Marvel and Sony agreement unites Spider-Man and Avengers' cinematic universe at last

Written by Sharon Eberson on .


Sony Pictures and Marvel announced today that "the new Spider-Man" will appear in a Marvel film from Marvel's Cinematic Universe (MCU), and Sony will thereafter release the next installment of its Spider-Man franchise, on July 28, 2017, in a film that will be co-produced by Marvel's Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal and the team at Marvel.

Spider-Man is the most successful franchise in the history of Sony Pictures, taking in more than $4 billion worldwide.

"Together, they will collaborate on a new creative direction for the webslinger. Sony Pictures will continue to finance, distribute, own and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films," according to the announcement at


Marvel and Sony Pictures are also exploring opportunities to integrate characters from the Marvel into future Spidey films, the statement said.

It continued, "The new relationship follows a decade of speculation among fans about whether Spider-Man – who has always been an integral and important part of the larger Marvel Universe in the comic books – could become part of the Marvel Universe on the big screen. Spider-Man has more than 50 years of history in Marvel's world, and with this deal, fans will be able to experience Spider-Man taking his rightful place among other Super Heroes in the MCU."

The report did not confirm rampant speculation that Andrew Garfield would not be back as Spider-Man after two films as Peter Parker. The deal follows on the heels of a petition after "Sony recently declined the opportunity to include Spider-Man in the upcoming Civil War movie, in which he plays a major role," according to

Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, said, "This is the right decision for the franchise, for our business, for Marvel, and for the fans."


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Gillian Jacobs still part of the "Community"

Written by Maria Sciullo on .

"It's back from the dead!"

Gillian Jacobs, who plays Britta Perry on beloved cult sitcom, "Community," might have added a demonic laugh here (something along the lines of "muahahahahaha!"). Instead, she waxed philosophic in recalling the rise and fall and rise and fall of the former NBC show.

Despite a social media campaign to save it after years of near-cancellation (#sixseasonsandamovie), "Community" was cancelled, for real, last year.

"I was shocked when it was cancelled but I guess I should have seen the writing on the wall," said Jacobs, who was a theater kid growing up in Mt. Lebanon. "But to be an emotionally healthy person, you have to move on."

brittaIn the waning days of the contract with NBC, Yahoo! Screen stepped in and announced it would air 13 episodes of a new season of "Community." 

The entire season will be available March 17. Earlier episodes are currently running on the site.

What began as creator Dan Harmon's strange little world of a community college study group morphed into the kind of meta, quotable show that defies easy explanation (imagine if Ken Burns produced a documentary about a town of giant blanket fortresses). But fans adored it.

So perhaps the mystery is, why wasn't the show bounced from network TV a lot earlier?

"It really is a remarkable gift, for a show that had such a small, cult audience, to have made over a hundred episodes now," said Jacobs, who recently made her directorial debut with a short documentary, "The Queen of Code."

"It's kind of incredible. And I do think we're part of television history as part of this crazy journey."

After "Community" wraps, Jacobs is set to star in a new Judd Apatow comedy on Netflix, "Love." Joining Jacobs is Paul Rust, as a couple exploring their relationship. It's already been given a two-season commitment.







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Going on an On Demand movie spree: 'The Humbling' and 'Wild Card'

Written by Sharon Eberson on .

On evenings when I'm not at a live-performance or movie theater or having a girl's night out — or both — I watch lot of TV. A lot. You might know that if you listen to the weekly Tuned In podcast where I chat with colleagues Rob Owen and Maria Sciullo and I usually talk up "The Flash," "Arrow," "Sleepy Hollow," BBC America shows ... you get the picture. The generally messy interior of my house reflects this. I should probably clean or do some chores while watching, and sometimes I do, but texting, tweeting and playing Words With Friends tends to fill the gaps when I can't fast-forward through commercials of a DVR'd show.

That's a lot of throat-clearing to say I've added to my small-screen routine recently — watching same-day-as-theater movies on Comcast On Demand. I'll admit to also renting "Guardians of the Galaxy" to watch with my son because it makes us smile. A lot (echo intentional). It's my favorite non-drama of 2014.

The two movies I watched this week are about as far from "Guardians" as you can get, but I went there.

I sat down to "The Humbling" not because of Al Pacino or Barry Levinson or co-writers including Philip Roth and Buck Henry, or even the fact that it was about an aging theater star in the throes of a nervous breakdown. "Birdman" is still fresh in my mind, an adrenalin-filled movie-theater mashup, with Michael Keaton brilliant at the core of a terrific cast, so no, I wasn't dying to see this one. But it has a Pittsburgh tie going for it — Billy Porter (below, center) has a small role, and short of getting to New York to see his American Songbook concert at Lincoln Center, I figured the least I could do was catch this film.


Pacino goes to raw, uncomfortable places in "The Humbling" as his character faces the indignity of aging and waning celebrity. After a stint in a rehab facility, he becomes infatuated with a manipulative woman (Greta Gerwig) young enough to be his granddaughter. He discovers she is a lesbian, but he's already in lust. He seems to have friends who care about him — Charles Grodin, another Pittsburgh tie, has a cameo as his manager — and he still has job offers, yet he's paralyzed in a self-loathing state.

Pacino's Simon Axler does not internalize his feelings. He talks, a lot, including to his therapist (Dylan Walsh) via Skype. Sometimes it seems his is the only voice, and it gets grating. It's as if he's drowning out the sane voices trying to guide him back to his former self.

Porter appears about half-way through in a role that is, well, a big twist on "Kinky Boots' " Lola. That's enough of a spoiler as it is, but it's a quiet role, shoe-horned into an already uncomfortable scenario, and it adds to the eerie feeling of doom in a character study of a downhill spiral.

I saw Pacino in "A Merchant of Venice" on Broadway and he's such a present, committed actor onstage. Here we see him pathetic, exposed, and it's not a place I'd want to share again on a gloomy, snowy day.

And so we come to On Demand movie No. 2, "Wild Card," which could easily have been called "Leaving Las Vegas" if that title wasn't taken. I've stated before that I'm a Jason Statham fan. When he's not mutilating people on film, I think there's a charisma there that could carry him through a movie without a body count. This is not that movie.

I was hopeful when I saw that Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci, Jason Alexander and Sofia Vergara were in the film, and curious about Anne Heche. All have cameos that elevate this excuse to see down-on-his-luck Statham fight his way out of a few ridiculously violent situations. His character — named Nick Wild, for heaven's sakes — is a security consultant with a gambling problem. He shares office space with Alexander, who introduces himself to a potential client as, "I'm Pinky Zion, attorney at law."

The names are great fun in the William Goldman screenplay based on his novel — Tucci's Vegas bigwig is called Baby; Heche is a waitress named Roxy; Vergara, DD (with Statham below). But Raymond Chandler, it's not.


A friend of Nick's is brutally raped and wants revenge against the son of a crime lord who did the deed. There's also a rich Mark Zuckerberg type, a geeky 23-year-old who wants Nick to help him get over living with fear. Nick, all the while reluctant to use his killer fighting skills and longing for life on a sailboat in Corsica, can't seem to stay out of trouble. Go figure.

Much of the violence in "Wild Card" is cringe-worthy, cover-your-eyes stuff for someone like me who is not big on spurting blood. Perhaps it's not just me — critics give it a 24 percent rating, the audience, 41 percent, according to "The Humbling," 52 percent and 38 percent.

I also recently caught the charming, Oscar-nominated "The Boxtrolls" On Demand, and that makes it three movies for the theater price of two. All in all, I still prefer the big-screen, see-it-with-an-audience experience when I can make it out of the house without salting and shoveling first, but this is a nice option.

I've seen all nine Oscar-nominated films in theaters, and it wouldn't have been nearly as awesome to see "The LEGO Movie" or "Guardians" only on a small screen.


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Print parody of Budweiser puppy commercial an advertising misfire

Written by Maria Sciullo on . has topped itself this time, offending thousands of people online days before the Super Bowl.

GoDaddy, an Internet domain registrar and Web hosting company, created a mean-spirited parody of Budweiser's feel-good Super Bowl spot that was sure to rankle viewers and keep the brand name trending.

It generated media buzz, all right, but now is dealing with the fallout.

A little background here: Budweiser debuted its 2015 ad on NBC's "Today" Tuesday morning. It featured a cute little puppy that winds up far from home when accidentally locked in the back of a truck (anyone here remember that episode of "Timmy and Lassie"?)

The puppy perseveres through storms and dark of night, and finally makes it home with the help of some horsey friends. Melted hearts all around.

In the GoDaddy version, the little fellow also bounds joyfully home. But "Buddy" is quickly shipped off as merchandise -- it's tough to tell if the owner is running a puppy mill or just your average backyard breeder. She used GoDaddy, of course, to build her business's web site.

No one can accuse GoDaddy of good taste in its previous Super Bowl attempts. Its commercials have been sexist and not particularly original, but they got people talking. This time, however, its ads made the mistake of underestimating how much we care for pets. 

"The Budweiser ad is adorable and builds on the Americana approach Bud has been using so successfully," said John Elisco of Pittsburgh-based Elisco Advertising's Creative Cafe. "GoDaddy’s parody is a massive miscalculation on how much people love animals and their pets. It made me wonder if GoDaddy remembered the public reaction to Michael Vick’s dog fighting."
After a Pennsylvania woman created an online petition to pull the ad online, more than 42,000 people responded. The decision by GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving was also hailed by PETA. "We underestimated the emotional response," Irving wrote on GoDaddy site. "And we heard that loud and clear."

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Kevin Hart finishes up weekend of movie opening and 'SNL' hosting with four shows in Pittsburgh

Written by Sharon Eberson on .


If you saw Kevin Hart’s opening monologue on “Saturday Night Live” Jan. 17, you saw the PG-13 version — his words — of the first 10 minutes or so of his stand-up routine at in Pittsburgh last night. You may also have noted the shout out to Heinz Hall in a sketch about him having an appearance there, and that’s where he made those self-preservation jokes pay off.

On Sunday, we heard the R-rated version of the opening about being afraid of the wild animals in his neighborhood (in particular one menacing raccoon), not trusting his contractor and making his son take the trash out in the dark that faded into what seemed like a long, winding path of observations about ordering at Starbucks and his daughter’s patience when it comes to getting a good scream out of him and sorry, but he wouldn’t want to be with someone who had lost a shoulder in a mountain lion attack or lost his or her knees to a nasty orangutan.

The latter lead to his favorite and oft repeated joke of the night — the black woman who reacts to such farfetched stories with, “Orangutan? Reeeeally?” That one got a workout, but it didn’t get old, mostly because of his joy in delivering it.

Hart, the star of “The Wedding Ringer” with Josh Gad, out Friday, had a big weekend that continues today. He was the second half of the What Now? Tour — after three opening acts — here for four shows. I was at the first at 7; then they were on at 10 Sunday and again at 7 and 10 tonight.

The three openers whose names went by quickly got about the initial reaction you’d expect when unannounced acts delay a headliner’s appearance. I say unannounced because, well, try to Google “Kevin Hart” and the tour name and even opening acts and let me know what you find. They were not interchangeable although sex, race and parenthood were through themes, and yes, Bill Cosby was mentioned to groans and a few chuckles. 

A couple of the comedians, Hart included, commented on the cold in Pittsburgh, as if they were surprised there was a chill here in January. Hart had just come from New York so I wasn’t buying that, but the audience went along and laughed politely or heartily throughout the night.

The one constant before Hart’s appearance was warnings about cell phone usage and it was odd to see yellow-shirted security guards with flashlights moving alongside tuxedoed ushers up and down the Heinz Hall aisles.

The emcee may have gotten his biggest laughs when explaining how people of different races and ethnicities should not react if tapped to leave because they were caught using their cell phones during the act.

When Hart finally strode out in a black and white striped jersey emblazoned with “HBA” (hot by association, I take it?), it was to a movie star’s welcome.

Hart’s star is shining bright these days on screen, but he obviously thrives in the glow of a live spotlight. When he left the stage a little before 9 p.m., he made a point to thank Pittsburgh audiences for their support throughout his career, including early appearances at local clubs, and said he would always include us on any tour. We’ll keep the welcome mat out, I’m sure.

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