Monday, February 28, 2022

Based On A True Story, But Not Really


The opening of each episode of the new Netflix show, Inventing Anna, includes a disclaimer: “This whole story is completely true. Except for the parts we made up.” This is repeated throughout the 9-episode run of the show, embedded in the scenery (in newspaper headlines, Times Square mega screens, elevator doors, street signs, etc.) with slight variations like “Totally made up,” and “Total Bullshit.”

We’ve all seen the “Based on a True Story” disclaimer so many times that we might not notice it anymore. Maybe because we knew going in that it was inspired by events that happened, or because we know that with all the dramatized embellishments it probably isn’t very accurate anyway.

 

In 1996, Joel and Ethan Coen’s FARGO opened with this:



It was revealed later that the Coens made up material possibly from real accounts of kidnappings, murder, and a woodchipper. Joel told an MTV interviewer that, “If an audience believes that something’s based on a real event, it gives you permission to do things they might otherwise not accept.”

FARGO star William H. Macy told Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff, “I said to Ethan [Coen], You can’t say its a true story if it wasnt.” He said, ‘Why not? It’s just a crawl on the screen.’ I said, Uh...”

FX’s Fargo, the series adaptation, continues using this motif in each episode.


Another example of another dissociation to the “Inspired by true events” disclaimer is the opening of David O. Russell’s 2013 crime comedy AMERICAN HUSTLE:


Many other movies and shows have used these style caveats, so maybe I’ll add to this in time. Maybe you can think up some too.

More later...

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Jerry Garcia’s Only Film Role Was As A Robot In An Andy Kaufman Movie


A long forgotten 1981 Andy Kaufman sc-fi comedy, HEARTBEEPS, has been long forgotten for good reasons. Directed by Allan Arkush, who was coming off the success of the 1979 Ramones flick ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, the film wastes the talents of Kaufman and Bernadette Peters as robots who fall in love in what was then, the near future of 1995. Even with its ripe-for-possibilities premise, it’s a slow, energy-less drag that well earned its 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

It is notable as being weird AF comic/performance artist Kaufman’s last film before his death in 1984, and that he apologized for the movie’s incredibly poor quality on Late Night on David Letterman in early 1982, and offered to give back the money to anyone who saw the film. Letterman’s quick response, “you’d better have change for a twenty,” was singled out by critic Peter Sobczynski as being “perhaps the only genuine laugh to be connected with the strange, sad beast known as HEARTBEEPS.”


However, the cast was somewhat decent. Kaufman and Peters were joined by Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel (both were also in ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL), Randy Quaid, Christopher Guest, Melanie Mayron, B-movie legend Dick Miller, and Jerry Garcia. 


Wait, what? That
s right, the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead appears in the film – not in human form, but as the voice of a robot named Phil. Phil is a cute lil droid that was built by Kaufman’s character, ValCom 17485, and Peters as AquaCom-89045, to be their traveling companion, I guess. 

Now, Garcia’s speaking voice isn’t really in HEARTBEEPS, as he provides the baby robot Phil’s R2-D2 sounds via his guitar effects. Garcia, who passed away in the year the movie was set, 1995, became involved in the production from his friendship with Director Arkush. They hung out together watching movies at the time, and I would suspect that the idea of the Dead front-man taking part in the film in the guise of a robot was influenced by a little bit of substance intake.

 

There isn’t much info about Garcia contribution to HEARTBEEPS online (how much info do you need?), but the film hasn’t completely gone away. It’s available for rent streaming on Amazon, and YouTube, as well as in DVD or Blu Ray editions, with Phil prominently featured on the cover with Kaufman and Peters. But I wouldn’t recommend it in any of those forms unless you’re Kaufman, Peters, or Garcia completists. 

 

Strangely Garcia wasn’t responsible for any music in HEARTBEEPS as it had a score by the bigwig film composer John Williams, who worked on the movie between his iconic soundtracks for RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and E.T. It also got an Academy Award nomination for Best Makeup by Stan Winston. 

 

But it’s Garcia’s scene-stealing blurts run away with the movie. Well, actually I haven’t seen it in a long time, so I can’t confirm that really, but it’s the way I’d like to remember it.

 

Well, that’s all I got about Garcia’s precipitation in a movie that’s barely a blip on the radar on the pop culture radar.



Now, you can go about your day.

More later…

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Sci-Fi City Fun With Logan, Buck, & Mork


There are countless times that the same sets, the same costumes, the same soundtrack music, and even the same footage appears in more than one movie. There are also times where it’s not exactly the same material, but it’s so close that it might as well be. Michael Anderson’s 1976 futuristic adventure, LOGAN’S RUN, set the template for many sci-fi cities with what they called “The City of Domes.”


There were examples of architectural speculation in film before - Fritz Lang’s classic METROPOLIS (1927) for one - but Robert De Vestal’s Set Decoration (this was before it was called “Design”) for LOGAN’S RUN influenced such sci-fi flicks as Daniel Haller’s BUCK ROGERS AND THE 25TH CENTURY (1979), and the TV series (1979-1981) that followed. 


That’s New Chicago. There’s just something about those curved buildings, huh? 

LOGAN’S RUN was set in the 23rd Century, while BUCK ROGERS was, of course, set in the 25th. I know they’re not set in the same universe, but the similarity of set decorations is uncanny. Also, BUCK obviously had a bigger budget.

 

I remember as a kid watching the hit sitcom that made Robin Williams a star, Mork & Mindy, and thinking that the city on Mork’s home planet looked familiar. 



That’s because it was footage of The City of Domes from LOGAN’S RUN. Looking like it’s been run through an orange filter to make it look at least a little different from its original source (or maybe that was the quality of the film they had), these exterior shots lasted only a few seconds so it flew by most people, but I’m so proud that my 10-year old pop-culture nerd eyes caught it!

By the way, Mork’s home city was named Frizbat - in case you need that for some trivia game some day.

From the mid-‘70s to the early ‘80s, futuristic sci-fi cities were largely shiny, clean silver backgrounds. Ridley Scott’s 1982 dystopian future-set BLADE RUNNER greatly influenced the direction of many set designs since, but those stylish, advanced cities still exist in movies and TV shows. Like this one from the 2015 Brad Bird/George Clooney flop TOMORROWLAND:



Addition: After posting this, I found another use of the LOGAN'S RUN city design in AIRPLANE II: THE SEQUEL (1982), which is set slightly in the future (the opening crawl says “In the near future...”). Ken Fickleman’s follow-up was a retread of the original AIRPLANE! with the only difference being that it concerns a space shuttle situation instead of a jetliner disaster scenario. That means they could stuff in a bunch of sci-fi spoofery like jabs at 2001, Star Trek (William Shatner was even in it), STAR WARS, and E.T. In one scene a futuristic cityscape can be seen out of a window at the Transcendental Air desk in the airport:
 

Yes, the set decoration from LOGAN'S RUN strikes again!

There are so many examples of similar sci-fi cities to choose from, so feel free to speak up in the comments section below. It’s been so long since I’ve had a comment that wasn’t an ad, so I’d really appreciate it. Anything to shut those crickets up.

 

More later...

Monday, February 21, 2022

Musician Movie Cameo Monday: Tom Petty In THE POSTMAN

In Kevin Costner’s ridiculously awful 1997 sci-fi adventure, THE POSTMAN, legendary rocker, the late, great Tom Petty, appears in an odd, and amusing cameo. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic America, Costner plays a drifter that finds an old postman’s uniform and mail sack, and goes about delivering its contents which leads to the rebuilding of society.

We’re never told what exactly caused the collapse of civilization, but we assume it was a nuclear war. In his travels, Costner, only credited as “The Postman,” comes upon a city built on top of a dam. He is encountered by Petty, dressed in MAD MAX-style garb, as “The Mayor of Bridge City.” Seems that nobody wanted for these characters to have proper names, but since the Postman in David Brin’s book was named Gordon Krantz, maybe that’s for the best.

The first exchange between Petty’s Mayor and Costner’s Postman, goes like this:

The Mayor: “You’re in Bridge City! Where we don’t allow guns. Sentry said you were coming.

The Postman: “I know you, you’re famous.”

The Mayor: “I was once. Not anymore.”

Get that? One has to think that Petty is playing himself. THE POSTMAN was released in 1997, and takes place in the near-future of 2013, which means the 47-year old musician was playing a 63-year version of himself. There was no attempt to make Petty look older than he did in 1997, but since, albeit aging, he basically looked the same as he turned out to look in 2013. 

There are no mentions of his music in the movie, and no other reference to Petty’s past stature. All you need to know is that this guy used to be somebody, but now he’ll do what he can to help you rebuild the good ole U.S. of A. It’s an extended cameo, as he appears in more than one scene, and has around a dozen lines, but they are mostly about pushing the plot forward, and then The Mayor’s screen-time is over. He may be in the crowd at the film’s climax, but I’m not re-watching it to find out.

 

I can’t find any mention of Petty’s involvement in THE POSTMAN in any of his interviews, or any info on how the part came to be, but this is Petty’s only major motion picture appearance - that is if you don’t count his brief pop-ups in the 1978 comedy FM, and in the long-forgotten 1987 fantasy film, MADE IN HEAVEN, in which he is billed as “Stanky.” Yeah, let’s not count those. So let’s say it’s his only movie appearance where he’s not credited as himself, yet he is playing himself.

 

On the small screen, Petty portrayed comic versions of himself on It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, King of the Hill, The Larry Sanders Show, and The Simpsons. In each, Petty is a very funny, appealing presence with great timing. 



Petty’s
 close to humorless, and lackadaisical walk through THE POSTMAN can be read as lazy, but it’s still consistent with his well-known persona. In other words, the man seems just as stoned as he is in his television cameos, but his purpose is more gravitas than levity.  
 

It’s still a very scene in a very silly, pretentious movie, which most likely even hardcore Petty fans have long dismissed. Maybe the only thing worth taking away is that there may be a connection to a music video that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers made for their 1982 single, “You Got Lucky.” The video was also set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, and obviously was based on the aesthetics of the aforementioned MAD MAX movies.


It’s doubtful that many people in the actual future will remember Petty as an actor, or even remember THE POSTMAN for that matter. His cartoon cameos will likely be the appearances that will be thought of as his show-biz side-hustle. 

 

THE POSTMAN was a critical and financial disaster, which swept the Golden Raspberry Awards in 1998 taking home awards for Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Original Song. If Worst Cameo had been a Raspberry category, I bet Petty would’ve been spared because he’s actually the most likable element of the film.


More later...

Friday, February 18, 2022

Film Babble Blog Fun Fact: Oliver Stone's JFK Flips The Script

Oliver Stone’s 1991 conspiracy classic JFK was largely based on New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s book that heavily criticized the Warren Commission’s handling of the assassination of JFK in the early to mid ‘60s. Garrison made a cameo in the film, JFK, as his adversary, the then Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren.

The real Earl Warren of the infamous Warren Report in the '60s

This means that in the film, Garrison’s Warren was criticizing Garrison, played by Kevin Costner; for criticizing the Warren Report. Got that? 

There are other cases of actors or non-actors playing roles based on public figures that they oppose, but it’s getting late, and that’s all I got right now.


More later...

Thursday, February 17, 2022

2022 Oscar Nominations Are Out, But Who Cares?

                                                   

Last week, the 2022 Oscar Nominations were announced, but this reaction from actor/filmmaker Seth Rogen sums up how many people feel about it:

“I don’t get why movie people care so much if other people care what awards we give ourselves, to me, maybe people just don’t care. I don’t care who wins the automobile awards. No other industry expects everyone to care about what awards they shower upon themselves. Maybe people just don’t care. Maybe they did for a while and they stopped caring. And why should they?” (Insider, February 10, 2022)

I follow the Oscars - the buzz leading up to, who won or lost, etc. – because, obviously, I have a film site, and because it might turn me on to some movie I haven’t heard much about, or heard of at all. For instance, CODA, and most of the short films. I also hope the noms point people to worthy films such as DRIVE MY CAR.

But I totally get why a lot of folks don’t care about the Academy Awards as evidenced by the very low ratings the event has experienced in recent years. Last year’s Best Picture winner, Chloé Zhao’s excellent NOMADLAND starring Frances McDormand, wasn’t seen by many people even after the Oscar bump (it also won two other Oscars). It wasn’t a flop as its box office more than tripled its budget, but was still an arthouse indie which means a very limited audience.

There have also been many forgettable films that have won the Best Picture Oscar such as GREEN BOOK, CRASH, THE ARTIST, and a number of others. When have you heard anyone bring up OUT OF AFRICA in a conversation recently? Nobody I bet. Trying to remedy the fact that the movies that wide audiences are familiar with regularly only receive technical nods like visual effects if they get any recognition from the over 9,000 Academy members at all.

 

To remedy this, in actions like the Best Picture nomination of BLACK PANTHER (the first superhero movie ever nominated for this category) in 2019, this year the Oscar planners came up with the announcement that Twitter’s top fan-voted film will be recognized during the broadcast on March 27.



However, many of the films that have won Best Picture since 1929 have become classics so maybe a film like NOMADLAND will gain traction in years to come. I doubt it.

This is why I believe many people don’t care about the Oscars. I love seeing people tweet or post about not caring about them, which I find funny as if you really don’t care, why would you announce anything about it all? I get that somebody might have a good point to make in addition to saying such, but most of the time it’s just that boring statement alone.

I care, but largely just bitch about them like repeatedly complaining that DANCES WITH WOLVES won the most coveted movie award over GOODFELLAS, and that was over 30 years ago!

So film-fans who say they don’t care about the Oscars still can’t help from paying some attention, and commenting on what won or lost the day after, or even during the broadcast itself. I think Rogen (Seth not Joe Rogan) has a legit argument, but there is enough of a counter argument that they do matter at least somewhat. Now watch as the awards program gets even lower ratings than last year.

And it’s all NOMADLAND’s fault.


More later...

Didja Know That Harrison Ford Could’ve Been Meathead On All In The Family?


Now, I get skeptical when I see posts about how one actor was offered or considered for an iconic role, but someone else was chosen. Take for example, Bill Murray being up for Tim Burton’s 1989 BATMAN. Murray’s name was batted around for the part, but so were other major actors like Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner, Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Dennis Quaid (even Charlie Sheen). But Murray wasn’t offered the part, and claims he hadn’t heard about it until decades later.

 

“You know I’ve heard that story too,” Murray told David Letterman in 2014. “Really, I have. And God, I would have been an awesome Batman.”

 

But there are more valid stories of could-have-beens, like Tom Selleck (also considered for BATMAN), as Indiana Jones as he did screen tests, but had to turn it down because of commitments to Magnum P.I

 

This brings us to Harrison Ford being up for the role of Mike Stivic, better known as “Meathead” in the smash hit ‘70s TV show, All in the Family. There is validity to this story as he was actually offered the part, but is reported to have passed on it due to his disliking of the racism of its lead character, Archie Bunker. This is despite that Meathead was the ultra-liberal arguing against Archie’s pigheaded opinions.

 

Ford’s viewpoint about the show is cited in nearly every report of the casting of the program, and I recently watched a mini-documentary about All in the Family that relayed the same factoid. However, there is no quote (that I can find) from Ford on the matter.

 

Anyone who has seen him on talk shows know the he is curmudgeon who doesn’t like to talk about his past, even when it comes to his iconic characters like Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Deckard in BLADE RUNNER, so a much smaller role (albeit an iconic character in its own right) would understandably not be asked about by Colbert, Fallon, Kimmel, etc. 

 

All in the Family’s creator, Norman Lear, reportedly wanted Ford for Meathead, while he passed over Richard Dreyfuss, who actually sought the part (just a few years later, both Dreyfuss and Ford appeared in AMERICAN GRAFFITI). But the actor who got the role, Rob Reiner, was perfect for Meathead, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else paying the character. Reiner went on a successful career as a film director after his eight seasons on the popular CBS show, and did little acting. Reiner’s part as filmmaker Marty DiBerrgi, in his directorial debut, THIS IS SPINAL TAP, was his biggest role, and probably his best known character after Meathead.

 

It's also hard to picture Ford being married to Sally Struthers as Meathead’s wife, Gloria, but if he was cast, Lear probably would have cast someone else as Gloria as other actresses were up for the part as well. Mickey Rooney was also in consideration for Archie, but that’s another blog post.

 

As Ford was a charismatic, and attractive actor, if he had gotten the role of Meathead, he most likely would’ve gone from that to a successful career in the biz, but he might’ve missed out on his breakthrough in STAR WARS. Struthers had problems with being cast in a movie during the run of All in the Family, due to her contract, so Ford probably would’ve faced the same circumstance if he had been offered Han Solo. Of course, he may not have even been up for STAR WARS if he was well known as Meathead.

 

There we have it, a major could-have-been that’s amusing to think about. Notably Ford and Reiner have never worked together. They came close in talks for a thriller entitled YOU BELONG TO ME in 2012, but the project never came to be.

 

More later…

Monday, February 07, 2022

That Time The Boss Came To John Cusack In A Vision

For this edition of Musician Movie Cameo Monday, I take a look at a memorable scene in one of my favorite films, Stephen Frears’ edgy 2000 rom com HIGH FIDELITY. Based on a very relatable (at least to me) novel by Nick Hornby, the movie concerns John Cusack as Rob, a heartbroken Chicago record store owner, who comically reflects on his love-life. After a misguided phone call in which he tries to track down his first girlfriend, he plops down on his bed to contemplate reaching out to the rest of his top five failed romantic relationships. 

“All of them, you know,” Rob tells the camera (he breaks the fourth wall throughout the film). “Just see them, and talk to them…like a Bruce Springsteen song.”



That’s when The Boss appears, playing licks on his Fender Telecaster, and responding to Rob by saying, “You call, ask them how they are, and see if they’ve forgiven you.” Rob smiles, and adds “Yeah, then I’d feel good, and they’d feel good.” Springsteen interjects, “They’d feel good, maybe, but you’d feel better.” 

 

Rob basks in the idea, “I’d feel clean, and calm.” Springsteen concludes, “That’s what you’re looking for when you get ready to start again, it’d be good for you. You’d give that final goodbye and good luck to your old-time top five and move on down the road.”



The Springsteen song that this scenario most resembles is “Bobby Jean,” especially in the line, “And I’m just calling one last time, not to change your mind / But just to say ‘I miss you baby. Good luck. Goodbye, Bobby Jean.’” The version of Rob in the novel mentions this tune, and declares that, “I’d like my life to be like a Bruce Springsteen song.” So, obviously, the filmmakers took this notion further.

 

It’s notable that although this cameo is Springsteen’s first major movie role (if you don’t count concert films or rock videos), HIGH FIDELITY contains an excerpt of only one of his songs (“The River”). Meanwhile, Bob Dylan, who was Cusack’s first choice for The Boss’s part, has two songs in the movie.

 

In a later interview, Cusack explained how Springsteen’s cameo came about: “I just called Bruce, and said, ‘Look, I know this is a weird question, but do you want to play yourself in a film talking to me in my head?’ And he went, ‘Yeah!’ I’m like, ‘Wow!’ We started laughing.”


Cusack’s co-screenwriter, Steve Pink, said that The Boss was “like the magical Yoda that gives him the advice in his head,” and revealed that Springsteen had some input into the scene, “I’m happy to do this. But you can’t really say that they’ll feel better. You don’t really know that they’ll feel better.” This inspired the idea to change the line to “then they’ll feel good…maybe.”

 

Pink posited that this “helped our movie. He made it more sophisticated. And he was right.”

 

So the appearance of the celebrated rock artist in HIGH FIDELITY elevated the film in more than one way, and The Boss went on to an acclaimed acting career stealing movie after movie with his homespun persona. Okay, that didn’t happen, but with the guy’s unmistakable presence, it’s not a far-fetched premise.

 

Hornsby’s book, High Fidelity, was also adapted into a Broadway Musical, and a TV series which aired on Hulu in 2020. The part of Rob was gender flipped into Robyn, played by Zoë Kravitz, whose mother Lisa, was in the movie. 



Many scenes in the show were variations or straight lifts of parts of the movie, so it was natural that they’d recreate the musician cameo fantasy. In this version, Robyn is visited by a vision of Debbie Harry of the beloved band Blondie, who spouts dialogue very close to Springsteen’s: “Well, maybe they won’t feel so good, but you’ll feel great!”


When I posted about HIGH FIDELITY celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2010 (not sure why I didn’t update that in 2020), I didn’t even mention the Springsteen cameo. This is weird as it’s such a crucial part of the narrative. I guess I’m making up for that now, which makes me feel good, and you’ll feel good too...maybe.


More later...

Adventures In The Spider-Verse Part 2

This post picks up right from where Part 1 left off. Here, we follow Spider-Man as he enters development hell, slinging from deal to deal between studios until he finds a home with Sony.

After acquiring the rights to our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, Cannon Films execs Menahem Golan, and his cousin Yoram Globus hired Tobe Hooper (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, POLTERGEIST) to direct. You see, Golan and Globus had never read the comic, and thought it would be a horror film like THE WOLF MAN. Marvel and co-creator Stan Lee hated their concept, Hooper left the project, and the producers went back to Spider-Man’s original premise.

I remember seeing this ad in Variety (I think) in 1986:


This reminds me of a scene in Tim Burton’s ED WOOD, in which filmmaker Wood (Johnny Depp) asks producer George Weiss: “Is there a script?” and Weiss answers “F***, no, But there’s a poster!”

There was also a trailer:


Cannon tried to keep the momentum going with a new Director, Joseph Zito (a few Chuck Norris flicks, one FRIDAY THE 13th sequel), and new screenwriters. They wanted Tom Cruise for the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man, but settled on actor/Stuntman Scott Leva. Leva had portrayed Spider-Man at Marvel events and in print ads, but the whole enterprise was derailed by budget cuts, and bad business dealings that had Cannon headed for bankruptcy.

SPIDER-MAN: THE MOVIE continued to be in development hell, as it was re-written and re-written as it went from studio to studio. In 1990, another company that’s no longer with us, Carolco Pictures obtained the rights, and set about making a big ass action film helmed by James Cameron, a hot property after the successes of THE TERMINATOR, ALIENS, and THE ABYSS. Not a lot is known about this attempted version, that Cameron co-scripted, but Arnold Schwarzenegger was discussed as a candidate to play Doctor Octopus, one of Spider-Man’s biggest adversaries.

Of course, this fell through too, and despite the many millions spent, the series of screenplays written, the studios’ efforts, and all the lawsuits, our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man’s tour in development hell continued. Finally MGM acquired the rights, but exchanged them with Columbia for the rights to the James Bond series.


That brings us to Spider-Man’s big cinematic comeback in Sam Raimi’s epic 2002 adaptation SPIDER-MAN, which was a huge hit. Tobey Maguire became the first live-action Spider-Man in nearly quarter of a century. But what’s now become a bit of trivia is that the film’s first trailer, the first look at the new Spider-Man caused controversy because it featured our hero building a web between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and was in heavy circulation in theaters when the tragedy of 9/11 occurred. Sony removed the trailer from theaters (you can find it on YouTube), and nixed a poster that also used WTC imagery.

I loved the newfangled SPIDER-MAN, and I remember thinking that I wished I could somehow send a copy of it to my six-year old self, because that kid would be blown away. It was the big-budget, star-studded, effects-driven epic that fans had waited a lifetime for.

SPIDER-MAN 2 was damn good too, with a great villain in Doctor Octopus (or Doc Ock), played by Alfred Molina. The special effects were even better than the first, as evidenced by its Academy Award win. Though it had its moments, the third entry was a bit of a comedown in quality. Sadly, it was the end of the Raimi/Maguire era of Spider-Man movies, and it would be five years until the franchise would be rebooted.


While I like Andrew Garfield, and am a big fan of Emma Stone, I wasn’t on board for 2012’s THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. It felt like the Maguire installments had ended satisfactorily, and it was too soon to redo the character’s origin story. Ditto for its 2014 sequel, which for the most part, I barely remember.

Although THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was a box office smash, its critical reception called for a new direction. Garfield was replaced by 19-year old British actor Tom Holland, whose Spider-Man made his debut in the Marvelverse in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. This was thanks to a rare deal between Sony and Marvel, that led to Holland appearing in two AVENGERS movies, and three solo Spider-Man films.


Following SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING and SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME, the third entry, SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME, may be fronted by Holland, but its real stars are his supporting cast. For this franchise does something that no other franchise has done before, it brings back two of the previous actors who starred in the role. Maguire and Garfield show up as the alternate versions from the multiverse of the character that we experienced in their movies. This concept was introduced in the 2018 animated adventure, SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE.

The summoning of past Spider-Mans isn’t the whole show, as seemingly every villain all three of our heroes fought in their films returns. There’s Doc Ock (Molina), The Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Electro (Jamie Fox), Lizard (Rhys Ifans), and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), a roster of baddies that brings to mind the gathering of famous adversaries brought together in THE LAST ACTION HERO. 



NO WAY HOME could be seen as a sequel to Maguire’s trilogy, a follow-up to Garfield’s two film reign, as much as it is Holland’s third effort as Spider-Man, which will definitely not be his last as it’s the highest grossing movie of 2021.

The Spider-Man enterprise looks to be in good shape, maybe the best shape it’s been in since SPIDER-MAN 2 in 2004. The move to pay tribute to what’s come before is obviously fan-service, but it’s damn fine fan-service as it ties up some loose ends, particularly in Garfield’s case. The only thing that would make it better is if they had found a way to work Nicholas Hammond into it too. You know, for completist’s sake.

The takeaway here has got to be: You can never have too many Spider-Mans.

 

More later...

Adventures In The Spider-Verse Part 1


Not long ago, I finally caught up with the latest Marvel movie, SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME, which opened last December. I enjoyed the film, and it made me wax nostalgic about the different incarnations of Spider-Man I’ve experienced over the years. So join me as we take a trip back to a groovy time.


Note: Despite the image at the top of this post, this walk down Memory Lane doesnt include, except in passing, the many animated versions of Spider-Man, or the comics that ran through the decades covered here.

 

When I was a five or six year old in the ‘70s, I became a fan of the web slinger via his appearances on The Electric Company. This was an educational PBS program that ran from 1971-1977, and featured such stars as Rita Moreno, Morgan Freeman, and, uh, Bill Cosby. The show posited itself as the hip alternative or companion to Sesame Street, and one way they grabbed kids’ attention was to align themselves with one of the hippest comic book characters of the day.



The recurring sketches entitled “Spidey Super Stories,” starred Danny Seagren, a puppeteer and professional dancer, who made history as the first live-action Spider-Man. Seagren’s version of the superhero never spoke (except in silent word bubbles), never appeared unmasked as Peter Parker, and never fought any of his normal foes like Lizard, Dr. Octopus, the Green Goblin, who were replaced by such supposedly evil entities as the Can Crusher, Mr. Measles, and Spoiler (who I guess spoils endings to movies, ‘cause what else can it mean?). Freeman apparently honed his narrator chops here as he lent his distinctive voice to explain Spider-Mans motives to kids.

 

Over the run of 29 mini-episodes, Spider-Man was very popular with my elementary school mates who started collecting Spidey comics, and toys. My Mom even made me a Spider-Man costume, which I weirdly wore to school one regretful day. Anyway, the widespread love for The Electric Company shorts must’ve inspired somebody at CBS to give the already iconic character his own show.

 

The result, The Amazing Spider-Man, starring Nicholas Hammond (LORD OF THE FLIES, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD), made its debut in September 1977. One could say Hammond was the first feature-length live-action Spider-Man as the series started off with a 2-hour TV movie, and was released theatrically overseas.



I remember watching the show, but feeling bored by it. Like in his previous post, he didn’t fight any classic baddies, and his demeanor was cold, devoid of the snappy one-liners that he spouted as much as he spun webs.

 

Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee said in an interview, “They left out the humor. They left out the human interest and personality and playing up characterizations and personal problems.” 

 

I liked Hammond, and the effects were actually pretty good for the time, but the show wasn’t given any chance to grow as it was cancelled after only 13 episodes. So in 1979, after two television adaptations, the concept of a live-action Spider-Man was dead in the water.

 

That is, until the mid ‘80s, when Orion Pictures, and the B-movie master, Roger Corman, attempted to resurrect his corpse. Corman had the film rights to Spider-Man, but only briefly as his option expired, and Cannon Films swept in to give Marvel Comics $250,000 and a percentage of the gross, to make the first real SPIDER-MAN movie.


Coming up: The fate of the Cannon collaboration, the time that James Cameron was poised to take over the character, and the rebirth of the iconic web-slinger in the wake of 9/11.


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