Film Review “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”

Directed by: Joachim Rønning, Espen Sandberg
Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Geoffrey Rush
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Release date: May 26, 2017
Running time: 129 minutes

Mike G’s Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Yo-ho, Yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me! Honestly, I expect very little from this latest (and claimed final…yeah, right!) adventure in the series. But “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is a fun ride. I have been a fan of each of the films in this franchise. They are not perfect by any standards but they are entertaining for sure. Even though everyone loves Captain Jake Sparrow, my favorite part of these films have been the baddies…and in this film Captain Salazar steals the show. I would honestly recommend seeing this film just to watch Javier Bardem’s performance. He is an amazing bad guy. Everything from his flowing hair to his weezing as he speaks is just amazing! Even though claim as a the final adventures, this franchise still has steam left in it and I am on board for sure!

Official Premise: Thrust into an all-new adventure, a down-on-his-luck Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) feels the winds of ill-fortune blowing even more strongly when deadly ghost sailors led by his old nemesis, the evil Capt. Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle. Jack’s only hope of survival lies in seeking out the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it, he must forge an uneasy alliance with a brilliant and beautiful astronomer and a headstrong young man in the British navy.

I’ve read some reviews saying that “Dead Men Tell No Tales” tries to tell too much story and no character but I loved the back story that Salazar provides to the franchise and how it ties in with Jack Sparrow’s origin. The worst part of the film is no question the inclusion of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley’s characters. There combined five seconds on screen is surely laughable and worth nothing. Johnny Depp seemed a little tired in the role and just rolling with the punches but people love Jack Sparrow and he delivers some great laughs. There is even a nice little cameo from The Beatles’ Paul McCartney as Sparrow’s Uncle.

The visual effects are solid in this fifth entry. The zombie sharks were a bit of a let down and wasn’t the spectacle that I was hoping for, visually cool but they really didn’t do much. Co-director’s Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg took the film in a good direction and I enjoyed their spin on this franchise. I am curious to see where this franchise goes next after this film (which is sure to make another billion dollars for Disney). I just hope that they don’t pick up with the same old Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner love story again, been there done that. This is definitely a solid kick off though for this Summer and makes this film the first popcorn flick to catch. So grab some snacks, sit down and enjoy the ride!

Black Sails’s Ray Stevenson on Playing Blackbeard

When Starz’s Emmy-winning series “Black Sails” returns for its third season, the usual inhabitants of Nassau are set to be joined by the iconic pirate Black Beard. Black Beard (real name Edward Teach) cut an striking figure on the seas of the 17th and 18th century, often relying on theatrically in his attacks to further intimidate his enemies. Many of his flourishes were the basis for the way piracy was portrayed in pop culture thereafter. At 6’4″, Irish actor Ray Stevenson (HBO’s “Rome”, Punisher: War Zone, the Thor films) can certainly fill the shoes of that scary scallywag on screen while being completely affable and a joy to chat with when he sat down with me at this year’s New York Comic Con.

Lauren Damon: I’m a huge Marvel nerd, so of course I’ve seen you as Volstagg [In the Thor movies]–
Ray Stevenson:You saw a lot of me! [laughs]
So I was wondering going from that to Black Beard, have you nailed down the ‘beard acting’ between these characters?

Stevenson: Well you know it’s more about beard preparation. That you just sort of you know like abandon hope as you go into the makeup room. Just like say ‘alright…‘ Yeah ’cause it was about the same time. Cause again, that magnificent Volstagg beard was like this one, was individual pieces. And it’s almost like strand by strand it’s laid on. But the horrible thing is that you’re up at four in the morning, and you get in there about half past four or something and it’s still dark. And it’s just your body’s screaming that nobody should be up at this time. You should be going home. And you lie down and the first thing they do–you’re obviously clean-shaved–so you’re shaved. And then they slap glue on your face. They basically paint your whole face with tacky tacky glue and it just…never feels good. You never get used to that. And then it’s this sticky sticky stabby process.

But I am–I wasn’t freaked out by it. I was kind of used to it. Yeah so as far as ‘beard acting’ is concerned, yeah. The only thing I did this time was that it was my mustache. Which was fine when you’re shooting and then when you’re not shooting, walking around with this massive sort of handlebar mustache which I’ll never do again [laughs] because it was neither one nor the other. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t the character. So it was fine when we were shooting. So this time they’ll have to provide that as well. I tried it.

Playing one of the most notorious pirates of all time, what steps did you take to make it unique and what steps did you take to research so you’re true to the character?

Stevenson: There’s a lot of research available, a lot of material on the character itself. Which is a double-edged sword as well because like all these things, history is a thing that is written by the victors…It’s like the American cowboys, that whole civilization of ‘the Wild West’ and all this that was sent back east to titillate over and get excited about and stuff like this. So there’s a lot of that going on at that period. They were writing about you know, “Ye Olde Pirates” and cutthroats and all this. So in amongst that, there’s a thread that you can glean.

And obviously there was some serious historians trying to put this stuff together. There comes a point where, with everything, you have to push all that sort of general knowledge aside sort of thing and concentrate on the script. Because ultimately you’re playing the script. And what you could bring to it was there was–and what’s beautifully portrayed I think in the series–is it’s much more about the man. The myth and the legend has already been established. So he’s coming in as ‘Blackbeard’…This is not about him establishing his legend.

He’s…it’s like if you have Keith Richards walk in a bar, and there’s guys there and they go like ‘He used to play the guitar…’ You know what I mean? It’s like he walks in and there’s guy in the tavern going [hushed voice] ‘He used to be a pirate, you know what I mean?‘ It’s just, he has that effect. He has that charisma. You wouldn’t actually lock eyes with him. He just carries that with him. And carries from, not out of bluster I think, because that’s it. He’s earned it.

And so you’ve got a guy who’s–you’re trying to play somebody who has got that presence and that charisma. It’s like unleashing a kraken, he just turns up. If he looks at you, you sort of…it puts you straight on edge. You go ‘well, why is he lookin’ at me? Am I glad he’s looking at me? Or am I not?’ I mean…so a lot of it is done in subtleties and in the writing. And then when he engages with the likes of Rackham and Vane and what have you, he knows what he’s bringing with him as well. And also he’s got quite a bit to say.

So the research and all this is great to a point, but obviously you have to avoid the fact that he was from Bristol. And so that heavy Bristolian accent unfortunately is the big cod accent that most people they think about when they think ‘pirates’. That sort of you know ‘ARRR‘ and all this sort of stuff. Whereas the Bristolian accent is wonderful and rich, BUT it would lend itself towards you know perhaps that sort of assumption of you know, getting a little too cod piratey. But that’s not what it was about. But it was the essence of the man from Bristol, who was actually a tremendous strategist and seaman and captain. And knew all about the power of display. And that’s why he would dress the way he did. He was 6’3″-6’4″. In the 1720s, that man was a colossus, he was a giant. So he basically knew about the theatre of putting that effect on so that the other ships they were after would just hopefully capitulate. Because there was no loss of life and they’d get all the booty and everybody’s happy, there’s no bloodshed, he didn’t lose any crew members living off the legend. And maintaining his prowess. It’s a strange thing to try to make that balance but ultimately you’re playing you know, you’re serving the piece. You’re playing the drama itself.

Between this and “Rome”, Thor and other roles, you have all this weapons training. At this point do you have a preference? Do you feel more comfortable with one or…

Stevenson: [Laughs] The one’s that win! No, because they all–it’s amazing working with the weapons guys. Like on Punisher[:War zone] we worked with the Marines and also with some Force Recon guys and they were just…I mean I wanted to make sure we didn’t have those, you know the old Hollywood guns that never ran out of bullets. So I mean–and GI Joe as well–there were mag reloads and all sorts of stuff. You want to do it enough times so that it becomes automatic. Because sometimes, like with Punisher especially, a lot of the people that watch it, maybe they’re going to be the army guys. Who are training and training and training and they’re going to see something like, even your hand position on your weapon, the use of the weapons, the reload, and they’re gonna say ‘Do you know what, that’s we’ve been doing…‘…So they’re not thinking like ‘Ehh he knows nothing.‘ That sort of authenticity.

The weapons training obviously with things like [The Three] Musketeers, thigh-killing training. Because it’s a certain type of sword fighting. Which anybody who goes to the gym I think they dread, ‘And now, lunges!’ Well that’s what it all is. But it’s lunges with intent. I think when you’re working with weaponry, I work harder than when I ever work at a gym. Because it’s fun. And you’re basically working on a choreographed dance as well. So you’re doing all this extra work. At the end of the day, you’re just shaking like jelly. I never– I’m never at the gym like that. But because you’re rendering your hand and you’re learning these set pieces and moves…I mean ultimately the person is the weapon. That’s what you learn throughout all the weapons training, no matter what period it is, the real weapon is the person behind it. And you know, if you get that right, then how you handle the weapons is just second-nature.

How is the dynamic between Blackbeard and the other alpha male characters–Vane and Flint–but also if you go deeper than that with some of the other characters?

Stevenson: Well he does because coming back to Nassau, after such a protracted period away, he’s got his own reasons for coming back in. I think it’s a lot to do with the lack of a son and an heir apparent. Even after eight marriages, eight wives, there’s no son. And the closest thing he has to any of that would be this pirate captain who he mentored, which is Charles Vane. And to see if there is–is there anything left? Is there any relationship? Because in this period in history–because there were nothing like the numbers of people we have on the planet now and a man’s standing and his status and his legend that he leaves behind was the most important thing. If you lost status in life, pffft! That was it. You may as well throw yourself off the top of your rock. So to see if there was any spark of something that you know, could be reignited.

But what happens when he arrives back in Nassau, he sees that–and this is what he says to Rackham and Vane–he looks around and he says ‘I see what you’ve done, you’ve basically done the worst thing ever, you’ve made it prosperous You’ve turned them soft, there’s no pirates around’ Because they’ve all got their money…He basically comes back and holds them right up and says ‘What?!’ And of course, because it’s him, this sets in motion a sort of–it’s a real dressing down. And we’ll see the dynamic as to whether or not–because this is very much a kind of father-son relationship, or you know heir apparent with Vane, and how that plays out. And that’s what I love about…couched in all this world of ships and the huge set pieces and the galleys and a the fights and the battles, and all this sort of stuff, there is this real human condition of father-son, mentor, founding member, one of the original drafters of the pirate charter and walking living sort of legend. That people sort of stop their breath, the last thing they expect to see is this guy walking into a tavern or walking down one of the streets. He has that effect which he’ll use to great effect. And if challenged, he’ll meet it out swiftly…

And then the relationship with Flint is dealt with very well. Like they’re kept at a kind of distance initially because we’re establishing other things and Flint’s away…And then there is a coming together, ultimately, of course, right? And that’s all I can tell you about that. We’ll see!

How about some of the female characters?
Stevenson: How about some of the females? Aren’t they great! How about those girls? [laughing]
I mean, you know, look, he’s from a different era and he has his own, he has a long standing sort of thing with one woman who you get to meet. And where he’s off the island of Nassau and he’s actually on some spit of land or some island somewhere…it’s probably only on his maps where he goes with his crew. Where he–he basically sees these islands as launchpads not as new states or new societies. Next thing you know, he says these pirates will be farming, they’ll be setting up law-courts, they’ll be setting up judicial…and then where are you? He basically lives by example and shames people around him and with the Guthries, he’s got no love lost with the Guthries.

Black Sails season three premieres on Starz Saturday January 23rd at 9pm.

DVD Review “Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Battle for the Book!”

Starring: Sean Ryan Fox, Madison Pettis, Jadon Sand, David Arquette, Corey Burton
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: January 6, 2015
Run Time: 141 minutes

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

Disney Junior’s “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” continues to impress time after time. The show is great and then a few years ago, they introduced Peter Pan into the mix, which made it cooler. Now they have mixed in classic characters like Wendy, Michael and John to complete circle in the all-new special “Battle for the Book!”. This is literally the best episode of the series since it has aired. It is funny, sharp and very entertaining. I am not sure how they are going to top this next time but I can’t wait to see what they have planned next for this show…oh and BTW my two year old loved it also 😉

Official Premise: When Wendy’s special Storybook is stolen by Captain Hook, Jake and his mates go to London to help Peter Pan’s friend (from the classic movie Peter Pan). The longer the book is out of Wendy’s hands, the more she and her brothers (John and Michael) forget about their past adventures on Never Land. The battle for the book continues in Never Land, where Hook plans to destroy the book and its stories in the legendary Ring of Blue Fire. It’s up to our young heroes to save Wendy’s Storybook and the Story of Peter Pan!

“Jake and the Never Land Pirates” includes the following voice cast: Sean Ryan Fox (“Life Tracker”, “East of Kensington”) as Jake, Madison Pettis (“Cory in the House”, “Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 and 3”, “The Game Plan”) as Izzy, Jadon Sand (“Frozen”, “Wreck it Ralph”) as Cubby, David Arquette (“Scream” movies) as Skully, Jeff Bennett (“Tinker Bell” film series) as Mr. Smee, Bonesand Corey Burton (“Star Wars: The Clone Wars”) as Captain Hook.

If the hour-long season three finale of “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” is not enough for you there is still much more packed into this DVD. In terms of special features we get ten “Jake’s Never Land Pirate School” shorts. The shorts are “Flying”, “Tick Tock Croc”, “B-B-Big Bugs!”, “Go Bucky!”, “Saving Captain Hook!”, “Mama knows Best!”, “Dancing with the Pirates”, “I’ve Got My Sword!”, “Hop-Hop-Hop!”, and “Look Out!”. These are great watchings for the for kiddies to enjoy. Also includes inside every DVD is an exclusive checker board bandanna with gold coins, which is not available anywhere else but this DVD release. So if you love “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”, this is a must own!

Book Review “Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Winter Never Land”

Age Range: 3 – 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
Board book: 12 pages
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: September 16, 2014

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Like their last board book, “Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Sailing the Never Sea”, this latest book from the hit Disney Junior series, “Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Winter Never Land” is shaped like a Christmas tree and is a great way to get into the holiday mood. Even though this book is coming out in September, I welcome the holiday season with open arms. The story is fun and this sums up another great addition in the “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” series.

Official Premise: This holiday board book is sure to get every pirate into the Christmas spirit! Never Land has become a Winter Wonderland! The night before Winter Treasure Day, Peter Pan leaves gifts and the Forever Green Tree on the beach for his favorite pirate crew. But before Jake, Izzy, and Cubby can celebrate together, Captain Hook steals the holiday treasures-even the tree! In their quest to reclaim their treasure, Jake and the crew realize that friendship is more valuable than any gift.

Book Review “Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Sailing the Never Sea”

Author: Marcy Kelman
Age Range: 3 – 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
Series: Jake and the Never Land Pirates
Board book: 12 pages
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: July 1, 2014

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When it comes to “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”, our family can never get enough! AHOY!!! Thankfully Disney is keeping up with our appetite with great new releases. “Sailing the Never Sea” is the latest book, which is such fun for kids and adults and I also love the way it is shaped. It may be something so simple as a design that just makes a book so much more enjoyable and this a must have for all families.

Official Premise: It’s anchors away when that sneaky snook Captain Hook nabs Bucky’s brand new golden anchor. Jake and the crew will need some help from some finned friends to get the anchor back in a quest that takes them across the high seas.

Disney has really scored with this series and with each new book, there is just endless possibilities for this show to go. This book has become a must read for my two year old and has traveling from our car to her bedroom for nightly reading. We have actually even gotten to the point that our daughter is reading the words as we are saying it, that’s right two years old. I have to give credit to Disney for their constant supply of excellent books. Can’t wait to see what is next in the cards for this series!

Book Review “Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Cubby’s Mixed-Up Map”

Age Range: 3 – 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
Series: Jake and the Never Land Pirates
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: May 20, 2014

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“Climb aboard, Me Hearties, and be a pirate true…Yo ho lets go!” I do not think there is a day that goes by that myself, my wife or my daughter sings the theme song to “”Jake and the Never Land Pirates”. This show and it’s music are tons of fun. This latest book “Cubby’s Mixed-Up Map” is another cute story for fans of the show.

Here is official premise for the book: Cubby and his mateys are on a hunt for the Golden Dinghy, but Captain Hook steals the map to reach the treasure first! With only his memory and a crayon, can map master Cubby re-draw the treasure map and beat Captain Hook to the Golden Dinghy?

This swashbuckling storybook following the adventures of Jake and his crew also includes two sheets of stickers for even more pirate fun. Right away after finishing this book, daddy had about five stickers all over his shirt, so this was a nice bonus for sure.

Blu-ray Review “Muppet Treasure Island & The Great Muppet Caper: Of Pirates & Pigs Collection”

Starring: Steve Whitmire, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz, Jerry Nelson, Tim Curry, Jim Henson
Directors: Brian Henson, Jim Henson
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: December 10, 2013
Run Time: 147 minutes

Muppet Treasure Island: 3 out of 5 stars
The Great Muppet Caper: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Since Disney took over “The Muppets”, they have been doing great things for this group of puppets. “The Great Muppet Caper” (1981) and “Muppet Treasure Island” (1996) are making their Blu-ray debut this holiday season on a 2-Movie BD/DVD Collection. “The Great Muppet Caper” is the second Muppet film and one of my favorites growing up. Still fun to watch after all these years. Muppet Treasure Island” is a fun musical version of the classic tale from Robert Louis Stevenson. It isn’t perfect but who doesn’t love Tim Curry singing? So this collection is a must for any Muppet fan. In fact, these two were the last Muppet films not released on Blu-ray, so I am wondering if Disney will be reissuing “The Muppets Take Manhattan” and “Muppets from Space” next under the their label both of which were releasing on Blu-ray by Sony back in 2011. Either way fans have plenty more to come with the eighth film, “Muppets Most Wanted”, which will be released on March 21, 2014.

Official Synopsis: A treasure trove of hearty laughs is yours when two of the funniest, most action-packed Muppet movies of all time make their Disney Blu-ray debut in this heartwarming 2-Movie Collection. From the special star-studded lunacy in Muppet Treasure Island to the jewel-heist hilarity of The Great Muppet Caper, these two classic comedy-adventures are packed with music, mirth, mayhem and, of course, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, Fozzie, Gonzo and all your Muppet favorites. Loaded with unforgettable music and sparkling special effects, this restored and remastered collection is a 2-movie treasure you won’t want to miss.

Disney has done a wonderful job of delivering this film to Blu-ray with stellar 1080p transfers. Even though “The Great Muppet Caper” is over 30 years it still looks quite amazing. Same goes wiht the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround tracks, which work very well with the music in the films. In terms of special features, this release include a few decent features. There are three “Frog-e-oke Sign-Alongs” for the songs “Cabin Fever” from “Muppet Treasure Island” and from “The Great Muppet Caper” their is “Steppin’ Out With A Star” and “Happiness Hotel”. “The Tale of The Story Beyond the Tail” is a fun behind the scenes look with the Muppets on the making of “Muppet Treasure Island”. There is a fun music video “Let the Good Shine Out”. Lastly there is a super funny and very interesting audio commentary track with Gonzo, Rizzo and Brian Henson.

Book Review “Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Mama Hook Knows Best”

Author: Sharon Osbourne
Illustrator: Disney Storybook Art Team
Age Range: 3 – 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool – Kindergarten
Series: Jake and the Never Land Pirates
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Disney Press
Release Date: September 17, 2013

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

If you have young kids then you know about the marvel of “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”. This show can stop my daughter dead in her tracks (and she is fast). “Mama Hook Knows Best” features the character of Captain’s Hook mother voiced by Sharon Osbourne, who also in fact wrote this book. It is not Shakespeare for Osbourne but fans of the show will enjoy the expansion of this character. Mama Hook has been in two episodes already and even has her own spin-off short series, so expect much more from this character in this series!

Official Premise: Mama Hook reminisces about her great experiences sailing the Never Sea and the stories she told young James Hook when he was growing up. Written by Sharon Osbourne, the stories are reminiscent of familiar fables like “The Tortoise and the Hare,” set in Jake and the Never Land Pirates’ world of fun pirate playfulness and daring adventures.

From the minute, I gave this book to my 18 month old daughter she ran around the house screaming “Hook!”. In fact she not only loved the book but she also loved the audio CD version of the book, which is a nice bonus to include here. I have a feeling that we are going to be revisiting this book quite a bit over the next few months. The very talent Disney Storybook Art Team delivered this book full of great illustrations showing Mama Hook’s memories of when she sailed the Never Sea. Since the book is subtitled “A Pirate Parent’s Favorite Fables”, the stories included are exciting and also educational as well.  Overall, a must have a great gift for the upcoming holiday season!

DVD Review “Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Never Land Rescue”

Starring: Cameron Boyce, Madison Pettis, Jonathan Morgan Heit, David Arquette, Corey Burton, Jeff Bennett
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: November 19, 2013
MPAA Rating: TV-Y
Run Time: 148 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

When my 17 month old daughter hears that theme song to “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” she runs to the TV and stops whatever else she is doing. The show is so fun and also delivers some great messages for kids. “Jake’s Never Land Rescue” is such an epic feature length special episode. When I saw the trailer, I was blown away. Of course, anything with Peter Pan showing up in the show is always fun as well. Disney Junior has a gold mine here and I (and my daughter) can’t wait to see what they have planned next for this great series.

Official Premise: The fate of Never Land hangs in the balance as magical treasures are mysteriously vanishing: Jake’s sword, Izzy’s pixie dust – even the directions on Cubby’s map! To save the day, Jake goes on the “Forever Quest” to restore power to the source of Never Land’s magic, the legendary Forever Tree. Join him on a thrilling expedition inside an enchanted cave, under the sea, and all the way to the top of Mount Destiny! But Jake needs help from his trusty crew – and YOU – to succeed against all odds and outsmart Captain Hook. Awash with exciting surprises, unforgettable music, and eight more swashbuckling adventures, “Jake’s Never Land Rescue” will make you believe in the everlasting magic of true friendship.

This DVD contains four great bonus episodes from the Disney Junior series. “It’s a Pirate Picnic / The Key to Skull Rock” features when Hook digs up the crew’s picnic spot and the crew gets a key to a treasure. “The Golden Twilight Treasure / Rock The Croc!” follows the crew must rescue a firefly from Hook and a treasure map lands in Croc’s mouth. “Jake and Sneaky Le Beak / Cubby the Brave” follows a sneaky pirate that steals from Hook and the group finds a pair of boots makes Cubby brave. Lastly “Jake’s Special Delivery / Seahorse Saddle-Up!” follows a mysterious package that washes ashore and the crew participates in a seahorse race.

If the bonus episodes are not enough to complete this DVD also included there is a exclusive Destiny Sword and also some really cool Glow-in-the-Dark stickers. There are also eight additional “Playing with Skully” Cartoon Shorts. They are really fun and I am excited that they are available on DVD. This series is currently in its second season and Disney has recently ordered a third season, which is set to premiere on February 17, 2014. So there will be much more coming for this show in the near future!! Yo Ho Let’s go!

Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg talk about directing of “Kon-Tiki” and plans for “Pirates of the Caribbean 5”

In 1951 the film “Kon-Tiki,” a film detailing the voyage of famed Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, won the Academy Award as the year’s best documentary feature.

Six decades later a pair of Norwegian filmmakers decided to tell the story of Heyerdahl’s incredible 4,300 mile journey across the ocean on a balsa wood raft. The film became the first in the country’s history to receive both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe nomination as the year’s Best Foreign Film.

To celebrate the Blu-Ray release of “Kon-Tiki,” I sat down with directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg. I mention that it’s been Scandinavian Directors week for me, having just spoken to Renny Harlin a few days earlier. Hearing this they question me on Harlin and what he’s working on. Finally the interview begins and the pair talk about honoring Thor Heyerdahl, their national pride and how things are going on their next project, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”

Mike Smith: This has been my week for Scandinavian filmmakers. I just spoke with Renny Harlin the other day.
Joachim Rønning/Espen Sandberg: (both laugh).
JR: How did that go?
MS: Very well. He’s really high on the “Hercules” movie he’s finishing up.
ES: Right, right.

MS: “Kon-Tiki” received an Academy Award nomination as Best Foreign Film. Obviously that’s a great honor personally but did it have extra meaning to you because it was a representative of your country?
JR: it was (pauses)…one of the best moments in our lives. (they both laugh). That’s all we can say. That morning, when we got the announcement. Because it is, in so many ways, the biggest reward you can get as a filmmaker. To be recognized in the US…to be recognized in the world…that meant so much for the film. For “Kon-Tiki” to have that when it goes traveling around the world, it really means everything for the film. And for us as filmmakers. We wouldn’t be sitting here in our production offices speaking with you if it wasn’t for that. Everything comes together.
ES: As for representing the country, absolutely. But that’s not really the first thing you think about (laughs) when you get that news. It was the first Norwegian film to be nominated both by the Oscars and the Golden Globes and that is a huge deal for our country.

MS: How did you get involved with “Kon-Tiki?”
JR: It was a story we’d grown up with. Espen and I began making films together when we were about 10 years old. We grew up in a small town. Thor Heyerdahl grew up in a neighboring town so he always had a presence in our lives. And he is the only Norwegian to win an Academy Award so as a filmmaker he was a huge inspiration.
ES: We always wanted to bring that story…the story of Kon-Tiki…to the big screen. But of course, it was such a huge endeavor. It took four years to finance. It was the biggest film production ever in Scandinavia.

MS: Thor Heyerdahl is probably your country’s best known figure internationally. Did you have any reservations in taking on his story?
ES: We always wanted to tell his story. It was just very hard to finance it. That was the big hurdle. We always wanted to do it.

MS: You’ve worked together for over two decades…(they both laugh)…do you split up the duties of directing? Do you direct together or do you each handle certain scenes?
ES: We basically do everything together, especially in pre-production and post production.
JR: It’s a very collaborative process and it’s the only way we know how to make movies. On the set it is divided somewhat. Espen concentrates more with the actors and I work more with the visuals. And that’s basically not to confuse the actors too much. We try to have one voice in accordance with them. It’s a very collaborative process and it’s how we’ve always done it.

MS: Have you ever had an instance where maybe one of you has yelled “cut” and the other one looks over and shakes his head? (they both laugh)
ES: No! You’d be surprised. Of course we both have different tastes but I think at the end of the day we both find common ground…what’s best for the scene and for the film.
JR: I think it’s actually an advantage to have two heads working. It’s a big deal for us to be unanimous. In front of everybody at least (laughs)

MS: You both are slated to direct the next “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. Can you give an update as to where that project is?
JR: Yeah! We’re in pre-production. We’ve been in pre-production for a couple of months and it’s inching along every day. It’s a dream come true, really, to be able to work with Jerry Bruckheimer and the Disney camp…with these actors and the rest of the crew. They’re the best in the world. It’s coming together. We have a fantastic script by Jeff Nathonson (“Catch Me If You Can,” “Rush Hour 2 and 3”). It’s really funny. And touching. It’s a true adventure movie and, in that sense, it reminds us of the kinds of movies we grew up with…the Indiana Jones films and stuff like that. Those films made us want to become filmmakers.

MS: That’s so cool. That’s almost exactly the same answer that Renny gave me when we talked about “Hercules.” He had grown up enjoying these films so much and finally getting the chance to make one is the ultimate honor. (they both laugh)
ES: That’s it exactly. We really feel great!

Loren Hoskins & Kevin Hendrickson talks about making music for Disney Junior's "Jake and the Never Land Pirates"

Loren Hoskins & Kevin Hendrickson are the musical duo responsible for the fun pirate rock on Disney Junior’s “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”. Besides the music, the duo are also characters in the show, Sharkey and Bones, Captain Hook’s henchmen. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with the Loren and Kevin about their work on the show.

Mike Gencarelli: You guys are no stranger to pirate-rock. How do you feel you have changed from Captain Bogg and Salty to The Never Land Pirate Band?
Loren Hoskins: We inherited a universe. It was one we knew fairly well with it being Never Land. We got to play all these iconic characters in a number of different situations. On top of that we got to really test the fabric of pirate rock. We were able to write song for a number of different shows. I feel like this has broadened our outlook a little bit and given us more toys to play with.
Kevin Hendrickson: I think it has also given us a lot more songs to write. We used to write about 10 songs a year but now I think we write about 10 times that amount. This is more of a full time job now.

MG: With music being a very integral part of the show do you ever feel any pressure related to writing the music?
LH: I don’t know about pressure but I suppose I do now that you brought it up [laughs]. What blew our minds when we got started with this is that we were just offered an opportunity to try and write a theme song. To have it snowball in to working on the underscore and a bunch of other little songs which then led to us being both animated and live action characters has been a real gift. I am probably more excited about things than anxious.
KH: I have a little bit different take as I do feel a certain amount of pressure but it’s exciting. The scripts and writers are really great so from the beginning I felt a lot of pressure to really up the game and write great songs. In a way it’s been a positive thing to be surrounded by such a great team.
LH: I agree with that. We were stepping in a new world as we had never done an underscore before. We had to learn a whole new vocabulary. We had to learn a new way to tell a story and we wanted to reward everyone’s faith in us.

MG: What would you say is your favorite song to perform with the group?
LH: We did a performance run at Walt Disney World that was 30 shows in 10 days. It was incredible. There were 700 people or more showing up to see us perform for each of the 3 shows. We closed each set with the song “Never Land Pirate Band”. The kids know that song very well. So to perform that live and see kids at their first rock concert jumping around and singing along is a great feeling.

MG: Loren, you voice Sharky as well as Sandy the Starfish; how do you feel about going from singing to voicing characters on the show?
LH: When I was a kid I didn’t want to be pirate when I grew up. I wanted to be Mel Blanc and be able to do all those amazing voices. So to do voices on the show is a total blessing for me. It is something I really love.

MG: What can we expect to see during season 3 of the show?
KH: There are going to be some fun spring themed episodes as well as one titled “Tiki Tree Luau”.
LH: That is going to be a great episode. These episodes are just so great as the characters are doing some really funny stuff. In one episode titled, “Captain Who?”, Captain Hook forgets who he is, which is just a great story line.

MG: Does it blow your mind how popular your character have become, even including puppet versions in “Disney Junior Live” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?
KH: Absolutely! Everyday is just stunning and it has yet to wear off. To hear our music in the parks and see it on television and then knowing that’s it’s going out all over the world is thrilling.
LH: When we got the chance to meet the puppeteers at Disney we were both equally excited to meet each other. It was really cool to be behind the scenes of a big Disney show.

MG: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job and entertaining children?
KH: Every time we get the opportunity to perform live in front of an audience and share our music is something that has really struck me. It’s a great privileged to be able to do that.

MG: Are there any plans to do more live shows in the parks?
LH: We haven’t heard anything yet. We never know as there is always some grand adventure being planned. Right now we are really focusing on season 3. We have been recording lots of songs for the new end sequences and focusing on a new round of pirate rock.

MG: Speaking of new music, will we be seeing a new album in the near future?
LH: I sure hope so! (Laughs) They have a beautiful way of rolling things out that runs tandem with the new episodes. We have heard of lots of cool things that will be happening in the near future. We don’t know when but there should be a new album soon.

Book Review “The Gingerbread Pirates”

Author: Kristin Kladstrup
Illustrator: Matt Tavares
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Candlewick
Release Date: September 11, 2012

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

When I saw a book titled “The Gingerbread Pirates”, I couldn’t help but   request it.  It also combines three of my favorite things: gingerbread, pirates and Christmas. Did you see that coming? Reading this book is sure to become a new family tradition each year, and knowing myself throughout the year.  I am also see myself if not many others  baking & decorating gingerbread pirates after reading this.

Premise: “It’s Christmas Eve, and Jim and his mother are making pirate gingerbread men to leave for Santa. Jim’s favorite is Captain Cookie, who carries a gingerbread cutlass and has a toothpick peg leg. The captain is much too good to be eaten, so Jim keeps him close by his bed. But late that night, when Jim is fast asleep, Captain Cookie steptaps away on a daring adventure to find his pirate crew — and rescue them from that mysterious character he’s heard about: a cannibal named Santa Claus. At once contemporary and timeless, suspenseful and joyous, this masterfully illustrated tale is destined to be a new holiday classic.”

I love me some cookies as the big man in red but I love the idea of what would happen if a brave cookie stood up to Santa.  It is a very unique and funny story.  It also delivers some wonderful Christmas cheer. The illustrations are delightful and very colorful. Overall, I just need to say that I love this book. Author, Lristin Kladstrup and illustrator Matt Tavares are now on my must-have list now and will be keeping an eye out for future releases.

3D Blu-ray Review “The Pirates! Band of Misfits in 3D”

Directors: Jeff Newitt, Peter Lord
Starring: Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton
MPAA Rating: PG
Distributed: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Running Time: 88 minutes

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

After seeing the trailer for “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” five thousand times over a course of a few months, I grew very disinterested in this film. Though when viewing it at home on 3D Blu-ray, I was very impressed. It is a fun, over-the-top stop-motion animated adventure film that will entertain the entire family. There is colorful characters for the kids and colorful jokes for the adults. The voice cast is also very impressive with Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman, Salma Hayek and Jeremy Piven. The humor is a little British but still manages to keep you entertained throughout the film feature.  I am not sure how many times I would be interested in revisiting this film but it is definitely game for at least one good viewing.

This film has been released as a three-disc set with two Blu-ray’s (3D and 2D) and a DVD copy of the film. There is also a Ultraviolet digital streaming copy available. The 3D on this film was not the best I have ever seen but overall decent. That doesn’t mean the film doesn’t look stunning on Blu-ray. It’s 1080p video resolution is beautiful and really showcases the animations and its colors. The film also includes a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track and it is also near perfect as well. It works so well with the film’s action scenes and zany antics. Like most 3D films, all of the extras are located on the 2D-only disc. The only extra on the 3D disc are 3D previews.

The special features are decent but nothing out of this world. I just would have loved to seen some 3D features. There is an audio commentary with directors Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt and Editor Justin Krish. Very detailed but overall not that interesting. There is short film included, which runs almost 20 minutes called “So You Want To Be a Pirate!”. “Pirate Disguise Dress-Up Game” is a cute ‘hide-the-pirate’ game for kids. “From Stop to Motion” is my favorite feature which goes into detail on the development process on the animation. “Creating the Bath Chase Sequence” is a specific focus on one of the film’s most complex scenes. Lastly there are two short films from Peter Lord including “Wat’s Pig” and “War Story” both are available with optional director’s commentary.

Disney Junior Orders Third Season of Hit Series “Jake and the Never Land Pirates”

Sails to New Heights as Disney Channel’s #1 Preschooler Series of All Time with 100 Episodes and New Consumer Products Line

Disney Junior has ordered a third season of “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” its #1 series and cable TV’s #1 series among Boys 2-5, bringing the episode tally to 100 thus far, it was announced today by Nancy Kanter, Senior Vice President, Original Programming and General Manager, Disney Junior Worldwide. The series revolves around a crew of kid pirates – leader Jake and pals Izzy and Cubby – and follows their Never Land adventures as they work to outwit two infamous characters, the one and only Captain Hook and Mister Smee, from Disney’s classic “Peter Pan.” The stories emphasize teamwork and features original pirate rock music performed by Sharky and Bones of The Never Land Pirate Band.

Kanter said, “The series is connecting with kids on every level and brings them closer to characters they’re already familiar with and introduces them to new, original characters they have made their friends.” She continued, “The storytelling is adventurous and heartfelt and embeds the kind of learning that we know is important to parents. We’re pleased to be extending viewers’ experience with the stories, allowing them to play the ‘Jake and the Never Land Pirates’ experience.”

The memorable Disney stories and characters, both classic and contemporary, have connected strongly with kids age 2-7 and their parents, and that connection has also led to the creation of brand extensions in other Disney businesses. “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” is a prominent part of the popular Disney Junior Live on Stage! attraction at Disney Parks & Resorts, and is featured in a Disney Junior magazine from Disney Publishing, in a soundtrack and DVD from Disney Studios and a Disney Consumer Products line set to debut in stores nationwide in spring 2012. Included are multiple product categories: party supplies, apparel (sleepwear, daywear), room décor and plush. An exciting toy line releasing in June and showcased this week at American International Toy Fair, will feature plush, role play and accessories from Just Play and action-oriented play sets and figures from Fisher-Price, including Jake’s Pirate Ship, designed after Bucky, Jake’s ship in the series.

A hit since its premiere in February 2011, “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” is cable TV’s #1 series among Boys 2-5 and Disney Channel’s #1 preschool series of all time among Total Viewers, Kids 2-5, Boys 2-5 and Women 18-49.

The series airs daily during Disney Channel’s Disney Junior programming block for kids age 2-7 and will have a major presence on the new 24-hour Disney Junior channel launching in the U.S. on Friday, March 23. The series stars Cameron Boyce as Jake; Madison Pettis as Izzy; Jonathan Morgan Heit as Cubby; David Arquette as Skully; Corey Burton as Captain Hook; Jeff Bennett as Mister Smee and Bones and Loren Hoskins as Sharky. Many of the key creative professionals behind Disney Junior’s Emmy-nominated series, “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” are behind “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” including executive producer Rob LaDuca, producer/story editor Mark Seidenberg and director Howy Parkins. The series is produced by Disney Television Animation.

Disney Junior reflects the emotional connection generations of consumers have to Disney storytelling and Disney characters, both classic and contemporary. It invites mom and dad to join their child in the Disney experience of magical, musical and heartfelt stories and characters, while incorporating specific learning and development themes designed for kids age 2-7. Disney Junior’s animated and live action series blend Disney’s unparalleled storytelling and characters kids love deeply with learning, including early math, language skills, healthy eating and lifestyles, and social skills. Disney Junior launched in February 2011 with a daily programming block on Disney Channel. In its first year, Disney Junior posted the network’s biggest yearly audience in the daypart in Total Viewers, Kids 2-5, Boys 2-5 and Women 18-49 and increased by double-digit margins among preschooler demographics over year-ago levels. On March 23, 2012 Disney Junior will add a basic cable and satellite channel in the U.S.

Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” Blu-ray Giveaway [ENDED]

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Available on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack + DVD Tuesday, October 18th

The Walt Disney Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer Films are proud to present the #1 worldwide box office success of 2011 – making over $1 billion globally – Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, in stunning high definition Blu-ray™ on October 18, 2011.

To celebrate Disney’s Blu-Ray™ release of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”, Media Mikes would like to giveaway 10 copies of the Blu-ray™ Combo Pack (Blu-ray™ + DVD). If you would like to win one of these great prizes, please leave us a comment below or send us an email and let us know your favorite film in this series. This giveaway will be open until Monday October 31th 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.

Film Synopsis:
From Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer comes all the fun, epic adventure and humor that ignited the original. Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. A tale of truth, betrayal, youth, demise — and mermaids! When Jack crosses paths with a woman from his past (Penélope Cruz), he’s not sure if it’s love or if she’s a ruthless con artist using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. Forced aboard the ship of the most feared pirate ever, Jack doesn’t know who to fear more —Blackbeard (Ian McShane) or the woman from his past. Directed by Rob Marshall, it’s filled with eye-popping battle scenes, mystery and all-out wit.

Special Features:
Disney Second Screen Bloopers of the Caribbean
Audio Commentary by director Rob Marshall
LEGO Animated Shorts: Captain Jack’s Brick Tales