Category Archives: iEditorial

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.

Advertisements

iEditorial | Will The CW’s Upcoming “Crisis” Crossover Prove the Network’s Primetime Version of an “Endgame”?

One of the DC most beloved storylines is about to go live in primetime and after Marvel Studios Avengers: Endgame epic fans expectations have reached a fever pitch! Will The CW deliver?

With Marvel Studios having stepped up the genre narrative by bringing the first decade of the superhero epics to a natural conclusion in the recent blockbuster Avengers: Endgame and the upcoming second installment of the web-slingers solo run Spider-Man: Far From Home promising to open the door to the possibilities of a Marvel Cinematic Multiverse, how will the The CW’s primetime universe compare will the highly anticipated “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover airs this Fall? It’s leaving many fans to speculate…some worlds will live, and some worlds might…

Well, you understand where we’re going with this.

While on his recent comic-con convention circuit promoting the “Elseworlds” event, The Flash actor John Wesley Shipp who has played a myriad of characters throughout the world of the Scarlet Speedster, was constantly bombarded with questions from fans about his own surprise appearance in the 3-part storyline. Shipp who played the original role of Barry Allen/The Flash for one season on the CBS primetime series in the 90s, jumped back into the suit (not the original but a remodeled version by series costume designer Kate Main) to warn our heroes about a “crisis”.

“It’s the question I get asked the most now,” Shipp admitted. “What part will I play in the upcoming ‘Crisis’? And the honest answer is: I don’t know!” It doesn’t escape him the fact that in the classic maxi-series that redefined the DC Comics universe in the 80s, the Flash sacrifices himself to save everyone. “Now what will that mean that we have — not one, but two Flashes?” Shipp said, “perhaps one will have to die to save the multiverse and Jay Garrick will get left holding suit.” In any event, the actor is hoping he’ll get to return to reprise one of his parts in the fall.

It was perhaps one of the best curated stunts of the franchise’s now more than 100 hours of television. The crossover events have become every fans’ most anticipated episodes of the season, and after battling Nazis doppelgängers, fending off an alien invasion, and bringing together legends, how were the show runners going to up the stakes? First they introduced the idea that the television multiverse is inhabited by every possible iteration of DC characters including Shipp’s “Flash” of Earth-90, the Kent Farm from Smallville and that it’s all in serious jeopardy of ending!

With the omnipotent Monitor (played by LaMonica Garrett) having made his presence known, inciting a conflict that included the appearance of the Man of Steel and having ended this season of Arrow by taking Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) on a quest of sorts, when The CW primetime universe returns in the fall, there are going to be some major dangling participles to deal with, and the introduction of a certain red-headed Caped Crusader that will undoubtedly be teaming up with the rest of the brave and bold, for that much sought after pairing of the world’s finest.

“Crisis” an Endgame

Though it’s all possible that the televised “Crisis on Infinite Earths” may not have the perpetual ramifications to the DC primetime universe that Marvel Studios Avengers: Endgame had for the cinematic story arcs, fans are expecting nothing less than a very similarly and well-crafted adaptation of one of DC Comics most epic storylines. It took Marvel a decade to get to Endgame and although The CW is promising 5-hours across all its main shows, it still has many more hours of story to build up to, especially if it intends on having as significant an emotional resonance.

As for the aftermath, what will it mean to The CW’s primetime line-up? Though there is no mention of Black Lightning participating in the crossover event, will that show in some way play a part in the fallout? Many are expecting that after the series of hints that were dropped in the latter half of the latest seasons of the show, especially in The Flash, the multiverse will collapse and their will be only one, Prime-Earth. Will that include Supergirl’s Earth-38, and what of the other alternate worlds and timelines the series have explored?

“Anything is possible,” Shipp has said. “I would never have thought that nearly 30-years later I’d be back in a superhero suit…and I’ve since been in two!” With fans hoping that more will be revealed especially at next month’s San Diego Comic-Con, you can bet that participants will be eagerly lining up, as Ruby Rose takes the stage to introduce the cast of Batwoman and give an insight into the newest addition to the primetime line-up, and the series show runners all collect themselves and practice their stock response: “The DC TV universe will never be the same again!”

iEditorial | LIKE A PRAYER 30th Anniversary

Still considered the most seminal work of her career, 30 years ago Madonna released Like A Prayer her most introspective project at the time, redefined popular music and elevated her celebrity into the stratosphere.

Expressing herself has always been one of Madonna’s most enduring caveats as an artist. The Queen of Pop has never attempted to shy away from the criticism or the controversies that have followed her especially early on during her emerging career, and in 1989 the controversies were moving at a rapid-fire pace, and yet Madonna kept in step. Proving many of her harshest critics wrong she releases Like A Prayer her most honest and introspective work, the album reshaped the perception of the artist immediately.

There was her high profile divorce from actor Sean Penn. Their tumultuous marriage had been headline fodder for the tabloids since the moment the couple began to date; the distraction of having their lives constantly under the microscope inevitably led to the relationship’s downfall. Madonna emerged determined from the experience not to appear a victim of what many had conspired to describe as an abusive situation. Between her last full-length album and the release of Like A Prayer, Madonna appeared to have grown in leaps and bounds artistically.

The 11-tracks that culminate in the setlist for Like A Prayer beginning with the album’s title track read like an exercise in self-discovery and exoneration for Madonna. She’s putting it all out there and bringing her audience along with her. “Like a Prayer” proved more of a success than anyone could have bargained for. In the lead-up to the video’s MTV premiere, Pepsi had agreed to a multi-million dollar deal with Madonna to sponsor her upcoming world tour. The commercial featuring the track was the perfect marriage of artist and product typical of the 80’s branding of an image.

Unfortunately, the video for “Like a Prayer” with its profound use of religious iconographic imagery, some of which showed Madonna cavorting amorously with a man who appeared as a Christ-like reference while burning crossing raged behind her, may have been more than squeaky-clean soda manufacturer had bargained for. Madonna and Pepsi inevitably went their separate ways, though she kept the millions promised to her, and followed up the controversy of the first video with the even more flagrant “Express Yourself” directed by David Fincher.

Just Like A Dream

For the second single from Like A Prayer, Madonna threw all care to the wind and decided the video for the more up-tempo track would be her most audacious yet. Collaborating with David Fincher (the pair would work together often) the pair chose the art deco influences of the gothic futuristic film Metropolis set to the “non-stop” remix of the track by music producer Shep Pettibone, to drape Madonna in satin sheets, chaining her to a bed — a captive to her own desires — as she awaits the arrival of her oiled up, muscly laborer who toils in the depths of the city.

The imagery from “Express Yourself” alone fueled a movement and would eventually reveal itself as the opening arc of her blockbuster statement of 1990, the Blond Ambition World Tour. The album would go on to release several hit singles including “Keep It Together”, “Oh Father”, “Dear Jessie” and “Cherish” which also featured a video from fashion photographer Herb Ritts. The video which featured Madonna on the shores of a beach playing with mermen who swam amidst the crashing waves was an interesting parallel to Ritts’ other video for Janet Jackson.

Though their rivalry was never a publicly stated competition, the two artists often found themselves during the 80s and 90s battling for similar audiences. Ritts bathed Madonna in cool blues which played beautifully to her own eyes as her skin appeared wet and desirably supple in the watery backdrop, while Jackson’s video for “Love Will Never Do (Without You) placed Janet in the stark California desert, radiating a heat — both artists the lustful affection of several well-built male models; of the two videos Madonna’s the more playful and innocent, by comparison.

Keep It Together

Perhaps the most significant extrapolation of Like A Prayer comes from its significantly closing the artistic collaborative efforts of songwriters Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray, who had been ever-present in Madonna’s early career hits. They would return to the fold, but after Like A Prayer and her next full-length album effort Erotica Madonna would begin to experiment with alternative producing and writing partners. The success of Like A Prayer would soon be eclipsed by the shockwave of a single hit song that almost ended up a B-Side. The song was “Vogue”.

iFeature | BEN AFFLECK Out as THE BATMAN

Warner Bros. cuts ties with another of its super-powered heavy hitters letting Ben Affleck out of his obligation to continue in the role as the Caped Crusader in the studio’s much anticipated The Batman directed by Matt Reeves. 

Another founding member of the league appears to be passing on the cape and cowl. Ben Affleck who had assumed the big screen mantle portraying The Batman in the blockbuster Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and continued to star as the DC Comics hero in the team-up film Justice League will not be playing the hero in the upcoming solo film directed by Matt Reeves that will be perpetuating the long-time franchise favorite.

In the week following the announcement of Affleck’s departure, the trades readily reported that he studio cited it was moving in a different direction and wanting to cast a “younger” actor to headline  in Reeves The Batman which is meant to “reboot” the titular hero on the big screen. Affleck’s portrayal of a more weathered and seasoned combatant was lukewarmly received in the press, but fans had clearly begun to come around even though Justice League didn’t meet expectations.

Affleck had been attached to writing and directing The Batman’s eventual transition into the solo arena until the discussions with the studio arrived at a decisions that Reeves would be taking over the helm of The Batman as several script revisions were under way. The film is scheduled for a release date of 2021.

Affleck stepped into the kevlar armor of the hero after Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy which featured Christian Bale in the role, and perhaps the most lucrative of the franchise films. This is yet another setback for the studio which also parted ways with Henry Cavill who had played Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel introducing the connected cinematic universe much in the vein of Marvel Studios narrative and decade long dominance of the genre.

With the darker tone of Snyder’s take on the comic inspired commodities which continued into BvS and was followed up in Justice League (even though that film passed hands and was completed by Joss Whedon), the recent successes of Wonder Woman and Aquaman have suggested that the studio may be looking to rebrand their DC properties. The box office appeal of the most recent feature Aquaman with its lighter tone worked and the upcoming Shazam! will follow suit.

Though the future of the DC Cinematic Universe is still in much turmoil; though Aquaman proved successful at the box office it still only garnered a tepid response from critics, and the upcoming Shazam! may not hold its mettle against the likes of Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel and the next installment of Avengers: Endgame which will deal the climatic finale to this phase of the Marvel Cinematic empire and starting a new chapter.

iFeature | JOHN WESLEY SHIPP A Flash of Infinite Possibilities

The Flash star has been across all parts of the multiverse and back, most recently in the “Elseworlds” crossover! Hitting the convention circuit in 2019, the actor is open to all new adventures!

For John Wesley Shipp the idea of stepping back into the suit that immortalized his place in genre-fandom may have been the most surreal moment of his 40 years in entertainment. Nonetheless as Kate Main and the rest of the expert costuming team responsible for suiting up the most popular DC heroes in primetime put the final touches on the suit, when John looked back at the image of himself as the Scarlet Speedster from his 1990 version of The Flash the déjà vu of it all wasn’t lost on him.

He had (almost) made a vow to himself after his 1990 CBS series was cancelled that he’d never get into another superhero suit, and would eventually find himself stepping into the famous boots and tipping the rim of the Golden Age speedster “Jay Garrick” after “Henry Allen” met his fate in the second season of the contemporary reimagining of  The Flash starring Grant Gustin. Shipp has said that after shooting his scene in the final episode “The Trial of the Trickster,” as soon as they yelled “Cut!” he ripped off his cowl and flung the wing-tipped earpieces into the air.

The episode’s guest star Mark Hamill dove headfirst after the now iconic items, adding them to his own extensive collection, preserving a piece of cinematic history. Cut to nearly 30 years later and the earpieces were faithfully reconstructed in order to recapture the look of the original suit so that The Flash of Earth-90 could make a significant appearance in this year’s CW “Elseworlds” crossover event, hinting at an inevitable “crisis” that is threatening our primetime multiverse. Though it appears that Earth-90 is left a wasteland, will its Flash play a part in the sequel next fall?

Anything can happen it would seem now that The CW primetime multiverse has opened the door, and it certainly expanded the possibilities for Shipp to play a significant role in the impending “Crisis on Infinite Earths” expected next fall. For Shipp who climbed onboard the series and proven an integral fan favorite as both Henry and Jay Garrick, the “Golden Age” Flash of Earth-3, adding his Earth-90 Barry Allen into the mix certainly has set-up some intriguing ideas that fans hope the writers will exploit. In the meantime, John Wesley Shipp will be appearing live in a city near you!

John Wesley Shipp appeared as The Flash of Earth-90 (1990 that is) for this season’s epic crossover event. Here he is alongside the headlining trinity in primetime including Melissa Benoist, Stephen Amell and Grant Gustin.

Making the Rounds

The actor has proven among one of the most popular guests on the comic-con circuit and appreciates the opportunity to meet with his fans across the country as well as all over the world. Last year he enjoyed a rock star reception when he appeared in Lima, Peru and will soon be heading to Mexico City, invited by his fans in Mexico to bring them up to speed on what the Scarlet Speedster has been up to. Having fulfilled every fanboy on the planet’s greatest wish, including executive producer Marc Guggenheim’s, with the 1990 Flash now part of the Arrowverse.

Although fans imagined that when Shipp returned to participate in the annual crossover spectacle he would have worn the familiar attire of his Crimson Comet from Earth-3, rebuilding and revisiting the suit from the 1990s series certainly proved one of the long-running series’ greatest moments of the latest season. Propelling even more nostalgia was the appearance of The Kent’s farm from Smallville which also served as the home of Earth-38’s Super Family including Supergirl Melissa Benoist and her famous cousin.

No doubt when Shipp hits the convention scene fans will have numerous questions, especially about the fate of his Earth-90 Flash after the Monitor “folds” him out of the climatic second chapter of the “Elseworlds” event and of course if he’ll return for the promised “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover this fall. One thing that is certain are the infinite possibilities open now for John Wesley Shipp to interact with the Arrowverse whether as Jay Garrick or Earth-90 Flash. Fans are hopeful that the “Barrys of Two-Earths” will cross multiverses before the next crisis event!

Check out the Events Calendar for all of John Wesley Shipp’s upcoming comic-con appearances in 2019.

iReview | HALLOWEEN (2018)

Set 40 years after the events of the original, the masked serial killer returns on the fateful night to the scene of the crime, in search of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, the lone survivor of the Halloween massacre of 1978.

In 1978 filmmakers John Carpenter and Debra Hill didn’t plan to redefine the horror genre, but set an unprecedented standard with the original Halloween. Produced on a shoestring budget and under a tight 21-day shoot, the story about a serial killer loose on the small town population of Haddonfield, Illinois terrorizing a group of teenagers on the night of All Hallows Eve, turned its aspiring ingenue Jamie Lee Curtis into an instant screen queen and ignited a genre phenomenon that captivates audiences even still today.

In fact Halloween has just been revived — again! The horror franchise that turned its masked murderer Michael Myers into an icon, has actually continuously tracked with 8 sequels since the 1978 film’s release, and a 20th anniversary iteration H20 that reunited Curtis with the mythology she hadn’t revisited since Halloween II (1981) supposedly concluded Laurie Strode’s story. The latest version of Halloween is less a reboot and more a retconning of much of the serialized canon that has followed the franchise (not including the Rob Zombie re-envisions).

Directed by David Gordon Green and co-written by Danny McBribe, the filmmakers pursued Carpenter’s consent before going forward with their project to resuscitate Halloween and let Michael Myers loose once again. Director David Gordon Green also pulled out all the stops to make sure that Jamie Lee Curtis read the script and even asked a mutual friend, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, to persuade Curtis to seriously consider taking one more trip back to Haddonfield, Illinois on the most precarious night of the season. Getting John Carpenter onboard proved much easier.

The original film’s director and co-creator also provided an updated take on the soundtrack, in particular the movie’s theme that became instantly identified with Michael Myers march.

Halloween Takes Shape

On this night in 2018 Michael Myers (Nick Castle reprises his role as “The Shape”) returns to his old stomping grounds, after escaping from a prison transfer. Myers had been captured and incarcerated for 40 years ever since his first rampage on Halloween that claimed the lives of five teenagers and left Laurie Strode scarred from the experience. Obliterated from canon is the assault on the Emergency Room hospital that is tending to Strode (Curtis) after The Shape’s spree, thus erasing the backstory that suggested Strode was related to the boogeyman.

Myers returns to Haddonfield, and it isn’t long before he takes up some old habits. Laurie, who has become estranged from her family, though her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) has made considerable efforts to bring Laurie out from her self-imposed isolation. Laurie’s grown-up daughter Karen, played by Judy Greer, has given up on her mother’s psychosis and survivalist tactics, but inevitably Laurie’s worst fears are realized and Michael Myers returns! With the help of Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) Laurie begins the hunt to end Myers reign once and for all.

There are several interesting parallels between this version and it’s predecessor(s). The teenagers themselves with the exception of Allyson (the Laurie Strode archetype) are largely unimpressive or underdeveloped. This was a similarly exploited trope of the first Halloween. Both Carpenter and Curtis added a depth and layer to Laurie that guaranteed her survival and made her the film’s heroine. With the auxiliary assortment of mostly annoying characters on the peripherals, it’s easy to watch the body count add up, and not care as Myers goes on his merry way.

The interesting decisions to also cover or otherwise not exploit the kills is also a factor borrowed from Carpenter’s original, which used no blood in the depiction of its murders. It doesn’t make the act any less frightening or shocking, and not all of them are dismissed to the imagination, but in some cases not seeing the dismemberment of a victim is more than compensated by the eventual reveal. Among the most troubling murders though, involves the reporters we meet early in the film, who are physically assaulted by Myers in the confines of a rest stop’s toilet stall!

SPOILER ALERT! We all know how this is going to end, and Halloween (2018) follows the beats per minute of its genre, with little deviation, as is expected, though the doctor played by Haluk Bilginer, (the “new” Loomis) does throw audiences a curve. The film’s final shot is perhaps the most puzzling, as it focuses on the events of the perilous night’s survivors making haste their escape of a burning compound. The family, reunited, huddles closely, looking mostly exasperated and spent, Allyson still appearing in shock clutches tightly to the large kitchen knife still in her grip.

If this is some kind of foreshadowing of events to come, it would be terribly not well thought out, as one might expect Laurie to interject herself (given her experience) to assist with rehabilitating Allyson. If it might predict that Allyson will now become the target of Myers mercilessly primal instinct, then she’d better hold on tight! She might need that knife, if The Shape escapes (once again) the villain’s fate. Without a doubt, Curtis’ return to form as Strobe is spectacular and is just proof at how diverse her skills are, especially to revisit this character and reveal another layer.

The Original Turns 40

In September the original John Carpenter classic was up-converted to 4K Ultra HD, presenting the film in an incomparable high dynamic ranger (HDR) with a wider color spectrum and an immersive audio experience that goes beyond the theatrical Halloween experience. Reportedly the film’s redux was overseen by the film’s cinematographer who carefully took into account the depths of the dark shadows and colors of the fall foliage, making certain the audience has far more to fear as The Shape emerges from the darkness.

With an opening weekend of over 77 million at the box office and breaking records for an October opening for a horror film with a female headliner, it bodes well for the franchise that audience interest is still at a peak, but is Halloween 2.0 in the cards especially given the fate of its psychopathic killer? Is this really the last theater goers have seen of the boogeyman? 

Halloween (2018) starring Jamie Lee Curtis is directed by David Gordon Green and playing in theaters nationwide now.