Christmas at Gaylord Palms wins the holidays with ICE! featuring “A Charlie Brown Christmas”!

Every Christmas season one of the staple events that we must attend is always Christmas at Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, FL. This has been one of my favorite attractions during the holidays since I moved to Florida back in 2010. This year ICE! is featuring “A Charlie Brown Christmas” presented by Pepsi. Let me just say that I have been coming to ICE! for years now and THIS IS THE BEST YEAR EVER! Wow, I cannot say enough good things about this Christmas at Gaylord Palms in general this year. All I can say is that everyone NEEDS to take a trip this year and not to miss this wonderful attraction.

If you have never heard of ICE! Well, then you are missing out. The story of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is showcase through several rooms of interactive ice sculptures and displays. Get ready for this…there are two million pounds of ice that were hand-carved to create these iconic scenes with the Peanuts gang. And I saved the best part for last this all takes place inside a frosty 9-degree environment! That’s right 9-degrees, so make sure to dress VERY warm cause it is a bit chilly to say the least!

Christmas at Gaylord Palms doesn’t just consist of ICE! though. They also have an amazing light show called “A Christmas Wish”, which is an amazing all-new six-minute light show. It features narration, classic holiday music and dazzling visual effects topped with an outstanding 60-foot LED-lit Christmas tree in the center of above Emerald Plaza. This is free to everyone visiting the resort, so it is must see for sure. Also in the Emerald Plaza there is a stage show “Cirque Dreams Unwrapped”, which is a breathtaking performance with some amazingly talented performers. My daughters mouth was literally to the ground in awe this entire performance. Also not to be missed!

Some new offerings include Mrs. Claus’ Christmas Traditions and Santa’s Snow Throw. I have to just say that Mrs. Claus’ Christmas Traditions was probably a highlight of the whole Christmas at Gaylord Palms. It is a half-hour interactive show where guests can get to spend some time with Mrs Claus as she reads “Twas the Night Before Christmas” along with a very funny silly Elf at her side. If that isn’t enough you are also treated with fresh warm chocolate chip cookies and a some cold milk. I didn’t get a chance to try out Santa’s Snow Throw but it also looked like a lot of fun. You can toss real snowballs at a variety of targets in this carnival-style game.

One of my daughters favorite attractions is getting to visit the Build-A-Bear Workshop. This year we had the pleasure to make a Poppy bear from the new movie “Trolls”. Alpine Rush Snow Tubing has always been a favorite as well. They changed the queuing process a little this year that made it a little harder to ride over and over due to queue backing up but we still took at least 5 trips up and down this year. To top off the night, my daughter was able to meet the Peanuts gang as well in person as Charlie Brown, Lucy and Snoopy were there to meet the guests and take pictures!

So like I said this year is the year to spend the holidays at Christmas at Gaylord Palms. I have no idea how they are planning on topping this for next year but I honestly cannot wait to find out what they have planned! Merry Christmas and enjoy the holidays this year…and don’t forget to make a trip to Gaylord Palms!

Jeffrey Brown talks about new book “Star Wars: Vader’s Little Princess”

Jeffrey Brown the author of last years hit children’s book “Star Wars: Darth Vader and Son”. When this book was realized was a month before my daughter was born and I couldn’t help but ask where is the female version. Well my request was answered with the newly released sequel “Star Wars: Vader’s Little Princess”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Jeffrey about his books and what we can expect next. If you want to ask him your own questions be sure to check out the upcoming Virtual Chat between Jeffrey, Daniel Wallace and Jonathan Rinzler on May 1st, click here to submit questions.

Mike Gencarelli: Are you surprised by the success of “Star Wars: Darth Vader and Son”?
Jeffrey Brown: I am. I thought it would do well, on the basis of it being a Star Wars book if nothing else, but I didn’t anticipate the incredible response it got. I’m most surprised by how much kids love the book. I wrote it from and for the parents’ perspective, but kids really get a kick out of it.

MG: What has been your son’s reaction to the book?
He likes it, although I suspect spending a year watching me write and draw the book too some of the shine off it.  He doesn’t like it as much as my nephew who’s just about the same age.

MG: Where did get your inspiration for “Star Wars: Vader’s Little Princess”?
There wasn’t really enough space for Leia in the first book, so I knew I wanted to do more with her. At the same time, I felt like I’d used up most of the four-year-old jokes and situations, so making Leia a teenager seemed obvious, and provided a lot more potential material – especially being able to show her dating Han Solo.

MG: Did you find this follow-up more challenging?
I did – first, because I’d used up some key bits of dialogue and scenes from the movies, and second, I don’t have a teenage daughter. Fortunately, I have a few friends with teenage daughters, and was able to get some ideas from them as well as my editor at Lucasfilm, J.W. Rizler. who has daughters.

How much research did you do within the “Star Wars” universe to complete these books?
Even though I’ve seen the films countless times, I re-watched them repeatedly the whole time I was working on the book. I also used numerous books, issues of Star Wars Insider, looked at toys, and finally had a good reason to spend some time intensely studying my collection of Topps Star Wars cards.

MG: Have you ever heard a reaction from George Lucas on these books?
I heard that he asked for more copies of Darth Vader and son, which is extremely flattering. As much as I was having fun with the Star Wars universe, I wanted to be true to it, and so I feel like I did it right.

MG: Can you give us a sneak preview for “Star Wars: Jedi Academy”
Jedi Academy is the story of Roan Novachez, a young boy from Tatooine expecting to spend middle school at the Pilot Academy, but ends up at Jedi Academy instead. The story is told through Roan’s journal, comics, letters from family, notes from class, and even pages from the school newspaper. It’s very different from anything I’ve done before in many ways, and I hope kids have as much fun reading it as I had making it.

MG: You co-wrote last years’s “Save The Date”; do you expect to do more feature films?
I do, although it might be a while. I have a handful of ideas I’d like to work on, but I also have a ton of books I’d like to draw, and have more Star Wars books that I’m already working on. So for now I’m just letting the film ideas percolate in the back of my mind until it’s time to really get to work on them.

MG: Tell us about your upcoming book “A Matter of Life”?
I’ve had the idea of writing some stories about my experiences with religion for a while, and A Matter Of Life started out as that book. My dad is a minister, and I’m a father now myself, so at some point the book became about fatherhood as much as anything else. It’s more meditative and thoughtful than the other work I’ve been doing lately, and is probably my most personal autobiographical book yet.

Book Review "Official Truth, 101 Proof The Inside Story of Pantera" by Rex Brown

Author: Rex Brown w/ Mark Eglinton
Hardcover: 259 pages
Publisher: DaCapo
Release Date: March 12th, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Have you ever wanted to hear the real truth about your favorite band from the people who were really there? Sure there have been other books that have tried to bring in elements of truth while skirting around the stuff fans and people on the outside really wanted to know. Well here is your chance to get whole truth and nothing but. Rex Brown former bassist for the Grammy-nominated, platinum selling heavy metal group Pantera has just released “Official Truth, 101 Proof The Inside Story of Pantera”. The memoir is a tell all book that not only tells Rex’s side of things but also incorporates stories from Rex’s friends and family that were present while one of the biggest bands to come out of the 90’s slowly began to break apart at the seams.

Candid, brutally honest, and at times shocking Rex Brown touches on everything and pulls no punches while doing so. Very rarely do you get the true grit out of a memoir however this one is the exception. Not only do you get the inside track on one of the biggest metal acts of all time you get to hear it from multiple sources that were there and can confirm what is being said. I found this book to be a breath of fresh air in a market that is saturated with half hearted  tell all’s that do nothing more than restate the facts the most people already know. Brown’s prologue alone made the book great as it wastes no time delving in to the murder of Pantera guitarist/friend Dimebag Darrell and his feelings related to all the events leading up to and after that awful December evening in Columbus, OH. Nothing is off limits or taboo. From drugs and alcohol to troubles with other band mates Brown tackles these subjects head on and at full speed. Co-Author Mark Eglinton does a remarkable job capturing all of Brown’s emotion and dedication which until now have remained mostly unseen due to Brown’s tendency to shy away from the media.

From start to finish a great read. “Official Truth, 101 Proof The Inside Story of Pantera” is one of those books that you either can’t or don’t want to put down. Each chapter does a great job leading in to the next while keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. The book also contains some really great photos from Rex’s personal collection that for me was the icing on the cake. Even if you aren’t a fan of Pantera, Down or Rex’s current group Kill Devil Hill you will want to check this book out as the story alone is one of triumph, tragedy and moving on.

Be sure to check out Media Mikes exclusive interview with Rex Brown, here.

Pantera's Rex Brown talks about his book "Official Truth" and new album with Kill Devil Hill

Rex Brown is the former bassist for the Grammy nominated, platinum selling heavy metal band Pantera. After the groups break up in 2003 Brown went on to play with groups such as Down and more recently Kill Devil Hill which features Vinny Appice on drums. Browns memoir titled “Official Truth” has just been released and is a gritty in your face tale from the man who lived it. Media Mikes had the pleasure of talking with Rex recently to discuss his work on the book and to get an update on the second album from Kill Devil Hill.

Adam Lawton: What made now the right time to release this book?
Rex Brown: A friend of mine who runs Bass player magazine in the UK mentioned that he was friends with a guy who writes books and that I should get in to it. At the time it was something I was not interested in at all. I figured I wasn’t dead yet so why write a book now? After thinking about it for awhile I figured it really did make sense to put this out now and then move on down the line. The thing that happened to Dime really fucked me up. I mean he was murdered. This was my best friend who was the best man at my wedding. I lived out of a brown bottle for a long time and doing crazy shit not knowing at the very that that’s not the way to go. I got in touch with my author and started talking about how we wanted to do this thing. I read all of the Rock and Roll books that come out as it’s my passion. That’s what I want to be doing. One thing just led to another and he started writing things down and then submitting them to me. He really had to develop my slang when he put it to print as I don’t line up in ques. I wanted to tell my side of the story, my experiences, and my truths of what went on and it is all true.  My author also brought me the idea of have friends and family write various passages to help fill in some gaps. I have short term memory but my memory of the past is pretty fucking vivid. There’s collaboration and corroborating. It’s all true and that what I wanted the book to about. My author really wanted me to dig and that’s what I did.

AL: What was it difficult looking back on some of these stories and hearing perspectives from other people involved?
RB: When I first read them yes. When I got to know a little more about what they were trying to say no. So it’s a yes and no type answer. My sister is in this book a lot so I called her the other day to tell her that when this thing comes out it’s not a cook book or a kid’s book. I told her she probably wouldn’t want to put this out to all her friends. She is 17 years older than me and didn’t lead the hippy life style like I have. The book is different than most books but it’s real. As real as it is it’s the truth. That was something I had to explain to my 13 year old twins. I told them they may get a little flack over this but not to worry about it because everything is going to be all right. This is just dad’s previous life. What I did then is definitely not what I am doing now. I have come full circle and we all grow and mature.

AL: Being that the book is so truthful are you worried in any way about the backlash it may receive from fans or those mentioned in the book?
RB: I don’t give a fuck! Go write your own book fucking book. This is my truth and my experience. This is the best way I knew how to tell things. I wanted to come honest and clean. I am tight with both Philip and Rita but I don’t talk to Vinnie. You have to read this book as a whole not just take a chapter here or there. You have to go from the very beginning to the very end. The ending tells its own story and there are some really fun parts to this book. I am proud of this book and I wouldn’t have put it out if I wasn’t. Of course somewhere in my mind there is maybe 10% of me that is concerned about some dickhead behind a computer that’s going to blast on me. I am certainly not worried about it though. I was put in the middle of so many situations during the bands career and I never said a word to the press about it. I just did what I had to do to keep things going. It’s now time for me to tell me story. There is always the good, the bad and the ugly and this book is not about ribbing one person more than another. It’s about making a band work and making it go through what we went through. That’s why the book is called “Official Truth”. I could have given you some bullshit book but I didn’t. I gave everyone the fucking truth.

AL: What was the most rewarding part of the writing process for you?
RB: Just telling the truth and being able to open myself up. That was something I had never done before. I am a guy that’s all about the jam and getting up on stage every night. I don’t care about all of the other parts. For me to do something like this and open up took a lot of balls. I am not patting myself on the back or anything like that but this stuff had to come out.

AL: Can you give us a head ups on the second Kill Devil Hill record?
RB: If you like the first album this second one blows it completely away as far as I am concerned. Musically it is more of a collaborative and collective effort between all of us. Everyone is doing their own swing but at the same time from doing so many dates together we know each other really well. I know Vinny like the back of my hand. I watched him every night for 7 months on the Heaven and Hell tour. We have always just been really good friends. He is the baddist mother fucking drummer on the planet. You just don’t screw something like that up. The other two guys in the band Mark Zavon and Dewey Bragg are just as badass as we are but they never made it out of town. Mark is a brilliant writer and a hell of a guitar player. Dewey is on the verge of stardom with the stuff he is coming up with. It is really just amazing. Things have almost come full circle between me and these guys. I took a chance by leaving Down and joining these guys. I could have stayed with Down as Phillip and I had been together for 24 years which is a long time. We don’t talk about each other’s music but we are still great friends. Well I hope so after this book. (Laughs) This stuff in there is all public knowledge anyway. This thing has just given me the hunger to want to play again. I can’t tell you how much stronger my life is. It really couldn’t be better and life is too short to sweat the small stuff. Hopefully people will enjoy the book and the new album when it comes out.

Be sure to check out the Media Mikes review of “Official Truth”, here.

DVD Review “The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show: The Complete Series”

Created by Charles M. Shultz
Starring: Bill Melendez, Jeremy Schoenberg, Brad Kesten, Angela Lee, Victoria Vargas, Jeremy Miller, Brett Johnson, Heather Stoneman, Gini Holtzman
Studio: Warner Archive
DVD Release Date: November 20, 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 402 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Who doesn’t love Peanuts?! “The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show” originally aired on CBS from September 1983 to October of 1985 for only two seasons. This DVD contains the complete series with all 18 episodes. A few of the episodes started to be released last year on various Peanuts DVDs but this is the first time that they have been released fully and complete on DVD, thanks to Warner Archive.  The episodes are presented in 4X3 full frame and their original aspect ratio of 1.37:1.  The audio included is a decent mono track, which works for the show. This is a nice flashback to the ‘ole Saturday morning cartoon days that I had growing up.

Season 1 consists of the following episodes: “Snoopy’s Cat Fight”; “Snoopy: Team Manager”; “Linus and Lucy”; “Lucy vs. the World”; “Linus’ Security Blanket”; “Snoopy: Man’s Best Friend”; “Snoopy the Psychiatrist”; “You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown”; “The Lost Ballpark”; “Snoopy’s Football Career”; “Chaos in the Classroom”; “It’s That Team Spirit, Charlie Brown”; “Lucy Loves Schroeder”. Season 2 consists of the following episodes: “Snoopy and the Giant”; “Snoopy’s Brother Spike”; “Snoopy’s Robot”; “Peppermint Patty’s School Days” and “Sally’s Sweet Babboo”.  Inside each episode there are numerous shorts, so you get quite of bit of Peanuts goodness throughout the series.  If you are a fan of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts crew then this release is a no-brainer.

Official Premise: Your favorite Peanuts stories come to life in this animated television series. Adapted from the popular comic strip created and written by Charles M. Shultz, “The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show” is no longer a cartoon relegated to Saturday mornings of the past — now you can watch the gang anytime! With short sketches featuring these classic and much-loved characters, it’s easy to “have a party with Charlie Brown and Snoopy,” as the theme song says. The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show originally aired in 1983 and 1985 and was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1983

Zac Brown Band Debut Animated Music Video for ‘The Wind’

Check out the new animated music video for Zac Brown Band’s song “The Wind”. It stars an animated, guitar-shredding, big game hunting robot.

If that wasn’t cool enough it is directed by Mike Judge (King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead) and produced by Titmouse (Metalocalypse, Motorcity, Superjail!, China, IL, Black Dynamite).

Zac Brown Band’s album ‘UNCAGED’ is available in stores and online on July 10th!

Natalie Brown talks about playing Julia in SyFy’s “Being Human”

Natalie Brown recently c0-starred in Season 2 of SyFy’s “Being Human”, playing the role of Julia.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Natalie about her role on the show and what we can expect from her next.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with the show “Being Human”?
Natalie Brown: It was funny… The night before I even knew about the audition, I was on a panel judging submissions for best actor for the Gemini Awards (Canada’s Emmys) and it was then that I saw both Sam Huntington and Sam Witwer’s performances from the first season… I was blown away. The very next day, my agent called with the audition for Julia- Aiden’s new love interest, and Josh’s ex fiancé. I’d get to work with both of them!? I put myself on tape to send to Montreal, (where the show shoots) the director gave me a few notes, and after sending the second audition tape, I got the part!

MG: Where you aware/fan of the BBC series?
NB: I hadn’t heard of it before the US version, but once I saw it, I understood why it was such a hit- the chemistry between the actors, the mix of humor & humanity set against superhuman circumstances – the same factors that make the US version every bit as gratifying.

MG: What did you like most about playing the role of Julia?
NB: Besides working with the best cast ever?!? It was a great opportunity bringing Josh’s past to life. There was some pressure to live up to this legendary fiancé fans had only heard about in Season One, and I was also a bit concerned over what Nora fans might have to say about a new (albeit old¡) girl in the mix, but to my surprise and relief, there wasn’t any backlash. Julia is one of the few completely human characters, who represents what Josh, and the rest of the main characters are seeking- something normal and grounding… Although “normal” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She too is dealing with loss and pain, trying to make sense of her life and find her place in the world after hers was turned upside-down. Getting dumped – twice! – first by her fiancé, and again by a really hot vampire… totally sucks!

MG: The second to last episode in season two was a real shocker, can you reflect on that for us?
NB: I was shocked too! I received a nice phone call from the writers, saying how pleased they were with the job I was doing, and that what was going to happen to Julia was nothing personal. Normally, when you receive these types of phone calls, it’s sad because you know it’s the end, but in this case, this is the kind of show where you’re HOPING for that phone call. I thought “Great! I can’t wait to die! Get bitten, come back as a ghost, become Sally’s new BFF… The possibilities are endless!” But not Julia. I didn’t realize til I saw the long faces on everyone on set the next day that not only was Julia going to die, but she was getting her door. Immediately. Julia’s only issue was not truly knowing why Josh left her, & once she understood, Poof! Her door appeared and off she went into the … Well we don’t know what’s on the other side of the door, but hopefully if we ever do find out, fingers crossed Julia will be back! It was an emotional but really rewarding day on set. It didn’t take much to get to a gut-wrenching place when the circumstances were so dire, I was sad to be leaving, and Sam Huntington brought the house down and made every grown man cry with his performance.

MG: What was your highlight of working on the show this season?
NB: My first and only threesome, filming with Sammie and Jay Baruchel, for sure! Bestest strangest day on set.

MG: You also appeared on SyFy’s “Lost Girl” is season two, which has not aired in the US yet, tell us about that?
NB: Lost Girl is such a fun show with cast you can crush on. I was lucky enough to have scenes with most of the gang, playing a light Fae imprisoned for 80 years for falling in love with a man who was Dark Fae. I got to change from prison garb to sacrificial princess gown, to 1940’s hats and dresses in flashbacks, to finally running through the woods in head-to-toe leather, shooting porcupine quills out of my hair. Soooo much fun!

MG: What else do you have planned upcoming?
NB: Right now, I’m in Sault Ste Marie filming a small but fun role in the psychological thriller “Compulsion,” starring Heather Graham and Carrie Anne Moss. I’ll be playing opposite Kevin Dillon, which should be fun. I’m lucky, I get to work with a lot of talented people when they come to shoot in Canada.

Interview with SafetySuit’s Doug Brown

Doug Brown is the vocalist/rhythm guitarist for the pop/rock band SafetySuit. The band recently released their second album titled “These Times” via Universal Republic Records. Media Mikes had a chance to talk with Doug recently about the bands history and the new album.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us a little background on the band?
Doug Brown: The band formed a century ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 2004 we moved to Nashville, Tenn. where we started playing out quite a bit. In 2007 we got signed to Universal Records and in 2008 we released our first album titled “Life Left to Go”. We toured on that album for about 3 years which brings us to now where we are now just releasing our new album “These Times”.

AL: What can you tell us about the new album?
DB: This album is the next step in the SafetySuit journey. With the last record I don’t think people could really tell what type of band we are. Some people thought we were a pop band while others thought we were a rock band. I think we have a little bit of both and are a pop/rock band as opposed to a rock/pop band. The pop is trying to squeeze its way towards the front of our sound but we give it emotion and intensity which is what is missing from some pop style songs.

AL: How does “These Times” compare to your previous release?
DB: I think this record is an evolution. This album is us figuring out what people were reacting to after 2/3 years of touring. We wanted to make the things that people were reacting to the predominant thing on the new record. We were really aware this time of what we were putting in each recording as we wanted the songs to be very accessible. With the last record we added a lot of stuff to the tracks to make them bigger but this time we went with a less is more approach.

AL: What do you think was the hardest part of the recording process?
DB: The recording process it’s self was a really long process. We started at the beginning of 2010 and didn’t finish until the end of 2011. It’s hard to come into the studio and record a fresh sounding album after being on the road for so long. We recorded half of the record and then brought the label down to hear it. This was the first time that we as a band stopped and listened to what we were doing. We realized it was not very good so we scrapped the entire thing. The second time around we made sure that we had good people working with us with fresh ideas. We were constantly checking the tracks to make sure they were what we wanted.

AL: Is there a track off the album that sticks out as a favorite?
DB: Probably the title track “These Times”. I think that song musically captures what we are trying to do as a band. The song has a good guitar hook and lyrics that are focused on a real subject. I think this song has the heart of the band behind it.

AL: Will the band be touring to support the album?
DB: I don’t have any specifics on the tour just yet. We are working very hard right now on locking down a few things. We are planning a small club tour in February and then we have some opportunities for some larger tours in March, April and May. I can’t really tell anyone much more than that until things are finalized.

AL: Is there anything else going on with band in 2012?
DB: We just released our video on Vevo.com for “These Times” which was pretty exciting. It was also pretty amazing to be the number 1 album on iTunes for a couple days. During the months until spring we plan to do a lot of press and promoting to get the album going. We hope to do a Vh1 premier of “These Times” in the next month in a half or so.