New details on Ultron and The Vision in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON!

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We already know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has no problem departing from the comics when the story demands it. The trick is appeasing comics fans while still carving out a new world, and I’m absolutely fine with the MCU going in its own direction. The comics are still the comics, and it doesn’t break my heart if Hank Pym doesn’t invent Ultron in the movies. What’s important is finding the best way to tell the story and focusing on the bigger picture rather than getting OCD about details from the source material. I say all of this as a lead-up to AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON origins for new characters Ultron (James Spader) and Vision (Paul Bettany).

Images from what appears to be action figure packaging popped up on Reddit [via ScreenCrush], and those images contained biographies for Ultron and Vision. Reading these bios, we can see how Marvel is tweaking the origin stories for these characters, but still wants to give them some ties back to the comics.

Here’s the text for Ultron:

First discovered as a simple computer program hidden among the ruins of the Chitauri invasion of New York, the being known as Ultron soon completed its development into a sophisticated artificial intelligence after some experimentation by Tony Stark. Ultron’s first shocking ultimatum upon gaining consciousness was to declare the human race its enemy. Setting out to exterminate all life on the planet, the unstable and emotional Ultron seeks to upgrade its mechanical body to an ultimate, unstoppable form. With an army of robotic drones and the ability to enter and corrupt any computer network, Ultron will stop at nothing to see humanity wiped out.

Oh, those pesky Chitauri. The fallout from the Battle of New York continues to play a as we’ve seen Loki’s scepter fall into the hands of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann) and other various pieces picked up by S.H.I.E.L.D. What makes this development interesting is that Ultron wasn’t designed from scratch, and that Tony did an incredibly foolish, arrogant thing in using Chitauri technology to build him. I’m also curious to see how far Ultron’s “ability to enter and corrupt any computer network” extends. Since the Iron Man suit uses a computer, is it vulnerable?

There’s also the matter of Vision, an android created by Ultron in the comics, but who has a new progenitor in the movie:

Programmed by the combined geniuses of Tony Stark & Bruce Banner and imparted with the ability to fly, project intense energy beams and change the density of his form, the Vision has proved himself a worthy hero, aiding the Avengers in their struggle against the evil A.I. Ultron.

Look what the Science Bros. did!

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON opens in 3D on May 1, 2015.

Sylvester Stallone starting work on CREED, next up is LAST BLOOD: RAMBO!

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Now that THE EXPENDABLES franchise is done, Sylvester Stallone is returning to his old, reliable characters. First up is the Rocky spin-off CREED, which will focus on the grandson (Michael B. Jordan) of Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) being mentored by Rocky Balboa. The movie will mark a big leap for director Ryan Coogler, who previously directed Jordan in the heartbreaking FRUITVALE STATION, and I’m curious to see how much of the story will belong to Creed and how much goes to Rocky.

Stallone is fairly generous with his co-stars, but he never let anyone forget that while EXPENDABLES was a big ensemble, he was the lead. Stallone recently tweeted that he was headed to Philadelphia to start shooting on CREED, but he also provided a surprising revelation about keeping the RAMBO franchise alive with LAST BLOOD: RAMBO.

New ANT-MAN promo banner reveals Yellowjacket!

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An ANT-MAN promo banner has found its way online, and it provides the first look at the film’s villain, Yellowjacket. The upcoming film stars Paul Rudd as thief Scott Lang, who must team up with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to pull off a heist that will save the world. In the tradition of IRON MAN when it comes to a person in a super-powered suit fighting another person in a similar super-powered suit, it looks like Ant-Man will meet his match with Yellowjacket, who has a pretty rad outfit.

The film opens July 17, 2015, and also stars Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip “Ti” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Wood Harris, Jordi Mollà, and Michael Peña. We should be seeing a trailer very soon.

Box Office: THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES takes strongest Christmas weekend!

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After posting one of the strongest Christmas Day totals of the last decade, the domestic box office went on to claim the best post-holiday frame ever this weekend with over $208 million in overall earnings. That tops the all-time record from 2009: the year that AVATAR, SHERLOCK HOLMES and ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS 2 dominated the chart. On this historic weekend, THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES claimed its second consecutive top ten title with an estimated $41.4 million, while new releases INTO THE WOODS and UNBROKEN each brought in over $31 million in what proved to be a very close race for second place.

1. The Hobbit 3 $41.4M
2. Unbroken $31.74M
3. Into the Woods $31.02M
4. Night at the Museum 3 $20.6M
5. Annie $16.6M
6. Mockingjay – Part 1 $10M
7. The Gambler $9.3M
8. The Imitation Game $7.93M
9. Exodus: Gods & Kings $6.75M
10. Wild $5.41M

STAR TREK 3 set for July 8, 2016 release date!

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Even though it’s only been a day since the new director for STAR TREK 3 was announced, it seems as though the project is right back on track because Paramount Pictures just set a release date for the film. A couple of weeks back, we learned that Roberto Orci vacated the position due to creative differences and now Fast Five’s Justin Lin is at the helm.

We’ll get to see what Lin does for the film franchise when STAR TREK 3 hits theaters on July 8, 2016, two months before Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. It’s currently free and clear of competition, but that’s a prime summertime spot right there so that likely won’t be the case for long.

After the director shake-up, revealing the STAR TREK 3 release date is a nice show of confidence from Paramount. Personally, I’m quite pleased with the change. Sure, Orci is a seasoned writer and producer, but STAR TREK 3 would have been quite the undertaking for his first go at directing. Lin, on the other hand, has some strong features under his belt. I very much enjoyed STAR TREK and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, but if Lin can boost my interest in this series in a similar manner, all the better.

As for that release date, it’s a bit surprising that Paramount would go with a July opening after both STAR TREK and STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS performed well in May, but when you look at the competition, it’s pretty clear that the studio just gave the film the best possible shot at hitting it big. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and X-MEN: APOCALYPSE will both likely be well on their way out as July rolls around and then STAR TREK 3 will have a month until SUICIDE SQUAD comes out. Of course there are some other potential blockbusters in the mix, but keeping clear of the superhero competition definitely puts a new release on the right track.

FAST FIVE director Justin Lin to direct STAR TREK 3!

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After producer/writer Roberto Orci dropped out of directing the upcoming sequel STAR TREK 3 a few weeks ago, Paramount Pictures has now set FAST FIVE helmer Justin Lin to direct the sci-fi pic. With J.J. Abrams busy on STAR TREK, Paramount was in need of a new shepherd for the franchise. Orci, who produced and co-wrote the previous two Trek films, subsequently won the directing gig after campaigning to be given the reins. Despite fan disappointment over the decision, he had Abrams’ blessing and all seemed to be moving forward quite smoothly until a couple of weeks ago, when we learned that Orci had been forced out of the position over creative differences (though he remains involved as a producer). Paramount wasted no time in finding a replacement, and they now have a director well-versed in the arena of franchise filmmaking.

News of Lin’s hiring comes courtesy of Deadline, which notes that he was the only person to be offered the STAR TREK 3 director job despite the fact that the studio was also considering RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES director Rupert Wyatt and THE IMITATION GAME helmer Morten Tyldum, among others. After breaking out with the Sundance indie BETTER LUCK TOMORROW, Lin became the steward of the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise, helming four installments in total—from FF 3 to FF 6. He’s set to helm the follow-up to THE BOURNE LEGACY with Jeremy Renner, but since Universal wants to move forward with the new Matt Damon Bourne film first, his schedule recently opened up.

I can’t say I’m particularly enthused by the news of Lin’s hiring on the Trek franchise. He’s not a bad filmmaker by any means, and he definitely knows how to put together a set piece, but his talents seem to lie more in action rather than cerebral or thoughtful stories; I’m not sure he’s the right fit for STAR TREK. Then again, he’s been busy making action-oriented films for so long, maybe he’s keen on switching things up with a more character-centric sci-fi pic. I’m certainly open to the possibility that he’ll make a great TREK movie, but my initial reaction is one of slight disappointment.

Perhaps we’ll get our first look at Lin’s more character-focused talents (at least since BETTER LUCK TOMORROW) sooner rather than later, as he’s currently in production on the first two episodes of True Detective Season 2. Unlike the first season, the second season of HBO’s anthology series is utilizing multiple directors so Lin won’t be onboard for the season’s entire run, but he will set the tone with the first two installments.

There was also recently talk that Lin might return to the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise for a multi-film conclusion, but seeing as how he’ll be busy with TREK for the next two years, that may be out of the cards. Paramount hopes to release TREK 3 in 2016 in time for the 50th anniversary, so things will likely start moving very quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if the film was in front of cameras by late next summer.

Box Office: THE HOBBIT defeats all newcomers!

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After opening on Wednesday, Warner Bros.’ THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES remained the clear box office winner in its first weekend – earning more than three times what NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET IF THE TOMB claimed in second. That gives the final chapter in THE HOBBIT trilogy a five-day domestic total of over $90 million, which is in line with pre-release expectations. In contrast, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM started a bit slow, especially compared to fellow new release ANNIE. Sony’s remake of the family musical came within $1 million of second place and earned a higher per-screen average than its bigger-budget Friday competition, despite opening in 669 fewer locations.

1. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies $56.22M ($90.4M 8-day)
2. Night at the Museum 3 $17.3M
3. Annie (2014) $16.3M
4. Exodus: Gods and Kings $8.06M
5. Mockingjay – Part 1 $7.75M
6. Wild $4.15M
7. Top Five $3.57M
8. Big Hero 6 $3.56M
9. Penguins of Madagascar $3.52M
10. Interstellar $2.6M