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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Theatre Review “Footloose: The Musical” Starlight Theatre – Kansas City, Missouri

Footloose: The Musical
Starlight Theatre
Kansas City, Missouri
August 5th, 2013

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

On a muggy night in the Heartland, it seemed fitting that the production of “Footloose” would be sweat inducing and, for female attendees, steamy. As the title song belted out and a company of extras began to dance to the iconic pop-rock beat of the 80’s, my ears perked up. I’m well versed and cultured enough to know about previous generations, but I’ve never seen the movie “Footloose,” nor had I ever a care to. In that moment of cutting loose and kicking off the Sunday shoes, I found myself interested. I was ready for this glimpse into the 80’s. My expectations jumped up to the par with everyone else that night as the cast showed off their best moves during the opening number. Boy did those hopes fizzle out.

Ren McCormack (Max Clayton) and his single mom, Ethel (Paula Leggett Chase), are heading from the city lights of Chicago to the humble countryside of Beaummont. A stereotypical middle-American small country town. The kind that is drenched from hillside to hillside in golden wheat and pristine corn fields. The residents are set in their ways and are already weary and gossiping about Ren and his mom the morning they arrive at church. Despite the police and other community leaders, Reverend Shaw Moore (George Dvorsky) is the overriding moral, spiritual and political leader of this town. Years ago, a tragic accident took the life of four teens, including Shaw Moore’s son. Since then, the Reverend has imposed a strict no-dancing law in the town. As absurd as this sounds, this has actually happened in the U.S. (the town of Elmore City, Oklahoma banned dancing for over 100 years and was Dean Pitchford’s inspiration for his script for “Footloose”). For the energetic Ren, who expresses his emotions through dance, this is a nightmare. He manages, though, with the help of classmate and friend, Willard Hewitt (Matthew Dorsey Moore) and the pastor’s daughter, Ariel (Taylor Louderman).

For a musical called “Footloose”, it really seems like the big dance numbers are kept to a minimum and dancing in general through the middle part of this story is stifled. It seems like the dance choreographer is playing the part of Reverend Moore during half these songs. If there were more songs like “On Any Sunday”, “Footloose” and “Let’s Hear it for the Boy”, this would have been a grand dance and song musical on par with other greats. That doesn’t mean the other songs aren’t good. When you have Kenny Loggins, Sammy Hagar and Jim Steinman sharing the writing credits, you can’t go wrong with some rockin’ songs and love soaked ballads.

The show has a problem settling on a main idea. On one hand it could be a time capsule of an aging era. On another it’s the story of young vs. adult and traditional vs. new. It also tries to be a sexy, hip look at the lives of teenagers in a small town. Some of those ideas will grab hold and really stick with a viewer. But as for me, I was a bit overwhelmed by all three together and underwhelmed by each on their own. My personal preference would have been a time capsule. Every generation has the conflict of “parents just don’t understand” and very few stories actually have a whiff of creativity when it comes to exaggerated teen comedy/dramas. If these two ideas took a seat back to fun dance numbers and this musical’s catchy 80’s music, “Footloose” would have been a memorable evening at Starlight.

As I stated with Starlight’s previous iconic 80’s musical “Flashdance”, I may have been created in the 80’s, but I’m a product of the 90’s. I haven’t seen the 1984 movie, nor its 2011 remake. Some of the older people in the audience seemed to really dig it, but this is not my cup of tea. I loved the music, the dancing (when it happened) and the creative set pieces by Robert A. Kovach. My view of the 80’s is that it was the last generation with a true rebellious nature. The music struck a nerve in an era of growing morality and Reaganomics. Genres like punk rock, grunge and some sultry pop icons like Madonna festered and spoke to a confused and rambunctious generation. I wasn’t hoping for that style of music or any blatant liberal ideology. I was simply hoping for it to touch upon these ideas in a sentimental manner and sometime comical fashion.

“Footloose” will be at the Starlight Theatre in Kansas City until August 11th.

“Footloose” DVD Giveaway [ENDED]

THANK YOU FOR ENTERING, THE CONTEST HAS ENDED. WINNERS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN AND NOTIFIED VIA EMAIL. PLEASE CHECK BACK EVERY WEEK FOR NEW GIVEAWAYS!

To celebrate the DVD release of “Footloose”, Media Mikes would like to giveaway THREE copies of film on DVD. If you would like to win this great prizes, just go to our Facebook page, like us and then leave the comment “Footloose.” We will choose (3) random comments as winners of the DVDs. If you are already a MediaMikes Facebook fan, just go to our Facebook page and leave the comment “Footloose.” Contest is open until midnight EST March 27, 2012.

Writer/Director Craig Brewer delivers a new take of the beloved 1984 classic film, “Footloose.” Ren MacCormack (played by newcomer Kenny Wormald) is transplanted from Boston to the small southern town of Bomont where he experiences a heavy dose of culture shock. A few years prior, the community was rocked by a tragic accident that killed five teenagers after a night out and Bomont’s local councilmen and the beloved Reverend Shaw Moore (Dennis Quaid) responded by implementing ordinances that prohibit loud music and dancing. Not one to bow to the status quo, Ren challenges the ban, revitalizing the town and falling in love with the minister’s troubled daughter Ariel (Julianne Hough) in the process.

Re-imagined “Footloose” to hit Blu-ray/DVD on March 6


“Footloose,” the 2011 update of the classic 1984 film, will hit the shelves
this coming Tuesday, March 6th.

The “FOOTLOOSE” Blu-ray/DVD combo pack includes over an hour of bonus features such as deleted scenes, a look back at the original film, featurettes on the stars and their dancing, commentary by Brewer, music videos and more. In addition, all Blu-ray and DVD releases available for purchase will be enabled with UltraViolet, a new way to collect, access and enjoy movies. With UltraViolet, consumers can add movies to their digital collection in the cloud, and then stream or download them – safely and securely – to a variety of devices.

FOOTLOOSE Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack
The FOOTLOOSE Blu-ray is presented in 1080p high definition with English
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby
Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description with English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The DVD in the combo pack is presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 televisions with English
5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, French 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, Spanish 5.1
Dolby Digital Surround and English Audio Description with English, French,
Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The digital copy is presented in English
and is compatible with iTunes® and Windows Media. Bonus features on the

Blu-ray are as follows:
· Commentary by director Craig Brewer
· Jump Back: Re-Imagining Footloose
· Everybody Cut: The Stars of Footloose
· Dancing with the Footloose Stars
· Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by director Craig Brewer
· “Footloose” Music Video by Blake Shelton
· “Fake ID” Music Video by Big & Rich
· “Holding Out For A Hero” Music Video by Ella Mae Bowen
· Footloose Rap

FOOTLOOSE will also be available on a single-disc DVD presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 televisions with English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, French 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround and English Audio Description with English, French and Spanish subtitles. The disc includes the following special features:
· Commentary by director Craig Brewer
· Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by director Craig Brewer
· “Fake ID” Music Video by Big & Rich

Read Media Mikes Blu-ray/DVD review of “Footloose” here:

Blu-ray Review “Footloose (2011)”

Directed by: Craig Brewer
Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough, Andie MacDowell, Dennis Quaid
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 113 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Who doesn’t love Kevin Bacon, the original “Footloose” is definitely a classic, but this remake really holds its own. It is packed with more heart and a better laid out story. The film runs almost two hours but is so fast-paced, you don’t even feel it. You will also notice though that this remake aims plenty of odes to the original film, especially with the opening scene and various outfits throughout.  There is more back story in the beginning of the film explaining the accident that caused the ban of dancing, which was just a mention in the original. All-in-all, if you love the original that’s fine, but this definitely takes the classic and pumps it up a little.

The music is the film is extremely infectious, with the exception of one song. Holding Out for a Hero” remade by Ella Mae Bowen is absolutely dreadful. They took one of the most energetic songs and made it into a sleepy ballad. “Where The River Goes” by Zac Brown was even nominated for a Grammy it is so good. As much as I like Kenny Loggins, “Footloose” by Blake Shelton is quite a bit of fun as well. Fans of the 80’s don’t fret, also included are original tracks like “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)” by Quiet Riot and the original “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” by Deniece Williams. Music is very important in this film and it does not disappoint.

Props need to go to the film’s acting as I enjoyed every performance. Dancing with the Stars’s Julianne Hough did an amazing job and obviously we all know that she can dance. Kenny Wormald is not a huge name but he sure knows how to dance also having toured with Justin Timberlake and The Pussycat Dolls. Dennis Quaid gave a very emotional performance. The underdog performances needs to go to Miles Teller, who played Willard, since he got all the good laughs in the film.

The Blu-ray presentation is very impressive. The video is extremely sharp and packs a crystal clear picture. Most importantly, the sound is excellent featuring an DTS-HD MA 5.1 track and it really scores with the music in the film. Also included with the Blu-ray is a DVD copy of the film and an Ultraviolet digital copy of the film as well. This new feature enables you to watch the film streaming wherever you want like on your smart phone or online. Really great feature!

The special features are also very notable. There is an audio commentary with director Craig Bower. He discusses every aspect of the film from coming on board to completion, great listen. “Jump Back: Re-Imagining Footloose” focuses on the original film with comments from the cast and crew and its remake process. “Everybody Cut: The Stars of Footloose” focuses on the cast of the film. “Dancing with the Footloose Stars” is a great features and focuses on the film’s dance choreography. There are about five short deleted scenes with optional director commentary, worth a watch but nothing amazing. There are various music videos including “Footloose” by Blake Shelton, “Fake ID” by Big & Rich and “Holding Out for a Hero” by Ella Mae Brown. Lastly there is a video from Emily Whitcomb doing a Footloose-inspired Rap. Overall great features for an awesome film.

“Footloose” Let’s Dance Giveaways & Blu-ray Trailer

EVERYBODY CUT LOOSE!

To celebrate the Blu-ray release of “Footloose” on March 6th, 2012, Paramount Home Media Distribution is giving fans of the hit film Footloose the chance to win a dance inspired by the movie for their school! Just visit https://www.facebook.com/FootlooseMovie to vote for your school, then tell all of your friends and tweet using the #Footloose hashtag to earn extra votes. You can vote once a day and even download posters on Facebook to put up at your school and spread the word. Students at the winning school will get to kick up their heels with a DJ, professional dancers to get the party started, a dance contest with prizes, a photo booth, themed decorations and more fun and surprises, all courtesy of Paramount. Hurry, you’ve only got until March 2 to get your votes in!

Film Review “Footloose”

Starring: Kenny Wormald, Julianne Hough and Dennis Quaid
Directed by: Craig Brewer
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 53 mins
Paramount

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I have two very vivid memories of the original “Footloose,” released in 1984:
1. I got busted trying to sneak a Dr. Pepper into the theatre. Six months later I was not only running the theatre but I dated the employee who caught me for almost five years.
2. I thought it odd that, for a town where dancing was forbidden, all of the kids danced a hell of a lot better than Kevin Bacon.

It’s 2011 and things are a lot different. First, I successfully snuck a DIET Dr. Pepper into the theatre. Second, Kenny Wormald can dance his ass off!

A pretty faithful remake, “Footloose” is best appreciated when not compared to the film that inspired it. As the film opens, we find ourselves among a group of kids dancing up a storm (to Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose,” of course). One of the cluster of kids leaves the dance and pile into a car driven by Bobby Moore (Blair Jasin). In a severe case of un-attention, Bobby takes his eyes off the road, causing a crash that kills all five people in the car. Stunned with grief, the small town of Bomont, Georgia, led by Bobby’s preacher father (Quaid), pass a series of laws intended to protect the young people of the town. Among them: no playing of amplified music and, with the exception of a yearly church gathering, no public display of dancing.

Enter Ren MacCormack (Wormald). Following the death of his mother, Ren has been sent to Bomont to live with his uncle and his family. He soon finds himself pulled over by the local police, having blasted Quiet Riot a little too loudly in his Volkswagon. Ren also possesses what is referred to as “Yankee sarcasm,” which doesn’t endear him right away to the locals. In church he is introduced to Reverend Moore’s daughter, Ariel (Hough), who has done her best to avoid being the proper “preacher’s daughter.” She and Ren have nothing in common, except for a desire to dance. Anytime. Anyplace.

I have to give director and co-writer (he shares credit with original “Footloose” scribe Dean Pitchford) Brewer credit. He has managed to update the story well while still keeping the familiar. Ren’s VW bug. His “angry” dance at the mill. Even that awful maroon tuxedo jacket. But he also gives the film an energy the first film didn’t have. And this is thanks to the cast. A former backup dancer for Justin Timberlake, Wormald shines, both on the dance floor and off, as Ren. “Dancing With The Stars” veteran Hough, resembling Jennifer Anniston’s little sister, makes the most of her screen time as Ariel. She has some of the films more dramatic moments and she pulls them off admirably. Quaid is his usual strong self as Rev. Moore. But the breakout performer here is Miles Teller, who plays Willard, the cowboy with two left feet. Played so winningly by the late Chris Penn in 1984, Teller gives Willard a sweetness Penn only hinted at. The only false note in the cast is Patrick John Flueger, who plays Ariel’s car racing boyfriend, Chuck. Not only is he about 20 years too old for Ariel, his character is strictly “bad boyfriend 101.” Fans of the original film (and soundtrack) will enjoy new versions of some old hits, including a rendition of “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” that’s as sweet as it is catchy.