Film Review “The Last Witch Hunter”

Starring: Vin Diesel, Elijah Wood and Michael Caine
Directed by: Breck Eisner
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 45 mins
Summit Entertainment

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

Let me say right at the start that I am a big Vin Diesel fan. While the majority of his movies are not the greatest, there is something about him as a personality that makes you want to root for him. Here we find him making the rounds as an immortal witch hunter, protected and watched over by a certain faction of priests. Kaulder (Diesel) is officially known as a witch hunter, brokering the peace between bad witches and good humans. But when the peace is threatened, only Kaulder (and his partners in peace) can save the day.

The movie starts out in olden times, where a band of warriors, led by Kaulder decides to take out a coven of witches. Kaulder does the job but is cursed with eternal life by the witch queen he has just dispatched. Which takes us to modern times. Kaulder lives in a beautiful high rise apartment which is lavishly furnished. He also drives a flashy car. Good thing he’s keeping a low profile. He is about to watch the 36th priest who has protected him (Caine) retire and meet number 37 (Wood). It all unravels when #36 is found dead, which can only mean one thing…WITCHES! If only we knew someone that hunted them.

I’m tempted to say this movie blows and leave it at that but, dammit, I can’t. First off, it’s made by Summit, which gave us the “Twilight” series of films (sadly, the special effects utilized by the studio are still achingly bad). Second, the cast does try hard. And third…Vin Diesel and his screen presence. He’s not doing Shakespeare here, which is a good thing. Early in the film he must discuss the “ancient rooooons” he has been looking for. Things get better when Wood shares the screen, his wide-eyed young padawan getting serious while looking like a psychotic Chris Kattan. The special effects are poorly designed and the laughs are readily found, though probably not intentionally.

My advice: see it for Vin Diesel. If you need to, just pretend he’s driving around in a fast car! I’ve never seen the “First” Witch Hunter. Unfortunately, I did see the “Last” one!

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.

Ralph Steadman talks about his work with Hunter S. Thompson and film “For No Good Reason”

Ralph Steadman is a British Gonzo artist that is best known for his work with American author Hunter S. Thompson, author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. After meeting each other in 1970 to cover the Kentucky Derby, Steadman and Thompson formed a long-time relationship. Steadman’s did the artwork for Thompson’s books over his career. He is also an author himself having written numerous books focusing on his drawings…or as Hunter would have called it his “filthy scribblings”, according to Ralph. This April, “For No Good Reason” makes its U.S. debut in NYC, which is a documentary on Ralph’s career. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ralph about the film and his work with Hunter S. Thompson.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you got approached for the documentary “From No Good Reason”?
Ralph Steadman: The director Charlie Paul initially came down to see me, then the producer Lucy Paul. This was over a period of twelve years, you know. They would stay for lunch, we would talk and then we would carry on. So over twelve years, we made this film. It just seems so long ago from when we first started it. They got Johnny Depp involved, which was good because he has become a personal friend of mine over the years. He is such a great guy, easy going, warm, genuine and terrific fellow…
MG: I loved Johnny’s narration in the film as well, very nice touch.
RS: Oh yeah, it was lovely. I agree.

MG: How did you feel about having a documentary about your life done?
RS: I first thought “For God’s sake…why?” “For no good reason”…that is what Hunter would have said. I used to always ask “Why are we doing this Hunter?” and he would always say “For no good reason, Ralph” [laughs].

MG: How was it seeing some of your drawings brought to life and illustrated in the film?
RS: That was quite interesting. I couldn’t be an animator in old Disney way when they used to draw one picture and then other but slightly different and then you would put them together like a flip book and they would actually move. The only thing I liked like that was doing something simple like a dot or a splat and putting it in a book form and flipping it and watching it move, that to me was magic. I like doing that kind of thing. But seeing my drawings in the film was really great.

MG: I find it so interesting that you said in the film that your work is unprofessional and “it is as unexpected to me as it is to anyone else”; can you talk about this aspect?
RS: Yeah, that is because I don’t do any pencil work. I never plan anything. I just begin and the drawing becomes what it becomes. My reaction every time is “I don’t know how I did that”. I am always amazed. “How the fuck did I do that?”, I usually say. It’s like Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea that only thing of value is that thing that you cannot say but you can see it. I like that a lot.

MG: So how did your splatter technique come about then?
RS: Oh that was clumsiness. I was clumsy. I said “Oh shit” when I flicked my wrist with my pen but I realized it made this beautiful sweep of blots. I thought to myself them “Oh I like that, it’s quite nice” So I started to use it more deliberately. I would spill ink all over the place. I liked the idea of putting a sheet of paper on the studio floor taking a bottle of ink high on a ladder and dropping it. Not all of it…but just enough. It would make terrific, radiating splatters of different designs. Then you look and think “Hmm, it could be a spider” and I would go from there.

MG: Looking back at the film now, how do you feel that it has come together?
RS: I was amazed by it actually. After twelve years, it was nice to see it all come together. They did cut out a few things that I would have liked them to keep in like my art teacher, Leslie Richardson. This was a pity since I really wanted him in it. What they were after was the notoriety including the fame of Johnny Depp. So poor Leslie Richardson, who is now 93, was left out. But he still goes around kicking old ladies and children in the streets [laughs].

MG: Tell us how you originally crossed paths with Hunter Thompson?
RS: When I was planning to come to New York in 1970, I had some friends that invited me to stay with them in the Hampton’s. They were soon to be married, so I felt a little uncomfortable saying with them for a long period of time. So after staying a little while, I was going to leave for the city and I was about to leave when there was a cal from a guy named J.C. Suarez. He was an editor from Brooklyn. He wanted me to come to Kentucky and meet an ex-Hells Angels, who just shaved his head. I asked why did he do that and he said “Why? Because he’s a Hells Angels. He is a rebel”. So I asked “What for?” He told me that he was not only looking for a photographer but for an artist and they saw my book of pictures called “Still Life with Raspberry”, which was my first book of collected drawings. Don Goddard was the foreign editor of The New York Times and he had found the book in England and then came back and said that they need to put me with Hunter Thompson. So that is how it happened.

MG: Do you feel that your career would have been different if your path’s didn’t cross?
RS: As far as I was concerned, meeting Hunter and going to Kentucky was a bulls eye for me. For all the people that I could meet in America, he would be the one…go figure. Meeting Hunter was the best thing for me in terms of making a career. What we did for journalism was that we became the story and that became know as gonzo journalism. That was really what was so good about it. One day, this guy Bill Cardoso told us that the Kentucky Derby piece we did was “pure gonzo”. Hunter never heard the word before and it really stuck. He used to say “Don’t do those filthy scribblings”. He used to call my drawings filthy scribblings [laughs]. He used to also tell me “Don’t write Ralph, you will bring shame on your family”. But he always loved to sort of go against you but on purpose because he would know that it would provoke me and my work would benefit.

MG: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is one of my favorite books and the movie is great as well…
RS: The thing is people get too sniffy about the movie and things like that. They say that it is not quite this or quite that. No! It is a version of the book. I didn’t mind it, especially since the whole damn thing, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was a crazy idea to begin with.

MG: Do you recall how long it took you to complete the illustrations for the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” book?
RS: I think I did nine pictures in a week and it was done. The rotten thing was that I ended up selling all of the originals since I was told it would be a good career move. I think I got $75 dollars each for them. Can you imagine what they are worth now?

MG: Has your drawings been affected since the death of Hunter S. Thompson?
RS: No, not really. I have been doing bird drawings for the last few years. I don’t like drawing politicians any more, I can’t be bothered. They are so awful. I don’t feel so bitter about it. I do not feel like I am trying to change the world. I have changed the world enough since I started and it is worse now than when I started [laughs]. So good, I have done what I had meant to do [laughing]

MG: Yeah, you start off the film saying you set out to “change the world”; I was going to ask if you felt that you have accomplished that goal?
RS: We’ll you look around, I have done my part but bloody computers have changed everything.The business and also people in general. You can’t walk down a side street without somebody passing you by and they are not looking at you or around them, they are looking down at their phone. I had to go on a train recently to Halifax for a show of my drawings and there was this woman on the train that was a good example. She had red hair which was long down one side and shaved on the other side. I have a drawing of it in my book here. She was so awful, I had to draw her. But she had her makeup out in one hand and her phone in the other from the moment she got on the train. That is the problem about the invasion of the computer, like Twitter. Everyone wants to tweet you now. So that is very weird to me.

MG: Tell us about your latest book “Proud Too Be Weirrd”?
RS: I collected together a bunch of things that I never had no good reason to use [laughs]. I thought I would start with the first page and go through my studio finding this and finding that and just building the book from there and that is how I worked on it. This guy Steve Crist from AMMO Books got in touch with me about doing it. He used to work at TASCHEN. Benedikt Taschen rang me after the book was made and said he was actually very disappointed because he wanted to do the book, but at the time I didn’t know this. He did my book with Hunter, “The Curse of Lono”. Steve Crist used to work with Benedikt and that’s where he began. He sort of adopted the style of big book like TASCHEN did. I really like the title “Proud Too Be Weirrd” and it is a great book

MG: What are some of the artists that inspire you?
RS: I love Picasso. He is such an inspiration for me. There is a film called “The Mystery of Picasso” that is really worth seeing if you can get a copy. It is fascinating for me to watch him at work. The director, who made the film, was allowed to by Picasso to be in the studio with him. This is what Charlie did with me as well for our film. Picasso would set things up for him including painting on glass and having him film from the other side. This is amazing work and it really continues to inspire me.

MG: Are you working on anything else new currently?
RS: I got a new book of creatures that I am working on right now. These are completely made up creatures for example instead of a pelican; you do a pelicant [laughs]. You have to keep doing something otherwise what is the point. I guess I am taking advice from my father, who couldn’t bear to just sit about. I am also learning how to etch steel plates as well. So I suppose I should continue to carry on.

Chris Chittick talks about chasing storms with the team Tornado Hunter

Chris Chittick was the TVN storm chaser and videographer from Discovery Channel’s series “Storm Chasers”. Since the show has ended Chris still has been chasing storms.  He recently teamed up with tornadohunter.com to continue the chase.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Chris about his work and his love for chasing storms.

Jennifer Kish: How has your life changed since the show Storm Chasers?
Chris Chittick: My life has changed after Storm Chasers not too much really. Still doing what I love to do. Just joined a new team, tornadohunter.com is the name of the website. There a great group of guys. Pretty much same as the way it was before just out on the road non-stop chasing. Tornadoes and any kind of extreme weather.

JK: What can you tell me about about your new chasing team tornado hunters?
CC: We are based out of Saskatchewan. It consists of our driver Ricky Forbes. Greg Johnson, who is our main meteorologist and photographer. I control all of the video stuff. There is a great dynamic, young team and we are just out on the road driving for miles until we get the job done.

JK: You use to change with long time chase partner Reed Timmer.. Do you ever miss driving into tornadoes?
CC: Reed and I split ways. We still have a good relationship but as far as driving into the tornadoes, we have our vehicle the Tornado Hunter and it is completely lined with lineX stuff so we can get just as close to the tornado as we did in the Dominator.

JK: Tell me more about your tornado alley photo expedition tours. What can people expect to experience during one of these tours?
CC: Kind of what we do as far as our tours offered on tornadohunter.com. It’s a full out experience where you come out on the road with seasoned veterans. Greg is a world class photographer and I consider myself a world class photographer as well. It’s real in life workshop as far as video shooting/ photo shooting. You learn a lot on the road, your part of the team. Your not just sitting there you actually become part of the team. We ask you what you think of as far as weather goes and we will ask you to help deploy probes. It’s a full experience, life on the road as a storm chaser. For the I’m going to say soccer mom, doctor, lawyer or whatever, you don’t get to experience that kind of stuff in every day life. The adrenaline is unbelievable.. the ups and the downs it’s just an amazing trip.

JK: Your recently updated your chase vehicle.. What kind of updates were made?
CC: As far as updates go its a F150 EgoBoost completely lined with lineX. LineX material is bullet proof/bomb proof. We have ADD bumpers in front and in back. We have a truck bed with topper on it and that we we deploy probes in the back of the truck. Main thing is the lineX which allows us to get closer then before. The main issue is not the tornado itself but the flying debris. So if we can just protect ourselves from flying debris that allows us to get close and capture imagery that no one else has been able to capture.

JK: What do you do when your not chasing tornadoes?
CC: I like to golf. When we are not chasing we are either working on the truck or we do speaking events. Photo and photography workshops. We do other extreme things as well, our driver is into motor cross and extreme downhill mountain biking. Greg has a full family. I’m single so it’s kinda difficult to get a family when you are the road all the time. Trying to move on day to day. Next couple months we are moving into hurricane season so we will start prepping and getting ready for that. Then any other extreme weather we will getting ready for that as well.

Ericka Hunter talks about performing on Broadway and on NBC’s “Smash”

Ericka Hunter is a Broadway performer and co-star on NBC’s “Smash”. She has performed on Broadway in plays such as “Rock of Ages” and she even started out as a Radio City Rockette. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ericka about her Broadway work and also working on NBC’s “Smash”.

Mike Gencarelli: Give us some background on your music singles and when can we expect more?
Ericka Hunter: It’s so funny and seems so backwards that I’ve made this transition into Electronic Dance Music, but it’s a HUGE passion of mine. I’ve spent my entire adult life growing up in NYC I found myself with so much energy after performing nightly on Broadway, that I would go out to nightclubs and dance! That’s where I really grew to love that club culture. I started writing and recording a few years back and it’s been such an amazing outlet for me. Recently, as well as working on my solo singing career, I’ve been collaborating with some incredible DJ’s; Cedric Gervais, Vice, Betatraxx and Kemal Golden, to name a few. My most current single was released in France with a well known DJ, Morgan Nagoya. It’s called Promised Land and you can find it on iTunes France. I will be releasing some new collaborations in the new few months which I’m super amped about. I always announce those on my website and through ALL the social media outlets!

MG: What do you enjoy most about working on Broadway?
EH: What I enjoy about Broadway may actually be what other people hate. The schedule. 8 shows a week is tough, but the reward is amazing. Standing ovations every night are priceless and the appreciation the audiences show for your hard work can be pretty mind blowing. Really, at the end of the day, it’s a privilege. And the reason I was in dance and singing lessons 4 hours or more a day

MG:The music in “Rock of Ages” is so charged and fun, tell us about performing on this show?growing up!
EH: YES! The music in Rock Of Ages is definitely a huge reason the show is so successful! 80’s rock music is like a religion for some people! It’s actually really fun to look out into the audience and see people singing along, sometimes even loud enough for us to hear on stage! This show is unlike any other show I’ve ever been a part of and the patrons have a lot to do with it. They get so involved in the story and music. We have so much fun onstage and getting to play and flirt with the audience. A lot of other shows I’ve been in don’t allow for that kind of interaction. It’s definitely a super cool thing.

MG:What has been your most challenging role on Broadway?
EH: I’d say my most challenging role is to be an understudy of a role! Early on in my career, I did a lot of understudying. It’s essentially being “on call” for a role or many roles that you don’t normally play and you can be called to go in on a moments notice. It’s pretty intense and can be scary, but with my experience it’s always been really rewarding.

MG:Tell us about how to was going from broadway to TV in NBC’s “Smash”?
EH: SMASH is a really cool experience. It is so similar to doing a Broadway show, yet you’re performing for cameras! I’ve always wanted to do TV and I’m so happy a show like this came along that allows us Broadway folk to reach more than just the seats in a theater. I also think the viewers really enjoying a backstage look at what goes on behind the curtain, because it’s pretty darn entertaining!

MG:Tell us about your experience being a Radio City Rockette?
EH: Being a Radio City Rockette is unlike any other job I’ve ever had. It was especially unique for me because I was 18 and it was my first professional dancing job. Also, the title of “Rockette” isn’t one they just hand out. It’s a prestigious and coveted job that I was SO lucky to have. It’s no joke though! Haha. Rehearsals are grueling so the precision is on point. It’s like the army for dancers. I have to say, I love being a part of something that felt like a real team. You had to be on your game and your mark or you’d be letting all the other girls down. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of. Even though I haven’t been a the show for a few years, I go to Radio City every year during the holidays to cheer the Rockettes on!

Blu-ray Review “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

Actors: Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell
Directors: Timur Bekmambetov
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: October 23, 2012
Run Time: 105 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

If you are not aware of it, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is actually based on the New York Times Best Selling novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, author of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” (who also wrote this screenplay).  When I heard that the fantastically original book was being turned into a movie, I was thrilled.  Then I found that the people behind it were Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, I could have done a back flip.  Well, then I saw the film.  It actually pains me to say but it was a little tough to watch. The vampires looked cool but the story was rather lame and empty. I am very generous with my rating since I really want to kick major ass.

The film was wasn’t some B-movie either. It carried a strong $69 million dollar budget and was even filmed in 3D.  The best parts that drew any attention was the stylized action, which was very sparce to begin with. Those scenes also would have looked the best in 3D but we were only able to review this in 2D, so some of the thrill was lost there as well.  I recommend seeing it but this could have been so much cooler.  I mean with a title like “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”, it just oozes coolness. Major missed opportunity here. Who knows maybe the 3D adds so much to this film that makes up for the lameness but I doubt it.

Official Premise: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” explores the secret life of Abraham Lincoln before he became President, and the untold story that shaped our nation. Visionary filmmakers Tim Burton (Dark Shadows) and Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) bring a fresh and visceral voice to the bloodthirsty lore of the vampire, imagining Lincoln as history’s greatest hunter of the undead.

Fox delivered this release in a Blu-ray + DVD + UV Digital Copy combo pack.  The 2D Blu-ray transfer looks sharp but lacked the edge and depth the the 3D transfer would have delivered on.  The saving grave for the film though is the kick-ass DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track, which works with the three actual action scenes. The special features are damn impressive as well.  There is an audio commentary with the novelist and screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith, which is pretty cool! “The Great Calamity” is a  graphic novel CGI short film, definitely worth checking out! “The Making of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” runs a sweet 75 minutes and is a super in-depth five part making-of documentary.  This covers all aspects of the production from the book-to-screen. Lastly, there is a music video for “Powerless” by Linkin Park and the theatrical trailer.

CD Review “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” Soundtrack

Composer: Henry Jackman
Label: Sony Classical
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Tracks: 22
Running Time: 41 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

When you watch the trailer to “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”, you find yourself with a nerdy smiling peaking out the whole time.  That is what I also found myself doing while listening to this score.  From the moment it starts it is super intense, scary and really thrilling.  Henry Jackman did a really amazing job on this score, easily one of my favorites from the entire year.  His score work is not the most notable featuring the likes of “X-Men: First Class” and “Puss in Boots” but it really packs a punch and delivers.  Honestly each track gets better and better as it progresses.

I am big fan of film scores, always have been.  I feel that the score is really the heart and soul of a film.  Especially for a film like this, if the score isn’t right the film will pay for it.  Jackson did just such an amazing job right from the opening track, which starts slow and gets haunting very quickly, all the way to the last track.  “Vampires”  is also a very interesting track, it really drags you in and doesn’t let go.  “The Horse Stampede” is also such a powerful track, I had to listen to it twice back-to-back. I am a huge fan of Hans Zimmer, who is also a mentor for Jackman,  you can hear his work come through here a little but that is not a bad thing at all.  Learning from the best is what I call that!

I think that this score will not only resonate to horror fans but also action fans as well.  The score also captures the film’s period in some tracks put also puts a modern twist on it with some kick-ass guitar riffs and powerful percussion. The only downside to the album is that it is a little short just coming in over 40 minutes but there still is a lot packed in during that time.  If you enjoyed this stylish horror/action film then you are going to love this album and it really brings the film to life and delivers a very entertaining and thrilling experience. I will definitely be keeping this score on loop for a few weeks easy.

Track Listing:
1. Childhood Tragedy
2. Vampires
3. What Do You Hate?
4. Power Comes from Truth
5. You Are Full of Surprises
6. Mary Todd
7. The Horse Stampede
8. Henry Sturgess
9. Adam
10. Rescue Mission
11. Inauguration
12. All Slave to Something
13. Emancipation
14. Haunted by the Past
15. Battle at Gettysburg
16. Forging Silver
17. 80 Miles
18. The Burning Bridge
19. Not the Only Railroad
20. The Gettysburg Address
21. Late to the Theater

Film Review “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

Starring: Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell and Dominic Cooper
Directed by: Timur Bekmambetov
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 45 mins
20th Century Fox

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

History tells us that Abraham Lincoln was a great man. What it doesn’t tell us is that, long before he became President he had a little side job. Seems the old rail splitter put that handiness with an axe to good use and killed him some vampires! No, really.

While living with his parents in Indiana young Abe Lincoln (Lux-Haney Jardine) intervenes when a young black friend of his is being beaten. Abe gets a taste of the lash as well for interfering. After his father has words with the man with the whip, he is fired from his job. Later that night young Abe observes an odd sight but dismisses it. When he wakes up he learns that his mother has taken ill. She later dies and Abe realizes what he saw wasn’t imagined. He swears revenge on the man he holds responsible for his mother’s death but, after shooting him in the face is shocked to see the man keep coming at him. Something funny is going on here.

Told with a brilliant 3D canvas, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” is one of the most original ideas to ever hit the big screen. What makes the film so good is that it takes its story seriously. This is not a spoof or a comedy. It’s history. When Abe (Walker) learns that his intended victim is a vampire, he enlists the aid of Henry Sturgess (Cooper), a vampire killer who hides secrets of his own. Henry tells Abe that he will help him learn to destroy the undead and begins a training regiment right out of “The Matrix.” Along the way, Abe meets Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who is currently dating Stephen Douglas (an unbilled Alan Tudyk – Pirate Steve from “Dodgeball”). True love blooms and Abe confesses his deeds. However, Mary thinks he’s pulling her leg and dismisses him. Of course, Abe eventually gets his law degree, runs for elected office and embarks on his journey to the White House. And that is where we find him when he learns of a planned vampire takeover of the United States. Not on his watch!

Thanks to a smart screenplay by Seth-Grahame Smith, who also wrote the original novel, the film never disappoints. If you allow yourself to get lost in the story you soon begin to believe that what you’re seeing on screen may have happened. Along with vampires Smith has peppered the film with other historical figures who play roles in the story, including Harriet Tubman and Jefferson Davis. Another plus is that the actors are truly immersed in their performances. No sly wink of the eye to the audience. Walker bears a strong resemblance to Liam Neeson who, ironically, was director Steven Spielberg’s initial choice to play the 16th President in his upcoming bio-flick (since replaced by Daniel-Day Lewis). As played by Walker, Abe is a 19th Century Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent, his mild demeanor a mask for a man of strength. Director Bekmambetov, who helmed not only the vampire flicks “Day Watch” and “Night Watch” but “Wanted,” gets to exhibit his skills as an action director. A scene where Abe fights a gang of vampires while jumping back and forth off of moving horses during a stampede is mind blowing, aided in a great way by the brilliant use of 3D. This is what 3D was made for! Couple the process with the outstanding cinematography of multiple Oscar nominee Caleb Deschanel (father of Zooey and Emily) and you’re on the edge of your seat. To be fair I should also note that, when the action stops, the film slows down noticeably. Towards the end it’s almost like a roller coaster, with occasional stops accompanying one hell of a ride. There is also a major continuity error at the beginning of the film that really bothered me. If you spot it please let me know.

Alan Rinzler talks about working with Hunter S. Thompson

Alan Rinzler is known for working as consulting editor for the late Hunter S. Thompson on “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail”, “The Great Shark Hunt” and “The Curse of Lono”. Alan has also worked with such respected authors such as Clive Cussler and Robert Ludlum, as well with memoirs for Frank Capra and John Lennon. Media Mikes had a chance to pick Alan’s brain to tell his experience with working with the late Hunter S. Thompson.

Mike Gencarelli:  “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail” and “The Great Shark Hunt” are two of my favorite Hunter S. Thompson books.  How did you get involved with him?
Alan Rinzler: Back in 1965 or so, I published a book at the Macmillan Company by Danny Lyons called The Bike Riders which was a photo book about a group known as the Chicago Outlaws and I was very interested in reading another book about motorcycle gangs.  At that point I had never heard of Hunter Thompson but I got a copy of his first book Hell’s Angels and loved it. It wasn’t a big success at first, but eventually sold more copies over the years as Hunter became famous.  Then around 1969, I was the Vice President and Associate Editor of Rolling Stone and met Hunter. Hunter had decided to run for Sheriff in Aspen, Colorado, where he lived. He wrote a couple of pieces about his campaign and nearly won.  Then we published his classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in two parts. In 1970 we started a Rolling Stone book company called Straight Arrow Books, of which I was President and Editor-in-Chief. We decided to cover the run-up in the primary campaign and 1972 presidential election. We were  competing with Theodore White’s “Making of the President” series that had started with JFK in 1960. White had written books covering the presidential campaigns of 1960, 64 and 68 and we knew he would be working on one for 1972.  So we assigned Hunter to the job.  Of course, 1972 was a very interesting campaign.

MG: Tell us about your experience working with him?
AR:  Hunter hated editors and ignored deadlines.  During the ten years he’d struggled to get a foothold as a writer, the editors at various magazines he submitted ideas and articles to either rejected his copy or tried to homogenize the style to fit what they thought was their audience. We loved the way he wrote but when you’re covering a presidential election you’re covering breaking news and have to be timely. After spending what was for us a lot of money to send him out with the other major league reporters covering the primary and election, we didn’t hear from him for weeks at a time. We weren’t getting any pages for the book and deadline for completing all the articles and weaving them into a book was getting closer.  We had gotten printers waiting and our distribution network was geared up so we could get out there before Theodore White. By November, Hunter was avoiding me and when I tried to find him sent me threatening letters, like “If you come anywhere near me, Rinzler, I’ll break every bone in your body”.  So I had to take drastic measures.

He was hiding out at the Seal Rock motel at the end of Geary Street out by the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco. I loaded up my car with a big Nagra tape recorder, dozens of grapefruits, which I knew he loved, and a few cases of Wild Turkey. Hunter resisted at first when I pounded on his door but eventually relented. He wanted to do a good job and knew he needed help.  We worked out a system where I interviewed him, we’d have a team of people driving out with the pages they’d transcribed so we could take me out of the narrative, edit, re-record, retranscribe and then start all over on the next chapter. I had my dog Pushkin with me, a big brown shaggy poodle who went crazy every time he heard the seals barking and jumped all over our papers and photographs we had spread on the bed and all over the room, spilling glasses, chewing up the towels. Made a terrible mess. After sixteen days of no sleep we polished up the final manuscript, ready for the presses. But that’s basically how we wrote that book and it turned out to be pretty darn good.  Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail is still in print, still being read as a model of gonzo campaign coverage and revered by smart journalism students. Not just because it’s funny, smart and original.  It is.  But Hunter also produced comprehensive meticulous analysis and evaluation of the primary process and the presidential election itself.

MG:  Do you still have the recording from your sessions?
AR:  I do.  I have all of the recordings.  I taped everything because that’s how we worked.  And I taped all of our phone calls too.  Then when I came back to Berkley I got in the movie business for a while.  I knew Jack Nicholson and Jack was a huge admirer of Hunter’s.  So we all met together in Hollywood at Jack’s house, out by the pool…Nicholson wanted to film an idea Hunter had for story called “Guts Ball or The Great Shark Hunt”. The studio wanted to do it.  Jack wanted to do it.  But it never happened. At this point, Hunter was deteriorating in both in his life and in his writing. He got worse instead of better on the addiction front.  His wife left him. Friends and a series of very willing girlfriends, none of them could keep him even reasonably straight.

MG:  How does he compare with the many other famous authors you have worked with?
AR:  It was ultimately a sad story.  At first I was pissed off at him.  And disappointed that, in my opinion, he was wasting  his talents.  Then we did one more really good book together “The Curse of Lono”. I left Rolling Stone and was working as Director of Trade Publishing at Bantam Books, so I could get him a big advance, the best motivation for Hunter, who was usually broke. To make sure we got the book done, I moved into his home, the Owl Farm near Woody Creek Colorado. He was snorting buckets of cocaine and drinking an awful lot, but I managed to tape, transcribe, gather up dozens of random scraps and ideas that I eventually, after a few months, gathered up in a big suitcase and took back on the plane while he was passed out in bed. The Curse of Lono was a little incoherent in spots but really the last brilliant thing he wrote, in my opinion.

He could have written another dozen books if he’d cut back and controlled his bad habits.  It was amazing he lived to 67 but by then he hadn’t written a good book in more than 25 years. A few months before he died he phoned me in the middle of the night. “Rinzler…Simon and Schuster has given me a lot of money and all I have is a bunch of junk. I need you to come out here tomorrow morning and get to work. Like the old days.” I asked him to send me the manuscript and he was right, it was awful. But before I could make it out there he had killed himself. Ironically, that very same draft came out without any editing and was on the NY Times Best-Seller list for eight weeks with the title “Kingdom of Fear”. Hunter’s fans want to read anything he’s written and don’t seem to notice that the book was awful. He’d be ashamed to know this, I bet.

Most of the author I’ve worked with keep getting better: Toni Morrison, Tom Robbins, Clive Cussler. The only other writer I think of in conjunction with Hunter, though an entirely different personality, was Jerzy Kosinski, who also killed himself.   He wrote “The Painted Bird.” One of Jerzy’s books was made into film Being There, in 1979 starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine, who was a very good writer. I did two very far out books with Shirley, Out on a Limb and Dancing the Light.

It’s very hard to be a writer.  It takes discipline, craft, courage and intelligence. Good writers struggle to balance their work with their personal lives – relationships, kids, money. I admire their bravery and devotion and have worked how for 50 years helping and supporting many authors who’ve produced long-lasting work that’s made a difference in their readers’ lives.

Book Review “Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thompson”

Author(s): Will Bingley, Anthony Hope-Smith
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: Abrams
Release Date: April 1, 2012

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

I have been fascinated with Hunter S. Thompson’s work for many years. He has such a unique perspective on the world and will not be able to be replaced by anyone. This book is really an amazing look into this life from the birth of Gonzo Journalism to “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” to his sad death. If you are a fan of HST, this is an much purchase.

By the way, did I mention it is actually an illustration biography. Thanks to the amazing illustrations of Anthony Hope-Smith, HST’s life to death is presented to you in this wonderful format. The book itself is presented in soft cover and its pages compliment the very crisp and sharp illustrations very well. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this biography but it was very intimate and enjoyable. I recommend this graphic illustration very highly.

This book is one of those books that you just have to revisit over and over. I have a feeling as well, I will be passing this book around to many of my friends to enjoy as well. Be sure to check out the beautiful and honest foreword from HST’s editor Alan Rinzler. Lastly, I commend Abrams for publishing this fantastic book and I would love to see future volumes like these as well. I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Hunter S. Thompson “No sympathy for the Devil, keep that in mind.  Buy the ticket, take the ride”.

Interview with Chimaira’s Mark Hunter

Mark Hunter is the lead vocalist for the Cleveland, Ohio based band Chimaira. The band recently released their 6th studio album title “The Age of Hell”. Media Mikes had a chance to talk with Mark about the new album, life on the road and what it was like touring with Slipknot.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the new album “The Age of Hell”?
Mark Hunter: Where do I begin? For those that follow the band they may know that we have had a couple line-up changes over the past year and half to two years. We were forced to go into the studio a couple guys down and make the album. We tried to not let it cramp our style too much and we used the energy that came from it to make something great. We started in January and came out a few months later with “The Age of Hell”. It was a great experience working on the album as there were a lot of things both good and bad that led up to it.

AL: Did being two members down impact the recording process at all?
MH: It’s a mixture of two things. When it comes to writing the music for Chimaira, Rob and I have been the guys who usually deliver the base of the song. From there everyone else comes in and adds their character to it. Sometimes we would write so much that there wouldn’t really be much room for people to participate and other times it would be very open. We knew with our approach to writing an album technically we could do the work other than the fact that we were tripling the work load for everyone. Of course there is some impact on an emotional level as well whether it is confusion or anger or excitement. All the things that come with a relationship ending were present. It was almost like a divorce as we had been with the guys eight or nine years so it was a little difficult. We didn’t necessarily write specifically about the guys leaving but those events did affect the energy.

AL: Had you written any of the songs prior to the guys leaving?
MH: Everything had been unfolding over time and we chose to keep things internal until we felt it was appropriate to discuss. We tried to do our thing and make the album and music our focus. We had written something’s as early as 2010. Leading up to January 2011 when we began pre-production on the album we had about 15 songs written. I remember not being very satisfied with those songs as a whole and I knew that there was going to be a lot of work in front us. I have said before in interviews that we scrapped everything which wasn’t really the case. What I had meant to say is that those songs didn’t really get used and after everything happened we started writing and those new songs seemed to have what I was looking for that the previous demos did not.

AL: Do you have a favorite track of the new album?
MH: Yes and No. I like to listen to the album as a whole. I find that this album more so than our others feels like a journey of some sort.  So it’s hard for me to pick a favorite track from this album. Our previous albums it was a clear cut case for me but if I had a gun to my head I think I would choose the song “Powerless”. I really like to just hear the whole album and reflect on what it took to make it. I have taken more out of this album than all of our other albums combined.

AL: Can you tell us about the upcoming fall tour?
MH: This is going to be our first full U.S. headlining tour in almost four years. We have been out but most of it has been supporting other bands. We had some real great opportunities to go out with Disturbed on the Mayhem Festival as well as the other tours we have been a part of. It’s cool to go back out and headline. We get to play 14 or 15 songs a night which really pleases the fans, which is something that we love doing. It’s a great package that features Impending Doom, Revocation and Rise to Remain. This will be one of two U.S tours that we are going to be doing. We will also be going overseas and we are booked solid through April. I have been home for a year so it will be good to get back out there.

AL: Is there anything you like or dislike about being out on the road?
MH: I think Rob Zombie said it best when he said “You don’t get paid for the hour you are on stage. You get paid for the other 23 hours leading up to it”. I think that’s a pretty accurate description. The best part is playing the gig and the worst part is waiting around prior to the show. It’s an interesting life. You are camping with your friends but instead of being in nice scenic places you’re in shitty parking lots.

AL: What was it like when you guys were touring with Slipknot a few years back?
MH: Slipknot is a great band that we learned a lot from. They were always down to earth and treated us great. They were very thankful to have us on the tour with them. The first night we played together I was in the dressing room waiting for them to go on. I am a big fan of theirs and actually saw them on their first tour. So we were sitting there and a couple of the guys came into the room in full costume and in character. These guys were not the same guys once they had transformed into their roles. There was this feeling that things were about to get real serious! I was actually terrified.  Out of all of the bands I have seen live Slipknot is definitely the most intense.

AL: Are there any other things going on besides the tour for yourself?
MH: The touring is definitely going to preoccupy all the energy we have. However to keep busy I met a band from the Cleveland area called Ohio Sky. Musically they are in the vein of the Deftones or Mastodon. I describe them as space rock. Their keyboardist helped us out a lot on the album and we have become real good friends. I am trying to help them and share my knowledge of the business to help them get their foot in the door. It’s a good project to spend my free time with. Working with them has been different and a nice change of pace. This business and climate right now is like walking into a lion’s den, so I am glad to share my experience and insight.