Book Review: America 51: A Probe into the Realities That Are Hiding Inside “The Greatest Country in the World” by Corey Taylor

America 51: A Probe into the Realities That Are Hiding Inside “The Greatest Country in the World”
Author: Corey Taylor
Da Capo Press
Hardcover 256 pages

Our Score: 1.5 out of 5 stars

In America 51: A Probe into the Realities That Are Hiding Inside “The Greatest Country in the World”, Slipknot/Stone Sour lead singer Corey Taylor directs his signature combination of humor and outrage at today’s America, sparing no one along the way. Taylor doesn’t shy away from thorny issues as he draws a brutally honest portrait of his country, outlining the good, the bad, the unflattering and the patriotic. Whether it’s politics or social media, race or pop culture, religion or reality TV, “America 51” digs deep into the roots of contemporary America.

The 4th book from singer turned best-selling author Corey Taylor titled America 51: A Probe into the Realities That Are Hiding Inside “The Greatest Country in the World” is easily the brashest in your face collection of rants from the out spoken front-man. Having struggled my way through Taylor’s last two literary offerings l was a touch apprehensive about subjecting myself to another 256 pages of rambling. However being a long time fan of both Slipknot and Stone Sour I was willing to still give this book a shot. Within the first several chapters I could see that this book was going to be just like the others as Taylor becomes so wrapped up in his thoughts that he quickly loses site of the actual. I found this to very distracting and despite Taylor’s off the wall comedic jabs at society and his take on the current political climate there were just too many thoughts going on at one time causing the book to come off as very unorganized and poorly edited.

If you liked Corey’s previous three books then there is no doubt in my mind that “America 51” will fit right in with your collection as by now you have become a custom to the author’s chaotic style. However, if you are looking for this to be your first exposure to Corey Taylor outside of his music then you may want to hold up and check out some of his earlier works first.

CD Review: Gary Clark Jr. “Live North America 2016”

“Live North America 2016”
Gary Clarke Jr.
Warner Bros.
Tracks: 12

Our score: 3 out of 5 stars

To coincide with Gary Clarke’s guest appearances during Eric Clapton’s 50th anniversary shows at Madison Square Garden and at The Forum in Los Angeles in mid March comes the guitarists latest live recording titled “Live North America 2016”. The album is being released via Warner Bros. Records and includes all new and unreleased live recordings from Clark’s 2016 tour which was in support of his acclaimed 2015 release “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim”.

Live recordings can often be hit or miss. Despite the recent advances in digital recording the main brunt of the work still falls on the artists to put forth a worthwhile performance. In the case of the latest Gary Clark Jr. album “Live North America 2016” is mostly all hits. Clark’s performance throughout the albums 12 tracks captures the listener’s attentions and holds it close. Tracks like the soulful “The Healing” and “Down to Ride” showcase Clark’s talents as both a player and vocalist while songs such as “When My Train Pulls In” and “Numb” capture a grittier side of Clark’s musical pallet.

Though I found the albums overall mix to be a touch off at certain points you have to know going in to a live album that there are going to be some audio short comings as there are multiple factors that come in to play with this type of set up some of which are not favorable for recording. However what is consistant across the albums 70 plus minute run time is the musicianship shown by Clark and his band. Each of the twelve performances that make up this album is sure to have something for every listener out there making it worth checking out.

Track Listing:
1.) Grinder
2.) The Healing
3.) Our Love
4.) Cold Blooded
5.) When My Train Pulls In
6.) Down to Ride
7.) You Saved Me
8.) Shake (feat. Leon Bridges with Jeff Dazey)
9.) Church
10.) Honest I Do
11.) My Baby’s Gone
12.) Numb

Concert Review: “Make America Rock Again Tour”

“Make America Rock Again Tour”

Trapt, Saving Abel, Saliva, Alien Ant Farm, Crazy Town, Tantric, 12 Stones
Friday, September 16th 2016
Tag’s Summer Stage, Big Flats, NY

Our Score: 2 out of 5 Stars

Trapt, Saliva, Saving Abel, Alien Ant Farm, Crazy Town, Tantric and 12 Stones all made their way to the quaint town of Big Flats, NY on September 16th as part of the “Make America Rock” tour. Despite the tour package boasting some of the biggest artist of the early 2000nds the night came up short making for a rather dull concert experience.

 

Taking the stage first was the group 12 Stones. The group probably had one of if not thee toughest spot on the bill as concert goers were still filing into the spacious outdoor venue and also waiting in line for their choice of tasty beverages so, needless to say the attention at this time was focused elsewhere. Despite these obstacles that band still appeared to give their all and should be commended for their efforts. Next up was the group Tantric whose song “Breakdown” dominated the airwaves in 2001 and still receives regular play to this day. The groups set seemed to be plagued by technical difficulties making vocalist Hugo Ferreira hard to hear almost the entire set. Luckily the technical setbacks did little to kill the crowds growing momentum though and the group forged ahead with their 5 song set. Crazy Town would be up next and surprisingly I thought had the best set of the night. Not only did the group display a tremendous amount of energy but they also appeared extremely well rehearsed which made their set undoubtedly my favorite of the night.

 

Alien Ant Farm was next on the bill and put on a performance that sort of had people scratching their heads. The bands front man Dryden Mitchell awkwardly milled about the stage while his band mates remained relatively immobile. Even during the bands hit cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” the band seemed less than interested in being there making their 7 song set list about 7 songs too long. The latest incarnation of Saliva which now consists of Wayne Swinny, Paul Crosby, Bobby Amaru and Brad Stewart would be up next and easily had the second best set of the night. Despite having a soft spot for the bands original line up the current bands configuration did a solid job as they blasted thorough their list of hit songs which included “Always” and of course “Click Click Boom” which closed out the nights set. Mississippi natives Saving Abel would be up next and put on a performance that sort of followed suit with the evening as it came of flat and at times a bit forced. Vocalist Scott Austin’s attempts to be the “crazed front man” were pretty lame and did little to entice the crowd who by this point of the night were running on fumes. However they did come alive briefly for the bands performance of the hit song “Addicted”. Trapt would close out the night this evening which in my mind was a bit questionable however, it was what it was and away the band went with a set that was just as flat as the previous bands performance. Of course the crowd appreciated hearing “Head Strong” but other than that both the band and the remaining crowd seemed to force themselves through the remaining moments of the night.
When a lineup of bands that all had their fair share of hits and exposure join together for a tour after having been away from the public eye for some time you would hope that each of the bands come out swinging and with their best feet forward. Sadly that was not the case for the “Make America Rock Again” tour. Despite solid performances from Crazy Town and Saliva the remaining 5 act seemed to do little for the medium sized audience who ventured to Big Flats making me wonder if everyone had gotten their money’s worth. I can’t say I would be down for checking out another show however if you want to throw caution to the wind and a little cash as well the tour will be out on the road through mid October for you to check out.

Murder and Melody in America: “The Devil’s Carnival” Composers Debut Trailer for a Dark New Opus

 

Icons of cult cinema, Terrance Zdunich (Repo! The Genetic Opera) and Saar Hendelman (The Devil’s Carnival franchise) pull the trigger on a new, twisted musical world, American Murder Song. Combining stop motion animation and moving daguerreotype portraits, American Murder Song features a rogues gallery of original murder ballads set in early nineteenth century America. The genre-defying duo invite you to Follow The Mark, if’n you’re brave. For tunes and updates: http:///www.AmericanMurderSong.com.

Film Review “Radio America”

Starring: Jacob Motsinger, Christopher Alice and Kristi Engleman
Directed by: Christopher Showerman
Not Rated
Running time: 1 hour 41 mins
ShorrisFilm

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

The time is the 1970s. Instead of heading right to school, we find young David and Eric hanging out near the broadcast antenna of the local radio station. With their transistor tuned in, David tries to follow along, picking out the notes on his weathered guitar. Some days the duo becomes a trio, joined by their fellow truant Jane. As they dream of the future they dream of it one filled with music.

20 years later, David (Alice) and Eric (Motsinger) and still playing music, this time serenading the cows on the dairy farm they work on. They’ve become an accomplished couple of musicians, writing their own songs and continuing to dream. Eric dreams of making the big time, while all David wants is to have his music heard. His motto: “when they start paying you for it stops being fun.” Eric would like to play a gig for someone other than the cows but David refuses to be in a cover band. Jane (Engleman) talks them into entering an original song in a local “Battle of the Bands,” which first off requires them to actually form a band. With a drummer added to the mix, and the cool band name “Rockness Monster,” they play the gig. They don’t win but they catch the ear of a record exec who tells them he can make their dreams come true. But he doesn’t tell them at one cost.

Written by first time director Showerman, “Radio America” is a film that tells the familiar message of doing what you want because you WANT to, not because you have too. Like Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous” (or even Tom Hanks’ “That Thing You Do”) it features a lead character who would rather play HIS music for a few people than sell out to play packed stadiums. However, like “Famous’” Russell Hammond, “Radio America’s” David, despite his trepidations, does begin to enjoy the good life. When the band’s first single begins to sell, they embark on a tour opening for a band drawing 20,000 fans a night. Soon David and Eric find themselves living the rock and roll lifestyle, from hotel rooms full of groupies to spending a night in jail for a little hijinx. David and Jane have started a relationship but that is quickly tossed away thanks to the spoils of the road. Meanwhile, Eric has become insufferable, going so far as to invite a young woman calling in to a radio program to “dress slutty and come on down” for a visit. Is this the end of “Monster” (their new, shorter name)?

The cast is strong here, with Christopher Alice giving David the quiet innocence of a true artist, making art because he likes it. As things progress we see him fighting, and eventually losing, that innocence. Which is ironic because all he wanted to do was play music. As Eric, Motsinger gets to act out more. The band’s front man, he becomes the face of Monster, for better or worse. Left behind is Jane, who follows their exploits on the road from her small town bank job. Also turning in solid work is Read MacGuirtose as English Joe, the band’s tour manager and director Showerman himself, who excels as the record executive that signs and guides the band.

The original songs, many of them written by and co-performed by Mr. Showerman, are also well done. It can really take a lot away from a film when the same song is featured several times on screen. If it’s not a good song it takes you out of the film. The songs here, most notably the title track, are bona fide rockers. Surely a soundtrack CD is on its way!

Book Review “The Avengers Storybook Collection”

Age Range: 6 – 8 years
Grade Level: 1 – 3
Series: Storybook Collection
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Marvel Press
Release Date: March 31, 2015

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

I wish I had a book like this when I was a kid. “The Avengers Storybook Collection” is a must have for any parent with young boys or even young fan girls for that matter! There is nothing like getting ready a story filled with heroism, adventure and action just before going to slip. These stories are fun, exciting and feature some of our favorite Marvel superheroes. Even though, my daughter is a little young for this one, she still loves it and already came name every character on the cover!

Official Premise: Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Falcon are Earth’s Mightiest Marvels-the Avengers! Join them as they work together to battle against sinister Super Villains such as Ultron, Thanos, the Masters of Evil,and more, to keep the Earth safe. Featuring 20 explosive stories of good vs. evil. Avengers assemble!

Let’s hope that this Storybook Collection is the first of many. There are literally an infinite collection of characters that they can include in future collections. This one has 20 stories included with all of the favorites like Iron Man and Captain America but I would love to be able to introduce my daughter to some of the lesser known characters as well. They could even do a female superhero only book OOHHHH OOHHHH or even better a villains only book. Who wouldn’t want to read a new story featuring everyone’s favorite Avenger villain, Loki! Fingers crossed!

Indican Pictures Aquires “Radio America” for Distribution

Indican Pictures, a major distributor of independently made films, has announced their latest acquisition, the musical-drama “Radio America.”

Written and directed by Chris Showerman and produced by Showerman and Clint Morris under their Showerman label, “Radio America” tells the story of two farm boys who dream of escaping their rural roots to achieve fame and fortune as rock stars.

“If Indican were the stage, and we were musicians, we couldn’t ask for a better stage to present our act. With their passion, knowledge, and skill, they are undoubtedly the right distributor to bring “Radio America” to the masses”, says Morris.

“Radio America” will be released later this year.

Blu-ray Review “Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier”

Actors: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Run Time: 136 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Is there simply any stopping Marvel at this point? “Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is the latest film in the Cinematic Universe that Marvel is building, all so well! The film is really well done. It follows the events of “Captain America: The First Avenger” and of course “The Avengers”. There are tons of Easter eggs hidden throughout the film. It is well-paced and takes a very important stand in Marvel Cinematic Universe. Chris Evans is great as always. Scarlett Johansson gets some more screen time and a chance to chat as Black Widow…but when is that solo movie going to be announced. I have to say I think that Anthony Mackie steals the show as Falcon for sure. I wanted more of him. Sebastian Stan, played the Winter Soldier, signed a nine picture deal with Marvel/Disney, so are going to be seeing a lot more of him. Can’t wait to see how this all comes together now in “The Avengers 2”.

Official Premise: From the Studio that brought you the greatest Super Hero movie of all time, “Marvel’s The Avengers”, comes “Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, the global phenomenon that teams Captain America (Chris Evans) with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a new ally, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), in a fight for the future of mankind. Following the cataclysmic events in New York with the Avengers, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, is living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the entire world at risk. As the conspiracy deepens and it’s no longer clear whom to trust, Captain America, Black Widow and the Falcon must join forces to overthrow their insidious enemy’s most mysterious and powerful weapon yet – the Winter Soldier.

Disney/Marvel Studios deliver easily one of the best Blu-rays this year. The 1080p transfer is absolutely perfect and just visually amazing. I was disappointed not seeing it in 3D but in 2D it was just so impressive still. Same goes for the very epic DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track, which delivers an amazing experience. The film is very action packed and this works extremely well. Special features are good but not outstanding. There is a audio commentary track with Directors Anthony & Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, which is very extensive. “On the Front Line: An Inside Look at Captain America’s Battlegrounds” takes a look into the production. “On Set with Anthony Mackie: Cut the Check!” focuses on Falcon. Steve Rogers’ Notebook looks into the film’s differences in various international versions of the film. Lastly there are a few deleted, extended scenes and gag reel included.

Concert Review: Doyle “Annihilate America Tour 2014”

“Annihilate America Tour 2014”
Doyle, Ashylus, The Isotopes
Date: Friday, August 15th 2014
Venue: Montage Music Hall, Rochester, NY

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Former Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein kicked off his “Annihilate America Tour” at the intimate Montage Music Hall in Rochester, NY on August 15th and despite several last minute set backs which included being stranded in New Jersey the night before and the band’s drummer quitting several days prior the band simply named “Doyle” proved that nothing was going to stop them from hitting the road in support of their debut release “Abominator” and pulverizing the masses.

Tension was certainly in the air for the tours opening night as band and crew members scurried about the venue after a late arrival due to Doyle and company experiencing last minute transportation issues. Combine that with the group’s drummer Dr. Chud leaving the band only a few short days before and any lesser band would have called it quits even before starting. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. Kicking off the night was Rochester’s own The Isotopes. The 4 piece instrumental act took to the stage donning horn rimmed glasses, green ties and pocket protectors flanked by an impressive light show complete with two lovely go-go dancers. Equally impressive to the bands stage show was their tight sound which seemed to mix 60’s surf music with Iron Maiden like solos and pure punk rock energy.

Though the crowd was still filing in through the venue doors it did little to sway the bands presentation. Up next was the direct support act for the tour Ashylus Hailing from the Pacific Northwest the 5 piece metal-core band quickly elevated the rooms growing excitement as they blasted through songs of their album “Leave Your Mark” which was released earlier this year. After the bands powerful 30 minute set headliners Doyle would take the stage to close out the night. The band consisting of Cancerslug vocalist Alex Story, Bassist Left Hand Graham, Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein and the bands newest member drummer Anthony “Tiny” Biuso.

The band took the stage basked in a red and green glow as Doyle’s signature guitar tone blasted through the towering stack of speakers which flanked both sides of the stage. Before you could blink the band launched in to “Abominator” the title track off the group’s debut album. Doyle pummeled is guitar repeatedly as singer Alex Story belted out lyrics with a guttural growl. The bands set was a perfect mixture of new songs like “Valley of Shadows” and “Headhunter” to Misfits classics such as “Hybrid Moment” and “Where Eagles Dare” and “Last Caress”.

Though the band still had a few kinks to work out as working in a new drummer just days before a tour requires quite a few adjustments however a few small bumps in the road didn’t stop the band from delivering a blistering set that left peoples jaws on the floor from just the sheer impact of the bands volume. Doyle and company proved that they are hell bent on domination and If the same power they brought to the tours opening night continues throughout the rest of the tour then nothing will stand in their way.

Doyle Set List
1.)   Abominator
2.)   Learn to Bleed
3.)   Valley of Shadows
4.)   Where Eagles Dare
5.)   Cemetery Sex
6.)   Headhunter
7.)   Hybrid Moment
8.)   Attitude
9.)   Love Like Murder
10.) Last Caress
11.) Die Die My Darling
12.) Hope Hell is Warm

Brian Kevin talks about his book “The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America”

Brian Kevin is a writer who contributes to magazines, websites travel guidebooks. He is also the associate editor at Down East magazine and the author of “The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America”. Media Mikes had the chance to chat with Brian about his journey through South America and how Hunter S. Thompson inspired it.

Mike Gencarelli: When did you first find the work of Hunter S. Thompson?
Brian Kevin: I came to Thompson via Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas back in 1998, which I think is true of a lot of people my age (I’m 34). In the book, I describe the film as kind of a dorm room standard during the late ’90s, when I was a college student, and I’ve since praised it in other forums (http://goo.gl/kL3jl2) as really one of the more faithful literary adaptations in recent cinema. So that kind of piqued my interest in Thompson’s work — who the fuck is this guy? what could this possibly look like on the page? — and I spent the next couple years catching up on the Thompson canon.

MG: Tell us what made you decided to take this yearlong journey across South America?
BK: I’d read enough to know that Thompson had spent this year abroad in the early 1960s, reporting on Cold War issues from South America, and it occurred to me this must have been a pretty pivotal time in the life of a writer I admired. But for all the unauthorized biographies and oral histories and documentaries and other materials out there about Thompson’s life and work (particularly after his death in 2005), his year as a foreign correspondent hardly warranted a mention. I was curious enough to dig through a couple of microfiche archives and unearth the articles he wrote from South America, most of which hadn’t seen the light of day for fifty years. The more I looked into it, the more I admired Thompson’s gall for just up and hitting the road, trying to will himself a writing career. I had kind of gone a safer route — some entry-level magazine jobs, then grad school — and I was feeling like it hadn’t gotten me anywhere. Around the same time I was digging up Thompson’s forgotten South American reportage, I suddenly found myself divorced, functionally unemployed, and sitting on a mountain of student loan debt. So I did the only rational thing and traded in a bunch of frequent fliers miles for a ticket to Colombia to follow the Thompson Trail.

MG: What was it like to revisit the places where HST lived and worked?
BK: A lot of people see the title of the book and kind of assume I was carousing my way across the continent in some kind of wanna-be-gonzo fog, but I actually couldn’t be less interested in that. To me, it was all fieldwork — I wanted to revisit the topics that Thompson wrote about for the National Observer fifty years ago and, in the process, get some insight into what he learned in South America that shaped him as a writer and a human being. For all his later gonzo persona, Thompson at 24 was whip smart and super disciplined about understanding the forces shaping Latin America during the Cold War. So traveling in his footsteps meant giving myself a crash course in Latin American history, culture, politics, and ecology. And yeah, that fieldwork sometimes involved drinking heavily with miners, capsizing a boat in Colombia, and patronizing a Paraguayan brothel (sort of), but it really was all in the name of education.

MG: What did you find was the most interesting find of your exploration of twenty-first-century South American culture, politics, and ecology?
BK: Well, the surprising thing was the extent to which the issues that Thompson reported on fifty years ago are still very much shaping the continent. Thompson wrote about Peru’s struggles to overcome a powerful political oligarchy, for example, and that’s still very much the story of Peruvian politics today. He wrote about Brazil as this sleeping giant shackled by inflation, and fifty years later, that’s still arguably the biggest economic story playing out in South America. He more or less predicted the rise of the FARC in Colombia and the ascendancy of cambas in eastern Bolivia and a bunch of other story lines that are still unraveling in 2014. In a nutshell, the interesting thing in country after country was how present the ghosts of the Cold War still are — and that made Thompson’s ghost feel very present as well.

MG: Do you feel that you yourself have changed after this exploration?
BK: You know, I reflect on this a little in the book, and the answer is tricky. A lot of the book ends up being about travel itself — about the reasons people give themselves for picking up stakes and about their expectations of what they’ll come home with. Often, this includes some kind of transformation. People want to come home changed in some profound way, and I’m not convinced this isn’t kind of a bullshit goalpost. My time on the Thompson Trail gave me an education, which is really what we should be after anyway.

MG: What do you think it takes to be a “gonzo journalist” in today’s world?
BK: I think this is a term that starts and ends with Thompson. I don’t think “gonzo journalism” is a form or a genre that a writer can just opt into. It’s one specific writer’s style — Thompson’s — and while it can certainly be imitated, the results are almost uniformly shitty. But I do think that the best nonfiction writers working today approach their subjects with the same fearlessness and unorthodoxy and humor and personal investment that were all critical components of “gonzo.”

MG: Do you have a follow up planned for “The Footloose American”?
BK: Yeah, there are a couple of projects in the hopper. One is a deep profile of this globetrotting, nineteenth-century Forrest Gump-type character who destroyed everything he touched, and the other is a sort of a combination road trip tale and education expose. I realize both of these sound a bit weird and cryptic, but you’ll just have to take my word that they’re fun and interesting, and I’ll be all for saying more when they’re a little farther along.

Digital Film Review “Marvel’s Iron Man & Captain America: Heroes United”

Starring: Adrian Pasdar, Roger Craig Smith
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release date: July 29, 2014
Running time: 71 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Even though the “Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United” wasn’t the best film of the year, Iron Man and Captain America are joining forces next in this all-new, original animated adventure, “Marvel’s Iron Man & Captain America: Heroes United”. The film is being release only on Digital HD, On-Demand and Disney Movies Anywhere, which is an interested move but also a nice way to give good use to their new streaming app.

The film sees the return of voice actors Adrian Pasdar and Roger Craig as they reprise their roles as Iron Man and Captain America, as they team up to stop Red Skull and Taskmaster from unleashing an army of Hydra Brutes in order to take over the world. Clancy Brown lends his voice to the villainous Taskmaster.

This is a decent improvement over the last film and does include some twists and a cool special appearance by one of your favorite Marvel Super Heroes. Iron Man and Captain America are both sharp and witty characters and play well together here. I am not 100% sold on this style of animation since it feels a little cheap and not as polished as you would expect from Marvel but it is still a decent film.

Film Review “Captain America: the Winter Soldier”

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 2 hours 16 mins
Walt Disney Pictures

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

CAP IS BACK!!

Fresh from his adventures in New York with his Avengers buddies, Steve Rogers (Evans) is still trying to adjust to his life in the 21st Century. Each day he refers to a notebook he keeps, where he writes down new information to research. A couple entries: NIRVANA (Band?) and ROCKY (Rocky 2). While jogging along the tidal pool in Washington D.C. he meets fellow soldier Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who gives him another name to put in his notebook, telling him that listening to his “Trouble Man” album will give him all the answers he needs. The artist: the great Marvin Gaye.

It’s almost an understatement to say that, since his revealing to the world, the nation has fallen in love with Captain America. In fact, there is an exhibit detailing his life (so far) in the Smithsonian. Sometimes, when he’s feeling low, Steve visits the exhibit incognito, taking in the sights. And, each time, he finds himself thinking about his friend Bucky Barnes, who gave his life so many years ago. Right?

As exciting as the first film, with wall to wall action from start to finish, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is another perfect piece in what is becoming the most profitable super-hero puzzle of all time. Long time television directors Anthony and Joe Russo (yes, they’re brothers) have crafted an exciting tale that perfectly encompasses not only the adventure that is happing on screen but helping to foreshadow what will probably be the highest grossing film of 2015: “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” I’m hedging my bets and saying probably because that is the same year that “Star Wars: Episode VII” is due. I wonder if I can buy a movie theatre between now and then.

This adventure finds Cap and friends taking on a new Russian villain known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Cap is a little taken aback because his new adversary bears a strong resemblance to someone from his past. Led by Nick Fury (Jackson) and assisted by Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) and his new friend Sam, Cap soon finds himself battling a member of his own government, the slick and weasely Alexander Pierce (a well cast Robert Redford) as well as the evil group known as HYDRA.

The filmmakers do an incredible job of keeping the action front and center and I dare say there isn’t a boring minute in the films two hour plus run time. The visual effects are outstanding and comic book fans will enjoy the various hints dropped for future films, including a very quick Doc Strange reference! A great addition to the Marvel heroes family, “Captain America: the Winter Soldier” is another testament to the powers that be at Marvel Studios that anything worth doing is worth doing well!

Joel Murray talks about working with Bobcat Goldthwait on "God Bless America" and Disney/Pixar's "Monsters University"

Joel Murray is the youngest in his family of actors including Bill Murray and Brian-Doyle Murray. He is the star of Bobcat Goldthwait’s latest film “God Bless America” and he is voicing the character Don Carlson in Disney/Pixar’s upcoming “Monsters University”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Joel about growing up in the business and his work on the films above.

Mike Gencarelli: What did you think about “God Bless America” upon your first reading?
Joel Murray: You heard the story from Bobcat (Goldthwait), right? He was having back surgery, so I brought him over dinner and the first three seasons of “Mad Men”. Middle way through season two his wife said “You know, Joel could play Frank”. So he sent me the script but didn’t say a part or anything. I read it and told him it was great and I really liked it. I told him that I liked what he has to say and that it was time for a film like this. Then I asked him, “Who are you thinking about, you want me for the guy in the office?” He said “No Frank…the Guy!” I jumped at the thought of having the lead role in the movie, which doesn’t happen too often. Actually it has just happened once, really [laughs]. My first thought was hell ya! But then I had a couple of moments thinking that there could be some repercussions from this. I agree with about 95% about what he says in the movie. So I just thought “Why not?” My only fear was that seven Westboro Baptists would come visit me at my house. [laughs] But other than that I wasn’t too worried. What I love about his work is that all of his movies having something to say. So many comedies today are just like an extended shit joke.

MG: You’ve worked with Bobcat Goldthwait going back to “Shakes the Clown”; how was it with him behind the director’s chair again?
JM: When I worked with him on “Shakes”, it was his first movie and he was in clown makeup the whole time. You didn’t really think about him as an auteur, he was playing a drunken clown running around in make-up. On this film though, I was able to work hand-and-hand with him the whole time. I directed some stuff in the past and he was open to anything that I had to say and add. It was a fun relationship. It is awkward having your buddy give you a role that you didn’t audition for.  He didn’t give me a lot of notes or anything. All I kept getting from him was “Yeah, you really got this guy down!”

MG: How did you prepare for a character like Frank?
JM: I thought Bob has written it for himself. So I was kind of playing Bob in a way [laughs] but with his normal voice. I had a friend shoot himself in the mouth about 6-8 months before this came up. So when we started shooting, a couple of the scenes we did first was me with a gun in my mouth. That really takes you to a real interesting spot as an actor…a real depressing spot for that matter. So starting from there, I found a dark place to begin with and had a gradual upswing from there. His is never really that happy or excited though in the film. But starting from the darker corner was a good way to go as an actor.

MG: Was it challenging to blend the satirical comedy with the violent action?
JM: How do you blend it? Well, anyone that takes the violence in this film too seriously doesn’t get it. They also may be part of the problem that we are trying to kill. When you have a car montage in the middle of the film dancing around on the map of America, you know it is not taking itself that seriously. To do some serious acting on this, the comedy of it brought something to it. I grew up doing comedy and I have been fortunate enough to get into some serious roles as well in “Mad Men” and “Shameless”. So I’ve got to do some straight acting. It has been interesting to try and I have also learned a lot from my peers and my brothers. I watched my brother Billy (Murray) in “Broken Flowers” and I thought to myself “He’s seeing if he can do absolutely nothing and if it would work” [laughs]. Also in “Lost in Translation”, he was so introspective. So I just didn’t want to overplay it and keep it kind of close. I have a very expressive face, so I don’t need to be too over the top. But Bob was consistently giving me the thumbs up. So I guess it worked.

MG:  Speaking of your family, how was it growing up as the youngest in a family of actors? Do you feel that comedy comes easy?
JM: It was natural at home. Everyone was funny around the dining room table and that is where some of the comedy started in our house. You learn from them. I had some of the funniest people in America in my room growing up. There was also a high standard with them. I did plays throughout high school and college and when I got into improv, it wasn’t that easy but I had my background to draw from. I remember one of the first times my brother Billy came to see me at the Improv Olympic. I remember riding home with him and it was one heck of a quiet car ride, like I just struck out to win the World Series [laughs]. So they are a tough group to impress but we all created our own funny. There is stuff you saw on “Saturday Night Live” and from movies where you think that you grew up with that. I had more noogies on my head then anybody being the youngest [laughs].

MG:  Lastly, tell us about your role Don Carlson in “Monsters University”?
JM: The first trailers didn’t really show any new characters. In the new trailers, I am the guy with the mustache in the cloak that is evoking the initiation rites. Don Carlson is a student in his 40’s that has been laid off and decided to go back to college and learn the computers. So he is in this lame frat with the other guys but he is 20 years older than them all. He was a fun character. He is a little bit Minnesota-ent and sounds a little bit like my brother Brian-Doyle Murray but not exactly, I swear [laughs]. I didn’t go there!

Bobcat Goldthwait reflects on "God Bless America" and new Bigfoot movie "Willow Creek"

Bobcat Goldthwait is known best for his role of Zed in the “Police Academy” franchise and for work as a stand-up comedian. “Share The Warmth” still holds up and is an incredibly funny stand-up show. Bobcat has been spending his time doing what he loves most – writing and directing movies, like “World’s Greatest Dad” and “God Bless America”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Bobcat about “God Bless America” and also his new Bigfoot movie “Willow Creek”.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about the origins of “God Bless America”?
Bobcat Goldthwait: There are a couple things leading to its genesis. First, I was in London and there was a “My Super Sweet 16” marathon on – going back about two years now. It really bothered me that is the way that we are represented. I wrote the script initially as a Christmas present for my wife, I guess that came from me being cheap [laughs]. I think this is a really screwed up time and I wanted to write a movie that is, as I say, a violent movie about kindness. I think if I made a documentary on how we are becoming attached from each other, it would be preaching to the converted. So being a fan of films like “Bonnie and Clyde”, that and also TV networks were the big inspiration here.

MG: What inspires you most about directing?
BG: I just write a lot of screenplays all the time. When I can get a budget to make them I go out and do it. Some of them are much smaller budgeted and some are bigger. What inspires me to keep directing is that it has almost taken be 30+ years in show business to finally find something that I really love doing. I really love writing and directing movies. It is the job that I have found most rewarding that I have done in my career.

MG: How do you feel you have matured as a director since 1991 with “Shakes the Clown”?
BG: Hopefully I am getting better in what I am doing [laughs]. If I were to make “Shakes” now, I do not think that anything positive would happen to him. It probably would have ended with him jumping off a bridge or something [laughs]. I am hoping that I just keep evolving. People that I admire are directors like Steven Soderbergh, who just keeps making movies and don’t seem to be too concerned about how he is conceived – in a good way.

MG: Joel Murray was amazing in the film, tell us about casting him?
BG: Joel is an old friend of mine. I had back surgery and my wife and I watched a whole set of “Mad Men” that he had dropped off. He thought it would be good for me to occupy my time with [laughs]. With him in mind, my wife suggested that we cast Joel as Frank. When I sent him the script, he thought I wanted him to play a small part…not the main guy! That is what was one of the best parts of making the movie was to get to work with an old friend. Him and I then got to travel all over the world going to film festivals and hanging out. It was great.

MG: What was your biggest challenge with “God Bless America”?
BG: I think you are always faced with the major issues of budget, even for directors like Christopher Nolan. How can you make an action film for well under a million dollars? It is still a lot of money but when you compare it to other action films, it is nothing really. So that is definitely the biggest challenge.

MG: Do you see yourself ever returning to acting?
BG: I think for me to actually be in a movie, it would have to be something that would be a lot of fun or something I couldn’t say no to. I always joke I retired from acting the same time people stopped hiring me [laughs]. I do small cameos in my movies but that is usually brought upon my necessity like someone is out that day or something. In “World’s Greatest Dad”, the guy slated to play the limo driver didn’t show up, so it ended up being me. In “God Bless America”, I quickly jumped in when we were stealing a shot at a festival with the balloon game. There was an empty seat where you keep getting wet, so I jumped it and got water shot at me.

MG: You’ve recently came out of retirement to do some stand-up; how has being on stage changed for you?
BG: Stand-up is different. Some nights I really like it. But then sometimes people come with expectations for me to be a character from 30 years ago. Having that aspect becomes boring after a while. But when people are there solely due to films I did in the 80’s -or I don’t mind if they come due to that – but it is a drag when they have come with only those expectations. Sometimes it is hard to combat that.

MG: What next for you? Is “Schoolboys in Disgrace” in the cards?
BG: “Schoolboys in Disgrace” is a film that is something that I am always working on and meeting about. That is a bigger movie with a bigger budget, so it is taking a little longer for me than usual. I am just wrapping up the final touches on a Bigfoot movie that I shot called “Willow Creek”. I actually went up to where the Patterson-Gimlin footage was shot 45 years ago and that is where we shot the movie there on location. So that was very excited.

Blu-ray Review "The Men Who Built America"

Directed by: Patrick Reams, Ruán Magan
Actors: Justin Morck, Eric Rolland, Adam Jonas Segaller, Alex Falberg, Michael Chmiel
Rated: Unrated
Studio: A&E Home Video
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Run Time: 360 minutes

Series: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

This mini-series original aired on History as an eight-hour, four-part miniseries. The series focuses on Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan and Henry Ford and how they…take a guess…built America. This series is arriving on a 3-disc Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. This series is nice blend of dramatic recreation with plenty of learning factor as well. History really delivers a very entertaining series here and even though it is eight hours, I literally almost had to watch this series in one sitting. It keep you completely enthralled and actually has great reply value. This is a must for History buffs.

Official Premise: The Men Who Built America™ tells the story of those that played a significant role in the shaping of this country. From Carnegie, Morgan, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Ford, the epic mini-series looks at how these individuals took a nation decaying from the Civil War into the greatest economic and technological superpower the world has ever seen. The Men Who Built America™ is the story of a nation at its crossroads and of the people who catapulted it to prosperity.

The first episode is called “A New War Begins” follows Cornelius Vanderbilt as takes over the railroad empire. It also shows the rise of John D. Rockefeller and as he founds Standard Oil. The second, “Bloody Battles”, focuses on Andrew Carnegie as his builds his steel empire and his struggles between Henry Frick. The third, “Changing the Game”, follows J.P. Morgan as his goes forward with the direct current electric light of Thomas Edison and faces competition from George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. The last episode is called “When One Ends, Another Begins” and it focuses around Rockefeller, Carnegie and Morgan as they team up to help elect William McKinley as US President. Of course due to assassination it falls to Theodore Roosevelt. Morgan buys out Carnegie Steel. Henry Ford founds the Model T and starts his own business, Ford Motor Company.

History is known for consistently delivering many impressive Blu-ray presentations. The 1080p transfer really looks sharp and really shows the amount of scale that this series brings forward. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 also works really well. The special features are actually quite impressive for a mini-series. Normally a show like this would not come with any additional footage but this series does not skimp out. There are seven featurettes included on this release including “From Richer to Richer”, “The American Dream”, “Monopoly”, “Competitive Nature”, “The Every Man”, “The Rise of Cornelius Vanderbilt” and “Traits of a Titan”. If you are a fan of this series when it aired on History last Fall, I would highly recommend this Blu-ray just for the extras.