James Gunn Rehired to Direct “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”

One factor for the unlikely box-office success of 2014 MCU film “Guardians of the Galaxy” can be attributed perhaps to the inspired direction of James Gunn. He was able to repeat that triumph with the 2017 sequel, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” Unfortunately, work on a “Vol. 3” was stalled by some unfortunate circumstances.

When social media in 2018 floated old tweets (2008-2012) by Gunn, filled with jokes regarding touchy subjects like rape and pedophilia, Disney cut ties with him. This action upset MCU and “Guardians” fans even as he was hired by Warner-DC to pen a script for a possible “Suicide Squad” sequel/reboot.

Ultimately however, as CNN tells it, Disney decided to take James Gunn back. On Friday, March 15, Marvel Studios has reinstated him ad director for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” a possible installment in the upcoming Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.

This is great news for fans of more adventures by Star-Lord and friends. Gunn had already finished a script for “Vol. 3” before he was fired in July 2018. Disney-Marvel decided not to actively pursue a replacement director and event moved back the film’s production to 2021. Now, development could pick up from the break.

But not immediately; Gunn is already committed to working on the new “Suicide Squad” film for Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment. He will be resuming work on “Guardians” afterwards, though Disney has given no further comment beyond confirming Gunn’s reinstatement.

The initial axing of Gunn from Marvel Studios was met with criticism by fans and pushback from both “Guardians of the Galaxy” cast members and sympathetic celebrities. It was pointed out that the director’s old offensive tweets were recovered by ultraconservatives in retaliation for Gunn’s criticism of US President Donald Trump, and that Disney’s action was caving to political pressure.

Both “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Vol. 2” combined earned Disney-Marvel a $1.6 billion take in the international box office.

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Points of Discussion for Latest “Avengers: Endgame Trailer”

The Disney umbrella is busting out cinematic trailers like nobody’s business this week. Mere days after Disney Pictures itself sort of “redeemed” scary blue-skinned Will Smith by releasing a longer trailer for “Aladdin,” now we have another for their next Marvel Studios blockbuster, “Avengers: Endgame.”

While the previous teasers have focused on the current events of the MCU following “Avengers: Infinity War,” this trailer decides to dip in the past. In doing so it reminds viewers that “Endgame” is going to resolve myth elements of the first ten years of the saga, and the 21 films that came before. Let’s go list some trailer stuff that makes for good discussion.

  1. Reminders of the past: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) in his last recording to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) talks of his origin story. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) recalls his “Winter Soldier” conversation with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Thor (Chris Hemsworth) remembers his father Odin and his home Asgard.
  2. How did Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) go from secret agent archer to samurai-like vigilante? A seeming flashback with his daughter from “Age of Ultron” seems to be a hint; said daughter even visually resembles the second/female Hawkeye (named Kate Bishop) from the source comic books. And vigilante-Clint has a Mohawk.
  3. Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) does get out of the Quantum Realm (from “Ant-Man and the Wasp”) as seen in one of the previous teasers. He’s seeing a lot of missing posters in his neighborhood. Did something happen to his family?
  4. Steve’s recently meme-worthy line: “I keep telling everybody they should move on. Some do; but not us.” To this, Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) adds the following, “Even if there’s a small chance, we owe this to anyone who’s not in this room to try.”
  5. The surviving Avengers and other heroes prepare for their rematch against Thanos (Josh Brolin) in their own way; at least the ones on Earth are.
  6. Eventually, Tony’s own group of stranded space survivors makes it to Earth. And they go off to find Thanos wearing identical uniform spacesuits. These were spoiled in official LEGO sets.
  7. Post-titles, Thor tests Carol Danvers/Captan Marvel (Brie Larson) by summoning his Stormbreaker axe close to her head. She doesn’t react; he approves of her nerve.

“Avengers: Endgame” premieres April 26.

Planned MCU Film “Shang-Chi” Gets a Director

Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is already on the verge of being done, now that “captain Marvel” has premiered and “Avengers: Endgame” follows next month. The following “Phase 4” also has its start well in hand, as “Spider-Man: Far from Home” premieres July.

What isn’t set fully in stone yet are what other films will come out for MCU Phase 4. No less than seven specific movies have been mentioned to be in early development and only two of them (“Black Widow” and “The Eternals”) have start of filming dates mentioned. A third, “Shang-Chi,” might soon approach that level of prep now that Marvel Studios found a director.

The Hollywood Reporter has it that Destin Daniel Cretton has been picked by Marvel Studios to be at the helm for the production of “Shang-Chi.” This in-development MCU installment could become the first movie of the franchise to have an Asian main character (and lead).

Marvel Studios actually had a pool of potential directors for the film. Other directorial names that were considered before the final choice of Cretton are:

  1. Justin Tipping (“Dear White People”)
  2. Alan Yang (“Tigertail”)
  3. Deborah Chow (“Marvel’s Jessica Jones” on Netflix and “Star Wars: The Mandalorian” on Disney+)

Incidentally, Destin Daniel Cretton has worked with two MCU cast members. His current film project “Just Mercy” actually has him directing Michael B. Jordan (from “Black Panther”) and Brie “Captain Marvel” Larson herself.

The Marvel character “Shang-Chi” is a highly skilled Kung-Fu master if un-powered ordinary human, with a(n immortal) Chinese father and Caucasian mother. He has been a member of several Marvel Comics teams including the Avengers.

An interesting fact about his character history is that Shang-Chi originated from licensed properties. His first comic title came about after Marvel failed to get a license to adapt the 1970s TV series “Kung Fu.” Furthermore, his father is the stock Chinese villain Fu Manchu. A later Marvel storyline ret-cons this person into an original immortal character who only used “Fu Manchu” as an alias.

Marvel’s “Shang-Chi” already has a screenwriter with Dave Callahan (“Wonder Woman 1984”) while Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso and Jonathan Schwartz are executive producers. Perhaps the next step is to cast a (preferably Asian-background) lead actor.

Meanwhile, the current MCU installment “Captain Marvel” is still showing.

“Captain Marvel” Overcomes Controversy and Trolling to Make Strong Opening Weekend

The road to premiere for Marvel Studios’ “Captain Marvel” had not been smooth. The attempts at meaningfully putting the titular character’s feminist spin from the comics in promotions have been ill-received. Online trolls retaliated by maliciously tanking the movie’s ratings on Rotten Tomatoes before it even released. But come March 8 and the following weekend, the box office positively vindicates.

Entertainment Weekly reports that “Captain Marvel” starring Brie Larson has established a solid beginning for its cinematic run in US and Canadian. From its Friday premiere across 4,310 theaters to Sunday, the movie has racked up $153 million, becoming the first big release of 2019.

With those numbers, the penultimate chapter of the MCU’s long-running Phase 3 is now the second-biggest debut of the franchise, trailing only behind last year’s epic “Black Panther” ($242.1 million). It’s a notable triumph for Ryan Fleck’s co-director Anna Boden, the first female in charge of an MCU film, and starring a woman to boot.

Outside North America, “Captain Marvel” made $302 million in the rest of the world for a total $455 million global first weekend. Part of that take is the first-day gross in China: $34 million, the third-biggest opening of any MCU film in the country. In a way, it proves the film can do what “Wonder Woman” did for Warner-DC in 2017, to confirm that female-led superhero films can earn big.

“Captain Marvel” sees Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, a half-human half-alien superhuman agent of the Kree Empire, who must protect Earth from becoming a battleground between Kree and Skrulls. It also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, and Ben Mendelsohn.

New Release Date for “Maleficent” Sequel, and List of All Disney and Related Major Film Releases for 2019

If fans of Disney and its connected film studios are paying attention, they’d realize that this 2019 is turning out to be one of the most release-heavy years for the media giant in terms of movies. It’s easily shaping up to be one of their most packed schedules yet devised.

For instance, Disney has three remakes of their classic Animated Canon (two in live action, one live-action-looking). Their second-busiest filmmaking arm (Marvel Studios) matches that output. And let’s not forget new animated pictures, and “Star Wars.” If you think that’s bloated already, then apparently Disney thinks one more won’t hurt.

According to Vanity Fair, Disney’s sequel to “Maleficent,” the 2014 live-action remake (more like retelling) of “Sleeping Beauty,” has been moved earlier from its original May 2020 premiere to this coming October. Now it’s like almost every month there will be a Disney production debut.

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To better illustrate this weighty schedule, here’s a list of all Disney and related-studio films coming this 2019. Fox isn’t included for now, because as of this writing the acquisition deal isn’t even finalized yet. Only major cinematic releases count:

Disney Pictures

  1. Dumbo (March 29) – live-action remake
  2. Aladdin (May 24) – live-action remake
  3. The Lion King (July 19) – “live-action” CGI remake
  4. Jungle Cruise (July 24) – new “based on Disney theme park attraction” live-action movie
  5. Artemis Fowl (August 9) – live-action based on children’s urban fantasy adventure book series by Eoin Colfer
  6. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (October 18) – sequel to “Maleficent” (2014)

Disney Animation Studios

  1. Frozen II (November 22) – sequel to “Frozen” (2013)

Pixar

  1. Toy Story 4 (June 21) – fourth installment, following end of “trilogy” in 2010

Marvel Studios

  1. Captain Marvel (March 8) – prequel set in the 1990s
  2. Avengers: Endgame (April 26) – last part of MCU Phase 3, and “end” of overarching storyline from Phase 1
  3. Spider-Man: Far from Home (July 5) – first part of MCU Phase 4

Lucasfilm

  1. Star Wars: Episode IX (December 20) – last part of Sequel Trilogy and conclusion of Skywalker family story

That’s 12 movies in all. Starting from March, at least one will be premiering every month except for September. That’s just incredible. Disney really dominates in 2019.

List of Hollywood Stars that Almost Got Cast in the MCU

When you’re dealing with a brand company as big and long-lived as Disney, you’d know that there are many parts of its storied history where something could have happened, but never did. We once covered the subject of Disney theme parks that never got off the planning stage. Here we something else, focused on one of their subsidiaries: Marvel Studios.

Marvel Studios of course had been the filmmaking arm of Marvel Entertainment prior to acquisition by the House of Mouse. It was then spun off into an entity of its own, all the while adapting characters and stories from Marvel Comics to create the MCU.

They too have their share of “what could have been” instances. Usually that involves some Hollywood stars and celebrities that have been considered for various roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, only for the canon castings to be chosen instead.

TIME made a list of some of the more prominent actors and actress who nearly became MCU regulars. Our format goes: name, most iconic or recent film/TV show, and character they almost got to portray:

  1. Emily Blunt (“Mary Poppins Returns”) – auditioned to be Agent Romanov/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in “Iron Man 2;” also considered for Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) in “Captain America: The First Avenger”
  2. John Krasinski (“A Quiet Place”) – Emily Blunt’s husband almost landed the role of Steve Rogers/”Captain America” (Chris Evans)
  3. Sam Rockwell (“Vice”) – well, he played Justin Hammer in “Iron Man 2;” but back when the first “Iron Man” was still in development, Rockwell was called to audition for Tony Stark by director Jon Favreau; Robert Downey Jr. got in before he did though
  4. David Duchovny (“X-Files”) – was close to being picked as the second actor to portray Bruce Banner/the Hulk after Eric Bana in the pre-MCU 2003 movie; Edward Norton was cast instead for “The Incredible Hulk” (2008)
  5. Joseph Gordon Levitt (“The Dark Knight Rises”) – was offered the role of Peter Quill/Star-Lord for “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014); he instead picked the lead role in “Sin City: A Dame to Die For” and Chris Pratt was cast as Star-Lord
  6. Jason Momoa (“Aquaman”) – yes, AQUAMAN (or his actor at least) was almost part of the MCU, twice; one time he auditioned with Chris Pratt for “Guardians;” the second time was when he was invited to talks with MCU directors the Russo brothers (probably around the time of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) for an unspecified villainous role
  7. Joaquin Phoenix (“Gladiator”) – had been in talks to play the titular “Doctor Strange” before the role was awarded to Benedict Cumberbatch
  8. Timothée Chalamet (Showtime’s “Homeland”) – the young Oscar-nominated French-American actor had just the right teenage looks to be considered to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man starting from “Captain America: Civil War;” needless to say we know Tom Holland got that honor
  9. Asa Butterfield (“Hugo”) – a fellow Brit like Tom Holland, and also got called in for the Peter Parker audition; Butterfield actually had an advantage over Holland due to being born and growing up in New York City itself;  ultimately he thinks Marvel chose well with Holland

Rumor also has it that Tom Cruise was approached for Tony Stark, but the actor himself has debunked that story.

List of MCU Actresses that Have Discussed an All-Female Super-Team Movie with Marvel Studios So Far

As moviegoers wait for the arrival of “Captain Marvel” in cinemas this Friday, its star Brie Larson has been talking a lot about how she sees her character and her place in the MCU’s future. In a way it jives with what Marvel Studios has been working on regarding future adaptations of comic book characters.

The studio’s CEO Kevin Feige has noted last year that at the rate of introduction, there may soon be more super-heroines in the MCU than super-heroes. With that in mind, Larson has added her own voice to the notion that a future movie in the franchise will feature a superhero team of all female members.

“I’m scared and I don’t know what the future holds either,” remarks Larson to Screen Rant at a recent “Captain Marvel” premiere press event. “We’ll see what happens…I love all the female characters so much…I’m super into an all-female Avengers movie. Yeah, I think that would just be, it would just be cool to see all of them interact together.”

She’s not the only MCU actress to have proposed such an idea. Several of them have reportedly pitched the all-female Marvel team film to Marvel Studios already. Here’s a list of the actresses who spoke for the project, and their corresponding roles in the MCU:

  1. Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) – “Thor: Ragnarok”
  2. Brie Larson (Carol Danvers/”Captain Marvel”)
  3. Zoe Saldana (Gamora) – “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies
  4. Karen Gillan (Nebula) – “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies
  5. Pom Klementieff (Mantis) – “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”
  6. Scarlett Johansson (Agent Romanov/Black Widow) – “Iron Man 2” and “Avengers” movies

To be fair having all these actresses in their roles, as members of the proposed all-female team, will need explaining. Not to mention that there’s still the buzz of Marvel Studios trying to find a place to fit a solo “Black Widow” movie for Johansson in the MCU schedule.

And yes, curious fans will still have to wait how “Avengers: Endgame” in April will resolve the availability of the characters above (whether they’ll survive, or if the ones who have already died can come back somehow).

One thing’s for sure, with the actors currently portraying the lead MCU characters soon to retire from the franchise after “Endgame,” Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel is the most likely to front the Avengers going into Phase 4. Whether that Avengers will become all-female, or will be another team entirely, remains speculation for now.

Overblown and Debunked Rumor Claims Disney “Plan” to Close Marvel Comics

One doesn’t need to be a movie industry analyst to know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and all other Marvel film and TV productions, have been almost always strong contenders. The MCU films definitely could be counted on to bring in the box-office money, thanks to their great arc-based interconnected storylines and greater visual effects.

It’s easy to forget that the plots of these films are adapted from storylines in Marvel Comics, the original primary arm of Marvel Entertainment which is now a Disney subsidiary. Without the stories written, drawn and inked by various comic book creative teams over the years, they’d have nothing to turn into a successful franchise.

That’s why a recent unfounded rumor, while dismissed by more sensible observers, still managed to cause a panic due to sensationalized reporting over the weekend. The general gist was that Disney was planning to simply shut down Marvel Comics, and focus the Marvel branding on films and TV shows instead.

While it’s true that the comic publishing branch of Marvel, like the whole superhero comic-book industry, is a pale shadow of their past printing output, such an overreach as a closure on Disney’s orders was unbelievable, and for good reason.

It all started from an announcement by Marvel that its Editor in Chief C.B. Cebulsky and Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada were opening a conference panel during the South by Southwest media conglomerate this mid-March. Their panel would discuss the process of adapting Marvel Comics storylines to the big screen.

When a news source interpreted the event as an attempt by Marvel’s comic-book division to highlight its role in creating source material for MCU productions, it started a speculation frenzy preying in unfounded fears that Disney was simply shutting down the low-productivity Marvel Comics arm.

Already Quesada has pooh-poohed the rumors as a dumb conspiracy theory on Twitter. Perhaps he and Cebulksy can shed more light on this during the 2019 SXSW event starting this March 8, until 17. In the meantime, the next MCU film “Captain Marvel” will premiere stateside on that same day.

Sweet and Empowering Moments in London Premiere of “Captain Marvel”

One by one the major motion picture markets around the world have held their respective premiere screenings for “Captain Marvel,” the latest installment of the MCU and first to show for 2019. Leade actress Brie Larson has had the honor of being present at each occasion, the latest being the European premiere in London, UK.

While there, Larson had a heartwarming and adorable encounter with the sort of young fans that Marvel Studios is trying to attract with their MCU films. It was a girl, only eight years old, and she was dressed in the costume of Larson’s character Carol Danvers, or Captain Marvel herself.

The girl’s name was Illie, and she wasn’t some mere promotional stunt to hype up the movie’s premiere but a true fan of the Marvel character that’s headlining it. To drive that home, she also brought to the premiere one of her “Captain Marvel” comic-book issues, which Larson graciously signed.

Illie, who was sponsored by non-profit organization “The Female Lead,” wasn’t the only star of the evening for the European premiere of “Captain Marvel.” Also present were women serving in the British armed forces as well as female officers of the London Metropolitan Police. The presence of the latter is particularly meaningful, as they are also celebrating the 100th anniversary of women first being enrolled in the capital’s police force.

These developments are a new bright spot in the course of the general premiere period for Marvel Studios’ “Captain Marvel,” following the brief “review bombing” at review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. Online trolls have flooded the site with negative reader reviews, forcing RT to implement new regulations that would prevent posting of reader reviews for a film yet to premiere.

“Captain Marvel” premieres in the US next week, March 8.

List of Prominent Instances when CGI/SFX was Used to Alter Character Ages in the MCU

Moviegoers first saw the utilization of the special effect called “digital skin-grafting” to make a character look younger in a Marvel film back in Fox’s “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006). This technique enabled them to present a flashback prologue with a younger and able-bodied Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) set before the movie’s “near future” time period.

Marvel Studios would later go on to use similar cinematic CGI SFX techniques in several installments of the MCU series. Their primary go-to source for de-aging and related effects is this is the Lola VFX.

The following is a list of Marvel Cinematic Universe films and characters that had CGI work done on their appearance on-scene, whether to make them look younger, or older, or something else. It will only count human characters, so Groot and Rocket, for example, will not be included in this:

DE-AGED

  • Ant-Man (2015)
  1. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) – flashback set in 1989
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016)
  1. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) – younger self in holographic projection (above)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
  1. Ego (Kurt Russell) – flashback with Peter Quill’s mother in 1980s
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp (2017)
  1. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) – flashback set in 1987
  2. Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) – flashback set in 1987
  3. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) – flashback with young Ghost
  • Captain Marvel (2019) – film is set in 1995
  1. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)
  2. Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg)

AGED

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
  1. Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) – very advanced age in present-day setting
  • Ant-Man (2015)
  1. Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) – aged to 70s in 1989 flashback

OTHER

  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
  1. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) – skinny body type before super-serum