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iReview | BATWOMAN – “Crisis on Infinite Earths” Part 2

Facing impending doom and mourning the loss of one of their own, our heroes are introduced to the concept of the “paragons” among them. Seven heroes from across the multiverse that may be able to stop the “crisis” that’s consuming their world!

The searches for the heroic “paragons” begins as Part 2 of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover continues in Episode 9, Season 1 of Batwoman. For the latest character to inherit the cape and cowl of Gotham City’s Dark Knight, Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) is out of her natural element when it comes to battling Shadow Beings and traversing the multiverse. The able street fighter is more equipped to the trenches of darkened allies and the perilously high rooftops of her city. With The Batman missing in action, Kate has moved into her cousin Bruce Wayne’s inner sanctum and with the help of Lucas Fox (Camrus Johnson) appropriated his alter ego.

The Flash — “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Three” — Image Number: FLA609d_0382b.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl and Ruby Rose as Kate Kane/Batwoman — Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Audiences are now very familiar with Kate Kane’s Batwoman, especially after her significantly splashy induction into the “Arrowverse” in last year’s “Elseworlds” crossover. That storyline effectively set-up the existence of Gotham City on Earth-1 as well as confirmed the presence of “The Batman” (which had been considered an urban myth), though Oliver Queen’s Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) is adamant — he is the first vigilante hero to take on the fight for justice. Debatable, perhaps, but Batwoman has proven she is a force all of her own to be reckoned with, though Kate is not comfortable with their presently cosmic predicament.

Though they may have been dealt a serious blow with the sacrifice of Oliver Queen at the conclusion of Part 1 (see Supergirl S5/E9), The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) reveals the existence throughout the multiverse of “Seven Paragons” — heroes that best embody the virtues of heroism. Borrowing a Waverider time-ship from an alternate-earth (Erath-74 to be precise) that comes packed with its own Mick Rory (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow castmate Dominic Purcell) our team learns that among them are 2 of the 7 paragons: Supergirl, Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) is the “Paragon of Hope” and White Canary, Sara Lance  (Caity Lotz) is the “Paragon of Destiny”.

Her fellow Legend Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) is not at all surprised, but when The Monitor reveals that a missing paragon, “The Bat of the Future” supposedly The Batman of the “future-tense” Earth-99, Bruce Wayne may need to be indoctrinated into their cause, the revelation of the billionaire industrialist’s alter ego does trip Palmer’s fancy — Kate insists that they all keep that secret close and among themselves. Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) are intrigued to hunt down the next paragon, a Kryptonian — the “Paragon of Truth”. During the mission ops gathering, Harbinger (recurring Arrow guest star Audrey Marie Anderson) begins to stumble.

Spoiler Alert!

This is important because it establishes a significant plot point that is part of the “Crisis” canon. In the original 12-issue maxi-series by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez Lyla is corrupted by one of the Anti-Monitor’s shadow agents and slays The Monitor; this does not come as a surprise to him — he admits he had foreseen and anticipated her betrayal. As Part 2 opens up, Lyla reveals to Sara that she hasn’t told her husband John Diggle (David Ramsey) about Oliver’s sacrifice, even as Oliver’s daughter Mia and Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) attempt to resurrect the Green Arrow by dunking his body into a Lazarus Pit. 

With the help of Legend magi John Constantine (Matt Ryan) they are able to find a working pit on Earth-18 and thinking that it’s a good idea drop, Oliver’s body in there — the predictable consequence unleashes a soulless and angry Green Arrow that nearly takes down his daughter Mia (Katherine McNamara). During this exercise, Batwoman and Supergirl travel to Earth-99 hoping to persuade Batman to help them save the multiverse, but there instead they find a crippled and battle-hardened Bruce Wayne (guest star Kevin Conroy) who warns them both, there is no hope and that it may be best to let the multiverse just die!

Iris West-Allan (Candice Patton) has joined Lois and Clark on their pursuit of the Superman that is the proper paragon, and warns the super-couple that Lex Luthor (Jon Cryer) is determined to destroy all the Supermen of every earth! Lex is using the Book of Destiny to alter their fate, and after meeting with a powerless Clark Kent (Smallville’s Tom Welling) that rightly puts Lex in his place, they stumble upon an alternate earth’s Clark Kent, the Editor of the Daily Planet, who has a bit of gray in his temple and sadly has suffered his share of loss. The trio successfully recruits this Superman (Brandon Routh in a super-suit tailored after Kingdom Come) to help them, but Lex has other plans!

Batwoman — “Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Two” — Image Number: BWN108b_0224.jpg — Pictured: Brandon Routh as Superman — Photo: Katie Yu/The CW — © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Manipulating the ancient prophecies inside the Book of Destiny, Lex turns Superman against Superman! As the two take the skies above Metropolis in a showdown of might, the two intrepid reporters, Lois and Iris are left to contend with Lex’s mess. Knocking him unconscious they are able to wrestle the Book of Destiny and figure out how to free Superman (Routh) from its magical grip! Eventually, they all return to the Waverider orbiting Earth-1 and bring with them the “Paragon of Truth” and perhaps a means closer to defeating the Anti-Monitor. Unfortunately, Kate and Kara are not as successful in their mission to bring the “Bat of the Future” on board.

More comfortable fighting mobs of underworld criminals in the back alleys of Gotham, the city’s latest caped avenger finds herself in the middle of a cosmic quest and out of her depths, in Part 2 of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event.

Still More Spoiler Alert!

Meanwhile, Ray has appeared to have succeeded in putting together his “Paragon Detector” but when he fires it up, he is disappointed with the results. The device instead of seeking outwards places the next paragon within the Waverider. In a stunning turn, the Monitor reveals that Kate and Kara were indeed successful in their mission to locate the next paragon and names Batwoman the “Paragon of Courage”! Along with the Superman of Earth-96, the heroes have now assembled four of the paragons in order to help save the multiverse, but even as they come closet to achieving their goal, stepping out from the shadows is the real villain of the story!

Using the Harbinger as a conduit to keep tabs on his adversary, The Anti-Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) sets in motion his own plan to thwart the heroes and bring about the destruction of the multiverse, leaving in its wake an anti-matter universe at his disposal!

Still not comfortable with a role in this cosmic odyssey or the fact that now she has been tasked with carrying the mantle of a paragon, Kate confides in Kara her concerns. In true form, Kara informs the newer heroine that her place among them is properly earned and that as the Batwoman, she has demonstrated her courage and worthiness. Supergirl then hands her a picture, a souvenir she took from Bruce Manor of Earth-99 — it is a picture of that earth’s Kate and her twin sister in happier, hopeful times. Kate doesn’t reveal to the Maid of Might that she has taken a souvenir of her own — Bruce Wayne’s piece of kryptonite which he used to kill the Superman of Earth-99.

What’s the Endgame?

Part 2 of our crossover epic, is perhaps a little tougher to get through than its previous installment, and certainly a lot clunkier to navigate than Part 3, The Flash episode rounding out the first arc of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” storyline. The “middle story” in an extended piece is often difficult because it relies on setting more details up that gets our protagonists over the hump and closer toward their resolution. This episode of “Crisis” relied on the Batwoman writing team and showrunners to deliver a very complex piece of the puzzle, while also integrating various cameos and featured roles that were dependent on carrying a certain amount of emotion.

The inclusion of Kevin Conroy, the voice behind the Emmy® Award-Winning Batman: The Animated Series as the hopelessly fatigued and bitter Bruce Wayne was a particularly genius move and allowed for the episode’s star, Ruby Rose to really heft her weight even though she is still new to the “Arrowverse” of characters. It was also important to place her alongside Melissa Benoist’s Supergirl and solidifying the obvious chemistry the two actors share, giving the audience an opportunity to admire the “World’s Finest” team-up potential the two put on full display. For fans, the most significant moment still was the appearance of Tom Welling’s Clark Kent giving Smallville fans a nostalgic nod.

Overall, this episode feels narratively choppy and lacks cohesion, especially with the 3 separate missions going on, but it’s well character-driven and amply showcases Ruby Rose. As potentially the “new kid on the block” her Batwoman comes out on top and demonstrates sizable chemistry when paired with Melissa Benoist as Kara/Supergirl — this will bode well as the “Crisis” comes to a conclusion. No doubt giving the writing staff opportunity for “World’s Finest” crossovers between Supergirl and Batwoman.

Batwoman | “Crisis of Infinite Earths” Part 2 | Episode 9, Season 1 | Directed by Laura Belsey and Written by Don Whitehead & Holly Henderson | Original Airdate: 12/9/2019

Batwoman airs Sunday Nights @ 8pm EST on The CW and returns with new episodes in 2020.

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iReview | STAR WARS The Rise of Skywalker

Promising to wrap up 40 years of storytelling, the latest episode is filled with startling revelations, larger than could be imagined space battles, travels to distant planets and beyond, ending with the return of a major villain determined to tip the scales of good versus evil!

Here we are! Some several generations later, after redefining the movie-going experience (not to mention the merchandising of a viable narrative) we’ve reached what the filmmakers are promising is the final, final arc one of the cinemas most long-running franchises. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker carries the epitomes privilege of chronicling itself as “Episode IX” of the story first realized on the screen in writer/director George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope. Released in 1977 to a throng of fans that would sell out multiplexes and line-up for hours just for the opportunity to be transported to a galaxy far, far away.

According to Lucas, the cinematic saga was always meant to focus on the legacy of the Skywalker family. The Original Trilogy centered on the redemption of Darth Vader, whose son, Luke Skywalker (a farm boy turned legendary knight) never gave up on the good in his father, Anakin before becoming the evil Sith Lord Vader. The prequels, released near the start of the new millennium, would narrate the fall of Anakin, from wide-eyed youth through his early years as a hero of a galactic war, and 40 years later, the final trilogy would complete the circle. After having defeated the Empire, a new evil has risen to spread tyranny on a fragile republic, and once again the will of Skywalker is called upon.

Movie fans, especially fans of the established canon, had been convinced the story had been told. Even with the connective franchise supplementary series that surfaced including the animated Clone Wars and eventual Rebels stories, the tale of the heroes at the conclusion of Episode VI Return of the Jedi appeared to have come to its natural conclusion. George Lucas himself had even said that there would be “no” Episodes VII-IX. After Disney acquired Lucasfilm and in effect everything related to Star Wars the fate of the future of the film franchises was tossed asunder. Under the new management of longtime colleague Kathleen Kennedy, Star Wars would return.

Spoiler Alert!

So, you’ve been warned! This review will discuss some key moments of the latest addition Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.  After the tumultuous critical response of Episode VIII The Last Jedi the ringmaster responsible for re-energizing the “revival” with Episode VII The Force Awakens J. J. Abrams was brought in to practically retcon the entirety of that feature which was helmed by Rian Johnson. When Kennedy brought Johnson in for Episode VIII the filmmaker had looked at the notes provided by Abrams, and he asked if he could vier in a slightly different direction. With Kennedy’s blessing, the result was perhaps the most un-Star Wars movie of the entire series.

Not that there was anything wrong with that. Johnson introduced some very interesting ideas in The Last Jedi: a duplicitous third party that was possibly playing both sides of the fence, supplying weapons to the tyrannical First Order and the fledgling Resistance army battling the good fight. It also tore the new trilogy’s trinity into three separate storylines apart from one another, and the worse of it (by many fan standards) it turned Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) into an aging hermit; a cynic who was once considered the only hope left in the galaxy had run out of it entirely. In his place, the new Jedi apprentice Rey (Daisy Ridley) was set adrift on a course of uncertainty. 

In this Age of Immediacy, with the internet and social networking dominating the attention spans of the general  [buying] audience, especially the rabid fandom that has risen to inherit this franchise, there is something that becomes undoubtedly compromised. One of the benefits of the original trilogy was the natural evolution of the main trio of characters at the center of the narrative that is allowed to evolve. Luke, Leia, and Han are brought together in the first film and share in the adventure, eventually destroying the Empire’s ultimate weapon. In the sequel, the trio all start together but are set on separate paths that ultimately lead them to a dark place.

Cut to Episode IX, the trinity is seen united on screen sharing in an adventure for the first time; in the previous installments Rey, Finn and Poe are fighting their adversaries or are facing their challenge on separate fronts, but all on a trajectory heading in a similar direction. The first half of Episode IX feels the most nostalgic because its reminiscent of the bond that is built by the original heroes and is solidified as legendary by the time Luke, Leia and Lando infiltrate Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine to rescue the carbon encased Han Solo. They’re a band of heroes — a family — formidable and aware. They are a force to be reckoned with and the audience is happy to see them all together.

In Episode iX when Poe, Finn, and Rey follow the trail of the film’s MacGuffin — a “Wayfinder” a mystic device that will lead them straight to their force-sensitive quarry — the chemistry among them is evident, but it’s fair to understand that they hardly have known one another. These three young people that have faced crisis after crisis since embarking on freeing the galaxy from evil and teamed up with the Resistance led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) but haven’t the band of the original film’s paragons. It’s deficient, to say the least especially when the audience must have an investment in their journey.

As the adventure begins, the trio learns they must travel to a new planet in search of a prize. It’s a running gag through the scene. Finn (John Boyega) and Rey are caught completely unaware of Poe’s shady affairs before becoming an able fighter pilot in the Resistance, and Poe (Oscar Isaacs) is not comfortable with the intimate shorthand between Finn and Rey, or the possibility that they may be keeping secrets from him. It’s an interestingly different dynamic, and would have probably worked well in a “middle act” of a trilogy, but “Rise” is the conclusion of the story. This is the end of the line for our heroes and they are coming to the final moments of their journey together.

It’s a thrill to see them working together especially when they are forced to confront the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his gang of thugs (that’s how I’ll describe) The Knights of Ren. Kylo reveals to Rey that she has a greater purpose to fulfill, and Rey isn’t prepared to listen until she unpredictably unleashes a new power that proves deadly. There is a very familiar enemy among them, one that may hold the key to Rey’s past — it would seem that the power-hungry Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is still pulling the strings in the balance of the force, and it’s no surprise that he’s set his claws into Rey and Ren.

Return, Revenge, Rise, Rehash?

There is a nostalgic thrill and wonder in the return to Lucas’ galaxy. It hardly feels like we’ve left, especially given how there have been expanded escapades to this universe throughout its 40-year history, whether we’re discussing the prequels, animated adventures or the newly minted Original Series that are surfacing on Disney+. With every visit, the mythology has had an opportunity to grow and fire our imaginations. With the advent of the prequels, Lucas was able to complete (and in some cases begin) the journey of many of his original characters. Where these sequels have failed is in validating that the story wasn’t already come full circle.

Obviously, with Disney’s purchase of the Lucasfilm franchise, it needed to come out of the ballpark swinging, and the powers that be believed that the best way to capitalize on Star Wars was to give the fandom a continuation of the Skywalker legacy. If that was the case, then perhaps a little more time and care should have been devoted to bringing that idea to life, in much the same way that the other big Disney franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, had shown great restraint in elaborating on its shared universe of Marvel superheroes in its decade of box office dominance. It feels especially with The Rise of Skywalker that the filmmakers [Kennedy, Abrams] just hit on the “beats”.

The tactic was extremely beneficial to audiences coming into The Force Awakens easing them back into a cinematic universe that they hadn’t been to in over 3 decades, but it was hardly necessary and oft time predictably executed. By the time that Kennedy recruited Rian Johnson for The Last Jedi that director appeared determined to upset the apple cart at whatever the cost, but with even less care for consequence. The divergent tactic of that installment threw everyone for a loop, and when Abrams was brought back into the fold, clearly in an effort to clean up the mess, it may have been a lot more sense to have put the pieces back together much slowly and not with due haste.

Star Wars | Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker feels like it was rushed, pieced together and not methodically thought out. Narratively there are many very interesting points, that had Abrams and his team focused on not tying up could have instead set in motion the next generation of characters that we’ve hardly gotten the time to know. Instead, the feature digs into “what has worked before” and played to those key points, checking off the boxes as we went. If George Lucas proved anything with his original saga and prequels, it’s that sometimes the unpredictable is far more interesting especially when it’s given to the telling from a certain point of view.

Rise is a rollercoaster — the kind that you’ve been on before and doesn’t recognize immediately, but when you realize that it’s just been refurbished and slightly retooled to freshen it up — it’s too late! You’ve committed and been exhilarated as if for the first time! You can recall what made the journey fun the first time and again you succumb to the nostalgia.

Star Wars | Episode IX | The Rise of Skywalker starring Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaacs and John Boyega directed by JJ Abrams is in theaters now. 

iFeature | The CW’s In Full “CRISIS” Control

It’s all been leading up to this moment! The CW’s DC primetime universe is about to get a full-on reboot as the countdown to “Crisis on Infinite Earths” begins and an anti-matter wave comes closer to erasing the “Arrowverse”.

And then all of a sudden…there was one! One primetime universe that is! If you watched last night’s episode of The CW series Batwoman into the final act, similarly to last year’s “Elseworlds” stinger, it was revealed that Nash Wells (Tom Cavanagh) interpreted the mysterious hieroglyphs uncovered in the tunnels beneath Central City and has unleashed something sinister upon the multiverse! We’re not exactly sure what that might be — at least not yet (but we have an idea)! The intrepid adventurer disappeared in a blast of intense white light!

Heroes united! The cast are gathered to challenge the fate of the multiverse.

If you’ve read DC Comic’s 12-part epic maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez published in 1985, and carefully deciphered the teaser trailers that have been promoting this season’s crossover event then you have an idea what role Nash has assumed in our still developing melodrama. “Some worlds will live, and some worlds will die…but nothing will ever be the same again,” was the tag line promoting the comic book run of “Crisis” and ultimately it made good on its promise. The series altered the fabric of the publishing imprint’s 50 year history.

Unless you were a Marvel Comic devotee at the time, readership was very low across the industry and new audiences coming into the genre were finding that DC’s extensive and very convoluted history was turning readers off. In order to make sense of its “Golden Age” heroes versus their contemporary “Silver Age” counterparts, DC introduced very early on the concept of a “multiverse” of earths separated by unique vibrations where its heroes like Barry Allen, The Flash of Earth-1 could join in adventures with Jay Garrick, The Flash of Earth-2.

The heroes of the DC primetime universe are preparing to meet their fate in the epic crossover “Crisis on Infinite Earths” based on the DC comics of the same name.

To Infinity and Beyond!

Somewhere along the way it became too much for anyone to follow (or even care about) and the brass at DC was eager to find a way to simplify the continuity. Enter Wolfman and Pérez who came up with the story that would solve the issue of why there were two Supermen, Batmen, etc. and streamlined the natural narrative of the DC Universe into a much more cohesive chronology that enhanced the legacy of our heroes through the ages. The idea of the multiverse came into play early on The CW network with The Flash starring Grant Gustin in Season 2.

When The Flash returned for its sophomore season in 2015 it immediately went to work to expand the worlds of the “Arrowverse” (the title given to The CW primetime series that featured DC comics properties, launched with Arrow in 2013 and produced by Greg Berlanti). By then the primetime spectrum incorporated the team ensemble series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl starring Melissa Benoist as the Maid of Steel. The urban vigilantism of Arrow starring Stephen Amell as the Green Arrow gave way to a world of metas, magic and more!

While the intrepid cadre of “losers” on DC’s Legends (made up of several featured players that had appeared on Arrow and The Flash) navigated the time-stream, Supergirl firmly established that its storyline existed outside of The CW’s “Earth-1” — and thus a multiverse was born. Gustin and Benoist on the virtue of their personal and professional history (both were featured on FOX’s Glee) immediately engaged in teaming up. The Flash appeared in Supergirl’s National City (on “Earth-38”) during the show’s First Season.

Crossover Event Spectacular!

Since then and on an annual basis (when the series schedules work themselves into the winter hiatus) the series have found a way of crossing over in much the same fashion that the superheroes would team-up in the comic books they’re based on. For “Crisis” the latest crossover epic, a similar expectation is being lump onto it’s televised adaptation as was envisioned by the imprint when the 12-issue maxi series was released — in a dramatic 5-part televised event that at its conclusion will in some way have a lasting effect on the mythology of its characters.

Taking advantage of the primetime multiverse The CW network has benefited from since the debut of Arrow eight seasons ago Marc Guggenheim, one of the architects behind the success of that series and many of the “Arrowverse” spin-offs that followed, has been the executive producer pulling the strings behind the curtain to bring “Crisis” to primetime. The groundwork had been laid down since last season’s “Elseworlds” event, which had been scaled down to 3-parts and centered mostly around the TV Trinity of heroes: Green Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl.

That crossover event immediately established the significance of a perpetually long-established “multiverse” and was illustrated with the appearance of John Wesley Shipp (a series recurring guest star on The Flash) reprising his titular role as The Flash as the hero appeared in the CBS 1990 series, facing off against the mysterious “Monitor” (guest star LaMonica Garrett) an omnipotent character warning the heroes of an impending “Crisis”. The “Elseworlds” crossover also introduced Ruby Rose as Batwoman and Gotham City, which has since gone to series.

Stephen Amell as the Emerald Archer from “Arrow”.

With Arrow coming to a close this season, and its star Stephen Amell accepting the fate of Oliver Queen’s Emerald Archer (whom it has been established would be meeting his demise at the end of the “Crisis” event) The Flash will inherit the mantle as the lead series, with Supergirl running closely alongside, helping to shepherd in the returning DC’s Legends (entering into its Fifth Season) and welcoming Black Lightning starring Cress Williams into the mix, while Batwoman carves her own path across the primetime fabric of DCTV storyline.

Setting an extremely high bar for itself, the writing staff for each of these series have the unsurmountable task of defying expectations for literally a story narrative that was so expertly crafted more than 30 years ago and is still held up as the benchmark of epic comic book storytelling. In any event, it’s an incredible feat in of itself and undoubtedly fans will have their own take on “Crisis” — Some will tune-in, others will tune-out, but the DCTV universe…

…well you get where this is going.

Crisis on Infinite Earths the 5-part crossover event begins Sunday, Dec 8 on The CW and concludes on Tuesday, January 14.

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.

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”.