Friday, April 27, 2012

Assembling this Summer's Biggest Hit!

It's that time of year again...perhaps my favorite – when the summer movie blockbuster season is in full effect. One this summer's most anticipated movies is the much-hyped and star packed The Avengers. The film is based on the popular Marvel comic book created by Stan Lee and Jack "The King" Kirby back in 1963. The comic was Stan Lee's answer to giving his readers more bang for their buck – by assembling a team book of his top-selling characters...kind of exactly like what Hollywood has done with the movie.

The Avengers has done the impossible! It's placed the characters and by default the actors of some of the biggest superhero franchise films into one action-packed movie. The film version of The Avengers like the book its based on is bringing together a line-up of Hollywood heavy hitters that each all of their own have carried their films to big box office success. But as impressive as this is, because of my pop-culture pedigree (it never fails) whenever a franchise film like this is set to launch and is based on a popular comic book I get bombarded by questions...
The Avengers come alive on the big screen!

Exactly who are The Avengers?

Well now everyone knows who The Avengers are. They're plastered all over every major city, on every billboard and on the side of every bus. But everyone knows them as Robert Downey Jr. who has played the armored avenger Iron Man in two successful blockbuster flicks, Chris Evans who is the star-spangled super-soldier Captain America (and before that he was part of Marvel's first family as the Fantastic Four's Human Torch) and Chris Hemsworth who is the mighty God of Norse myth Thor. Yes...this is the perception of the modernized team of heroes that the world is calling The Avengers, but with all due respect before Downey's man of steel (or iron, or fiberglass for that matter) there were more than four decades of Avengers history.

So...who are The Avengers?

Well, they're comic book characters – you know that, but when the original team of heroes came together similarly to what you're gonna see in the film, they were manipulated by the Thunder God Thor's trickster brother Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston once again) into coming together to battle a common threat...that threat was The Hulk (realized in CGI but modeled after Mark Ruffalo in the film). The original team line-up did include Thor, Iron Man and an unwilling Hulk, but to round-up the roster The Avengers were also joined by the diminutive duo Ant-Man and The Wasp.

Realizing they'd been duped by Loki, the group pooled their resources and fought their common foe...and on that day The Avengers were assembled! Moving into a midtown Manhattan mansion, the roster has since changed and evolved to largely include almost every single character in the Marvel Universe including The Black Widow brought slinkily to life by Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2 and who now is joining the team, alongside another veteran member of the team Hawkeye is played by Jeremy Renner recruited for the role after introducing the archer in last summer's Thor.

The cover to the first issue of The Avengers.
The Avengers are called Earth's Mightiest Heroes and soon they'll be Hollywood's Biggest Box-Office Draws and if the history of the comics is any indication, the film franchise could have a significantly long life. The Avengers have fought off alien invaders, would-be world dominators, evil dictators and megalomaniacs...they've even faced-off (and most recently again) against The Uncanny X-Men. Can you imagine that movie deal? It's probably already in the making, but let's stick to what the well of Avengers history has to offer.

Rumors are already spinning that for the sequel the team will be filled out and will introduce Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne – the real names of Avengers original team members Ant-Man and The Wasp. And one of the more winning rumors is that Desperate Housewives Eva Longoria is being courted for the coveted role of the whimsy Wasp. Note to Hollywood: That would be brilliant casting! But still there are decades of stories to choose from!

The X-Men films haven't introduced two of Marvel's most popular mutants and it has been theorized that Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver the twin children of Magneto were kept out of last summer's hit X-Men: First Class in order to be more appropriately be introduced alongside The Avengers line-up. That would open the door to revealing new Marvel characters including The Vision and the one of the team's most menacing adversaries – the evil Ultron. That has summer blockbuster all over it!

So who are The Avengers? That is now one of the most loaded questions in popular culture, because if the film does as big at the box office as is anticipated, it'll be something that Hollywood will claim ownership over, while legions of comic book fans will thumb through hundreds-upon-thousands of pages of Avengers comics attempting to cast the more than 60 members of the roster, which have come to include Spider-Man and even The X-Men Wolverine and most recently Storm. One thing is for sure now that the formula is proving its worth, it won't be long before the competitive DC Comics Justice League movie is set in motion.

Avengers Assemble! Blockbuster battle is on!

JC Alvarez is the host and personality behind the nationally syndicated radio-show "Out Loud & Live!" on Modern World Radio ( and is also a pop-culture/celebrity columnist and Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net (

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Emerald City...It Can Be Yours!

The sun sets on the mighty metropolis.
There's no way to over-sell how remarkable this city is...New York City is not only my home, it does just on the basis of its luster feel like the center of the universe. Today the temperature rose to almost 85 degrees, which is pretty remarkable for this early into the spring. Not that I'm complaining. This is when the city starts to look its most beautiful and when you start to realize how miraculous being alive really is.

Yes...New York City in the spring time can do that to you. Make you feel like you're in the center of everything!

Pride season is about to begin and across the country every major metropolis will be waving the rainbow flag...this year NYC will have a great deal to celebrate, especially its first year of "marital bliss". Last year Marriage Equality was passed in our state and joined the handful of other principalities that support equality for all its citizens...and not just a handful of the privileged few. That's right – equality is a right, guaranteed under our Constitution – don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It's not something that you can buy. It's not something on a shelf. Freedom and equality is something that people everywhere are fighting for.

Don't think we have to fight for that equality every day and cherish that freedom that is afforded to everyone -- one nation under God.

And as the weather begins to warm up and gives us a glimpse into what the season has in store for us, you can't help but be grateful for every opportunity that you are given. It's a reminder that we all have a lot of living left to do and that everyday is a gift. I learned this from my friend Daved Beck.

It's easy to take for granted how different life is for those of us not living in an urban center. There are young people across the country living in small townships that have challenges of their own...and yes regardless of where you live in this country, it's important to be yourself. Embrace your home - that's where the heart is, but don't allow yourself to be motivated by fear to turn down a dark path or away from the people that love you.

I'm reminded of The Wizard of OZ - I gay is that - but really when you think about, here was this girl - Dorothy - from Kansas who was dropped in the middle of the strangest kind of circumstance, in a world that she really didn't understand. She was told to "follow the yellow brick road" to the Emerald City and along the way she met a colorful and imperfectly perfect cast of characters. Together they had the adventure of a lifetime. When Dorothy returned home to Kansas from the spectacle of it all through the magic of her ruby slippers to the chant of "There's no place like home" her life may have been irrevocably changed, but at the core she was still the same small-town girl, but every possibility was open to her.

Everyone can't travel somewhere over the rainbow, but OZ is only a click of your heels away...and remember that wherever you are that is your Emerald City. Where you will always have the wisdom, the heart and the courage to be who you are and be loved the most.

Spring does this to me - it makes me an optimist to the wonder of it all; it opens up all of the possibilities. It makes me appreciate that anything can happen...and it makes me believe that somewhere someone is cheering you on. That you don't have to be afraid. It's worth the risk. Here's to spring! Let the sun shine in.

JC Alvarez is the host and personality behind the nationally syndicated radio-show "Out Loud & Live!" on Modern World Radio ( and is also a pop-culture/celebrity columnist and Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net (

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Red Carpet Walk Down (TV) Memory Lane...

Tonight New York City hosted the 10th Anniversary of the TV Land Awards. One has to wonder if we need another award show - there would seem to be a new one every week...or any number of reasons to uncomfortably cram like a sardine on a receiving line and ask celebrities questions about "what they're doing here?". Fortunately with this particular awards gathering, it's more of the industry (and fan's) way of showing legendary sitcom acts that before reality television took over the fabric of popular culture, we actually remembered and loved tuning-in to well-scripted situation comedies.

The event taped live for an upcoming televised broadcast for TV Land which will air later this month and was hosted by none other than morning TV's new reigning queen Kelly Ripa - who didn't stop to say "hi" to me (whatever)...that's OK - because I would have had to reach down from the perch I was on to talk to the diminutive celeb-personality. I'll always still love me my Ripa...and I'm confident that one day I'll sit as a guest co-host on her show. It was a treat to see her in all her summery bronze goodness, but before I could bat an eye the cast of some of my favorite shows ever on television were all making their way down the maroon carpet - I suppose it had to be a shade darker than a regular red carpet - for legal reason or something. It certainly wasn't a different color because any of these talented folks had lost their luster...they all shined just as brightly as any contemporary star in Hollywood.

The evening honored the very talented ensemble and writer behind a television show that started perhaps the first dialogues about television series. It was unlike anything that had ever aired before. The cast of the hit CBS series "Murphy Brown" happily made their way over to acknowledge they're receipt of the evening's Impact Award. Faith Ford looked stunning, Charles Kimbrough and Grant Shaud still looked very much the part, and I didn't admit it to him but Joe Regalbuto looked just as bit as handsome as he ever did - in that quirky sort of way (there was something about him) or maybe it was how show creator Diane English put pen to the page and made them all a wonder, but Joe always stood out to me. Perhaps it was the way he always challenged the show's star. Candice Bergen was not on the carpet...but who can blame her - she's currently appearing on Broadway.

Everyone remembers "Laverne & Shirley" - they were America's first girlfriends, even when they appeared on "Happy Days" they had stolen the show. I picked up the habit of drinking milk and Pepsi because of Laverne (played by Penny Marshall) and no one looked better than the raven haired Cindy Williams (Shirley) who admitted that if there was ever a reboot of the duo's escapades she'd want Drew Barrymore to play her part. Before they jumped the shark and moved to California from their native Milwaukee, the show was destination television every week.

Now here comes the embarrassing part: It would have been one of my crowning interviews of the evening, but I took a stumble last week that sprained my ankle and obviously paid for it on the carpet when I was approached by the cast of one of the evening's other big honorees. I was a huge fan of the show "One Day at a Time" mostly because it was one of the few shows on television that showed a single mother played by Bonnie Franklin making it all work - and it reminded me of our own situation comedy at home being raised by a single mother - though less dramatic. At just the precise moment that I was poised to ask Bonnie a question, a sharp pain seized by sprained ankle and I swear my eyes must have bulged out of my head like a classic cartoon character...I was instantly sweating profusely and forgotten what I meant to ask Bonnie almost immediately - my bad...but the recovery was quick! I took it in minute at a time I guess.

And although all this nostalgia took me back to my childhood, another show that was being honored was a little more present to me as a young person. "In Living Color" changed the way that we looked at sketch comedy and also introduced us to Jim Carrey and Jennifer Lopez. While "Fly Girls" Carrie Ann Inaba and Laurieann Gibson launched all-new careers since those days, to see the comedy troupe reunited including all the Wayans brothers, Tommy Davidson, Kelly Coffield and David Alan Grier - this show was among one of the first to push the envelope and introduce the mainstream world to the dynamic spectrum of life in America, and they are poised for a comeback! The show was daring, poked fun at life in America, but winning always proclaimed - without too much of a can do what you want to do - In Living Color!

Paul Reubens the man behind "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" was also present and would accept the appropriate honor of the Pop Culture Award. No one ever wants to give props to the fact that as Pee-Wee Herman, Reubens did more for children's television that any other show of its time. He proved that it can be just as engaging to the kid in all of us, at any age...and provocatively subtle.

Overall the night was a remarkable reminder of what is missing in our home entertainment. There was a time when tuning-in at a specific time to catch-up with your favorite TV family meant something. These are the days of television that can no longer be recaptured - and the ones that perhaps mattered the most. It may seem like an after-thought of sorts but let's be realistic - these were iconic moments in television history and the folks that made it happen. These snapshots of American popular culture are like a time capsule of human evolution, and unless they return for rehab stints with Dr. Drew or are competing on Dancing With the So-Called Stars the skill of talented folks gets largely forgotten. I'm grateful that clearly they are not and are still appreciated for their groundbreaking contributions to entertainment and popular culture. Thank you to TV Land for helping us to tune-in to a time not forgotten. Here's to the re-run and syndication!

JC Alvarez is the host and personality behind the nationally syndicated radio-show "Out Loud & Live!" on Modern World Radio ( and is also a pop-culture/celebrity columnist and Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net (