‘X-Men’ Kicks Off Now Playing Podcast Summer of New Releases

Screen art for Now Playing's "X-Men" retrospective.
Screen art for Now Playing’s “X-Men” retrospective.

When Now Playing Podcast’s X-Men: Apocalypse episode arrives this week, it will kick start a summer schedule stacked with week of release reviews for the 9-year-old show and its panel of hosts.

In a way, Now Playing is going back to the beginning.

Longtime listeners will remember the early days, when the show launched with the goal of reviewing a just released flick every week. Those 2007-08 era shows are notable for their shorter run times (the first Iron Man review runs a little more than 8 minutes) and films that would never fit in Now Playing Retrospective Series (reviews of Fever Pitch and 21 are standout examples).

Having established its popularity and found its footing with the first retrospective (for Friday the 13th) in 2009, the show has stuck to its celebrated formula – review every film in a series leading up to the latest release. In summer that usually means a handful of new release reviews wrapped inside the longer retrospectives. Summer 2015, for example, was largely dedicated to the Mad Max and Mission Impossible franchises, with appearances by Marvel heroes and that Terminator sequel we’ve all forgotten.

The summer slate that begins with the aforementioned X-Men review will see the hosts back in theaters for eight new releases over the next 11 weeks, reviewing everything from the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Trek sequels, to DC Comics’ Suicide Squad. Three new retrospective series’ will make their debuts this summer, with Matt Damon’s Bourne films taking up the most space on the calendar, and the Independence Day and Ghostbusters franchises offered as a bonus in Now Playing’s bi-annual donation drive.

Listeners may even be in for a surprise or two, the host hinted. What that means is anyone’s guess, as the calendar turns to June and Now Playing’s summer schedule is stacked through Suicide Squad. The current schedule can be seen at the show’s website, and if you look closely your eyes are not deceiving you – there are two reviews coming for The Bourne Identity. Listeners who love Now Playing’s completist approach to Hollywood franchises will be delighted to know there was a 1988 television movie adaptation of the story, starring a post-Alan Quatermain Richard Chamberlain and former Charlie’s Angel Jaclyn Smith. That should be good.

‘Cap 3’ to challenge ‘Batman-Superman’

These are the kind of behind-the-scenes Hollywood moves I love.

Early this morning I read that Disney and Marvel Studios would not back down from a May 2016 release date for their next superhero tentpole, despite Warner Bros. moving its Batman-Superman flick to the traditional “Marvel May.”

Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Marvel has thrown down the gauntlet. Not only will it not back off May, it’s deploying Captain America (the studio’s second most-popular character, after Iron Man) to challenge Batman and Superman on the very same day: May, 6, 2016.

Awesome.

Would-be blockbusters have gone head-to-head in the past, but in the era of the superhero, this is unprecedented. These are make-or-break franchises for both studios, and Marvel is packing more ammunition.

The buzz surrounding this year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier feels bigger than any Marvel flick since The Avengers in 2012. By summer 2016, Cap will be coming off an appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron and the Marvel Cinematic Universe will have expanded into Phase Three with Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man.

Marvel also has a television presence with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Netflix is set to debut its Defenders series’ in 2015.

Warner, despite being the home of Batman, has yet to launch the first sequel in its superhero series. There’s no question Batman-Superman has buzz, especially with the polarizing casting choice of Ben Affleck as Batman.

(For the record, I’ve always liked Ben Affleck, can’t wait)

Unfortunately, the studio doesn’t have any other hero franchises raising awareness during the long wait for the Man of Steel sequel — not unless you count television’s Arrow, and the yet-to-debut series’ The Flash and Gotham.

So who blinks first? Will there even be blinking?

I tweeted earlier today that no matter what happens, the publicity surrounding this faceoff will benefit both studios, and again, both movies should be blockbusters.

But really, Marvel is holding all the cards. Warner Bros. should quietly change the release date and get to work on world-building. Otherwise, the studio better have a serious plan to counter the Disney marketing machine.

This should be good.

Batman-Superman moves in on ‘Marvel May’

tu-batman-supermanSummer 2015 just got a little less crowded.

Summer 2016 just got a whole lot more interesting.

Word came late Friday that Warner Bros. was pushing its biggest 2015 film, the still-untitled Batman-Superman team-up, back almost a full year.

The film will now hit theaters May 6, 2016.

While fans might protest the delay, there are two reasons Warner Bros. executives have reason to smile tonight.

First, they’ve saved their heroes from suffocating in one of the most crowded summer schedules in recent years.

Batman and Superman faced a three-pronged assault from Marvel Comics, which is headlining the summer with three films: Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man, a rebooted Fantastic Four and the biggest of them all, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

If that wasn’t enough, new entries in the Fast & Furious, Terminator, Jurassic Park, Mad Max and Bourne franchises also threatened to steal some of the spotlight (and box office) from the DC heroes.

Warner is hoping to use Batman-Superman as a launch pad for a long-awaited Justice League film that could include Wonder Woman, The Flash and Green Lantern.

Why steer that potential franchise into the frenzy and risk Batman-Superman becoming the “other superhero film” of the summer?

Friday’s announcement signals a strategy shift for Warner — a declaration that it will no longer be the runner-up in the annual summer of superheroes.

Marvel owns the month of May. Even before Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2008, the X-Men and Spider-Man were kicking off the summer movie season in May, and breaking box office records with sequel after sequel.

Now, the DC heroes are moving in on “Marvel May” and planting a flag of their own.

If its rivals yield rather than defend their territory, Batman-Superman could have a clear field of two, possibly three weekends as the biggest heroes on the block.

Come to think of it, that’s a lot of time to win over new fans and lay the groundwork for future films.

Warner appears to be following the Avengers blueprint; perhaps they’re already maneuvering a second superhero tentpole to follow that same summer?

It worked for Marvel.

Avengers assemble on Las Vegas Strip

Madame Tussauds is adding to its superhero lineup at the Venetian.

The museum will host a rope-cutting ceremony on Wednesday for its new Marvel 4D theater featuring The Avengers and other popular heroes.

The announced lineup includes Iron Man, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Chris Evans as Captain America.

It’s billed as the “largest lineup of Marvel figures” but only the “core four” of the Avengers team were mentioned in the announcement. I know Madame Tussauds has also created statues of Hulk, Spider-Man, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, so maybe they’ll also be there.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Madame Tussauds, but occasionally their people will bring a statue by the station for one of our shows.

Thor was here earlier this year, and the likeness was incredible. We were told Chris Hemsworth spent two days modeling for the figure.

According to a news release, the “4D” portion of the Marvel exhibit features a 10-minute film and special effects inside the theater – shaking seats, water splashes, etc.

This isn’t the only Marvel news making headlines in Las Vegas this week. Word on the street is Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is closing on Broadway and looking for new digs on the Strip.

The Associated Press reported that the official announcement will be made in the coming weeks. Looks like our entertainment team will be busy today trying to find out where the show will land.