Blu-ray Review “Orange Is The New Black: Season Four”

Actors: Taylor Schilling, Laura Prepon, Kate Mulgrew, Michael Harney, Nick Sandow
Number of discs: 3
Rated: NR
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Run Time: 778 minutes

Season: 4 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras’: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The fourth season of Orange Is The New Black proves this show gets better and better with each new season. It is darker, gritty, funnier, crazier! Just all around great! This show is showing no signs of slowing down at all. The cast is all simply amazing together. The story for this season just brings this show to a whole new level of great. I can’t wait to see what is in store for season 5!

Season 4 Premise: New faces and old resentments make for a potentially volatile blend, especially now that Litchfield is a for-profit business. Overrun with new inmates and overseen by inexperienced guards, the prison undergoes an unprecedented culture war.

The 1080p transfer of the episodes looks great. The colors are crisp and even though the prison is drab. The flashbacks and outside scenes are well represented. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 works as well with no issues and spotlights the movie well. The special features are not the best to be honest, There are only two audio commentary tracks include as well as a tour of Litchfield and a gag reel included.

Blu-ray Review “Black Sails: The Complete Third Season”

Actors: Toby Stephens, Ray Stevenson, Zach McGowan, Luke Arnold, Jessica Parker Kennedy
Number of discs: 3
Rated: NR
DVD Release Date: November 8, 2016
Run Time: 549 minutes

Season: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Black Sails is a great show that really hasn’t been giving proper credit since it aired. The show is grand and very epic. The characters are well fleshed out and each season has been improving on the next. The scope of this show is just so huge and it feels like a massive “Game of Thrones” style world…yet the masses have not caught on. Anchor Bay has still been behind giving this show a solid Blu-ray presentation since day one. The 1080p transfer on these episodes are just gorgeous. They make all the work that this show takes to put together and shows it off very well. This release also comes stock with epic Dolby TrueHD 7.1 tracks, which will rattle your bones! Alas, the next season will be the series finale. I am very curious to how how this show cruises to its conclusion in season four.

Official Season Premise: In the wake of the burning of Charles Town, all the New World lives in fear of Captain Flint. But when his campaign of terror crosses over into madness, and new threats emerge to challenge his supremacy, it falls to John Silver to locate the man within the monster, before Flint’s war against the world consumes them all. Meanwhile, on the pirate island of Nassau, it’s a new day. With Eleanor Guthrie facing judgment in London, Jack Rackham sits atop a fortune in Spanish gold, hoping to secure his legacy as a king among thieves. To do so, he’ll have to compete with the return of one of history’s most notorious captains, who holds a different vision for their home, as well as a complicated past with Rackham’s chief ally, Captain Charles Vane. All will be tested when a new opponent arrives to claim Nassau, one the pirates could never have anticipated. It knows them. It understands them. And in the blink of an eye, it will do the one thing they never thought possible… turn them against each other.

The special feature are a little light this go around but some decent content still included. There is a good refresher from what happened last season in the “Season 2 Recap”. The best feature is an episode-by-episode in depth behind-the-scenes look at all aspects of the show in “Inside the World of Black Sails”. The next feature “The Storm” shows how they created the visual marvel in the second episode of this season. “A Pirate’s Last Words” looks into the big season spoiler, which I will not reveal. “Blackbeard: An 18th Century Pirate” focuses on the debut of the legendary character to the show. Lastly “Woodes Rogers” examines one of the season’s newest character. Missing here that would be been amazing would have been some commentary tracks, if you are reading this for season four release Anchor Bay!

John Doe discusses his new album “The Westerner” and his book “Under the Big Black Sun”

(Photo Credit: Jim Herrington)

John Doe is a singer, songwriter, poet and actor. He is probably best known for his work with the seminal Los Angeles punk band X which formed in the mid 1970’s. 2016 has been a busy for year for Doe as earlier this year he released his first solo album in five years titled “The Westerner” along with a book chronicling the L.A. punk scene titled “Under the Big Black Sun”. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with John recently before his performance in Ithaca, NY about the idea behind his new album and what it was like revisiting the stories contained in his book.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the new album “The Westerner”?

John Doe: My friend Michael Blake who wrote “Dances with Wolves” and several other books was like a brother to me. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and over time couldn’t remember anything. It bugged the hell out of him but we remained close through everything and I would always go up and visit him. We influenced each other a lot in art and writing. Howe Gelb and I were reconnecting around the same as I was writing songs about Michael and using him as a character. I like what Howe has done with different peoples sound as well as his own in Giant Sand. He has really refocused the sound coming out of the Tucson area. I wanted the songs to have space and reverb so working down there seemed like the natural way to go. I had the title “The Westerner” sort in my mind as someone sent me a Doors record. The Doors were also Michaels favorite band so I began looking up stuff on them and my connection with that band goes way back. I was searching the internet and found an image done for one of their record store day releases. Shepard Fairey is the artist who did the piece and he and I have been friends for some time so I asked if he would redo the piece for me and he said yes. The original photo was shot at the Rose Bud Reservation by Aaron Huey who has an organization called “Protect the Sacred”. This was one of Michael’s main charities so it was great to be able to tie all this stuff in with the album. The album is a tribute album but it’s not sad.

AL: Was the idea to do a new solo album already in your thoughts prior to Michael becoming ill?

JD: Everything happened very organically. These days I sort of sit back and look at my watch and say “Holy shit it’s been 4 years since I made a new record” (Laughs). I always am writing bits and pieces of things but it just so happened that Michael was on my mind and I started to see how things were happening and I began tailoring things with what was going on. I loved the song Exene wrote called “Alone in Arizona”. It seemed to be kind of about Michael even though it really wasn’t. I am a big fan of Chan Marshall especially her albums “The Greatest” and “Sun”. I started doing the song “A Little Help” and realized it was similar to “The Greatest” and asked Chan if she would sing on it with me. With the song “Go Baby Go” I reached out to Debbie Harry as X had toured with Blondie and I had asked her before that if I ever had something I thought she would be good for would she do it. That song is a fun rock song and it worked out great. I am very fortunate that I am still around and that people want to come and play.

AL: Having been in the music industry for some time now aside from digitalization and the internet what has been the most notable change?

JD: MTV was really big when it first came out. All the other stuff out there I don’t really concern myself with. I have Instagram and my manager does Facebook so I have a small to moderate presence with social media but if people really want to see me then I think they should come out to show as I am generally hanging around. There is so much great music out there these days that it’s hard to rise above the static. Think of the old music business like an hour glass. You had the music at the top, at the pinching point was the business at the bottom was the public. Over time the shape of the industry changes to where now it’s square. There is just so much stuff flooding people ears these days.

AL: What can you tell us about your new book “Under the Big Black Sun”?

JD: Tom DeSavia who is the co-author and my sweet heart were both telling me that I should write a book. I thought it was going to be just too much work so I didn’t really pay attention to them. One day I had this brilliant idea about how the scene in L.A. was about community and collaboration. With that I knew that I wouldn’t have to write this book all by myself or suffer the pain if people didn’t like it I could just blame it on somebody else. (Laughs) I didn’t have to be the authority on things. I liked book such as “Please Kill Me” and “We Got the Neutron Bomb” however there is not a lot of fact checking that goes into oral histories. Los Angeles was sort of a romantic place in that era so I thought it was important to have it be its own character. I really feel that everything that is Los Angeles from the weather to the cars affected the way the music sounded. After Tom and I decided to do it we got a book deal and things became real. We got paid a pretty good advance and then we knew we really had to go through with it. We started getting people together and selecting topics based on what was important to that scene and what would make people care. The big one was it was that what happened was a cultural revolution. That was Exene’s big part of the book. Dave Alvin was part of the roots scene which got pulled into punk rock so he is the expert there so, that’s where he tells his story from. Robert Lopez was in a Latino band called The Zeroes. He was not out at this time but he was obviously gay so he was able to talk about that aspect of things. Jane Wiedlin talks about where people lived and how that played a role. By doing things this way we were able to give the book a much broader perspective.

AL: The book shines a light on the L.A. punk scene as it was/is often overshadowed by what was going on in New York and London around the same time. Can you tell us a little about that?

JD: I think at some point the media picked up on The Sex Pistols and few other bands that were young and/or un-experienced who said “Fuck You”. The media then said “Ok, Fuck you” which caused them to not cover things as much. When the L.A. scene finally came around about a year and a half later they possibly had enough images and maybe had made up their mind that we weren’t going to play ball. I think bands like Blondie, Talking Heads and The Ramones just wanted to be part of music and have a career. That’s what we wanted also. It wasn’t until the hardcore scene that people felt like they had been abandoned leading to bands doing things on their own. That’s when labels like SST started popping up. Everyone had sort of a chip on their shoulder and over time L.A. punk has started to carve out its own niche which has been good. Twenty or thirty years ago I would have probably been pretty bent out of shape about how the L.A. scene was looked upon but these days I couldn’t care less.

AL: Was there a present rivalry between the two coasts/scenes because of this?

JD: Sure. I think there was a healthy rivalry between New York and L.A. and L.A. and San Francisco but it wasn’t anything to wild. I do remember Exene getting into a fight with Handsome Dick from The Dictators once. (Laughs) What we loved about the whole thing was that almost all of those bands came out to Los Angeles to play at The Whiskey. We saw The Ramones, Blondie, The Damned, Television and a few others who played out our way regularly.

AL: What was it like for X when they would travel to the east coast?

JD: It was rough at first. Exene’s sister got us three shows in NYC in 1978 after we put out our first single. We basically drove from L.A. to New York with all of our gear, played three shows and then drove home. There is a little of that in the book but it was sort of a lukewarm reception. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein came to the shows at Studio 57 and later on we got to be pals with The Ramones. It took a little while because everyone thought L.A. was just swimming pools and Farrah Fawcett. You weren’t just given a Mercedes when you moved there. It was a pretty hard scramble. It was cheap to live there at the time though so there were a lot of young people with nothing to do but create stuff.

AL: What was it like revisiting a lot of the memories from that time period, especially the ones around the time of the death of Exene’s sister?

JD: That specific event wasn’t hard to dig into as I had experienced it so deeply in the beginning. It changed everything for Exene and by relation me too. It wasn’t too hard to look back. I don’t necessarily wish I had kept diaries or anything. It might have been good? You sort of start channeling towards a certain direction and things start to come back. I think it’s all about the details. I worked with everyone who wrote for the book and I always asked for more details. I think everyone was happy to tell their story and I was surprised by quite a few of them.

AL: With your current solo tour coming to end do you have planned for the coming year?

JD: The fortieth anniversary of X is coming up next year. We have the initial schedule which consists of around one hundred shows! Usually we do between thirty and fifty shows a year so this is quite a bit more. I think it’s great! Forty years ago we put a big investment into the bank of punk rock. At the time everyone though it was bullshit but we all have been able to make pretty good careers out of that initial investment. We are one of the few remaining punk bands from that time with its original members. Everyone is healthy now which is really great. We also will be looking to put out some live material and if Exene will write some more lyrics will put out some new songs as well. (Laughs)

Book Review: Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk”

“Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk”
Author: John Doe w/ Tom DeSavia and Friends
Da Capo Press
Hardcover: 227 pages

Our score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk” was written by X vocalist/bassist John Doe along with help from Tom DeSavia and laundry list of who’s who from the late 70’s and early 80’s L.A. punk scene. For the first time in one place the true story of a scene often overlooked is told in all of its gritty and grimy detail by none other those who experienced it and by those who helped create it. This is not your typical memoir however as this book tells not only of how the scene began and developed but also how it went on to change music forever.

Before I get into my review of the book I want to point out that if you are unfamiliar with the scene this book documents or the bands that appear grab a copy of Penelope Spheeris film “The Decline of Western Civilization” as a majority of the people’s names and a lot of the places featured in the film coincide with those who are also in the book. After a very brief forward by Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong we are quickly whisked back to the not so glamorous side of Los Angeles. Just a few brief years before hair metal would dominate the sun set strip bands like X, Black Flag and the Minute Men were the bands to go see. John Doe does a great job recounting his stories from this era with vivid detail and truthfulness that make you want to keep turning the page. As an added element to Doe’s story there is often even more colorful commentary provided by other musicians or friends who were there to experience everything as well. Not only does this add different angles to a previously told story but it fills in gaps with intricate firsthand accounts. For me this only pulled me further into the already captivating story. To go along with the stories there are several black and white photo sections which are chocked full of rare photos that by themselves are worth the price of the book.

From cover to cover Doe and DeSavia and crew nail it. Aside from actually being around during this specific time I don’t think you could get any closer nor could it be anymore real. There were a few times when I wished Doe had kept going from his perspective as sometimes when the story teller switched you were in a sense re-reading some of what was just told however, that aside “Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk” is a great book for not only punk rock fans and music but for those wanting to learn about a period of time in Los Angeles that isn’t sugar coated with all the normal glitz and glamour LaLa Land is often associated.

CD Review: Motorhead “Black Magic”

“Black Magic”
Producer: Cameron Webb
Tracks: 13

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

Motorhead the band that goes one louder brings you their latest studio offering “Bad Magic”. The album which was produced by Cameron Webb and released via UDR is the bands 22nd studio album and features 12 brand new tracks from the Lemmy Kilmister fronted group along with a unique cover of the Rolling Stones classic “Sympathy for the Devil”.

For me personally Motorhead ranks right up there as one of the most killer hard rock/heavy metal bands. Not only has the band been rattling speakers since the mid 70’s but they are one of the few solid acts from that era still putting out new music on a regular basis that still holds true to the bands original sound and style. “Bad Magic” is the latest offering from the band and sadly I just couldn’t get into the album. From a production standpoint the album is very tinny with little to no low end. At first I had thought something was wrong with my speakers but after about the 5th track I realized it was what it was. Though there were some notable performances such as the aggressive “Evil Eye” which features some great drumming by Mikkey Dee and the ballad like “Till the End” which contains an impressive solo from Mr. Phil Campbell other mentionable high points were few and far between.

Ultimate Motorhead fans will certainly want this for their collections because where else are you going to find Lemmy performing a Rolling Stones track? However if you’re a more casual listener or looking for a starting point in Motorhead’s impressive recording career I highly suggest starting at the beginning and working your way forward.

Track Listing:
1.) Victory or Die
2.) Thunder & Lightning
3.) Fire Storm Hotel
4.) Shoot Out All of Your Lights
5.) The Devil
6.) Electricity
7.) Evil Eye
8.) Teach Them How to Bleed
9.) Till the End
10.) Tell Me Who to Kill
11.) Choking on Your Screams
12.) When the Sky Comes Looking for You
13.) Sympathy for the Devil (Rolling Stones Cover)

Film Review “Black Mass”

Starring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton and Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: Scott Cooper
Rated: R
Running time: 2 hrs 2 mins
Warner Bros

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Some actors have the ability to lose themselves in a character. Some don’t. Among the best is Johnny Depp, who has built a career playing characters as diverse as Gilbert Grape and Jack Sparrow. But as real-life mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, Depp may have found his greatest performance.

“I just want to say one thing for the record,” a former bad guy tells the authorities. “I’m not a rat.” Rats seem to be the one thing no one wants to be, or be around, in South Boston in 1975. Here the streets are run by “Whitey” Bulger (Depp), a man so feared that to cross him almost always means death. With his snake-like eyes that never seem to blink, just a glance sends most people running the other way. But Whitey is also a loving father and all-around good guy to those he knows. When he sees a former teacher of his carrying groceries he stops his car and has his men not only take them home but put them away as well. What a nice guy!

Fast moving and full of great performances, “Black Mass” is a welcome return to the big screen of the Johnny Depp we admired 20 years ago! He is joined by Edgerton, who plays local boy/now grown-up FBI agent John Connolly. Connolly has been tasked by his superiors to clean up South Boston, and he strikes an almost un-holy bond with Whitey. Whitey will provide information on rival gangsters to the Feds while they will turn their back on his activities, providing he doesn’t murder anyone, which is a pretty hard promise for Whitey to keep. Another fly in the ointment is the fact that Bulger’s brother, Billy, is a state senator, which can make for an uncomfortable dinner party.

As things get worse in Southie, Connolly must find ways to show that Whitey is a productive informant. Of course, this leads to big arrests which lead to raises and a bigger office. Soon Connolly is wearing fancy suits and gold watches, which draws the curiosity of his superior (Kevin Bacon, still in Boston-mode from “Mystic River”). As Connolly, Edgerton is amazing. If you include his amazing writing/directing debut with last month’s “The Gift,” this has been one hell of a year for him. But the top draw here is Depp, who loses himself in the character completely.

If you’re not familiar with “Whitey Bulger,” think back to the Oscar winning Best Picture of 2006, “The Departed.” The character Jack Nicholson played was based on accounts of Bulger and while Nicholson played him well, his “Frank Costello” can’t hold a candle to the real thing!

Win Passes to the Kansas City Premiere of “Black Mass”

Media Mikes has teamed up with Warner Bros. to give (10) lucky readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see the new film “Black Mass,” starring Johnny Depp.

The screening will be held on Monday, September 14th at the Cinemark Palace on the Plaza in Kansas City and will start at 7:30 p.m.

Enter here to get tickets now through Friday, Sept 11th. 10 winners and a guest will be notified on Saturday, Sept 12th.

Good luck!

BLACK MASS   In theaters on September 18

(Warner Bros. Pictures/Cross Creek Pictures/RatPac-Dune Entertainment)

Director:          Scott Cooper

Writers:            Screenplay by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth

Based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill     

Producers:       John Lesher, Brian Oliver, Scott Cooper, Patrick McCormick, Tyler Thompson

Executive Producers:   Brett Ratner, James Packer, Peter Mallouk, Ray Mallouk, Christopher Woodrow, Brett Granstaff, Gary Granstaff, Phil Hunt, Compton Ross

Cast:    Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, W. Earl Brown, David Harbour, Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson, Corey Stoll, Peter Sarsgaard, Adam Scott, Juno Temple

Drama.  In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) persuades Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) to collaborate with the FBI and eliminate a common enemy: the Italian mob.  The drama tells the story of this unholy alliance, which spiraled out of control, allowing Whitey to evade law enforcement, consolidate power, and become one of the most ruthless and powerful gangsters in Boston history.

This film has been rated R for  brutal violence, language throughout, some sexual references and brief drug use.

Blu-ray Review “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death”

Starring: Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine, Adrian Rawlins, Oaklee Pendergast, Ned Dennehy, Hayley Joanne Bacon
Director: Tom Harper
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Run Time: 98 minutes

Film: 2,5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I am nothing but excited Hammer Films is back in business making new horror. I was a big fan of the first “The Woman in Black”. Honestly though, “The Woman in Black” wasn’t a film that I was screaming for a sequel but the trailer for “Angel of Death”, looked creepy as well. Too bad, the film didn’t pan out at all. The scares were so tame, you barely even noticed them. The pace was way off and the story was didn’t draw me in at all.

Official Premise: The supernatural terror returns and unspeakable evil sets its sight on new prey when a group of orphaned children are forced to move into the abandoned Eel Marsh House with their caretakers, Eve and Jean. As the children begin to mysteriously disappear, Eve makes a shocking discovery…it may not be a coincidence that she has come to reside in a place inhabited by the murderous Woman in Black.

“The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death” was released as a combo pack with a BLu-ray and Digital HD copy. The 1080p transfer worked with the dark and dreary conditions. Like the first film, the shooting locations have that certain Hammer charm today and look great on Blu-ray. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks delivers everything that you would expect from a horror film.

Like the film itself, the special features are quite the let down as well. First off is “Pulling Back the Veil: The Woman in Black 2”, which includes behind-the-scenes footage with interviews mixed in. There is also “The Woman in Black 2: Chilling Locations”, which briefly looks into the shooting locations for the film. Lastly there is a deleted scene and trailer included.

Prong’s Tommy Victor talks about new album “Songs From the Black Hole”

Tommy Victor is the lead singer/guitarist for the heavy metal band Prong. The band has been pummeling people’s ear drums since the late 80’s and has recently released an album of cover material titled “Songs From the Black Hole”. The album is a throwback to the bands early roots based in the NY/DC Hardcore scenes and consists of tracks by bands such as Discharge, Killing Joke and Bad Brains. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Tommy recently about the album and the bands plans for the upcoming tour season.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background as to why you chose to release an album of covers as opposed to an album of new Prong material?
Tommy Victor: We put out a traditional release not too long ago titled “Burning Alive”. We did a lot of touring around that last year which didn’t leave a lot of time to go in and do an actual studio record. We had some time off in Berlin during a festival tour run so instead of sending everyone home we had though to maybe start working on new material however my manager mentioned the idea this covers album to put out via sound cloud or something like that . I knew it would take a little bit of work but as I started investigating which songs to do I started getting more excited about it. By the time we went in and cut the record a lot of the songs had really great arrangements. Jason Christopher and I picked most of the songs and the initial rehearsal session went so well that we decided to get the label involved. It started as this small thing just to kill time but everyone got real excited about it. It was very natural and nothing was forced. That seems to be the way Prong has been rolling these days.

AL: How did the song decision process work between you and Jason?
TV: I had talked to a couple of old friends from back in the day in New York just to be reminded of where we came from a little bit. That was the frame work for a lot of this. Jason knowing that was able to compile a nice list of songs and I supplemented that with a couple of other songs but he pretty much nailed it. Knowing my vocal style and from talking with me and some friends the selection process wasn’t that difficult. We knew we wanted a Black Flag and Discharge song on there and to do a Killing Joke song was obvious. They are my personal favorite group of all time. Bad Brains is another band that influenced not just Prong but countless other bands and music styles. A lot of the choices were very obvious. The Neil Young song is the one that is much different from the rest. We wanted a longer song that could expose our simplicity while still getting a point across. It’s one of Neil’s songs that has been noted as having a good guitar solo so I wanted to try and tackle it and challenge myself. Having a love for all of these bands I think made things come together very nicely.

AL: Was it a conscious decision to do more obscure tracks as opposed to some of the bands better known songs?
TV: A little bit. There were a number of songs mentioned but some of them just seemed too typical. For example I am a fan of the later Black Flag albums which are often ignored but they are albums that influenced me. “The Bars” was the song we ended up choosing from them as it fit our style. There were countless Killing Joke songs we could have done but we chose “Seeing Red” and then for Husker Du we chose probably their most popular song “Don’t Want to Know If You Are Lonely”. There really wasn’t any specific formula for the song selection.

AL: Were there any songs you guys did that didn’t make the album?
TV: There were a couple that I personally liked but they didn’t have as much connection to Prong as the ones that did make the album. We didn’t want to mix in the metal influence with this album as it’s a whole other ball game. There is a definite theme with the NY roots and some of the other songs just didn’t fit with the specifications we set. We wanted to make sure this wasn’t just a hodgepodge of songs and that each song meant something to us and was something that influenced Prong and/or our sound.

AL: The album has some pretty unique artwork. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
TV: Initially there was a guy in Berlin who had been doing a lot of our t-shirts and such however he wasn’t available for this project. I mentioned Mike Lopez to the label and told them I already had a bunch of ideas for how I wanted the cover took look. He took those ideas and came up with a great package. It was a process as we exchanged ideas back and forth for a few weeks. I wanted the artwork to reflect the origins of Prong and where we came from in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. That is a place that doesn’t really exist anymore. We came from this rat infested, party atmosphere where everyone just went crazy. That whole area has changed now but when we were growing up there it was a lot of violence and crime. It was very chaotic. Mike took all that stuff and put it together into what you see on the cover of this album.

AL: What type of tour plans are you planning in support of this release?
TV: We have a tour scheduled for Europe in the coming weeks. After that we have a very large tour set for the States starting in October. To get all the dates people can check out

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!

Film Review “Black or White”

Starring: Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer
Directed by: Mike Binder
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 2 hrs 1 min
Relativity Media

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Elliot Anderson (Costner) is a very successful lawyer living the good life. But when we meet him it is one of the worse days of his life. His wife has been killed in an auto accident and he must now break the news to his granddaughter, Eloise (Jillian Estell), who they have raised since the death of their daughter. Things get complicated when Eloise’s paternal grandmother, Rowena (Spencer) petitions for custody. Did I mention that Elliot is white and Rowena is black?

A fine attempt at conveying the message that a child is best molded when love is the main ingredient, “Black or White” relies mostly on coincidence and disbelief to succeed. When Rowena and her extended family visit Elliot’s home after the funeral, Rowena scolds him for never inviting her family over to swim in his pool. Rowena, et all live in Compton. But in a very nice part of Compton. Rowena talks a good game but really, the only difference I can see between her neighborhood and Elliot’s is that Elliot’s has more pools per square inch. We also learn that Rowena is a successful businesswoman with multiple achievements. Why hasn’t she moved from Compton? Things get even worse for Elliot when Eloise’s father shows up and joins the custody case.

Kevin Costner has grown into a fine character actor. Here he plays Elliot as a man who loves his granddaughter but also loves his liquor. Rowena accuses him of being an alcoholic but actually he’s just sad. He’s already lost two women in his life and faces losing a third. Spencer gives Rowena a coolness that makes her endearing…not the caricaturistic “black granny” (see: Tyler Perry’s Medea). But credit is also due to the youngest members of the cast. Estell is cute but smart as Eloise and Mpho Koaho almost steals the film as the young math tutor that works with both Eloise and Elliot. Anthony Mackie and Andre’ Holland also do well as Rowena’s brother/attorney and Eloise’s father, respectively. The script, written by director Binder, tries to say too much, and in doing so, loses some of its charm.

CD Review: Black Veil Brides “Black Veil Brides”

Black Veil Brides
“Black Veil Brides”
Producer: Bob Rock
Tracks: 11

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Black Veil Brides” is the latest release from the rock band of the same name. The album is the follow up release to the group’s 2013 concept album “Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones”. The album is being released by Lava/Universal and features 11 brand new tracks produced by legendary producer Bob Rock that blur the lines between rock, metal and punk.

After being a bit put off by BVB’s 2013 concept album I wasn’t too sure what to expect with the latest offering from the band. Thankfully the group has appeared to have returned to its roots as “Black Veil Brides” is a straight forward rock/metal album speckled with nods to the bands early influences. Producer Bob Rock (Metallica, Motley Crue) showcases why he has been and still is the guy to go to if you want to capture that late eighties/pre-grunge era rock sound as each track has the perfect balance of flash and balls. Combine that with lead vocalist Andy Biersack’s gritty operatic style and you have the makings of what could be considered the bands most powerful release to date. Tracks like the albums take no prisoners opener “Heart of Fire” and the in your face “World of Sacrifice” shred through your speakers while more laid back tracks like “Goodbye Agony” and the ballad like approach of “Walk Away” will appeal to listeners on a whole new level.

Though at times I did find the album to be a bit over produced it wasn’t enough to pull my attention completely away what the band was trying to accomplish. Black Veil Brides may have been the band who first burst on to the scene sporting an over the top, make up stained look reminiscent of the 1980’s glam era however all of that is now gone and the band appears to be all business and their latest “Black Veil Brides” certainly helps prove that.

Track Listing:
1.) Heart of Fire
2.) Faithless
3.) Devil in the Mirror
4.) Goodbye Agony
5.) World of Sacrifice
6.) Last Rites
7.) Stolen Omen
8.) Walk Away
9.) Drag Me to the Grave
10.) The Shattered God
11.) Crown of Thorns

Blu-ray Review “Black Sails: The Complete First Season”

Starring: Toby Stephens, Hannah New, Luke Arnold, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Tom Hopper, Zach McGowan, Toby Schmitz, Clara Paget, Mark Ryan, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Sean Michael, Louise Barnes
Rated: TV-MA
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Run Time: 456 minutes

Season: 3 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Ever since “Game of Thrones” blew up on HBO, everyone has been trying to recreate that success. STARZ is the latest to hone in on that with “Black Sails”. This show was described to me as “Game of Thrones” on the sea. I am a big “Game of Thrones” fan, so I figured I would check it out. The show is quite epic for sure. I mean who doesn’t want to see a show about pirates including Long John Silver. I just wasn’t as enthralled as I was with “Game of Thrones”, if we are comparing.The visual effects are stunning but the cast doesn’t really grip me. I have a feeling though this show is going to be going on for a while since the second season starts on January 24, 2015 and the show was already renewed for a third season as well.

Official Premise: 1715. The Golden Age of Piracy. New Providence Island is a lawless territory, controlled by history’s most notorious pirate captains. The most feared is Captain Flint. As the British Navy returns to redeem their land and exterminate Flint and his crew, another side of him emerges. He allies himself with Elenaor Guthrie, daughter of the local kingpin, to hunt the ultimate prize and ensure their survival. Many opponents stand in their way: rival captains, jealous of Flint’s power; Eleanor’s ambitious and intrusive father; and a young sailor recently recruited onto Flint’s crew, John Silver, who constantly undermines his captain’s agenda.

This season comes stocked as a combo pack with a Blu-ray + Digital HD with Ultraviolet included. The 1080p transfers who perfectly with the lavish sets for this production. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track delivers with the action and works perfectly with Bear McCreary’s score.  The special features are jam-packed for this release. There is a behind-the-scenes look with “Black Sails: A Look Inside”. “Dress To Kill” gives into the series’ wardrobe with the costume designer. “Pirate Camp” shows what it takes to get into character. “Folklore Is Finished: Pirate Politics” dives into the shows story. “A Place In History” looks into the shows period. Lastly “Building The Behemoth” looks into the shows production and sets.

Book Review “Into the Black: The Inside Story of Metallica 1991-2014”

“Into the Black: The Inside Story of Metallica 1991-2014”
Author: Dave Van Ronk Elijah Wald
Hardcover: 289 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Into the Black: The Inside Story of Metallica 1991-2014” is the second book in a two book series written by Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood. The follow up to 2013’s “Birth, School, Metallica, Death” which chronicles the bands first decade from 1981-1991. “Into the Black” takes you deeper than its predecessor as the book covers the bands dealing with subjects like fans and fame to competing with other bands in the heavy metal aren. The book recounts one of the bands more turbulent era’s as it looks at the bands dispute with Napster, the disastrous tour with Gun’s N’ Roses and the band return to the spotlight after front man James Hetfield’s battle with addiction.

Authors Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood cover both the highs and lows that the band has experienced in the later part of its career and though not an officially licensed “biography” this is probably the closest thing I have seen thus far. Everything from bassist Jason Newsted’s departure to the release of “Death Magnetic” and the epic Big 4 tour is recounted in this book. Though I enjoyed the writing duo’s first book I found “Into the Black” went a bit further. Growing up during this era of the bands career the book sparked some great memories for me related to the music and remembering the noted headlines and occurrences in the bands career that were being shared in this book. The book also had several photos of the band that I hadn’t seen before which was cool in its self making this a must have any true Metallica fan out there.

Blu-ray Review “Black Dynamite: Season One”

Starring: Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Byron Minns, Kym Whitley, J.B. Smoove, Clifton Powell
Distributed by: Warner Bros
Rated TV-MA
Running Time: 264 minutes
Release: Jul 15, 2014

Season: 2 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

“Black Dynamite” is an animated series based on the 2009’s cult classic feature film. Made with the direction of Carl Jones (“The Boondocks”), the series features the voice talent of Michael Jai White (“The Dark Knight”), Tommy Davidson (“In Living Color”), Kym Whitley (“The Cleveland Show”) and Byron Minns (“Mongo Wrestling Alliance”), all who were all in the film. I was excited about this show being a fan of the movie but it gets old very fast. By episode three, the fad of this being funny is long gone. This show hasn’t aired since September 2012 and yet Adult Swim supposedly has renewed it for a second season it air sometime in 2014, but it is already nearly July so not sure what is going on, nor do I really care to be honest. Put it this way if you like “The Boondocks”, which I do not, then you will love this show.

Official Premise: The series’ titular character Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is a 1970s renaissance man with a kung-fu grip. He is a lover and a fighter who is not afraid to leap before he looks. His sidekick extraordinaire is Bullhorn, the brains and cunning that complements Black Dynamite’s hard-hittin’, bone-crushin’ style. Providing comic relief on the mean streets is Cream Corn (Tommy Davidson) and classing up the place is the gorgeous Honey Bee (Kym Whitley).

What I do have to give to this show is a star for a it’s great episode titles: 1. “Just Beat It or Jackson Five Across Yo’ Eyes”; 2. “Bullhorn Nights or Murder She Throats (a.k.a Mandingo’s Got a Pink Toe)”; 3. “Taxes and Death or Get Him to the Sunset Strip!”; 4. “A Crisis at Christmas or The Dark Side of the Dark Side of the Moon”; 5. “Panic on the Player’s Ball Express or That’s Influenza Sucka!”; 6. “The $#*! That Killed The King or Weekend At Presley’s”; 7. “Apocalypse, This! or For the Pity of Fools (AKA Flashbacks Are Forever)”; 8. “Honky Kong or White Apes Can’t Hump”; 9. “The Race War or Big Black Cannon, Balls Run!”; “10. Seed of Kurtis AKA Father Is Just Another Word For Motherf#@ker”

Warner Bros is delivered this release as a combo pack with a Blu-ray + UltraViolet digital copy. The 1080p transfer works with the animation and looks good. But The Cartoon Network/Adult Swim Blu-ray’s always fall short in the audio department. This season only comes with a Dolby Digtal 5.1 track, which is a DVD track not a Blu-ray track. So that is a bit of a let down. In terms of special features, there is some decent content. There is a behind-the-scenes look into this show with “The Making of Black Dynamite”. There are also video commentaries with the cast and crew on selected episodes, which made watching them a little easier but not much. Lastly also included is the pilot episode for “Black Dynamite”.