Blu-ray Review “Man Down”

Actors: Kate Mara, Shia LaBeouf, Jai Courtney, Gary Oldman, Clifton Collins Jr.
Directors: Dito Montiel
Rated: R
Studio: LIONSGATE
Release Date: March 7, 2017
Run Time: 90 minutes

Film: 2 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1 out of 5 stars

How did a film like “Man Down” sneak onto Blu-ray with no one really knowing. This film packs a solid cast with Jai Courtney, Gary Oldman, Kate Mara, and Clifton Collins Jr…and yeah I guess Shia LaBeouf is the star but he just honestly urks me these days and he is just too damn weird. The only thing that interested me in this is because it is set in a post-apocalyptic America but neither the talent or the setting can save this rather bland/boring film.

Official Premise: When U.S. Marine Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf) returns home from his tour in Afghanistan, he finds that the place he once called home is no better than the battlefields he fought on overseas. Accompanied by his best friend Devin Roberts (Jai Courtney), a hard-nosed Marine whose natural instinct is to shoot first and ask questions later, he searches desperately for the location of his estranged son, Johnathan (Charlie Shotwell), and wife Natalie (Kate Mara). In their search, the two intercept Charles (Clifton Collins Jr.), a man carrying vital information about the whereabouts of Gabriel’s family. As we revisit the past, we are guided in unraveling the puzzle of Gabriel’s experience and what will eventually lead us to finding his family.

The combo pack comes with a Blu-ray + Digital HD copy. The 1080p transfer looks good enough for this film. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 works well with the action/suspense. The special features are boring and empty like the film. There is only an audio commentary included with the director Dito Montiel and Military Advisor Sergeant Nick Jones Jr.

Blu-ray Review “Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man”

Actors: Leonard Cohen, Martha Wainwright, Teddy Thompson, Nick Cave, Kate McGarrigle
Directors: Lian Lunson
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Lionsgate
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Run Time: 103 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

“Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man” is a film that is over 10 years old but this is the first time that the documentary focusing on the legendary singer-songwriter, Leonard Cohen, and features performances of his songs by those musicians he has influenced is being released on Blu-ray. If you are a Leonard Cohen fan, I mean who isn’t, and have never owned this film, this is a good time to honor this very talent individual and his music. Crazy to thing that he is gone from us but at least we have films like this celebrating him.

Narrated by Cohen himself, the film features performances by artists like U2, Rufus Wainwright, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker, Antony, Martha Wainwright and Beth Orton and others singing Cohen’s songs. Here is the official premise: Sure to please both die-hard Cohen fans and the newly initiated, this film is full of captivating music and offers an intimate portrait of a truly singular artist — poet, songwriter, cultural icon.

Lionsgate is releasing this film as a combo pack with a Blu-ray and Digital HD copy included. There are some solid bonus features included on this Blu-ray. There are exclusive performances not seen in the movie by Martha Wainwright, Perla Batalla, The Handsome Family, and Teddy Thompson that are worth checking out for sure. There is also “A Conversation with Leonard Cohen” and an audio commentary with the director, Lian Lunson, included. Worth checking out if you are a hardcore fan.

Grace Kaufman talks about her role on the CBS series “Man with a Plan”

Teen actress Grace Kaufman has appeared in a variety of television shows including “The Closer” “2 Broke Girls” and the “The Last Ship”. Graces newest role has her playing opposite Matt LeBlanc in the CBS hit comedy “Man with a Plan”. Media Mikes has the chance to speak with Grace recently about her role on the show and also about her new film “Brave New Jersey”.

Adam Lawton: Tell us about your role on “Man with a Plan” and how the role came about?

Grace Kaufman: I play Kate Burns on the show. She is a very fun role to play because not only does she have a little bit of sass along with some rebellious qualities but she also really loves her family. That’s where I feel I connect with the role. Kate can be disobedient but loving at the same time. I had heard about the role by going through the normal auditioning process. I got the script and immediately fell in the love with my character Kate. I knew she was definitely a role I wanted to play. After my first audition I received a call back and that’s when I met Matt LeBlanc for the first time. That was very exciting for me as I have always loved his work. I found out shortly after reading with him that I had gotten the role and I was just over the moon about it.

AL: Was the role fairly laid out when it was presented to you or were you allowed to develop certain traits
of the character on your own?

GK: There were definitely some parts of the character that were already set ahead of time but, I also brought in my own set of traits and personality to the character. I think that’s what makes things more natural. I was very grateful for the opportunity to do that I was able to explore the character of Kate and really get to know her as well.

AL: What has it been like working alongside Matt LeBlanc?

GK: When I first met Matt at the initial call back it was like meeting one of your idols. I loved him on “Friends” and I have enjoyed his other work as well. Matt is very talented and a brilliant actor. To be in the same room and read with him was such a cool experience. Just being there was very exciting. We did our read through and there was some notes they gave me for the next read and everything just went from there.

AL: The show recently got picked up for a full run. What do you feel makes “Man with a Plan” stand out from other family based comedies?

GK: I feel like the show is not only one that’s fun for the whole family to watch but one that every member can relate to. I feel like a lot of the situations that happen on the show are things that happen to real families. That’s what I think makes the show so special and enjoyable for families to sit down and watch together.

AL: Was this your first experience filming in-front of a live studio audience?

GK: I have done some guest starring roles on shows which film in front of live audiences so I had some experience with that going in to this show. This was my first show that I was a series regular on where there would be a live audience. Even though I had done guests spots before in similar settings it was still very exciting and a bit nerve racking. The more we work in-front of the audience the more I have been able to see that they are not there to judge us. They are there to support us and laugh with us. Knowing that has made me start to feel very comfortable in-front of them now.

AL: You also recently had a film premier at the Austin Film Festival. Can you tell us about that?

GK: The film is called “Brave New Jersey”. I filmed that about a year ago in Tennessee. It was a lot of fun as I had never been to that state before nor had I ever done a period piece. The film takes place in the late 1930’s on the night of Orson Wells “War of the Worlds” broadcast. It’s set in a small town in Lullaby, NJ which overhears the broadcast and assumes real aliens are in-fact invading. The premise is based around if you know you only have one night to live what would you do? Having never done something like this before it was a lot of fun and I got to work with some really great people that I learned a lot from.

AL: What are your plans for the coming year?

GK: We start filming “Man with a Plan” again in January so I have that to look forward to. I also have a role on the show “The Last Ship” which is on TNT that just got picked up for a fifth season. I start working on that in April. I have been working on that show for about four years now so I am very excited that we are coming back for another season. The cast and crew have become like a family to me there. It’s quite different than “Man with a Plan” but they are both special to me in different ways. Shooting this fifth season is going to be really great.

For more info on Grace and her projects you can check out her various social media accounts at @ImGraceKaufman

Blu-ray Review “Swiss Army Man”

Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Directors: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan
Rated: R
Studio: A24
Release Date: October 4, 2016
Run Time: 97 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Tired of non-stop superhero movies? Reboots? Sequels? Prequels? Well, luckily there are films out there like “Swiss Army Man”, which is a zany, over the top original fun movie…that nobody saw. People wonder why they never make original movies and the reason is cause NOBODY SEES THEM! This movie was amazing. I loved it. It was so damn weird but at the same time I found myself mesmerized, especially by the performances from Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano. A must see movie of the year.

Original Premise: Synopsis: Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a deserted island, having given up all hope of ever making it home again. But one day everything changes when a corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) washes up onshore. The two become fast friends, and ultimately go on an epic adventure that will bring Hank back to the woman of his dreams.

I love the way that this film was shot and the way it looks, so I enjoyed the 1080p transfer quite a bit. Same goes for the extremely impressive Dolby Atmos track (at its core, Dolby TrueHD 7.1). This worked great with the fantastic music by Manchester Orchestra members Andy Hull and Robert McDowell, which works so well in the movie.

Along with the Blu-ray, this release also comes with a digital copy of the film. The special features are decent as well to check out. There is a very fun audio commentary with Writer/Director Daniel Kwan, Writer/Director Daniel Scheinert, Production Designer Jason Kisvarnay, and Sound Mixer/Fartist Brent Kiser…and NO you did not misread that…this film has a fartist. You gotta see the movie to get it.

“Swiss Army Man: Behind the Scenes” is a really fun behind-the-scenes featurette with some candid footage and chats with cast. “Making Manny” follows the making of the dummy with designer Jason Hamer. There is a hour plus Q & A with Filmmakers with Glenn Kiser moderating at the Dolby Institute. Lastly there are nearly 10 minutes of deleted scenes included.

Concert Review: Bermuda’s “Marcho Man Tour Part II”

“The Marcho Man Tour Part II”
Bermuda, Demolisher, Aminals
Date: March 7, 2016
Venue: The Warehouse, Syracuse, NY

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

The metal band Bermuda made a stop in Syracuse, NY on March 7th as part of their “Marcho Man Tour”. Also on the bill for the evening were Demolisher from Chicago and the Boston thrash band Aminals. Despite it being a rather cold night in Syracuse the bands and a handful of dedicated fans filled the small multi use venue for a night of metal musings.

After brief sets from a handful of local bands Aminals would take the stage where the proceeded to absolutely crush their set! The band demanded the attention of the crowd and made sure everyone was aware of their absolutely jaw-dropping showmanship. You would have never guessed that this was their drummer’s first show with the group as the bands set progressed without incident and leaving the crowd wanting more. Next up was Demolisher, bringing almost a completely different style of metal and hardcore than the previous act. The band seemed right at home and embracing their surroundings which included skateboard ramps and a few unused motorcycles and a car. Yes a car. Demolisher turned the dusty DIY venue into an all-out brawl as clouds of dust arose from buildings industrialized floor

Tour Headliners Bermuda would close out the night and much like the acts before them took to setting up on the floor as opposed to the small confining stage. From the first snare hit, the crushing weight of this band’s brutal riff-age leveled the small crowd. The bands furious sound fueled an intense mosh pit that quickly overtook the area in-front of the band. The bands front man smoldered with steam as the mixture of sweat and cold air provided an eerie effect that fit the night’s mood perfectly. Definitely be on the lookout for when these guys come to town as you won’t want to miss it.

Aminals Setlist:
1.) Bitchcraft
2.) War Widows
3.) Ew, She Smells Like Brooklyn
4.) If You Hear Them Sing in a Hospital
5.) Population Controls
6.) Dirty Habits
7.) Rope
8.) Something Secular

Bermuda Setlist:
1.) Kuma
2.) Vertebroken
3.) Crown Crusher
4.) Grave Dancers
5.) The Wandering
6.) The Human Herd
7.) Parasitic
8.) The Recluse
9.) Intuitions
10.) Process of Drowning
11.) The Cancer Speaks

Film Review “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

Starring: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Hugh Grant
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 56 mins
Warner Bros.

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

As a young boy growing up in the 1960s I learned very quickly that the Catholic school system frowned on popular culture. Two times during my second grade year I was sent to the office. The first time came after I was scolded several times for playing the tambourine in music class off of my hip, like Davy Jones did on “The Monkees.” The second was when I held my pen to my mouth and commanded in a loud voice, “Open Channel D,” just like Napoleon Solo did each week on “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” Of course, I should have known better. As Whoopi Goldberg pointed out in “Ghost,” nuns can’t even buy underwear so why should they have a sense of humor?

It’s the start of the Cold War. An evil villain has obtained the ability to make an atom bomb. In an unprecedented move, the C.I.A. and the KGB agree to team up their two best agents: Napoleon Solo (Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin. Like the relationship between their respective countries, the two are wary of each other. But orders are orders.

A straight-forward action film that owes its look to James Bond (“Bond” creator Ian Fleming actually helped create the original television program, which was initially titled “Ian Fleming’s SOLO), Matt Helms and a plethora of spy films that came before it, “U.N.C.L.E.” works thanks to its cast and the steady hand of director Guy Ritchie. Englishman Cavill is spot on as Solo, so much so that I’m sure somewhere Robert Vaughn is smiling. Hammer is equally enjoyable as the easily-angered Russian. Hammer was pretty much lost in the crowd in the box-office fiasco that was “The Lone Ranger” and it’s nice to see him inhabit a character completely and confidently.

The set pieces are beautifully photographed and the action unfolds smoothly. If you’re expecting the kinetic editing tricks Ritchie used in the “Sherlock Holmes” films, prepare to be surprised. Long-time fans of the series may quibble a bit with the back-story given Solo. They may also be a step or two ahead of the script when Hugh Grant is introduced as Mr. Waverly. That being said, neither of those facts kept this fan from enjoying the film immensely.

DVD Review “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete First Season”

Actors: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum
Number of discs: 11
Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Run Time: 1560 minutes

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

To celebrate the release of the new reboot hitting theaters this August, Warners is releasing the original 1960’s series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” on DVD in The Complete First Season. This release includes all 29 episodes. Even though this international spy spoof show was released over 60 years ago, it still has its charm and is a blast to watch. The series was nominated for 7 Emmy Awards over its four seasons.  If you are looking to catch up before you head to the theaters, this is a great way to get introduced or refreshed on the series that inspired the upcoming movie.

Official Premise: In this hit spoof of the spy genre, actors Robert Vaughn and David McCallum play the roles of top agents Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin who use their charm, wit, and a never-ending assortment of gadgets to defend the world from evil, chaos and bad taste. The successful series also stars Leo G. Carroll as Alexander Waverly and features guest stars such as William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, of Star Trek, Kurt Russell, Ricardo Montalban and longtime comedy favorite Ken Murray. From trying to save the world from fear gas to trying to save themselves from a pack of bloodthirsty cheetahs, these serious spies bring the suspense and fun to life. You may even forget it’s in black and white!

“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Complete First Season” is just the beginning. I would expect the following three seasons to be released probably by the end of year or early next year. These episodes have been digitally remastered and look great. Personally, I would have loved an upgrade to Blu-ray but this is a good release. There are also some special features included. There is a featurette called “The Cloak and Swagger Affair: The Untold History of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”. There is the original pilot shown in color “Solo”. Lastly there is a bonus feature called “U.N.C.L.E. V.I.P.S: A Celebration of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Guest Stars”, of which there were MANY!.

Episode List:
1. The Vulcan Affair
2. The Iowa-Scuba Affair
3. The Quadripartite Affair
4. The Shark Affair
5. The Deadly Games Affair
6. The Green Opal Affair
7. The Giuoco Piano Affair
8. The Double Affair
9. The Project Strigas Affair
10. The Finny Foot Affair
11. The Neptune Affair
12. The Dove Affair
13. The King of Knaves Affair
14. The Terbuf Affair
15. The Deadly Decoy Affair
16. The Fiddlesticks Affair
17. The Yellow Scarf Affair
18. The Mad, Mad Tea Party Affair
19. The Secret Sceptre Affair
20. The Bow-Wow Affair
21. The Four-Steps Affair
22. The See-Paris-And-Die Affair
23. The Brain-Killer Affair
24. The Hong Kong Shilling Affair
25. The Never-Never Affair
26. The Love Affair
27. The Gazebo in the Maze Affair
28. The Girls of Nazarene Affair
29. The Odd Man Affair

Win Passes to the Kansas City IMAX Premiere of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” [ENDED]

Media Mikes has teamed up with Warner Bros. to give (25) readers and a guest a chance to be among the first in Kansas City to see the new film “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” in IMAX on Thursday, August 6, 2015.

The screening will be held at the AMC Barrywoods 24 theatre and will begain at 7:30 p.m.

All you have to do is go to www.wbtickets.com/MANMM and register.  The first (25) people to do this will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening.  Passes are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis so don’t delay!

SYNOPSIS                           

 Henry Cavill (“Man of Steel”) stars as Napoleon Solo opposite Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”) as Illya Kuryakin in director Guy Ritchie’s action adventure “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” a fresh take on the hugely popular 1960s television series. Set against the backdrop of the early 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” centers on CIA agent Solo and KGB agent Kuryakin.  Forced to put aside longstanding hostilities, the two team up on a joint mission to stop a mysterious international criminal organization, which is bent on destabilizing the fragile balance of power through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology.  The duo’s only lead is the daughter of a vanished German scientist, who is the key to infiltrating the criminal organization, and they must race against time to find him and prevent a worldwide catastrophe.

MPAA RATING:               

 PG-13 for action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity

SOCIAL MEDIA:

 #ManFromUNCLE

“THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.” OPENS NATIONWIDE ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 14.

Book Review “How to Be a Man (and other illusions)” by Duff McKagan

“How to Be a Man (and other illusions)”
Author: Duff McKagan
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

“How to Be a Man” is the follow-up to bassist Duff McKagan’s critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling memoir “It’s So Easy: (and other lies). From his time with Gun’s N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, to getting sober Duff shares the wisdom he learned while on the road to superstardom.

Told through a series of brief chapters all of which carry humorous titles “How to Be a Man (and other illusions)” documents Duff’s past trials and tribulations while on his way up through the various steps of stardom. From getting sober to raising a family no topic is off limits as McKagan speaks candidly about his experiences while passively attempting to teach the reader a thing or two about the sometimes not so glamorous life on the road. Amidst the scattered life lessons Duff shares little know facts about some of the biggest music stars in the industry to which Duff has the privy of calling friends. We learn about Gene Simmons hidden dance skills, Jane’s Addiction front-man Perry Ferrell’s knack for NFL history along with Duff’s accounts of reuniting recently with Axl Rose to perform a number of shows with Guns N’ Roses while the band was in South America.

Though some of the chapters in the book seemed a bit dry and tended to drone on there was still something about this book that pulled me back in page after page. Duff clearly has lived the rock-star life and those were certainly the elements that stood out for me. I understand Duff not wanting to tell the same old stories that were documented in his first book however those types of stories are what I feel capture the reader’s attention more so than the importance of using sun block while in South America. All in all a fun and quick read that fan’s of Duff and his music will surely enjoy.

Lake Bell chats about “Man Up” along with director Ben Palmer and writer Tess Morris at Tribeca Film Festival

Man Up, the hilarious new comedy from director Ben Palmer and writer Tess Morris, made its NY debut at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival with the creators and star Lake Bell in a cheerful mood on the red carpet. They along with producers Nira Park and Rachel Prior spoke with me about working on the film.

The film focuses on the awkward Nancy (Bell) accidentally swiping some else’s blind date, Jack (Simon Pegg) and the wild night they have out in London. True to the spirit of Man Up’s main character Nancy, writer Tess Morris was unabashedly honest about how she felt about the premiere, laughing and saying, “First time I’m going to see it with a paying audience–so I’m really excited and also I feel sick!”

Lauren Damon: How did you come up with some of the phrases and strategies that Nancy throws out in this film? The tactical puke? The blowjob paradox?
Tess Morris: Because they’re all actual things in my life! Actually, The Blowjob Paradox is my friend Austin. I have to credit him. That was his theory that I stole. Never be friends with a writer because they’ll just use everything of yours. Tactical puke? Because I’m the least sporty person in the world. So the idea of me actually having to do a tactical puke is sort of like half the joke. But yeah, I just base a lot of stuff on–I have a notebook with me everywhere I go and I just nick everyone else’s…

LD: Like Nancy carrying a notebook.
Morris: Oh yeah! Yeah, she’s very much myself.

LD: Did you write Jack with Simon Pegg in mind?
Morris: No I didn’t, I actually wrote it on spec, but he came on board it quite early and just changed the whole process for me. Because obviously once he was playing Jack, I could just have even more fun with him. And he brought so much to it, obviously. As did Lake. So yeah, that was a very exciting moment when he agreed to do it.
LD: I appreciated how none of your other female characters are mean, how the other date isn’t grotesque or competitive.
Morris: Oh yeah, like she gets her–I just sort felt like it was really important that she didn’t come across as like some young shallow kind of gal. Like she’s really excited for them because she’s a good soul. And I don’t like mean movies, you know? What’s the point?

LD: Can you name some of your favorite romantic comedies?
Morris: Oh yeah! I love Moonstruck. I think it’s underrated a lot. And I obviously love When Harry Met Sally and I also, most recently, Silver Linings Playbook and Crazy, Stupid, Love and Enough Said actually. I really liked Enough Said a lot. I think there’s been a slight resurgance recently.

 

Producers Nira Park and Rachel Prior had worked with star Simon Pegg throughout his entire “Cornetto Trilogy” with Edgar Wright and even earliar than that on UK sitcom “Spaced.”

LD: Can you speak about your relationship with Simon Pegg since you’ve worked with him dating back to spaced?
Nira Park: Eighteen years, seventeen years…we met on Spaced actually so I’d done something small with Channel 4 with Edgar before Spaced, then Spaced was starting up and Channel 4 actually asked me if I’d just do a couple of days a week initially to just kind of help them get it together. And I remember being really nervous when I met Simon and Jessica [Hynes] and I’m a bit older than them and they said they were terrified of me for the whole of the first series but I was actually quite scared of them! And–cause he’s just so bright and so brilliant and so funny–so yeah, I did a couple of days a week at first and then we all got on so well that kind of within a few weeks they were like ‘will you produce it??’ So okay.

 

LD:How did you get connected to this particular script?
Park: Well this script came about, we were just saying, because Rachel [Prior]–well we were all completely obsessed with Bridesmaids because we premiered Paul at SXSW and Bridesmaids was the surprise screening at midnight after Paul’s screening and it wasn’t finished at that point and actually [producer] James [Biddle] and Rachel weren’t there but I came back to London and was like ‘Oh my god, I’ve seen this film! It’s amazing! I wanna make this film!’ and we were just like ‘Why are there no more female writers in the UK who are writing this kind of thing??’ And then literally a couple of weeks later, this script, no one in the UK really writes on spec in the same way–it’s not the same as in the States–and this script just arrived through the letter box written by Tess and she’d kind of written it for Big Talk in the hope that we’d like it. Because she liked the films, the other films. And it was like everything we’d been hoping for! So at that point, we picked it up and we developed it for like a year and a half, we attached Simon kind of six months into the development.

 

LD:When did Lake come in?
Rachel Prior: When Lake came in it was just as we got to the point where we had a script that we were happy with and we were about to sort of start putting together and actually with BBC films and StudioCanal to actually start going into production. And we saw a couple of trailers for In A World and it was like there’s this–we had knew Lake from “Children’s Hospital” but there was something in In a World where we were like ‘Oh my god, she could play Nancy’ It’s obvious she was great at accents. And then we read an interview with her where she had said she studied drama in the UK for four years so we were like ‘Can she do a British accent?’ And she can.
Park: A brilliant one.
Rachel: Some Brits when we tested the film had no idea that she was American!

 

Lake Bell’s previous film, In a World featured her playing none other than a dialect coach with a great ear for accents.

LD:Was it gratifying going from In A World where the subject matter was doing dialects to this full feature where you’re using your British accent?
Lake Bell: It definitely was. You know accents and dialects are very much an obsession of mine. That is very authentic to In a World. So this was definitely on my actor bucket list of things to do was to play a fully realized British character, so yes. It absolutely satiated a desire to play a British character.

 

LD: How familiar were you with Simon Pegg before you paired up here?
Bell: You know I had known Simon’s work and certainly upon first meeting him I noticed we had a good sort of comedic chemistry and you know was excited to kind of go down this journey with him because I thought ‘Yeah, this if is gonna work.’ Especially with Tess Morris’s words which are so brilliantly…I really do attribute the brilliant repartee to her script.

 

Finally, director Ben Palmer comes from having done the feature film of UK TV teen comedy Inbetweeners.

LD: Your previous feature was The Inbetweeners, with just this manic teenage male energy, how was it switching to having a strong female lead?
Ben Palmer: It’s how I respond to a script, to be honest. And so the Inbetweeners was a really big part of my life and when I got sent Man Up, I almost felt they probably had sent it to the wrong person. Because I never thought that I’d be doing a British romantic comedy. But there was something–within the first couple of pages of reading Tess’s script, there’s something in that dialogue that stuck with me. And in a way, it has sort of that sharpness and that speed and the naturalism, I suppose. Those characters are so well drawn that I was a sucker for it, basically. And there’s and edge and there’s a truthfulness and it’s anarchic in its own way. There’s swears, there’s all that sort of stuff that excites me, I suppose. Although it is a romantic comedy, there is a crossover to the Inbetweeners. And it’s nice just to keep shaking it up and do a different thing.

LD: The film takes place over the course of one night, but has so many locations, what was that shoot like?
Palmer
: I loved that hook, that it happened over sort of 24 hours, in one night really. So within that…the challenge is to try and liven it up and move it around and the fluidity and the speed that they’re hammering through this city. It’s trying to find locations, not the easy locations to shoot in, but to go well ‘this is where this would happen.’ And so with that, when you’re doing a low budget film, there’s problems there. Because you can’t close down whole blocks, so you’ve gotta sort of work around general public in a way. But that’s how you achieve something that feels real and honest.

LD: Bowling features heavily in Nancy and Jack’s date, was there a best bowler on the set?
Ben: (Laughs) Simon. Simon’s a pretty good bowler. I’d say he’d edged it.

Man Up opens in UK cinemas on May 29th, while Saban Entertainment has recently acquired US distribution rights. You can read my review from Tribeca here.

Book Reviews “The World According to Iron Man” and “The World According to Thor”

Hardcover: 64 Pages
Publisher: Insight Editions
Release Date: April 21, 2015

Our Scores: 4 out of 5 stars

The World According to…

When I was younger I loved books that came with their own little hidden treasures, pull out letters or drawings from characters, something tangible from the world of the book. In this respect and more I suspect Insight Editions new “The World According to…” set of Avengers books will be greatly satisfying to the young Marvel fan.

Told from the point of view of one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, The World According to Iron Man (by Larry Hama and Marc Sumerak) and The World According to Thor (Sumarak) are fun introductions to Tony Stark and Thor Odinson, touching on all the aspects of their respective universes from origins, to villains and allies. Both boast bright, engaging illustrations (by Mirco Pierfederici for Iron Man, and Freddie E. Williams II for Thor) that warrant a closer look to catch some fun background action. You can spot Black Widow rebuffing Hawkeye at Stark’s party or, what I’m 98% positive is Disney’s Cinderella castle in the realm of Alfheim from our “Tour with Thor” (synergy, kids!)

When it comes to the Avengers, my personal favorite is Thor so that likely contributed to my enjoying his story slightly more, although perhaps his Asgardian exclamations–By Odin’s stamp collection!–simply jump off the page louder than Stark’s trademark sarcastic banter does. Author Sumerak also cleverly lets Thor give over narration of his tales to fan favorites The Warriors Three and Loki which contribute to filling out his “World” a little more than Stark’s. That said, the nifty special features that Iron Man’s book come with–Stark Industries Business Cards and Stocks, blue prints of the technology–would definitely excite the young reader looking to grasp onto a piece of the Stark empire. Perfect for the young fan who’s perhaps not exactly ready to square off with Ultron on the big screen.

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Man Up”

Director: Ben Palmer
Starring: Lake Bell, Simon Pegg, Rory Kinnear, Olivia Williams
Runtime: 80 minutes
Big Talk Productions, StudioCanal

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Have you ever been watching a romantic comedy and right as your arguing couple is about to explain What’s Going On(?!) they just…don’t? For some reason explaining a simple misunderstanding like adults just doesn’t happen? Ever wish those lovers would man up, quit moping around and keep the movie going already? Blissfully Ben Palmer’s refreshing Man Up does just that. It takes what could have been a very contrived setup and spins it into a fantastically wild night out in London with stars Lake Bell and Simon Pegg.

Socially awkward Nancy (Bell) is on a train to her parents’ 40th Anniversary party looking a bit worse for wear after a failed arranged date the previous night. Lonely and tired, she’s confronted by the perky Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond, the expolsive Carina of Guardians of the Galaxy) who foists a fad self help book onto Nancy. As it turns out the book was meant to signal Jessica’s blind date Jack (Pegg) at their Waterloo Station meeting point but before she can replace her copy, he spots Nancy instead. In the spirit of Nancy taking more chances and in the face of the Simon Pegg Charm Offensivetm, she decides to go ahead and be “Jessica” for the evening. It’s quite the setup but Nancy and Jack’s immediate chemistry had me rooting for them despite the inevitable truth coming out. Through a contagiously fun night of drinking and bowling it becomes apparent that the older Nancy was really more suited to the just-divorced Jack than 24-year-old Jessica.

There’s a wonderful balance in Palmer’s film between over the top humor and raw emotional moments from these two damaged lovebirds and Bell and Pegg are more than capable of selling both extremes. A skill that’s cleverly emphasized by Palmer giving Jack an emotional breakdown during a cheesy club dance. When the not-Jessica reveal finally comes to the forefront, sure they leads handle it for the bizarre decision that it was but they really sort of barrel through it to present a united front against Jack’s exe appearing (Olivia Williams) in the midst of it all. Bigger fish to fry and all that. In this instance and more Palmer, working from a script by Tess Morris, keeps the pace speedy throughout and offers some written gems like “the tactical puke” that had the audience cracking up.

Compliments too must be paid to Morris for avoiding writing in any shrewish females–not the exes, Nancy’s family, even that spunky Jessica, not an evil caricature among them. I wish I didn’t have to put a special shoutout in this regard but the rarity of women helping other women in romcoms, especially where love triangles are concerned, is usually a major drawback of the genre. And if Man Up culminates in a Grand Romantic Gesture as the genre also demands then it damn well did everything else right to earn it.

Man Up premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 19th 2015 and has additional screenings through the festival’s end on April 26th.

Book Review “The Avengers Storybook Collection”

Age Range: 6 – 8 years
Grade Level: 1 – 3
Series: Storybook Collection
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Marvel Press
Release Date: March 31, 2015

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

I wish I had a book like this when I was a kid. “The Avengers Storybook Collection” is a must have for any parent with young boys or even young fan girls for that matter! There is nothing like getting ready a story filled with heroism, adventure and action just before going to slip. These stories are fun, exciting and feature some of our favorite Marvel superheroes. Even though, my daughter is a little young for this one, she still loves it and already came name every character on the cover!

Official Premise: Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Falcon are Earth’s Mightiest Marvels-the Avengers! Join them as they work together to battle against sinister Super Villains such as Ultron, Thanos, the Masters of Evil,and more, to keep the Earth safe. Featuring 20 explosive stories of good vs. evil. Avengers assemble!

Let’s hope that this Storybook Collection is the first of many. There are literally an infinite collection of characters that they can include in future collections. This one has 20 stories included with all of the favorites like Iron Man and Captain America but I would love to be able to introduce my daughter to some of the lesser known characters as well. They could even do a female superhero only book OOHHHH OOHHHH or even better a villains only book. Who wouldn’t want to read a new story featuring everyone’s favorite Avenger villain, Loki! Fingers crossed!

Film Review “Deli Man”

Starring: Ziggy Gruber, Larry King, Jerry Stiller
Directed By: Eric Greenberg Anjou
Running Time: 91 mins
Cohen Media Group

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Viewers would be advised to eat and eat well before attending a screening of Erik Greenberg Anjou’s charming, if a bit long, documentary Deli Man. With copious shots of deli menu staples, if they take nothing else from the film, it will likely be a craving or two. Fortunately there is more to like in the doc than just the matzo ball soup.

Deli Man follows the cultural and economic origins of this Jewish food institution at time when they’re fading out in America. More importantly it follows the quirky characters behind and in front of the counter who are around to make sure it doesn’t despite all obstacles. Anjou’s assembled a broad range of deli aficionados of authors and celebrities including Jerry Stiller and Larry King (the newsman hilariously credited instead as a “Deli Maven”) who gleefully extol the virtues of the perfect corn beef sandwich while peppering in plenty of Yiddish—don’t worry if you’re not of the Jewish persuasion Anjou helpfully has plenty of lower third definitions to keep you up to speed.

More specifically the doc follows one Ziggy Gruber, the affable owner of Kenny & Ziggy’s New York Delicatessen in Houston Texas. Gruber, himself a Cordon Bleu trained chef, opted to forego high class restaurants in order to uphold the traditional foods of his grandparents. He’s a fun character to be around and his passion for the food and his heritage is contagious. In a touching sequence he returns to the church where his grandparents were married. Gruber is also surrounded by plenty of loving enablers who, while not in the deli business themselves, respect its importance to Ziggy.

The history side of Deli Man is extensive and interesting (those crazy 1900s kids craved more spices than their elders!) though sharing the screen with Gruber leads to the film to feel divided in focus, making the runtime seem longer than it is. Still, the film is extremely likeable and like the delis themselves, sustained by the impassioned characters in front of the counter.

Deli Man begins its limited run on February 27th and expands further on March 6th, for a complete list of cities visit the film’s website.

Book Review “I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy from Anthrax”

“I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy from Anthrax”
Author: Scott Ian w/ Jon Wiederhorn
Hardcover: 316 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Just another Jewish latchkey kid living in a cramped apartment in Queens with his mother and brother. After hearing “Rock and Roll All Nite” and seeing Kiss perform at Madison Square Garden in the late seventies the fire was lit. Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian’s “I’m the Man” recounts the trials and tribulations of being in a band that was at the fore front of the early 80’s thrash scene. “I’m the Man” is much more than a collection of road stories as Ian delves deep in to his personal experience with love, life and all things Dimebag Darrell.

Lately it seems harder and harder to sift through the endless tell all biographies that are being released from all sorts of celebrity and public figures. Usually you spend countless chapters sifting through stories that have no real rhythm or reason other than just to fill pages. I won’t say that there isn’t a little of that with this book however in the end all of the stories Ian shares intersect.

Ian even recounts the events which led up to Lars Ulrich almost being fired from Metallica. Over the books 316 pages Ian is candid and unabashed with his experiences making this book a solid read. The book includes a forward by Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, 32 pages of rare photos and a 16 page graphic novella which alone is worth the price of admission. For newer fans and for those who have followed Scott “Not” Ian from the early days this book is for you.