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Headline | JOKER Wins the Golden Lion in Venice

The psychological thriller taking a deep dive into the backstory of the most dangerous DC Comics villain makes them all laugh with glee winning the most prestigious award at the Venice Film Festival

It would appear that Warner Bros. has found its golden goose, or rather a Golden Lion as Joker the Todd Phillips helmed feature based on the DC character receives the highest honor at the Venice Film Festival. The film has been getting a lot of attention since it was green lit by the studio, and drew such big name talent as Robert De Niro and Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role. The film examines the life of “failed comedian” Arthur Fleck who after experiencing a series of unfortunate incidents begins a dissent into madness.

The character has become a fan favorite ever since Jack Nicholson first portrayed him on the big screen for Tim Burton’s signature blockbuster Batman and then again when Heath Ledger embodied the villain so brilliantly in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. The Joker has become something of a fascinating exploration by writers and artists, and the villain’s origins have been suspect. Phillips showed interest in Joker and co-wrote the script for the film with Scott Silver. The prestige project is expected to sit outside of “standard” film canon.

Meaning fans that are anticipating Joaquin Phoenix’s Clown Prince might eventually go toe-to-toe against Robert Pattinson the latest Hollywood A-lister to inherit the cape and cowl of the Dark Knight Detective, may not be in the cards, but perhaps after the reception the film is getting that might change. The early word is that the film is living up to expectations, and that Phoenix may well be on his way to winning himself another coveted award. Similarly perhaps when the film is released in October the studio will be the last one laughing — all the way to the bank.

Here is the final trailer for film:

Joker directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix will be released nationwide on October 4, 2019.

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iFeature | MARVEL STUDIOS 10 Years… Not Just a Phase (Part 1)

In the beginning, 10 years ago, it would have hardly been imaginable that a cinematic universe was in the making, now Marvel Studios has redefined the “blockbuster” and it all began something invincible, incredible and mighty!

The summer movie landscape was always the playground for Hollywood’s big-budget bonanzas! The studios figured it was the most operative and lucrative of opportunities to roll-out the popcorn fair, and it gave them the funds to drop big money into their prestigious Fall Movie releases, which were often star-power draws and dramas ready for awards season. It all started to drastically change when the studios started to see big box office returns from genre-faves like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Bryan Singer’s X-Men.

Warner Bros. always had itself a cash cow with the Batman franchise, but when the studio decided to reboot the franchise and handed it over to visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan Batman Begins jumpstarted a whole new way to envision the superhero film. Marvel was starting to pick up on this as well, and although it saw an interesting swing handing Ang Lee Hulk in 2003, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films were really the path of least resistance for Marvel to take, especially if its plans to control how their properties got adapted to screen was to materialize.

When Kevin Feige the president of Marvel Studios inherited the reigns, Feige imagined something not unlike the popular pulp series books that Marvel Comics introduced and had been publishing for 80 years. He saw a universe of interconnected stories, stand-alone film franchise with characters that inhabited the same linear narrative and would potentially interact with one another, and when the time was right — the people, their stories and worlds would intersect into one — just like the superheroes that Stan Lee brought to life in the Marvel Universe of comics.

Marvel Studios IRON MAN

In 2008 Marvel Studios took its biggest gamble, and it paid off when it handed the reigns of Iron Man to director Jon Favreau. The largely untested filmmaker had certainly carved a niche for himself in comedies and starred in several of his own features, but Favreau had a very deep understanding of the technological wonder that is the character and was a natural fit to bring The Invincible Iron Man to the big screen. The story goes that Favreau called in several favors, including reaching out to Academy Award Winner Gwyneth Paltrow to appear in the film.

The director’s greatest advantage came from landing Robert Downey, Jr. to star as billionaire weapons manufacturer Tony Stark, who after getting kidnapped by terrorists who want him to build them super weapons instead constructs for himself a life-saving armor. Stark becomes the Iron Man and heralds in a new hit at the box office. Iron Man took in a gross of 585.2 million and inspires a new movement with the post-credits “stinger”. At the conclusion of his epic battle with Iron-Monger (Jeff Bridges), Stark is approached by a mysterious secret agent with a proposal.

Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury suggests to Stark that it’s the beginning of a New Age and that he’s recruiting a team to tackle the threats that will require some “avenging”. This stinger sent a seismic shift through Hollywood introducing the idea of “The Avengers Initiative” — and the Marvel Studio cinematic universe was born! Favreau and Feige had a plan, a bigger picture in mind, a narrative that would run a thread through several big-screen franchises, but lead to a larger scale adventure the realm of which audiences couldn’t imagine would ever make it to the big screen.

Marvel Studios THE INCREDIBLE HULK

Perhaps the unlikeliest follow-up to the success of Iron Man was the release of The Incredible Hulk especially given how recently the big Green Goliath had been adapted for the big screen. Ang Lee took a stab at the monster’s story five-years earlier with his near art house adaptation starring Eric Bana. Credits were not amused and that movies ending left a lot to be desired, but Marvel Studios plowed forward with a “reboot” with Louis Leterrier in the director’s chair and Edward Norton now filling the role of the gamma radiated Dr. Bruce Banner.

The film almost feels like a sequel to its predecessor, although it recasts all the major roles including Liv Tyler as Betty Ross and William Hurt as General Ross, who has made it his mission to hunt down the fugitive Banner who has proven most elusive. Banner has taken to moving all over the world in an endless and tireless quest to contain the beast within him; that proves precarious when Banner gets wind of a possible cure and resurfaces. Ross has also recruited the bloodthirsty Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) — who becomes an Abomination!

The film was received with mixed reviews, but still made a dent with a take of 263.4 million in box-office; not Iron Man numbers but still proving lucrative by studio expectations. The film, in fact, did exactly perform as anticipated and served to set the ball rolling. The inclusion of a particularly important moment, at the end of the flick established Tony Stark (Downey, Jr.) in this world with an interest in Banner’s extra angry alter ego. This may not have set well with the movie’s star. It had been reported that Edward Norton clashed often with the film’s director and producers.

Norton had his own ideas about how the story should have progressed and was very vocal about his dissatisfaction with the final edit. The actor had been approached about continuing with the role, and it was also rumored that Robert Downey, Jr. was brought in to persuade the actor to stay on with the studio. It appeared that Marvel Studios would have other plans and the next time that the Hulk would appear on screen he would be embodied by a new actor that would make his mark and a smashing addition to the ensemble.

Marvel Studios Iron Man (2008) directed by Jon Favreau and starring Robert Downey, Jr., Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital Download.

Marvel Studios The Incredible Hulk (2008) directed by Louis Letterrier and starring Edward Norton, Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William hurt is available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital Download.

Trailer | DC Universe TITANS Season 2

Don’t call them sidekicks! The new generation of DC’s greatest heroes are back and if the Second Season trailer of Titans proves anything, this hit series is about to get real!

In the premiere season of DC Universe’s Titans Original Series, the story centered on an adolescent named Rachel (Teagan Croft) who becomes the target of some seriously disturbed attackers, but fortunately she has come under the protection of one beat detective named Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites). The one-time ally and partner of Gotham City’s Dark Knight defender, has moved one from living in the shadow of The Batman. Don’t call him Robin, anymore.

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Dick finds a kindred spirit in Rachel, who he swiftly discovers is far more than what she seems and elicits some help from former allies, including fellow vigilantes Hawk (Alan Ritchson) and Dove (Minka Kelly), and as the mystery surrounding Rachel becomes far more complex than they could have anticipated — serious end-of-times implications are unearthed — Dick realizes it’s going to take more than he can muster alone. It’s going to take a team of titans! Fortunately for him, Koriand’r (Anna Diop) and Beast Boy (Ryan Potter) are happy to tag along.

Now the Titans are back for a Second Season on the DC Universe subscription site, and the action is running wild! It appears that the group is formalizing their camaraderie and coming together. In the trailer, it looks like the group may have defeated Rachel’s evil father, the demon Trigon (Seamus Dever) who appeared to have Dick in the thralls of his influence at the conclusion of Season One. Donor Troy (Conor Leslie) is back! The Wonder Girl in full battle gear is siding up to Starfire to take on a meta-human villain, and Dick is seeking advice from his mentor, Bruce Wayne (Iain Glen).

As the roster grows; this season will indoctrinate the Aqualad and a Superboy into the line-up while a classic Titans adversary steps back into the spotlight. The wrath of Deathstroke, The Terminator (Esai Morales) will be felt and his bringing Ravager and Jericho along for the ride. Produced by super-producers Greg Berlanti and Akiva Goldsman, Titans stands apart from The CW series based on the DC Comics properties, and makes a very distinct departure while proving one of the best adaptations of any superhero series currently in production.

Titans the Second Season premieres on DC Universe, Sept 6. Join now at dcuniverse.com . The First Season is currently available on Blu-ray, DVD and as a Digital download.

iTunedIN | MADONNA – I Rise (Remixes)

Rising above the rest “I Rise” emerges as a lead contender for dance floor addicts eager to raise the roof with Madonna’s latest offerings from Madame X.

The Etherial Girl may not be making the waves across the radio charts, Madonna has emerged in the last decade as the artist less attracted to making Top 40 music and on a binge to explore the all-new territory and push the envelope. The Queen of Pop’s latest full-length album Madame X is a world-music exploration, more inclined to attract that audience than to feed into the ravenous appetite of her dance floor devotees, but that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t given them something to play with.

The album itself runs the gamut of styles, though not as commercially friendly as say Confessions on a Dance Floor or Hard Candy. Both of those albums were very big on dance tracks inspired by the Euro-pop scene or stateside R&B/Hip-Hop. Madame X is clearly not in that vein, nor is it as bombastic as MDNA or as disjointed as Rebel Heart. There’s an elegance in the musical styles Madonna has driven into on this album’s setlist, but most of the music does have a provocative and very definite political angle.

The single “I Rise” is profoundly centered on drawing attention to the new generation’s eagerness to take action for themselves, especially given the clearly corrupt and uncaring state our fragile democracy is finding itself in. That doesn’t mean that the Queen of Pop isn’t determined to remain most relevant to the audience that made her a star to begin with. The artist has always understood the value of music to bring the people together, especially on the dance floor — and although the club scene has all but abandoned its most devoted, the cultural wave is still in existence.

Madonna’s “Madame X” has yielded (so far) remixes for “I Rise” and “Medellín” its first single. The artist is set to begin her “Madame X” Tour in September, and will be playing smaller theaters and opera houses rather than stadiums.

“I Rise” Remixed

Ironically that track that has the most direct political connectivity, is the one that has garnered the most attention — “I Rise” has a sizable appeal as an anthem, but it needed to be taken there. Leave it to one of the dance music scene’s most profound creatives to give the track a new sheen. Tracy Young revealed the first wave of remixes for the track and gave it a suped-up summer song feel with her “Pride” Remix. The music maestro has been a long-time favorite collaborator of Madonna’s and has given her greatest hits some of their most intense redux!

Young’s reinterpretation is no exception. In addition to Tracy Young, Madonna turned over the track to several other contemporary remix producers including Offer Nissim and Thomas Gold. Offer Nissim also took an interesting stab at Madame X’s premiere single “Medellín” featuring Maluma. Thomas Gold’s Remix of “I Rise” feels the most like a Madonna song, especially with its very 90s House-feel, it emerges feeling like something that might have appeared on Erotica even inspiring renewed interest in many of that album’s setlist, still considered some of Madonna’s best.

Available now on iTunes, Madonna’s “I Rise” (Remixes) are worthy of the artist, given her proclivity to remain close to her club roots, this emerges as one of the most outstanding works from her most recent endeavor Madame X. Listen to the Tracy Young “Pride” Remix here:

Madonna – I Rise (Remixes) available on iTunes.

UnBoxing | Star Trek PLANET KILLER from Eaglemoss

One of the most fearsome encounters during Kirk’s first five-year mission aboard the USS Enterprise brought the crew in contact with the Planet Killer now immortalized in a Special Edition model from Eaglemoss.

The most dangerous weapon in the galaxy has entered the edge of our galaxy and left behind a path of destruction. When Captain Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise intercept the Doomsday Machine, it has already destroyed the USS Constellation and left its commanding officer in a terrible state. Commodore Matt Decker is determined to destroy the machine even it means taking down the Enterprise. As part of its line of “Special Edition” releases Eaglemoss Collections introduces the Planet Killer.

The mysterious weapon of mass destruction that threatened the USS Enterprise was impenetrable and fired an antiproton blast that laid waste to everything in its path. Commodore Decker had the Enterprise fly over the Planet Killer’s surface and fired several phasers at point-blank to no effect. Decker attempted to fly into the Planet Killer to destroy it himself, but in an initial power play, Kirk resorted to detonating the USS Constellation inside the Planet Killer effectively shutting down the doomsday weapon and saving the heavily inhabited system of Rigel.

Doomsday Machine

In the episode “The Doomsday Machine” the ominous appearance of the Planet Killer lends much speculation to its origins. Kirk compares it to an “H” Bomb, while Spock confirms that it may, in fact, be a “robot”. The Planet Killer didn’t appear to have a crew but moved as if it was possessed of consciousness and attacked the USS Constellation and the USS Enterprise. Its path of destruction is clear though and had the crew of the Enterprise not been able to stop it, the casualties to nearby habitable systems would have been monumental.

Measuring approximately 8.5 inches in length the Eaglemoss model of the Planet Killer may not appear as formidable as the actual one (which was several miles long) but the die-cast representation and surface coloring are impressively close. The model itself also rests solidly on its display stand. The most coveted feature is the installed lightbulb accessory that brightly mimics the furnace-looking maw of the Doomsday Machine. When it’s not lit the mouth of the Planet Killer is painted accurately to look just like it did on film.

The Special Edition release is also packed with a 20-page magazine that elaborates on the specifics of the Planet Killer as it appeared in “The Doomsday Machine” episode chronicle its path of destruction and eventual demise at the hands of Kirk and crew. The magazine also provides background on the possible origins of the device and how the idea for the Planet Killer came to life in the script. The editors at Eaglemoss do need to work a little more diligently, as there are several typos throughout and the contents is a misprint from the issue relating to V’Ger.

Planer Killer | Special Edition | Star Trek The Official Starships Collections from Eaglemoss Collections | $49.95 available on the Eaglemoss Collections website or as part of the subscription service.

ICYMI | SONY Pulls SPIDER-MAN Out of the MCU

Sony and Disney can’t come to an agreement! Keeping Spider-Man far from home and out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe at least for the immediate future! 

Oh what a tangled web indeed! After years of back and forth, Sony and Disney had finally come to an agreement that allowed the studio to share custody of one of Marvel Studios biggest brands Spider-Man. After a series of very successful box office hits in the early 2000s starring Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst directed by Sam Raimi, Sony sat comfortably with its winning piece of the Marvel Comic icon grabbing big-ticket sales and breaking records — before the summer movie landscape would appear littered with the competition.

It wasn’t long before the franchise would suffer from fatigue and with an underwhelming performance with its third installment, Sony found itself in the peculiar predicament as Marvel Studios started spinning out its “Expanded Cinematic Universe” with hit after hit starting with 2008’s Iron Man and followed by Thor and Captain America. Marvel waited patiently for the ownership rights of its titular web-slinger to drop our of Sony’s hands, especially after the critically panned Spider-Man 3. In an effort to stay on top Sony went to work on a “reboot”!

The 2012 effort The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield didn’t hit the mark as had been anticipated, and with it running counter to the eventual blockbuster Avengers fans began to speculate whether Peter Parker’s friendly neighbor superhero would ever find himself in the same league as his Marvel Studio headliners. The answer to that question would have to wait, and in 2016 Disney which had since purchased the Marvel brand and all of its properties (including the film projects) introduced Spider-Man into the MCU in Captain America: Civil War.

SPIDER-MAN: ™ FAR FROM HOME

Homecoming

By the 2017 release of Spider-Man: Homecoming which spotlighted Tom Holland the latest actor to wear the fancy red and blue suit, the latest reboot joyfully indoctrinated Peter Parker into the MCU with none other than Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) as the aspiring hero’s benefactor. The film was also released as a studio cooperative between Sony and Disney, granting Sony co-partnership in the distribution of the feature film, while giving Disney ownership over the placement of the character throughout its franchises. Spider-Man would play a pivotal role in Avengers: Infinity War.

And although it appeared that the web-slingers fate was sealed at the conclusion of that epic battle, the follow-up feature Avengers: Endgame reconstituted Spider-Man just in time for the hero to headline his next big theatrical outing. Spider-Man: Far From Home the fourth film to feature Holland as Spider-Man also proved box office gold for Sony giving it the largest opening for the franchise, with a worldwide hovering over 1 billion, making it the studio’s biggest grossing release ever. With that record set, it’s curious that the studios would through a kink into the works.

This week Sony and Disney announced that effective immediately, Spider-Man would be exiting the Marvel Cinematic Universe! That doesn’t mean the future of the character is hanging from a thin web strand, it means that Spider-Man will not be part of the shared expanded cinematic universe that Disney reigns over, and going forward Spidey can’t Marvel Team-Up with any captain or doctor he may have saddled up to recently, and as for that special relationship between Peter and Tony Stark — yeah, that’s gone too!

Spider-Man (Tom Holland) takes MJ (Zendaya) out for a spin in New York City at the conclusion of “Spider-Man: Far From Home”.

A Multiverse of Possibilities

[Warning: SPOILER ALERT] Could the filmmakers have foreseen this descent into disillusion? Given the subplot context of the Marvel Multiplex in Spider-Man: Far From Home with the villainous Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) duping Peter and SHIELD into thinking he was the last survivor from an alternate-earth in the multiverse and the success of the animated full-length feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse could Sony had suspected that its partnership with Disney would become tarnished so quickly?

Inevitably this opens the way for Tom Holland (who apparently is locked in for 2 more pictures as is the franchise’s current director Jon Watts) to interact with Venom and expand on the much talked about inhabitants of the Spider-Verse. A film focused on the femme fatale Black Cat and one-time love interest of the web-slinger has been brandished about, so has another feature meant to capitalize on the hero’s rogues gallery. For a hot minute Sony had everyone waiting with bated breath on the arrival of The Sinister Six — it never happened.

With so many ideas to mine, perhaps it isn’t such a bad idea after all. With out the distraction of having to find a way to place mild-mannered high school student, turned Avenger, Peter Parker into a more elaborate storyline to service a grander theme, the future of the Spider-Man features could be far more incapsulated and center on the hero’s own trials and tribulations. With more than 6 decades of comic book stories to draw inspiration from, it could turn out far more profitable for Sony to hold onto the character.

Fans biggest fear though may be that away from the creative lead of Marvel’s chief creative mind Kevin Feige and Amy Pascal, the Spider-Man brand will suffer without the proper amount of coddling and support from the bigger cast of characters. Certainly the upcoming slate of films on Marvel’s slate may not have to worry about it; without a “next” Avengers on the horizon, it may not even matter. In the meantime we’ll have to accept that Spidey may inevitably remain far from home and has reached his own endgame.

Spider-Man: Far From Home has gone on to become the top-grossing film in Sony Pictures entire history, taking its predecessor Skyfall down a notch with a worldwide gross of $1.1 billion.

Pop-Culture Redefined. Reimagined. Remixed.

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