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05/04/2012

Now Playing: 'The Avengers'

Avengersassembled
Roll Call: Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS

If Agent Natasha Romanoff can interrupt an espionage interrogation to attend...

If Thor can find a way back to Earth without his rainbow bridge...

If Tony Stark can stop erecting enormous arguably phallic odes to himself for a moment...

If Captain America can get back in shape now that he's out of deep freeze...

And if Dr Bruce Banner can come out of self-imposed exile to join Marvel's THE AVENGERS, then I really ought to be able to revive this review column! Let's go.

After roughly four years of movie-length commercials for The Avengers (formerly known as: Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger) "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" have finally assembled. To fans of the superhero genre, this probably feels like an impossible dream realized. To non-fans of the superhero genre this might play like the perfect time for a showstopping climax -take a bow and give mere mortals some movies again! The latter group should brace themselves. This particular blockbuster is lively enough to greenlight an even bigger movie family of men (and hopefully some women) in tights.

Marvel wisely handed the reigns over to writer/director Joss Whedon who is still best known for creating one of the greatest TV shows of all time (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and who has only directed one previous feature (Serenity). Though I'm a big Whedon believer, the opening moments worried me. The film starts with a brief but dull outerspace prologue designed to tell us that the Earth will soon be threatened (Duh! The superheroes have to protect the world from something). Without context this unfortunately brings Green Lantern's information overload opening to mind though it's happily the last completely useless scene in the film. Once Loki (Tom Hiddleston) steals the glowing cube of power known as the Tesseract from Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) at S.H.I.E.L.D., the story is jolted to life. (Loki also steals Jeremy Renner but who wouldn't?)

Why is Hulk chasing The Black Widow ?

Superhero vs superhero and other visual wonders AFTER THE JUMP...

Avengers-hulkscarjo

Sorry but I can't tell you!

I don't want to spoil any plot details but let's just say that Joss Whedon is basically the world's greatest fanfic writer. He finds numerous clever ways to pit the superheroes against one another throughout the course of the action even though they're on the same side. Hero vs. Hero has always been a staple, however convoluted in the details, of both comic book narratives and fan fiction but we rarely get to see it onscreen.

Like most modern blockbusters that supersize themselves The Avengers, at 142 minutes long, has its duller patches. The heroes spend an awful lot of time on minor bickering and self doubt on an invisible floating ship that doesn't have quite enough character to sustain a third of the movie. Loki's outsourced alien army is also depressingly personality-free and derivative but that's a minor quibble as there's plenty of big personas around waiting for their turn to shine. The Avengers' multiple character introductions aren't as gracefully swift as Serenity's remarkable opening scene, but Whedon's dependable talent for finding the humor and fissures and alliances within group dynamics is put to fine use. Somehow they made an Avengers movie without any of Earth's Mightiest Egos demanding the spotlight. Even the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), merely extraneous eye candy in Iron Man 2, is used about as well as you could possibly hope for.

Avengers-loki

Whedon's bravest gambit in the storytelling might be the way he handles The Hulk (Eric Bana Ed Norton Mark Ruffalo). He pins much anticipatory weight on the where and the when and the how quickly Bruce Banner might Hulk out, confidently assuming the audience will beg for it, ignoring the fact that Hulk has a reputation for boring them on the big screen. Mark Ruffalo's wonderfully mellow screen vibe makes for a nice bit of counterintuitive casting yet you still believe him when he says he's angry all the time. Whedon and Ruffalo (through motion-capture acting) make the Hulk so entertaining, in fact, that he gets the single biggest laugh in the movie. It's a blink and you'll miss it comic beat in the middle of the finale's mayhem.

And what glorious mayhem. Though The Avengers never reaches the pop iconography heights of Spider-Man 2 (my choice for Best Superhero Film) and it doesn't even attempt the majestic gravitas of The Dark Knight (most people's choice for Best Superhero Film) preferring to keep it light and quippy, its final act is so big and crazy and super-powered that you leave on a true high. I'm still thinking of its most eye-popping moments: Thor's hammer meeting Captain America's shield; Iron Man's unusually vertiginous costume change; A billion dollar complex sinking into the earth; Loki's sorcery and Tom Hiddleston's equally magic acting; The Hulk sliding down skyscrapers; Chris Evans' ass in sweatpants.

Joss-scarjo

That sound you hear exiting the theater is not just the aftershocks of multiple geek orgasms, but the crying jags of Warner Bros executives. They famously gave Joss Whedon the boot on the still languishing Wonder Woman movie. Damn, but she would have lassoed the world anew with Whedon guiding her. 

Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

Posted May. 4,2012 at 5:25 PM EST by in Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Film, Nathaniel Rogers, Superheroes | Permalink | Comments (20)


Hillary Clinton Tells Bullies, 'Take a Hard Look at Your Actions and the Pain You Cause': VIDEO

Clinton

Scretary of State Hillary Clinton posted a message on bullying to the State Department site today.

Says Clinton in the video:

When I travel the world, I try to meet with people to talk about what’s happening in their communities and countries. And one of the things I see wherever I go is that communities that foster tolerance and accept diversity tend to be more prosperous, successful, and just plain better places to live. Strong societies draw strength from the talents of women, people with disabilities, religious minorities, LGBT people and those of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. That’s just as true in the United States as it is everywhere else.

Today, across North America, students and teachers are coming together to take a stand against bullying. Building communities of tolerance is something every person can contribute to—in your school, in your workplace, where you worship, and in the streets of your town.

If you see someone being bullied—speak up.

If you’re being bullied—reach out. To a teacher, to a hotline, to a friend. Know that you are not alone. Help is available. We all want you to hang in there.

And if you are bullying someone else—take a hard look at your actions and the pain you cause.  Whether it’s physical, emotional, or social— bullying is wrong.

We can all contribute to more tolerant, supportive environments and to stamping out bullying wherever it happens.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Posted May. 4,2012 at 5:24 PM EST by in Bullying, Hillary Clinton, News | Permalink | Comments (18)


Washington's Leading Anti-Gay Pastor and NOM Ally Ken Hutcherson Wants the Word 'Gay' Back from Gay People

HutchersonWashington state anti-gay pastor Ken Hutcherson wants the rainbow back too:

"Seriously, I am the gayest guy I know...My frustration is that some groups have taken words and symbols away from the Church and from society in general. When I say I'm 'gay,' what I mean is that I am happy, that I am joyful and that I love people. That is precisely what a Christian ought to be so in my opinion we just need to be as gay as we can. Dan Savage (a pro-gay activist) says he is gay. He's not gay, not anywhere close. Yeah, he may be a homosexual but he certainly doesn't appear to be happy or joyful when he stands up in front of a classroom and uses profane language. Nope, nothing gay about that."

Posted May. 4,2012 at 5:06 PM EST by in Evangelical Christians, Evangelicals, Ken Hutcherson, News, Washington | Permalink | Comments (61)


Towleroad Guide to the Tube #1118

GOTYE: Gets the Bad Lip Reading treatment.

UNSTOPPABLE: Amazing one-shot ad from the Canadian paralympics.

VIRGINIA: Virginia Tech stadium threatens ancient woods.

GARBAGE: Control, a mini-film.

For recent Guides to the Tube, click HERE.

Posted May. 4,2012 at 4:26 PM EST by in News, Towleroad Guide to the Tube | Permalink | Comments (3)


News: Adam Yauch, Clooney Fundraiser, Campbell's, Tony Ward

RoadBeastie Boy Adam Yauch dead at 47.

RoadGroup to protest outside Pastor Sean "beat your gay kids" Harris' church on Sunday.

BassRoadLance Bass is good to his friends in St. Martin.

RoadObviously he did not have a peanut allergy.

RoadAP: LGBT rights groups keep pressure on Obama. "Obama's campaign, aware of the discontent, trumpets the president's role in repealing "don't ask, don't tell' so gays can serve openly in the military and his decision to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition to same-sex couples."

RoadMore loincloth: Kellan Lutz has been cast as stop-motion Tarzan.

RoadMichelangelo Signorile's interview with Pastor Sean 'beat the gay out of your kids' Harris. "In trying to explain why he used violence to convey his message even though he is now retracting the statements, Harris said: 'In the context of the scripture, Mark, chapter 9, Jesus conjures up violent images as well, when he says, ‘If your hand is causing you to sin, cut it off.' He's not speaking literally. He's speaking figuratively, using hyperbole to convey the importance of the offense.'"

RoadJustin Bieber's new video "Boyfriend".

WardRoadTony Ward lets his facial hair run wild for GQ Spain.

RoadUgandan gay activist Frank Mugisha speaks at Georgetown University. “If I’m doing something that’s not hurting someone, then it is my right to do it. If I’m doing something that is hurting someone, then maybe that’s when we need to draw the line and bring in the rule of law. My sexual orientation does not hurt anyone.”

RoadCourt grants lesbian mom in Colorado right to file for paternity.

RoadClooney-Obama fundraiser to break records: "President Barack Obama's dinner with George Clooney has officially sold out, and campaign sources are telling The Hollywood Reporter that the event is expected to raise up to $12 million for the president's re-election bid, making it the biggest presidential fundraiser in U.S. history. One hundred fifty high rollers -- including Hollywood studio heads, celebrities and an array of entertainment industry execs -- have paid $40,000 apiece to dine with the president at Clooney's Studio City home May 10."

RoadMark Wahlberg in another shirtless balcony appearance.

Tree_bearRoadFamous falling bear struck by car, killed.

RoadAmerican Family Association of Pennsylvania's Diane Gramley goes after Campbell's for support of Philadelphia's Equality Forum: "When I think of Campbell's Soup, I think of the Campbell's Soup kids with their advertisement that portrays a pro-family, a family-friendly company, which is what they want to portray to the public."

RoadMatthew Rettenmund meets the queens of RuPaul's Drag Race.

RoadAnti-gay billboard causes anger in New Zealand: "Former councillor Dale Evans has erected a notice board in Paraparaumu emblazoned with the words 'The Gay Times Are Over - Enough is Enough.' Mayor Jenny Rowan is openly gay and was the first lesbian mayor in New Zealand."

RoadThe L.A. performance of Dustin Lance Black's '8' will soon be available digitally: "The reading — which featured Kevin Bacon, George Clooney, Jamie Lee Curtis, Christine Lahti, Jane Lynch, Brad Pitt, Martin Sheen and John C. Reilly, among others — also will be available June 1 on CD and for digital download via iTunes and Amazon and on demand at www.latw.org as of June 9, L.A. Theatre Works announced Thursday. The broadcast features added audio, including conversations with Rob Reiner, who directed the March 3 staging, as well as Black, Clooney and other cast members, plus interviews with lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson who led the charge in the courtroom against Prop. 8, the gay marriage ban."

Posted May. 4,2012 at 2:56 PM EST by | Permalink | Comments (18)


Concerns Mount That GOP Stall Could Kill Colorado Civil Union Bill

While the Colorado civil union bill passed a major hurdle by clearing a House panel overnight, any celebration of its passage would be premature. Denver Post:

Timing is critical for proponents because the bill still must be heard by two more committees. If it is not debated on the floor on Tuesday, the measure is dead because the session ends Wednesday. An official vote is taken the day after the debate or what is called "second reading." Democrats and Republicans traded accusations over who would be blamed if that happened.

GardnerKDVR reports:

The bill now faces another test before the House Finance Committee, which could come either Friday or Monday. It depends on how soon the House Judiciary Chairman, Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, signs the committee report from Thursday night’s hearing. After last night’s hearing, Gardner signed committee reports on every bill considered by his committee except the civil unions measure, an indication that House Republicans may be looking to stall the bill’s progress, knowing that only four days remain in the legislative session.

FOX 31 Denver has learned that Gardner is likely to wait until Monday, taking the full 72 hours allowed before signing the committee report; although that would still allow time for a hearing before the House Finance Committee, where a subsequent hearing before the House Appropriations Committee, and two days of votes by the full House.

COAndrew Bateman at ColoradoPols.com also outlines the challenges the bill may still face.

How many ways can they not pass the legislation without actually killing it, well:

(And in case anyone is wondering, I have heard all of these from my CO Republican friends already, so it's not like I'm giving them ideas, here, that they haven't already thought up.)

1. They can have each committee chair wait the full 72 hours without signing it, which means it will not make it to the house floor on time.

2. The Majority Leader could choose not to schedule a floor vote, claiming that more important things (jobs, economy, voter suppression, etc) were more important and there simply wasn't enough time.

3. Speaker McNulty could decide that, in addition to being heard by the House Finance and Appropriations Committees, that the bill also needs to be approved by State Affairs, and maybe Agriculture, too. Why not?

4. They could amend a single word in the bill, forcing a conference committee and further approval by both the Senate and House. In fact, if they do that, it could be that the Dem controlled Senate would be the one to not pass it before the deadline.

And I'm sure there are more which we will see and hear of in the coming days.

UPDATE: Movement seen on bill:

@RepMcNulty tells me they will read #civilunions cmte report across desk this afternoon, clearing move to House Finance.

Previously...
Crucial Victory in Colorado as House Panel Which Rejected it Last Year Advances Civil Unions: VIDEO

Posted May. 4,2012 at 2:01 PM EST by in Colorado, Gay Marriage, News | Permalink | Comments (6)



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