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Tim Grierson on the 10th anniversary of “Spider-Man,” the superhero movie that made superhero movies cool again

Spider-Man

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As expected, “The Avengers” was a colossal hit this past weekend, cementing the fact that we’ve long lived in an era of comic-book movies. And it’s not going to end any time soon, not when you’ve got “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Man of Steel,” “The Wolverine” and several others coming our way in the next few years. (And that’s not even counting films like “Men in Black 3” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” which are based on comic books but don’t feature superheroes.) It’s easy to forget that it wasn’t always like this. In fact, 10 years ago, superhero films weren’t nearly the studio staple they are now. But in May 2002, that changed for good thanks to a little film called “Spider-Man.”

Not that long ago, it seemed unlikely that we would ever get a Spider-Man movie in our lifetime. Complicated rights issues over the property and a series of different treatments and scripts — including one written by James Cameron after the success of “Terminator 2” — had kept the project mired in endless pre-production since about 1985. But in the early 21st century, those legal woes got worked out and Sam Raimi (the man behind the “Evil Dead” films and “Darkman”) was brought on board to direct the film.

If the choice of Raimi, a beloved cult-film favorite, seemed risky, than so too was Sony’s pick for Spidey. Before “Spider-Man,” Tobey Maguire was mostly known as an indie actor from films like “The Cider House Rules,” “Wonder Boys” and “The Ice Storm.” By comparison, his co-star, Kirsten Dunst, had enjoyed some major hits in “Interview With the Vampire” and “Jumanji,” but that was back before she was even a teenager. Ultimately, though, the studio probably decided that it had found a respected filmmaker and two seasoned, acclaimed actors, which in the long run would hopefully mean more than their meager box office track record. After all, people were going to go to a Spider-Man movie because it had Spider-Man in it, not because it starred the kid from “Pleasantville.”

The gamble paid off handsomely. Boosted by good reviews, “Spider-Man” opened on May 3, 2002, grossing almost $115 million in the U.S. in its first weekend, crushing the previous record-holder, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” which had pulled in a measly $90 million. The film went on to be the year’s top U.S. grosser, behind only “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” worldwide. But more than that, it helped make comic-book movies a priority in Hollywood. “Spider-Man” didn’t do this alone, of course — “X-Men” had been one of 2000’s biggest hits — but at a time when Batman and Superman had fallen out of favor with moviegoers, the webslinger argued convincingly that audiences would still flock to a top-shelf superhero franchise.

We’re still feeling the effects of “Spider-Man.” Between 1996 and 2001, we only had one movie starring costumed superheroes end up as one of the year’s top 10 grossing films. From 2002 to the present, there’s only been one year where that hasn’t happened — and even in that case, in 2009, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” was still the year’s 13th-highest grosser. There had been early-May releases before “Spider-Man” that had been successful, including “The Mummy Returns,” but after “Spider-Man,” summer movie season officially started on that first weekend, often being the launching pad for other Marvel comic-book movies: “X2: X-Men United,” “Spider-Man 3,” “Iron Man,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Iron Man 2,” and, this year, “The Avengers.”

Ten years after the success of “Spider-Man,” Peter Parker is coming back to theaters in a rebooted form, “The Amazing Spider-Man,” although it’s funny that Sony seems to be recycling somewhat the strategy of how they put the first version together. Once again, the studio has brought on a director not known for blockbusters — Marc Webb, who previously directed “(500) Days of Summer” — and found a star known for artier fare in the form of Andrew Garfield. But unlike in 2002, “The Amazing Spider-Man” comes into a market where superhero movies are the norm, not the exception. Ten years ago, Sony had to prove that people would come out for a comic-book movie; now, they have to prove that people will come out for a new Spider-Man franchise.

“Spider-Man” provided the template for many future Marvel films, melding light comedy with action. The underlying idea was that, hey, comic books are a blast, and so this movie should be, too. You can feel that blueprint in “Iron Man,” “X-Men” and most certainly “The Avengers.” By comparison, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies have adopted a much more serious, brooding tone, creating the other template of the modern-day superhero flick. Interestingly, it looks like “The Amazing Spider-Man” is Sony’s way of making their own “Dark Knight” version of Spidey. How things have changed — and that’s not the only way. When it opened in May 2002, “Spider-Man” broke the record for best first-weekend opening ever. After “The Avengers,” it’s now merely the 13th best.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

via GIPHY

IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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