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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Success of ‘Avengers’ proves superhero genre is not dead

By Rod Pocowatchit

Everyone expected “The Avengers” to be a hit, but no one expected it to be gargantuan.

The film shattered box office records to have the best opening weekend ever, raking in $200.3 million domestically (after already making a superheroic haul overseas first).

It’s massive success signals a few things. Here’s a look:

•  The superhero genre isn’t dead. A few superhero duds in the past years (I’m talkin’ to you, “Green Hornet”) seemed to signal the coming demise of the superhero era at the movies. But not now. Look for Hollywood to be greenlighting more superhero movies faster than Iron Man zings out one-liners.

And this could be the ultimate year of the superhero — we still have Spider-Man and Batman on the way.

•  Joss Whedon joins the elite. The director and co-writer of “Avengers” already had a cult following (myself included) with his past TV shows “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel,” and the Web phenomenon “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog.” But now he is a bona fide, big-time, action-film director (move over Michael Bay — or rather, just get outta town and take your overblown “Tranformers” with you). It’s nice to see Whedon’s talent rewarded.

•  Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner are now megastars. Sure, they’ve had successful careers as serious actors, nabbing Academy Award nominations in indie films and whatnot, but now they join the ranks of the other superhero actors in the big-time club.

•  It was a miracle. With so many bigger-than-life characters, so much back story to contend with and so many egos to balance, skepticism surrounding the film was high. “The Avengers” could have been a massive, muddled mess. But somehow — amazingly — Whedon pulled it off. Hopefully he’ll do it again with the sequel, which is already in development (duh).

Indie screenings — Two independent films get special screenings this coming week.

The Tallgrass Film Association will present “Headhunters” as this month’s Third Thursday offering.

The Norweigian film (shown with English subtitles) follows Roger, a business headhunter who lives way past his means in an expensive apartment and pours lavish gifts on his wife so she won’t leave him.

To subsidize his posh life, Roger steals art. And when his wife introduces him to Clas, a former mercenary, Roger discovers the man has a valuable painting he must get his hands on. But Clas has other plans.

The film — a twisty, taut thriller — has a tone that reminded me at times of “Blood Simple” (I give it * * * ). It will screen at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Wichita Art Museum. Tickets are $10; $8 for students, teachers, seniors, military and Tallgrass association members. For more information, go to www.tallgrassfilmfest.com.

The Murdock Theatre’s independent film series continues with “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (* * * ) an endearing, inspiring documentary that’s a fascinating portrait of 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, a renowned chef in Japan.

The film is beautifully photographed, and the world of sushi has never been so enthralling. Foodies will absolutely love it. The film made me want sushi — and I eat it about as often as I drink motor oil.

It will screen at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 2:25 p.m. Saturday at the Murdock, 536 N. Broadway. Tickets are $8. For more information, go to www.murdocktheatre.com.

Reach Rod Pocowatchit at rpocowatchit@wichitaeagle.com.

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