What’s The Deal With?…Cinematic Universes

Cinematic universes, or shared universes, are not a new thing when it comes to the film world.

Dating back to 1931, the Universal Monster Universe featuring characters like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Wolf Man have all shown up in each other’s films to create a cohesive world that saw familiar characters interact with each other. Having these characters being portrayed by the same actor or actress adds that extra bit of connective tissue that can make “standalone” films blend together in a much bigger way.

While universes like the Universal Monsters, Planet of the Apes, or James Bond (to a certain degree), have been around for decades, the modern version of this trend is one that has some fans voicing their displeasure. There seems to be a line being drawn in the sand when it comes to incorporating multiple characters and films under one roof in terms of how fans are reacting, but why?

As a kid, I loved seeing my favorite superheroes working together in comics and TV shows. Spider-Man got to hang out with the X-Men, Batman and Superman had their own cartoon, and even the Power Rangers got to meet up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Though the bulk of these crossovers I enjoyed came in the form of cartoons and TV shows, I always longed to see them together on the silver screen.

The late 90s/early 2000s ushered in a new age of comic book movies with films like X-Men, Blade, Spider-Man and the Dark Knight series, but something was missing. How come our heroes couldn’t meet up with each other? How come Batman didn’t have any help from the rest of the Justice League? Where are the other Avengers in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films?

One of the largest obstacles to overcome when crafting these cinematic universes has been the issue of film rights. When Marvel had to sell off a huge portion of their character film rights just to stay afloat, the prospect of ever seeing their champions together onscreen became nearly impossible. As Marvel had eventually been bought by Disney and gained financial stability, Kevin Feige had begun crafting what we now know and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At the time, he only had a small roster of lesser characters to choose from, though subsequent deals to re-acquire characters like Blade, Ghost Rider and Daredevil would be made. After the Sony hacks back in 2015, word began spreading about their uncertain financial future and an agreement to allow Marvel include Spider-Man in their universe was eventually made, as Spider-Man: Homecoming was released earlier this year and he appeared in Captain America: Civil War.

2008 saw Iron Man make his debut with then-shamed actor Robert Downey Jr donning the iron suit. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury would meet with Stark, where he referenced the Avengers Initiative in a post-credits scene for the film. The Incredible Hulk would follow just a month later after a post-credit scene saw Tony Stark conversing with Thunderbolt Ross, who would also appear later in Captain America: Civil War. Since that time, we’ve seen characters like Captain America, Thor, The Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and Doctor Strange get their own standalone films, sequels, and teamups in this shared universe. Though these heroes have had their own origin stories and adventures, Feige & Co. have carefully developed (for the most part) an all-encompassing world that sees these characters, plots and storylines woven together in a way that tells an overall story across the current 16-film epic with no end in sight. In the coming years we’re getting new characters added in with Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and the huge number of characters set to appear in next year’s Avengers: Infinity War.

Moving on to the DC front, the Joel Schumacher Batman films had all but killed the World’s Greatest Detective until Christopher Nolan resurrected him with 2005’s Batman Begins. Gone were the days of neon lights, bat nipples and “cool” puns, as Christian Bale portrayed Batman in a grounded, gritty way. Though completing his trilogy, Nolan had no inclusion of any of the other heroes in the DC pantheon, nor did we see any connection from Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns in 2006. It wasn’t until 2013’s Man of Steel did we see seeds being planted for a cinematic universe consisting of the DC gods.

Three years would go by until we finally got the crossover we’d all been waiting for when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice hit theatres and showed us glimpses of the upcoming Justice League. We finally got to see The Flash, Aquaman, Batman, Superman and Cyborg share screen time, though many fans didn’t quite get what they expected. We also got a Suicide Squad film that was not well-received at all, consisting of DC‘s villains in a weird teamup. Wonder Woman made her solo debut earlier this year and Aquaman is coming next year after Justice League hits this November.

Though DC is developing their own cinematic universe, it had been riddled in turmoil nearly from the start. They began having numerous issues with directors leaving projects, script rewrites, and speculation of Ben Affleck leaving his role of Batman. Most recently, director Matt Reeves made waves when he said that Batman would be a complete standalone film outside of the DCEU, only to recant his statements a day later. DC has also had an issue, in this writer’s opinion, of announcing too many upcoming projects before really having any concrete plan laid out. This week alone we had two different Joker films announced, with one reportedly recasting Jared Leto as the Clown Prince of Crime.

The state of disarray that seems to be taking place in the DCEU has led to rampant rumors and speculation of problems throughout the entire universe. It’s disheartening to have things announced only to have things being shifted, changed or scrapped. Why can’t DC just relax a bit and focus on making a few good films before going crazy and announcing so many other projects? The majority of their currently released films have been divisive at best and we really haven’t seen anything spectacular, in my opinion, though Wonder Woman was probably the best-received film to-date. Hopefully DC can figure out their issues and build something great, something that the fans can fully love and embrace. We’ve waited long enough to see these heroes be portrayed in a way that is both faithful and entertaining.

The debate over which of these two studios is doing a better job is not the topic of discussion here. Though I thoroughly enjoy most of the MCU, I have plenty of issues with some of their films that I won’t get into here. Feel free to spout out your “fanboy favoritism” in the comments, but know that I want all of these properties to be good and do well.

With all of these examples being laid out, let’s finally get into the topic at hand. What’s the deal with these cinematic universes? How is it that fans have gotten exactly what they’ve wanted for so long, only to start complaining about it? We’re getting huge tent pole teamup films, yet people complain that “not everything has to be connected” or “why can’t we just have standalone films? or “why didn’t this guy show up to help the other guy in that movie?”

Honestly, I’m not sure what people want. When we get Matt Reeves‘ standalone Batman, according to him now, it will be purely a Batman film with no inclusion of the other DC heroes. That’s fine, I have no problem with that. There’s nothing wrong with doing standalone films within a larger universe. Not every hero has to cameo in each other’s films. As long as there is connective tissue bringing them together in subtle ways without beating audiences over the head, I don’t see an issue.

In my opinion, I’m a fan of these cinematic universes and crossovers. I feel it adds gravitas and flavor to these films in a way that keeps me coming back for more. It’s certainly a challenge for these directors and bigwigs to paint such a large picture years in advance, which ultimately leads to plot holes and inconsistencies, which is understandable. I believe a level of caution needs to be exercised before announcing a slate of film years in advance, as there are so many moving parts.

Now I want to hear from you. Where do you stand on cinematic universes? Are they a good thing? What are some of your favorite ones? What films or characters would you like to see be crossed over into something new? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

 

 

 

A Look Back At The Cinescape’s First Year

By: Sean Harrigan

What a year it’s been! As I reflect on all of the amazing experiences that both Bill and myself have had during our first year running The Cinescape, I can’t help but be overjoyed by the success we’ve had. To be honest, we haven’t become major internet stars (yet) nor have we actually made any money off of anything, but those factors don’t weigh into my measurement of success. Knowing that we’ve amassed a humble fan following for both our podcast and our social media presence is proof enough that peope are enjoying what we are doing, and for now, that’s good enough for me.

I’m a big fan of numbers and statistics, so I’ll throw some at you now. As we stand today, we currently have:

While these numbers may not be astronomical compared to some of the larger online shows in our genre, the fact that Bill and myself, two working-class guys just out to have some fun, have developed a respectable following for our brand in a short amount of time is pretty cool for us. My favorite number is the podcast download number. To think that last month more than 12,000 people listened to our show blows my mind. Never did I think that 12 people would be listening when we first started, let alone 12,000. We do our best to provide fun, entertaining and informative content to our listeners & viewers, and its a real testament to you all for helping us grow so much during year one. To that, we wanted to thank you all.

You may be thinking “But Sean, besides your statistics, what else have you accomplished?” – good question. Over the past year, we have been fortunate to network with a lot of great people in the entertainment industry which has led to us landing some great special guests, people like:

These awesome guests added a lot of great insider knowledge to our shows that they appeared on and helped to add credibility to our brand. The fact that we’ve gotten some high-profile guests on our show highlights both the power of social media networking and our desire to be more than a simple podcast. Branching off of that last point, we have done our best to go above and beyond for the sake of our show. We’ve attended conventions like Wizard World Philadelphia and Nostalgia Fest which led to us getting to meet and interview some great celebrities like:

  • Tia Carrere (Wayne’s World)
  • Donald Gibb (Revenge of the Nerds)
  • David Faustino (Married With Children)
  • Michael Winslow (Police Academy)
  • Chris Owen (American Pie)
  • Jake Busey (Starship Troopers)
  • Vanessa Angel (Kingpin)
  • Corbin Bernsen (Major League)
  • Rob Liefeld (Deadpool creator)
  • Rider Strong (Boy Meets World)
  • Kristy Swanson (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

Aside from everything I mentioned above, my personal favorite memory has been my experience meetig & interviewing Hugh Jackman at the world premiere of Logan in New York. You’ve heard me reference this plenty of times in the past, so I won’t beat a dead horse…but I got to meet and interview friggin’ Hugh Jackman!

We really have been lucky with a lot of the things we’ve gotten to do, but we also put a lot of time and effort into the product we put out, which has led to us securing a show sponsor to help with paying for our studio time, press passes to events like Wizard World Philadelphia, invites to press screenings and more.

I know you’re all thinking “But Sean, now that you’re heading into year 2, what will you do to make the show better or different? – another good question. Bill and I are always looking for new ways to improve our show. We frequently hang out and talk about things to add or change and we’re throwing around some new ideas. We’re on the verge of starting our own bar quizzo business. The money we make off of that will go directly back into the show so that we can add some more technology into our videos, have great giveaways for our fans, and maybe even broadcast from special events. We believe our growing reputation will make it easier to book more guests for future shows, but we also need your help. The more likes, comments, shares, and subscriptions we get on our shows and social media pages, the better our brand looks to potential guests.

We’re very much looking forward to our first birthday show coming up on Saturday, September 3rd at 2:00 PM/EST which will feature our very special in-studio guest in the form of Steve Morrison from the Preston & Steve Show on 93.3 WMMR in Philadelphia. We also look forward to the new challenges that we are sure to face in expanding The Cinescape for our growing fanbase. We could not do what we do without your support.

To leave you with something “new” as you anxiously await our next show, enjoy this special highlight video which chronicles our experiences during this very special first year. Thanks for being a part of our community!

 

 

Wizard World Philadelphia 2017 Recap

This article was written in June of 2017

The summer convention circuit is in full swing, as Wizard World has returned to the Philadelphia Convention Center. This year, I was fortunate enough to get a press pass to the event, much to the chagrin of the rest of my group of friends that had to pay full price to get into the event. With my bank account safe from the hit, we arrived and were immediately engrossed in a world of cosplayers, vendors, live music, special events and celebrity guests with the likes of John Cusack, Chuck Norris, Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Rooker, Kristy Swanson, and many more.

It was a blast walking around the venue checking out the awesome art, custom weapons, comics, toys, collectibles and everything that Wizard World had to offer. I really love how the floor space in the convention center is so conducive for such a large event to be easy navigable for so many people in attendance. Despite the large crowd, it’s very easy to move freely around the floor without bumping into others or feeling crowded. Waiting in lines for things like food, beverages, booths and celebrity panels was also not bad at all this year.

My group and I made several laps around the floor, spending more than 6 hours exploring the vast array of goods and wares that were available. Though I did not purchase anything this year, I got to bring home more than material objects. Since Bill and I have been doing our podcast, we’ve gotten quite good at talking to celebrities and coaxing them into interviews. We got the chance to have a nice conversation with Thomas Ian Nicholas (Rookie of the Year, American Pie). Thomas was a really awesome, down to earth guy to talk with and we spent several minutes with him. Thomas even agreed to call into our next show for an interview (which airs tomorrow at the time of me writing this article). Though he’ll still be at Wizard World, he was gracious enough to take some time away from his duties and give us a call and we’re very excited to talk to him.

We also got to chat with and say hello to a number of the other guests in attendance: Lou Ferrigno, Michael Rooker, Will Friedle, and we even got show IDs from Rider Strong, Kristy Swanson and Deadpool creator Rob Liefeld. On a personal note, I was super excited to meet and talk with Rider Strong, as Boy Meets World is and will always be my favorite TV show of all time. The guests that we got to talk to were all super nice and seemed happy to be there, which is something that really matters to us fans. There’s nothing worse than meeting someone you’ve grown up following, only to meet them and realize they’re a jerk.

I feel very fortunate to not only have been granted a press pass, but just to be able to have the opportunity to attend events like this. It’s such a great way for us normal people to rub elbows with Hollywood stars, if even for a brief minute or two. I want to thank everyone that helped to make Wizard World Philadelphia another great event, the stars in attendance, and the fans that show up to support the convention each year. If you have never attended a convention like this, you absolutely need to do so. Check out more of our recap during episode 21 of our show.

Nostalgia Fest 2017 Recap

This article was written in April 2017

This past weekend brought the Philadelphia area Nostalgia Fest, a 2-day convention featuring movie & TV stars from the 80s & 90s. On top of the celebrities in attendance were lots of vendors, food trucks, a live band and plenty of people dressed in their raddest retro gear and cosplay. The event, held at Fisher’s Tudor House in Bensalem, PA, brought older and newer fans together to re-live the trends of the 80s & 90s in a super fun way.

The celebrities in attendance: Gary Busey, Jake Busey, Tia Carrere, Vanessa Angel, Dustin Diamond, Michael Winslow, Chris Owen, Corbin Bernsen, Donald Gibb, Gedde Watanabe were all extremely nice and friendly. They took the time to sign autographs, take photos and chat with the fans in attendance.

My co-host Bill Tozzi and I, along with “Toxic” Mike Francolino, Brian “Fishman” Fish, DJ Ruban & Greg “Gory” Kerrigan from Toxic Radio all helped to man the Toxic Radio tent. We had music playing on our speakers and even had a prize wheel for fans to spin to win prizes on our table. While walking around the venue, Bill and I were able to chat with most of the celebrities, getting some pictures, station IDs and interviews.

I got to interview Tia Carrere early in the day at the Toxic Radio tent and she was such a sweet lady. She seemed relly excited to be there interacting with the fans. We also got to chat at length with Donald Gibb, Vanessa Angel, Michael Winslow, and Chris Owen.

When I say we chatted at length with Chris Owen, I truly mean AT LENGTH. If I hadn’t pulled Bill away from Chris’s table he might still be there talking to him as I write this. Chris was such a cool guy to talk to and really seemed to enjoy talking with us. We recorded a really fun interview with him that you can check out here.

All in all, the day was a blast. Getting to mingle with stars that I grew up watching was such a cool experience and it was great that they were all so happy to be there with us as well (except for Gary Busey).

However, the event as a whole was a failure due to behind the scenes circumstances. We talked about the failures of the convention during an episode of The Cinescape Podcast, so I won’t go further into detail in this post. Don’t expect to see this event ever again.

Sean’s Experience at the Logan Press Junket

This article was written in February 2017

A few weeks ago, I came across a contest on ScreenRant.com that was offering one lucky fan the chance to come to New York City to see the new Logan film. But that’s not all; the winner would also be able to attend the press junket to interview Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman. I entered the contest, not thinking too much of it. I’ve entered plenty of contests before with little luck, though I did get to see an early screening of Captain America: Civil War thanks to Collider.com.

     Anyway, a week goes by, and, to be honest, I had completely forgotten about the contest altogether. I was on my way to work when I was rear-ended on the highway. My car was totaled and I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Thankfully, with no serious injuries, I was released a few hours later. On my way home, I received an e-mail from a gentleman named Rob Keyes. Rob notified me that I had been chosen as the winner of Screen Rant’s contest, much to my shock and initial disbelief.

 

     I quickly replied back to Rob, asking if the e-mail was legit. Rob confirmed that it was and that I’d been chosen as the winner. I could not believe it. After the morning I was having with my accident, my luck had taken a complete 180. The next few days were very sore ones as I recovered from my accident, but the sheer thought of being able to meet and interview Hugh Jackman had lifted my spirits. I began composing questions to ask Hugh during the interview. I was able to get my travel arrangements nailed down, thanks to an awesome girl named Molly, from Fox. The initial plan was for me to fly to New York, but as I live outside of Philadelphia, a short train ride would suffice.

Day 1

     After a week that felt like an eternity, the anticipation at its peak, the day finally arrived. My wife dropped me off at the train station and I was on my way. After a 90-minute train ride and a pain in the butt time trying to get a cab, I arrived at the beautiful NoMo Soho Hotel in New York City. I had just enough time to get checked in and order a quick bite to eat from room service. After scarfing down my burger, I was back downstairs to meet Rob and head a few blocks over to the Crosby Street Theatre for the screening. 

     As I got into the elevator to head down to the lobby, Steve “Frosty” Weintraub from Collider was standing in there. I had previously met Steve at the ‘Civil War’ screening last year, as he ran the event and held a Q&A session with directors Joe & Anthony Russo. I found Rob and we headed to the theatre. As we got to the main lobby, I began to recognize various bloggers and internet personalitie like: Grae Drake from Rotten Tomatoes, Eliot Dewberry & Ricky Hayberg from The ETC Show, Scott Mantz from Access Hollywood, and Dan Casey from Nerdist. Because I’ve been following sites and shows that people like these appear on or write for, seeing them in person was, to me, like seeing a celebrity. 

     The film started, and while I won’t write about the details here, was good. The film followed with a reception in the bar area where we all got to mingle and talk. I was able to get a picture with Scott Mantz and chat with him for a few minutes. No sooner did I say hello and introduce myself to him did he immediately jump right into a conversation with me like we had been old friends. Seriously, he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. After an eventful day & night, Rob and I headed back toward the hotel. When I got back to the room, I began typing up this post and editing some video that I shot as well. I did my best to document as much of my experience as I could to share out with friends, family and fans of my show, The Cinescape Podcast. As awesome as this first night had been, the next day was sure to be even better.

Day 2

     After waking up and ordering a nice breakfast, I found out that my interview wouldn’t be until after 1:00 PM, so I spent a few hours working on some videos and other news topics for The Cinescape. Finally, I walked over to the Crosby Street Theatre to meet Rob, where a nice buffet spread was laid out for us. I talked more with Scott Mantz, as I found out he’s originally from the same area I live. He also gave me his business card and agreed to call in to my show sometime. I also got to chat with Eliot Dewberry and Ricky Hayberg from ETC as well as Dan Casey from Nerdist and Steve Weintraub from Collider for a bit. 

     Rob and I were called upstairs to wait for our turn to the interview room. I watched Eliot and Ricky continue their “feud” with Scott and even made eye contact with Sir Patrick Stewart right before he got onto an elevator. I just narrowly missed my chance for a photo-op! After 15-20 minutes, it was my turn. Staff prepped me for what to expect as I entered a room full of lights, cameras and, well…action! There stood Hugh Jackman, smiling, greeting me. For a second I felt like I was hallucinating.

     I sat down for the interview, star struck, hoping to not mess anything up. A quick joke from Hugh loosened me up and I fired back with a joke of my own. I asked him when to expect Kate & Leopold 2, which he laughed at and said that his wife would like for that one to happen. I got the chance to ask a few more questions and Hugh answered them in turn, seeming genuinely interested in everything I had to ask him. I can’t tell you how nice of a guy he was. It would be so easy for him to turn his nose up in the air and think that he’s above all of the “common folk” like myself and the other people there, but he was awesome. He was charming and funny and made me feel comfortable during the few precious minutes I had with him. The minutes seemed to fly by at light speed, and just like that, my interview with Hugh was over. He did tell me that this was absolutely the last time he’d be playing Wolverine, and it sounded like he meant it. Another handshake and I was back out the door.

     Rob and I collected the video disks from our interviews, as he had also interviewed Patrick Stewart, director James Mangold and villain of the film Boyd Holbrook earlier in the day. Back downstairs, we chatted for a few more minutes before the cab I called for arrived to take me back to Penn Station. Fox also gave everyone in attendance books with artwork from the film: beautiful black and white images taken by photographers from the film as well as James Mangold himself. The photos had been released periodically online as promotional material for the movie. As I finish up this article from the train, I take back with me not only physical souvenirs and photographs, but once in a lifetime memories that I will cherish forever. This whole event has deepened my passion for wanting to get into the entertainment business and I made some really good contacts and connections that could prove fruitful in the future. I hope you have enjoyed sharing my experience from the pictures, videos, and posts I’ve shared. A major thank you to Rob Keyes, Screen Rant, Molly Doherty and Fox for this amazing opportunity. Rob, you were so awesome to hang out with and I enjoyed our conversations on movies, TV and hockey as well. Thanks for sharing in this all with me.

Movie Marketing Overload

The goal of marketing a movie is to get as many people in the theatre as possible. I get it. Understandable. Successful film studios strategically market their films nowadays as early as a year from release, and the results speak for themselves. With blockbuster films in the super hero genre leading the way in box office dollars, we are being flooded with trailers, tv spots, product integration and online viral marketing, and frankly, I am beginning to get annoyed.

     Take, for instance, Captain America: Civil War. This is my MOST ANTICIPATED movie of 2016. I am itching to see it and have had my tickets for weeks. I can’t stress enough how excited I am to see it. Marvel/Disney has began showing press and advanced special screenings to critics and fans alike, and the buzz around how great this movie is leaves me salivating.

     My problem with the marketing scheme for this movie is that we have been getting so many tv spots and trailers that it feels like we’ve seen about half of the movie already. It seems like everyday for the past 2 weeks there is some kind of new promotion for the movie, and while I want to get my hands on everything I can regarding this film, I haven’t been watching them. Enough is enough. Everybody knows this movie is coming out.

     The same thing happened in 2014 with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The marketing push for that movie saturated the market so badly that I feel it began to turn people off from actually seeing it, or started to annoy them enough that they went into the movie with negativity because of how much they were being shown. It’s like watching a tv show and seeing the same commercials over and over again. When I keep seeing the same commercial enough, I make it a point to stay away from that product strictly out of annoyance.

     Again, I understand the need to market the hell out of an upcoming movie, trying to make as much money on that specific property that the studio can. But when do they say “Ok, we’ve shown them enough, let’s let up a bit”? That line is being blurred and we are constantly bombarded with trailers that have 5 seconds of new footage, mixed in with clips we’ve seen 4 or 5 times already.

     

Deadpool had an incredible marketing strategy, in that the studio marketed the film in a way to crossed traditional methods, heavily focusing on online clips and short pieces, while still having trailers and tv spots, but a no point did I feel like I was being beaten over the head with ads for that movie.

     I am not a marketing strategist, I don’t work for a public relations firm or film studio, but I have to think that there are better ways to market films than to release a new clip for the same film every day for 2 weeks leading up to the film’s release. End rant.

     I want to hear YOUR opinions on film marketing. Are you ok with getting so many clips and trailers for a movie you’re excited about? Or do you think the “less is more” strategy can still be effective?

Movie Theatre Etiquette

Have you ever been in a theatre and had a bad experience? I know I have, and I’m going to talk about this very topic.

Enter scene: it’s the advanced screening of X-Men: Days of Future Past the night before premiere night. My friends and I have had tickets for weeks. Since 2008’s Iron Man we have steadily seen the advanced screenings of all major superhero films. t’s 9:00. Walking in, there’s a baby stroller in the aisle. Already not good. We sit down and the movie starts.

During the first act, there are a group of what I assume were kids or teenagers a few rows back talking. I let it go, but am beginning to get annoyed. Fast forward a little bit and the talking is still happening and the baby (assumedly from the empty stroller) is crying. My blood pressure is climbing. I can’t take it anymore and decide to say something to the talkers. My wife is now getting mad at me because I said something to them.

Although the movie was really good, my theatre experience was ruined by the distractions and I left the theatre angry. What kind of a-hole talks loudly during a movie? And who brings an infant to a late movie? I still can’t fathom why people do the things they do in theatres, but it’s ridiculous. People these days have no respect for one another. When I go to see a movie and pay the prices I do, I expect a dark theatre with no distractions. Shut your mouth, stay in your seat, turn your phone off and find a babysitter. Don’t ruin everyone else’s time because your a self-centered jerk. The world doesn’t revolve around you.