Tag Archive | "Stan Lee"

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No GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Cameo For Stan Lee

Posted on 27 January 2014 by Rich Drees

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For comic book fans, one of the favorite moments of any film based on Marvel Comics characters is the inevitable from the writer who was one of the driving forces behind the rise of the comics publishing house in the 1960s, Stan Lee. But it turns out that he won’t be appearing in one upcoming Marvel film – Guardians Of The Galaxy.

Lee confirmed his absence on a recent installment of the DweebCast podcast.

That’s the one group I didn’t create. I didn’t write Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m not even sure who they all are. I can’t wait to see the movie.

Well, I don’t think that I can blame Lee for bowing out of appearing in a film featuring he didn’t have a hand in creating. The Guardians of the Galaxy were created in 1969 by writer Arnold Drake and artist Gene Colan in 1969 when Lee was serving as the company’s editor. But if I were to point out a technicality, although Lee appeared Captain America: The First Avenger, it was Joe Simon and Jack Kirby who created the character of Captain America back in the 1940s. Granted, it was Lee who brought the character back from obscurity in 1964′s The Avengers #4.

In the meantime, we will just have to content ourselves with Lee’s appearance in April’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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Stan Lee Says INHUMANS Film Is In The Works

Posted on 18 September 2013 by William Gatevackes

_-Stan-Lee-Loves-Games-Like-Vernon-Kay-_Stan Lee is an American icon. His fame and popularity goes far beyond just the world of comics. It’s pretty safe to say that he is a national treasure. So, it’s not surprising when he says something, everybody treats it like the biggest news since the dawn of time.

The most recent example of this is his recent interview with toofab* where he announced that Marvel was working on and Inhumans film.

They are going to do the Black Panther. They are going to use Doctor Strange. They are going to do Ant-Man. They are going to do the Guardians of the Galaxy. And they’ll probably do the Inhumans.

Well, the film press picked up that ball and ran with it, with venues such as HitFix, /Film, Cinema Blend, and The Hollywood Reporter giving it coverage, with the last two treating it like its the first time anyone has heard of this.

AvengersEWCoverAhem. I direct you to the October 7th, 2011 issue of Entertainment Weekly, where Kevin Feige mentioned the Inhumans as a film Marvel was developing, an announcement we at FBOL covered here and further explored here.

So, everybody is all excited about Stan Lee confirming that a film in development is actually in development. Bravo, Internet!

Listen, I can’t fathom that a web-based news source wouldn’t have Internet access, but do a quick Google search. Especially if the “scoop” is coming from a 90-year-old figurehead with no say in any decision process anymore.

I can’t wait until Stan’s panel at the New York Comic Con, where he says that he heard there would be a Thor film released in a number of weeks.

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Per Stan Lee, BLACK PANTHER Film Is In The Works

Posted on 02 July 2013 by William Gatevackes

_-Stan-Lee-Loves-Games-Like-Vernon-Kay-_ In this day and age of comic book film rumor and innuendo, it’s disturbing when some sites pick up on some random,vague statement by a celebrity and turn it into gospel, even though for it to be true, it would go against everything they know about movie making.

Various websites have taken a statement Stan Lee made at the Wizard World New York Experience this weekend as confirmation that a Black Panther film will be made. Here is said statement:

The people at Marvel are spending hours trying to think ‘what’ll we do next.’ And there’s a damn good chance that they will think just what you mentioned because it would be a great idea, and little by little, everything you want to see will come along because they’re just like you. They’re fans of the stories and are trying to think ‘what will the fans like to see next? What would we like to see next?’ So they’re working on Ant-Man, working on Doctor Strange; they’re working on Guardians of the Galaxy; they’re working on god knows what. Did I say the Black Panther also? They’re the ones I know about.

Jo Blo says that since the other three are “happening,” Stan’s mentioning Black Panther in the same breath, it could be seen as an unofficial confirmation. Yeah, only if you completely ignore a whole bunch of facts first.

  • FACT #1: Stan Lee is just a figurehead these days:While he is a 90-year old legend, his involvement with the Marvel films goes little beyond appearing in them in cameo roles. He has no say in what films do or do not get made, therefore would have no power to officially confirm or deny anything.
  • FACT #2: He said “working on” not “developing” or “getting ready to cast’ or “coming to theaters”: Do you know how many films Hollywood “works on” each year that never see the light of day? Hundreds if not thousands. Heck, Marvel has been working on Inhumans and Runaways for years. Which reminds me…
  • FACT #3: Marvel has been “working on” a BLACK PANTHER film since 2004!: Remember when Marvel struck that financing deal to start its own studio? And it came up with ten properties it was going to make into films over the next eight years as part of its business plan? Black Panther was one of the ten!!! Nine years ago! Granted, the list of ten went out the window when Marvel got the rights to Iron Man and Thor back, and the eight year window was done away with due to the fact that the amazing success of the Marvel films made them become self-sufficient much faster. But still, Black Panther has been around for a while, and we still don’t have a film.
  • FACT #4: DOCTOR STRANGE has not been officially confirmed: Everyone seems to think that it is confirmed, and by one month from today, it might actually be confirmed, but as it stands right now, a Doctor Strange film is not confirmed. All we know for sure that it is in the Marvel pipeline. Kevin Feige has expressed interest in the film, but has never officially stated that the film will be part of Phase III. Speaking of Phase III…
  • FACT #5: Marvel as of now only has two open spots in 2016-2017: Disney has announced that there will be three Marvel film coming out in those years. I expect there will be at least one more Marvel film on the docket, but right now, it’s just three. We know one of the three will be Avengers 3. I mean, it was part or Robert Downey Jr’s contract, after all. That leaves two open spaces. I think its for more likely that both Doctor Strange and Black Panther will be passed over for a film in these two spots that they capturing both spots in place of Captain America, Thor or Guardians of the Galaxy sequels, a new film for a Mark Ruffalo Hulk, spin-off films for Black Widow or any other characters from any of the franchises, and other, less talked about films in the works such as Runaways and Inhumans. Like I said, I expect another spot to open up, and both films have a better chance of making it on the docket if it does, but as it stands right now, I don’t think both films will be hitting screens as part of Phase III.
  • FACT #6: Remember GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY?: If memory serves me correctly, there was absolutely no buzz or gossip about a GotG film being made before Comic-Con of last year. It came out of nowhere, was mention to be in the works in an interview with Feige a month or two SDCC, and then announced as part of the slate at the convention. One of the next Marvel films might be one we have not heard anything about, and that means it might not be Black Panther or Doctor Strange.

So, yeah. Marvel is working on a Black Panther film. But we already knew that. But it’s not a lock for Phase III no matter what Stan Lee, JoBlo or anyone else says.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Rise From X-Tinction

Posted on 07 June 2013 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. Today, we discuss the X-Men and why it was miraculous that it made it to the big screen at all.

Today, the X-Men franchise is one of the biggest properties both in comics and in film. But it wasn’t always this way. As a matter of fact, the X-Men were almost a forgotten concept by 1973, just ten years after their creation.

1-3The team were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, and arrived on newsstands the same month that Marvel debuted The Avengers. Stan Lee claims that he came up with genetic mutation for the source of their powers because he simply didn’t want to think up another reason for their origin. If this is the case, Lee is an accidental genius. The fact that the heroes of the X-Men had to hid who they really are for fear of being shunned or ridiculed tapped a vein for readers who could easily relate, be they part of the civil rights movement, the gay rights movement, or just plain, old, everyday teenagers. Lee’s choice of an origin for the X-Men opened up an audience for the characters that they wouldn’t have had if they gained their powers through a spider bite or nuclear accident.

But even though the X-men had a built in audience, it took a long time for that audience to find the book. Almost from the very beginning, the book floundered. Kirby left after issue #11, leaving the art in the hands of the rather underwhelming Werner Roth. Lee left after issue #19, turning over writing duties to Roy Thomas. The team kept the same staid yellow and blue costumes until issue #39. While the Fantastic Four was facing off against legendary villains such as Galactus and Annihilus and the Avengers were squaring off with Ultron and Kang, the X-Men’s rogue gallery featured such boring entries as the alien Lucifer, Locust, El Tigre and Eric the Red.

The title was in such dire straits that even the addition of superstar artist Neal Adams in 1969 for a seven issue run couldn’t save it from being cancelled. The X-Men went on hiatus with issue #66. It would return eight months later, but only as a bi-monthly reprint title.

Giantsize1It remained that way until April of 1975 when Giant-Size X-Men #1 came out. Len Wein and Dave Cockrum, working from an idea contributed by former writer Roy Thomas, did a total overhaul of the X-Men. Gone was the chummy, schoolyard camaraderie of the previous team. The “All-New, All-Different” X-men were an international team of adults, each with more issues than National Geographic Magazine. You had pre-existing X-Men villains in the relatively laid back Irishman Banshee and the haughty and arrogant Japanese Sunfire. You had new characters such as the African Storm, who was accustomed to being worshiped as a goddess, and the Native American Thunderbird, the one with a chip constantly on his shoulder. By comparison, two other new characters that should have been reviled became the most identifiable. The German Nightcrawler looked like a demon from the pits of Hell, complete with a pointy tail, yet was playful and gregarious (and also a devout Catholic). And it would have been easy to make the Russian character the least popular one on the team, since it was the heart of the Cold War. But Colossus was a simple farmer with skin of steel and a heart of gold, who was more concerned with painting pretty pictures than spewing Communist Party rhetoric.

And the last member of the group? A minor character Wein created several months before in the pages of Incredible Hulk. A diminutive Canadian named Wolverine.

This was not the X-Men team you read when you were a child. And when Thunderbird became the first member of the team to die in action six months later in issue #95 of the restarted X-Men series, it became clear anything could happen.

byrnex5Wein eventually made way for Chris Claremont as writer, and Claremont’s writing brought new fans in. Claremont took the team from a bunch of combative character flaws to a group of noble souls with their own vulnerabilities and quirks. He humanized the mutantsand played up the “oppressed minority” aspect more than it ever hd been, tasks that went even farther once Claremont was joined by John Byrne as penciller and co-plotter a year and a half later. Claremont and Byrne had an explosive synergy, quickly becoming one of the most renown creative teams in comics, creating such legendary story arcs as the Hellfire Saga (briefly touched on in X-Men: First Class), the Dark Phoenix Saga (which became part of X-Men: The Last Stand‘s plot) and Days of Future Past (which inspired the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past).

By the time Byrne left the book in December 1980, the X-Men were well on their way to becoming the most successful book Marvel published. It would spawn numerous spin-off titles, quite a few crossover events, and help launch the careers of artists such as Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri. And with that success came some attention from Hollywood. As early as 1984, Hollywood had plans to make an X-Men film, which would have made it the Marvel’s earliest entry onto the silver screen.

Thomas-ConwayRoy Thomas and fellow comic book scribe Gerry Conway were hired to write the screenplay for a potential X-Men film for Orion Films. Their film features a different take on X-Men comic book villain Proteus as the main bad guy (instead of a reality warping mutant, it was an organization ran by a vampire-like mutant named Stonewall). The word mutant is never used in the script. The team consisted of Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, an ambulatory Professor Xavier, Cyclops, Kitty Pryde, and a Japanese pop star named Circe who can transmute matter. Orion entered financial difficulties soon after the script was written, and had the back out of the project. Conway and Thomas’ script was shopped around, but with no takers.

Five years later, Stan Lee, Chris Claremont and James Cameron were in negotiations with Carolco Pictures in order to get an X-Men film made. Once again, the studio’s insolvency cause the X-Men film to be dropped. Cameron went on to focus his attention on getting a Spider-Man film made, which we’ll talk about a bit later.

It seemed like the X-Men film was cursed to go to one financially plagued studio to another, yet never being made. But the property’s success in the world of Saturday morning cartoons caused a major studio to take interest. We’ll discuss that next time.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: The Non-Comic Book Superhero, Part I

Posted on 08 February 2013 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. This time, we’ll talk about superhero films not adapted from any comic book.  

1980-hero-at-large-poster1Not every movie starring a superhero is adapted from a comic book but each has been inspired by or in turn inspired comic books.  Many of these non-comic book comic book films have sprung up in recent years but they have been appearing in movie theaters for over thirty years. We will dedicate the next few installments to these movies. We’ll try to talk about all of them here, but odds are one or two will slip our notice. Let us know what you think we’ve missed and maybe we’ll include them in a future installment.

One of my most fondly remembered superhero movies was 1980’s Hero At Large.

John Ritter stars as Steve Nichols, an underemployed actor who is hired to portray the character Captain Avenger at the opening of a film based on the character. A job that entailed just signing autographs for fans becomes something more when Nichols breaks up a robbery while in costume. The media grabs hold of it, and his life becomes much more complicated. Nichols is compelled to keep fighting crime as Captain Avenger while political interests want to use Nichols for their own interests.

I haven’t seen the film in a while, but it was one of my favorites as a youth. It wasn’t Hamlet, but it wasn’t awful either. Anne Archer, passed over several years prior for Lois Lane in Superman, gets to play a similar part here as Nichols’ neighbor/love interest. Kevin Bacon has a small part in the film as well.

The film made $15,934,737 at the box office that year. That might seem paltry by today’s standards, but it out grossed other, better well known films from that year such as Prom Night, Used Cars, Stardust Memories and Mad Max.

A year later, Disney came out with its take on the superhero, Condorman.

condorman-movie-poster-1981-1020203587Hero At Large might have been cheesy, but it was nothing compared to this film. Condorman couldn’t have been cheesier if it was paired with a beef stick and sold at a Hickory Farms kiosk over the holidays. The film has been all but consigned to the dustbin of history by most (the above trailer was put together by a fan), those that do remember it recall it fondly in a “so-bad-it’s-good” sort of way.   Michael Crawford, five years before he would take the stage as the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of Phantom of the Opera, stars as Woody Wilkins, a comic book writer of a character called “Condorman” who is pulled into a spy exchange in Europe. Wilkins adopts the Condorman identity, becomes a spy for the CIA, and rescues a Russian double agent played by Barbara Carrera.

In all fairness, the film is more a Disneyfied version of the James Bond-esque spy thriller than an actual comic book, although Crawford does appear in costume as Condorman and uses many Batman-esque gizmos and gadgets. It goes without saying that the film was a critical and commercial flop.

While Condorman probably began with the noblest intentions and wound up at cheesiness accidentally, The Toxic Avenger wallowed in its inherent cheesiness to the fullest extent from the very first day of production, as is the trademark of the studio that released it, Troma Entertainment.

toxic avenger fourWhether it was intended to be or not, 1984’s The Toxic Avenger was like all of the Marvel Comics from the 1960s brought to the big screen all wrapped up in one. Toxie, as he is lovingly referred to, starts the film as a nerdy janitor bullied by his peers (much like Peter Parker was before he became Spider-Man). One day, he has an accidental exposure to radioactive materials (like, well, take your pick: Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Daredevil, any number of other heroes and villains from Marvel at that time) which causes the nebbish to grow into a superhumanly strong creature (like The Hulk). He uses his new power to fight crime in Tromaville, finding love along the way with a blind woman who loves him for who he is and not what he looks like (mimicking a plot point featuring the Fantastic Four’s Thing and blind sculptress Alicia Masters).

What separated the film from the Marvel Comics of the 1960s was the schlocky, off-center and off-color humor, the violence that was so graphic that it became absurd, and the copious amounts of sex and nudity that is the trademark of the Troma film. But the first film was a success and that spawned a sequel, 1989’s The Toxic Avenger Part II:

When Troma found they shot enough footage for two films, they released another sequel in 1989, The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie:

And yet another sequel, 2000’s Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger IV:

That last film pulled out all the stops when it came to celebrity cameos, featuring Ron Jeremy, Corey Feldman, Hugh Hefner, and Julie Strain, with Stan Lee serving as narrator.

The Toxic Avenger was also adapted into a short-lived Marvel comic book in 1991 and a stage musical in 2008. A rumored fourth sequel was planned, but might have made way for a PG-13 remake produced by Akiva Goldsman and directed by Hot Tub Time Machine’s Steve Pink.

The next film we are going to discuss was made with noble intentions but became a box office failure. Hollywood Shuffle’s Robert Townsend wanted to make a film that was a counter-point to the popular “gangsta” films such as New Jack City and Juice that dominated cineplexes at the time. So, in 1993, he came up with a film idea that presented a positive black role model that would work to stop black-on-black violence instead of glorify it. That film was The Meteor Man.

1993-the-meteor-man-poster1The film told the story of Jefferson Reed, a Washington, DC teacher who is struck by a meteor and given superpowers. He uses these powers to clean up his neighborhood—stopping gang violence, demolishing crack houses, and stopping robberies. While the Toxic Avenger was a mix of a bunch of Marvel superheroes, the Meteor Man seemed to borrow from a number of DC Comics heroes, most notably Superman (who shares most of the same powers and the “mom-made costume” bit) and Black Lightning (DC’s first major black superhero, who was also a teacher named Jefferson Pierce).

The film featured a veritable who’s who of the best African-American actors America had to offer, including Bill Cosby, James Earl Jones, and Robert Guillaume and did earnestly try to present a more positive African-American role model.  But the film was rather simplistic and the naive (the two gangs in the film, the Bloods and the Crips, put aside their differences to support Meteor Man in his fight against the white drug lord) script led to box-office disappointment.

Next time, we cover three popular movies that might stretch the definition of the superhero, but that had an effect on comic books for years to come.

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The 15 Greatest Cameo Film Appearances Of All Time

Posted on 02 October 2012 by Rich Drees

The term “cameo appearance” was coined by producer Michael Todd to describe the number of small roles filled by big name stars in his 1956 film Around The World In 80 Days. But Todd was merely putting a name to something that had been a part of films all the way back to the Silent Era and would continue right to the present day. Here is a chronological look at perhaps the greatest of the hundreds and maybe even thousands of cameo appearances that have been made in the movies.

Elinor Glyn In It (1927) -As described in a two-part Cosmopolitan Magazine serial by Elinor Glyn, “It” is “that quality possessed by some which draws all others with its magnetic force. With ‘It’ you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man. ‘It’ can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction… The possessor of ‘It’ must be absolutely unselfconscious and must have that magnetic ‘sex appeal’ which is irresistible..” When Paramount decided to turn Glyn’s piece into a film, there was only one starlet in their studio they knew they cast in the role of the girl with “It” – Clara Bow. And to help explain the concept of “It” to other characters in the film and the audience, the studio had Glyn appear in the movie herself. Not only that, in one of the first instances of product placement, issues of Cosmopolitan are also seen. Although Bow was a star at the time of its release, the film proved such a sensation that the actress was ever after known as “The ‘It’ Girl.”

Alfred Hitchcock in Rebecca (1940) – If anyone’s name is synonymous with cameo appearances it would be director Alfred Hitchcock. Hitch knew the value of self-promotion and through his walk on roles in his films and appearances in his films’ trailers he was as easily recognizable as any big star of the time. He made his first on screen appearance in a newsroom scene in 1926′s The Lodger but would only appear sporadically until his move to America. Beginning with his first Hollywood studio film, Rebecca, where he stood behind star George Sanders in a phone booth, Hitchcock would make an appearance in every single one of his films for the rest of his career. Sometimes that would prove to be a tricky proposition, such as for Lifeboat, but it was a savvy move that helped insure that his name became its own brand.

Raymond Chandler in Double Indemnity (1943) – As creator of the detective Philip Marlow, Chandler was one of the shapers of the hardboiled detective genre. It seems only natural that when Chandler began working in films, his first screenplay would help define cinema’s equivalent – the film noir. By all accounts Chandler and Double Indemnity director Billy Wilder never did get along all that well, so it came as a bit of a surprise two years ago when it was realized that the gentleman reading a newspaper whom star Fred MacMurray walks past at an early point in the film is Chandler himself. Given their contentious relationship, it is not surprising that neither Chandler nor Wilder ever mentioned the appearance. It is a shock, though, that Chandler’s obvious cameo went unnoticed and unremarked upon for nearly 67 years until it was finally discovered in 2009.

Jack Benny in It’s In The Bag (1945) – One of the most famous show business feuds from the 1930s and 40s wasn’t really a feud at all, but a running gag between two friends. Jack Benny and Fred Allen were comedians who got their start in vaudeville, where they formed a lifelong friendship. By the mid-1930s, they each had their own popular radio shows that aired on Sunday evenings, albeit at different times. During a 1937 broadcast, Allen made took a swipe at Benny’s ability to play the violin. (Benny’s bad violin skills, as well as his vanity and cheapness, were all part of his comedy persona only, and by all accounts were pretty much exactly the opposite of the comedian when he was off-mic.) Benny heard the comment, and made a good natured jab at his friend on his own show later that evening and the back and forth continued for more than a decade. Never mind the fact that they each appeared on the other’s programs, people believed that they were actual blood enemies. That perception was furthered by the 1940 comedy Love Thy Neighbor in which both comics starred as their feuding radio personas. But for as funny as that film was, it is outdone by Benny’s single scene in Allen’s 1945 comedy It’s In The Bag. Allen stars as a man who realizes that the key to a $12 million inheritance lies in one of the five chairs he just sold. Guess who happens to have come into ownership of one of the chairs.

Bryan Forbes in A Shot In The Dark (1964) – Hiding behind an acoustic guitar and the screen name of “Turk Thrust,” British actor/writer/director Forbes makes his appearance in the second Pink Panther film as guard at a nudist camp that Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) and Maria (Elke Summers) are attempting to gain entrance to in the course of their investigation. Forbes was a friend of Sellers and had created a pop star persona with the name of Turk Thrust for him. Sellers never used the character although he did go on to do – more films as Clouseau. Forbes went on to direct such films as King Rat (1965) and The Stepford Wives (1975) while Turk Thrust made a reappearance of sorts in The Curse Of The Pink Panther (1983) when Roger Moore made a quick cameo under the nom-de-screen of Turk Thrust II.

Graham Greene in Day For Night (La Nuit Americaine) (1973) – Sometimes a cameo appearance can go unrecognized by a film’s audience. It is another thing for a cameo to go unrecognized by a film’s director. While Francois Truffaut was filming his story of a filmmaker struggling to complete his latest project, Greene was introduced to the director as a retired English businessman living on the Cote d’Azur. Trufaut cast the writer in a small role as a British insurance company representative who arrives at the Victorine Studios in Nice. Reportedly, Trufaut was upset to learn that the British man was actually the famous novelist and critic, as he was a fan and would have loved to talk with him.

Graham Greene in Day For Night

Marshal McLuhan in Annie Hall (1977) – In Woody Allen’s classic comedy about New York and New Yorkers, the characters played by the director and Diane Keaton are standing in line for a movie when he hears a man in behind him pontificating about Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan. Annoyed that the man is getting his facts wrong, Allen steps out of line, breaks the film’s fourth wall and begins telling the audience how irritated he is. The man notices, steps up next to Allen and tries to speak to the audience in his own defense. The two begin to debate until Allen trumps the man’s argument by pulling McLuhan out from behind a lobby display to affirm that he and not the other man is right about McLuhan’s work. Not only does the scene work in conjunction with several other comedic scenes that break the reality of the love story that Allen is telling, there’s an added layer of humor if one is familiar with McLuhan’s theories about how society shapes media and media shapes society. And besides, who hasn’t agreed with Allen’s scene capping line “Don’t you wish reality was really like this?”

Steve Martin in The Muppet Movie (1979) – Jim Henson’s delightful The Muppet Movie is chockablock full of big name stars in fleetingly small roles – from Dom Deluise as the Hollywood agent vacationing in the Florida everglades who tells Kermit the Frog he needs to head to Los Angeles to become a movie star to Orson Welles as the studio head Kermit and his pals eventually meet (“Get me the standard ‘Rich and Famous’ contract!”). Along the way they meet the likes of Milton Beryl, Paul Williams, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Mel Brooks and more. But by far, the funniest cameo of the bunch is Steve Martin’s surly waiter. As Kermit and Miss Piggy try to have a romantic dinner, Martin’s waiter sneers at them while bringing them the cheapest item on the wine list (“Sparkling Muscatel, the best wine Idaho has to offer.”). It cracked up the seven-year-old me who saw it when the film was first released and it still makes me laugh today.

Susan Backlinie in 1941 (1979) – The opening of Steven Spielberg’s classic Jaws (1975), in which a late night skinny dipper becomes a midnight snack for the titular shark, was so powerful that it instantly became an iconic moment in cinema. So much so that just a few years later, it was parodied in the equally iconic, though for far different reasons, disaster spoof Airplane! (1980). But Spielberg beat them to the punch by a year, poking fun at himself in the opening to his 1979 comedy 1941. While the Airplane! parody featured a jetliner’s tailfin cutting through clouds with a variation of John Williams’ classic ominous two-note tuba score playing on the soundtrack, Spielberg opened 1941 with a midnight swim being interrupted by the arrival of a rather lost Japanese submarine. And Spielberg, being Spielberg, asked Backlinie, who played the unfortunate swimmer in Jaws to come back and recreate the scene for the gag. Unfortunately, Spielberg’s sense of humor was perhaps a bit more developed than his ability to direct humor, as 1941 didn’t particularly turn out to be the comic masterpiece one would expect with a cast including the likes of John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Animal House’s Tim Matheson. The movie wound up being one of the director’s rare critical and box office failures. Don’t feel bad for Spielberg, though. I understand his next film, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, did a bit better at the box office.

Ethel Merman in Airplane! (1980) – I’ve often said that the Zucker-Abrams-Zucker comedy Airplane! is perhaps the funniest 86 minutes of celluloid ever. It is certainly the one most densely packed with comic material with puns, sight gags and bizarre non-sequiter jokes coming at the viewer in rapid fire succession. But perhaps one of the funniest is nestled in a flashback where we find Ted Striker (Robert Hayes) recovering in an Army hospital from his traumatizing war experiences. As he points out to his girlfriend Elaine (Julie Hagerty) some of the other soldiers suffering from trauma on the ward, he indicates “Poor Lt. Horowitz. He thinks he’s Ethel Merman.” The camera pans over to the famous Broadway singer who suddenly bolts upright in her bed and starts singing “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” until orderlies rush in and tranquilizer her. You have to hand it to Merman for being able to spoof herself like that. And by placing herself in the hands of a trio of first-time directors, she landed herself a dual spot in the cameo and comedy halls of fame.

Sean Connery in Time Bandits (1981) – They say that the best thing about screenwriting is that you can write anything in your first draft. It’s only later that you have to worry about pesky things like how much it will cost to bring your vision to life on the big screen. And so it was that Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin, with just a few keystrokes, introduced the character of the Greek warrior king Agamemnon into their classic time travel comedy with the words “removing his helmet, revealing himself to be none other than Sean Connery. He grins as only Sean can. (This is the sort of creepy stage direction that helps get the stars interested.)” Creepy or not, Gilliam was able to land Connery for a role far smaller than one would have expected from the former James Bond at the time.

Bob Hope in Spies Like Us (1985) – While not the best comedy on director John Landis’s resume (that would be The Blues Brothers), Spies Like Us is an enjoyable enough Cold War riff on the old Hope and Crosby Road movies with Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd standing in for Bob and Bing. It only makes sense then that Hope pops up as himself for an absurd gag referencing those comedies. Landis loves to feature his filmmaking friends in his movies, so also keep a lookout for some notable behind-the-cameras luminaries appearing here including a young Sam Raimi as a guard at a top secret government installation and Terry Gilliam and Ray Harryhausen as part of a group of doctors on a mercy mission in Afghanistan. In fact, you can see them in the clip below right before Hope’s cameo.

Sean Connery in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (1991) – Yes, Connery gets two mentions on this list because, well, he’s Sean Connery. This wasn’t the first time that Connery had appeared in a Robin Hood film. Fifteen years earlier he played the titular folk hero at the twilight of his years in Robin And Marian. This time around, he makes an appearance at the end of the film as King Richard the Lionheart, recently returned from the Crusades. As Robin and his Merry Men have spent much of the preceding film fighting the King’s evil, despotic brother, the monarch arrives to offer his thanks in a scene very similar to the finale of the classic 1938 version starring Errol Flynn. Connery was on one of his career highs at the time and critics who saw advanced screenings of the film were sworn to secrecy to preserve the surprise of his appearance.

Alec Guinness in Mute Witness (1995) – When makeup artist Billy Hughes (Marina Zudina) is in Moscow working on a film shoot when she accidentally sees a Russian film crew shooting a snuff film. This doesn’t sit well with the Russian mob with a gangster known only as The Reaper ordering her death. Although the actor is shrouded in shadows when on-screen, there is no mistaking his voice as belonging to Sir Alec Guinness. What’s not so apparent though, is that Guiness actually shot his scenes nine years earlier! Director Anthony Waller was in the midst of trying to get Mute Witness made when met Guiness in Hamburg, Germany in 1985. Asking the actor if he would mind shooting a quick scene for the film, he was surprised when Guiness offered to do it for free. The only catch was that since his schedule was so busy they had to shoot it in an underground car garage the following morning before Guiness had to catch a plane. And since it took Waller nearly a decade before he was able to get the film into production, the scenes he quickly shot with Guiness that day became the actor’s last screen appearance.

Stan Lee in The X-Men (2000) – Perhaps the person who has made the most cameo appearances in films without being named Alfred Hitchcock is Stan Lee. As a writer and publisher at Marvel Comics in the 1960s and 70s, he had a hand in creating a majority of the publisher’s most iconic characters. Now, as those superheroes are being turned into big screen franchises, it has become a tradition to feature Lee in a don’t-blink-or-you-may-miss-him walk-on as a Time Square vendor, a security guard, the Fantastic Four’s mailman or some other small bit part. Although he had a small role in the 1989 TV movie The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk, as the jury foreman of course, the tradition of Lee’s big screen appearances started here in Bryan Singer’s The X-Men, with him as a beach hotdog vendor. Given that X-Men’s box office performance exceeded many people’s expectations, Lee’s continual appearances seem as much for good luck as they are a token of respect.

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Anthony Mackie In Talks To Play The Falcon In CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

Posted on 16 July 2012 by William Gatevackes

They have probably just finished cleaning up the San Diego Convention Center and we already have our first casting rumor for an upcoming Marvel film–one that is sure to delight many a comic book fan out there.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Heat Vision blog is stating that Anthony Mackie (8 Mile, The Hurt Locker) is in negotiations for a role in the forthcoming sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The blog believes that Mackie is being earmarked to play Sam Wilson, the man many comic book fans know as The Falcon.

The Falcon was created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan in Captain America #117 (September 1969) and was first African-American superheroes in comic books (Marvel created the Black Panther in the pages of Fantastic Four three years before, but he was the potentate of the fictional African country of Wakanda and not an American). He was so popular that he held co-billing with Captain America in the latter’s comic book from 1971 to 1978, and most recently co-starred with Cap in a 14-issue series in 2004.

It remains to which version of the Falcon will make it into the movie. In the mainstream Marvel continuity, Sam Wilson was a reformed criminal who was stranded on a remote island that was home to Nazi war criminals. When Captain America came to the island, Wilson joined him in fighting the Germans and protecting the native population. He would eventually return to the United States, reform his evil ways, and become one of Cap’s most trusted allies.

In the Ultimate line of Marvel Comics, Sam Wilson is a scientist and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who had previously served with Nick Fury in the army. He has shared adventures with the Ultimate version of Captain America, but has not become as close a partner as his mainstream Marvel counterpart.

Both Falcons are able to fly through the use of cybernetically controlled wings. The mainstream Marvel version of the character was also a mutant (Shhh! Don’t tell Fox!) who could telepathically communicate with birds, including his pet falcon, Redwing.

Of course, Heat Vision couldn’t get anyone at Marvel to confirm Mackie was in talks to play the Falcon, so this could all be speculation over nothing. But I really hope it is true. Mackie is a great actor and the Falcon is one of my favorite characters.

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A Second Opinion: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN

Posted on 03 July 2012 by William Gatevackes

FBOL Editor-in-Chief Rich Drees posted his review of this film yesterday, and he’s already been taken to task in the comments over it. Well, as much as I hate to take him to task again, I will, albeit, hopefully, in a more professional manner. Because I liked the movie far more than he did.

I agree with Rich that it’s nigh impossible to look at this film without comparing it to 2000′s Spider-Man, because like Sam Raimi’s film, it is an origin story that takes several beats from the comic book origin. Yes, you’ll have the scene where Peter Parker get bitten by a spider. You’ll get the killing of Uncle Ben, you’ll get the costume creating montage. And after each of these moments, you’ll be taken back to the original Raimi film. Some moments may compare favorably, some may not, your mileage may vary.

But once you get past the origin part of the story, where the similarities seem the strongest, this film begins to go its own way. This version of Spider-Man is more grounded in reality, or as close to reality any movie featuring a mutated seven-foot lizard man can get. And it is also a modernized version of Spider-Man as well. Raimi’s Spider-Man had an ageless quality to him, that with a small change of set dressing Tobey Maguire’s version of the character could have been from the 1950s or 1960s as much as he was from the 2000s. Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is set in the now, a world of cell phones and You Tube and skateboards. Neither version of better than the other, in my opinion, but both are valid takes on the iconic character.

I think that Rich missed a lot of the subtlety of the characterization of Peter Parker, because if he didn’t, I’m sure that a lot of his complaints about the film would have been answered. Peter Parker, as brilliantly played by Andrew Garfield, is a young man who never knows the right thing to do. This causes him to hem and haw while asking out a girl who is throwing herself at him. It also causes him to believe that humiliating the bully who humiliated him is the best course of action. With this as a prologue, his desire to hunt down the man who killed his uncle seems completely believable. It’s what Peter, blinded by grief and anger, thinks would be the best way to make amends for, and to relieve his guilt over, inadvertently causing his uncle’s death.

While it is true that the death of Uncle Ben was used as the instigator of Spider-Man’s using his powers for unselfish means in both the comics and the Raimi films, it wouldn’t work here with the characterization up to that point and, trying to avoid spoilers, the way this movie changes the death of Uncle Ben. The scene where Peter finally realizes the effect of his uncle’s words about taking responsibility for his actions comes later during what I will call the “bridge scene,” the point of which Rich obviously either missed or  didn’t give proper emphasis to.

Once again, to avoid spoilers, I’ll simply say it’s where the Lizard makes his first appearance and Spidey saves a bunch of lives (facts which the trailer spoiled). It’s here where Peter learns that with great power comes with great responsibility. It’s here where he learns that he is the only person qualified to take on this menace (and barely qualified at that) and that if he doesn’t take action, many, many people will die. Uncle Ben’s words finally sink in. It’s is here where Peter’s story arc curves and he, as a character, changes and grows. And this new sense of responsibility carries through to the end of the film.

The film is full of deep emotional resonance, inspired directing by Marc Webb, finely crafted scenes (the dinner scene where Peter meets Gwen Stacy’s family is especially sharp and proves that Denis Leary is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood), and subtle moments that make for an enjoyable film. The way they treat Gwen Stacy is especially refreshing. With a stunning acting performance from Emma Stone, who is quickly becoming the greatest actress of her generation, Gwen is not the superhero film stereotype of “The Girlfriend In Peril.” She is an equal, if not a superior, to Peter in many ways. And while the film places her in jeopardy at times, it’s not for a stupid reasons, but for heroic acts and always with her knowing the dangers of her actions.

Comic fans should appreciate the film’s interpretations of George Stacy and Flash Thompson, which, while not carbon copies of their comic book inspirations, captured the spirit of them well enough to please a long time Spidey fan like me. And the film’s obligatory Stan Lee cameo is one of his funniest yet.

This is not to say the film is a perfect film. It’s not. There are a number of bad plot contrivances such as mind-numbing coincidences (Who is the guide for the tour of Connor’s lab? Why Gwen Stacy of course! And naturally the secret formula Peter’s dad left behind in an old briefcase would be the formula Connors needed to finish his work!) and glaring gaps of logic (in addition to the Internet search thing Rich mentioned, Peter has his secret identity spoiled by leaving behind his camera, complete with a “Property of Peter Parker” placard at a battle scene. Why didn’t he also leave a class schedule and a list of his fears along with it?).  But these are but blips on the radar for an otherwise enjoyable film.

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Marvel’s 2014 Mystery Film May Be BLACK PANTHER

Posted on 05 June 2012 by William Gatevackes

If Latino Review is correct, a Marvel superhero’s long road to the cineplex will end in 2014, and those of us waiting for Ant-Man will have to wait a little bit longer. Because the website is quoting four sources (FOUR!) that say the mystery Marvel film that will come in 2014 with star Black Panther.

Black Panther was a character created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in Fantastic Four #52. His real name was T’Challa and was a potentate in the fictional African nation of Wakanda who earned the right to wield a sacred “Panther Totem” that gave him the strength, agility and senses of the cat the item was named after. While based in Africa, he made many trips to America and would eventually marry X-Men member Storm.

These facts, that Black Panther first appeared in Fantastic Four and married a member of the X-Men, that the rights to the character would belong to FOX, who holds the rights to all the anciliary FF andf X-Men characters. But Black Panther’s rights have been free-standing for a long time before either of those franchises.

Talk of a Black Panther film began way back in 1992 as a vehicle for Wesley Snipes. The film became a pet project for Snipes, who would express his hopes start filming the adaptation in numerous interviews for the years that would follow. But the project had a number of false starts over the last 20 years, to the point that it looks like Snipes has aged himself out of the role.

Marvel stated in 2007 that Black Panther was one of the ten properties that it would develop in its distribution partnership with Paramount. In early 2011, Marvel commissioned a Black Panther script from Mark Bailey. And a quick reference to the character appears in IRON MAN 2 on a SHIELD monitor listing superpowered individuals around the world.

Again, this is just a rumor. We probably won’t know anything definite until the San Diego Comic Con. But as it stands right now, I am conflicted about this announcement. I have been a long-time fan of Black Panther through his involvement in the Avengers, and having an African hero would make a strike for diversity in the superhero film landscape. But I can’t help be disappointed that Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man isn’t ready to go yet, and not capitalizing on the strong buzz around some of the characters from The Avengers is a big mistake, especially Hulk, who could be a tentpole franchise for Marvel if they build on what Whedon did in that film.

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Jack Kirby, THE AVENGERS, And The Issue of Fairness

Posted on 22 May 2012 by William Gatevackes

FACT!: The Avengers has just topped the box office charts for the third week in a row. It has made over $1 billion worldwide and almost half that ($457 million) in the U.S. alone. It currently stands as the fourth highest grossing film of all-time, and has a shot of overtaking Avatar for the top spot.

FACT!: Jack Kirby had a hand in creating many of the characters and concepts in the film–Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Loki, Hulk, the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube, Nick Fury, S.H.I.E.L.D., and The Avengers as a team.

FACT!: Many people who have seen The Avengers have no idea who Jack Kirby is, let alone how much he contributed to the original comics the film was based on.

These three facts have come together to shed new light on an old and very polarizing issue in the world of comics–Marvel Comics’ history of poor treatment of Jack Kirby. Longtime Kirby supporters are using the new found exposure Kirby’s co-creations are getting on the silver screen to press once again that their idol gets the respect that he deserves. Comic creators such as Steve Bissette and James Sturm have advocating boycotts of Marvel products. Journalist David Brothers has wrote eloquently about his decision to give up on Marvel over this matter (and DC for their treatment of Alan Moore as well). Fans have started a petition to try and convince Marvel to give Kirby the credit and royalties they think he deserves. And comic creator Roger Langridge has vowed never to work for Marvel again.

Does Kirby deserve more respect? In the world of comic books, no, only because he already has respect in droves.  He was given the title “King” for a reason. Outside of the world of comics is a different story, because many casual fans might not know the depth of the contributions Kirby has made to Marvel Comics.

So, what did Jack Kirby do for Marvel? Well, he defined its look. He would provide up to 130 pages of artwork a month during the early years of Marvel, artwork that would appear in around 80% of the titles Marvel published at the time. His art style became the Marvel house are style, as Kirby was called on to train new artists joining the company, such as John Buscema, how to draw as dynamically as him.

And his look was diametrically different than anything else on comic book stands. Even though by then he was a 20-year veteran in the industry, his work on the Marvel books were fresh and original. Unlike DC’s house style where the characters looked porcelain and static, Kirby’s figures almost leaped off the page. His characters had character.

And the amount of intellectual property he a hand in creating is legendary.  However, how big a hand he had in their creation is a contentious point in this controversy.

Jack Kirby and Stan Lee (with George Perez and Roy Thomas) in a fictionalized version of their working relationship from Fantastic Four #176

Stan Lee is listed as a writer/editor on all those early Marvel books Kirby worked on. As such, when Marvel Comics became a media sensation in the 60s and 70s, they came to Stan Lee as the creative force behind the books. They looked no farther than the credits box and ran with the idea that Stan Lee was the auteur behind the comics and Jack Kirby was some guy hired to draw Lee’s genius words.

A bitter Kirby later in his life, after decades living in Lee’s shadow, would continually diminish Lee’s role in the partnership, including a notorious 1990 interview with the Comics Journal where Kirby took complete credit for Marvel’s output during that era. “Stan Lee and I never collaborated on anything!” Kirby said in that interview. “I’ve never seen Stan Lee write anything. I used to write the stories just like I always did.”

While there are many that believe that Kirby was the sole creative influence behind the Marvel era of books, others believe a shared collaboration was closer to the truth. Lee has said in that he had a unique working relationship with Kirby in the sense that he didn’t have to write a full synopsis  of the plot for Kirby. All he had to do was call him on the phone, speak briefly about what he wanted–a sentence or a paragraph at most–and Kirby would run with it. Lee would come in later, add dialogue, and a masterpiece was born.

This is the version of the partnership that I subscribe to. It might not have been a 50/50 partnership between the two. It might have been 20% Lee/80% Kirby, with the scale sliding from issue to issue, story arc to story arc. But I believe it definitely wasn’t 100% Kirby or 100% Lee. That’s just not how the world of comic books usually work.

Cartoon taken from the blog of the Kirby Museum (http://kirbymuseum.org/blogs/dynamics/)

But Lee has often times become the focus of rage from Kirby supporters, a practice that becomes more and more unctuous as the years go by. Lee is an easy target, mainly due to genetics–first in the fact that he was the cousin of Marvel’s original publisher Martin Goodman, therefore allowing him an entry into the company and a meteoric rise to Editor-in-Chief during the 40s, second due to him outliving Kirby, meaning he is allowed to reap in the success of the partnership with cameos and media interviews and such. Lee has become the ipso facto face of Marvel Comics. If you are one that believes Kirby did everything and Lee contributed nothing, this would incense you. And you might feel justified in venting your animosity in Lee’s direction.

But Lee wasn’t the one at Marvel who promised Kirby (and Amazing Spider-Man artist Steve Ditko) that he would get a percentage of merchandise then never follow through. That was Martin Goodman. It wasn’t Lee that threatened to slash Kirby’s pay rate when he was doing the lion’s share of the work at Marvel. That was Goodman too. And Stan was in Hollywood by the time Marvel held Kirby’s artwork hostage in the late 1970′s to mid 1980s.

But even if you think Stan Lee willingly and maliciously lied about his involvement in the creation of the Marvel Universe just to keep Jack Kirby down, there has to be some point when the noble quest to gain a sense of justice for Jack by calling out your idol’s enemy turns into you bullying a frail 89-year-old man. Take for instance this snippet from an interview of Lee by Erik Larnick of Moviefone during a press junket for a documentary on Lee called With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story:

Fans of Jack Kirby are concerned that his name appears nowhere on the credits of “The Avengers.”  What’s your take on their concern? I don’t know how to answer that because in what way would his name appear?

His name isn’t mentioned anywhere in the film production as a co-creator. Well it’s mentioned in every comic book; it says “By Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.”

But it doesn’t appear for the film itself; and his fans feel he should get that recognition, with the movie exposing his work to a whole new audience.  I know, but you’re talking to the wrong guy because I have nothing to do with the credits on the movies. I’m credited as one of the executive producers because that’s in my contract. But Jack was not an executive producer. So I don’t know what he’d be credited as. Again I know nothing about that, I have nothing to do with the movie’s credits. You’d have to talk to whoever is the producer of the movie. Is there anything you want to ask me about the documentary because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be talking about.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1975, along with comic book legends Gil Kane, Jim Steranko, Wil Eisner and Jerry Siegel.

This exchange compelled Heidi MacDonald over at The Beat, a journalist I admire and respect, to ask “Has the fan press suddenly GROWN a pair? Or have they just figured out that controversy sells?” I’d say the later. While it’s arguable that Moviefone, an offshoot of AOL, can be considered “fan press,” asking these questions is not an act of bravery, it’s an act of chicanery. This is not rightfully calling Lee on the carpet for supposed mistreatment of Kirby. This is ambushing an octogenarian with something specific he has no control over, and passing off his reply as him evading the question. And not to right any sort of wrongs either, but to gain site hits (which is why the snippet was released a week  before the actual article). The real kicker is that Kirby’s name is in the credits for The Avengers, something Larnick would have found out if he asked a studio flack or someone with more more than a ceremonial connection to the film.

If you are looking for an article that asks the questions Larnick was trying to ask, but does it in a more journalistic way–with a juicer pull quote–I recommend Alex Pappademas’ interview, most likely taken on the same press junket, over at Grantland.

Once again, I’m not saying that Jack Kirby deserves less credit than Stan Lee or vice versa. I’m saying that attacking the person the general public sees as “that cute old man with the funny cameos”  is no way to gain the mainstream respect Jack Kirby should rightfully have. If you are looking for fairness, you have to be fair first.

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