Florence Pugh Sets the Bar in ‘Black Widow’

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The Ringer 13 July, 2021 - 05:15am 8 views

Who plays Yelena in Black Widow?

Aside from giving Natasha a long-awaited solo film and finally putting the character front and center, Black Widow has another function. It's also a backdoor introduction to Yelena Belova, played by Florence Pugh. SYFY WIREWho is Yelena Belova, and why is she the next Black Widow?

Is taskmaster in Black Widow?

Every good Marvel superhero needs a supervillain, so as Black Widow stepped up for her solo movie debut, it's only natural that she got a signature bad guy to go along with her. In Black Widow, that's Taskmaster, the mysterious killer with the ability to learn any fighting technique simply by watching it. PolygonWho is the Taskmaster in Black Widow?

How much did it cost to make black widow?

Cate Shortland directed the movie, which cost at least $200 million to produce. Disney also said that “Black Widow” grossed $78 million overseas, bringing its world-wide box office total to $158 million. The Wall Street JournalDisney’s ‘Black Widow’ Tops Box Office, Lifting Prospect of Moviegoing Rebound

Like every Marvel movie, "Black Widow' has its share of derring-do and superheroes saving the day, but also tackles trauma and reproductive rights.

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Actresses Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh chat with USA TODAY's Brian Truitt about working together for the new movie, "Black Widow." USA TODAY

There’s plenty of derring-do, superhero suits, explosions and huge mechanical contraptions falling from the sky in “Black Widow.” However, the newest Marvel movie breaks from its pack right from the start, with the harrowing images of young girls being taken away from their loved ones and subjected to frightening situations of human trafficking.

Watching the first 20 minutes of the movie, “I cried twice because it looked so real and so damaging,” says star Florence Pugh. “I never would have assumed that a film like this would be dealing with such deep and painful story lines, especially the abuse of the women and especially the capturing of young girls.”

The opening of “Black Widow” – which is already a box-office smash after its debut weekend – takes longtime Avenger Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and her little sister Yelena Belova (Pugh) back to their childhoods in America as part of a family of Russian secret agents. Pre-teen Natasha and 6-year-old Yelena are violently and suddenly removed from a cozy suburban lifestyle and taken to the Red Room, an organization that experiments on young girls and brainwashes them into assassins.

The two women reunite as adults for action-packed exploits and dysfunctional family drama yet also discuss their estrangement, past sins and shared trauma. And while fans have wanted a solo “Black Widow” movie for much of the decade Johansson spent as the main female face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she feels it comes at just the right time.

“We could not have made this movie 10 years ago,” says the "Avengers" star, who's also an executive producer on "Black Widow." “We really were able to make something that I feel reflects what's happening and it's been very rewarding."

The goal was to “have the Marvel universe intersect with reality,” says Cate Shortland, the first woman to be a solo director for a Marvel film. “So we talked about trafficking. We talk about women's reproductive rights in the film because they're things we care about. And instead of it being about victimization, the characters make jokes about it because it's happened to them. I hope that that lifts people up. The trauma the characters have been through, they're trying to come up and answer it, not let it put them down.”

Natasha’s childhood hardships have been mentioned in past films, most infamously in one scene in writer/director Joss Whedon’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” in 2015. During an intimate moment, Natasha has a conversation with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), aka the Hulk, about having a romantic relationship. Bruce argues that he can’t have a normal life and kids since he's also a rage monster, while Natasha counters that she also is unable to have children because of the Red Room’s sterilization methods.

“It makes everything easier, even killing,” Natasha tells Bruce. “Do you think you’re still the only monster on the team?”

The scene landed with a thud and caught a ton of flak after the film’s release. But a memorable “Black Widow” sequence references the same subject – and goes down a lot more successfully – when the sisters bust their father figure Alexei (David Harbour) out of a Russian prison and Yelena smacks him in the face on their chopper ride out.

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“Why the aggression? Is it your time of the month?” he says, leading to Yelena pointing out that she doesn’t get her period because she doesn’t have a uterus. “Yeah, that’s what happens when the Red Room gives you an involuntary hysterectomy. They kind of just go in and they rip out all of your reproductive organs,” she deadpans, leaving Alexei flabbergasted and wanting out of the conversation.

The dialogue was “the actresses and myself" countering screenwriter Eric Pearson after he inserted that unwanted period joke, Shortland explains. “And we said, ‘OK, you're going to write that, buddy? We're going to unleash Florence Pugh on you.’ ”

Disney overall was supportive about “Black Widow” tackling issues other Marvel movies haven’t. Shortland recalls that when they screened the film for then-CEO Bob Iger very early on, “he said, ‘Can you please push it further, because it's really important that we talk about it.' "

Johansson agrees that “it’s very brave in a lot of ways that Marvel let us go there. They have a huge parent company(in Disney) and you don't know what kind of pushback you're going to get. We're talking about issues that are provocative and people are going to have feelings about them and it's to a wide audience.

“They understand the importance of their massive reach and that you can actually try to provoke some sort of collective consciousness about these very serious subjects.”

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Why Black Widow's Taskmaster reveal falls completely flat

digitalspy.com 14 July, 2021 - 11:29pm

It should be emotional and yet...

Before the release of Black Widow, there was a big mystery surrounding who was playing Taskmaster in Scarlett Johansson's long-delayed solo MCU movie.

Marvel fans knew who Taskmaster was in the comics (Anthony 'Tony' Masters, who hasn't been in the MCU to date), but there was an expectation that Black Widow would see the MCU deliver another villain twist and a big reveal.

So fans speculated how O-T Fagbenle would be revealed as Taskmaster since we knew next-to-nothing about his character, or how Rachel Weisz would be revealed as Taskmaster given Melina's antagonistic relationship with Black Widow in the comics.

As expected, Black Widow did have a surprise Taskmaster reveal up its sleeve and it's meant to be a big emotional moment, but it falls completely flat. To go into the reasons why, we need to go into spoilers so look away if you haven't seen the movie yet.

When Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) finally comes face-to-face with Dreykov (Ray Winstone) in the Red Room, he reveals the truth about Taskmaster – and it's nobody any fan would have guessed.

It turns out that Taskmaster is Dreykov's daughter Antonia, played by Olga Kurylenko, who Natasha thought she'd killed in Budapest years ago. Kurylenko is credited in Black Widow's dark opening credits, but she wasn't reported as being part of the movie ahead of release.

Dreykov explains how Antonia was left with devastating injuries after Natasha blew up the building she (and her father) were in when Antonia was a child. Rather than looking after her like a normal father would, Dreykov brainwashed his daughter and turned her into the ultimate assassin who can mimic any fighting style.

Since this is the family-friendly MCU, Natasha chooses not to fight Antonia and saves her during Black Widow's explosive climax. She frees her from Dreykov's mind control and, hopefully, Antonia's future is brighter than her past now she's free from her father.

The reveal is meant to pack an emotional punch as it's Natasha literally facing the demons of her past and redeeming herself by saving Antonia. However, it doesn't quite work as we've seen hardly any evidence of Natasha being haunted by this dark episode in her past.

Even in Black Widow, Yelena (Florence Pugh) has to physically force Natasha to remember what she did in Budapest. She saw Antonia's death as "collateral" in order to rid the world of Dreykov, unaware that he actually survived her assassination attempt.

We've known Natasha in the MCU for more than a decade and The Avengers nod remains the only hint of what she did. The Natasha we've seen had moved on from the past and didn't seem troubled by it, so why should Marvel fans be that bothered by Antonia's reveal?

Arguably, it's more of a failing of the MCU to not give Johansson more material to work with over so many movies. Natasha didn't really get any solo moments to shine or develop her character across the entire MCU, beyond some impressive fight scenes every now and then.

The Black Widow reveal is meant to retcon how we viewed Natasha and her past trauma. It hints that rather than her not being haunted by what she did, she essentially forced herself to forget what she did as she viewed it as a necessary evil, but that doesn't mean she didn't carry guilt over it.

When Antonia is revealed, Natasha's first instinct is to apologise to her as she's confronted with the horror of what she did. It's not long until the explosions start though, so the revelation is relegated to a subplot, rather than being the focus of the climax.

What could have been a Civil War-esque emotional and restrained final battle becomes your standard MCU climax.

Natasha's redemption is relegated to one brief moment when she frees Taskmaster before the Red Room crashes to the ground. It's a nice character beat, a sign of how she's grown since Budapest, yet it hardly seems to balance the books given she effectively condemned Antonia to a lifetime of servitude.

Given how beloved Taskmaster is for some Marvel fans, the Black Widow reveal has been treated as a misstep on a par with Iron Man 3's Mandarin reveal. Shang-Chi will introduce the 'real' Mandarin, so there's a chance we could see Taskmaster again in the future in a different form.

However, we feel the real missed opportunity is with how Black Widow hints at truly delving into Natasha's past and the red in her ledger, only to end up giving it a surface-level treatment before getting distracted by less interesting matters.

Black Widow's Taskmaster: Was It Always Supposed To Be SPOILER?

Collider Extras 14 July, 2021 - 11:29pm

Black Widow: Biggest Plot Holes | Screen Rant

Screen Rant 14 July, 2021 - 11:29pm

The MCU has finally returned to the big screen with Black Widow, and while the film has been widely heralded as one of the franchise’s best entries yet, it isn’t without its own share of plot holes and confusing moments. The new movie is a relatively self-contained story as MCU films go, but it still ties into the rest of the franchise in ways that don’t always make complete sense. There are also a number of details within Black Widow’s own plot that don’t quite add up, though they don’t detract significantly from the overall fun and excitement of the film.

Set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Black Widow has two different kinds of continuity to keep – loyalty to what’s been previously established about Natasha’s backstory, and consistency with what happens in the films set afterwards. There are some fun nods in both directions throughout the movie, such as an elaboration on Natasha and Hawkeye’s Budapest mission and an origin story for Natasha’s Infinity War vest. However, there are also some parts of Black Widow’s story that are a bit harder to understand.

When movies deal with supervillains, global conspiracies, flying fortresses, and mind control, there will inevitably be instances where audiences are asked to suspend their disbelief and simply accept what’s playing out in front of them. Black Widow has its share of those moments, as well as some broader MCU continuity inconsistencies.

Black Widow Pitch Meeting

Screen Rant 14 July, 2021 - 11:29pm

Black Widow fans are not convinced by Ray Winstone’s Russian accent

HITC - Football, Gaming, Movies, TV, Music 14 July, 2021 - 11:29pm

After what has felt like an eternity, Marvel’s Black Widow has finally arrived on our screens and it shines the spotlight on Natasha Romanoff as bridges the gap between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.

The film’s main villain is Ray Winstone’s Dreykov, a former Russian general who secretly runs a resurgent Red Room, the facility where Black Widows are trained.

However, since the film released, Marvel fans have taken to social media as they are less than convinced about Ray Winstone’s attempt at a Russian accent.

General Dreykov is the main antagonist in Black Widow and despite false reports of his death, has been secretly pulling the strings behind the resurgent Red Room project.

He is first introduced in the film’s opening flashback and is shown to be the one who inducted both Natasha and Yelena into the Red Room which led to them both becoming trained killers.

However, following Natasha’s defection to SHIELD and the Avengers, Dreykov’s method changed and he turned to using a mind-control substance to ensure the obedience of future Widows.

This even included his own daughter, Antonia, who was forced to take on the mantle of Taskmaster after an assassination attempt against Dreykov by Natasha gravely injured Antonia instead.

While Ray Winstone certainly looks the part as a Russian mob boss – especially in the opening flashback scene where he’s got the moustache and blue shellsuit – Dreykov was let down somewhat by Winstone’s attempt at a Russian accent.

Ray Winstone is famously cockney and his distinctive accent has been a feature in films, TV shows and adverts for decades.

However, Ray’s accent couldn’t help but make itself heard in Black Widow when he’s supposed to be sounding Russian.

There are odd moments in the film where this is apparent but the most notable comes when Dreykov says the word command towards the end of the film.

In a Russian accent, you would normally expect a hard and sharp “ah” sound, but Ray Winstone’s cockney accent slips through to give an elongated “commarrrnd.”

It’s safe to say that Ray Winstone’s Russian accent has been one of the biggest talking points in Black Widow and fans have wasted no time in taking to social media to offer their thoughts.

One fan on Twitter wrote: “ray winstone’s accent was atrocious. i could hear his normal accent slipping through so much”

While another added: “Ray Winstone doing a Russian accent was comical.”

This fan commented: “So, #BlackWidow was fun! Come for the typical Marvel gubbins, stay for the astonishing accent that Ray Winstone has aimed for.”

Another fan said: “Thought Black Widow was very good, let down by Ray Winstone’s “less than convincing” Russian accent #BlackWidow

And finally, this Twitter user summed up the accent in gif form:

Ray Winstone's Cockney accent every few minutes in Black Widow pic.twitter.com/Ktl3T0VDV2

In other news, Black Widow soundtrack: Explore the songs of Marvel's latest superhero Movie!

TikTok: Who is Kate Shumskaya? Scarlett Johansson look-alike takes over TikTok!

HITC - Football, Gaming, Movies, TV, Music 14 July, 2021 - 10:21pm

Just last week, a user blew up on TikTok after fans realised she looked scarily like Jennifer Aniston.

Lisa Tranel kept getting comments saying that she was Jennifer’s look-alike, so she uploaded a video where she lip-synced to one of the actress’ lines from the hit comedy Friends.

The video got a huge 6.2 million views, but now there’s a new celebrity look-alike in town. She’s called Kate Shumskaya, and everyone thinks she’s Scarlet Johansson’s doppelgänger.

Kate Shumskaya is a Russian model and cosplayer who has 5.9 million followers on TikTok and 468,000 on Instagram.

She is well known online as she looks like Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson, and she even goes by the username @kate_johansson on TikTok.

In fact, the pair look so similar that she is often mistaken for being Scarlett’s mystery sister, and she jokes in her Instagram bio that she’s the “illegitimate daughter of Scarlett Johansson”.

She’s been well known on TikTok as a Scarlett Johansson look-alike for a while now, but Kate’s videos have recently blown up more than ever.

On June 13th, she posted a video where she the iconic white suit that Scarlett’s character Natasha Romanoff wears in Black Widow, and even paired it with a short red wig.

The clip accumulated a huge 58 million views and caused many TikTok users to discover her profile and scary Scarlett Johansson resemblance.

Then, on June 30th, she took over TikTok yet again when she wrote Scarlett Johansson’s grey suit and blonde hair.

In the clip, she ate sushi and danced to Bruno Mars’ Leave the Door Open, and the Scarlett Johansson resemblance is terrifying.

The video got 53 million views, and the comments were flooded with shock.

TikTok users can’t actually believe how much Kate looks like Scarlet Johansson.

One person wrote: “She looks more like Scarlett Johansson than Scarlett Johansson does.”

“You’re telling me this ISN’T Scarlett?” said another.

A third person commented: “It’s actually quite scary how much you two look alike.”

Perhaps they are long lost sisters. Can someone do a DNA test please?

In other news, Is 7-Eleven still giving free Slurpees? Here's how to get your freebie

Disney's "Black Widow" Marks an Important Win (and Loss) for Theaters | The Motley Fool

Motley Fool 13 July, 2021 - 09:00am

Founded in 1993 by brothers Tom and David Gardner, The Motley Fool helps millions of people attain financial freedom through our website, podcasts, books, newspaper column, radio show, and premium investing services.

Walt Disney's (NYSE:DIS) most recent feature film, Black Widow, is a success -- the biggest box office draw since the pandemic took hold early last year. That's good news for theater chains like Cinemark Holdings (NYSE:CNK) and AMC Entertainment Holdings (NYSE:AMC). The bad news: The very same movie saw a similarly strong showing outside of the movie theater industry's reach by also being offered through at-home streaming.

Shareholders of any of these outfits can't afford to ignore the fact that both approaches clearly have their place in a post-pandemic world. One side of the table, however, has much more to lose than the other.

Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow. Image source: Walt Disney.

The movie industry just had something of a moment, driving $115.6 million worth of domestic box office ticket sales last weekend, according to Box Office Mojo, a film business data platform owned by Amazon's IMDb. That's the best weekend since the pandemic effectively shuttered the theater business a little over a year ago.

Investors can thank Walt Disney, mostly. Its brand-new power flick Black Widow produced $80 million worth of ticket sales at domestic box offices (again according to IMDb), with another $78 million worth of ticket sales coming overseas.

That's even better than the latest installment of the Fast and Furious series, F9, which offered a glimmer of recovery hope for movie theaters just a couple of weekends ago with its domestic opening weekend of around $70 million.

Data source: IMDb. Chart by author.

Shareholders of AMC and other theater chains like Cineworld Group (OTC:CNNW.F) and the aforementioned Cinemark Holdings, however, need not pop the champagne corks just yet. The very same film also drove $60 million worth of sales from existing Disney+ subscribers (according to IMDb), who clearly couldn't wait to see the film, but just chose to watch it from the comfort of their own homes.

Sure, actual physical theaters still reign supreme. Keep things in perspective, though.

The modern theater business has had decades to figure out and refine the pricing of tickets and drawing a crowd. The business of streaming first-run new releases to consumers at home was effectively nonexistent until April of last year when Comcast's (NASDAQ:CMCSA) film unit Universal redirected Trolls World Tour (sometimes referred to as Trolls 2) from then-shuttering theaters to streaming platforms.

It was a huge success at the time, given that it is an animated film aimed at children. This success is a big reason that a slew of other direct-to-consumer first-run films, including Disney's live-action version of Mulan, have followed the same distribution path -- largely bypassing theaters altogether in the meantime.

Broadly speaking, these digital first-run films haven't done as well as they plausibly would have fared as true theatrical releases. But given that the model is only a year old and consumers, as well as studios, are still learning the business, the modest success it's produced thus far is encouraging. Indeed, the fact that Walt Disney for the first time ever disclosed revenue figures for a streaming release vaguely suggests Black Widow's take improves on Mulan's success as an at-home title.

A scene from the Disney live-action remake of "Mulan." Image source: Walt Disney.

The spin since this past weekend's data was tallied has been mostly bullish, and understandably so. The numbers do suggest there's a place for movie theaters in an environment where consumers may be forever wary of exposing themselves to some sort of health risk.

With nearly one-third of sales for a blockbuster title like Black Widow coming outside of theatrical circles, however, shareholders of names like AMC and Regal Cinemas' Cineworld should be concerned. The business can't afford to lose nearly one-third of its revenue.

And that figure may be optimistic itself.

Remember: Most consumers have been partly or completely cooped up for months to evade the coronavirus. These moviegoers willing to brave a trip to theaters may have been desperate to achieve any sense of normalcy. A chance to see this particular film at this particular time might have been more of a one-off and less of an indication that things are easing back to their pre-pandemic condition. We won't know for sure where people are mentally until we see numbers for a few more high-profile theatrical releases as well as a few more major movies offered up as a direct-to-consumer option.

Then there's the not-so-minor fact that as big as last weekend was, even with the pandemic being abated, the film business remains well below its typical pre-pandemic revenue.

The good news is, at least we know what benchmarks to keep tabs on. The bad news is, seeing this modest amount of success in premium streaming is enough to raise serious questions.

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Black Widow Pitch Meeting

Screen Rant 13 July, 2021 - 07:54am

The latest Screen Rant Pitch Meeting tackles Black Widow. Marvel Studios returns to the big screen with Scarlett Johansson's long-delayed standalone film as Natasha Romanoff, although it also simultaneously dropped on Disney+. Directed by Cate Shortland, the movie was supposed to kick off Phase 4, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was pushed back several months.

Set in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War and just before Steve Rogers broke out Team Cap from the Raft, Black Widow follows Natasha as she revisits a conspiracy theory from her past — that the Red Room is still functional. She is joined by her Russian family, all of whom have varying connections to the mysterious program and the man behind it, General Dreykov. Despite being an unconventional standalone MCU film, given the titular character's death in Avengers: Endgame, Black Widow introduces a string of characters who are expected to have a long future in the franchise, particularly Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova. Having only appeared in a single Marvel Studios project, she has quickly become a fan-favorite and presumed next Black Widow after Johansson's exit.

Screen Rant's brand new Pitch Meeting episode centers on Black Widow and imagines how Marvel Studios' first briefing about the film potentially went down. Using its signature humor, the outing points out the unconventional timing for the movie given Nat's death. The clip also highlights several moments in the film that, realistically, should've killed the hero, considering that she's a non-suited and non-powered individual. Watch the video below:

Black Widow isn't a flawless film, and has several issues — some of them pointed in the video above. That includes the lack of serious injuries in the movie. Marvel Studios takes a more grounded approach to Nat's standalone adventure, which makes sense considering that she doesn't have any special set of skills. It allowed the project to lean into hand-to-hand combat and other manual fight sequences. But while it's been revered for that as per the critics' reviews, it's dubious that not one of the good guys gets seriously injured in it. That somehow takes away from the groundedness of the story.

Nevertheless, the public seems to enjoy Black Widow fairly well. In its first weekend, it has already pocketed around $140 million combined theatrical and Disney+ Premier Access sales. Despite naysayers claiming that it would fall flat considering that Nat's fate in the MCU has been pre-determined, the character's dynamic with her family is one of the best, if not the best, aspects of the project. So, despite everything that is going against it, the blockbuster is still a welcome addition to the franchise's roster of stories, especially since this wraps up the Avenger's arc so much better than Endgame did.

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