, now.

You’re back? Good, so let’s talk about what happened, and what happens next. The original Avengers (Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Natasha Romanoff, Bruce Banner and Clint Barton) have had their stories concluded in a variety of different ways: Tony is dead, and likely to remain that way; Rogers has now gotten everything he wanted, including his dance with Peggy Carter, and his arc is finished – he’s not dead, but he’s now an old man; Thor has joined the (As)guardians of the Galaxy and seems likely to enjoy a whole bunch of new adventures; Romanoff’s broken body is lying at the foot of a cliff on the planet Vormir, where she sacrificed herself for the Soul Stone; Banner is now Professor Hulk, and his entire story seems to have ended; Barton has returned to his family.

Of these, Thor, Romanoff and Barton are probably going to continue on into the next phase of the MCU.

Thor has joined forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and will presumably be a key player in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which seems likely to focus on an unresolved plot point from Endgame: Star-Lord, the Guardians’ leader, was temporarily reunited with his girlfriend Gamora, but she disappeared at some point afterwards. We see him searching for her at the end of the movie, so it looks like that could be a critical focus of the third Guardians installment. Star-Lord, thankfully, has help from Gamora’s sister, Nebula, who has been more than redeemed by events in Endgame – and from Thor, who has relinquished all of his other duties so he can join his friend Rocket Raccoon here on an intergalactic mission. Certainly Thor’s presence on the team will be welcomed by other Guardians such as Drax and Mantis, both of whom seemed infatuated with him in Avengers: Infinity War, and by Nebula and Rocket, who have now become friends with the God of Thunder. There’s already some tension between Thor and Star-Lord, however, about who gets to be captain. Considering the overwhelming support for Thor, I think Star-Lord’s in for a surprise – I wonder if this might carry through into real life. Star-Lord actor Chris Pratt has been the unchallenged star of the Guardians franchise for two movies now, but Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is a fan-favorite and could easily overshadow the rest of the group. Hopefully, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 director James Gunn, newly reinstated to the franchise, will be able to give all the characters their proper screentime.

Meanwhile, Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, seemed to have a definitive conclusion in Endgame, sacrificing herself so that the other Avengers could win the Soul Stone and complete their construction of an Infinity Gauntlet. However, Romanoff is getting her own solo movie next year, and even though Black Widow seems to be a prequel, it doesn’t seem very Marvelous to make the very first move of the next phase be a callback to the past. I’ve speculated before that I feel Black Widow has a major connection to events in Phase 4, specifically the upcoming Eternals franchise, but that’s still just a guess. At the moment, all we know about Black Widow is that she’s dead. Her death, however, could hypothetically be reversed – Captain America returns the Soul Stone at the end of Endgame, which might be enough to undo Black Widow’s sacrifice and bring her back to life. Her movie is set to star Rachel Weisz, Florence Pugh and David Harbour (with some outlets also reporting that Emma Watson might still be involved in the project), and is going to be the stepping-stone into the next phase of the MCU. Whether or not Black Widow ends up being linked to the broader Marvel universe, though, it will still be a very interesting foray into an unexplored corner of the timeline, one that involves spies, political intrigue, and (hopefully) the often-alluded-to-but-never-properly-explained incident in Budapest that both Black Widow and Hawkeye remember so differently.

Speaking of Hawkeye, Clint Barton finished out Endgame still very much alive, and very much still the family man he’s always been. At the beginning of Endgame, we saw him and his daughter practicing archery, and now that he’s back he’ll presumably continue his lessons with her. However, everything might not be as happily-ever-after as it seems for Barton, who did a lot of questionable things during the time that his family was snapped out of existence by the Titan Thanos. Aside from renewing his semi-romantic relationship with Black Widow, Barton also adopted a new identity – under the name Ronin – and began systematically killing people across the globe. We even saw him dealing with Japanese criminals in a particularly vicious scene, which saw Hiroyuki Sanada wasted in a seemingly pointless cameo as one of Ronin’s victims. But could karma catch up with Hawkeye in the future? It’s been rumored that he’s getting his own streaming show on the new Disney Plus platform, where we might also see the Hawkeye mantle pass on to Kate Bishop, a comics character who has yet to enter the MCU. Maybe some figurative ghosts from Barton’s bloodstained past come back to haunt him and his family, and he has to team up with Bishop to stop them.

Interestingly, Hawkeye wouldn’t be alone on Disney Plus: Scarlet Witch, Vision, Loki, Winter Soldier and Falcon are the Marvel characters currently confirmed to be getting their own streaming shows. Scarlet Witch and Vision will be starring in the oddly-named WandaVision, which will see actors Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany reprise their roles as the telepathic mutant (they’re allowed to use that word now, due to the FOX merger), and the deadpan android. Very few details are known about their show so far, except that it might take place in the 1950’s – which is confusing, to say the least, since neither Scarlet Witch nor Vision have shown any interest in time traveling previously, and Vision is actually dead at the moment. The Loki show, aptly titled Loki, could potentially explore one of Endgame‘s most intriguing moments – where Loki, in an alternate timeline, manages to escape with the Space Stone after the Battle of New York. This timeline, unlike others, might not have been affected by Captain America returning the Infinity Stones to their proper timelines at the end of the movie. This means we could see Loki on a wild, galaxy-hopping adventure through space and time in his own show: who wouldn’t be down for that?

Falcon & The Winter Soldier, on the other hand, is by far the most easy-to-understand of the three confirmed shows: at the end of Endgame, we saw Steve Rogers pass the title of Captain America to Falcon, who accepted it with the silent blessing of Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, who stood nearby. A new Captain America means (most likely) more trouble with organizations like S.H.I.E.L.D and HYDRA, which can’t ever seem to get their act together. We’ll see Falcon and Winter Soldier team up against a new threat to American freedoms and values, while also coming to terms with what it means to be Captain America. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan have such fantastic chemistry, both onscreen and off-screen, that I think this show will be a big hit.

Not everything is so simple, though. On the big screen, the MCU is going to continue getting larger and more complex, with the addition of the Eternals, a divine race of superhumans who will show up in theaters in late 2020, ushering in what could be Marvel’s most ambitious goal yet: a cosmic phase. It’s long been speculated that, after Endgame, things are going to get crazier in the MCU, with the addition of more out-there concepts such as Eternals, Deviants and Celestials, or characters like Galactus and the Silver Surfer. If that is what they’re doing, The Eternals is the perfect place to start this: the members of this ensemble team are relateable enough that they might be able to sell some of these strange new ideas to audiences, especially with the help of confirmed stars Angelina Jolie and Kumail Nanjiani. The film looks to be a crowded one, with rumors of five female leads and three male leads, including Marvel’s first openly gay male lead, and a female lead of color. This project is one that I’m highly anticipating.

After The Eternals, though, the MCU doesn’t look to be diving into otherworldly and galactic storylines: instead, we’ll probably first be returning to the tranquil African nation of Wakanda, where Black Panther and his sister Shuri will face some new, as yet unknown, threat to the throne. There are very few details about this eagerly-awaited sequel to the 2018 cultural phenomenon that was Black Panther, but you can be sure that the film will go into production as soon as possible.

Another sequel that has yet to be officially confirmed is Captain Marvel 2. Air-force pilot Carol Danvers flew higher, further, faster at the box-office this year, proving that a female superhero is more than capable of carrying her own franchise. While there is no word on when such a sequel might be released, it’s probably only a matter of time. Carol got her comics-accurate haircut and sash in Avengers: Endgame and looks like she’s ready to take on her undefeated foe from her solo movie, the Kree Supreme Intelligence, or possibly even her former mentor Yon-Rogg, who was allowed to escape unharmed at the end of Captain Marvel. The alien race of Skrulls, villains in the comics, were portrayed in a more sympathetic light in the MCU, but that doesn’t mean all of them are benevolent – I’ve already questioned whether one character established in Captain Marvel might walk down a dark path in a future movie. Endgame teased the appearance of several new female superheroes, including Valkyrie as the new Queen of Asgard and Ant-Man’s daughter Cassie Lang: it’s possible that, in a nod to the A-Force storyline from Marvel comics, we could see these heroines team up under the leadership of Carol Danvers to take on some cosmic threats.

But while battle rages among the stars, the earth itself might be threatened by more mystical forces – Doctor Strange, who became one of the Avengers’ most crucial players in Infinity War, is now unprotected by the Time Stone. This could leave him and the Sanctum Sanctorum open to attack by characters such as Karl Mordo, or even Dormammu. Magic is still pretty new to the MCU, and doesn’t yet have any clearly-established rules, so it will be interesting to see what director Scott Derrickson chooses to do with it here, in Doctor Strange 2, which will presumably see the Sorceror Supreme dealing with the fallout from Endgame. Hopefully we see him team up with the Scarlet  Witch, assuming she isn’t permanently relegated to Disney Plus.

Beyond even that, Marvel is already planning for its first film headed by an Asian lead – an origin story for the martial-arts master and spy Shang-Chi, whose appearance in the MCU doesn’t seem to have been foreshadowed by anything we’ve seen so far: unless it might be that the Japanese criminals from Endgame that Ronin killed were somehow associated with Shang-Chi’s infamous father, the crime syndicate Zheng Zu (previously known by the racist moniker Fu Manchu). Marvel’s president Kevin Feige has been surprisingly willing to discuss this particularly project, but there are still no concrete details.

And that’s all in the future. Only a few months away now is the last installment in Marvel’s Phase 3 – that is, Spider-man: Far From Home, which will pit the web-slinger Peter Parker against a reality-bending villain named Mysterio. While this isn’t officially part of Phase 4, according to Kevin Feige, it will still be an entertaining and exciting epilogue to the events of Avengers: Endgame, a much needed respite after huge battles and intergalactic politics, where we can sit back and enjoy some smaller-scale conflict for the safety of Spider-man’s neighborhood.

Which Phase 4 movie are you most excited to see? Let me know in the comments. Considering the fast pace at which projects like The Eternals, Black Widow and Black Panther 2 are being rushed along, it seems likely we’ll get more details about these and other movies sooner than later.

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