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Scarlett Johansson is Suing Disney for Black Widow Breach of Contract

Black Widow

As we’ve been seeing in recent months, the decision to split releases between theaters and streaming services isn’t going over well with actors and directors who rely on getting some of the backend of the movie gross and bonuses based on benchmarks. Scarlett Johansson is the latest to launch a lawsuit over the decision to release Black Widow on Disney+‘s premium service.

The lawsuit alleges that Johansson’s contract was breached when the film didn’t debut exclusively in theaters. The claim says the decision depressed ticket sales. If certain benchmarks were hit for the box office performance bonuses would kick in.

For an extra $30, Disney+ subscribers were able to watch the film at home.

Black Widow set a record in the pandemic era with an $80 million debut in North America and earned $78 million at the foreign box office. Disney released that it also had over $60 million in sales on Disney+, a rare release of those numbers by the company.

In the second week of release, the film dropped which led theater owners to blame Disney+ and piracy for the decline. The film received mixed reviews for a Marvel film and on the lower end of critic reviews for the franchise universe.

The lawsuit also notes that Disney’s stock rose after it released the streaming numbers. Johansson’s lawsuit claims the dual release resulted in $50 million in lost bonuses.

There was worry in the Johansson camp even before COVID-19 that Disney would release the film on Disney+. Her management as the studio to guarantee that Black Widow would premiere exclusively in cinemas. Marvel Chief Counsel Dave Galluzzi promised a traditional theatrical bow and that if that plan changed there’d be a discussion and deal to come to an understanding.

Warner Bros. faced similar charges when it decided to release its films through HBO Max for the year. That resulted in numerous actors earning their full back-end on movies released this way.

This lawsuit has massive implications as it’s clear that Warner Bros., Disney, and more are looking at streaming only and dual releases for films.

(via Variety)

Movie Review: Black Widow

Black Widow

After much delay, the highly anticipated Black Widow soon comes to theaters. The film delivers popcorn escapism, the exact sort of adventure and story to allow you to forget the chaos of the current world. It also feels like a well-positioned film to address exactly that too. Taking place after Captain America: Civil War, Natasha Romanoff is on the run and a wanted woman. Scarlett Johansson against slips into the role giving the character a send-off after her fate in Avengers: Endgame. It’s a solo adventure that’s long overdue and more importantly, delivers a worthy successor to fill Black Widow’s role going forward.

The story has Black Widow and her allies dealing with their legacy and the Red Room, the secret program to train and build assassins across the world. The film goes out of its way to mention, or at times how, the abuse of the program. It’s a very dark subject matter for Marvel films that have often dance around the subjects. While it doesn’t fully explore the psychological impact, it does dive a bit deeper into the horrid things Natasha endure growing up, having been mentioned in passing in previous films. Black Widow fills in the gaps and answers so many questions.

Black Widow at its center is about control by the state and those “behind the curtain”. Its villain in Dreykov, played by Ray Winstone, is the powerful man manipulating women and abusing them for his own means. There’s multiple levels it can be taken, the clear abuse of women, but in today’s unease, there’s a nice aspect of the 1% manipulating us all.

The film could easily dwell in its dark subject matter only broken up by action sequences. Instead, the film delivers a lot of humor and a solid recurring discussion about what it means to be family. Black Widow introduces us to Natasha’s sister and her parents from the program, all of whom outshine its star.

While Johansson might get the top-billing, it’s her castmates that stand out.

Florence Pugh has a star-making turn as Yelena Belova. She delivers dry humor that picks apart Natasha’s superhero turn. There’s a brilliance to the film taking all of the “ticks” of how Black Widow has been portrayed and mocks it a bit. Mix it in the fact her role within the Avengers, it delivers a nice punch and laugh along with the action.

Pugh as Belova is Natasha’s partner in crime helping to bring down the Red Room and explore their experiences growing up. She delivers a different take on a similar character with a dry delivery to her lines that gives it all a kick in laughs. She’s the “cold Russian” to Natasha’s “Americanized Russian”. She also has the best lines of the film.

The two are joined in their adventure by Rachel Weisz‘s Melina Vostokoff and David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian. The two are the Red Room parents to Natasha and Melina giving the film a dysfunctional family dynamic to work through. Harbour especially delivers the laughs in his out-of-shape Red Guardian and Weisz smacks his ego down regularly. The four characters together bring a nice aspect to the film as it explores family. It’s a juxtaposition to the one Natasha has found with the Avengers.

The film emphasizes either the quiet moments or massive action sequences. There is some issues where scenes feel like they pick up just before the actors begin to do their scene but overall, the film delivers spectacle. There’s also a Bond-like quality about the film as Natasha and Yelena must break into and out of locations and escape capture. While I saw the film on my tv with surround sound, it looks great and should be fantastic to experience wherever you choose.

Black Widow is a solid solo outing for the character delivering a little over 2 hours of escape and entertainment.

What the film impressively does is give its star a fun, final performance before exiting the role while setting up the next generation of Marvel Cinematic stars.

Overall Rating: 7.5

Black Widow is Coming to theaters AND Disney+ on July 9

Black Widow

After a lot of delays, Black Widow will finally be coming to theaters… and Disney+. Marvel Studios has revealed the film will be available through Disney+ through its Premier Access program starting July 9. Generally, Disney+ Premier Access has cost $29.99 and allows you to view the film as often as you’d like while you keep the Disney+ service.

In March 2020, it was announced that Black Widow would be delayed due to COVID. It was set to be released on May 1 2020. It then was pushed to November 6, 2020. It’s the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s Phase 4.

In Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff confronts the darker parts of her ledger when a dangerous conspiracy with ties to her past arises. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her history as a spy and the broken relationships left in her wake long before she became an Avenger. The movie is directed by Cate Shortland, produced by Kevin Feige, and stars Scarlett Johansson reprising her role as Natasha Romanoff. Florence Pugh stars as Yelena Belova, David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov aka Red Guardian, and Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff.

Also announced, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has received a new release date, now arriving on September 3, 2021. Simu Liu stars as Shang-Chi, who must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. The film’s cast also includes Tony Leung as Wenwu, Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s friend Katy, and Michelle Yeoh as Jiang Nan. Additionally, Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu, and Ronny Chieng appear in the upcoming movie, which is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was to be released on February 12, 2021, and then was pushed to May 7, 2021.

The Avengers Assemble to Raise Money for Joe Biden’s Presidential Campaign

Avengers Assemble

Virtual get-togethers of casts are one of the hottest fundraising tickets right now, and the Avengers are assembling to support Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Voters Assemble!” will feature Avengers cast members Don Cheadle, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Mark Ruffalo, and Zoe Saldana.

Joining the cast is vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris and directors The Russo Brothers for a Q&A and trivia.

The fundraiser takes place on October 20 at 6:45 pm ET. To attend, you can donate any amount of money to the Joe Biden Victory Fund.

Instructions for accessing the virtual event will be in the emailed donation receipt or in the page you will be redirected to after donating.

Captain America and Black Widow Headline a Free Military Virtual Con

The current situation has impacted events all over and that extends to the military. The USO is going virtual with its Military Virtual Programming Con which takes place on October 6-8. Headling the event is Captain America and Black Widow, aka actors Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson.

While that might seem totally on the level, when it comes to Marvel and the military, questions always need to be raised. Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter has been accused of having undue influence over the Office of Veterans Affairs and has used that influence to benefit Marvel.

Other guests for the event include Norman Reedus (Darryl from “The Walking Dead” and star of AMC’s “Ride With Norman Reedus”), Gerard Way (lead singer of the band My Chemical Romance and creator of the Netflix series “The Umbrella Academy”) and Jon Bernthal (Marvel’s “The Punisher”) also highlight the event.

Much like you’d find at any other virtual fan convention, the USO’s event features panels that will be broadcast online. Panels include ones from the National Cartoonists Society Panel, MAD Magazine, DC FanDome, and more.

Unlike other events, this is meant for the military. For each Zoom event you’ll need to vouch that you’re a Department of Defense ID holder or dependent of one, but it’s the honor system. You will be asked to provide your installation, service branch and rank for yourself or your family member.

Around the Tubes

The weekend is almost here! While you count down the work day and wait for the weekend to begin, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

The Beat – Crime Wave: Erik Larsen and other Creators Turn to Twitter After Rash of NYCC Thefts – If anyone knows anything, please reach out.

ICv2 – WarnerMedia Gets in on the Direct-to-Consumer Streaming Action – What’s one more service to spend money on?

The Hollywood Reporter – Scarlett Johansson Lands $15 Million Payday for Black Widow Movie – Well deserved.

Publisher’s Weekly – Asian-Pop Makes Big Showing at New York Comic Con 2018 – It’ll be interesting to see what impact this has elsewhere.

 

Review

Talking Comics – Doomsday Clock #7

Cate Shortland Suits Up to Direct Black Widow

After a search that saw meetings with over 70 directors, Marvel Studios has found its director for its standalone Black Widow film. Cate Shortland will sit in the chair for the project that will star Scarlett Johansson.

The movie studio wanted a female director but at times looked towards male directors as well.

Johansson pushed for Shortland whose most known film was the 2012 critically acclaimed film Lore. Her most recent film was Berlin Syndrome in 2017.

While excitement was high for the film, some of fandom has cooled to the Johansson lead film after the actor’s questionable choices of roles and even more questionable responses for the films Ghost in the Shell and upcoming Rub & Tug.

(via THR)

Movie Review: Ghost in the Shell is Visually Entertaining with a Lot to Say in a Thin Script

To really discuss Ghost in the Shell, at least the way I’m going to, I’m going to have to spoil things, so WARNING SPOILERS.

In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

Based on the classic manga by Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell isn’t anything new today. Its plot has be retread a million times at this point, Robocop being a prime example. At its core the story is about a corporation wanting to create a more perfect weapon, a soldier that has the thought process of a human but the physical abilities of a robot. “Ghost” in this case is a fancy word for soul with the shell being the robotic exterior, the futuristic cyberpunk story can easily be interpreted as a story about what it means to be human and the intrusion of technology into that. At what point with cyber enhancements do we become something else? Is it the “soul” or “ghost” that really matters. But, this live action version feels like it’s something more, “white imperialistic corporations.” The film has a glitzy surface and a shallow story that we’ve seen before, but its themes are very interesting and in some ways feel revolutionary.

Created by the Hanaka corporation Major (played by Scarlett Johansson) is part of a government task force, a very diverse task force it should be pointed out, but is still being watched/managed by Hanaka. Major is seeing glitches. She’s been told that she died in a boating incident and that her brain was transferred into this robotic body. But, is this the truth?

It’s pretty clear on that this cover story is completely made up and the real story is more insidious. Major isn’t the first attempt at this and Hanaka has failed numerous times. Major also didn’t die in an accident, she was a runaway abducted by Hanaka for their experiment. And Major is really Motoko Kusanagi a Japanese girl whose mind is moved to the body of a white woman. Cringe worthy for sure, but this whitewashing feels as if that’s part of the story. The evil terrorist, Kruze, that Major and her team are trying to track down too was a Japanese man transferred into the body of a white man. Those making that decision? All white. Dr. Ouelet (played by Juliette Binoche), Cutter (played by Peter Ferdinando), and Dr. Dahlin (played by Anamaria Marinca), are portrayed by white actors. So, for the third act of the film it’s a diverse group of soldiers (one white woman [Johansson], one white man [Pilou Asbaek], one black man [Tawanda Manyimo], two Japanese men [Takeshi Kitano and Yutaka Izumihara], one from Singapore [Chin Han] one Kurdish/Polish/English woman [Danusia Samal], and one Australian Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander/Pacific Islander [Lasarus Ratuere]) up against the evil corporation that has abused Japan for resources, kidnapping its citizens to whitewash them. The whitwashing feels like it’s part of the point of it all.

The optics are interesting and this theme fascinating and when it’s hinted at the two Japanese team members don’t have enhancements, there’s even more to think about the concept of Hanaka and it’s consuming of Japan. And in the end, the evil white corporate head is executed for crimes against the Japanese state (crimes against humanity/kidnapping would have been good too). In the end it’s not Major who brings justice, it’s her Japanese boss who executes Cutter. The same Japanese boss who only speaks Japanese throughout the film. The symbolism of the Japanese leader executing the white corporate imperialist for crimes against his nation is not lost.

Consent too is brought up over and over which itself deserves an exploration in what it means for what Hanaka has done but also the exploitation they represent. Every time Major has some diagnosis done or gets plugged in she must give consent. It’s interesting that “consent” is used as opposed to “permission.” And at the film’s core is that she didn’t give her consent when she was put into the body of Major. Again, by the all white corporate folks. Read into that as you want.

But, that rather interesting theme is visual. It’s never discussed, but as a whole the film relies on its aesthetics more than anything else. Visually the film is amazing with a look and style that feels like a futuristic but in doing so plays off of a lot of stereotypical Japanese iconography. Robots are designed to look like geisha, holographic koi fish fly around, it’s visuals we’ve seen, but the way they’re presented in their neo-glow is stunning and in 3D even more rich and entertaining. That includes the cyberpunk aesthetic with body parts replaced, people plugged in, much of it visually there and never explained. The action sequences too are like a ballet dance of destruction showing that Marvel would be fools to not speed up a Johansson led Black Widow film.

But lets get to the story. The themes are deep and while there is a diverse cast many have little screen time. If there’s two dozen lines between the majority of them I’d be surprised. There’s not much dialogue as a whole and as I said, the story is one that’s been repeated over and over. The film does little new in this department and it’s beyond predictable which is fine in that I was sucked in staring at the screen trying to catch everything visually. There’s plot points or scenes that aren’t explained or feel pointless. When it comes to the story itself, the movie is a bit of a mess especially in the latter half which feels like action sequences were shoved into a police procedural. Director Rupert Sanders delivers a visual treat from a thin script.

Johansson is interesting as well in how she portrays the character. The life we’ve seen from her has been sucked out in a way where she feels hollow. And that feels like it’s on purpose. The movie is her struggling with her status and numerous times she states she can’t feel anything. That is manifested in how she delivers her lines and interacts. It’s stiff, lifeless, and mechanical, like her character.

The film does have its problems. I get the reaction to Johansson whitewashing, but beyond that a scene involving a prostitute is cringe worthy. There’s also no explanation of this version of Tokyo, we’re just thrust into the world.

I walked out of Ghost in the Shell wanting to see it again and doing so in 3D (again). The film is entertaining and whether done on purpose or not, there’s a lot to discuss on its themes and conflict. Is it a great film? Absolutely not. Is it entertaining? Absolutely. It’s also absolutely a move that needs to be seen in 3D on the big screen, it’s visual richness will be lost any other way.

Overall Rating: 7.15

Deadpool, Reynolds, Robbie, and Negan Win Critics’ Choice Awards

Suicide SquadThe Critics’ Choice Awards were held this past Sunday and comic films represented not just with nominations, but also quite a few wins.

Margot Robbie won for Suicide Squad in the “Best Actress in an Action Movie” category. She was up against Gal Gadot for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Scarlett Johansson for Captain America: Civil War, and Tilda Swinton for Doctor Strange.

Deadpool did well winning “Best Comedy” up against Central Intelligence, Don’t Think Twice, The Edge of Seventeen, Hail, Caesar!, and The Nice Guys. Ryan Reynolds won for “Best Actor in a Comedy” for the title role in the film. Reynolds beat Ryan Gosling for The Nice Guys, Hugh Grant for Florence Foster Jenkins, Dwayne Johnson for Central Intelligence, and Viggo Mortensen for Captain Fantastic.

deadpool posterRyan Reynolds was also honored as the “Entertainer of the Year.”

When it comes to television Jeffrey Dean Morgan won for “Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series” for his portrayal of Negan on The Walking Dead.

It wasn’t all wins though.

Doctor Strange lost in “Best Hair & Makeup,” “Best Visual Effects,” and “Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie.” Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool, and Doctor Strange all lost in “Best Action Movie.” Finally, Benedict Cumberbatch for Doctor Strange, Chris Evans for Captain America: Civil War, and Ryan Reynolds for Deadpool all lost “Best Actor in an Action Movie.”

Ghost in the Shell Gets Five Teasers

Paramount has released five video teasers for next year’s Ghost in the Shell, the live adaptation of the classic manga and anime property. The film stars Scarlett Johanson, which has led to criticism of the film.

From the visuals, this is one of the more intriguing films of the year, but could also be one of the most controversial too.

Ghost in the Shell comes to theatres March 31, 2017.

Almost American
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