Hollywood’s biggest names from the stage, screen and television, along with luminaries from the world of comics and thousands of adoring fans, gathered Wednesday evening at the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood to celebrate the life and career of legendary storyteller, Stan Lee. “Excelsior! A Celebration of the Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible & Uncanny Life of Stan Lee” was a fitting tribute to the man many simply referred to as “Stan,” but who was revered as a hero like the many unforgettable ones he created.
The historic, star-studded event was attended by dozens of Stan’s closest industry friends, as well as many creators and entertainers who paid respects and shared fond memories of the man who influenced their lives, many since childhood. Kevin Smith, Mark Hamill, Laurence Fishburne, Seth Green, RZA, Black Eyed Peas apl.de.ap and Taboo, Clark Gregg, Felicia Day, Wesley Snipes, Phil Lord, Amy Pascal, Bill Duke, Wesley Snipes, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, cast members from Marvel’s “The Runaways,” cast members from FX’s “Legion,” and Fox’s “The Gifted,” were among many who shared personal stories, read Stan’s favorite poetry or performed during the historic tribute.
Smith said during the tribute, “I knew Stan for 23 years, and one of the most ironic things I thought about today was that he didn’t understand his own genius in this lifetime. This was a man who spent most of his life dreaming of writing the great American novel, and never realized he had done it so many times, over and over again.”
The tribute commenced at the TCL Chinese Theatre forecourt, where fans left flowers, candles and other keepsakes around a memorial centered around Stan’s cement imprint, and signed a book of condolences. Fans were immersed in a world of Stan through art, including iconic photos, artwork, Stan’s classic comic books and memorabilia also on display, along with a special preview of pop-culture artist Rob Prior’s upcoming gallery show The Legacy Collection of Stan Lee. Prior completed a live painting in the forecourt and artist Jennifer Contini featured her series “This Love Lives On” featuring images of Stan Lee. Attendees also indulged in one of Stan’s favorite snacks, White Castle, as the White Castle Crave Mobile served sliders in the forecourt.
Producers of the event, fan-owned Legion M’s Terri Lubaroff and David Baxter, Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment’s Bob Sabouni and Agents of Mayhem’s Darren Passarello, greeted fans and introduced several public speakers before Kevin Smith arrived and assembled an honor guard of world class cosplayers representing many of Stan’s co-creations, including Avengers, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, and more who paid their respects and led the crowd in a final salute to this legendary pop culture icon accompanied by a police band of pipes and drums playing “Amazing Grace.”
Veterans from Veterans in Media & Entertainment and The American Legion of Hollywood Post 43 honored Stan for his service during World War II, and Chief Paul Cell, President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, recognized Stan’s contributions for his work supporting law enforcement and creating safer communities.
Family from the other co-creators of the Marvel Universe attended to pay their respects and joined in the celebration, including Tracy and Jeremy Kirby, grandchildren of Jack Kirby, Mark and Stephen Ditko, nephews of Steve Ditko, and Jenna Parker, daughter of Sol Brodsky, all of whom were part of the original Marvel Bullpen.
After red-carpet arrivals, the tribute continued in the TCL Chinese IMAX Theatre where Kevin Smith moderated conversations with celebrity speakers from the entertainment industry including Seth Green, Michael Uslan (Executive Producer, “The Dark Knight”), Tom DeSanto (Executive Producer, “X-Men”), as well as a heartfelt message from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Actor Laurence Fishburne said, “I was a New York City boy, and Stan was writing about what was outside my window. That was so important because it was about the place where I was from, and that just opened my eyes to the possibility that you could be so much more.”
Nikki Frakes, director “With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story” remembered a conversation she had with Stan, “I asked him, like he had been asked so many times, what would your superpower be? And normally he says ‘love’, but that night he said ‘immortality’. Looking out and seeing everyone here tonight I think we all know that he has achieved that immortality in each of us.”
Members of the creative team behind the Academy Award®-nominated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” including writer/producer Phil Lord and producers Chris Miller, Avi Arad and Amy Pascal were also on stage to honor Stan. Producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Derek Hoffman rounded off the evening’s panels as they spoke to and celebrated the modern impact of Stan’s characters through two decades of X-Men in film and television.
Former Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad said, “Marvel was always the standout in storytelling. It was about humanity. People being friendly, people being frail, people being afraid, and showing us that anyone can be a hero.”
The evening also included discussions with stars from the comics world and Stan’s personal friends, including Marv Wolfman (Blade creator), Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada and Executive VP, Head of Television Jeph Loeb, artist Bill Sienkiewicz (Elektra: Assassin), and Stan’s business partner at Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment, Gill Champion, its president.
The celebration also featured video tributes from stars who are unable to attend, including Dwayne Johnson, William Shatner, George Takei, and David Tennant, as well as live celebrity performances of Stan’s favorite music and poetry.
The tribute event was produced by Fan-Owned entertainment company Legion M, multi-media company Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment, and production and consulting company Agents of Mayhem. Legion M organized Stan Lee’s hand and foot imprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre in 2017. Darren Passarello, Agents of Mayhem founder, worked for Stan for several years. Both companies worked closely with Bob Sabouni, Chief Marketing Officer of Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment. Under the leadership of Scott D. Williams, CEO, and Gill Champion, president, the company has been and will continue to ensure Stan Lee’s legacy continues on for generations to come.
Many incredible sponsors made Stan’s tribute a reality and the event’s producers would like to thank 1540, Los Angeles Comic Con, the San Francisco Giants, Lyft, Heritage Auctions, Sony PlayStation, Good Greek Grill, TCL Chinese Theatre, TCL Corporate, White Castle, Audible, Constellation Spirits, Wine and Beer, Dave & Busters, Deluxe, Elevated Chefs, Floor 84, Foundry Literary + Media, GBK, Golden Apple Comics, Veterans in Media & Entertainment, The American Legion of Hollywood Post 43, Entertainment Earth, Audible, Lootcrate.
All net proceeds from the event will go to the non-profit organization The Hero Initiative, a charity supporting comic book creators, artists and writers in need. Producers of the tribute event will continue to share memories from the event via social media feeds. Feel free to follow the social channels for Kevin Smith, Legion M, Agents of Mayhem, and Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment. (@TheRealStanLee, @ThatKevinSmith, @LegionMOfficial, @AgentsofMayhem).
Midnight Mass: The Blood of Life
The isolated island community of Crockett receives a mysterious new head priest, full of secrets and a brand new testament under a very unusual Messenger of God.
Meet poor Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), freshly released from prison and wracked with guilt over what got him there, a stupid drinking accident that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend. The last thing he wants to do is go back to Crockett and the judgment of the mostly religious community there, his disappointed family, and the nightmares of his ex’s death that plague him. But where else would have him? Resignedly on the ferry, he goes.
Riley’s dad Ed (Henry Thomas) isn’t the kind of man who talks very much at all, much less about his feelings, or his very real disappointment in his elder son. Riley’s teen brother Warren (Igby Rigney) has no idea what to say to him either, and just generally keeps mum. Riley’s mom Annie (Kristin Lehman) is accepting and loving, hesitant in how to help her eldest son but never wavering in her faith in the help of our lord Jesus. Mom seems to think a good heaping dose of the Church would set Riley right but is surprised to learn that the old priest of the Parish, Pruitt, has taken an extended leave of absence from the island, and his newcomer replacement Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is young, charismatic, and bursting at the seams to tell the whole island about the gifts he brought them, most especially what he claims as a new testament under a messenger of God.
We’ll get back to that whole ball of issues in a moment, the other interesting characters of Crockett Island. Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) is the nightmarish overly polite and gently, almost lovingly condescending neighbor Christian woman you’ve ever loathed, the kind of person who explains away every last thing her Church may do wrong or contradictory because, after all, God works in mysterious ways. Pfft. Of course, Bev immediately ingratiates herself as the second to the new Father Paul in their services and is the first to start covering up his transgressions as they become more rampant.
Newcomers to Crockett Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) present a burgeoning problem to the plans of Father Paul and his shadowy companion, for they are both practicing Muslims. The practical side of investigating these so-called ‘miracles’ and strange happenings falls on Hassan’s shoulders, as he already struggles with barely-concealed racism and suspicion from his fellow islanders, and of course his son is being wooed away from him by the promise of actual, tangible miracles, but from a different whole faith and God. Father Paul definitely does not practice a traditional Christian faith and relies far too much on making use of the eucharist, the ceremony of the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ turning into bread and wine and, well, consumed.
Wade (Michael Trucco) and his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint) are lifers of the island and both in general interested in one thing, the advancement of their own family, specifically their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone), who happens to be in a wheelchair. And that happens to be the canny Father Paul’s first real miracle-with-a-cost that he demonstrates to the astonishment of the parishioners, after a heartfelt and rousing sermon, Father Paul commands Leeza to rise, to stand, and to walk. And lo, she does. What parents wouldn’t wholly dedicate themselves to a cause after seeing this happen to their beloved precious daughter? The fringe benefits of healing, and power, the ones that come at a mighty, currently unnamed, cost, are simply a nice bonus.
Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet) is the town drunk, and while his reasons for drowning his sorrows in the sauce might be understandable, absolution wears a very different face when it comes from Father Paul. While Leeza might be willing to forgive Joe, and even as Joe begins attending the newly-formed Al-Anon meetings on the island of course hosted by Father Paul, redemption might’ve been better sought from medical professionals, and not this newfound method of religious worship.
Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish) is the islands’ kind of all-around medic, and this is how she and Riley’s old friend Erin (Kate Siegel), also newly returned to the island, a few months pregnant but traveling quietly alone, met when Erin comes to the Doc for obstetrics. Sarah’s older mother Mildred Gunning (Alexandra Essoe) has many medical and mental issues, and Sarah struggles in their shared home, to take care of her addled mom and balance her own life. Then Father Paul takes it upon himself to visit one of his oldest parishioners, bringing the sacred host and wine with him to give directly to Mildred, who starts looking and acting so much better under his loving care.
The show is very much a slow slow burn, with a lot of the actual action taking place in the last two episodes. Much of the beginning and middle episodes feature two people just sitting alone, having quiet and seriously in-depth conversations about heavy subjects – grief and repentance, what happens when we die, the disasters that come as a result of addictions, how our actions’ consequences reverberate to those we love around us, faith and the foibles of man, and of course, the giving of oneself over to a higher power, for strength, and guidance, and love.
Except, for the higher power that Father Paul brought back with him, to share with his beloved flock of Crockett Island, while it may be extremely powerful and full of what could be considered miraculous magic, everything comes at some kind of a cost. And when the Messenger of God is finally revealed to the shocked denizens of Crockett at Easter Mass, with Father Paul rapturing on about rebirth as the bloody massacre begins in earnest, it’s faith, not in any kind of God or religion, but faith in each other, that may save a few hardy souls.
Question the wisdom of your religious leaders along with the rest of us in a fine slow-burn addition to the Flanaverse, Midnight Mass is on Netflix now!
Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!
Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer!
First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive!
So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance.
Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth.
The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge!
First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer.
A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now!
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Netflix’s latest series, is a rollicking journey through the world of video game culture, blending nostalgic references with a fresh narrative twist. Centered around Scott Pilgrim, portrayed with magnetic charisma by Michael Cera, the show skillfully integrates gaming elements into its storytelling, creating a delightful homage to the video game subculture.
The series cleverly employs pixelated graphics, power-up animations, and game-like sound effects to bring the virtual world to life. These visual cues, reminiscent of classic video games, enhance the storytelling and resonate with audiences familiar with the gaming landscape. The attention to detail in recreating iconic gaming moments is commendable, creating a visual and auditory treat for enthusiasts.
The exploration of video game culture goes beyond mere aesthetics; it becomes an integral part of the characters’ identities and interactions. The script intelligently weaves gaming terminology and tropes into the dialogue, effectively blending the real and virtual worlds. The series navigates the challenges and triumphs of the characters through the lens of gaming, making it a unique and engaging experience for both gamers and general audiences.
The ensemble cast, including standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Chris Evans embraces the gaming theme with infectious enthusiasm. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, adding emotional depth to the series.
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” successfully taps into the zeitgeist of video game culture, offering a nostalgic yet contemporary take on the gaming phenomenon. It’s a must-watch for those who cherish the pixelated roots of the gaming world while providing an accessible and entertaining narrative for a broader audience. The series takes off not only in its title but also in its ability to soar within the ever-expanding realm of Netflix originals.