Star Wars: Episode VII Gets Official Release Date; Abrams Gives Explanation For Screenwriter Change

With all the recent buzz behind J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: Episode VII going around in the past couple of weeks, it'd be safe to assume that many fans (including myself) have had much reason for concern over the current status of film. Reports last week brought us news that Michael Arndt (Toys Story 3, Little Miss Sunshine) would no longer be working on the film's screenplay, and that Empire Strike's Back writer Lawrence Kasdan along with Abrams himself would now be taking over from him. More recently, new  speculation emerged indicating that conflicts were emerging between LucasFilm President and Episode VII producer Kathleen Kennedy and Disney CEO Bob Iger over pushing the film's release back to 2016. Well now fans can finally put their concerns at ease as the official release date for Episode VII has been revealed, and yes, it is in 2015.

The news of the film's release date comes to us via itself, so it really can't get more official than that. As I stated above, there were recent rumblings that producer Kathleen Kennedy was pushing for the film's release date to be pushed back to 2016, in order to give more time to Abrams, and apparently more time for Arndt to finish the films script (Which it would seem was taking longer than originally expected). Well none of this speculation has been confirmed nor denied, apparently Disney head Bob Iger was very keen on the film making the 2015 release, as it's now been set to hit theaters on December 18, 2015.
The release doesn't come as much of surprise, as Disney already has quite a few heavy hitters set for Summer 2015, and squeezing in such a major project like Episode VII in there didn't exactly seem like a smart move. It's hard to tell whether a December release was Disney's original intention, as they've now moved Brad Bird's upcoming Tommorowland from it's December 2014 release date to May 22, 2015, which is the month all previous Star Wars films were released in. It's likely Kennedy and Iger came to some sort of compromise over the film's release which pushed it back to late 2015. The film's release date keeps it clear from any of 2015's major competition including WB's Superman Vs. Batman and Universal's Jurassic World, but it does pit the film directly against Duncan Jones' upcoming World of Warcraft film; Warcraft, which could be a bit risky for a film hoping to attract all walks of fanboys.
While the sudden shift in screenwriters seemed like a drastic move, it seems the reason for the change was really made in relation to getting the script completed quicker. Initial reports had led many to assume that the reason behind Kasdan and Abrams taking over script duties was due to dissatisfaction with the script written by Arndt, some sites even going as far as to say that Kasdan and Abrams would be starting the script from scratch. Well now Abrams set the record straight when talking to Deadline, and clears up any false speculation for the recent change, and also pointing out that this they may not be the last time Arndt takes part in a future Star Wars project. According to Abrams: 

“It became clear that given the time frame and given the process and the way the thing was going that working with Larry [Kasdan] in this way was going to get us where we need to be and when we needed to be… Working with Michael [Arndt] was a wonderful experience and I couldn’t be a bigger fan of his or adore him more, He’s a wonderful guy and was incredibly helpful in the process.”
So now with the film's release date and screen writing all sorted out, let's move on to the more reason news involving the film's cast. We reported a few weeks ago that actress Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, The Host) had confirmed that she auditioned for Star Wars: Episode VII. Well now the actress has seemingly confirmed that she's no longer in contention for the part, stating the following in a discussion with Indiewire:

"I don't have the role," Ronan said, sounding kind of defeated. "I just shouldn't have said anything. I just auditioned for it, like everyone else did."
But while Ronan is no longer up for a part in the film, recent rumors have been circulating that actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who recently starred in the critically acclaimed 12 Years A Slave, may have a part in the film. Ejiofor has previously starred the lead villain in Joss Whedon's space epic Serenity, so Episode VII definitely seems like something up his ally. When asked about his involvement with Episode VII in an interview Ejiofor played coy, similar to Benedict Cumberbatch and Harrison Ford, so is this an indication that he may in fact have some sort of part in the film? It's anyone's guess at this point.
So are you happy with the December 18 release date? How do you feel about Abrams and Kasdan now writing the script?

Trailer For Bryan Singer's X-Men: Days of Future Past Debuts Along With 15 All New Images

So remember last week when the Captain America: Winter Soldier trailer came out and I said it was pretty much becoming routine for Marvel to release their trailers around the time one of their new films was debuting (Thor: The Dark World to be exact), well yeah, now apparently it's not even the only one we're getting. That's right folks, two for the price of one because the trailer for Bryan Singer's upcoming new installment to the X-Men franchise 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' has officially hit the web. We've also got fourteen all new stills from the film for your own viewing pleasure, and for the record, no they aren't just freeze frames from the trailer (At least most of them aren't). 

Below is the official trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past:
So lets be completely honest here, the Future Past trailer doesn't exactly reach the same level as the Winter Soldier trailer did in the action department. Instead the trailer chooses to focus more on the film's characters, which of course is still a great selling point for the film given how impressive the ensemble Singer has on board is. But although the trailer gives us a quick look at the film's villain Bolivar Trask (Played by Game of Throne's Peter Dinklage) we still have yet to see any actual footage of the Sentinels, which are robots created by Trask to exterminate the mutant race. Fans of the original Days of Future Past comic arc will know that the Sentinels are pretty key to the overall coarse of the story, and it's expected that like in the comic, their invention by Trask Industries in the seventies will ultimately be the reason for the post apocalyptic future we see in the trailer. 
The trailer also shows the obvious changes being made for the film from the original comic, with Wolverine now being the character who time travels to the seventies rather than fellow X-Men member Kitty Pride (Who will still be appearing in the film played by Juno's Ellen Page). All though it may be quite a controversial change for some fans, it was almost a given that Wolverine would ultimately be the main character of the film, as Singer's relied on the character and Hugh Jackman's popularity to headline the previous films in the series (As well as two solo movies). Singer has already explained that Wolverine won't be physically traveling back in time, but rather the future conscious of himself will be transported into the 1970's version of himself. While we get a quick glimpse of how this means of time travel will work, it'll be interesting to see how Singer explain how Wolverine's capability of traveling to a different time period without possessing the power himself.
But like I stated above, Singer's obviously putting the strong ensemble cast he has together to use, and it definitely shows throughout trailer. It's great to see the majority of the characters from First Class back in action here, and while it may be a new decade since the last film, the trailer already shows us some very promising character moments from the group. While it was originally unclear just how much of the movie would be taking place in the future and how much of it would be in the 70's, Singer recently revealed that the film will take place 70% in the past and 30% future. While this may be a bit disappointing for some fans, I for one and very excited by this news given that the film is really intended to be a sequel to First Class in the first place. That being said, it's a bit of a let down that many of the new characters we've been waiting to see on screen such as Bishop, Warpath, and Blink will only be used in future scenes, as well as many of the returning cast members from the original trilogy, so we can only hope Singer will make good use of their brief screen time.
And below are the all new released images courtesy of Empire and Entertainment Weekly. They give us a look at Wolverine, Mystique, Iceman and Kitty Pride, Bolivar Trask, and both the younger and older versions of Magneto and Professor X (Now rocking a hover wheel chair). We also have our first look at the new costume 70's Magneto will be sporting in the film, which features a redesigned helmet different from the one worn in First Class, and is much more reminiscent of the one worn by the older Magneto in the original trilogy:

So what do you think of the X-Men: Days of Future Past trailer and images? Did it meet your expectations?

Review: Thor: The Dark World - You Want Me To Put The Hammer Down?

So, about six months on from Iron Man 3 we receive the latest offering from the extremely productive Marvel Studios. Thor: The Dark World continues the rampaging adventures of the bulky Asgardian immortal, Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Armed with his hammer and Shakespearean dialect, he ventures across space and various realms in order to take vengeance on the evil Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and stop him getting his hands on the dark power known as the Aether.

Here’s the deal with Thor: The Dark World. It’s an undisclosed and well-known fact that Tom Hiddleston’s Loki (Thor’s mischievous brother, now imprisoned for his crimes in Avengers Assemble) is terrific. Any scene he is in is made demonstrably better, ranging from witty quips to properly dramatic scenes of anguish or despair.The thing is; he’s not in it much. After a smattering of scenes in the first act he’s given a lot more attention later on but only to an extent and is never really the focus. Which is a shame; because Hiddleston seems to be doing the best he’s done as the God of Mischief and yet suffers from a severe lack of screen-time.
It’s probably good to point out; Hemsworth is still on top form. The Asgardian prince never fails to impress but everyone knows deep down Hiddleston is better at this malarkey. Hemsworth is a fine actor (see Rush) but when you go up against Hiddleston- well there’s not much point at all going up against him in the first place. Besides, there's only so much character development you can have with a big lumbering god who smashes things a lot (no complaining, the smashing things is excellent). The supporting cast all do very well, with standouts from Kat Dennings as the scientific aide, Darcy, who manages to deliver sarcastic wit constantly without ever getting annoying. The Asgardian gatekeeper Heimdall played by Idris Elba (Pacific Rim) receives some more screen-time from before, and doesn't waste a minute of it. The film manages to light up with importance every time his wonderful presence lights up the screen.
The main problem with the film lies in the first act, in that it’s quite mediocre. For the first 40 minutes, the film stutters and stumbles all over the place. It’s filled with overlong voiceover setups, fantasy McGuffins (reminiscent of the Tesseract Avengers Assemble), and science-fiction mumbo-jumbo delivered by Natalie Portman; Thor’s brief romance - Jane Foster. No amount of warp-holes, fights, huge spaceships crashing or father-to-son moments from Thor’s dad Odin (a performance phoned in lovingly by Anthony Hopkins) can save it from mild boredom. It’s only a few fleeting flashes with Loki that ever raise it the first act from anything more than lukewarm, thanks to mainly a weak script. Director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) seems to be trying to paint a bleak, grim (or Dark) warland with deep, emotional characters. If this is the case, it seems he’s not too accustomed with the Marvel universe, as these aren't usually the characters that commonly populate it. Setting up inter-character conflicts and problems that never seem to be resolved only add to the confusion and befuddlement of the first third, leaving a vaguely sour taste on the tongue.
It’s only after a ‘significant event’ in the plot do things begin to pick up rapidly. On the hunt for Malekith, Thor teams up with his bro to settle the score once and for all. Which means a lot more Loki. Which means the film becomes a lot better. Within 5 minutes we’re served up with the fantastic chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston, numerous jokes and a hilarious cameo that I shall not spoil due to it being the funniest moment in the film. The zipping chase scenes and archaic dialogue seem a lot more enjoyable, a factor that doesn't seem to drop throughout the film. Although it’s true that it’s very difficult to rescue a film after a flat opening, The Dark World’s trademark Marvel fun that carries it off.
We’re left with a brilliantly emotional middle section coupled with a superbly entertaining landmark destroying, trans-dimensional, loud noises and explosion filled final showdown, peppered with wit and Thor’s brilliant Asgardian mannerisms (or ‘Thorisms’). It's this kind of thing that we sort of take sort granted in Marvel movies but never fully appreciate how much of an impact it can have on the film. Beautiful landscapes, great dialogue and cracking set-pieces are all wasted without the signature fun that we come to expect from these films, and once The Dark World gets going, there's no stopping it. Huge amounts of fun were had in the last eighty minutes, meaning that the sour taste left by the somewhat boring first forty was soon gone.
The villains in Marvel Studios films always fall into three categories: great, bad or fun. Great ones are like Loki, who thrice now was presented a cool, slick and fangirl-inducing baddy who never fails to entertain. Bad ones are like The Incredible Hulk (2008)’s Abomination (by name and by nature).The fun ones include Captain America: The First Avenger’s Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) who ham it up supremely for our pleasure and seem to be having a whale of a time in the process. Christopher Eccleston's Dark Elf leader Malekith falls squarely in the latter. Caked in prosthetics and with a distorted alien voice, he’s undoubtedly silly but still delivers the brilliance that we last saw in GI Joe: Rise of Cobra (an unmistakably terrible film but made watchable for his performance). He may seem dwarfed in the presence of Loki but it was never really the purpose to put him the same league, just to serve as a suitably malevolent bad guy to do battle against Thor. It’s a shame that at points he’s drowned in gobbledegook about powers and hidden darkness that make for little interest or sense. Undeveloped, maybe. Fun, definitely. 
After smashing and crashing its way through the first forty minutes, Thor: The Dark World swings its hammer and soars into the sky, providing blissful entertainment and great fun deftly as it does so. It may not be up there with Avengers Assemble or Iron Man 3 but for what it is, it’s pretty good.

I give Thor: The Dark World 3.5 out of 5 stars:

So what did you think of Thor: The Dark World? Do you think Marvel's on the right track so far with Phase 2?

Aaron Taylor-Johnson Officially Confirmed As Joss Whedon's Quicksilver In The Avengers: Age of Ultron

With all the rumors circling around in reference to who will be landing the title role in Edgar Wright's upcoming Ant-Man film (Which have been ranging from Joseph Gordon-Levitt to Paul Rudd), it's nice to at least hear confirmation of one casting in an upcoming Marvel film. While it's been speculated for months that Kick-Ass and Godzilla star Aaron Taylor-Johnson was the top contender for the role of Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, it's now official that the actor has indeed landed the part. Although it may not come off as much of a surprise to many, taking into account the long casting process and numerous candidates Marvel looks over for the onscreen portrayal of their iconic characters, it's indeed pretty rare that the first actor rumored for the part ultimately ended up being cast. 

The Wrap brings the news of Johnson's casting, which reportedly wasn't confirmed sooner due to the actor's promotional schedule for Gareth Edward's Godzilla, which originally interfered with filming for Age of Ultron. Johnson is now the second new addition for The Avengers sequel, with just a few months ago James Spader (Blacklist) having been confirmed to portray the film's titular villain; Ultron. All of the first film's cast members including Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Scarlet Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Samuel L. Jackson have all been confirmed to return as well.
As if the fact that Johnson was seemingly the only candidate up for the part (At least as far what was publicly known) wasn't weird enough, Johnson will now be sharing the screen once again with his Godzilla costar Elizabeth Olsen. Olsen has yet to be confirmed as Quicksilver's sister Scarlet Witch in the film, but just a few weeks prior to a rumor that she was up for the part, Samuel L. Jackson (Whose her costar in Spike Lee's Oldboy) named dropped Olsen as one of Age of Ultron's cast members. It's safe to say it'll be a bit odd for audiences to see the two as sibling just one year after they've played love interests in Godzilla, but hopefully the film's script will be able to make the character's relationship feel like a realistic depiction of that of their comic book counterparts.
Details on how the two characters will fit into the film are still very vague, but from what we've gathered, Whedon has already stated that the duo will be starting out as antagonists and slowly develop till they eventually join forces with Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Whedon will still of course be presented with the challenge of explaining the origins of the characters powers, as in the comic books they are both mutants and children of Magneto. Due to the fact that Fox still owns the rights to the X-Men including Magneto and the actual term "mutant", many have hypothesized that Whedon may make the two characters past members of the group of super humans known as the Inhumans. Marvel's own Kevin Feige has expressed much interest in bringing the Inhumans into the Marvel Cinematic Universe for Phase 3, so making Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch members would not only explain their origins, but it would introduce audiences to the Inhumans team for a future film.
The inclusion of the two characters has stirred up quite some controversy from fans, as the character of Quicksilver will not only be featured in Age of Ultron, but will also be in Bryan Singer's X-Men: Days of Future Past next year. Coincidentally, Johnson's Kick-Ass costar Evan Peters (American Horror Story) will be the one portraying the Days of Future Past version of the character, yet there has been no word on whether Scarlet Witch will be making an appearance as well. Judging from Singer's comments on Peters casting, and his lack of inclusion in the film's recent trailer, it's safe to assume that the character won't be as heavily in Future Past as he will be in Age of Ultron. We can only hope that Peters and Johnson's versions of Quicksilver don't turn out to be too similar to each other in the final product, and we'll instead be seeing to fresh takes on a relatively less known hero. 
So are you happy with Aaron Taylor-Johnson playing Quicksilver? Do you think Johnson and Olsen can pull off the brother-sister act?