Win Passes to the Kansas City Premier of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”

Media Mikes has teamed up with our friends at Sony Pictures to give 15 lucky readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see one of the most anticipated films of the summer, “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

All you have to do is click here and follow the directions to receive your passes. This is a first come/first served contest. After we have received 15 entries the giveaway is over. Good luck!

SCREENING INFORMATION

Date: Wednesday, June 28th
Time: 7:30 p.m.

AMC Town Center 20
11701 Nall Avenue
Leawood, Kansas

Concert Review: Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks
May 7, 2017
Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO

Our score: 5 out of 5 Stars

Before I begin let me say that I love the Sprint Center. At least once I’m inside. I’ve seen many shows there and have never had a bad seat. However, getting into the show is another story.

In November 2007 Garth Brooks played nine sold-out shows at the Sprint Center, a mere month after the building first opened. His return (for seven more) was met with great joy by the Kansas City faithful. Unfortunately those faithful had said faith put to the test with all of the problems involved. Tickets were only available through AXS, a company similar to Ticketmaster. When they went on sale I logged on to their site AND dialed their number, figuring to use whichever method got me my tickets first. Thankfully I stayed on hold as all 14 times I tried to purchase tickets on-line failed. I would get my seats picked out (a couple times I had nice floor seats), and receive a message that read “you know have two minutes and 30seconds to complete your transaction: CLICK HERE TO CONFIRM.” I would “click” and get an error message that read “your session has timed out.” 14 TIMES!

Luckily, after an hour and twenty-eight minutes on hold, an operator came on the line. I told her the problem and she told me “this always happens” whenever AXS has a large event. “Our servers can’t handle all of the traffic.” At least she was honest. The local news was told that it was a “software” error that was later fixed. NOT! Anyway, thanks to Garth playing seven shows I was able to get some nice seats. Now to get inside.

I love the layout of the Sprint Center. What I don’t love is the fact that, for a building that can hold almost 20,000 people, there are only TWO entrances: one in the front of the building and one in the rear. Most venues I’ve been too, and I’ve seen concerts literally all over the world, have multiple gates and entrances all around the building. Because of the way the Sprint Center is set up, we got in line about three blocks from the Sprint Center at 6:15 for the 7:30 show and got to out seats at 7:45! Ridiculous. And I couldn’t help but think, while I was waiting to get inside, what kind of horrible tragedy it would become should something happen while the building was packed and had to be evacuated immediately. I shudder to think of the casualties!

Now for the good stuff:

Even though he had played four shows since Friday night, Brooks was in fine form and full of energy. He kicked off the show with the song “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance,” from his 10th studio LP, “Gunslinger.” He then promised the audience that he’d be doing all of the hits and kept that promise with songs like “Rodeo,” “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House” and then led the audience in a great sing-along with “The River.”

Several times during the show Brooks commented that his voice was going and that the audience may have to carry him through the night, which was apparently no problem for those in attendance as nearly 20,000 voices filled the Sprint Center, matching Brooks word for word. Like Mick Jagger, Brooks is a consummate showman, almost refusing to stand steady for more than a moment at a time.

Halfway through the show Brooks was joined on stage by his wife, singer Trisha Yearwood, who sang a mini-set of some of her hits (“She’s In Love With the Boy,” “How Do I Live?”) before once again relinquishing the stage to her husband. After more hits Brooks sent the band off stage, picked up his guitar and peered into the audience, where fans had brought posters emblazoned with the titles of songs they wanted to hear. He obliged several of them, both his voice and guitar sounding clean and clear. The band returned to close the show with “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” in which he offered his heartfelt blessing to the late Chris LeDoux) and a rousing “Standing Outside the Fire,” which shook the rafters. It was almost 11:30 when the show ended. However, with as much fun and energy as he brought to Kansas City, I wouldn’t be surprised if the man is still on stage singing right now!

Stage Review: “42nd Street” – Kansas City

“42nd Street”
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, MO
May 2, 2017

Our Score: 5 out of 5 Stars

In the summer of 1981, Uncle Sam decided to send me to Germany. I used a couple days before I left to visit New York City. I got there on a Sunday night and was amazed that, at three in the morning, I could get Kentucky Fried Chicken. I had planned on seeing “The Elephant Man” but sadly learned that it had actually closed the night I hit town. Wanting to say I had seen a Broadway show I remembered an article I had read on the plane about a show called “42nd Street.” I wasn’t intrigued by the plot, which is basically the story of a Broadway musical inside an actual Broadway musical, but by the story of how the show itself was a bit of theatrical folklore. It seems that the show’s director/choreographer, Gower Champion, had actually passed away just before the curtain went up on opening night. While the audience is giving the cast a rousing and much deserved standing ovation, the show’s producer comes out on stage and breaks the news. Now THAT’S theater.

“42nd Street” tells the story of director Julian Marsh (Matthew J. Taylor) preparing for his next Broadway hit. He is surrounded by many fresh-faced youngsters who want to get their big break alongside his “star,” Dorothy Brock (Kara Gibson Slocum). Also along to audition is Miss Peggy Sawyer (Clara Cox), a young lady from Allentown, Pennsylvania with stars in her eyes. Peggy is clearly talented but her exuberance becomes a pain in the rear for Brock. An accident with Brock leads to Peggy being fired. But, when Brock is injured, It’s discovered that the only way for the show to go on is to hire Peggy back. Will she go out on stage a youngster but come back as a star? What do you think?

I have many fine memories of the Broadway show, including the performances of the late and great Jerry Orbach and the amazingly talented Tammy Grimes. And while those two are revered as Broadway legends, the performances of Mr. Taylor and Ms. Slocum are equally strong. The entire cast kicks back and tap dances their butts off. This is what you might call an old fashioned musical, with classic songs and some of the greatest hoofing you will ever see on stage. So take my advice and “Come and meet those dancing feet, on the avenue I’m taking you to, 42nd Street!”

Planet Comicon remains the best in the Midwest

Rough weather in the Midwest didn’t stop tens of thousands of people from packing into Bartle Hall in Kansas City over the weekend for Planet Comicon. For three days, folks braved monsoon-like rains to meet their favorite stars, socialize and geek out. Nearly every inch of the convention center was brimming with fans, excited to see, meet and hear from celebrities, creators and cosplayers.

Like previous years, the 2017 edition of Planet Comicon featured all-stars across the entertainment spectrum. Everyone from Ron Perlman (“Sons of Anarchy” and “Hellboy) and Felicia Day (“The Guild” and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”) to Jason Aaron (Writer for “Doctor Strange and “Thor”) and Kevin Eastman (Co-creator of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”) brightened the otherwise gloomy days. Our very own Mike Smith even hosted an informative panel on “Jaws 2” and Hollywood sequels. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who was disappointed by this year’s line-up and activities.

Saturday, one of the busiest days of the three-day extravaganza, could have been disastrous if it wasn’t for the quick work and social media tools at the disposal of Planet Comicon organizers. A backdrop collapse during John Barrowman, early on in the day, could have thrown a wrench in the organizer’s plans. But a quick reshuffling, along with constant updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Planet Comicon’s new phone app, notified fans about the up-to-the-minute changes. It’s just one of many signs that Planet Comicon is always evolving to become bigger and better. It’s truly a leader of cons in the Midwest and shows the perseverance to become one of the best cons in the U.S.

MediaMikes would be remiss if we didn’t thank Planet Comicon organizers for not only their hard work, but for the opportunity for some of our readers to win three-day passes to the event. We’re already planning to attend and cover next year’s Planet Comicon.

Photo by Dan Lybarger

“Hellboy” himself, Ron Perlman Pikachu on the dance floor at an after party Felicia Day with balloon versions of the “MST3K” robots No-Face from “Spirited Away”

 

Emma Caulfield and Clare Kramer reflect on their roles on “Buffy” Batman’s true weakness Jason Isaacs talks Harry Potter and DC A near-perfect Bob and Linda Belcher The one-man show, John Barrowman No shortage of creativity Tara Reid talks about how she wound up in the “Sharknado” series Ariel delighting children Shannon Elizabeth has been busy since “American Pie” An unlikely duo, the Mad Hatter and Jack Frost

Stefan White talks about the upcoming Battle4KC LifeSaver “Star Wars” battle

If you’re a fan of “Star Wars” I don’t need to tell you that this May fans all over the world will celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the original film’s release. In Kansas City, fans will be attempting to set a Guinness World Record for the largest light saber battle while raising money for a great cause, the battle against cystic fibrosis.

On May 6th, fans can join with Friends of the River for the epic Battle4KC LifeSaver “Star Wars” Battle to benefit Children’s Mercy Hospital’s Cystic Fibrosis Center. The event will begin at 5:00 p.m. at Berkley Riverfront Park 1298 E. Riverfront Drive in Kansas City. Recently we spoke with Friends of the River President Stefan White about the upcoming event and the goals set.

Mike Smith: Tell me a little about the event.

Stefan White: Battle4KC is an attempt to set the Guinness Book of World Records mark for the largest l ightsaber battle. The event will benefit Children’s Mercy Hospital and their Cystic Fibrosis wing. May is additionally cystic fibrosis awareness month.

MS: How did you come up with this idea?

SW: Years ago Friends of the River Kansas City started “Movies on the Riverfront” where once a month we held an outdoor movie night in the park on a giant 36′ screen. Over the past half-decade we see more and more and more organizations offering that, and so I decided that the time had come to create a new “thing” and another idea that would be ours. Each board member was tasked with brainstorming an idea to replace Movie Night. It could be a weekly thing, monthly, annually, whatever they wanted to pitch – they could walk in the door and pitch the idea.

There were amazing ideas floated, we actually have the next four years planned out because of that one meeting. However, Steven Fuller, one of our board members, came in and told us about the work that Children’s Mercy is doing, and that the Cystic Fibrosis wing does not currently have any fundraising outside of the hospital’s general fund. For instance, Big Slick goes towards Cancer specifically. (NOTE: Big Slick is an annual Poker-themed event put on annually by local celebs Paul Rudd, Rob Riggle, Jason Sudeikis and David Koechner)

He then pitched the idea of tracking down enough Storm Troopers and leaning on community businesses, partners, and resources to take over KC. Specifically, on May the 4th we plan on taking over the hospital, and fully expect all of those kiddos to beat up each and every one of those Storm Troopers. Across the 4th, 5th, and the morning of the 6th there will be additional corporate and landmark takeovers across our city from partners. All this being an opportunity for us to speak about the work Children’s Mercy is doing as well as the cystic fibrosis community which resides here in KC.

I figured there was no way this idea passes the board. No way. At all. Never going to happen. And it did – unanimously. Our next step was taking it to Port KC, whom we are an arm of working within their property at Berkley Park, and again I thought there is no way and no how this passes and we are granted permission. They came back with a resounding YES – and a request of how they could help. They actually were our very first sponsor organization to get the ball rolling.

So here we are, 10 months later preparing for the Guinness World Record team to arrive in our city, filling the park with 10,000 of your closest friends and engaging in an incredible day of activities for kids of all ages, featuring an outstanding concert from the Phantistics, a local KC band, and setting a new world record.

MS: Is there an age limit or can anyone interested participate?

SW: Not at all! Come young and come old. You do not need to be a “Star Wars” fan to play a role and be a part of this awesome evening either. Each ticket comes with a lightsaber built just for this event. Also, I want to make it clear that this is a family friendly event, families of all shapes and sizes, and also needs. We have partnered with the “Child Life” team from Children’s Mercy, who are a Godsend, and they are working hand in hand with us to make certain that no matter the child, the adult, and whatever needs there may be – you absolutely can participate. Nobody is excluded in the setting of this World Record. All we ask is that they shoot us a private message – don’t post publicly on our social pages because of HIPPA laws – and we will get you all setup, squared away, and ready for the event.

MS: Is there a current Guinness record for greatest light saber battle?

SW: There are many who have claimed to have set the record. If you hop onto the interwebs, so, so many have claimed it before. However, in speaking with our Guinness representatives, and our judges who are coming to KC – nobody has ever taken the proper and appropriate steps to do so. Therefore, if only one of you shows up…because we have the correct paperwork on file, we get the record. That being said, I have 10,041 lightsabers currently in my garage and would like to use each and every one of them in this attempt and the setting of the record.

MS: Can fans bring their own light sabers?

SW: You can bring your own. We do realize there are collectors and hardcore fans out there. HOWEVER, during the official battle, everyone must use the same light saber for the participants to count. It is a strange rule, I know, but it is the official rule of Guinness and we want to respect their wishes.

MS: Why is this such an important event?

SW: Sadly, a cystic fibrosis patient’s outcome 100% of the time is death…this is why we are fighting. This is why we are staging the event. Children’s Mercy Hospital is the #1 ranked hospital in the world for cystic fibrosis research – that is something to be darn proud of, and as Kansas Citians we need to stand behind them. The cure for cystic fibrosis is going to come from right here in our own backyard, from one of your neighbors. We would rather have the story light, while still taking a nod to the fact that we are fighting with a purpose.

For 14 years, Friends of the River has thrown amazing parties for the city, and on behalf of the city such as Riverfest. We raise funds and support other charities and organizations. Educational activities, park building, river cleanups, tree planting. This is the first time ever we have put the full weight of our machine, organization, and community ties into a cause such as this.

That is the vibe and story line I would prefer. As Kansas Citians we have the opportunity to find a cure for an entire people. Nothing is more important than that.

Website: www.Battle4KC.com
Social Media Handles: @Battle4KC

Win Passes to the 2017 Kansas City Planet Comicon

The wait is almost over. This years Kansas City Planet Comicon, by far the BEST convention in the Midwest, opens on April 28 and runs through the 30. And, once again, Media Mikes wants to send some of it’s readers to the show on us.

Courtesy of the gang at Planet Comicon, we’ve arranged to award four random readers with two three-day passes to this years event. That’s right, an entire weekend to satisfy your film, television, comic book and cosplay itch.

All you have to do is let us know below what celebrity/artist you would like to see at a future con. Four random entries will be selected and they will receive two three-day passes to attend Planet Comicon.

This contest runs through Tuesday, April 25. Winners will be chosen randomly and notified by email.

Good luck!

For more information on Planet Comicon, head here.

Win Tickets to See Comedian Eric Schwartz in Kansas City

Media Mikes is looking for five readers who like to laugh.

We are giving away passes to see comedian Eric Schwartz perform live on Thursday, March 30.

All you have to do is let us know what current comic you’d like to see come to Kansas City. Five random entries will be selected and they will each win two passes to see Eric Schwartz in person.

The show will be held at The Record Bar, 1520 Grand Blvd in Kansas City. It begins at 8:00 p.m.

Please note that this is an 18 and older show.

Good luck!

Win Passes to the 3D Kansas City Advanced of “Beauty and the Beast” (CONTEST CLOSED)

It’s a tale as old as time. Media Mikes has teamed up with Walt Disney Pictures to invite you to “be our guest” at the Kansas City-area advanced screening of one of the most anticipated films of the year, “Beauty and the Beast.”

We are giving five random readers a chance to win a Family Four Pack of tickets to attend the special 3-D screening on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. The screening will begin at 7:00 p.m. All you have to do is let us know below your favorite “Disney” song. Is it something from the “Lion King?” “Let it Go” from “Frozen?” Or something catchy from “Mary Poppins?”

Five random winners will be chosen from all entries and they will be notified by email. The contest ends at noon on Sunday, March 12. Good luck!

Stage Review: “The Phantom of the Opera” – Kansas City

“The Phantom of the Opera”
The Music Hall, Kansas City, Missouri
February 10, 2017

Our score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“The Phantom of the Opera” opened on Broadway on January 26, 1988. Almost 12,100 performances later, it is still running at the Winter Garden Theater, establishing itself as the longest running show in the history of Broadway. I’ve seen the show five times on Broadway, including two weeks after it opened and was very lucky to have seen the great Michael Crawford, who originated the title role and won nearly every award for his performance twice. A “new” version of the show is now touring the country and this week it began a limited run in Kansas City.

The story is a simple one: there’s a “ghost” in the Paris opera house who has taken an interest in the latest young singer on the bill. He gives his heart and soul towards making her the best only to be thwarted by others. But not until he’s wreaked a little havoc.

Knowing that the production had been tweaked a little I went into the show with an open mind. Obviously it wouldn’t be fair to hold a touring show to the Broadway experience. Though I needn’t have worried. The production I saw was brilliantly produced and, though I had a few quibbles with some of the changes, I was thoroughly entertained.

The cast was amazing. As the title character, Derrick Davis embodied the role. Playing an iconic role can sometimes make an actor “cheat” – and borrow from other performances. I can’t tell you how much of the character Moss I stole from Ed Harris when I did “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Here Mr. Davis makes the Phantom both frightening and sympathetic, a hard combination to pull off. And musically, he is in great voice. Joining him are the other main characters. As the Phantom’s love interest, Christine, Katie Travis was perfectly cast. Torn between her feelings for her benefactor and those for the man she loves (a strong Jordan Craig as Raoul), it is easy to see her emotional quandary. Both she and Mr. Craig have a strong chemistry on stage. As the Opera’s resident diva, Carlotta, Trista Moldovan hit all the right notes, both comedic and musical. You can read my interview with Ms. Moldovan here. The supporting cast is equally strong.

If you’ve seen the show on Broadway, or in other touring shows, here are a few things that I noticed in this “new” edition of the show. Firstly, the revealing of the Phantom’s face happens twice for some reason. The show does journey to the roof of the Opera house here and the changes did nothing to effect my enjoyment of the show. What did bother me was the opening of the 2nd act with the musical number “Masquerade.” In previous shows the cast came down a huge, sprawling staircase and, even though half of the “guests” were smartly disguised mannequins, the effect was breath-taking. Here it is a ballroom lined with mirrors that, I’m guessing were supposed to multiply in the viewers eyes the number of people. I was in the center of the theatre and it just looked like 24 people dancing. Also, the Phantom used to crash the party in a striking costume reminiscent of the Masque of the Red Death. Here he looks like a cross between Iron Man and Captain Marvel. Not as menacing as a giant red skeleton. Again, if you’ve never seen the show you won’t be disappointed by the changes but if you have you might.

“The Phantom of the Opera” runs in Kansas City through February 19. Other upcoming tour dates:

Feb. 22-March 5, Atlanta, GA
March 8-19, Little Rock, AR
March 23-April 1, West Palm Beach, FL
April 5-16, Birmingham, AL

Talking “The Phantom of the Opera” with Trista Moldovan

Most actors dream about the day they will finally appear on Broadway. Even if you don’t have any lines, just to be able to stand in the background for a brief moment gives you bragging rights with your friends that you appeared ON BROADWAY. Apparently nobody told Trista Moldovan that you were supposed to take it slow. The first time she hit the boards of the Great White Way she did it as Christine, the love interest of the title character in the longest running musical in Broadway history, “The Phantom of the Opera,” which just concluded it’s 12,080th consecutive performance.

Born in Cleveland, Ms. Moldovan has tackled many of the most popular roles in musical history, including Betty Haynes in “White Christmas,” Sarah Brown in “Guys and Dolls,” Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” and Carla in “Nine.” She has also flexed her dramatic and comedic charms by starring as Maggie in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and Billie Dawn in “Born Yesterday.” In November 2012 she concluded a year-long run as Christine at the Winter Garden Theater in “Phantom of the Opera.” She’s now returned to the touring company of the show as Carlotta, the prima donna of the Opera company. Recently Ms. Moldovan took some time out to talk about this next phase in her career.

Mike Smith: You literally JUST finished understudying the role of Francesca in the touring production of “The Bridges of Madison County.” Two weeks later you’re in “Phantom.” How hard is it to have to basically be able to perform two different shows at any given time?

Trista Moldovan: To go from being an understudy, where you have to be able to perform at a moments notice to this (“Phantom”), where you’re doing eight shows a week, requires using two different sets of muscles. As an understudy you have to have a peripheral process as you’re learning the role because you’re also doing an ensemble track. For “Phantom” I’m very grateful to call the role my own and to be able to really make it my own as well.

MS: You played Christine on Broadway for a year and now you’re playing Carlotta. To me that seems like it would require an almost different type of singing, to go from what people would call “Broadway” singing – really belting it out – to a more operatic style. Was that transition difficult?

TM: Oh, yes. It’s definitely a different “sing” than Christine. Christine has more of a musical theater flavor whereas Carlotta is 100% operatic. She has a much more heavier sound…a much more legit sound, of course. And I had not sung like that for years, so that was very fun and very challenging to work up my chops and to work on the material. It was an amazing challenge and it’s so much fun to be able to sing like this every night because I don’t do opera. I can’t think of another role where I’d be able to sing like this. And I love it. It’s great. It’s so much fun.

MS: You have played so many iconic roles in musical theater. Is there a role you haven’t played yet that you would love to take on?

TM: (laughs) As I’m moving into a different part of my career it’s opened up a world of character roles. More comedic roles. So now my sights are set on roles like Madame Morrible in “Wicked” and, maybe in a few years, Madame Thenardier in “Les Miz.” More of the supporting, secondary roles. A couple of years ago I never thought they would be in the realm of possibility but now I’m sort of at the beginning of that part of my career.

MS: How long will you be with “Phantom?”

TM: As of right now I’m staying until the fall then after that…I don’t know, it seems like it’s an eternity away. After that we’ll re-evaluate when the time comes. But as of right now I’ll be here until October 2017.

We talked for a few more minutes and I learned that she had met her husband, actor Stephen Tewksbury, while both were doing “Phantom.” (She was Christine, he was the Phantom’s understudy). She laughed when I told her how cool that was, because finally the Phantom got the girl! “The Phantom of the Opera” plays through February 19th at the Music Hall in Kansas City. For more information or to purchase tickets, you can go here.

Kansas City Concert Review: Elvis Costello’s “The Juliet Letters”

“The Juliet Letters”
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Review By: J.R. Deeter

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

As a fan of the music and lyrics of Elvis Costello I have to admit I had never heard of his 1993 release “The Juliet Letters,” a collection of 20 songs for voice and string quartet. I was not sure what to expect from the artist who has written a few of my favorite “pop” tunes through the years, given this performance was certainly not going to fit into the customary mold of his usual offerings.

From the start, this was indeed something different, something not easy to listen to. I kept waiting for the music to gain momentum into what I was used to. I kept waiting for the lyrics to give way to some snappy chorus easy to sing along to, but this was not to be and after my contemplation of the experience, I came away pleased anyway.

The vocalization interpretations of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City Resident Artists of April Martin, soprano; Samantha Gossard, mezzo-soprano; Casey Candebat, tenor and John Viscardi, baritone, were very entertaining. The set was designed with written letters hanging from wire in a crisscross pattern. The artists would remove pages and exchange them from one to another as they lit or extinguished lighting to create an ever changing dramatic atmosphere. The tone and lyrics are dark and brooding. It became clear that these were not to be happy, lovey dovey letters between star crossed lovers, but words of the brokenhearted; Painful, mournful anguished tales of love lost, or missing or refused.

The Fry Street Quartet of the Caine College of Arts at Utah State University provided the music and was the highlight of the evening. The performance of each member as they presented their part of the music really helped to convey the emotions of the selections and left me feeling sad and melancholy, as one should when the desire for love and happiness is not to be.

Win Passes to the Kansas City Premiere of “The Birth of the Nation”

Media Mikes has teamed up with Fox Searchlight Films to give (100) lucky readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see one of the most anticipated films of the year, Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation.” The story of Nat Turner, who led a rebellion of slaves and free black men in 1831, the film stars Nate Parker (who also directed and co-wrote the film), Gabrielle Union and Jackie Earle Haley.

The screening will be held at the AMC Barrywoods Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri on Monday, October 3 and will begin at 7:00 pm. To obtain your passes just click here. This is a first come/first served giveaway and passes are limited to the first 100. Good luck!

Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, “The Birth of a Nation” opens nationwide on Friday, October 7.

Fred Williamson Talks About His Film Career and the State of the NFL Today

They called him “the Hammer.” While playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, Fred Williamson was one of the most feared defensive backs in the history of the NFL, finishing his career with 36 interceptions in 104 games. He retired in 1968.

That same year he followed fellow football star Jim Brown to Hollywood, appearing on such television series as “Star Trek,” “The Bold Ones” and “Ironside.” In 1971 he had a recurring role as the title characters boyfriend on “Julia.” He made his feature film debut in the Academy Award winning film “MASH,” and later appeared in several classic “Blaxploitation” films, including “Black Caesar,” “Hell Up in Harlem” and “Three the Hard Way.” He also appeared as a Vietnam vet in an episode of “The Rookies.” A few years later, that character was featured in his own film, “Mean Johnny Barrows.” The story of a troubled Vietnam veteran trying to make it back in the world, the film preceded “First Blood” by six years. The film was also Williamson’s directorial debut.

Since then, he has appeared in such films as “From Dusk ’til Dawn” and “Starsky and Hutch,” as well as a series of films featuring ex-cop turned private eye Dakota Smith.

Mr. Williamson will appear at the Kansas City Comic Con from Aug. 12-14. Prior to his appearance he took some time out to speak with me about his “rules” for making films, the state of today’s action films and why the NFL isn’t what it used to be.

MIKE SMITH: At age 78 you are still working steadily.

FRED WILLIAMSON: I make three movies a year.

MS: Is it as fun and exciting now as it was when you started your career?

FW: It’s more exciting because I control what I do now. Most of my films I direct and I write the stories. I hire three or four writers to write the script and I take the best parts from each writer and rewrite the whole thing myself. It’s more fun and more creative.

MS: Do you still make sure you get the girl and don’t lose a fight?

FW: That’s only two of my three rules. Number three is you can’t kill me either. You can’t kill me, I don’t lose a fight and I get the girl.

MS: I see you have another Dakota Smith film coming out.

FW: Yes, I have a new film called “The Last Hitman.” I also have a film that I made in Berlin called “Atomic Eden” and after that I have a film called “Check Point.” I have three films coming out in the next six months.

MS: You’re coming back to Kansas City this weekend. I assume playing in Super Bowl I would be your favorite memory of your time here. Do you have others?

FW: All the time I spent there in Kansas City contributed to my creative years in football. I had a great time in Kansas City. Kansas City was a challenge. You have to remember that this was in the 1960s, so the racial prejudice was very strong there and in other communities at that time. But for me that was motivation…it was what helped make me as great as I was. Someone telling me I couldn’t do something was an extreme motivator for me.

MS: Looking at the way football is played now – you can’t hit in training camp, only one practice a day, defensive players appearing almost afraid to hit for fear of being fined – do you think the game has gotten better or worse since you played?

FW: The game would be more expensive for me if I played today because I’d probably get a $25,000 fine the minute I stepped on the field. (laughs) The “Hammer” tackle would have gotten me kicked out of the game and fined $25,000. I think the thermometer is if you – the refs – can hear the tackle, it’s illegal. If you can hear the pads hit up in the stands, it’s a 15-yard penalty and a $25,000 fine for unnecessary roughness. It’s the changing of the game. That’s why you don’t see that many hard tackles now. Guys are reaching in and trying to stop them with their arms because they really don’t know how to tackle anymore. And these running backs are gaining more yards because no one wants to hit them. They run through arm tackles because most of them are strong runners so they just run through arm tackles.

MS: Nobody seems to know how to wrap up anymore.

FW: You can’t take a chance anymore. Wrapping up means laying your shoulder into him. You can’t wrap a guy up until you stop his momentum, and you have to stop his momentum by cracking him. But now if you crack him too hard it’s a penalty. How do you stop a guy without being able to hit him first? You can’t stop him with an arm tackle.

MS: How do you feel about the action films of today. Are they better now or worse then your films of the 70s and 80s because of being able to use computers?

FW: Computer things are boring, man. Who wants to see some guy jump out of an airplane and land on a moving car when you KNOW that’s not real? That’s not possible. To me it’s boring. They are losing their audiences because now the special effects are the star of the movie. Why do they pay a guy $20 million when the effects are the star of the movie? They need to go back to the days of Robert Mitchum. Gregory Peck. Richard Widmark. Burt Lancaster. Guys like that. You saw how they walked and how they talked. It wasn’t the fact that they could fly through the air or bounce off of a building or just miss getting run over by a car and then getting up and shooting the bad guy. No, no, no. Let’s go back to reality. There’s nothing real in those films.

MS: Thank you again for your time. I hope you enjoy your time back in Kansas City.

FW: I’m looking forward to it. I’ve got a lot of old friends there and a lot of former players that still live there so I’m looking forward to recapturing that experience.

Theatre Review: “The Bridges of Madison County” Starlight Theater – Kansas City, Missouri

Starlight Theater
Kansas City, Missouri
June 14, 2016

Our score: 4 out of 5 stars

Theatre Review By Mike Smith

1965. In small town Winterset, Iowa, Francesca (Elizabeth Stanley) sees a stranger coming down her driveway. With her husband and children off to show their prize steer at a fair in Indiana, she is at first apprehensive about the man’s arrival. But from the moment she first meets Robert (Andrew Samonsky), a photographer for National Geographic who has lost his way, her life will never be the same.

Based on the novel by Robert James Waller, which also inspired the very popular film starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, “The Bridges of Madison County” is a faithful adaptation by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright Marsha Norman, opened up a little to provide for more characters and a little humor, which comes courtesy of the various neighbors who can’t help but notice the handsome stranger and his spending time with the married lady.

Winner of two Tony Awards, including Best Original Score, the show boasts some excellent songs that not only set the mood of the show but progress it along. The cast, from top to bottom is well cast. My one problem was Ms. Stanley’s accent. Francesca is supposed to be from Italy, but she is played as a combination of Meryl Streep from “Sophie’s Choice” and Madeline Kahn in “Blazing Saddles,” where “Like” is pronounced “Lock” and “Play” sounds like “Ply.” A small squabble, to be sure, but it was something I really noticed.

As a bonus for our Kansas City readers, you yourself can visit the real Bridges of Madison county by heading north on I-35 for 2 hours. You’ll find Winterset to be a nice little town where you can go into the same restaurant used in the film and sit on the same stool that Clint Eastwood rested his butt on (I’ve done it). It’s also the hometown of John Wayne so men, while you’re lady is looking at the bridges you can visit the birthplace of the Duke! Like the show, a good time is guaranteed for all.

Win Passes to the Kansas City Premiere of a Rare “Raiders of the Lost Ark” Fan Double Feature

Fans of our “Behind the Mikes” podcast know that it’s recorded every week at our favorite place, the Alamo Drafthouse in Kansas City. MediaMikes has teamed up with Drafthouse Films to give one lucky reader and guest the opportunity to attend an amazing double feature celebrating the 35th Anniversary of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

“Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made” brings stars Chris Strompolos and Eric Zala to Kansas City on their Raiders: Follow Your Dreams Tour for a special advance showing of the documentary followed by a rarely-shown screening of their legendary shot-for-shot adaptation of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Eric and Chris, two of the filmmakers behind the adaptation, will be present for a Q&A during the double feature.

To enter the contest all you have to do is let us know below which actor you think should succeed Harrison Ford on screen as Indiana Jones. One random entry will be chosen on Monday, June 27 and that winner notified by email. Good luck!

When: Thursday, June 30th, 2016
Where: Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet 1400 Main Street, Kansas City, MO 64105

Initially played just for family and friends, a VHS tape of RAIDERS: THE ADAPTATION made it into the hands of director Eli Roth, who played it publicly for the first time at the Alamo Drafthouse during Harry Knowles’ Butt-Numb-A-Thon movie marathon in 2002. After a rapturous reception from the audience, the adaptation later went on to have official Austin and Los Angeles premieres and has even be seen by Steven Spielberg, who called it “an inspiration.”

The documentary RAIDERS! THE STORY OF THE GREATEST FAN FILM EVER MADE tracks how the film made it in front of an audience, and the filmmakers modern day struggles to complete one final elaborate and expensive sequence. It also follows the lives of the boys who created the fan film, how the rediscovery of the adaptation affected their adult lives, and their memories of fashioning a love letter to their favorite film with little money, expertise, or adult supervision.

Ticket information: Tickets to the RAIDERS! Double Feature of both the documentary and adaptation can be purchased here for $12:

RAIDERS! THE STORY OF THE GREATEST FAN FILM EVER MADE
Official Site
Trailer
Side-by-Side Trailer