Spider-Man Meets Mysterio In The New Spider-Man: Far From Home Trailer


The new trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home opens with a warning from Tom Holland.  Do not watch this trailer if you have not seen Avengers: Endgame and you want to avoid spoilers.  It should also go without saying that, if you are avoiding Endgame spoilers, do not read any further on this post.

Spoilers below:

Judging from the trailer, Spider-Man: Far From Home finds Peter Parker mourning the loss of his mentor, Tony Stark.  Looking to get away from the pressures of crime fighting and saving the world and also wanting to pursue his crush on Zendaya’s MJ, Peter joins his classmates on a trip to Europe.  Were all of Peter’s classmates from Spider-Man: Homecoming wiped out by the Snap?  According to Avengers: Endgame, bringing everyone back did not change anything that happened over the previous five years.  Peter got lucky that MJ apparently wasn’t around to graduate high school and move away while he was non-existent.

Peter may want to escape from it all but Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury has other ideas.  Judging from the trailer, it appears that Peter has replaced Tony with three new mentors, Nick Fury, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau, making the transition over from the Iron Man films), and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio.  Of course, anyone who is familiar with Mysterio’s history knows that Peter should be careful about trusting him.

The trailer also introduces the concept of the Multiverse.  With all the questions that Endgame raised about time travel and alternate realities, the Multiverse is surely going to be an important factor moving forward.  For instance, it may explain how there’s both a Loki TV show and a Black Widow movie in production when both of those characters were apparently very dead at the end of Avengers: Endgame.

Spider-Man: Far From Home opens on July 2nd.

 

All Hail Jan-Michael Vincent: Red Line (1996, directed by John Sjogren)


Jan-Michael Vincent, back in the day

When Jan-Michael Vincent died on February 10th, we lost a legend.

For obvious reasons, the life and career of Jan-Michael Vincent is often held up as a cautionary tale.  Vincent went from being a rising star in the 70s to being nearly unemployable in the 90s.  When you watch Vincent in one of his early film, like The Mechanic or Big Wednesday, you see an actor who had both the talent and the looks to be a major star.  He was such a natural and deceptively low-key performer that it is not a surprise that he was twice cast as Robert Mitchum’s son.  He could play everyone from a hippie to a cowboy to a surfer to an assassin.  Unfortunately, once the 80s rolled around, Vincent became better known for his struggles with drugs and alcohol than for his talent.  After a brief but profitable stint starring in Airwolf, Jan-Michael Vincent found himself appearing mostly in straight-to-video action films.  By the mid-90s, he was a mainstay on late night Cinemax.  Even though the films had gotten smaller and his famous good looks had been ravaged by years of hard living, Vincent was still capable of giving a good performance.

It is impossible to talk about the legend of Jan-Michael Vincent without talking about Red Line.  In this direct-to-video car chase film, Vincent was cast as a gangster named Keller.  When an auto mechanic named Jim (Chad “Son of Steve” McQueen) makes the mistake of taking one of Keller’s cars for a joyride, Keller blackmails Jim into stealing a corvette from a police impound lot.  Red Line was typical of the type of films that Vincent was usually offered in the 90s, an action-filled crime film with a handful of recognizable faces.

It was also a film that Vincent nearly didn’t live to make.  Two days before filming was to begin, Jan-Michael Vincent was nearly killed when he crashed his motorcycle.  Vincent suffered severe facial lacerations and he would later tell Howard Stern that his eye was nearly popped out of his head as a result of the accident.  Vincent was rushed to the hospital and put in intensive care.

However, Jan-Michael Vincent still had a movie to make.  So, what did he do?  Two days after his accident, he checked himself out of the hospital and, unexpectedly, showed up on set.  With his face noticeable bruised and swollen and with the stitches and sutures still visible, Vincent played the role of Keller.  If you watch carefully, you can even spot his hospital ID, still hanging around his wrist.  The script was hastily rewritten to explain Vincent’s injuries and, though he could barely speak or walk, he still delivered his lines and filmed his scenes.  And goddamn if Jan-Michael Vincent didn’t steal the entire movie.  Even after years of hard-living (not to mention just two days after nearly dying), Jan-Michael Vincent still had it.  Even though he had to whisper his lines and film most of his scenes sitting down, Vincent was still credibly threatening in the role of Keller. He even points out his own injuries, saying, “I’m sick of looking like Frankenstein!”

Jan-Michael Vincent in Red Line

The rest of the cast was made up of an eclectic collection of familiar faces.  Dom DeLuise played Chad McQueen’s boss.  Michael Madsen and Corey Feldman (!) both played rival gangsters while Roxanna Zal played the young woman who becomes McQueen’s partner in crime.  B-movie fans will want to keep an eye out for Julie Strain, Robert Z’Dar, and Chuck Zito.  None of them make as much of an impression as Vincent, though.

Red Line was meant to be an homage to the type of car chase films that Steve McQueen made famous.  Chad McQueen even gets to drive a replica of the car that his father drove in Bullitt.  Some of the chase scenes are exciting but Chad doesn’t have his father’s screen presence and the film never overcomes its low-budget.  Watching the movie is a lot like watching someone else play Grand Theft Auto.  Red Line is a forgettable movie but it will always be remembered as an important chapter in the legend of Jan-Michael Vincent.

Jan-Michael Vincnet, RIP

My Super Bowl Predictions


God may hate football but he loves Tom Brady.

Over the past 20 years, while football has struggled, Tom Brady has thrived.  While other quarterbacks have come and gone, Tom Brady probably has the most secure job in the league.  Brady is currently the winningest quarterback in NFL history and he doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to retiring.  If you’re playing against Tom Brady, you better not let the game get into overtime because Brady will come at you like a machine.

It’s interesting to take a look back at the 2000 NFL Draft and see the quarterbacks who were selected before the Patriots finally picked Tom Brady in the 6th round.  Chad Pennington, Giovanni Carmazzi, Chris Redman, Marc Bulger, and Spergon Wynn were all selected before Brady.  Pennington went on to have a successful career but otherwise, they’re a forgettable group of players.  Of the group, only Tom Brady would eventually lead his team to multiple Super Bowl appearances and only Brady is still playing in the NFL.

Tom Brady played in his first Super Bowl on February 3rd, 2002, leading the New England Patriots to a 20-17 victory over the favored St. Louis Rams.  Later today, Brady will again be facing the Rams.  Things are a little different now.  For one thing, the St. Louis Rams are now the Los Angeles Rams.  For another thing, the Patriots are favored to win this time.

People love to hate on Tom Brady and the Patriots.  It’s understandable.  Most NFL quarterbacks are lucky if they’re still playing after their 34th birthday.  Tom Brady is 41 and still going strong.  Ever since Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe, he and the Patriots have played in 8 Super Bowls and they’ve won 5.  People love rooting for the underdog and, when it comes to football, that often means rooting against Brady and the Patriots.

But let’s get real.  The Rams aren’t going to beat the Patriots.  The Rams wouldn’t even be in the Super Bowl if not for a blown pass interference call.  Maybe the Saints could have beaten the Patriots but the Rams?  I don’t think so.

After losing to the Eagles last year, the Patriots have got something to prove this year.  I think they’re going to do just that.

My Super Bowl Prediction:

Patriots — 31

Rams — 17

A Late Review of PS4’s Spider-Man


It took me a little over a month to make my way through PS4’s Spider-Man.

I started playing around the middle of December and I finally completed the game on January 30th.  I didn’t play every day, of course.  There was one week when I was so busy with the real world that I didn’t play at all.  Most days, when I did play, I would spend maybe 60 to 90 minutes on the game, sometimes more and sometimes less.  All told, I’d estimate that it took about a total of 25 hours for me to finish the game’s story.  That’s not counting the time that I spent on side quests or the times when I would just swing through New York and appreciate the massive amount of work and detail that went into recreating Manhattan Island.

The first half of the game is probably one of the best advertisements for New York City that’s ever been put together.  Whether you’re swinging through Central Park or taking in the sights in Times Square, it’s hard not to get drawn into the game’s depiction of New York as being the most exciting city in the world.  Both Spider-Man and Mary Jane Watson get scenes in which they talk about how much they love New York.  At the start of the game’s third act, a major disaster happens and New York is suddenly trashed and no longer as friendly a place.  While the streets are controlled by the paramilitary mercenaries of Sable International, the rooftops are populated by snipers who think nothing of trying to shoot you while you’re trying to swing from mission to mission.  And yet, even when things are at their worst, the indomitable spirit of New York survives.  Even though a biological weapon has been detonated and there’s been a massive prison break, you can still find people taking a stroll through Central Park.  (Of course, now they’re wearing surgical masks and some of them are stopping to cough.)  Even after martial law is declared, you can still drop in on the quad at Empire U and find students hanging out.  J. Jonah Jameson (who, in this game, hosts Spider-Man’s favorite podcast) may be a braying fool most of the time but he’s right when he says that New York will never surrender.

(The game’s action is limited to Manhattan.  As much as I would have loved to have visited the Bronx, I understand that there’s only so much that one game can do.  When I tried to swim to Staten Island, I discovered that swimming is the one thing that Spider-Man does not do well.  When I tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, I got a warning telling me that I was “leaving the game.”  Maybe the sequel will take Spider-Man into the outer boroughs.)

Spider-Man is voiced by Yuri Lowenthal and, after playing this game, it’ll be impossible for me to ever think of Spider-Man as sounding like anyone else.  Whether he’s telling a bad joke or, when the game takes a detour into Spider-Man’s subconscious, battling his own demons, Lowenthal simply is Spider-Man.

The game features many of the members of Spider-Man’s supporting cast, with Yuri Watanabe, Mary Jane, Miles Morales, and Aunt May all making welcome appearances.  (Four of the story’s missions require the player to take on the roles of either MJ or Miles.)  As for the game’s villains, Doctor Octopus, Kingpin, Tombstone, Taskmaster, Norman Osborne, Mr. Negative, Electro, Vulture, Rhino, Scorpion, Screwball, and Shocker all play roles of varying importance.  Doctor Octopus is reimagined as being, before he goes bad, almost a surrogate father to Peter.  When Spider-Man battles him, he’s not only fighting Doctor Octopus but he’s also battling his own guilt.  We all know the old saying: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”  PS4’s Spider-Man is one of the few adaptations of the character that actually understands what that means.

While I liked the way that the villains were depicted and I think that this is one of the few Spider-Man adaptations to actually capture what makes Electro such an *ahem* electrifying character, I do wish that some of the boss battles had been more difficult.  While they do provide some challenge, they can also often be won just by pushing the dodge button until your opponents eventually tire themselves out.  For one battle, Spider-Man debuts a new suit designed to give him an advantage.  I won the battle without ever using the advantage.  Another battle can be won by finding a high place to perch on while your two opponents defeat themselves with friendly fire.

To anyone playing the game for the first time, my main warning would be to hold off on talking to a homeless man named Howard.  It’s tempting to go over and speak with him because his sidequest is located right next to the building where you go to visit Aunt May.  When you see the little blue diamond inviting you to visit with Howard, it’s hard to resist.  However, when you talk to Howard, you eventually end up agreeing to help him find all of his pet pigeons.  Those pigeons are located across the city and, as soon as you find yourself near any of them them, they’ll take off flying and, regardless of whatever else you may have going on, you’ll be expected to chase after them.  When it comes to Howard, hold off on talking to him until after you’ve taken care of the game’s main story.

Flaws aside, Spider-Man captures the spirit of its main character.  It’s not just about fighting crime, though there is a lot of that to do.  It’s also about making sure that Aunt May isn’t wearing herself out with her volunteer work.  It’s about trying to find time to cook dinner for MJ without neglecting the demands of being a super hero.  It’s about the sidequest where you rescue a civilian who, because he’s wandering around New York dressed like you, has attracted the wrong type of attention.  It’s about checking in on the research stations that Harry Osborne set up around the city before he mysteriously disappeared.  Sometimes, it’s just about taking the time to stop and take a selfie with a fan.  There’s plenty of action but, for me, the game was at its best when it was simply about Spider-Man swinging across Manhattan, looking for old backpacks and sometimes taking pictures of landmarks.

Spider-Man is one of the most enjoyable games that I’ve played in a while and I look forward to replaying it.  Next time, though, I’m telling Howard to collect his own pigeons…

Music Video of the Day: The Bubblemen Are Coming! by The Bubblemen (1988, directed by ????)


The Bubblemen are coming!

Who are the Bubblemen?

According to this video, the Bubblemen lived in London and looked like they might be offshoots of the infamous killer bees who used to appear during the early seasons of Saturday Night Live.  Underneath the Bubblemen costumes were Daniel Ash, Kevin Haskins, and David J, three former members of Bauhaus who later formed a band called Love and Rockets.

The Bubblemen were a side project of Love and Rockets.  They only released one single and video but they later made cameo appearances in the videos for Love and Rockets’ No New Tales To Tell and Yin and Yang (The Flowerpot Man).

The Bubblemen Are Coming was issued by Beggars Banquet Records and came with three additional tracks, Bubblemen Rap, Bubblemen Rap (Dub Version), and Bees.  The video perhaps achieved its greatest exposure when it was featured on an episode of Beavis and Butthead.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen it but, if I remember correctly, this video really freaked out Beavis.

Game Review: Deadline (1982, Infocom)


Wealthy industrialist Marshall Robner has been found dead in his study, with the door locked.  The autopsy says that he died of an overdose of antidepressants.  Was it suicide or was it murder?  And, if it was murder, who was responsible?  That’s the mystery that you’ve been given a limited amount of time to solve.

In Deadline, you play a police detective who has 12 hours to investigate and solve the mystery behind the death of Marshall Robson.  The game starts with your arrival at the sprawling Robner estate.  Do you immediately start interviewing the suspects or do you look for clues around the grounds?  Do you attend the reading of Robner’s will or do you search the study where he died?  It’s up to you but just remember that the clock is ticking!

Written by Marc Blank and released by Infocom, Deadline is a classic text adventure from 1982.  From the minute, you enter the Robner estate, you are interacting with suspects like Robner’s adulterous wife and his irresponsible son.  Their actions and their responses to your questions are determined by how you go about investigating the crime and one of the joys of the game is seeing how people react to different approaches.  (When it comes time to read Robner’s will, one character will either show up early or late, depending on whether or not you’ve shown them a key piece of evidence.)

The mystery is complex.  I played through the game a handful of times before realizing that one thing that I felt was very important was actually just a red herring.  The mystery can be solved but you’re going to have to play the game several times and experiment with being in different places at different times and showing different clues to different suspects.  Or you can just type “Deadline Walk-Through” into Google like I eventually did.

Like many other good games from the past, Deadline can currently be found in the Internet Archive.

Some Things I Liked In 2018


Since I don’t feel comfortable doing a traditional top ten list, I’m just going to list a few things that I liked in 2018.

When it comes to last year’s movies, my two favorite films were both comic book adaptations.  Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse both redefined what we traditionally expect from the comic book genre and they worked as both entertainment and as something a little bit deeper.

Among the other films I liked this year, Mission Impossible — Fallout reminded us of just how exciting a good action film can be while Game Night was hands down the best comedy of the year.  Deadpool 2 proved itself to be a worthy sequel while Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Three Identical Strangers, Free Solo, and Shirkers made this a great year for documentaries.

David Peisner’s Homey Don’t Play That was a fascinating book about the history of In Living Color, examining both the show’s tumultuous history and how it continues to be relevant today.  Also worth reading: Thanks A Lot, Mr. Kibblewhite by Roger Daltrey and Cult City by Daniel J. Flynn.

In a year that seemed to be dominated by adaptations of comic books, it seems appropriate that one of the best comics was about the history of the medium.  Written by Fred Van Lente and illustrated by Ryan Dunlavey and Adam Guzowski, Comics For All was the second installment in their Comic Book History of Comics.  No matter how much you think you may know about comic history, you’ll learn something new from Comics For All.

When it comes to the year’s video games, I’m torn.  Red Dead Redemption II is a totally immersive gaming experience that challenges much of what we’ve come to expect from video games.  On the other hand, Marvel’s Spider-Man is one of the most purely enjoyable games that I’ve ever played.  If I had to pick a best, I’d go with Red Dead Redemption but Spider-Man is the game that I’ll probably end up replaying a month from now.

On television, I continued to enjoy and occasionally be baffled by HBO’s Westworld.  I also enjoyed playing around with Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an interactive program that introduces you to a likable game designer and then give you the chance to totally mess up his life.

In the States, BBC America televised the the animated restoration of the “lost” Doctor Who serial, Shada.  As an episode of Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, Shada was just as disappointing as many have warned that it would be, an overextended mix of inside jokes about Cambridge.  However, as a piece of Doctor Who history, it was priceless.

Finally, as far as the year in music is concerned, I recommend The Who’s fifth studio album, Who’s Next.  I know Who’s Next came out in 1971 but good music is timeless.