Wednesday, December 26, 2012

GNNB (Gay Nerd News Blog) :: Atlantis Attacks the DC Universe

Since the launch of The New 52 in DC Comics no other character has had a more heroic (and appropriate) revamp than the King of the Seven Seas...Aquaman! Once to often the punchline in the past Arthur Curry has been re-imagined in the modern mythology has a force to be reckoned with...and he makes gold, green and gills look mighty fine at that.

In the new DC Universe Aquaman is (again) a founding member of the Justice League. He turns up early in their fight against invading forces from Darkseid and Apokolips and when the group of seven heroes decide to join forces as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes he rises to the occasion. Recently the group suffered a PR snafu that has shaken up the line-up and called to question who should lead the team.

Aquaman isn’t entirely happy with the way Batman runs the operation, and the Dark Knight calls to question Arthur’s loyalties, especially since for a short time early in his career the once-king of Atlantis was part of a subversive organization of clandestine mercenary agents called The Others. With their Justice League’s ranks currently experiencing a sense of desertion, whether the current roster can find a way to work past their internal issues is certainly putting the still fledging organization to the test.

Which seems like a perfect opportunity for the undersea forces of Atlantis to attach the surface world. After abdicating the throne to his brother, the warlord Ocean Master a recent accidental misfire by an American aircraft carrier running missile experiments, spurns the current leader of the undersea kingdom to unleash his fury on three major seaboard US cities including Boston, Metropolis and Gotham.

Aquaman quickly intervenes on the attack on Gotham, alongside his wife Mera and both help Batman to rescue the city. Superman and Wonder Woman are in Metropolis when the Atlantean tidal wave sends the offending aircraft carrier into the midst of the city streets. Boston is next to feel the onslaught which brings forth the Ocean Master who reveals his intentions to sink the city in retaliation for the accidental attack from the surface world.

Hoping to ease tensions, Aquaman confronts his brother and tells him to surrender, but the Justice League interrupt and leave Aquaman with no alternative but to choose sides!

Continuing the new tradition of reestablishing and reaffirming the mythology of its more than 75 year old characters the DC Universe is taking a very significant step to reshape its heroes to suit the more contemporary color of storytelling. Readers now expect their characters to have deep, conflicted personalities which tends to blur the lines between what’s right and wrong. And as the Justice League are practically gods walking among men (in Wonder Woman’s case this is very true) the new series is always toting the line between the group’s purpose as defenders of a civilization that questions their authority and sometimes fears their incredible might.

With this latest arc by the progenitor of the New 52 creative direction in the DC Universe, writer Geoff Johns continues to push the boundaries of the heroes own moral compasses, and as in this case the story with Aquaman, Johns is proving that the true King of Atlantis has risen to new heights, sitting formidably alongside the pantheon of heroes the likes of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

To find out who will sit on the “Throne of Atlantis” follow the tale that begins a bold new era in Justice League #15 and continues in Aquaman #15.

JC Alvarez is the Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net and a pop-culture columnist covering celebrity and entertainment. He is the voice behind the nationally syndicated Internet radio show “Out Loud & Live!” that broadcasts every Friday @ 9pm EST on

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Dark Knight the Occasion

When director Christopher Nolan was charged with revamping the Batman film franchise he took the Caped Crusader’s mythology very seriously and elevated the super-hero film genre to an entirely new level. When he unleashed 2005’s Batman Begins he started a phenomenon with his Dark Knight Trilogy that lead to the most controversial and insightful look into the mind of the DC Comic’s character – a character that has endured more than 50 years of storytelling.

First With The Reboot

Taking notes from some of the best stories from the modern age of comics, Nolan was able to deliver to the big screen a much more dynamic Bruce Wayne (portrayed by Oscar Winning actor Christian Bale) and a denser purpose for his decision to become a crime-fighting symbol of justice as the Batman. This dark avenger not only prowls the streets to Gotham to protect the innocent from the growing crime wave that is claiming the night.

Nolan’s Batman is motivated to insight a movement that inspires the people to take back what is rightfully theirs – to not fear the shadows. Everything though comes with a price, and as this force for good rises, so too do the servants of evil. In the first part of the trilogy, Wayne’s search to become the ultimate warrior leads him to undoubtedly his most merciless enemy. The mastermind Ra’s al Ghul and his League of Shadows have designs on Gotham City as well.

Incorporating the unscrupulous Dr. Jonathan Crane (aka “The Scarecrow”) as an unwitting conspirator in his plot, Ra’s al Ghul plans on burning the corrupt structure of the city to the ground, re-inventing it in his own image. Unfortunately he is unable to anticipate the city’s new defender, when Wayne now adopting the identity of Batman interferes with his scheme and stops the two in their tracks...but not before introducing an entirely new criminal element unlike any the world has seen before.

The League of Shadows and the fear-inducing Scarecrow were only the tip of the iceberg. No one could have anticipated the menace that would shake the very foundation that Batman was fighting to maintain. When the Joker arrives on the scene an entirely new breed of anarchy is unleashed on Gotham.

In The Dark Knight Nolan re-imaged the character of the Joker (played by Heath Ledger and first realized on the silver screen by Jack Nicholson) and pit Batman against a worthy opponent – the literal yin to his yang. The Joker devices a plot to prove to Batman just how easily men walk the line between good and evil; sane and insane. His mad plans involve the corruption of Gotham’s top DA, one Harvey Dent – who by the end of the mad encounter topples over the edge and becomes a monster called Two-Face.

Batman’s world is shattered and wrought with loss. The Joker ends up getting aced, but not without dealing the crime fighter a royal flush – winner take all. With the crumbling facade of Gotham’s justice system in the balance, Batman decides to fold and takes the blame for the death of Dent and the murders the vengeful campaign the mad men leaves in his wake.

Batman becomes a fugitive. The hunter is now, the hunted.

Rise Again

For the final chapter in his film trilogy, Nolan had to tie up the loose ends introduced over the course of the first two films. Namely, define the purpose of the Batman in the world and whether the hero actually did some good while on his crusade; had the Dark Knight’s mission been accomplished? It becomes obvious that the sacrifice Bruce Wayne’s alter ego made for the sake of protecting an ideal is a best an empty one. The cancer that plagues the city begins to surface from the inside out.

Absolute power consumes and corrupts absolutely. In the wake of Harvey Dent’s passing a new age of prosperity takes over Gotham City, but it’s only a “spot clean” – already plans are in place that will shake the foundations and the core of this era of good feeling will come crashing around everyone’s ears, when a new villain comes to town.

With Batman out of the picture, Wayne having retired his secret identity to live life as a recluse, the economy of his vast empire and that of the very city’s becomes compromised. When the mercenary named Bane comes to reclaim Gotham, he begins by plunging the city into economic turmoil. High-jacking the financial district is only the beginning. Bane across a weapon of mass destruction and severs the city from the rest of the world. Robbing Bruce Wayne and the rest of Gotham’s elite of their millions, Bane releases the criminals first prosecuted under the reign of Harvey Dent...and reveals the truth about Two-Face!

Ultimately destroying the people’s faith in their governing body, a war rages between the “haves” and the “have-nots” forcing the Batman to once more take up the cape and cowl when the tension level rises. In the midst of all the chaos, a notorious Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) is manipulated into delivering Batman into Bane’s waiting arms. In the end, broken and defeated, Bruce Wayne is imprisoned and forced to helplessly watch as his city plummets into despair, and refine his purpose in time to save the day.

Though it isn’t the spectacle that moviegoers were perhaps expecting Rises does meet and match the overall theme set by Nolan for his Dark Knight adventure. Having revolutionized the superhero film genre it couldn’t have ended any other way – the story had to be bigger than the Batman mythology. It had to be Shakespearean in its motif.

In order to save himself, Wayne must save the city. In order to save the city, he must become the Batman again...and commit to the ultimate sacrifice.

Nolan says he’s hung up his cape and Bale says he’s done playing the Caped Crusader, but with the superhero film now a hot commodity in Hollywood, you can bet we haven’t seen the last of Batman on the big screen. And with the success of Marvel’s Avengers it won’t be long before DC Comic’s own Justice League jump from the page and into the box office battle. The Dark Knight has the skies. The signal is sent.

JC Alvarez is the Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net and a pop-culture columnist covering celebrity and entertainment. He is the voice behind the nationally syndicated Internet radio show “Out Loud & Live!” that broadcasts every Friday @ 9pm EST on

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rihanna is “Unapologetic” on New Album.

The album art to Rihanna's latest.
So I wasn’t invited to tramp across the skyways with pop-princess Rihanna on her recent media tour to support the release of her latest album. Unapologetic is the songstress’ 7th studio offering in so many years. Since her debut on the music scene in 2005, Rihanna appeared determined to make a considerable dent on the pop spectrum whether she had an audience or not. So she packed a 777 and decided to hit the road!

7 countries. 7 days. 7 show. The 777 Tour to promote album number 7. Lucky number or not, its gonna grab Rihanna some headlines – as usual.

Somewhat ruthless in her ambition, she laid it into her critics when she unleashed a storm with her hit single “Umbrella.” The collaboration with rap music mogul proved the hit-maker’s strategically second greatest career move since marrying BeyoncĂ©...and fortunately for Rihanna, the single rocketed the Barbadian beauty into super-stardom.

With a near relentless appetite for attention and an equally addictive taste for courting controversy, Rihanna’s music and personal life kept her on the charts and in the tabloid headlines. Cut to her new reality, where the luxury of anonymity is the one thing she can no longer afford. Fame after all does come with a price.

The theme that is most prevalent in Unapologetic as Rihanna thumbs her nose at the public scrutiny that has followed her every move, is just that – that singer has nothing to apologize for. I’m rich. I’m beautiful. So fuck you! Whether you like it or not, I’m here to stay.

Talent is the one still questionable traits that is yet to be confirmed among the artist’s (and I use that word loosely) repertoire, but if Rihanna is capable of anything it’s picking the producers and tracks that will convey every bit the narrative that she is working to express. She is a smart marketeer, comparable to Madonna in her day. Look where that skill has gotten the Queen of Pop. If Rihanna is cut from the same cloth time will certainly tell, but in the here in now Unapologetic may stand has one of her most ardent musical productions yet.

Pushing her dance floor collaborators to their boundaries, Unapologetic starts with the David Guetta production “Fresh Off the Runway” that doesn’t have the trappings and synth associated with the remix/producers. Instead the track is a harder-hitting gang bang of beats and electronic rhythms that sway along with Rihanna’s own auto-tuned vocals and breathy accents. The track’s very contemporary swing confirms that RiRi knows what catches her fans attention...and she’s ready to slam them into the wall.

The already chart climbing “Diamonds” is along the same type of drama that we’ve come to expect from other radio-ready female vocalists that are making the rounds. It’s a powerful proclamation and moves along easily; the arrangement is poignant and is sure to give Rihanna her biggest and brightest moments on stage. The song is wrought with emotion – her emotion is very present in its performance. The production, though not the most soaring, still manages to hit like a wave crashing into the surf.

The rest of Unapologetic features more of the same confection that has become the norm on the pop scheme as of late. There are the guest appearances which include Guetta (who provides the album’s club frenzied “Right Now”), hip-hop acts like Future and Eminem, and alternative artist Mikky Ekko who delivers on the ghostly romantic “Stay”. It’s interesting that the track right after this romantic ode is Rihanna’s sure to be controversial duet with Chris Brown.

If “Noboby’s Business” feels like a seductively bouncy romp that could have been written by Michael Jackson, that’s because the King of Pop contributed a lot of the tracks feel. It’s an unofficial “response” to Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” produced by The-Dream. In a very decisive and somewhat delusional move, Rihanna put away the restraining and paired up with her beau – as for how her fans will react. Stay tuned.

But as for what the pop artist is thinking, it’s apparent – she doesn’t give a fuck what people will think or say about it. There are very interesting productions on Unapologetic that grab instant attention. “Love Without Tragedy-Mother Mary” is one such nugget, while “No Love Allowed” is a sure-fire reminder of her summery sweet beach front Barbados roots, and “Lost in Paradise” rounds out the album with a broken-hearted, rock-tinged single waiting to solidify Rihanna’s place on Billboard...yet again.

Though she has nothing to apologize for – her work ethic, her drive to stay on top, her unique appeal –  it is perhaps her critics who owe her a bit of slack. Unapologetic shines bright like a diamond.

JC Alvarez is the Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net and a pop-culture columnist covering celebrity and entertainment. He is the voice behind the nationally syndicated Internet radio show “Out Loud & Live!” that broadcasts every Friday @ 9pm EST on

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Christina Aguilera’s “Lotus” Blossoms

The last time around that Christina Aguilera was on the radar she was about to hit the big screen, go bionic and was suddenly a single lady. The one-two punch of a divorce and her box-office dud dulled out the buzz surrounding her electro-heavy album project. It took a competition reality show The Voice to remind everyone outside of her fan base how much of a force of nature Aguilera truly is.

A nominally successful single with co-conspirator Adam Levine proved she still had the moves. And a similarly inspired turn as a TV judge solidified that after a decades worth of music Christina knows her shit. After several seasons mentoring the musical talent of tomorrow, Christina Aguilera returns to what she does best – make music!

Critically Bionic her last full-length album project couldn’t have been more disappointing for the artist, who was releasing a techno-synth opus that had promised to deliver on high-voltage but barely had the wattage needed to light a candle. Aside from the premiere single “Not Myself Tonight” the album as a whole barely made a dent on the charts for Aguilera who had committed herself to a multi-city tour to promote Bionic.

An ambitious set of tracks, mostly all produced for the rousing commerciality of dance music that was largely inspired by the success of Lady Gaga, there was little Aguilera could do to escape the eclipse of the new music phenomenon that was challenging all conventions of popular music. Looking to challenge the critics that found joy in comparing the two, Aguilera teamed with electro-pop producers Tricky Stewart, Polow da Don and Samuel Dixon to give Bionic it uniquely synth-pop dimension.

When interest in the album fizzled, Bionic peaked at seventy-nine on the US Billboard Hot 100, and not even appearances by a then relatively unknown Nicki Minaj could raise any additional eyebrows. The plug was soon pulled on the planned “2010 Bionic Tour” – boohoo!

Defiant and resilient Aguilera appeared determined that her next album project would remind everyone of just how formidable she is. On Lotus her seventh full-length album, Aguilera demonstrates just how far she’s blossomed, from pop-princess, to pop-icon.

The strength of this compilation of tracks isn’t solely linked to Aguilera’s dominating vocals, Lotus is powered on by some very accessible pop tracks – something that many argued was missing significantly from Bionic. From the smartly crafted lead single “Your Body” is Aguilera’s proof that she is carefully listening to how music now is responding to memorable hooks and electronic beats. She isn’t compromising on her voice either. The track’s arrangement takes full advantage of her masterful range.

Fortunately “Your Body” isn’ the only petal Lotus has to pluck. Linking to the popularity of singing competition show The Voice Aguilera teams up with her mates CeeLo Green and Blake Shelton, for two of the album’s most radio-friendly tracks. “Make the World Move” is powered by a memorable drum beat that is sharpened by CeeLo’s presence. Performing with country star Blake Shelton on “Just a Fool” reveals the powerful cross-over potential of a ballad that is narratively as winning as a Carrie Underwood hit.

Lotus continues to blossom with the dance floor ready “Let There Be Love” that will be a choice favorite for club crowd that found Bionic’s tedious track list too predictable and forced. “Sing For Me” is one of albums more powerful ballads, which there are in abundance this time. There’s no denying that Aguilera’s greatest gift is her natural instrument, which easily continues to brand her the voice of her generation.

On “Army of Me” she is quick to remind us that she’s still stronger; she’s still a fighter. “Circles” poignantly takes a jab at the haters, while “Empty Words” seems to be directed at anyone that’s felt defeated or invisible – it’s her newest anthem dedicated to empowerment.

Like the endurable flower that she’s named this album after, Aguilera has grown beyond any expectations, and will go on. Her image may continue to dominate and her persona may overshadow her artistry, but there is no escaping her musicality. Fans will appreciate Lotus for what it is, a reflection of Christina Aguilera’s present. Her abstract defiance intact she continues to thumb her nose at those that thought she’d never succeed. But here she shut up!

JC Alvarez is the Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net and a pop-culture columnist covering celebrity and entertainment. He is the voice behind the nationally syndicated Internet radio show “Out Loud & Live!” that broadcasts every Friday @ 9pm EST on

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Too Many Trips to the Super-Hero Well?

Summer is over. We’re slow-steeped in the barrage of fall horror films offered just in time for the Halloween season, and soon all the prestige flicks will be out just in time for the Oscar race to begin. If the XMas decorations going up all over malls across America aren’t enough to scare the crap out of you, how about the trailer releases spotlighting next summer’s big blockbusters?

Is it any shock that most of the most anticipated films of 2013 are yet again the next chapters in most of the more popular superhero franchise films, that you’re still mentally digesting, especially after a summer fighting dark knights, avengers assembled, and the return of a friendly neighborhood wall-crawler? Brace year we’ve got a full-slew of men of steel, and the first one keeps proving invincible!

Hot off the presses with little time to have cooled in the furnace Marvel Studios has launched a blitzkrieg with the new Iron Man 3 trailer. As expected with fan boys still recovering from New York City Comic-Con, this was just the injection the Internet needed to get things going. Still a ways away from hitting theaters even Tony Stark admits that the recent attack on New York City (as experienced in this summer’s hit The Avengers) has taken its toll on him. Which begs one to ask: Are theater audiences also exhausted by Hollywood’s continually, and sometimes uninspired trips to comic book well?

I’ll probably get slammed for saying this but let’s face it – the just released trailer for Iron Man 3 isn’t really all that cool. Beat for beat it looks and feels like a rip-off of the premiere shots from The Dark Knight Rises. But let’s be honest too about one other thing as well, it may not be all that cool...but if it was any less impressive, we wouldn’t be all that excited to catch this next installment of this winning franchise.

In the film teaser we see a battle weary Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr.) fixated on creating a powerful new suit of armor – one that responds to his every whim, but like one other famously brilliant inventor, has he created a monster out of the man? The trailer reveals the film’s new threat and the Marvel character’s greatest adversary, The Mandarin. He appears poised to take down our Armored Avenger down with what looks like the contemporary Marvel villain, The Iron Patriot. Who exactly is hiding inside that suit is still up in the air, but with young Harry Osborn set to reappear in The Spectacular Spider-Man could his notorious father Norman be behind the plot to destroy Stark?

So many questions, but one thing is for sure – Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts has seen better days! Relegated to the damsel in distress, it looks like she gets tossed from a plane, kidnapped in her sleep, and strapped to a metal harness. Totally not cool, but fortunately the Academy Award winner has a paycheck for all of her troubles. Not bad for a day’s work!

As a comic book fan from the days when comic books only mattered in 2D, I feel that I am an authority to discuss the manner in which the film industry has turned the summer into a super hero blood bath. I feel comfortable voicing my opinion because I know that most of you will agree – summer’s have become nothing more than the season of the big blockbusters. It’s just too bad that all the films are based on the same thing.

As kids we hoped and prayed to one day meet our heroes in the flesh. The first Superman film proved that a man really could fly...but by the third installment, and the quest for peace, audiences were looking for a new hero. After waiting and wanting for such a long time to see the X-Men up on the big screen, were they really all that they were cut up to be? Did Phoenix’s death in X2 have the same resonance as the now classic issue of The Uncanny X-Men #138?

And how about Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns? Does that compare in any way to what the brilliant Christopher Nolan created on the big screen for his trilogy? Does it surpass the printed version. The film version of Watchmen tried really hard, but fell short to Alan Moore’s incredible graphic novel (which is really great as an animated comic). Are we jaded and just sitting around waiting for the next “Watchmen”?

With the success of this summer’s Avengers the next wave of Marvel films can’t fail. Everyone is waiting with baited breath for Thor, Ant-Man, The Wolverine, Spider-Man, Captain America and yes, the next Iron Man. But will we judge them as harshly if they suddenly fail to deliver on the original? Fortunately for us, the movies are taking these mythological heroes to entirely new levels, so until Justice League comes along...make mine Marvel with a bucket of popcorn!

JC Alvarez is the Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net and a pop-culture columnist covering celebrity and entertainment. He is the voice behind the nationally syndicated Internet radio show “Out Loud & Live!” that broadcasts every Friday @ 9pm EST on

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Madonna :: The DNA of MDNA

Madonna’s MDNA World Tour has finally wound its way into North America and hit our hometown of New York City. The Queen of Pop played two nights in the Bronx at Yankee Stadium – a quick 20 minute ride on the 4 train from midtown Manhattan. This was the artist’s first time holding court in the historic home of the country’s World Series Champions and an audience of over 40,000 fans.

To say the least when Madonna finally took the stage 2 hours later than anticipated, and the crowd cheered without abandon, she genuinely paused at the enormity of it all – happy to be “home” and humbled to be performing for so many of her fans. There was speculation about how the mega pop star would “read” in such a huge venue. In the past, Madonna had always performed and sold out on multiple engagements Madison Square Garden (which she has just announced to have added another date on the current tour’s stop), but perhaps since the current pop goddess Lady Gaga just sold out that space 5 times over on her last tour venture, Madonna had to one-up the still  young upstart.

Madonna continues to "strike a pose" on tour!
Moving an audience in such a huge venue as a stadium is a pretty amazing feat – though not extraordinary by Madonna standards. Four months ago, when the first details began to emerge about her promotional tour for her latest album project MDNA, Madonna had said very openly she wanted to play stadiums and arenas around the world. In essence, her vision for this tour would be big...a blockbuster. And if the MDNA Tour is anything – it’s cinematic!

Madonna redefined the pop concert with her 1990 Blond Ambition Tour. She incorporated theatrical elements, including thematic staging and lighting, introduced high-fashion and high concept, and developed a setlist using her music catalogue to evolve a cathartic experience for the audience – all the while singing and dancing as if the world was going to end. For two hours, the viewer would be transported to another world of Madonna’s design...and ever since she has always worked to outdo herself.

The MDNA Tour primarily conceived as a way to promote her new album also is giving her the unconventional opportunity to exorcise some demons, as is evidenced by the show’s opening act titled “Transgression” – and it suits the angry tenor she has demonstrated as a component of MDNA.

Opening to the deafening chimes of church bells, the show begins on the grounds of what would resemble a Franciscan Church. Cloaked monks prepare for the morning benediction as devilish gargoyles come to life. If this is a place of is also a place of demons. One may come here to meditate, but our heroine has a sinister intentions. The glass shatters and Madonna dressed in a black body-hugging cat suit and animal print bra peaking out of her top is determined to bring chaos into this peaceful place, which she does appropriately opening with her single “Girl Gone Wild”.

In true form, the opening antics are very high-energy and the Queen of Pop is determined to remind her fans that she’s got it. With a bevy of heavily-bodied boys, Madonna pushes gender boundaries and forces her troupe to perform in heels. Her men in heels – her ladies packing rifles and guns. After all a pistol is akin to a man’s penis.

The rest of the act goes into the obscure single “Revolver” (featuring the show’s first special appearance by hip-hop/rapper Lil Wayne) and proves that her sex is a killer – Madonna means business, and proves just how much when she gets into “Gang Bang” and one of the controversial moments of the night. Did you think there weren’t going to be any?

With all the shootings and gun violence plaguing the news, a little restraint and sensitivity could have been exercised when this homage to the popularized violence of pulp films was being put together, but how was Madonna to know that the world was going to go “gun happy”? Not defending her choices, but within the context of the show, this gun-toting, angry bitch is a very real approximation of how the Material Girl has been feeling of late.

The recently divorced, mother of four, is aging and bitterly struggling to stay relevant in a post-Gaga pop-music world. Stripped of several of her millions in the split with former husband film director Guy Ritchie, you bet Madonna is pissed...but she has regrets. She expresses that vulnerability swinging into “Papa Don’t Preach”, a melancholy lead into the “Hung Up” which Madonna performs strapped to a slack line supported by her dancers.

The tightrope act could be an allegory for the balances that she (or we) must endure in order to have everything she wants in life...mother, lover, stardom, credibility – we’re all hung-up. Regrettably...all things come to an end and so does Act 1. Marked by the interlude mash-up of “Best Friend / Heartbeat” Madonna sadly bids good-bye to her very best friend. Who that is could be anyone’s guess...but it solidly signifies an ending.

When we enter act to the backdrop shifts to animated multi-colored images that evoke a much more pleasant aesthetic. The familiar intro beats of the hit “Express Yourself” begin and Madonna marches in – literally. She is the captain of the squad and is affirmatively staking her claim as she pounces on the song’s powerful message, and doesn’t hesitate to play into the comparisons to the Lady Gaga track “Born This Way”. To which Madonna quickly trumpets – she’s not me!

The segment goes into a drum majorette boogie down with “Give Me All Your Luvin’”. It’s a playful wink and a nod to her own days as a cheerleader and she gives it up for the crowd before disappearing into the scenery. A video montage introduces some of her more famous radio hits of the last 3 decades before she reemerges onto the stage with a guitar in hand and rocks out to her latest single “Turn Up the Radio”. Fortunately for her, most of her fans can remember what a radio actually our digital age few people turn up the volume.

So to remind us all of a simpler time, Madonna brings the tempo down a notch for her next set of songs which she has rearranged to perform with the Kalakan Trio. She sprints into the classic “Open Your Heart” with elements of “Sagarra Jo” mixed in, before force feeding her audience “Masterpiece”. The one ballad played during the tour also fell victim to the necessary bathroom break for most of the onlookers. Shouldn’t have started your show 2 hours late Madonna! Folks might have stuck around for this slow number.

Which moves into another video interlude of a remixed version of “Justify My Love” which was retooled by William Orbit and has our heroine running madly away from a crowd of paparazzi, all the while looking very Fellini like! She addresses down to her undergarments and dons a harlequin mask before returning to the stage amid a stampede of fashion images for “Vogue”.

Madonna continues to play with the juxtaposition of the masculine and feminine for this segment. Some of her dancers are stylishly sporting black and white classically lined garments, her male dancers in dresses and the women in suit jackets. All this fashion leads into a burlesque club for a souped up version of “Candy Shop” mashed-up with “Erotica”. Again she flirts with the feminine and masculine, coquettishly lip-smacking and undressing the girls on stage, while the men smack her bottom.

It’s no wonder that when the mirror is held up to her she lets out with “Human Nature”, before stripping it all down on stage for the vulnerably revealing rendition of “Like A Virgin”. It’s Madonna and a piano quietly on stage...and one of the show’s more somber moments. You get that she’s lonely and that perhaps she knows that there are fewer days ahead than there are behind her, yet she still yearns to be touched...for the very first time. At every show she strips to her panties and bras and brazenly reveals a tattooed message on her back. Usually the message has been “No Fear”. Tonight it read “Obama” in support of the president’s upcoming re-election campaign.

“Protect your freedom,” Madonna said early on during her show. “You don’t know how lucky you are. It can be taken away from you in a second!”

At this segment’s close the final video interlude is a political one set to “Nobody Knows Me” with interchanging images of politicos and historical figures both positive and negative. In it Madonna also cites the current debate over marriage equality for the LGBT community and the tanking economy. Her message: know your history so you won’t make the same mistakes again.

The final act of the show is a loud techno-dance romp. Madonna has seen the light and is embracing love. It’s like a drug which prompts her to belt out the electro-funk of the new song “I’m Addicted” before realizing that she may have made mistakes. “I’m a Sinner” but don’t judge her for she is saved with her classic hit “Like a Prayer” which raises the roof off the the entire show. Her life a mystery, but above all it’s a “Celebration” and when she bids her audience good night she reminds us that the party still goes on.

The tour isn’t necessarily a revelation although it bears the title MDNA as if to insinuate that it’s peeling back the veil into the DNA of the artist. Perhaps. Perhaps not. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Madonna – it’s big, it’s loud, it’s in your face and it’s still undeniable.

JC Alvarez is the Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net and a pop-culture columnist covering celebrity and entertainment. He is the voice behind the nationally syndicated Internet radio show “Out Loud & Live!” that broadcasts every Friday @ 9pm EST on

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Keeping Pace with The Walking Dead :: Season 2 (Part 2)

Television dramas are their best when they are metaphors for our current daily lives. You may wonder what the correlation may be between real life and a zombie apocalypse, especially when it’s not particularly high on anyone’s list of things to do on the weekend, but seriously – don’t you sometimes feel like that’s exactly what living life in the grind is like? Don’t you fear that there are elements all around you that are threatening to consume you body and soul the minute you become complacent and comfortable?

Sure the tale that’s unraveling on the hit AMC series The Walking Dead is an extreme fantasy horror. Based on the popular graphic novel series, its heroes are forced to move nomadically across the country avoiding hordes of the hungry undead. Not the most idyllic situation.

Friend or's survival of the fittest!
In the series second season, now available on Blu-ray, our survivors may have found some respite at least for a hot minute. Their two youngest members of the group have not faired so well. A young boy was shot and a young girl, Sophia has gone missing. Our group is lead by Rick Grimes, at one-time a man of the law, and his deputy, Shane Walsh (played by Jon Bernthal) have two very different ideas of how to now endure in these difficult times.

With his son having recently been accidentally and fatally wounded, Rick had to stay by Carl’s side, while Shane retrieved the supplies necessary to save his life. To which Shane sacrificed a fellow survivor to a horde of walkers in order to escape a terrible predicament. At what personal cost? The act begins to change Shane into someone else – someone that perhaps threatens the wavering stability of the group, which is settling into life on Hershel’s farm.

When the group discovers that Hershel is actually harboring walkers, his infected family and neighbors in the barn on the grounds, it pushes Shane overboard who doesn’t think Rick is doing enough to protect the group or his now pregnant wife.

Taking matters into his own hands, Shane opens the barn unleashing the walkers inside. The group massacres the hungry mob, and Hershel and his children are helpless to watch their friends and family fall again. As penance for the insensitive act, one more walker stumbles out of the shadows and into the light. It’s the group’s missing girl and Carol’s (played by Mellissa McBride) daughter Sophia. Stunned by the discover, the gun-happy group takes pause...and as the threat of the hungry walker, Sophia or not, gets closer to them, he takes matters into his own hands and shoots the creature in the head.

The group is left to mourn again. Which in the world of The Walking Dead happens quite often. The survivors are faced with mourning their dead, question their restraint on the morality that kept them civilized, and relinquish all instincts but the ones to survive, because in this world, tomorrow is not guaranteed.

And no one is safe, even in numbers. The writers are constantly pushing that thread and boundary of right and wrong. The characters must make base decisions on a daily: do we eat today, or save for tomorrow? Do we kill or be kill? And in Season 2 they all experience contemplative moments where the mirror is raised and they must ask themselves where do they stand...where will they stand.

Certainly none of us will ever be faced with these dire circumstances (we hope and pray) but The Walking Dead does force one to reflect on exactly what you are – will  you eat or be eaten? We are talking after all about survival of the fittest.

JC Alvarez is the Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net and a pop-culture columnist covering celebrity and entertainment. He is the voice behind the nationally syndicated Internet radio show “Out Loud & Live!” that broadcasts every Friday @ 9pm EST on