Blu-ray Review “Inside Llewyn Davis”

Actors: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman
Directors: The Coen Brothers
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Run Time: 104 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Whenever I see the Coen Brothers are coming out with a new film my interest always peak. When I read that “Inside Llewyn Davis” was going to be based around the work of folk music, it quickly made my most anticipated movie list. I do not really feel that this film got the attention that it deserved. Oscar Isaac delivered some an amazing performance, I literally had trouble taking my eyes off the screen. There was something about this film that kept my interested the entire 104 minutes. The music was amazing and all sung by each of the respective actors. Along with Isacc performance, there are some fantastic supporting roles delivered by Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund and Justin Timberlake. Each was like a perfectly executed cameo, especially Goodman. If you are a fan of the Coen Brothers’ films, I highly recommend this since it is probably not for everyone.

Official Premise: “Inside Llewyn Davis” follows a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is at a crossroads. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles – some of them of his own making. Living at the mercy of both friends and strangers, scaring up what work he can find, Llewyn’s misadventures take him from the baskethouses of the Village to an empty Chicago club – on an odyssey to audition for a music mogul – and back again.

Sony delivered “Inside Llewyn Davis” on Blu-ray along with an HD Digital Ultraviolet copy. The 1080p really captures that 1960’s New York feel to it. It looks gritty yet very sharp at the same time. The music performed by Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan, as well as Marcus Mumford and Punch Brothers sounds absolutely amazing with the Blu-ray’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. This is the Coen Brothers’ fourth collaboration with multiple-Grammy and Academy Award-winning music producer T-Bone Burnett and it was a great decision. There is only one special feature included but it is quite impressive, though I would have loved to seen a commentary track also. ““Inside Inside Llewyn Davis” is an in-depth 40-minute, making-of documentary with interviews from the filmmakers, cast, crew and musicians involved with the film.

Korn’s Jonathan Davis and Nicholas O’Toole talk about composing film “After the Dark”

Photo Credit: Stefano Micchia & Fadewood Studios

“After The Dark” is the latest film by director John Huddles. The film takes place at an international school in Jakarta, where a philosophy teacher challenges his class of twenty graduating seniors to choose which ten of them would take shelter underground and reboot the human race in the event of a nuclear apocalypse. The film was scored by veteran film composer Nicholas O’Toole and Korn front man Jonathan Davis and Media Mikes had the pleasure of talking with both of them about their work on the film and their ongoing collaboration with one another.

Adam Lawton: How did you both become involved with the film?
Nicholas O’Toole:  I was approached by George Zakk who was one of the producers on the film. I had known him from another project and they had just started to go into post production on this film. George had known that Jonathan and I had been working together for quite some time and it seemed like a good fit. This led to a discussion with director John Huddles. We ended up hitting it off right away and we have stayed friends since.

AL: What was the creative process like between the two of you?
NO: The dynamic is great as we have known each other for so long. We get what the other one does. I myself am very technically minded and I have a degree in film score work where Jonathan is prolific in songwriting, EDM and a variety of other things including film scoring. We sort of mind shared this project.  Jonathan is very dynamic and variant based. He brings a lot to the table from sound design, to mood and colors. I handle the more technical side of things such as arranging and post work. With Jonathan on the road a lot he and I developed a good solution for sharing our thoughts and ideas. We walked in to the project already having a pretty good flow.

AL: Jonathan, did you find any similarities in your writing style for the film and you writing style for Korn?
Jonathan Davis: It is completely different. That’s why I love it. It challenges me. When you are writing a film score you are trying to convey an emotion part of the film. That’s the whole reason why I love doing things like this as it is so different from the other writing that I do. When you are working on a song you have versus and choruses to stick to and with a project like this there are no rules. It’s really different.

AL: Is scoring something you picture yourself doing more of?
JD: I love doing it and am open to doing more. I am just a musical junkie. When I got sober back in the day I replaced partying with music. (Laughs) It is something that I can’t get enough of.

AL: Did you both work on the same parts together or did you work separately on various parts of the film?
NO: It was purely linear in this particular instance. John Huddles was involved as well from the ground level which made things even greater. Having John involved certainly reduced the re-writes. Normally you create a bunch of material and then show case but for this film John was there the whole time and fully invested. I think we just moved from beginning to end on this and then went back and did some adjusting where it was needed. I think you can sort of hear that in the arc of the story. We kept things moving and it felt very natural.

AL: How much of the film were you allowed to see at one time when you were scoring?
NO: We got the film in a reel which is the general process of post production. We are all contracted to confidentiality. You get the entire film however they may still be editing and changing some of the things. We would get new reels every week. We had a screening with the director where we saw the film in its entirety and we discussed where the music would go and for how long and what type of feel was needed. Everything gets spotted out and then we follow those notes and begin writing. You definitely have to understand the narrative in order to be able to start scoring.

AL: After the initial playing of the film with the score were there a lot of changes requested by the director?
NO: Things did change. The film was shot in Indonesia which is known for a style of music called Gamelan. Jonathan had some previous experiences with this style of music as had I in the past so this ended up being a pleasant coincident. We were going to take a more Gamelan eccentric approach anyhow which we did at first. John Huddles liked it but wanted to try a different approach. We repositioned ourselves in a way that caught fire and we were able to just take off. We kept things quite minimal arrangement wise and then mixed in a little Gamelan with electronic and hypnotic elements. We kept things very natural.

AL: Jonathan, did you have any reservations about working on the project? And do you have to get a specific type of mind set to work on this type of music?
JD: Not really. I love doing music. It’s always fun working with Nick and writing music. It was really great working with a director who had a specific vision. This was something so completely normal from what I do in my day job. I think you have to take yourself away because you are writing a piece of music not a song. I have to wrap my head around that but it’s basically music.

Photo Credit: Scoretek Inc

AL: Being that you guys have a friendship with one another outside of your work what do you enjoy most about working with each other?
JD: For me we are just friends making music. It’s a simple and pure thing. I am having fun making music for a cool movie and getting paid for it. There is no bad side to this what so ever. It’s just fun!
NO: The collaboration process is enhancing because if it was just me I would be writing out of my head. Jonathan adds another creative brain which comes from a completely different place. When you put the two together the result is always something bigger than what it would have been. Jonathan is prolific outside of Korn in ways that I think fans of the band will totally understand after hearing this. Like Jonathan said it’s just fun and we have a good vibe together so it’s great to be able to keep that going.

AL: What other projects do you guys have in the works for the rest of 2014?
NO: I am always negotiating on some sort of film project. Sometimes the project is working with Jonathan and sometimes it’s on my own. Jonathan and I have a good system worked out.
JD: I have quite a lot going on with Korn but with computers these days it allows Nick and me to be in different places but still be able to work together on projects with one another. I always have my noise buried in my laptop writing.

Matthew Patrick Davis talks about his stage version of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”

Photo Credit: Joanna Brooks

You may not know the name Matthew Patrick Davis yet but he is making a name for himself very quickly. He recently made headlines when his stage version of “Jack’s Lament” for “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” showed up on online. He has also been behind some very funny stage productions with the UCB Theatre including “The Shining! The Musical!” and “Jurasic Park: The Musical!”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Matthew about his work and what he has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: Let’s talk about your stage version of “Jack’s Lament” for Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”? Have you been contacted at all or do you have plans to expand it?
Matthew Patrick Davis: As a 6’8” physical actor who grew up loving Tim Burton, Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo, playing Jack in a live adaptation of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” has always been a dream of mine. A couple years ago, I put up a few scenes from “Nightmare” in my acting class. The class freaked out and got super excited about it, so that’s when we decided to shoot some of it, and that’s where the video comes from. If this video could accomplish anything, I guess it would be for it to be a viral thingy and get the attention of the people that own the rights and actually have the power to make it a legitimate piece of theatre: Tim Burton and Thomas Schumacher, the President of Disney Theatrical Group. It would obviously have such mass appeal, and I think could be something insanely great.

MG: Tell us how did you come up with the ideas for “The Shining! The Musical!” and “Jurassic Park: The Musical?”
MPD: I write the movie musicals with my friends Joe Chandler and Zach Paez; friends from high school who are now television writers in Los Angeles. We just pick movies that we love, and musicalize them into part parody, part tribute. “Jurassic Park” was a movie that was very formative in our youth; as 14 year olds, we would often be found doing impressions of the Raptors or the Spitter in a Denny’s parking lot somewhere. “The Shining” is another one of our favorite films — we just enjoyed the juxtaposition between the darkness of man slowly going insane and trying to murder his family, with the light-heartedness of a musical.

MG: Any plans to ever perform these again or record and release them?
MPD: We perform the movie musicals semi-regularly at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles, so there will definitely be another performance sometime in the future.

MG: What do you have planned next to turn into a musical?
MPD: We’ve done four movie adaptations, (JP, The Shining, The NeverEnding Story, and The King of Kong) so next, we would love to do an original. So we’ll do that, and/or do one of the movies we’ve always talked about doing, i.e. T2, Top Gun, Glengarry Glen Ross, Braveheart, The Sixth Sense, etc.

MG: How did you end up as the Sprint Zombie for their commercials?
MPD: It was a pretty standard commercial audition process, just like any other. I got lucky with this one, in that they ran it so much, and it was actually a funny spot that I was really pleased with. The director said that one the reasons they hired me was because they like the way I added the “cool, cool cool cool…” in the audition, so I guess that’s something.

MG: What else do you have planned for 2014?
MPD: I’m going to be releasing an album of some of my songs that can be found on my YouTube page. I’ll be writing more songs and musicals. I’m hoping to take my one man show to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC — it’s called, “Matt Davis Gets A Girlfriend:” A One Man Musical about One Man’s quest to not DIE ALONE. Also, I’ll be doing the revival/reboot of the musical Side Show at the Kennedy Center in DC in June and July, having just done it at the La Jolla Playhouse.

Film Review “Inside Llewyn Davis”

Starring: Oscar Issac, Justin Timberlake and F. Murray Abraham
Directed by: Ethan and Joel Coen
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 45 mins
CBS Films

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

In the early 1960s folk music began its rise. Musicians from all over would come to New York City to play small clubs in Greenwich Village, hoping to make a few bucks and get their messages out. One of them is Llewyn Davis (Issac). Talented, but clearly unlovable, we meet Llewyn as he sings in a small club. After his performance he’s told that “his friend in the suit” wanted to talk with him in the alley. He soon finds himself being beaten. It is this event which bookends the latest film by the Coen brothers, “Inside Llewyn Davis.”

Sharply written and filmed with the Coen’s usual sharp eye for detail, the film follows Llewyn (Isaac) as he attempts to make a living with his music. On the street and walking around with a neighbor’s cat, Davis plays little clubs and passes the hat most of the time. And while it’s agreed that he’s quite talented, it’s also agreed that he’s a real horse’s ass! His musical partner gone, his career stalled and his agent now representing others, Davis realizes his one chance is to audition and play at a club run by the legendary Bud Grossman (Abraham) outside of Chicago.

Filled with great performances, including Timberlake and Carey Mulligan as a folk duo, the film’s high point is its outstanding musical score, overseen by Oscar winner T. Bone Burnett (“Crazy Heart”). The songs fit the time and mood of the country, from anti-war protests to a song asking President Kennedy NOT to send a man to the moon. All involved, from pro JT to actor Isaac sing beautifully and if you enjoy the film you’ll surely want to go out and buy the soundtrack CD. As Llewyn is a person better heard, and not seen, you may go ahead and thank me now for the suggestion.

Julia Davis talks about documentary "Top Priority: The Terror Within"

Born in Russia, Julia Davis seemed to have a fairy tale life. She met and fell in love with filmmaker B.J. Davis while he was making a film in her hometown, emigrated to the United States and, armed with her educational degrees, found a job in one of this country’s most important agencies – the Department of Homeland Security. However, the fairy tale took a horrific twist when Ms. Davis reported to her supervisors what appeared to be a security breach of top priority. Rather then investigate her report the agency, and others within the U.S. Government, set out to discredit her, as well as subjecting her family and friends to unimaginable harassment. It took almost a decade but the truth has finally come to light. With the DVD release of the whistle-blowing documentary film of which she is the subject, “Top Priority: The Terror Within,” Ms. Davis graciously took some time out to talk with Media Mikes about her life since the film was released and her plans for the future.

Mike Smith: What made you choose to go into a career with the government?
Julia Davis: Since my childhood, I always had an interest in police work and investigative matters. After 9/11, I felt the need to serve our great nation, helping to safeguard it from any future terror threats. Since I speak multiple languages, I thought that my abilities could be put to good use by the federal agencies responsible for protecting our national security.

MS: Do you believe that all of the retribution towards you was brought on because you simply embarrassed the government?
JD: I’ve often wondered whether the reason for such unprecedented magnitude of retaliation was embarrassment or corruption. Customs Service is historically the most corrupt federal agency. Even the former Port Director of the San Ysidro Port of Entry where I worked (which is the largest and busiest land border crossing in the U.S. and in the world), Daphiney Caganap was caught red-handed for accepting bribes to allow drugs and illegal aliens to cross the border. It is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that someone intentionally allowed 23 subjects from terrorist countries to enter the U.S. without following proper procedures, in exchange for a bribe or because of another sinister motive.

MS: How were you able to obtain the various taped testimonies and video surveillance footage that appears in the film?
JD: In retribution for my whistle-blowing disclosure, my husband and I were twice maliciously prosecuted and falsely imprisoned. We eventually prevailed against the Department of Homeland Security in those legal proceedings and were declared factually innocent. At that point we filed a lawsuit against the DHS to hold them accountable for their outrageous, unconstitutional actions. Discovery procedures provided an opportunity for us to depose the Defendants, videotaping their testimony. The Blackhawk helicopter raid of our house was recorded by our neighbor, Mathew Judd. Shortly after giving us the tape and his statement, this healthy 25-year old man was found dead. Over the years we were subjected to extensive surveillance by fixed wing airplanes, helicopters, vehicles and agents following us on foot. We’ve been meticulously documenting what could be described as living in the movie “Enemy of the State”. The documentary contains 517 video, audio and document image inserts. Since the magnitude of the case is so unbelievable, we were determined to illustrate every fact with irrefutable evidence. Director Asif Akbar and Editor Paul Robinson labored tirelessly to make an enormous amount of evidence available to the viewing audiences. I can’t say enough to praise their dedication to getting the story told in a way that leaves nothing to speculation. What is shown in a film is not an allegation or contention, but facts, accompanied by audiovisual proof.

MS: Since the film was made have you been able to find anything that might further link this case with the deaths or Brittany Murphy or her husband?
JD: I’ve requested and obtained an extensive number of records from the Department of Homeland Security/ICE, which contained the evidence that Brittany Murphy and Simon Monjack were about to be prosecuted for alleged “immigration marriage fraud” shortly before Brittany died. As a matter of fact, Britt’s death is the only reason the prosecution didn’t go forward. I find it highly suspicious that the same agency (DHS/ICE) was utilizing exactly the same methods (helicopter and vehicular surveillance, entertainment industry work interference, investigations, etc.) to pursue my husband and I, just as they did to Britt and Simon after she became a witness in my case. Brittany and Simon exhibited numerous symptoms of acute poisoning prior to their deaths (including vomiting and abdominal pain), but neither their hair nor tissues were ever tested for toxins, poisons or heavy metals. Brittany’s father, Angelo “AJ” Bertolotti is continuing his fight to get his daughter’s hair and specimens finally tested by an independent laboratory. He is now represented by George Braunstein, Esq. – an esteemed attorney who was involved in securing a proper autopsy with respect to the death of Sylvester Stallone’s eldest son Sage. We are determined to find out Brittany’s and Simony’s true cause of death, which will start with proper medical testing of their specimens.

MS: You often appeared on television as an anti-terrorist expert before this happened. Are you still able to do this or has this case maybe scared off the networks?
JD: I still write for the Homeland Security Examiner and appear on network television as an anti-terrorism/immigration expert, but my case is undeniably too controversial for the mainstream media. Amongst other things, the documentary explores the connections between our government agencies and the MSM. It is disappointing, but no longer surprising.

MS: Were you able to take any action against the police departments that falsely stopped you?
JD: We’ve made a report to the San Diego Police Department that addressed the unlawful actions by the officers of their motorcycle traffic division (including Officer Steve Webb, who conspired with the Department of Homeland Security in conducting an illegal traffic stop). Much like the DHS, they took absolutely no action to hold anyone accountable.

MS: You have a Masters Degree in Aviation and Spacecraft Engineering. Any desires to pursue that field again?
JD: I studied engineering to follow in my parents’ footsteps, particularly because my father was an ingenious, award-winning inventor in that field. While I still love technology, I believe that creative expression in its various forms is my true calling. There are many important stories that need to be told and I intend to do my part in making that happen, as a Director, Producer, Screenwriter and an Investigative Reporter.

MS: What are your plans for the future?
JD: As they say, “People plan and God laughs”. My main goal and objective is to do my best to make this world a better place, one day at a time. I plan to continue making movies, writing books and news articles/investigative reports. I also plan to continue with my ongoing efforts to ensure that meaningful whistleblower laws finally get enacted, which would include jury trials and protection for national security whistleblowers.

MS: Finally, what would you say to someone who finds themselves in the position you were in and knows of what extremes others will go to prevent the truth from coming out?
JD: I would tell them to hold on tight, as they’re in for a wild ride. Most importantly, I would implore them to never surrender, never lose hope and never stop telling it like it is (even when it seems like no one is listening). Truth, justice and the American way is about doing the right thing, no matter the price.

Interview with Jack Davis

Jack Davis is one of the original artists from “Mad” magazine.  He has also illustrated covers from various outlets such as “Time” magazine to film posters for “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.  He also worked with Rankin/Bass productions on films like “Mad Monster Party”.  Media Mikes had a chance to briefly chat with Jack about his various projects over the years.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how you got started working with “Mad” magazine?
Jack Davis: I was brought on by Harvey Kurtzman when he started “Mad” in 1952. I contributed a lot of illustrations to that magazine. I left though to work for Playboy and Hugh Hefner but I came back shortly after and worked with them for many years after.

MG: Is there a difference in your process when creating art in magazine’s differing from “Time” to “Mad”?
JD: It wasn’t much different. I really enjoyed doing the work for “Time”. They really let me do my one thing on the covers. I always thought they came out really nice.

MG: Tell us about working on film posters like “The Bad News Bears” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”?
JD: I would get an idea of what they wanted, then I would submit my variations.  They would be both in color and black and white. They would go through them make changes, send them back to me and I would adjust my drawings.

MG: How did you get involved working with Rankin/Bass productions?
JD: Well, I guess they were “Mad” fans and they need some help with their character designs. I worked with them on many projects including “Mad Monster Party” and “King Kong” series. I enjoyed work with Rankin/Bass quite a lot, they are good people.

MG: Tell us about working with Rick Goldschmidt in both “Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass” and the “Making of a Rankin/Bass Holiday Classic: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”?
JD: Rick is a big fan and I appreciate that very much. He asked me to help contribute and I agreed. He has some really rare photos and drawings from Rankin/Bass productions. It was a real pleasure.

MG: What are you currently working on?
JD: Not really, I am retired here in Georgia. Occasionally, I do some lend my services for the local University here and make art for the Georgia Bull Dogs team.

Book Review “Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture- A Career Retrospective”

Author: Jack Davis
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Release Date: December 12, 2011

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I recently had the privileged to interview Jack Davis himself and discuss his work with him. I have to tell you that it would honestly take hours of questions to barely scratch the surface on his work. This book is packed with really great high quality coverage of all of Jack’s work. It starts from the beginning  in the early days and gives a pretty thorough look at his career portfolio. I feel that the book work as a tribute to his work and would be enjoyed by his lifetime fans and newly founding fans alike.

Some of the work that “Jack Davis: Drawing American Pop Culture” covers is his comic work in EC, “MAD”, “Humbug”, “Trump”, and horror work like “The Vault of Terror” and Tales from the Crypt”. It focuses on his work with movie posters and albums covers including “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”, “The Bad News Bears”, “Bananas” and record jacket art for musicians and bands like Hans Conreid and the Creature Orchestra’s Monster Rally and Spike Jones. Jack’s work has also been featured in magazine like Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Time and TV Guide. Lastly a main draw for the book has to be unpublished illustrations and and newly found drawings from Davis.

I did not think that one book would be able to encompass all of it all of Jack’s worth but this one does a decent job. The images though are very clear and crisp whether in black and white or color. You can even see the pencil marks on some of the pictures, which adds to the beauty of the images. After you finished enjoying all of his work, there is a great biography written about Jack to round up all of his work and delivers some great information about his career.  Fans of Jack’s and of art in general should definitely check this out if you are able to pick up a copy from Fantagraphics.