SciFi Weekend: Orphan Black; DC vs. Marvel Movies; SHIELD; Why You Should Watch The Americans; Big Bang Theory On Leonard Nimoy; The Last Man On Earth; The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; House of Cards and Hillary Clinton

The Orphan Black Season 3 trailer is above. Following is the official season synopsis for the third season, which starts April 18:

No sooner has Sarah caught her breath after a stealthy escape from DYAD and the ruthless clone Rachel (Maslany), she is called upon to face the crazed, captive Castor clone, Rudy (Millen). But it is the discovery of Helena’s disappearance that spurs Sarah into action, rallying her sisters in the quest to reunite their clone family, and find peace once and for all.

Their greatest threat is a band of highly trained soldiers – identical brothers dubbed Project Castor. Unlike the sisterhood, Mark, Rudy, Seth, Miller and others (Millen) grew up together, fully aware of who and what they are. Developed by the military, this wolf pack was raised as regimented clones – singular in thought, movement and allegiance. Hell-bent on kicking up dirt, they’re dispatched to tackle their mission from all sides. But differences in approach betray cracks in their armor, and may be the very thing the sisters need to escape their clutches.

The sisters will need all the help they can get. With Cosima’s fluctuating health and no known cure for the mystery illness that ails her, she is holding onto life by a thread while nursing a broken heart left by her scientist lover Delphine (Evelyne Brochu).  Can she find a cure in time to save herself and her sisters? As the turbulent world of Alison turns, she faces fresh suburban woes and new marital challenges with lovable oaf of a husband Donnie (Kristian Bruun). How far will Alison go to keep up the façade of her cookie cutter life?  Sarah’s torn between her desire for a life with daughter Kira (Skyler Wexler) and Kira’s father Cal (Michiel Huisman) and the urge to protect her foster family – loyal and feisty brother Felix (Jordan Gavaris) and mother Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy). But Mrs. S’s betrayal may cause her to turn her back on the only mother she’s known.

The hits keep coming for the girls but their commitment to this new family is as important as ever. No clone can do it alone, and Sarah must align with unlikely bedfellows in order to take on what is yet to come… and hopefully, discover the truth – her truth – along the way. How far are they willing to go to save each other and protect their families?

More on the upcoming season at The Mary Sue

Superman Warner CEO Interview

There are a lot of superhero movies planned making some wonder if viewers will have sufficient interest.  Warner CEO Kevin Tsujihara says that the DC movies will be edgier and more steeped in realism compared to Marvel’s movies:

“The key thing is that the movies and the television shows and the games, everything looks very different …you have to be able to take advantage of the diversity of these characters,” said Tsujihara.

Not everyone seems to agree. The comic book movie pile-up was the subject of numerous jokes at this year’s Oscar ceremony, and the eventual best picture winner, “Birdman,” is a satire of the craze for superhero films.

However, Warner Bros. is making a big bet that the comic book phenomenon won’t fizzle out just as the craze for disaster movies, biblical epics and other once-hot genres cooled off. The studio is using sister company DC Comics’ stable of masked vigilantes and villains to make roughly two superhero movies a year beginning in 2016 with the release of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” Other films include bigscreen adaptations of “The Flash,” “Aquaman” and “Shazam.”

The idea is to create a connected cinematic universe in which characters from one film interact with those from another, partnering, warring and creating super-teams such as the Justice League, DC’s answer to Marvel’s “The Avengers.” It’s a strategy that owes a lot to Marvel, but Warner Bros. chief Tsujihara stressed that characters like Batman and Deadshot are very different from that company’s signature Iron Man, Spider-Man and Captain America brands.

“The worlds of DC are very different,” he said. “They’re steeped in realism, and they’re a little bit edgier than Marvel’s movies.”

The major DC comics programs were on hiatus last week and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD returned. While Agent Carter was well-received, and people thought it was a good idea to use it to fill a hiatus in SHIELD if there is a hiatus, there have also been a lot of complaints that the hiatus destroyed the momentum of the show. It was also a bit confusing for those who were forgetting the events of two months ago, and haven’t been reading up on the significance of adding the Inhumans. Bleeding Cool has a good summary of six key events from the return of SHIELD, which might be especially helpful if anyone is a bit lost.

Saturday Night Live has coverage in the video above of the Avengers beating Ultron.

Chris Evans spoke with Collider about Captain America in Avengers: Age of Ultron. ComicBookMovie.com has more on the movie from Joss Whedon.

The Americans 69 Scene

The Americans continues to have excellent episodes week after week. Many critics agree that it is the best scripted drama which continues with the same cast from season to season, but very few people are actually watching. Many reviewers have pointed out that more should watch. Uproxx presents a good argument for watching which might get more attention than favorable critical reviews abut its smart story telling:

It’s a show about sexy spies doing sexy things, with wigs and intrigue and great music and a teenage daughter who isn’t Dana Brody and violence and 69’ing. Maybe that’s the problem. The Americans is too vague a title. For the rest of Season 3, and hopefully into Season 4, FX should start promoting the series as The Show Where Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys 69.

There really was such a scene–see picture above. Plus their daughter walked in on it. Maybe that is what drove her to going to church. Paige is still a much better television daughter than Dana Brody.

I have mocked NBC for trying to copy The Americans with Allegiance. It has been canceled after only five episodes.

Big Bang Theory Nimoy Tribute

The Big Bang Theory ended with a tribute to Leonard Nimoy last week. I couldn’t read the text as my DVR popped up the window asking if I wanted to save or delete at the end of the show. In case anyone missed it, I have obtained and posted a screen grab above.

NBC has announced that Hannibal will return on June 4. Zachary Quinto will be guest staring on an episode. I hope someone Slaps him.

There was a reason for all those rumors that Jenna Coleman was going to leave Doctor Who after last season, along with all those hints in various episodes. Steven Moffat has confirmed that Coleman did plan to leave after last season but was persuaded to stay.

kimmy23f-6-web

It feels like the number of quality sit-coms had dropped tremendously by last season. Then last summer we got You’re The Worst, one of the best ever. Three new sit-coms worth watching have premiered recently. I discussed The Last Man on Earth in a separate post here. Also worthwhile are Fresh Off The Boat on ABC and Netflix released the first season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Friday. The last was developed by Tina Fey, originally to air on NBC. It would have fit well on Thursday night on NBC with shows such as Community, 30 Rock, and Parks and Recreation. Now that all of the shows of this type are gone from NBC’s lineup, it is far more likely to survive on Netflix. Netflix also plans a second season, which will be produced without concern for the standards of network television. Tina Fey has claimed it primarily consist of shower sex.

Some have criticized The Last Man on Earth for being totally unrealistic, but the same can be said about many events in other shows such as House of Cards (as I’ll discuss in the future). If all the unrealistic aspects of Last Man On Earth bother you, pretend it is just a bizarre dream. Who knows, maybe that will be the explanation in the end. Regardless, it is funny enough to get away with an unrealistic view of how things would be after most people die of a plague.

As people are watching at different rates, I’ll wait a little longer to discuss Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt along with the third season of House of Cards. While avoiding any spoilers, I will mention that watching House of Cards did have me wondering who would make the worse Democratic president–Frank Underwood or Hillary Clinton. Saturday Night Live also tied Hillary Clinton to House of Cards in this skit, following her Nixonian email problems.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PstHaZccmOk

SciFi Weekend: 12 Monkeys; Arrow; The Atom; Spider-Man Joins MCU; X-Men; The Black Widow Project; A Female Thor; Orphan Black; Constantine; How Not To Get Away With Murder; The Americans; The Casual Vacancy; The IT Crowd In Space

12 Monkeys Decaying Body

I had fears that 12 Monkeys could settle on a simple formula of searching for the Night Room and the Army of the 12 Monkeys in our present, and a battle for the facility in the future. I no longer have such concerns about the direction of the show after this week’s episode, The Night Room. Major spoilers ahead for those who might be a week behind. The location of the Night Room was found (mostly off screen last week) and this week’s episode primarily took place there. The relationships between the main characters will not be exactly the same, especially after The Pallid Man told Cassandra that Cole killed Dr. Henri Toussaint in Haiti. There are also questions raised about Jones.

The episode was really interesting when the time travel implications of the virus are considered. Is the skeleton with the virus really Cole’s? Does he eventually develop the plague, despite his current immunity, or is he just a carrier? Does the repeated time travel play a part? Did Jones send his rotting body back in time, and for what reason? Did Jones (inadvertently?) cause the plague? If the answers are in the future which Cole came from, he won’t find them immediately. Although he failed in preventing the plague, he did enough to change the future. With West 7 and not Jones now in control of the time travel facility in the altered future, and with Cassie kidnapped in the past, Cole starts out next week with no allies in either time period beyond an insane girl.

12-monkeys Cassie Night Room

The shows’s executive producers Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett discussed the impact on the mythology with The Hollywood Reporter:

The Night Room is a big return to our mythology and the next big step in learning more not only about the virus, but the origin of this conspiracy,” Matalas says. “We learn quite a bit about the future, too. There is a very big storyline regarding Jones (Barbara Sukowa) in the Night Room. We get to learn what it took to get this time travel project up and running and the sacrifices she made. This episode is the one where we inhibit our skin a little bit more. The show gets a little bit more unique and a little more off-beat from what you may expect. We bring the weird a little bit here in a good way. It’s what makes it 12 Monkeys.

The two creators have a bigger plan in mind for Jones, which began with the early and rare moment of levity from the character at the beginning of “The Night Room.” “It’s definitely building up to something. Jones becomes from here on out a more prominent character with more screen time. That is something we wanted to see, her among the other characters, but also her backstory is really important to the mythology of the show and that is the first hint of it,” Fickett said. “When Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) goes into her room and opens up that chest you see the baby blanket with the name Hannah on it. Suddenly we know there is a whole lot more to this woman and maybe she has deeply personal reasons for changing time as well.”

Matalas, however, notes that messing with time has its consequences both to Cole and time itself. Throughout the Night Room, Cole starts to experience debilitating headaches. “Keep in mind, this is a new process. Cole is the pilot program for this. No one has traveled as much as him. He does have a time clock on himself,” Matalas said.

The changes brought about from the destruction of the Precursor are a major according to Matalas. It’s big enough to break time. “We are not talking about multiple universes. We are talking about one singular timeline. Jones, in [episode] six, explains the difference between loops, or what’s called a jinn, and that’s basically the Sarah Connor. … How Reese had to come back in time to pregnate Sarah Connor so that she can give birth to John Connor who will send his father back in time. It’s one of the infinite loops. That’s called a jinn,” Matalas explains.  “When there are more traumatic changes to the timeline, then you can break the change and that’s what happens in episode six.”

Among the big changes was The Pallid Man’s first mention of hierarchy within the Army of the 12 Monkeys by naming dropping someone called The Witness. When questioned about the character, Matalas and Fickett remained tight-lipped, promising only that the answer will not be what viewers expect.  “It’s not the answer Cole is expecting either,” Matalas said. “Or any of our characters,” Fickett added.

“There is a lot going on with the Army of the 12 Monkeys and by episode eleven you’ll learn a lot more about them. Enough to make your brain explode,” Matalas said. “Releasing the virus could be one of their intended goals, but the end result may not be what you expect it to be. With time travel you’re playing the long game and if you’re dealing with the fate of the entire planet, destruction can be creative in the long run.”

Arrow Ray Palmer Atom Suit

Arrow showrunner Marc Guggenheim is not one of those who subscribe to the theory (mentioned last week) that John Diggle might be John Stewart, who succeeds Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern. I do think that Diggle plays such a key role on Arrow that it makes sense to keep him as he is, although it might be a way to give him a spin-off series in the future after Arrow ends.

We do know that Arrow is on the verge of introducing another superhero. Ray Palmer will put on the Advanced Technology Operating Mechanism (A.T.O.M.) suit, which so far we have only seen as a holograph,  in episode 15, Nanda Parbat. His course as a superhero sounds a lot like Laurel’s. Guggenheim said, “He’s definitely a sloppy superhero in the sense of all of our characters don’t immediately have the easiest time fighting crime. I would say episode 19 really digs underneath what does it mean for Ray to be a hero. Is he a hero because of who he is? Or is he a hero because of the suit that he’s made?” He will not be shrinking initially but will fly:

For me, the most satisfying thing about the costume is, it looks like Brandon walked off of a movie set. I’ve never seen a TV show do a costume of this level of ambition before. He’s got a lot of cool tricks up his sleeve. People who are immediately expecting him to shrink are going to be disappointed. I will say that upfront.

We always say, we’re doing the “Arrow” version of The Atom. That said, there will be some flying involved, which looks remarkably amazing. He has a lot of little gadgets and tricks and abilities built into that suit. I don’t want to spoil exactly what they are, because I think part of the fun of watching is seeing what that suit’s going to do next.

A Felicity Smoak action figure is being released. I won’t discuss this further to avoid getting into Lars And The Real Girl territory.

Spider-Man and Avengers

After several weeks of rumors, it has now been announced that   Spider-Man will become part of the Marvel cinematic universe. It is believed that this means that The Amazing Spider-Man trilogy will not be completed and Andrew Garfield is out as Spider-Man. The deal will allow Spider-Man to appear in an upcoming Marvel Studios movie, assumed to be the upcoming Captain America movie considering that in the comics Spider-Man played a role in the civil war storyline. Afterwards, while Sony will retain ownership and handle distribution, Marvel Studies will collaborate with Sony on the creative end. Considering that Sony has failed in two different attempts at a Spider-Man trilogy, this deal should help both Sony and Marvel. There is also talk of future Marvel cross overs in future Spider-Man movies.

While most fans seem to have been rooting for Marvel Studies to get creative control of Spider-Man, I recently discussed a contrary opinion that this would reduce exposure for some of the lesser comics characters which Marvel Studies has done an excellent job with. I think that, if necessary, it would be worth reducing the number of other Marvel movies in order to have a quality Spider-Man movie series. So far it appears that the only consequence will be to move back the releases dates of four of the planned phase 3 movies. The updated release schedule can be found here.

Wolverine-3-Hugh-Jackman-and-Patrick-Stewart

Hugh Jackman discussed future Wolverine and X-Men movies and the possibility of an X-Men cross-over with the Marvel cinematic universe.

“I like to think there’s that possibility for all of it, and I would even like to think more that it doesn’t happen out of necessity, y’know, when someone’s run it into the ground or something. I optimistically love the idea of “What the hell, Batman versus Iron Man versus Wolverine!” Let’s just chuck ‘em in.

We’ll see what happens, but maybe as these things go on more and more they’ll want to and need to do all that stuff. I’m optimistic, I’d think it’d be great, but hey, it’s not my billions of dollars behind this promise. [laughs] It’s easy for us to speculate, “Why did they do that?!”

Agent Carter has primarily tied into the Marvel cinematic universe with connections to Captain America and SHIELD. Another connection has been the revelation that Carter’s former neighbor Dottie was trained in the Black Widow program. Bridget Regan discussed her role with Comic Book Resources.

Thor Female
I was a bit skeptical when I first heard that the Thor comic was to change to feature a female version of the character, but I saw it more as an attempt to bring in female readers as opposed to anything political. As I do not read it I cannot judge it myself but it does seem from the blogs that comic fans are receiving this favorably. Some conservative see it differently, both disliking the comic and turning it into a political argument. An article on the comic at Breitbart has the title, Female Thor Is What Happens When Progressive Hand-Wringing And Misandry Ruin A Cherished Art-Form. Vox Populi says it is  “exactly the same thing as a communist government taking over a capitalist society.”

BBC America has released a set of teasers for the upcoming season of Orphan Black, which returns on April 18.

Many people were predicting that Constantine would never make it to a second season after the decision to limit it to the first thirteen episodes this season. Now there are rumors that NBC might keep it alive, except move it to the Syfy network and renaming it Hellblazer. This would help with the goal of increasing the number of origianl shows on Syfy, and ratings expectations would be far lower. It is expected that if it does move to Syfy, it would also be able to concentrate more on the horror elements as opposed to trying to be a network procedural.

How To Get Away With Murder is really getting wild as it approaches its season finale. Despite all the flash backs earlier in the season regarding the attempts to burn Sam’s body, they now appear to be in serious danger of getting caught due to portions of his body being found. Didn’t any of them watch the first season of Breaking Bad? Knowing that the show will be coming back for a second season has major implications for any speculation as to how the season will end. Any of the students could conceivably get arrested but Annalise will have to continue with the show. Either she gets off, the mystery is dragged into next season, or perhaps they do a variation on the second season of Broadchurch in which she is arrested and next season deals with her trial. That would also spare them from having to either come up with a new season-long mystery or settle for case of the week episodes.

The Blacklist shows how great acting can save what otherwise would probably be a weak show. Repeatedly we get hope of really learning something and it turns out to be very little. We saw Elizabeth’s memories from the night of the fire, and then were told her memories might have been tampered with and are not accurate. There was more talk about the Fulcrum and it was ultimately found in Elizabeth’s bunny, but it is really just a McGuffin. I just could not imagine watching this show without James Spader.

The Americans remains the best drama which continues a story from season to season on television. (I used this awkward description to exclude Fargo and True Detective, two shows which some critics ranked above The Americans last season.) Personally I didn’t find packing Annelise into the suitcase all that cringe-worthy, but Elizabeth’s tooth-extractions were a different matter. Executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg discussed the creation of the scene in the video above, from Slate.

Frank Langella is also an excellent addition to the cast as their former and current handler Gabriel. Among the many history lessons from the series, the episode also showed today’s kids how television stations did not stay on around the clock, signing off for the night by playing The National Anthem and then running a test signal.  I haven’t bothered to watch, but I hear that the NBC rip-off, Allegiance, is doing terribly in both reviews and ratings and is not expected to last very long.

A television version of The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling airs tonight on BBC One. The Guardian has a review.

The Guardian reports that the creators of The IT Crowd are working on a sitcom set in space for Channel 4. Shows from Channel 4 have sometimes been made available in the United States over Hulu.

SciFi Weekend: Parenthood Finale; The Marvel Cinematic Universe; The 100; Arrow; Allegiance; The Americans

Parenthood Finale Table

Parenthood concluded with one of the best television finales of all time. This was an easier show to conclude than some others. It did not have the problem of shows such as The X-Files and Lost, which became so burdened by its mythology that it was impossible for the finale to be satisfying without giving up hope that it would really make sense. The Parenthood finale remained true to the stories to date, not tempted to throw in a surprise which did not fit the series, like with How I Met Your Mother or Dexter.

The final episode concluded the major story lines of the season. Most were handled well, but the solution to Adam search for the job of his dreams was the most contrived, with Kristina suddenly having an opportunity at a non-profit which left the position of headmaster at Chamber’s Academy open for Adam. It made sense for Crosby to run The Luncheonette without Adam. Accountants and attorneys could provide some of the business advice he received when Adam was there full time, even if it didn’t make any sense when Crosby said he would be Adam and Amber would be Crosby. It was rather sudden for Julia and Joel to be offered the chance to adopt Victor’s sister, but such an offer coming suddenly did not seem as unnatural as Kristina’s sudden job opportunity.

There were two other story lines which were more important during the season, and which dominated the finale. Sarah’s wedding turned out to be a perfect way to end the series. Besides being a major event for Sarah, the wedding provided a way to get all the characters together as budget limitations required the absence of characters for parts of the season. Besides being the obvious ending for Sarah’s storyline, it provided a good end point for Max, who got the job as wedding photographer and was also “in the picture.” He even got to dance with a girl. Plus the scenes of Max taking the family pictures was a good way to just get a look at the cast members.

http://youtu.be/cDA5JQ2pl-g

The other major storyline of the season was Zeek’s heart problems which, no matter how much fans tried to deny it, was inevitably going to lead to his death. Any lingering doubt that this would occur were eliminated when I read that it would jump ahead to show the Bravermans in the future. It would have been dishonest to not have Zeek die at some point. His death was handled well as he died peacefully at home a few months after he walked Sarah down the aisle, as can be seen in the video above.

Instead of a sad funeral we jumped ahead to see Zeek’s ashes spread at a baseball diamond, and then the Bravermans did what Zeke would have wanted them to do–play baseball, with the series theme song, Bob Dylan’s Forever Young playing. Then, in one of the greatest endings in television history, we had a combination of how Jason Katims ended his previous show, Friday Night Lights with the ending of Peter Krause’s previous show, Six Feet Under.

The show jumped ahead, also in the video above to show the broad outlines of what happens to the Bravermans. There was no ambiguity as in The Sopranos. Adam does become headmaster, eventually handing Max his high school diploma. Crosby does run The Luncheonette. Besides adopting a third child, Julia winds up becoming pregnant with a fourth, and even gets a puppy. Julia and  Joel recreat the original structure of the Braverman family with a younger brother and sister and an older brother and sister. Camille makes it to to inn in France which Zeek had wanted to take her to.

Parenthood - Season 6

Amber’s future is the most exciting. After having her child with Ryan, aka Luke Cafferty of Friday Night  Lights (Matt Lauria), Amber winds up marrying Jason Street (Scott Porter). Ryan even gets his act together and is part of their lives. Scenes with their courtship were shot but got cut from the finale, with Scott Porter’s character named Peter:

“There’s a scene where they meet. Peter and his daughter are at what amounts to a Kidtown, like an indoor jungle gym playtime place. Peter has his daughter and Amber has Zeek. Zeek [named after his grandfather] gets lost in the ball pit and Peter goes bravely in to save him and brings him back to Amber.”

They clicked right away. “They have similar kinds of pasts,” Porter explains. “Both were a little bit wild at one point, and both have kids they maybe weren’t expecting but that were perfectly timed for them. They’re single parents who met and were immediately drawn together.”

While no wedding was actually shot, Porter had no problem imagining the nuptials.

“I imagine it was a very small, intimate wedding. These are two people who are very protective of their families. So pretty small, except for the Braverman side — they come in numbers that most families don’t come in anymore.”

This and other deleted scenes are bound to show up on the DVD set, and some deleted scenes can be found online here.

Matt Lauria and Scott Porter were just two of many former stars of Friday Night Lights who appeared on Parenthood over the years. Yahoo has a slide show, starting with Minka Kelly who both tutored Max and slept with Crosby.

Parenthood - Season 6

This very well might be the end for quality dramas such as Friday Night Lights and Parenthood on network television as I discussed last week. Fortunately cable and streaming networks are doing more quality shows. This topic came up in an interview with Jason Katims at Variety:

It’s unique as a family drama on TV right now. Can you imagine trying to sell it today?

It would be a hard sell to go out and sell a family drama that doesn’t have some sort of twist. There are lot of shows about family, but they’re all couched in other things. This is a straight family drama. It’s unusual in that way. But honestly it was not easy to sell it five years ago. It’s not like anyone was saying let’s have it then. But the TV landscape is changing so rapidly. There’s so much opportunity now, so many different types of outlets — you never know. I’m hoping that there’ll still be a place for shows like this.

The finale provided a broad outline, but also leaves things open to return to their story in the future, either during the period seen or afterwards. Katims is interested, and the new outlets make this more likely in the future.

Given the wealth of platforms on the TV landscape, could you imagine ever revisiting the Bravermans down the road?

Yes, absolutely. Everyone who is doing the show — our writers, our actors, our directors, our producers — we all love doing the show. Everyone would want to do more. There is no one who is angling to get out of doing this thing. I personally would be interested in seeing what happens a few years down the road. I want to know what happens to these people, these characters. If you asked me three years ago, I would say it’s not going to happen. But now there are so many ways of doing things that it’s possible. I would very much be open to that.

Parenthood - Season 6

He also discussed this with E! saying, “I love the idea of doing a reunion movie like Boyhood, where every year, everybody commits a week to doing this project.,” he said. “Maybe it’s not that crazy to think that we could pull something like that off.”

Of course the old episodes are all easily available, both on Netflix and Amazon. I rewatched the pilot later on Thursday night, and this provided a real feeling of going full circle in an episode which introduced the characters. The pilot both had major life events for members of Team Braverman and featured the family at baseball games.

The Bravermans are a fantasy family. It is a family nobody actually has, and it is hard to imagine how Adam and Kristina could have afforded to live in Berkeley, hire private tutors for Max, and afford to send Haddie to Cornell. This universe is still more grounded in reality than the Marvel cinematic universe, with both types of fantasy enjoyable to watch. Digital Spy has some spoilers regarding Avengers: Age of Ultron (trailer above) with more in the full post.

We won’t see the Avengers assemble again (which hopefully also means we’ll be spared a silly alternative UK title). “This movie starts off and the team is together, on a mission, they’re working in tandem, and there are new relationships between them,” explains producer Jeremy Latcham. “Time has passed, so you pick up right in the middle of an action sequence and start trying to catch up.

“I think that’s fun for an audience, to try and figure out, ‘Wait, those two are funny together now, there’s something going on with them, maybe there’s a little tension over there’. You’re showing up at a party when it’s already a little bit started.”

“Bigger” and “darker” are two of the most clichéd terms you can apply to a franchise sequel, but Age of Ultron looks set to earn both – according to Ruffalo, it “makes the first Avengers look like Waiting for Guffman“.

Latcham expands on this by reminding us that much of The Avengers was shot on a small soundstage in Albuquerque, and that its New York City was created “in an old abandoned train station where we’d hung green screen and built part of a bridge.”

Not only are the locations real this time – they’re also global. “The Avengers saved New York, but the Avengers aren’t just about America,” Latcham says. “They’re here to protect this blue rock that we all live on.”

Hence Age of Ultron‘s globe-trotting remit, which sees various strands of the gang show up in South Africa, Northern Italy (playing as Eastern Europe) and South Korea among other places. In preparation for one particularly spectacular set piece, producers asked the South Korean government for permission to shut down Seoul’s equivalent of the M1 for two weeks. They complied.

avengers-age-of-ultron-quicksilver-scarlett-witch

The movie adds Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch to the Avengers, but they start out on Ultron’s side.

New recruits Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) initially join forces with James Spader’s Ultron against the Avengers, creating a very different balance of power than solo villain Loki. “Instead of Ultron giving a lot of speeches so everybody knows what he’s thinking, it’d be nice if he had some allies,” Latcham explains.

“The story that Joss put together with these two kids is really sweet and poignant, and you really understand why they would start on this side of the line. It’s a great journey that they go on, from being these rough and tumble kids in Eastern Europe who blame the West, and the Avengers for the plight, the power structure of the world that keeps kids like them down. Over the course of it they realize maybe the Avengers are here for good reason.”

But the brother-sister duo have legitimate beef with one Avenger in particular. “Our characters have a lot of anger, especially towards Tony Stark, and we want revenge,” says Olsen. “We meet Ultron, and he’s someone who preaches peace and… believes what we believe, which is that the Avengers create destruction and that Tony Stark’s bomb is responsible for killing our parents.”

Unsurprisingly, their alliance with Ultron ends up turning sour, and Olsen reveals that “my character ends up really having to deal with her ignorance. A lot of problems that happen towards the end of the film are her responsibility.”

Age of Ultron also leads into the next Captain America movie and the situation leading to the upcoming civil war is explained:

Much of the Avengers’ problem boils down to their lack of a clear leader post-Winter Soldier. “SHIELD has fallen apart, so this movie becomes Tony Stark and Steve Rogers trying to put the Avengers together without a parental unit like Nick Fury hovering over them,” explains Latcham. “What you realize is that these are guys who work best with rules, and probably do need some adult supervision.”And as anybody who watched the first film can guess, Tony and Cap aren’t an ideal leadership pairing. “Tony has been paying for everything, designing stuff, building new toys, he’s the benefactor of the whole thing. But Steve Rogers is very much in charge of operations and missions, he’s the moral compass,” Latcham goes on. “But how long can Tony Stark have someone else be in charge?” In other words, groundwork is being distinctly laid for the Stark vs Rogers core of Civil War.

Avengers Age of Ultron Spoilers

Joss Whedon has helped create a fantastic universe with the Marvel characters but has been talking about moving on, and creating a new universe:

“I would never rule anything out, because I like working here. By the same token, the biggest thing for me is that I need to do something that I create myself. It’s been way too long since I created a universe. The last thing I did before The Avengers was [directing an episode of] Glee, and in between I did Much Ado About Nothing. So I haven’t created my own universe for over five years. That feels wrong.”

The Marvel universe is not limited to the Avengers and other movie series from Marvel Studios as other studios have the rights to some of the Marvel characters. Fox has the rights to X-Men and the Fantastic Four, and there is talk that their worlds will ultimately intersect. Information on the upcoming X-Men and Fantastic Four movies here and here respectively.

Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man and we learned during the recent leaks of their email that there was talk of Marvel Studios getting partial rights to the character. Blastr argues that it might have actually been a good thing that Marvel Studios did not own the rights to all of the Marvel characters:

It’s easy to forget that back in the mid-2000s, Marvel Studios was one heck of a risky proposition. After partnering with outside studios for years, the company finally decided that, if they wanted good movies based on their comics (and the winner’s share of the box-office bucks that come with them), they’d have to make ’em themselves. There was just one problem: They’d already sold off any franchise with obvious big-screen potential, most notably Spider-Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four.

So Marvel decided to dig deep. The comic universe has always thrived on variety and a world populated with extremely interesting and damaged heroes, so they decided to apply that model to film. Iron Man and Hulk were arguably the most bankable heroes left on the bench, so Marvel pumped every dime it had into those two projects and prayed for a hit. Luckily for all of us, Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau caught lighting in a bottle with Iron Man in 2008. More than $585 million later, we were well on our way toward The Avengers.

Since Marvel didn’t have the luxury of a sure-fire star like Spider-Man — who is currently the most lucrative comic-book character in existence, with more than $1.3 billion in licensing revenue in 2013 alone — they had to work with characters who might not have ever gotten a shot otherwise. Just think: If Marvel could have made splashy Spider-Man and X-Men movies, do you think we’d have ever gotten something as creatively quirky as Guardians of the Galaxy (or Ant-Man), or the risky period-set romp that was Captain America: The First Avenger? Maybe somewhere down the line, but a lot of the limited focus (and release slots) would almost certainly be eaten up by those larger properties. 

Yes, Marvel would probably be making better movies than what’s out there now (especially on the Spider-Man front), but for me, I wouldn’t trade the epic Marvel Universe we have now for the chance at some better Spider-Man movies. Not by a long shot. The fact that Marvel didn’t have Spider-Man in its stable was the catalyst to bring characters like Iron Man and Thor to life, and gave Marvel the confidence to try something as seemingly insane as a film starring Rocket Raccoon and Groot. The only thing they could control was making the best movies possible, and since the characters were mid-tier, they had to be extremely good.

He has a good point that the way Marvel built the Avengers with characters starting with lesser characters like Iron Man worked out well. However, now that this has been established, Marvel Studios (as part of Disney) is probably big enough to hire the crew to put out an even larger number of movies. Plus it would be worth sacrificing some of the planned movies with minor characters if it meant having Spider-Man movies of the quality of other movies from Marvel Studios.

100-1

Briefly looking at other shows on last week, I was glad to see that the cast and crew of The 100 agree that the plan for Bellamy to infiltrate Mt. Weather “sucked.” I can accept writing a script with characters doing foolish things, as people do foolish things, as long as the writers are doing this intentionally. More on upcoming plans for The 100 in the linked interview.

arrow-katie-cassidy-black-canary

I am also glad that it was intentional that Team Arrow was so weak without Oliver. It would be especially unrealistic if Laurel was suddenly an effective crime fighter like her sister, who had years of training. Marc Guggenheim discussed Arrow and The Flash in an interview with Assignment X. Guggenheim also tied Arrow into contemporary politics:

AX: How much do you weigh referencing ARROW as a modern-day Robin Hood?

GUGGENHEIM: There’s an interesting thing that’s happening in the country right now, where you’re talking about one percent versus ninety-nine percent, haves versus have-nots. Poverty and whatnot has become a political issue, which is interesting, because to me, it was always an issue on both sides of the aisle, how we distribute wealth in this country. It’s a little scary to me that it’s become this polarizing political thing. That’s not the country I grew up in, so it’s weird also to be writing on a show that’s clearly dealing with that issue head-on. Obviously, GREEN ARROW is inspired by Robin Hood and we’re playing around with those elements, but you go it’s more about social justice than it is about politics. At least, that’s what the show should be about.

AX: Aren’t social justice and politics sort of the same thing?

GUGGENHEIM: Well, the point I’m making actually is that social justice has become a political issue in a way that it never has been in this country. Obviously, yes, there’s always been a political divide, we’ve always had disagreements in terms of how to address these issues, but it just feels like the disagreements have become so vitriolic and the differences have become so severe that it’s taken on a different cast than it used to have.

NBC plans to air Allegiance on Thursday nights in place of Parenthood. It sure sounds like a rip off of The Americans, even if its producers deny it. I’m sure there will be differences, like on The Americans the Russians are after the daughter, but on Allegiance they want to turn the son into a spy. It seems better to place such a scenario with undercover Russian spies in the 1980’s, like The Americans, as opposed to present day.

The Americans started its season with another excellent episode, and is ranked by may critics as the top show currently on television. I doubt that Allegiance will be anywhere as good, either as a spy show or as a family drama. If you haven’t seen it, call in sick for the next two days and binge on the first two seasons on Amazon Prime to catch up.

And, finally, a nine year-old in Texas was suspended from school for threatening to make a classmate disappear. He had just watched The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies and claimed to have the one ring to rule them all.