Product Review “Cloud V Phantom Dry Herb Vaporizer”

I have tested out many different Vaporizers over the last year and I haven’t really been 100% satisfied….that is until I found the Cloud V Phantom Premium Herbal Vaporizer. The Cloud V Phantom is easily the best and easiest product that I have used to date. It features an optimized heating chamber and really sleek thin durable design. I simply love the look of it. Ease of use is also what you are looking for with a vaporizer and this one is as easy as they can.

The Cloud V Phantom has three heating temperature settings. All you have to do is load your product, press it three times to turn it on and get it started and then up the temperature that you enjoy. It delivered a smooth even hit every time. The battery also lasted a decent time and did not require constant charging. The cleaning of the product was also very easy and make no mess.

When you are looking for a vaporizer, you also need to be concerned with the output smell. Even though with using a vaporizer, you don’t get the same intensity of smell, so of them do not handle the smell well. This device did a great job of heating up without combustion. It also has a very handy auto shutoff time. If you are looking for a perfect introduction to vaping, I would highly recommend this product.

Blu-ray Review “The Phantom of the Opera (1989)”

Actors: Robert Englund, Jill Schoelen, Bill Nighy
Directors: Dwight H. Little
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Shout! Factory
Release Date: February 17, 2015
Run Time: 93 minutes

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

There is definitely no shortage of theatrical version of “The Phantom the Opera” but this 1989 adaptation starred Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund. This Gothic horror tale is a cool play on this story and features some great make up by Kevin Yagher (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Face/Off). The film also star Bill Nighy (“Pirates of the Caribbean” series, “Underworld” series), Alex Hyde-White (“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”), Terence Harvey (“From Hell”) and Molly Shannon (“SNL”), directed by Dwight H. Little (“Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers”. Besides the terrible tagline on the cover, this is a highlight for any horror fan.

Official Premise: An aspiring opera singer finds herself transported back to Victorian-era London – and into the arms of a reclusive, disfigured maestro determined to make her a star. The silver-throated Christine (Jill Schoelen, The Stepfather) enjoys success through the arrangements of her new lover (Englund)… until she realizes that he has been committing unspeakably grisly murders in her honor and won’t stop until he’s completed his masterpiece… in blood!

The 1080p transfer is solid on this release. It works for the black and red color use in the film and there is no shortage of red 😉 The same goes for DTS-HD Master Audio track which sounds great with the music. The special features include “Behind The Mask: The Making of The Phantom Of The Opera”, which includes all-new interviews with Director Dwight H. Little, actors Robert Englund, Jill Schoelen, and Alex Hyde-White, Screenwriter Duke Sandefur, Special Make-Up Designer Kevin Yagher, Special Make-Up Effects Artists John Carl Buechler, Everett Burrell and John Vulich, and Composer Misha Segal. There is also an audio commentary with Director Dwight H. Little and actor Robert Englund and a original theatrical trailer included.

Gerrit Graham talks about roles in “Phantom of the Paradise” and “Used Cars”

New York born, Gerrit Graham grew up in the Midwest and began his acting career at the age of eight in a stage production of “Winnie the Pooh.” He was the manager of the Columbia Players at Columbia University and it was while he attended school that he began his association with filmmaker Brian De Palma.

Among his best known roles are Beef in “Phantom of the Paradise” (recently released on Blu-ray), the overly superstitious Jeff in the classic comedy “Used Cars” and Franklin on the animated hit “The Critic.”

As he prepared for his recent appearance at this years Chiller Theater Expo Mr. Graham took some time out to answer some questions about his long and continuing career.

Mike Smith: You began your film career by appearing in three early Brian De Palma films. How did that relationship come about?
Gerrit Graham: I was a sophomore at Columbia University in NY, and was the head of the Columbia players, the college theatre company. One day I got a phone call from a guy who said that he had been the former head when he was there, and he was trying to make a film and he was hoping that the players could give him some help for rehearsal space, wardrobe, etc. He also mentioned that he was looking for two or three experienced actors, preferably in comedy. He had hoped to find someone in the Fine Arts Department. He gave me an address and said to send any interested actors to see him. I asked his name and he said “Mr. Brian De Palma”. Instead of sharing the address, I went down myself to see him. I spent the next three or four afternoons in the producer’s apartment, his name was Chuck Hirsch. I met with a variety of actors and eventually got the role, which was for the film “Greetings,” De Palma’s first feature film. It got a real release and ended up being a hit. A year later I got a call from Brian saying that he was making a sequel to “Greetings,” which was “Home Movies.” He offered me a role, which I of course accepted. We continued working together for many years because we trusted each other.

MS: How did you come to be cast as Beef in “Phantom of the Paradise?” My understanding is that you were originally slated to play Winslow?
GG: No, I was originally hired to play Swan. Then Paul Williams, who would become an Oscar winner and at the time was a very popular songwriter in LA had a agreed to play the Phantom in exchange for doing the music score. Paul then decided that he didn’t want to play the Phantom and instead wanted to play the villain. This meant that William Finley, a good friend of Brian De Palma’s, could play the Phantom, which was written by Brian for Finley. This meant I couldn’t play Swan anymore and Brian said he had another role; a character called “Capt. Beef”. I asked Brian what this character was like, and he said “a rock and roll star”. So that sounded like a lot of fun to me. A Sha-Na-Na type character was something that sounded like fun to me. It turned out that was not what he wanted. He flew me out from NY to meet with Paul Williams and the two of them kept making this Beef character seem more like Little Richard. “What do you want,” I said? They said “flamboyant”, which at the time in Hollywood meant “gay”. So I did a few lines in the Beef accent and lisp, and they loved it, burst into laughter and said, “that’s it!” That’s how the character was born.

MS: Are you as superstitious as Jeff, your character in “Used Cars?”
GG: No. I have a few superstitions that I do, like not walking under ladders, but that’s just common sense because you don’t want anything to fall on your head from the ladder.

MS: I’ve read that you actually did shoot the cars during the television commercial. Is that true? What kind of precautions did you have to take? (NOTE: In the film, Mr. Graham’s character films a car dealer commercial in which he takes a shotgun to the high prices posted on the windshields. The scene ends when he exclaims “Is this a 1974 Mercedes 450SL for $24,000? That’s too fucking high!” He then pushes a plunger and blows the car to pieces.)
GG: I did the shooting with blanks in the shot gun, then they brought in a stunt double who was a trained guns man. He did the scene shooting real shells at the car. I was standing there watching him, and all the other scenes were me.

MS: When’s the last time you were in a red car?
GG: I actually had a red car when I was about 22 years old. I had a red Saab Station Wagon. It was a good car! Since then I may have rented a red car or two, but nothing bad has ever happened.

MS: You’ve done both comedy and drama. Do you have a preference?
GG: No, not really. They are two different arrows in my quiver. Each are enjoyable in their own ways and have their own rewards. It just happens that I’ve done more comedy, but that wasn’t by choice. It just happened!

MS: Same question, film versus television. Preference?
GG: TV is just another arrow in my quiver as well. It depends on what kind of TV show it is. A half hour comedy or an hour long drama are a bit different. An hour long TV show is more like a film, because you shoot out of sequence. A half hour TV show is nice because you shoot in sequence from beginning to end. Other than the fact that they spend a lot more money making a film than a TV show, the work is pretty much the same. The end result is just a question of how good it turned out.

MS: You have a couple of Disney writing credits. How did that come about?
GG: I had a writing partner, and we just decided to try to write stuff to see if we could sell anything. I had made films with a producer named Phil DeGuere. He had done a number of shows, including the new “Twilight Zone” series. My partner and I pitched Phil stuff that we wrote, and we ended up writing three episodes of “The Twilight Zone.” At that point, my brother had joined as a third writer, and we continued to write. I honestly can’t remember how we got connected to Disney. We contributed extra material to “The Little Mermaid” and some other Disney films. We also wrote “Prince and the Pauper,” which was Mickey Mouse’s first feature in a great number of years.

MS: You’ve done a lot of animated voice work. Is that type of performing easier or harder than actually being on screen?
GG: It’s easier, because you don’t have to shave! There’s no make up, and you can do endless takes if necessary, without cutting, stopping, or changing scenery or wardrobe. My best known animated work is played Franklin on “The Critic.” That was a lot of fun! I got to work with a lot of really funny people and some microphones. We struggled with trying to keep each other from cracking up during recordings.

MS: What are you working on next?
GG: I’m working on finding work! Preferably, voice over work.

Blu-ray Review “Phantom of the Paradise”

Starring: Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, George Memmoli, Robin Mattson
Director: Brian De Palma
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Shout! Factory
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Run Time: 92 minutes

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

When I first discovered “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in the early 90’s, I set out to find what else was like that film. In my searching I came across the 1974 cult classic “Phantom of the Paradise”, which is Brian de Palma’s take on “The Phantom of the Opera” mashed-up with “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “Faust”. All of the film’s songs were written and performed by legendary singer/songwriter Paul Williams. The music is always such a blast to review for this film. I got for years without hearing and I can pick it up and continue like I last here it yesterday. Finally, this horror/thriller classic is getting a great treatment on Blu-ray thanks to Shout Factory!

Official Premise: Brian De Palma’s glam rock version of the famous Phantom of the Opera story stars singer-songwriter Paul Williams as Swan, a music business tycoon who steals the work of talented composer Winslow Leach (Finley), along with his girlfriend Phoenix (Harper). Leach plans to get revenge, but his plans soon go horribly wrong and he ends up with a terrible facial disfigurement. Assuming a mask to hide his injuries and his identity, Leach’s next move is to sign a pact with a Swan to write a rock opera version of ‘Faust’.

“Phantom of the Paradise” looks stunning on Blu-ray for film that is literally 40 years old. This film has received several European Blu-ray releases in the past and this one is definitely the best one of the bunch. Shout! has delivered a solid 1080p transfer that is deserving of this epic film. They also includes two audio tracks inclduing a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and also 2.0 track. The music really benefits from the 5.1 track and honestly is a no contest when compared to the 2.0 track.

Shout! Factory is releasing this Collector’s Edition as a combo pack with Blu-ray and DVD. They really have given this release the works and added tons of great special features on both disks. “Brian De Palma Backstage at the Paradise” is a great brand new interview with the director reflecting on the film. “Paul Williams Soul Inspiration” is another great brand new interview with the man behind the film’s music. “Behind the Mask with Tom Burman” is yet another brand new interview with the film’s special effects supervisor on the Phantom.

There is a solid brand new audio commentary with Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham and the Juicy Fruits (consisting of Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor and Harold Oblong aka Peter Eibling). This is a quite entertaining trip down memory lane for the group. There is also another brand new audio commentary with Production Designer Jack Fisk. It is a bit more technical and not as exciting but still a nice addition. There is an interesting look at 11 alternate takes and are shown in split screen with the final version. Lastly there is a stills gallery includes as well as outtake footage from “Swan Song” and the story behind it from the film.

Normally, I would have been happy with just those extras but Shout! decided to go ahead and include a another slew of special features on the DVD as well. There is an awesome documentary called “Paradise Regained” with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. There is an awesome interview with Paul Williams that is moderated by Guillermo del Toro. There is a 2004 interview with Costume Designer Rosanna Norton. An Interview with Producer Edward R. Pressman and another with Drummer Gary Malaber. “Alvin’s Art and Technique: A Look at the Neon Poster” is a cool piece on poster designer John Alvin. Lastly is “Phantom of the Paradise Biography by Gerrit Graham”, “William Finley and Toy” & some promotional materials.

Blu-ray Review “Phantom”

Actors: Ed Harris, David Duchovny, William Fichtner
Directors: Todd Robinson
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Run Time: 98 minutes

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

Who doesn’t love a good submarine thriller? It has been a while since we had a great one, possibly “U-571”.  “Phantom” is not perfect but it does star four-time Academy Award nominee Ed Harris and Golden Globe winner David Duchovny and they are great together. I am surprised that this film didn’t get more exposure based on the cast alone. It was also shot on an actual decommissioned Soviet submarine, which gets some points for authenticity from me. It may not rank up there with “Das Boot” or “The Hunt for Red October” but it does deliver some decent underwater war action and is worth at least a rental for sure. Also another recent good sub project is the short-lived TV series “Last Resort”, which was just released on DVD.

Official Premise: At the height of the cold war, the world holds its breath when a Soviet submarine armed with nuclear missiles goes missing in the Pacific. On board the vessel, the battle-tested captain (Harris) and a rogue KGB agent (Duchovny) are waging a life-and-death game of cat and mouse. With enemy forces closing in and time running out, the captain fights to keep control with nuclear armageddon hanging in the balance.

20th Century Fox has been have a new trend with their combo pack including a Blu-ray and UltraViolet HD digital copy. The film is low budget but has a strong 1080p transfer presentation. It looks sharp, especially with the dark scenes and captures the isolation of being in the sub. The film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 also delivers the tension and action quite well. I also dug the score quite a bit.  The special features are decent like the film itself. Starting with an audio commentary track with writer/director Todd Robinson and Ed Harris, not terribly over exciting but informative. “Facing the Apocalypse: Making Phantom” is a pretty decent behind-the-scenes look at the production. “The Real Phantom” features the director and historian Kenneth Sewell giving background on the story of the real K-129. “Jeff Rona: Scoring Phantom” is a featurette on the film’s score. Lastly there is music video for the song “An Ocean Away”.

Blu-ray Review “The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall”

Directed by: Nick Morris
Actors: Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess, Hadley Fraser, Wendy Ferguson, Barry James
MPAA Rating Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Distributed by: Universal Studios
Run Time: 160 minutes

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

“The Phantom of the Opera” is the currently longest running show on New York’s Broadway. It is also currently has production playing London, Budapest and Las Vegas.  In October 2011, the show marked its 25th anniversary and took stage on the legendary Royal Albert Hall in London. I have seen the stage production of this show many times and this Blu-ray presentation is such an amazing representation of the show. This show features composer Andrew Lloyd Webber at the helm and really shows the wonderful scale of the stage production. Honestly if you have never seen this show, this is an amazing way to enjoy this whether it is your first time or your 10th time.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score on Blu-ray is so stunning boasting a fantastic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. Match that with an amazing HD presentation and this is one attractive Blu-ray. The video really captures the beauty and color in this show and really brings it to life in your living room. In the bonus features category, there is only one feature but it is worth watching to take a look into the shows production. “Getting Past the Point of No Return” is a very in depth behind the scenes featurette with the cast and crew.

The 25th anniversary production of this show not only looks beautiful but also includes an amazing cast and orchestra of over 200 and also features some very cool guest appearances like “Phantom” originals, Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. Taking on the role of the Phantom is Ramini Karimloo and the role of Christine is portrayed by Sierra Boggess, both who are know for their roles in “Love Never Dies” (the sequel to “Phantom of the Opera”). They both do such an amazing job and really bright their own unique specialties to the characters. Speaking of the sequel if you enjoy this Blu-ray do not forget to also check out “Love Never Dies”, which will be released on Blu-ray as well on May 29, 2012.

“Detective Dee and The Mystery of The Phantom Flame” Blu-ray Giveaway [ENDED]

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

To celebrate release of “Detective Dee and The Mystery of The Phantom Flame”, Media Mikes would like to giveaway THREE copies of the film on Blu-ray. If you would win one of these great prizes, please leave us a comment below or send us an email and let us know your favorite detective film. This giveaway will be open until Monday December 19th at Noon, Eastern Time and is only open to residents of the United States. Only one entry per person, per household; all other entries will be considered invalid. Once the giveaway ends, Movie Mikes will randomly pick out winners and alert the winners via email.

A period epic from genre master Tsui Hark (Seven Swords), DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, is an action-packed, visually breathtaking Sherlock Holmes-style mystery starring some of China’s top acting talent: Andy Lau, Bingbing Li, Carina Lau, and Tony Leung Ka-fai. Nominated for Best Special Effects at the 2011 Asian Film Awards and stunningly choreographed by master Sammo Hung, this intricately plotted whodunit is set in an exquisitely realized steampunk version of ancient China.

On the eve of her coronation as Empress (Carina Lau, 2046), China’s most powerful woman is haunted by a chilling murder mystery: seven men under her command have burst into flames, leaving behind only black ash and skeletal bones. Recognizing this threat to her power, she turns to the infamous Dee Renjie (Andy Lau, Infernal Affairs, House Of Flying Daggers): a man whose unparalleled wisdom is matched only by his martial arts skills. As he battles a series of bizarre dangers, he unveils a chilling truth that places his life, and the future of an entire dynasty, in peril.

BONUS FEATURES:

  • “The Making of Detective Dee
  • “Creating the Characters”
  • “Weapons, Stunts and Action”
  • “The World of Dee”
  • Production Stills Gallery
  • Behind-the-Scenes Stills Gallery
  • Poster Gallery
  • English-Language Dub
  • English Subtitles

Blu-ray Review “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame”

Directed by: Tsui Hark
Starring: Andy Lau, Carina Lau, Li Bingbing, Tony Leung Ka-fai, Deng Chao
Distributed by: Vivendi Entertainment
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 122 minutes

Overall Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Right off the bat when you see the names Tsui Hark and Andy Lau together it is a guaranteed success. Tsui Hark is known for such greats as the “Once Upon a Time in China” series and “A Better Tomorrow” series. Andy Lau is amazing as usual and definitely adds great comedy to this film and also kick some serious ass in the fight scenes. The tagline on the box really says it all and I really can’t top it…”it’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets Sherlock Holmes”. That is a perfect description of this film. It has a little for everyone…it has a funny yet serious story, great choreography in the fight scenes and just visually stunning.

The story takes place in the year AD 690 just prior to the coronation of Empress Wu Zetian (Carina Lau). There are a bunch of mystery murders where men have burst into flames with no explanation. In order to avoid a delay in her coronation, she calls in Detective Dee (Andy Lau) to solve the case. He dives into the issue and uses his Sherlock Holmes-technique to get to the bottom of this mystery…and also does some kick-ass martial arts along the way.

The Blu-ray presentation is simply amazing. The video looks fantastic and only adds to the stunning visuals in the film. The sound is very crisp and the add a lot of the fights scenes. The special features on the film are great. “The Making of Detective Dee” is split into four parts focusing on the shooting and interviews from the cast/crew. “Creating the Characters” and “The World of Dee” are great features which goes into the character development. I think that Detective Dee is a great character and would love to see him in future installments. “Weapons, Stunts and Action” is also great and showcases the “wow” factor of the film. Lastly there is galleries from the production stills, posters and behind-the-scenes.

Darth Maul Returns for “Star Wars: Clone Wars” and First Poster for “Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace in 3D”

Darth Maul returns to the Star Wars Saga this spring!

Darth Maul, the sinister Sith Lord who amped up the dark side in 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, returns to the Saga this spring in Star Wars: The Clone Wars!

Revered by fans for his striking red and black tattooed-face, graceful but lethal fighting style, and signature double-bladed lightsaber, Maul was believed killed by Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi at the end of Episode I. In the Star Wars universe, however, one must never underestimate the power of the dark side!

“The decision to continue Darth Maul’s story was something that came directly from George,” says Dave Filoni, Supervising Director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. “We all agreed that his return needed to be unique, unexpected and revenge filled. We don’t know what his outcome will be, and as a fan – that’s exciting.”

While fans await Darth Maul’s return to The Clone Wars, they’ll soon be able to experience the excitement of his original introduction to the Star Wars Saga when Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace is released in theaters on February 10, 2012 in spectacular 3D!

The trailer for Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace in 3D will be attached to The Three Musketeers on October 21st and on select films throughout the holidays.

DVD Review “The Phantom of Hollywood”

Directed by: Gene Levitt
Starring: Jack Cassidy, Skye Aubrey, Peter Lawford
Distributed by: Warner Bros Archive
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running time: 74 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

I have always been drawn to creature film genre, especially in the 60’s and 70’s. This film is a Hollywood take on “Phantom of the Opera” but no so much on the horror end. A cool notable fact about this is that it was being filmed as they were demolishing the actual MGM back lot, so it was one of the last films shot on it. It is not the best of the creature films but the effects are good for its time and the story is fast paced.

The story takes place on the set of Worldwide Studios as it is being planned to be torn down. In the middle of all this murders are taking place on the back lot by a disfigured actor who will stop at nothing to cease the sale of the back lot to developers.

This made for TV film was never before released on DVD and was finally released by Warner Bros Archive Collection. It is a good transfer but is only released in full screen. The disc unfortunately has no special features either. If you are fan of Jack Cassidy and Skye Aubrey then you must check out this film as it finally make its onto DVD.