Category Archives: Moving Pictures

All things film.

BuzzFeed Got it Wrong About ‘The Heat’

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Last night BuzzFeed published an article entitled “Why The Success of ‘The Heat’ Doesn’t Mean Anything to Hollywood.” In the article, the writer goes on a lengthy statistical roller coaster “proving” that the reason that Hollywood doesn’t make more “female-driven” movies is because really nobody goes to see them anyway. He also intermixes interviews with The Heat director Paul Feig and studio executive Terry Press, lamenting the harsh reality. The article asks, “can the cycle be broken?”

Well the first cycle that needs to break is the one where after every successful movie with female stars premieres, mainstream media posts articles like this. There are many, many problems with women and Hollywood, but the ideas that a) nobody wants to see a movie starring women, b) Hollywood won’t make female-driven movies because nobody sees them, and c) women only want to see movies starring women are all fallacies that need to die. Then maybe we can talk about the real problems.

“Movies with mostly male casts have on average better opening weekends and better total grosses”

There are many things wrong with BuzzFeed’s methodology in calculating the many charts that led to the above conclusion. First being their definitions of what constitutes a “male” or “female” driven movie. How is Bad Teacher not a female-driven movie? It was explicitly sold on the appeal of Cameron Diaz, and its main conflict was between her and another woman, the devious Ms. Squirrel (Lucy Punch). Just because there were also several male characters does not mean that Diaz was not the most significant aspect of the film. I agree that it’s hard to say exactly what a female-driven movie is when there are multiple leads intermixed with men and women, so I prefer to use the Bechdel Test plus common sense. So I agree that X-Men: First Class was more equal between the sexes but the Twilight Movies? They aren’t a standard bearer for feminism but they certainly are female-driven.

BuzzFeed’s stats are likewise limited only to summer movies, because apparently only those are the movies that matter. Except that’s complete crap. Let me draw your attention to another Melissa McCarthy starrer from this year, Identity Thief, which grossed $134.5 million domestically, higher than the “male-driven averages” in BuzzFeed’s charts for 2008, 2010, and 2011. How about the third highest-grossing film of 2012, The Hunger Games? It went on to take in nearly $700 million worldwide. Definitely female-driven. Definitely a huge success. Released in March.  I’d also remind you that the highest grossing film of all time, Avatar, while by no means female-driven, was released in December.

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Also, while acknowledging that there are vastly more male-driven than female-driven films, the article does little in the way of explaining how that will affect the statistics. With a larger sample, the male-driven films have a greater chance for outliers screwing up the average (the article recognizes this for 2008’s outlier, The Dark Knight, but completely ignores it for The Avengers in 2012). How are female-driven movies supposed to compete when there is such a small sample?

Basically, the charts in the article are skewed. Women have a lot bigger box-office draw than BuzzFeed will admit. They’re just not looking at it from the right angle or with the right movies.

“Studios are reluctant to make female-centric movies because audiences are reluctant to race out to see female-centric movies”

The stats in the article are presented as data to prove why Hollywood is less likely to green light a female-driven film, but it ignores a huge metric that studio executives must factor when determining the success of a movie: its budget.

You know the saying about how the bigger they are the harder they fall? Well that goes double for movies. The biggest flops of the past two years, John CarterBattleshipAfter Earth, and perhaps soon White House Down, were all made even worse by their starting budgets. John Carter made $282 million worldwide (only $73 million in the United States) against a reported $250 million budget (these aren’t always accurate, studios will make them smaller publicly) not including the estimated $120 million in marketing costs. To put it simply: Disney lost a bundle on the film.

On the other hand you have a small female-driven film like 2012’s Pitch Perfect. It made $113 million globally against a $17 million budget, and much smaller marketing budget driven by social media and advanced screenings. That’s a nice profit for Universal.pitch_perfect

The BuzzFeed article also mentions how women are less likely to go see a movie in its opening weekend which may or may not be true (the assertion of Press that “Women are more discerning, period, the end. That’s the truth. In everything” is so problematic I won’t get into it now). I’ll remind you that The Hunger Games opened to $152 million. But the real thing is, although a film’s opening weekend is very important, it is not the be-all end-all for everything.

Pitch Perfect was not an overnight success. It had a limited release (effectively dampening its opening-weekend potential), which was part of the marketing strategy. As a result, the film’s gross came in slowly, but it came in nonetheless. The film has been considered a huge success and a sequel has been greenlit. So clearly, Hollywood recognizes the appeal of a slowburner like Pitch Perfect or The Help (which made $211 million against a $25 million budget, but only made $26 million in its opening weekend). They just don’t recognize this nearly enough.

“Studios aren’t making enough good female-centric movies to attract attention away from the male-centric movies that are dominating the marketplace”

Back in the summer of 2012, I waited in line for a midnight showing of a film I eagerly anticipated. Why? Because the trailer looked brilliant, I loved the filmmakers and the source material, and as a bonus it had a great female character with awesome red hair. I am, of course, talking about The Avengers. Did you think I meant Brave just because I am a woman? Well guess what, I saw that one at midnight too. But I liked The Avengers better.

I’m a woman and I like a whole wide range of movies. Superhero, rom com, thriller, raunchy comedy, drama, musical, tear-jerker, you name it, I’ll see the movie if it looks good (other than horror but that’s mostly because I’m a terrible scaredy cat). The idea that women don’t like male-tentpole films is as offensive and false as the horrible fake geek girl stereotype is. Just look at the figures. Cinemascore reported that audiences of the zombie-apocalypse thriller, World War Z were 51% female in its opening weekend. Magician caper Now You See Me also had a 51% female audience in its first frame. The stats go on.

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Nobody dragged me to The Avengers. I went because I wanted to see the Hulk smash. This year I saw Iron Man 3World War Z, Man of Steel, and a bunch more movies for men too. Because I think it’s fun when things go boom, just like the boys do. And just like many women do.

But it’s not just the action and adventure that can attract women to male-starring films. BuzzFeed’s article fails to account for the sexual appeal of male movie stars. Just like gratuitous shots of Megan Fox in Transformers undoubtedly brought young men to the film, so did gratuitous shots of an almost-nude Channing Tatum bring young women to see Magic Mike. That film made $167 million dollars globally against a $7 million budget. And it had a lot to do with moments like this. Superhero movies, likewise, have a swath of hunky gentlemen at their disposal as well. I’ll remind you of this moment in Thor.

This is by no way saying that the female/male disparity behind and in front of the camera is anywhere near okay. Because it is super not okay. It’s really, really, really not okay. We need more movies directed, shot, edited, acted, animated, etc, by women. But women can’t be boxed in as an audience group either, forever exiled to watch Safe Haven on an endless loop. It’s all part of the greater ongoing struggle for women. Happily this weekend I was able to go see a movie that passed the Bechdel test, was undoubtedly-female driven, was written by a woman, and starred two of my favorite actresses, and had a whole slew of explosions and f-bombs.

And I was not the only one who was excited. After reading many, many temperature related puns you can see that The Heat made $39.1 million this weekend, roasting/burning/setting fire to standard male-blockbuster White House Down, which only made $25 million. The Heat cost $43 million to make and White House Down cost $150 million. The Heat‘s audience was 65% female. So when given the choice between women blowing stuff up and men blowing stuff up, audiences (that’s all human beings, regardless of gender, White House Down was only 51% male) seem to have chosen the ladies.

So you’re wrong, BuzzFeed, The Heat‘s success means plenty, to me, to the general moviegoing public and yes, to Hollywood. It means that a) when Hollywood makes a great female-driven movie, women and men will show up, b) women like movies that star men and women that aren’t sappy rom coms, and c) Hollywood is running out of excuses for not putting more movies like The Heat into production. Don’t blame the audience, BuzzFeed, we’re telling Hollywood what we want. They’re just not listening.

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Review: ‘The Bling Ring’

There’s something intensely uncomfortable about watching Sofia Coppola’s new examination of celebrity and material culture.

The story is based on real events, the story of a group of upper-middle-class teens, using only the internet and their own sense of entitlement, rob a series of celebrities for something like $3 million worth of designer goods. They’re not masterminds in any sense. They check TMZ and the like to find out when celebrities are away, then they hop fences and crawl through doggie doors and find keys under mats. Even in their thievery they’re incredibly lazy. That may be part of the discomfort I was feeling when I was watching it. Not just that the celebrities fell down in their own security, but that it was so easy for the teens to get what they wanted.

While working with a story where everyone knows the ending, the film is mostly about explaining how they got there. Ringleader Rebecca (Katie Chang) is incredibly manipulative of her new BFF Marc (Israel Broussard) and very into petty crime (she checks parked cars to see if they are open and steals wallets). Then there’s Nicki (Emma Watson, truly shaking off Harry Potter finally) so obsessed with celebrity and wealth that she is actively seeking a manager (but for what talent, it’s unclear) with the help of her clueless mother (Leslie Mann). Everything escalates after a trip to Paris Hilton’s mansion one night (using a key under the doormat).

It’s plainly clear that Coppola despises all of the characters, except possibly for Marc, who is painted as a victim for awhile. They smoke cigarettes, pot, do cocaine and other drugs, stay out all night get DUIs and none of it ever seems to lead to real consequences. Why do they rob? Because they can. And so even after their arrests, they seem to continue to live life like there are no consequences. But the only difference is now they are famous too.

A lot has been written about Coppola’s treatment of wealth and excess but I feel The Bling Ring is its own animal entirely. Shot with an incredible coolness (one frame in particular, a wide shot of Rebecca and Marc robbing Audrina Partridge’s glass house, is remarkable) The Bling Ring is more judgmental than her other films. It’s not just judging the teens and the celebrities, but you while you watch it. Why do you find it so fascinating? It’s just a series of thefts. You’re only there because of the celebrity aspect, the same reason Rebecca and Marc and Nicki were there too.

The Walking and Running Dead

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Zombies are everywhere.

Not literally. That would be worrisome (I have a zombie apocalypse plan, do you?). They’re all over pop culture right now, though. The Walking Dead continues to eat up ratings on AMC and this weekend Brad Pitt’s expensive and troubled World War Z hit theaters. Whether you liked the movie or not (I thought it was a a pretty peppy apocalypse tale, with three acts that don’t seem to fit together), you certainly noticed how freaking fast the zombies were. They run! They jump! They climb all over each other to get over walls! They head butt! They are generally unlike many zombies you’ve encountered before.

And really, every zombie movie, TV show, book, and comic has its own rules. So to help you keep all the zombies and their abilities straight, here’s a guide to a couple of the more famous versions. (Mild spoilers below)

World War(film)

Dead? Yes

Fast or Slow? Very, very fast. They sprint! They climb! They head-butt excessively. Which seems so counter-intuitive. But maybe zombies don’t have a whole lot of intuiton.
Viral? Yes, unknown origin. They’re saving that for the Zequel.
Bite to infected in…12 seconds, with some variation
Called zombies? Yes, but reluctantly. A more accurate term may be “pale and bloody video game characters” because that’s what they look like.
How do you kill them? Slightly unclear in the movie. Head shots seem to work but burning seems to be the only sure-way.
Scariness? Very, very litte. There’s some genuine fear in the first act of the movie but that’s before you really see any of these guys. In large numbers they really look like video game animation, and in small numbers they’re too easy to defeat. 2/10
Grossness? They’re not very decomposed or bloody. And they’re blood is weirdly black. 3/10

The Walking Dead

Dead? Yes
Fast or Slow? Relatively slow, but dangerous in a herd
Viral? Yes, but (spoiler) we’re all infected
Bite to infected in…Bites take a while to kill you but once you’re dead it’s pretty instantaneous
Called zombies? Nope. Walkers, biters, the dead, lame-brains, geeks etc. They’re very creative in this dystopia.
How do you kill them? Destroy the brain. In the most disgusting way possible. I recommend any type of blunt weapon to the head repeatedly, for maximum blood splatter.
Scariness? Not very. After an episode or two it’s easy to become desensitized. Which is sad for humanity and good for zombies.  3/10
Grossness? Really, really nasty. They ooze and crack and bleed and move while their entrails are hanging out. The show is way more disgusting than it is scary. 11/10

28 Days Later (& 28 Weeks Later)

Dead? Technically not. Living infected with “Rage.” Some would say that makes them not actually zombies. It also makes the characters have to kill living people.
Fast or Slow? Pretty darn fast
Viral? Yup, “Rage” virus from some freed lab chimps, which is either a commentary on medical testing or meddling animal rights activists. Either way, don’t let it get in your eyes, man.
Bite to infected in…10-20 seconds
Called zombies? No,”Infected”
How do you kill them? Anything fatal to humans because they’re still alive. But goodness are they resilient.Even to molotov cocktails.
Scariness? Fast zombies are particularly apt for this day and age. And the red eye is very terrifying, especially on a priest in a church. 8/10
Grossness? They vomit a lot of blood. 8/10

Romero Zombies (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead)

Dead? Yes, hence the titles.
Fast or Slow? Slow, like it should be.
Viral? Yes, unknown origin (hints that it’s radiation)
Bite to infected in…Die within 3 days of a bite, all dead reanimate shortly after they die
Called zombies? No. In the Night of the Living Dead radio broadcast they call them “ghouls.” Mostly just “they.” As in, “They’re coming to get you, Barbra.”
How do you kill them? Destroy the brain
Scariness? May seems lame to some now but bonus points for the original scares. 8/10
Grossness? Slightly less gross in black and white. 6/10

So, which zombies would you rather face in the apocalypse? I’m a big Walking Dead fan and have planned for that particular apocalypse. The fast zombies are way harder to fight.

Let’s be Less Rotten: Thoughts on Spoilers

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Author’s Note: In order to write this post I had to include spoilers, which is silly but true (and kind of why I wrote it). I redacted all spoilers. I’ve linked each redaction to something that tells you what plot point I’m referring to. Click at your own risk. The links are, by definition, SPOILERS

I’ve been thinking about spoilers a lot, recently.They’re everywhere. For people writing about entertainment (especially TV these days) it’s rough.Writers try to avoid spoiling people, but sometimes they fail. They add capitalized and bolded SPOILER ALERTS to articles and posts. They try to keep them out of the comments. I’ve seen recaps use a blackout system. I myself have recently discovered the art of [REDACTION].

But sometimes, I think, our collective fear of spoilers can be as harmful as the spoilers themselves. I think we could, perhaps, relax a little. If we change the way we approach spoilers, I think we all might feel a little better.

Spoilers suck and they are everywhere

Okay let’s start by agreeing that spoilers are the worst. They genuinely can take the fun out of entertainment. It might seem trivial, but for certain, some things should stay hidden. There is a certain joy (sometimes followed by unendurable sadness and/or anger) in being surprised by something. Weren’t you genuinely bowled over when (REDACTED) happened in Game of Thrones? Wasn’t it so perfect when they revealed [REDACTED] on Battlestar Galactica? Even for a sitcom like How I Met Your Mother, wasn’t [REDACTED] just crazy? Wouldn’t the experience of watching these shows be cheapened by knowing THE-BIG-THING-THAT-HAPPENED? Yeah it would.

But spoilers are just literally all over the place. I have a friend who, in one night, spoiled [REDACTED] from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and [REDACTED] from  A Song of Ice and Fire  (and consequently, Game of Thrones) for a group. It was an accident. But people still got spoiled. I’m guilty of this too. I tend to just irrationally believe that everyone has watched and read everything I have and only that. What was worse than [REDACTED] in Game of Thrones? [REDACTED] in Angel, or [REDACTED] in The Sopranos or worse still [REDACTED] in Buffy! I tend to accidentally lay land mines in conversations for my friends who don’t watch quite as much TV as I do (read: all my friends).

The internet is way, way worse. Unless you’re planning on avoiding social media and news outlets all together, you best watch your shows live. I mean, the reaction to episode 9 of this season’s Game of Thrones was so prevalent that before we were done reacting to the episode we started reacting to each other’s spoilers. And it’s not just social media. Don’t forget how an actor spoiled the world for Downton Abbey by [REDACTED].

So yeah, spoilers are awful and can be hard to avoid. I’m totally with you on that. But there are ways to make them suck less.

Rosebud is a sled, not a spoiler

I was spoiled for [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and [REDACTED] in Lost by virtue of having been alive while it was on the air, but not watching it until about a year ago. It sucked but it was unavoidable.

A problem I find in spoiler culture is that some moments from TV and film and books have become part of our larger culture, but they’re still taboo to talk about. I want to list things Harry PotterThe Sixth Sense, Twin Peaks and more right now, but I don’t want to spoil any of you. But at the same time, it’s been years.

So there’s got to be a statute of limitations on spoilers.

It can’t just be a number, because the significance of these plot points isn’t just a product of the date they became public. It’s cultural, like I said. Some shows’ plots are more well-known than others. And it’s different for tv than for say, movies or books, because TV by nature tends to have more spoiler opportunities. I feel like, at this point The Sixth Sense should be fair game. It premiered in 1999. But that same year had bits of the third and fourth seasons of Buffy, which are definitely not fair game.

So maybe we can’t make a hard and fast rule, but we can be more understanding. It’ll have to be based on a “feeling” but that’s all we’ve got. Examples: I won’t spoil the new JJ Abrams Star Trek movies, but The Wrath of Khan is on the table. I’ll stay away from 24 but not Friends. Psycho can be discussed but Bates Motel cannot. Are you with me? I hope so.

Regardless, I think we can all agree that Shakespeare’s statute has expired.

If spoilers are bad, surprises have to be good

We all spend a lot of time trying to avoid spoilers and/or griping about how we’ve been spoiled. But then as soon as we see great plots, we start immediately noting how “we knew it all along.”

The best example of this that I can think of occurred during season six of the new Doctor Who. At the midseason finale, we finally discovered [REDACTED]. I personally thought it was a big deal. A pretty huge deal. If I recall correctly I had to get up off my bed where I was watching it and run around just to get my adrenaline out. 

But some decided to rain on my parade. “It was so obvious,” they’d say, or “I can’t believe you didn’t see that coming,” as if I am quite the idiot for being shocked by something that was designed to shock me. For the record this twist isn’t foreshadowed very much in the show. There are subtle hints. When you rewatch you’ll think to yourself, “oh, that’s what that was about.” But I really doubt very many people “totally knew that was going to happen.”

People talk about a twist or surprise or reveal afterwards with such negativity. And yeah, sometimes they are super disappointing, like [REDACTED], another instance from Doctor Who. But sometimes moments are so good and so genuinely surprising, they remind us why we hate spoilers in the first place. Trying to make yourself seem clever afterwards by claiming to have “called it” cheapens the surprise.

Follow the signs

I’m behind on Mad Men right now. And as a result, I’ve been steering clear of twitter Sundays at 9pm. I’ve been careful when looking on entertainment news sites. I scroll past anything I see with “Mad Men” or “Draper” in the headline. I’m keeping myself spoiler-free.

You can too! Yeah I get it, sometimes you just want to go on facebook without being accidentally spoiled. But be smart. If you’re a fan who’s missing an episode for some reason or who regularly watches the next day, stay off  dangerous sites until you’ve seen the episode. If you live on the West Coast wait to go on twitter until the episode airs for you. Talk about it with people who live there too. Don’t yell at the East coasters who tweeted to each other three hours ago. Be smart about it, and you won’t need to rage-tweet until you actually watch the episode and find out who died. Then you rage tweet at the show-runner.

It’s all about the journey

Above all we need to remember that spoilers are a fact of life in the internet age, and they’re not going away anytime soon. I’ve been spoiled for lots of shows. Lost, like I mentioned before but also, BuffyAngelMad MenThe SopranosPsychThe West Wing, How I Met Your Mother and probably a bunch more I can’t remember specifically. But I still love all of those shows. Yeah I knew that someone was going to die or a couple was going to get together or an identity was going to be revealed or any number of other plot points, but I still was enthralled watching all these things happen. I still got emotional and involved.

Having read A Song of Ice and Fire is arguably one giant Game of Thrones spoiler. But I still watch the show. Because knowing how it ends doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the ride on the way there.

So let’s be smart about spoilers. And then we can get back to what’s really important: watching way too much TV.

Review: ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Some might call Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy, filmed in just 12 days at his own house using a smattering of actors from his previous work, “rushed” or “American” or “irreverent.” I’d call it “light” and “fun” and “charming.” Definitely “enjoyable.”

There may not be a lot of weight to Whedon’s adaptation, but there doesn’t have to be. Shakespeare’s comedies were just that, comedic. Silly more often than not. They ended in weddings and the tragedies ended in deaths (no, I didn’t spoiler alert you, there’s a statute of limitations on spoilers and its not 400 years).  Yes there’s drama and sometimes you may think the lovers won’t work it out, but of course they do.

Although Much Ado is not my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies (see As You Like It) I really enjoyed this adaptation. It’s dressed down and casual in every sense. And after your ear becomes accustomed to it, it’s easy to forget that the language is Shakespearean. That the film is in black and white helps; the colors would be distracting. Shakespeare is regularly set outside its Elizabethan roots, and modern-day SoCal is no better or worse than any other setting. While the majority of actors are not Shakespeare veterans, they all have the necessary chemistry and good direction working for them. And they embrace the airy tone of the film so that the language seems natural rolling off their tongues.

While some of Shakespeare’s witty dialogue is lost on a modern audience, Whedon compensates by ramping up the physical comedy and visual gags. Amy Acker (Beatrice) and Nathan Fillion (Constable Dogberry) are particularly good at this. In one memorable seen Acker, eavesdropping on a conversation, falls, crawls, and bumps her head in the space of a minute, but it’s never cheap or cheesy. Acker shines in general in the ensemble film, showing the greatest command of the language and of her character. She dominates every scene she is in, and weaker characters, like newcomer Jillian Morgese’s Hero, suffer when they share the screen with Beatrice. Although Clark Gregg, as Beatrice’s uncle Leonato, is memorable in his own way, delivering some of the funniest and most dramatic moments of the film.

Shakespeare is really hard to do onscreen, since by definition his work belongs on stage, but Whedon does a remarkable job making his version of Much Ado accessible to an average moviegoer, as well as enjoyable to a Shakespeare aficionado. You probably won’t cry but you’ll definitely laugh.

The Merry Actors of the Whedonverse

Today is the opening of Joss Whedon’s new film (alas, only in limited release, wide release June 21st): a black and white, low-budget version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (and it’s getting some great reviews).

The movie was shot during a break in his busy Avengers schedule in 2011, in just 12 days at Whedon’s own home in Santa Monica, CA. It has been described by the director as a palate cleanser, helping him relax after the insane Avengers shoot before the insane post-production began.

To do the micro-budgeted and top-secret project, Joss called on his retinue of loyal actors, many of whom have appeared in multiple shows or movies he’s done in the past. They may not be household names, but to Whedon’s devoted fans (known as Whedonites) Much Ado is populated with the stars of the Whedonverse, the vast and sometimes interconnected world of Joss Whedon on film and television. For the Whedon neophyte, perhaps only ever exposed to The Avengers or Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, here’s a comprehensive guide to some of the verse’s most prolific actors who will be tackling the Bard this weekend in theaters.

Amy Acker

In Much Ado…she plays the quick-witted Beatrice, one of Shakespeare’s more celebrated heroines.

Most famous in the Whedonverse for…playing the adorable, nerdy, and doomed Fred Burkle on Angel. Acker came into the Buffy spin-off at the end of its second season, as a physicist trapped in an alternate dimension where humans are called “cows” and kept as slaves. After Angel rescues her, Fred becomes a devoted member of the Angel Investigations crew. The love triangle between Wesley (Alexis Denisof, see below), Gunn (J. August Richards), and Fred is integral to the rest of the run of the show. The character starts out almost too sweet, too naive for someone who lived for years in basically Hell, but soon her own special darkness emerges. But mostly she’s adorable (see clip below).

Also appeared in…Dollhouse (Dr. Saunders/Whiskey) and The Cabin in the Woods (Lin). Whedon seems to really like to cast Fred as a Doctor, be it MD, PhD, or Scarologist (that’s a real word). Not that he’s typecasting, or anything.

Fun fact… Acker has appeared in Once Upon a Time and Alias, shows that feature Buffy and Angel writing alums Jane Espenson and Drew Goddard, respectively.

Alexis Denisof

In Much Ado…Denisof plays Benedick, the sworn bachelor who falls for Acker’s Beatrice.

Most famous in the Whedonverse for…his role as Wesley Wyndam-Price first on Buffy and later on Angel. Wesley started out as a foppish and foolish replacement watcher in Buffy‘s third season, and reportedly was only supposed to last an episode or two. But the character worked and so did Densiof. Halfway through Angel‘s first season he was back, and slowly developed into one of television’s most complex and tragic characters. Especially when it came to his relationship with Fred. Whedonites get a special treat in Denisof and Acker’s casting as Shakespeare’s famous lovers, and maybe some vindication for all the years they watched the couple’s troubles on Angel.

Also appeared in…Dollhouse (Senator Daniel Perrin), The Avengers (The Other). If the Other shows up in The Avengers 2 Denisof will far and away be Whedon’s most-used actor (that’s him in the picture on the right, just in a tiny bit of makeup).

Fun fact…Denisof met his wife Alyson Hannigan while working on Buffy, where she played Buffy’s BFF Willow. For the past eight years she’s been Lily on How I Met Your Mother, where Denisof has guest starred several times as the sleazy news anchor, Sandy Rivers. The show has cast numerous Whedonverse actors including Amy Acker, Tom Lenk and Morena Baccarin. Whedon later cast HIMYM actors Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders in Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and The Avengers, respectively.

Nathan Fillion

In Much Ado… Fillion will be providing some comic relief as the delightfully bumbling Constable Dogberry. Whedon says the portrayal was inspired by Law and Order: SVU type detectives.

Most famous in the Whedonverse for…captaining the spaceship Serenity as Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly and its followup film, Serenity. Mal was an anti-hero you could really root for in Whedon’s sci-fi western that was criminally cancelled after just 11 episodes on the air (14 were produced). The show’s incredible DVD sales and the fans’ (Browncoats, a subsection of Whedonites) fervor helped to greenlight a film version that reunited the entire original cast. Unfortunately, its box office returns were disappointing. A big part of the show’s draw was Fillion’s undeniable charisma and presence. He may be more famous for his role in Castle, but to some, he’ll always be Captain Mal.

Also appeared in…Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Caleb) and Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (Captain Hammer). Evil priests and idiotic superheros were never so charming.

Fun fact…Fillion actually auditioned for the role of Angel on Buffy way back when, but the role, of course, went to David Boreanaz.

Fran Kranz

In Much Ado…he plays the lover Claudio, who falls for Hero. He also schemes to get Benedick and Beatrice together.

Most famous in the Whedonverse for…playing Topher Brink in Whedon’s trippy sci fi drama, DollhouseDollhouse already had a couple of Whedon alums (Eliza Dushku, Amy Acker, and in Season 2 Alexis Denisof and Summer Glau) but Kranz was a welcome addition to the verse. Topher offered some much needed down-to-earth-ness and comic relief in the series that was sometimes hard to comprehend (there exist, all over the world, brothel-like houses full of programmable people that can have personalities uploaded and erased from their brains). Topher was a scientific genius, but he also had toys in his office. As the series turned darker in season 2 Topher had to grow up, but even that was endearing.

Also appeared in…The Cabin in the Woods (Marty). Otherwise known as the inventor of the travel-mug-bong.

Fun fact…Kranz will be seen in the upcoming film, Lust for Love, which is currently in post-production. The movie also stars Felicia Day, who has a host of Whedon credits under her belt, including a two-episode stint on Dollhouse. 

Tom Lenk

In Much Ado…Lenk plays Verges, a member of the city Watch, but not so bumbling as his partner Dogberry.

Most famous in the Whedonverse for…playing Andrew Wells, aka “Tucker’s Brother,” in Buffy and for 2 episodes of Angel. Andrew started out as a part of the Trio, the triad of nerds who declared themselves Buffy’s nemeses in season 6. Everything is fun and games until one of the Trio, Warren (Adam Busch) takes things to far and suddenly they’re not playing at being evil anymore. Alternating between absurd, endearing, and pitiful, Andrew becomes a pseudo-member of the good guys in season 7, and much needed comic relief in that uneven season. His need to tell stories and make up fantasies only highlights how affected he was by the bad things he did while under the influence of the First Evil.

Also appeared in…The Cabin in the Woods (Ronald the Intern).

Fun fact…Lenk appeared in the 2011 episode of Psych, “This Episode Sucks,” that parodied vampire movies and series like Buffy. It also featured the original Buffy (from the 1992 movie), Kristy Swanson.

Sean Maher will be playing the evil Don Jon in Much Ado, but is most loved to Whedonites for his role as Simon Tam in Firefly and Serenity. He appeared with Jewel Staite (Kaylee in Firefly/Serenity) in an episode of Warehouse 13. 

Reed Diamond, Don Pedro, started in the Whedonverse as the testy Laurence Dominic in Dollhouse. He has guest-starred on Castle with Nathan Fillion and Bones with David Boreanaz.

Clark Gregg, Leonato, is most famous in general for playing Agent Phil Coulson in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, and the Whedon-helmed The Avengers. He joins the Whedon television verse this fall in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Angel alum J. August Richards will appear in the pilot.

Ashley Johnson, Margaret, appeared in two episodes of Dollhouse and as an unnamed waitress in The Avengers. She would have had a bigger part in the superhero movie, including an early scene with Captain America, if not for the woes of editing.

Jillian Morgese, Hero, was an extra in The Avengers who bonded with Whedon between takes. He asked her to audition for Much Ado, which is her first major screen role.

Riki Lindhome, Conrade, guest-starred on a season 7 episode of Buffy. She appeared in The Last House on the Left with Much Ado costar Spencer Treat Clark.

Nick Kocher and Brian McElhaney, aka BriTANick, First and Second Watchmen, have never appeared in a previous Whedon project, but Whedon himself has appeared in one of the duo’s sketch comedy videos.

This is only the Shakespearean snapshot of the Whedonverse. It’s getting crazy big these days. Isn’t that wonderful.

First Thor: The Dark World Trailer

And in more trailer news this Tuesday, we get the first full trailer for November’s Thor: The Dark World. It’s pretty, well, dark. Ominous music and ominous floating busses and ominous shots of Natalie Portman covered in mud. She hasn’t been that dirty since she did this. The trailer holds back on what this mysterious “dark” threat is, but we know it’s bad because Thor’s heading over to Loki for help. The plot (and Chris Hemsworth’s hair) thickens!

I know it’s just the last few seconds but I can’t get over what we see of Loki. Apparently the only prisons strong enough to hold him are made of glass. Point to remember for containing dangerous gods. Secondly WHAT is going on with his hair? Let’s take another look at it:

I mean, bro, seriously. I know Thor takes place in two worlds but is one of them 1967? Is the rapidly growing hair virus (first seen on Mad Men) transdimensional? Everything about Tom Hiddleston in this shot suggests a 60s era rocker, the hair, the weirdly tattered clothes and even his blank stare. I imagine the rest of the exchange going “Bro, I’d love to help you but I am SO baked right now. I mean there’s not much else to do in glass prisons.”