Thursday, November 23, 2023

Can a Humbug Hum?


Years ago I posted an article about the Bill Murray film  Scrooged and gave a brief history of the Dickens story on which it was based, A Christmas Carol. As well as highlight some of those classic films (and TV shows).

A brief reiteration: There are two holiday traditions that I have to get into the holidays: One is every Christmas Eve I watch It's A Wonderful Life. The other is I watch a version of Dickens' classic tale.  A few years ago there was even a fictional account of the struggles Dickens himself had while trying to write that story, The Man Who Invented Christmas

 Just the other day I came across a magazine at the checkout stand.




You know, these things always crop up now and again.  I must've picked up several of them over the years. I have 3 just dedicated to Marvel comics and the movies made from them.  (Blatant Promotion! Watch this blog for a review of those movies coming next year.) 

The magazines are highly entertaining if you find one that has an appeal to one of your interests.  But, truth be told, they are really just glorified coffee table books in magazine form.  The print copy is just an afterthought, the real attraction is some of the pictures within.

Occasionally the print copy will enlighten though, especially if you are unaware of it.  For instance, as much as I knew about the story behind A Christmas Carol,  I was unaware that Dickens named Jacob Marley after an acquaintance he met at a dinner party, a physician named Miles Marley.  The physician apparently introduced himself to Dickens for the sole purpose of getting his name in a Dickens story. He knew that Dickens liked to use odd and unique names for his characters.

Recently I acquired a copy of the Jim Carrey version of the film.  I had seen the previously released How the Grinch Stole Christmas with Carrey in the theater, but I completely missed the opportunity to see this one.  When I ran across it at the used bookstore earlier this year I quite naturally latched on to it.  Of course, I had to wait until the Christmas season rolled around to watch it, because, after all, I did have my tradition to keep.

A Christmas Carol (2009):

Of course, everyone above, say, the age of 5, is probably already is familiar with the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation from a "squeezing,  wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous" old man to a generous life-loving new man.  To go into a complete review of the plot of this version would, therefore, be repetitive.  But, then, this would be a rather short review if I just told you I liked or didn't like it...

This is an animated version of the story, the only one, to my knowledge, that was actually a full length theatrically released animated version, as opposed to using real people to portray the story.  "Theatrically" being the key word.  Of course there were numerous TV animated versions.  And I don't include any that may or may not have been released to theaters in countries other than the US, because I think there actually was one released to theaters in the UK, but that one was only a direct to video release here.

Actually it's more correct to call this a "captured motion" film, which as I understand it, it was filmed with real people and then animated digitally in the studio.  So, in other words, Carrey and his costars performed the film and then the computer geniuses in the production studio created a computerized animation of it for the film. (at least, that's how I THINK it was done. I'm not a "computer genius"...)  So in the real person form, Jim Carrey and his costars could do the scene and, as in the case of the Ghosts, Jim Carrey could actually voice two different characters in the same scene.  (Cary Elwes, for instance, was a stand-in in the scenes featuring the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, but in the production studios, Jim Carrey could voice both.)

In contrast to the book, this version includes an insight into the skinflint nature of Ebenezer Scrooge (voiced by Jim Carrey).  It begins with the death of Scrooge's partner, Jacob Marley.  Scrooge has to pay the embalmer and reluctantly dips in to his coin purse to pay the bill.  But before he leaves, he absconds with the coins over Marley's eyes. (A tradition that is not common these days, and it's origin is debated.  But suffice to say that coins were placed over the eyes prior to burial.  Whether it was to "pay the ferryman" or just as a practical way of keeping the eyes from opening during burial, I can't say.)




Then we flash forward to the traditional story, seven years later, and from here the film follows along quite nicely with the familiar opening; that of Scrooge's nephew's ((voiced by Colin Firth) entreaty to Scrooge to join him and his family in their Christmas day celebration. As well as that of a pair of do-gooders trying to get Scrooge to donate to a charity.

(Here I will interject a problem I've always had with the story.  These charity people are showing up on Scrooge's doorstep unaware of the fact that Marley has been dead for seven years.  They don't know if they are addressing Scrooge or Marley.  Had these guys never bothered Scrooge for donations in the preceding seven years? And how is that they, despite quite a lot of others already aware of it, don't know that Scrooge ought to be avoided like the plague, because he is a grumpy, foul-tempered cheap miser?)

When Scrooge gets home, he is visited by the spirit of his dead partner Jacob (voiced by Gary Oldman). This is one of the most impressive scenes in the film.  Previous live-action films had limited ways of presenting Marley.  Prior to this, I thought that Frank Finlay in the TV version that featured George C. Scott in the pivotal Scrooge role had done he best.  But this animated version really brought the horror of Marley's Ghost to full fruition.





As per the traditional story, Marley tells Scrooge that he is trying to save Scrooge from the same terrible fate that he himself has suffered since his death, and thus Scrooge will be visited by three spirits. From here on the story progresses as one would expect from a telling of the classic story.  Scrooge visits the halcyon days of the past (his own past) which turn out to have some good memories, as well as one or two bad ones.  (He lost his one true love in favor of another love, that of the love of a woman for his love of money).  He also has an adventure with the Ghost of Christmas Present where he sees the hovel his poor clerk has to live, discovering that Bob has a son who will soon die if his ailment is not remedied, as well as a look at the party he disparaged given by his nephew.  In both, despite Scrooge's cruel attitudes towards them, he discovers that they still wish him a pleasant Christmas.







Then comes the Ghost of Christmas Future who shows Scrooge people who are reacting with frivolity to the death of a still unknown man who was a not well-loved one.  When Scrooge entreats the Ghost to show him some sorrow and bereavement instead of the frivolity, the Ghost shows him Bob and his family, who are distraught over the death of Tim.  And of course we must see the familiar scene where the Ghost reveals who the dead man was.

Upon his arrival back home, Scrooge of course is transformed and happily discovers that Christmas is still nigh, so he can get started right away with his change of life.

One thing you should know about this version.  It is far more a ghost story with all the creepiness that is attributed to such stories (and truer to the spirit of the ghost story aspect of the original story.).  It's a fun version, and although it will not move up to replace my absolute favorite version, that of the George C. Scott one from the 80's, I think I can safely ensconce it into second place. The critics on Rotten Tomatoes are only about %0% in agreement, but Roger Ebert did give it a 4 star rating, and I'll get behind him on that.

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas this year.



Sunday, November 19, 2023

Mummy Dearest





 This is my entry in The Two Jacks Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room


What if?  There are rumors, or at least there were, that Elvis faked his own death.  Witness the many "sightings" of Elvis at the grocery store, or filling up at the gas pump at the station, or door-to-door vacuum cleaner sales. 

Believe it or not, there have also been rumors that John F. Kennedy survived his assassination attempt. Not so many people claim to have actually seen him wandering the streets, true, but many of the inconsistencies surrounding his death and the aftermath have led to some admittedly crackpot theories.

A fascinating read on the subject is "Who Shot JFK? A Guide to the Major Conspiracy Theories" by Bob Callahan.  The book covers everything from the reasonably believable (The C.I.A. or the Russians or the Cubans were involved) to the downright insane (aliens were involved).  If I'm not mistaken that's where I first read about a theory that the body that was autopsied at Parkland was not the President but a look-alike and JFK survived the assassination.

My personal belief, after years of reading various theories, is that Lee Harvey Oswald may not have been the one who actually succeeded in his attempt, although I do not subscribe to the theory that he was not actually involved. I also do not subscribe to that theory that it was someone else that died.

However, it does make for an interesting "what if?"  So that what if is a sub-context of today's post.

Bubba Ho-Tep  (2002):

Living in a nursing home, an elderly man lives in a barely coherent state, thinking about his past life, and watching the poor souls around him dying off, as will happen in such a place.  After all, old age does come along in a stealthy manner. The old man lies in his bed, lamenting the decline of his sexual libido. And musing about his past, wondering if his ex Priscilla would come to see him if she knew he was there. 

Priscilla. As in Priscilla Presley.  For this isn't just any old man. This is THE Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell).  Yeah, the one who supposedly died in the 70's.  Only the staff believes his real name is Sebastian Haff, a former Elvis impersonator.  Because, see, just prior to the death of Elvis, Elvis had gone to one of the best Elvis impersonators in the business and made a deal to trade with him.  Sebastian would take the place of Elvis and be the center of all that attention, and Elvis would become Haff, just a normal Joe, albeit one who made his living impersonating Elvis.




(Just a note: I don't have any idea if such a thing existed prior to Elvis' death.  I personally thought the rise of impersonators only became such a thing after his death.  But maybe someone who has been around longer than me could clear that up.)

Anyway, Elvis/Sebastian's roommate dies and the daughter of the man shows up to collect his stuff.  A rather self-centered girl, she had only been there once before, 20 years earlier, to drop him off.  In the process of her visit, Elvis reveals his true past.  He had made a deal with Haff to switch places, with a codicil in the contract between them that if Elvis wanted his old life back he could do it.  But the contract burned up in a fire. And in the following years Elvis had been hurt while performing under the impersonator guise. And the imitator had died in a hotel room while still playing the "real" Elvis. So only the real Elvis knows the truth. And the rest of the world still thinks he's a delusional impersonator.

Elvis (I will call him that for the rest of the review) has only one real friend in the nursing home.  Elvis thinks the old man has lost most of his marbles because this old man thinks he is John F. Kennedy. What complicates this matter is the old man (Ossie Davis) is black, and of course, JFK was white.  The way Jack tells it is they dyed his skin black, among other things.

The nursing home garners a new resident, albeit not one who is registered with the staff.  This new resident, instead, is a manifestation of the evil spirit of a dead Egyptian mummy(?) JFK and Elvis discover this soul eater, and Jack has some ideas.  He has a book about the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Not the real book you may have heard of, however.  This is one called The Everyday Man and Woman's Book of the Dead.

Jack thinks he's figured out what happened.  This Egyptian mummy has risen from the dead and needs souls to survive.  What better way to get it's nourishment than around an old folk's home where it's not curious that people are dying?

And what got Jack to thinking about this?  He found some graffiti in the stall of one of the restrooms. Hieroglyphs, but still your standard fare for public restroom graffiti."Pharaoh gobbles donkey goobers." and "Cleopatra does the nasty." (Did I mention this is a comedy/horror film?)

Elvis is not entirely convinced, of course, and thinks Jack is just nuts. Until a few moments later when he meets the mummy face to face, decked out in boots and a cowboy hat, yet. 




He also gets a vision of what happened, not only in the long past, as in how the mummy died in ancient Egypt, but even a glimpse into the recent past, when the rediscovered mummy is being transported by bus and the bus crashes off a bridge into the local river. Which explains how Bubba Ho-Tep, as Elvis has named him, came to be hanging around the rest home.

How the mummy came to be on a bus is pretty funny, too.  It seems some thieves hijacked the mummy for ransom. (It wasn't like it was King Tut, with all the security guards around to guard the valuable relic.  He was just a lesser known mummy, probably King Tut's brother...) But the thieves were transporting their illicit cargo by bus and ran into a storm in East Texas and crashed into the local river.

So Elvis and Jack know the truth, but since everyone else thinks their old coots who are losing their grasp on sanity, it's up to them to save the rest home and the rest of society from this scourge of the undead.

I'll leave it up to you to watch to see how it all comes out.  Bubba Ho-Tep makes for some pretty good entertainment.  And believe it or not, Roger Ebert gave it 3 out of 4 stars (take that as you will). It won two U.S. Comedy Arts Film Festival Awards (Best Actor and Best Film) (Side note: I don't know that much about the USCA awards. It was an HBO sponsored event than only lasted about 13 years, from 1995-2008. And I can't find a page on the internet that lists what it was up against.)

It was also an "Official Selection" for several film festivals including one that is near and dear to my heart because of it's local venue the SXSW (South by Southwest) Film Festival in Austin. Hey, it's not Gone with the Wind, but as long as you can get a feel for comedy/horror it is just as good as say, The Evil Dead, (one of star Bruce Campbell's first films). And you get to see Ossie Davis put on a good tongue-in-cheek performance as a black John F, Kennedy.

Well, time to fire up the old Plymouth, and go "take care of business".  Drive safely, folks.


Saturday, November 18, 2023

Toon Noir






Did you know, some movies change over time without you even being aware of it having changed? Not really, of course, but attitudes change as you grow older, seemingly making whole movies change perspective.  That's the way I felt, anyway,  when I recently re-watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the movie getting an entire makeover from what I remembered from seeing it the first time.

The Stephen Spielberg niche in my mind is one of family friendly films like E.T., Hook, and even to some extent, the Indiana Jones films. (Not to discredit the less than "family friendly" films like Jaws and Saving Private Ryan...) But I honestly remembered a much more wholesome movie when it came to Roger Rabbit

But upon re-watching it, I encountered some pretty disturbing scenes.  Although I never had kids myself, I imagined some kids being traumatized by some aspects of the movie.  I had to alter my viewpoint as a result and classify this more as a movie for adults with a still nostagic bent towards the cartoons of their childhood, but with a more mature outlook on life.

To wit, the final scene in which, spoiler alert, the villain Judge Doom (spoiler alert!) meets his demise. The scene is pretty horrific from a point of view of watching it as a movie fror kids.  Not that it was necessarily meant for kids.  After all, there are some pretty adult things going on in it. Does anybody who ever saw it as an adult really think Jessica Rabbit is all that wholesome for kids?

I saw it at the ripe old age of 27 in the theater. I took my sister to see it.  Not sure whether she actually liked it, but I enjoyed it.  But watching it just the other day I began to re-think my opinions about it.  I imagine some kids might have been traumatized by the scene with Judge Doom.  And I'm quite certain Jessica's sexuality sailed right over their heads.

The movie is sort of an homage to classic film noir, so many of the familiar tropes of that genre appear in this film, whether for comic relief or for serious plot advances.  The detective who is down on his luck or just trying to get by, the femme fatale (who it turns out is not so "fatale", but still..).  The bad guy who is not everything he appears to be at the outset.

Anyway, just in case you have never seen it, or are considering a family night, be forewarned: it is probably a good idea to watch it by yourself first before that planned family night with the kids.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988):

It's the 1947. In this alternate universe, cartoon characters (called "'toons") live side by side with humans. They are segregated because all of the 'toons live in Toontown, an animated world.

Alcoholic detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) takes on whatever jobs he can get to pay the bills, although his alcoholism limits him.  The job he is in line for is as a snoop, checking out the assignations of the wife of film star Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer).




Jessica (voiced by Kathleen Turner)  is a singer at The Ink and Paint Club, a human bar that features 'toon performing acts.  Initially Eddie shows up thinking he is going to see a female rabbit, but Jessica is a human form 'toon. And she sings a steamy rendition of a classic song "Why Don't You Do Right".(which is not Turner, but Amy Irving, who, at the time, was married to Spielberg). At the bar Eddie meets Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye) who is rumored to be making time with Jessica.




After the show, Eddie follows Jessica and Marvin and snaps pictures of them playing "pattycake" (OK, so far so good, still not wholesome, but not entirely questionable.  Roger is devastated when he hears the news and loses his happy mood.

Hours later, Marvin ends up dead, with a piano having been dropped on his head. Eddie is not exactly heartbroken, however, because he had a similar thing happen to his brother years earlier when a 'toon dropped a safe on his brother's head.  But suspicion immediately falls on Roger as the culprit.

Enter Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd).  Doom is a human who has managed to become the big wig in Toontown.  But he is a very vicious leader.  He has made it his goal to find Roger, try him and execute him for the murder.  Not an entirely easy goal, because everyone thinks that 'toons are indestructible. 




But Doom has discovered a concoction that will perform the trick. Which he demonstrates by using an innocent by-standing animated boot.  

Roger shows up at Eddie's office proclaiming his innocence and pleads with Eddie to hide him and find out what really happened/ In classic film noir fashion, Eddie is roped into proving the innocence of a man, I mean 'toon, that he really doesn't like.  Eddie has a deep seated dislike for 'toons in general, because it was a 'toon that killed his brother,

In true noir fashion, the detective does some investigating and finds out that there is some subterfuge going on behind the scenes, including a missing will that Acme had which would give over ownership of Toontown to the 'toons.  Without the will it becomes the property of the highest bidder which turns out to be a front called Cloverleaf Industries which has been willy nilly buying up companies and dismantling them.

Why? Well it turns out that Judge Doom is the sole stockholder in the company and he has some nefarious plans all in the name of progress.  Progress that most people are not aware of, especially Toontown, which stands in the way of said progress.

I'm willing to bet that at least 80% of you have seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit? so it won't be a surprise to you to find out that Judge Doom plans to destroy Toontown in the name of progress, which includes building a freeway through the heart of Toontown. Or what's left of Toontown, anyway.

The big surprise of course is that Judge Doom himself is a 'toon.  And the aforementioned defeat of Doom reveals not only that Doom is a 'toon, but he was the 'toon that killed Eddie's brother.  (No real surprise there. You had to see it coming that Doom figured into Eddie's past. It's another defining characteristic/trope of film noir.

The death of Doom is one of the trauma inducing features of the movie that redefined the movie for me in retrospect.  I still think it's a great movie. Just not one I'd recommend for kids.

Well, the old Plymouth will still get me home.  Thankfully Doom's freeway is not a part of my trip, although you can't avoid the real ones much these days.

Drive safely, folks.


Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Family That Slays Together Stays Together

 This is my entry in the Familyathon blogathon hosted by  18 Cinema Lane






A few years ago I reviewed the sequel to The Godfather, The Godfather Part II for another blogathon. I had intended to get back to the primary film at some point, and I might have if the crisis of  COVID hadn't thrown me into a 2 year funk of apathy about doing this blog.

The Family is the primary focus of The Godfather. After all, it is the one oft repeated focus in the movie "never go against the family". The family, of course is ostensibly, the Mafia, but the real family is the Corleone family. (And if you've seen my review for Part II, you know that the Don came from Sicily and was given the last name by the immigration in error; he was originally from the town of Corleone in Sicily. His original name was Andolini.)

How you deal with issues in the family when dealing with outsiders to the family is a main story line.  You stick together through thick and thin, and you defend the honor of your family against anyone who might come in to try to break up the family.




 The Godfather (1972):

The beginning of the movie is a scene of the wedding of Don Corleone's (Marlon Brando) daughter, Connie (Talia Shire) to Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo). 




One of the things about Sicilians that is brought to the fore is that Don Corleone is meeting with various people because no Sicilian can deny a request at his daughter's marriage.  So we get an undertaker asking for revenge for the honor of his daughter who had been gang raped,  The culprits had been let go with basically a slap on the wrists.  The undertaker wants them dead in the name of "justice",  but, as the Don rightly points out, that is not "justice" because the daughter lived.  So the undertaker settles for some people to show up and beat the crap out of the culprits.


Also a baker asks for Corleone's help in keeping an employee from being deported because, after all, the baker's daughter is in love with him and would be devastated by the loss. 


Finally, a godson, Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) who was a great singer but is on bad times and is struggling in Hollywood. (What exactly is his problem with his career as a singer is curious, because he sings a song for the wedding party and does pretty well.)  Anyway, he wants a part in a movie, but the director hates his guts and refuses to give him the part.



"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" is a classic line that everyone has probably heard and that is from this movie.  Of course, Corleone manages to help the baker's employee stay and sends some associates to extract a semblance of justice from the rapists, but one of the key scenes involves how the director is convinced to let Fontane have the coveted part. (This is one of the most iconic scenes in the movie, but heads up, don't eat anything before watching it...)



The main focus of the film is a controversy between Corleone and the rest of the Five Families (the Mafia, which it is never called in the film.  This was a concession Coppola made with the Mob to have their cooperation and not cause problems during production.) Because Corleone is a holdover from a more conservative era, he is causing some distress in the world of organized crime.  Prostitution? OK. Gambling? Sure. But drugs? That is not exactly Corleone's favorite. He is absolutely sure that his contacts in the legal world (senators, police, etc) would not be as friendly if The Family got into dealing drugs.  So when a sub-general in the underworld, Solozzo (Al Lettieri) approaches the Don about backing him, Corleone refuses, even though Solozzo tells him that some of the other Five Families are willing to get in on the ground floor.

The Don's oldest son, Sonny (James Caan) is not so reluctant and expresses an interest in front of Solozzo, which distresses the Don.  After Solozzo leaves, he slaps Sonny's face and tells him to "never let anyone outside the family know what you are thinking." Sonny is a hot head.  He also loves his sister and there are a few scenes where he defends her against her abusive husband.

In direct contrast to Sonny are the Don's other two sons. Fredo (John Cazale) is a wimp who won't stand up for himself.  In addition, there is Michael (Al Pacino), a WWII veteran who doesn't really want to get involved with the family business.  Micheal is engaged to Kay (Diane Keaton), a wholly naive but determined woman.

The conflict with Solozzo comes to a head when an attempt on the Don's life is made.  He is gunned down in the city street, but survives.  While at the hospital a transformation occurs with Michael.  He saves his father from an additional assassination attempt and garners an enemy in the form of a corrupt police captain.  The whole thing comes to a head when Michael agrees to kill both Solozzo and the captain at a meeting and is forced into hiding in Sicily.

Here we find that the battle between the other families and the Corleone's is rampaging, resulting in the death of many figures in the underworld.  Meanwhile, while in Sicily, and supposedly safe from the goings on in New York, Sonny falls in love and marries a Sicilian girl.  But the world of New York ends up visiting him in Sicily and an attempt is made on his life.  He survives, but his poor young wife does not.

Meanwhile, life  in New York has gotten pretty uncomfortable.  There is a war of the families trying to establish a control over the city and its vices.  Many of the deaths that occurred during the war were of higher ups in the echelon, although there were a lot of subordinates and probably more than a few bystanders. 

One of the key scenes in the movie involves the hotheaded Sonny.  He gets a call that his sister has been beaten up once again by her abusive husband, and Sonny, in a fit of rage, storms out of the family compound, despite the efforts of Tom and a couple of others to stop him.  Unfortunately for Sonny, the whole thing was a setup and he is killed in a trap by opposing mobsters at a tollbooth.

Michael returns to New York and has been transformed.  He takes over the family operations while his father retires from the criminal activity. And Michael steps into the role with gusto.  Anyone who stands in his way is dispatched.  

Michael doesn't garner many friends, and eventually even alienates his sister, since her husband Carlo was part of the plot that led Sonny into his untimely demise at the previously mentioned tollbooth. Carlo and several others close to the family are dispatched in typical mobster fashion.  The end result is the Corleone family is now established as the premiere family in the Five Families echelon.

The Godfather was a big hit with the public as well as the Oscars. It garnered 10 nominations at the event, although it only walked away with three.  (My opinion is it got rooked for Best Supporting Actor.  Both Caan and Pacino were up for it, but lost to Joel Grey for his role in Cabaret.)   

Family values of the sort used by The Family might seem a little harsh given what The Family does for business, but you can't deny the basic line that you stick together through thick and thin despite the slings and arrows.

Time to fire up the old Plymouth and head home.  I think I'll bypass the tollbooths, though.




Wednesday, November 15, 2023

The Marvel-ous Past






The past comes up as I grow older.  My father operated a gas station/garage all his life.  When I was younger, he also catered to the lake crowd. (We lived on the edge of Lake Texoma, which for years was a weekend mecca for Dallas and other residents, in the days before Dallas built their own lakes.)  He stocked his store with groceries and even had a magazine rack.  He would go to the magazine stand in Denison, the next town over, every week or so and restock his magazine rack with various magazines and comic books.

(BTW, the operator of that magazine stand, called "Main Street News", was known to me as "Hightower", Only his last name was known to me, and I always called him that.  He eschewed being called "Mr.", at least as my memory serves. He was the father of Jim Hightower, however, a Texas politician and author, so if I really wanted to do some research I could find out what his first name was.  Maybe Jim Hightower himself will read this post and enlighten me...)

Anyway, among the stuff that my father would get were comic books which included such things as superhero comics. And since I was in the store all the time, I got to read any magazines he had.  I always preferred Marvel over DC, mainly because the characters had more human foibles.  Superman rarely had anything more complicated in his personal life than keeping his identity a secret from Lois Lane.  But Spider-man, on the other hand, was originally just a kid who dealt with the problems that young guys had to deal with as well as his new found abilities.  And, my favorite character, The Thing (from the Fantastic Four) was actually a grousing cranky geezer who often bitched about everything.

There were various attempts to bring Marvel characters to the big and small screen over the years.  Captain America (1944) got a 15 part serial featuring Dick Purcell, although that character had a drastic change from the comic book origin.  In the comic book, of course, the character was a soldier who got dosed with a super serum that transformed him into a super soldier, the Captain America of the serial was a district attorney  And he wasn't a superhero in the sense that he had been given super powers.  He was more like Batman, just an average Joe who dressed up in a costume to fight crime.

There was a long time before any other Marvel characters would be given a chance to shine.  The next time would not be until the 60's when The Fantastic Four and Spider-man got their shots at the screen, albeit as animated cartoon series, Both aired in the late 60's. Live action would not return for several years however.

One of the first attempts was with Captain America (again). Starring Reb Brown, these were decent, but got mixed reviews, so a TV series was not produced.  Several years later, in 1990, another attempt was made at the TV screen, with, once again, Captain America and starring Matt Salinger. This attempt, too, was not a huge hit.  Captain America, it seems was not as popular as he was when fighting WWII villains like the Nazis.

By the time Marvel was ready to try theaters again, it was the 21st century.  The first to get a shot was a band of superheroes, the X-Men, featuring Patrick Stewart as the mentor, Dr. X. The first X-Men (2000) opened the door for a few sequels, as well as some other superhero characters from the Marvel vaults. Spider-Man, featuring Tobey MacGuire generated a trilogy of movies and The Fantastic Fouralso got a couple of films. Between 200 and 2007 some 15 movies were released featuring on or another of Marvel characters.

But the real heyday of Marvel films began with what is now referred to as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which had a running story line, with all of the characters in it eventually melding to a final confrontation in Avengers:Endgame in 2019.  And the MCU story line continued on after that movie with a new story that continues even today.

Next year (beginning in January 2024) , I have plans to cover the entire run of the first three phases of the MCU story, beginning with 2008's Iron Man.  As the plan is now, these will appear one per week, and the plan is to review each one in order of their appearance in the theater. (I had originally thought to do it in a historical time line of the films, but I like this idea better, because it simplifies things.)

Most of them I actually saw in the theater when they were released.  The coolest thing, and one that many people were slow to catch on to, is you HAVE to watch the whole movie, including the credits, because at the end, after credits rolled, there was always a tantalizing teaser of the next installment in the series. Sort of like those 15 part serials from the 30's and 40's, if you ever watched any of those. (As a side note: Apparently producer Kevin Feige got the idea from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, which had an after credits scene with Ferris (Matthew Broderick) addressing the audience. ("Are you still here? It's over. Go home")

OK, so come back next year for the films.  I'll still be here until then doing other stuff, not to worry, but the MCU saga will be started, hopefully, Jan. 6)