Playstation 4 Video Game Review “Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes – 2.0 Edition”

Platform: Playstation 4
Developer: Avalanche Software
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Release date: September 23, 2014
Rating: Everyone 10+

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Disney Infinity” is back and better for its second edition called “Marvel Super Heroes”. Superheroes have never been bigger and this latest 2.0 edition features 16 Marvel figurines and 40 power discs (82 in total to be released in future wave), so there’s no shortage of options at all. After playing the original “Disney Infinity”, I found myself picking it apart quite a bit. This game really improves on the first games issues and delivers a mush more fun and content filled game. It is still not perfect but it is a blast to play and I have a feeling I will be playing this for many months to come.

“Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes” is split up into different two game modes much like the original. There is the Playset mode and Toybox mode. In the playset mode, you can transport into the world of one of the hit franchises from the game and generally run anywhere between 6–10 hours in length, so they are no incredible long but do back some great content. The Toybox mode still allows players to create their own games and worlds, using items unlocked in Playset mode.

When it comes to figures, we get the following three franchises covered to start including “The Avengers”, “Spider-Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”. In the Starter Pack, we get Iron Man, Black Widow and Thor. Captain America, Hawkeye and Hulk are available in single character packs and complete the roster for “The Avengers”. I cannot wait for Wave 2 to come for this franchise since Loki and Falcon have been confirmed!

Next up is “Spider-Man”, only with the web slinger himself, we also have Nova, who is included in the play set. Venom, Iron Fist and Nick Fury are available as single character packs. I am a bit taken back that Nick Fury is seated with Spider-Man. I am sure some young kids aren’t going to make the connection just yet since he is primarily seen with “The Avengers” in the film and TV series.

Lastly and easily my favorite film of the year, we have Guardians of the Galaxy. Included in the playset is Star-Lord and Gamora, while Drax, Groot and Rocket Raccoon are available in single character packs. Future wave 2 release for this series include Ronan and Yondu, so there is plenty of growth and expansion available here as well.

Unlike the first game, you are only able to play specific characters in specific playsets. This new edition allows you to collected “Cross Over Tokens” scattered throughout levels in order to bring character like Nova, Iron Man, Rocket Raccoon and Hulk into more than one playset. This gives the game and entirely new dynamic and I really enjoyed it.

These new figures are really a big improvement over the first game. I really enjoyed the “Guardians of the Galaxy” characters. The abilities were great and really run to play with. My real surprise honestly has to be Nova from “Spider-Man” play set. I really enjoyed him as well. With “The Avengers” each of them are equally amazing. Hulk has a great special move. Iron Man can sort of glide. Captain America has his shield to through around. There are 16 characters and I spent a lot of time just fighting with myself to figure out who I should try first.

Since there are 40 power discs in wave one, I will highly a few of my favorite. S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier Strike is a great ability. Infinity Gauntlet is a rare and very powerful disc. If you are an “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” fan, getting to ride in Lola is a blast. There is also Ability discs that allow Team Up with characters like YOndu, Winter Soldier and Ant-Man. In the toy box, the customization for “Guardians of the Galaxy” is pretty cool with Groot’s View and Groot’s Roots.

Also a very cool expansion feature is that you are able to take all of your original Disney Infinity figures and power discs and they can still be used in the Disney Infinity (2.0 Edition) toy box. You cannot use original play sets though with the 2.0 gam though. This adds a lot more ability to play with this new game and to have original Disney Infinity characters meeting 2.0 edition characters.

The control are a bit tighter in this new edition. I felt that the driving in the first game was absolutely horridenous and this time around it is much smoother. The violence is not too bad but I am honestly not a fan of the ability to turn on civilians in the game. You are able to drive down the street and literally plow down people. I am sorry but this isn’t “Grand Theft Auto”. There isn’t any blood or anything, so it doesn’t seem that bad but still could have been tamed a bit and feels very unnecessary.

November 4th brings us a new wave of Disney Original figures for use in the Toy Box. Included characters in the first batch are Donald Duck, Aladdin, Jasmine, Tinker Bell, Stitch, Hiro Hamada & Baymax from Big Hero 6, Merida and Maleficent. I can’t wait to check these characters out. Hopefully in the the next edition of “Disney Infinity” isn’t to far, far away 😉 Fingers crossed Disney! Cross over to the Dark Side!

Playstation 4 Game Review “Alien: Isolation – Nostromo Edition”

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: The Creative Assembly
Rated: Mature
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Platform: PlayStation 4

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I am always a sucker for anything spawning out of the “Alien” franchise. “Alien: Isolation” promised to be the best of the recent attempts at a good game in the series. The game puts you in the in control of Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Ellen Ripley, as she searched for her mother. The story takes place 15 years after the events of the first movie and another 42 before she is found in the sequel. What I liked about this game the most is that there is only one Xenomorph that hunts you down. Now even though it is just one doesn’t mean that she is not still one tough bitch. I think literally, I died about 25 times in the first 5 minutes of playing this game. This is it horror fans, if you are looking for a great “Alien” video game adaption, look no further.

Official Premise: “Alien: Isolation” is a first-person survival horror game which captures the fear and tension evoked by Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic film. Players find themselves in an atmosphere of constant dread and mortal danger as an unpredictable, ruthless Xenomorph is stalking and killing deep in the shadows. Underpowered and underprepared, you must scavenge resources, improvise solutions and use your wits, not just to succeed in your mission, but to simply stay alive.

The game play itself is quite impressive. The campaign itself runs a very solid 15 hours, so there is plenty of content included in the primary compaign. There are at least five to seven additional missions planned to be released from now till 2015. So even if you beat the game already, there will be some great new content available to fans. If you are a horror fan, then most importantly, you will be happy that this game definitely scared the shit out of me. There is some great sound design in this game and it really created some great tension when playing, which lead to a few solid jumps as well throughout. The design of the game just looks stunning on the PlayStation 4.

I know there are tons of scary games out there like “F.E.A.R”, “Dead Space” and “Resident Evil” but this game definitely had you pausing and running for a quick change of underwear. What I loved about the Xenomorph is that it is very effective based on your moves and your actions, it responds to you and you need to be able to act very very fast or get ready to start the mission over.  Sega really did a great job here. There are a few small issues like the story is a little light and some of the missions get a bit repetitive but it gets quickly overlooked in my eyes when you find yourself hiding in a locker waiting for the Xenomorph to pass you and hopefully not find you. You better cut your nails before you play because this is a real nail-bitter.

Now if you are excited to get to play a Ripley’s daughter, you are going to love the two bonus missions that were included with pre-ordering the game. In this “Nostromo Edition” of the game it contains the“Crew Expendable” expansion pack, which features the voices and likenesses of movie’s stars like Sigourney Weaver and Tom Skerritt. It allows you to play as either Dallas, Parker or Ellen Ripley from the original film as they try and get rid of the Alien. There is also a second expansion called “Last Survivor”, which was included in “The Ripley Edition” of the game, which again allows you to take control of Ellen Ripley, as she is the last person alive on the Nostromo. There are still a bunch more expansions planned for this game, so stay tuned because the fun (if you call getting the shit scared out of you fun) to be had.

Enter to Win a Blu-ray for “Heavenly Sword”, based on Playstation video game series [ENDED]

To celebrate the release of the movie “Heavenly Sword”, based on the Playstation video game series, Media Mikes is excited to giveaway one (1) copy of the film on Blu-ray to our readers. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of this prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite character from the series. This giveaway will remain open until September 26th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to all of our Media Mikes readers worldwide. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

Nariko’s clan has long protected the “Heavenly Sword,” a god’s blade of immense power that drains its wielder of their life force. A power-hungry ruler known as the evil King Bohan seeks to obtain the sword to gain its devastating power. As the impending apocalypse nears, it remains to be seen how long Nariko can resist the sword’s deadly curse.

Playstation 4 Video Game Review “Destiny”

Format: Playstation 4
Developer: Bungie
Publisher: Activision
Rated: Teen
Release Date: September 9, 2014

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Let me start by pointing out that I am casual gamer. If you are looking for a super in depth review for hardcore gamers, I would suggest heading over to IGN or sites like that. I have been tracking “Destiny” since it was announced and I participated in both the games Alpha and Beta stages over the last few months. This is in no way a complete review, I would consider it a first impression. Since I have played the game in both Alpha and Beta, I already had a decent knowledge of the game by the time it was finally released. Since the final game was released, I have probably put in about 5-7 hours into this. I would like to go over some the games key features along with my reactions and observations so far. Let’s start with the fact that if you love Bungie’s past games like “Halo”, I feel pretty confident saying that you will love this.

The real bulk of “Destiny”, like the “Halo” games, definitely is going to come from the multiplayer game play. If you are into multiplayer games, then this game is pretty awesome for you. I enjoyed what I played so far in the solo campaign, but I just wasn’t really blown away. The story is mediocre and didn’t really pull me in. The visuals are decent but again nothing outstanding. Honestly, I know the game costed $500 million to make and I just expected more of a “wow factor” from that price. To me it looks like a high-def version of any one of the “Halo” games. Like I said though, I still enjoyed it and I am sure that I am going to get a lot of play in the multiplayer setting. A note that you should know that this game does require a crap load of hard drive space in order to play as well as either a premium XBOX Live Gold or in my case PSN membership.

Some times the load screens are pretty brutal but to their credit, they are some really big locations. But that is actually easily fixed (or maybe fixed already by the time I am writing this) with a patch. That is one thing that is good about this game is that the fans are definitely going to be very vocal and Bungie will be listening as well and fixing what they can pretty quick I am sure. This is their baby and they will be nurturing for quite a while. I read that Bungie has big plans for “Destiny” like plans for a new game every other year with an expansion in-between.  Also a new trend is video games is including big names celebs. Kevin Spacey did it with “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare”. This game has Bill Nighy and Peter Dinklage, so that is definitely a notch on the win side for me!

Here is the basic jist of the game “In Destiny you are a Guardian of the last city on Earth, able to wield incredible power. Explore the ancient ruins of our solar system, from the red dunes of Mars to the lush jungles of Venus. Defeat Earth’s enemies. Reclaim all that we have lost. Become legend.” You have to create your character, which is quite fun then kick some ass and along the way power-up with unique and customizable weapons, gear, and vehicles. There are tons of personalization to be had here. You can then also take your character throughout every mode in the game campaign, multiplayer etc.

There are three different classes of Guardians to choose from. First is Hunter, which is Master of the Frontier. They are known for being quick with a gun and deadly with a blade, as well as cunning and ruthless. Next is Titan, known as Armored Engine of War. They have lightning-charged fists, while their armor and shields make them nearly invincible. Last is Warlock aka Wielder of Arcane Power, who know how to weaponize their curiosity and harness the Traveler’s light in patterns never before imagined and since are capable of incredible acts of devastation. I am sure they will have more classes in future updates.

There are five different game modes to enjoy throughout the game. The first is Crucible mode, which is a very competitive multiplayer, where you can earn you rewards and bragging rights. Explore mode is an on-demand adventure, where you can revisit the worlds to seek out valuable resources in order to upgrade your weapons and gear. Of course there is the Story mode, which is the basic campaign that follows the cinematic story. Strike mode is a cooperative multiplayer, where you can form a Fireteam and kick some ass. Lastly, Tower mode, is a third person social space where you can regroup, rearm, and form new alliances. These modes are explored on four locations including Earth, Mars, Moon and Venus.

Lastly, if you are smart enough to get this game on Playstation 4, you are in luck since we can exclusive content only for PlayStation 4 owners called the Ultimate Destiny Experience. This included the following: Exodus Blue Competitive Multiplayer Map, Dust Palace Strike. There are two new weapons included: Monte Carlo and Hawkmoon. There are three super cool new ships including the Aurora Wake, Outrageous Fortune and Crypt Hammer. Lastly there are three gear sets including Maniford, Argus and Vanir. This is “exclusive” supposedly till Fall 2015 but still a year before anyone else. If you are playing this game too let me know what you think and definitely shoot me your tags, so we can join up in game as well for a multiplayer jam session.

Playstation 4 Video Game Review “Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition”

Platform: Playstation 4
Edition: Standard
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Rated: Mature
Release Date: January 28, 2014

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Going back to a few years ago, I saw that another “Tomb Raider” was coming out and I definitely rolled my eyes a little. This series was definitely lost its appeal for me and probably many others as well. Well then this amazing new cinematic reboot adventure was released and Lara Croft’s status of queen of video games was rightfully restored. I mean this game was such an improvement over the last in the series and just blew me away. So I thought to myself when I saw about the “Definitive Edition” being released, if it was really going to be worth the upgrade from PS3 to PS4…well, holy cow it feels and looks like a whole new game!

Official Premise: The cinematic action-adventure that forced Lara Croft to grow from an inexperienced young woman into a hardened survivor has been re-built, featuring an obsessively detailed Lara and a stunningly lifelike world. To survive her first adventure and uncover the island’s deadly secret, Lara must endure high-octane combat, customize her weapons and gear, and overcome grueling environments.

First of all, with PS4 you are talking about the game displaying in 1080p Blu ray quality. The game itself isn’t just much crisper looking, the entire game was basically re-engineered with more powerful physics and lighting engines. The visual detail is actually mind-blowing. When I was playing this game on PS3, I thought it looked fantastic. But now going back to PS3, it notice so many difference that I am just more and more impressive with the next-gen version. This game is just beautiful and have never looked better…even on PC.

One of the aspects that really blew me away was the fact that the head and face of Lara Croft were completely rebuilt. It looks like two different people now. The skin is so much more realistic and vibrant. Even to the point that when it gets hot in the environment, Lara sweats. I mean that is just outstanding to me. There is just this overall important in the richness of the colors. I did not think at all that this game could improve as much as a it did. Plus the Definitive Edition allows voice and gesture control (if you have the camera add-on). You can ask for map or name a weapon to equip.

The Definitive Edition also includes all the released DLC for this game like the Tomb of the Lost Adventurer, six outfits for Lara, a digital mini art book, and the digital comic “The Beginning, weapon attachments, multiplayer maps etc. The multiplayer still isn’t super impressive but either way I am more concerned about the single player mode for this game. If you have never played this game, where have you been? I highly recommend this game since it is just such an improvement on PS4 and honestly one of the main reasons, I even purchased the system to be honest.

PlayStation 3 Video Game Review “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

Platform: Playstation 3
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Genre: Action
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Look Out! Here comes the Spider-Man…again. While I enjoyed the film “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, as any video gamer knows the game adaptations next to always disappoint. Unfortunately, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” suffers the same fate. The game feels rather lazy and not very exciting. Pretty much feels like the took the last game, tweaked it a little and slapped a “2” on it. Like this film which is fading fast from theaters, I also see myself not going back to revisit this game anytime soon.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2” allows you to free-roam through New York City web-slinging from here to there. Before the game play even started, I was let down to find that the story doesn’t even follow the movie. It is follows a more generic Spider-Man story that lightly includes the film’s villains and a few other characters that aren’t even in the film. The controls are decent but I found myself continuously referring to the options since there are a ton of different commands for each buttons.

Speaking of generic story, the same goes for the combat. I felt like I was just attacking, blocking and web shooting my way through each battle once I got a hang of the controls. The visuals are decent and probably the best part of the game. Who doesn’t love web-slinging through the city. My wife walked in at one point and said “This is a game?”, so I guess it looked good enough for her. I did keep running into some issues with the video jumping on some cut scenes but nothing major. Overall, I enjoyed this game the first time and less and less thereafter. So unless you are a hardcore Spidey fan, I would probably steer clear.

Playstation 3 Video Game Review “Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Heroes”

Format: Playstation 3
Publisher: Konami
Rated: Mature
Media: Video Game
Release Date: March 18, 2014

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

When I told a friend that I was playing the newest “Metal Gear Solid” game, he was like “How did I miss that?” Well if you are wondering the same don’t worry since “Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Heroes” is a prologue to the upcoming full game “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”, which is set to be released TBA 2015. This game is meant to get you excited and get your mouth watering. If you are looking to sit back and get immersed in the whole of “MGS” you might want to wait for the full game because this game is real short. I was able to fly through the campaign in nearly two hours. I would have to recommend this to those who are simply foaming at the mouth and can’t wait till next year to get some more Snake action.

Official Premise: World-renowned Kojima Productions showcases the latest masterpiece in the Metal Gear Solid franchise with Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (on sale Spring 2014) is the first segment of the ‘Metal Gear Solid V Experience’ and prologue to the larger second segment, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain launching thereafter. MGSV: GZ gives core fans the opportunity to get a taste of the world-class production’s unparalleled visual presentation and gameplay before the release of the main game. It also provides an opportunity for gamers who have never played a Kojima Productions game, and veterans alike, to gain familiarity with the radical new game design and unparalleled style of presentation. The critically acclaimed Metal Gear Solid franchise has entertained fans for decades and revolutionized the gaming industry. Kojima Productions once again raises the bar with the FOX Engine offering incredible graphic fidelity and the introduction of open world game design in the Metal Gear Solid universe. This is the experience that core gamers have been waiting for.

I do have to give the same props for being very visual. In fact during the opening credits cut-scene, my wife walked in the room and said “What movie you watching, Mike?” and didn’t even realize that this was a game. To me that gives a real thumbs up to the game. Now, this was only on Playstation 3, so I cannot even imagine how good it would look on Playstation 4. Stealth is key in this game and definitely not for those who like to run in shoot and ask questions later, but obviously if you are familiar with the series this is no surprise. So whether you play on Normal or Hard, the challenge is very present, which should make hardcore fans happy.

Even though the main campaign is quite short. There is a still some decent replay value to enjoy if you take your time and poke around a bit. There are several side missions, which can be unlocked by finding XOF badges. I also felt that the general plot for this game was much darker than usual for this series, but that wasn’t entirely a bad thing. The game also features a strong voice cast including Kiefer Sutherland (“TV’s “24”) as Snake and Tara Strong (“My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”) as Paz Ortega Andrade.

The timeline for the game is set in 1975, so it falls between “Peace Walker (1975)” and the original “Metal Gear (1995)” even though is obviously leads into “The Phantom Pain”, which is set in 1985 but I am basing it in terms of released games. This is also the first “Metal Gear Solid” game to explore the option of an open world giving players total freedom on how to play. So for $29.99, it all comes down to how hardcore of a fan are you for this series. Even though I went back and go to explore a little more after the main campaign, I finished this game just feeling a bit unsatisfied and wanting more.

Playstation 3 Game Review “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2”

Platform: Playstation 3
Players: 1
Developer: MercurySteam
Publisher: Konami
ESRB: Mature
Release Date: February 25, 2014

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Ever since 1986, I have been a huge fan of the “Castlevania” series. I probably got introduced to it too young but it has always been a favorite. It probably also influenced my love for anything horror related. Fast forward nearly 30 years and this franchise still has some steam. In fact speaking of steam, this game is from Developer MercurySteam, who has been behind this entire “Lords of Shadow” trilogy. Don’t let the “2” in the title through you off, the trilogy also includes Nintendo 3DS title “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate”. It is also crazy to think that this release is actually the 35th Castlevania game. Well as much as I would like to say it is the best I really can’t. It has it’s moments but overall leaves you wanting more from the closing game in the trilogy. Though if you have been following this trilogy it is worth checking out but I see this gathering dust on my shelf in a very short time and then probably ending up on eBay.

“Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2” does some stocked with some really beautiful and very detailed areas and landscapes. I also received “The Art of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2” and it really made me appreciate the work that was done for this game much more. MercurySteam did a great job I might add with the visuals since this game was definitely quite a looker. The character design and development are really sharp and very in depth. In terms of game play though, I can see this game getting old after a while. The control system is interesting since you have the life stealer with the L1 button, which has a certain use and then the shield breaker with R2, so you are constantly changing and it does make things interesting. But I just felt like I was slash, slash, slashing throughout the game throughout my venture.

Official Premise: At the end of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the origin of Dracula and his legendary connection with the Belmonts was revealed. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is the sequel to that 2010 reboot of the Castlevania series for play on Next-Gen game consoles. In it fans can expect thrilling new twists, action, adventure and challenges, as Dracula returns, this time to battle ultimate evil. Yet the dilemma is that he himself is greatly weakened and yearning for release from his immortal bonds. To succeed against the powerful threat he stands against, the vampire lord must reacquire his old powers – and only his castle holds the key. However, the famed Belmont clan also seeks his ultimate destruction in this shocking conclusion to the Lords of Shadow series.

Since this is the last game in this new reboot of the classic Castlevania game series, I am not sure where this series will go now but MercurySteam has said that this was their last go-round with this franchise. I would say that “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2” is definitely worth playing, it is not terribly long but it is quite challenging in terms of difficulty. But if you are a hardcore “Castlevania” fan, this should come as no surprise. In terms of story, it is a little confusing or just short on details. But I caught on with what I could and just enjoyed the ride. Speaking of story, just a quick note, if you haven’t played the Nintendo 3DS title “Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate” and don’t want it to get spoiled, I would wait on “Lords of Shadow 2” since there’s a 10-minute cut scene that sums up the whole plot. I thought it was a nice tie-in personally of the series. I am sure that this will not be the end of “Castlevania” as like Dracula himself the series is forever. May not be my favorite game of the year but I still stand before this series.

Interview with Brandon Sonnier

Brandon Sonnier is the writer, producer and director of the film “Blues”. “Blues” is his third film and definitely his best effort to date. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Brandon about his latest film and also found out how he gets his inspiration for his films.

Click here to purchase Brandon’s movies

Michael Gencarelli: How did you find the task of not only directing but also writing and producing your first film “The Beat”?
Brandon Sonnier: It probably should have been harder but I didn’t know any better at the time. (Laughs) I was about 20 years old when I did that film and actually shot it in between film school semesters. I had a roommate of mine read the script and after he was done he said to me this could be a real movie! Sadly that roommate passed away in a car accident and that was really the driving force behind the movie getting made. I owe a lot to him.

MG: Music seems to be a real inspiration for your films, is it very important to you?
BS: It is. The music on “Blues” I did a little differently than my other two movies. “The Beat” was a very music driven song and we had to have those songs written especially for the film as that is what it’s about. For “Blues” I had to sit down and as I was writing the script I went through all the blues greats such as Muddy Waters and Ella Fitzgerald. At different points in the writing of the script I had various songs in my head along with an idea of where they should be in the movie.

MG: How did you come up with the idea for “Blues”?
BS: The script originated as a project titled “Underground.” It was actually going to be a little bit bigger. I had written a few other movies at the time that I was shopping around town but I hadn’t gotten any bites. I needed to be directing and had the idea of doing something small enough that I could get out there with and actually do it. “Underground” is what I came up with and people really loved it. They all seemed to have the same comment however that it was too small. Well that’s because I did it myself! (Laughs)

MG: I love the way it was shot, sort of like “Pulp Fiction” piecing the story together, what made you choice that format for the story?
BS: Believe it or not the story actual chose how it was going to be shot. When I wrote and shot the film it was very linear. The whole thing really took place in front of the viewer. After shooting I did a full cut of that film and was in fact very linear. It just didn’t feel right because I felt like people would want to see more of what was going on at the same time but with other characters. I thought the way the story was dictated proved that it really needed to be chopped up and placed out of order. It was also done this way in an effort to allow the viewers more time to get to know the characters.

MG: Of the films you have directed is there one film you hold higher?
BS: I think “Blues” is by far my best. Don’t get me wrong I love all my films but if I can’t believe I am getting better with each film then what am I doing? I really think “Blues” is the top in my book.

MG: Was there one that was more challenging?
BS: I would have to say “Blues” also. When I shot “The Beat” I was so young that I was just running around in the streets shooting. I didn’t always have the proper permits and such but I just did it. Then I did “The List” which was a little bit bigger and featured Wayne Brady and Sydney Tamiia Poitier. The size of that movie caused me to have to work inside the system and have all the proper permits and such. I was also dealing with larger cast and crew as well as a studio that was fronting all the money. When it came time to do “Blues” I knew all the right ways to shoot a film. I could shoot it like I did when I was younger or I can follow how things were done on “The List.” Ultimately with “Blues”, I found a middle ground in which I was able to keep the spontaneity and freeness of my first film and combine that with the structure of my second film.

MG: Is it planned that you have worked with the same actors, Steve Connell in “The Beat” & “Blues” and Sydney Tamiia Poitier in “Blues” & “The List”?
BS: When I sat down after deciding to shoot “Blues” on my own I did have those people in mind. I loved working with them and I knew that they knew me and we had a relationship already. This really helped because we shot the movie in 9 days. I was really relying on those actors that I had worked with before. Steve’s role specifically I couldn’t imagine anyone else in that role. We shot his scenes in three and half days due to another project he was working. I wanted him in the film very badly so we made it work.

MG: What do you have coming up next?
BS: I am currently writing a few scripts and shopping those around. I am attached to a project called “Sky” which is a film about a girl who gets caught up in trouble and finds herself being on an undercover task force at a very young age. It’s going to be a very gritty and raw type of film. I also am writing another script called “Down Home” that takes place in rural Louisiana which is where my family is from.

Click here to purchase Brandon’s movies

Interview with Ari Lehman

Ari Lehman is known best in the horror genre as playing the first Jason Voorhees in “Friday the 13th”.  Though Ari real passion has been his music and his band, FIRSTJASON.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Ari about his film and music career.

Click here to purchase the films in the “Friday the 13th” series

MG: What does it feel like to have played the first ever Jason Voorhees…in one word?
AL: Empowering.

MG: How long did it take to apply your makeup?
AL: I worked with the SFX Wizard Tom Savini and his assistant Taso Stavrakos on and off for four weeks to create the original mold for the face. After that, script additions called for the character to appear water damaged. I went back to the studio for a few days before we tried it out on the set.
Each time it took around 4 hours to apply the makeup, so if there was a 7:30 AM call for cast and crew, we would start applying the mask at 3:30.

MG: What why did you leave acting only after “Friday the 13th”?
AL: Rock and Roll is the reason, really. As a young man, I was very intrigued by the entire filmmaking process. Yet, my first love was Music, and my experiences as a performer, even then, were very immediate and gratifying. Being on a film set, and doing SFX skin work, involves A LOT of waiting and down time. I was drawn to the visceral atmosphere of live performance.

MG: Tell us about your music career and your band FIRSTJASON?
AL: FIRSTJASON is a Horror Rock Power Duo, and our recent CD “Jason is Watching!” has received rave reviews and 4.5 out of 5 stars from Dread Central, a major Horror website. We have toured throughout the US, as well as performing at Horror Film Festivals in Spain and Italy. I perform on a Machete-shaped Keytar called the Keychete, created by Brothers Rich FX. FIRSTJASON performs songs about the inner working of the mind of a monster. FIRSTJASON is the voice of the usually silent Jason Voorhees, with titles like “Jason Never Dies”, “You Better Run”, “Sink or Swim”, and “Red Red Red”, FIRSTJASON has captured the imagination of Horror and Metal fans alike, and run with it through the woods to Camp Crystal Lake.

Here is a recent review from College News: “First Jason is amazing. Self produced, and self released, this album hits you over the head with an anvil being swung at 1000 miles an hour by the metal gods. Once hitting play on your CD player, Lehman and crew break out of your speakers in surround-sound, get in your face, flash you the devil horns, and smoke through a 30 minute set that will leave your jaw dragging across the floor.” – (Justin Bozung, College News – October 25 2010)

MG: How did you get involved with composing soundtracks for indie films?
AL: I was asked by Kevin Sean Michaels to compose the Soundtrack for “Vampira: The Movie”, which received The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award for Best Independent Film of 2009. I went on to work with Kevin on other film projects, several of which are still in the works, as well as Alex Anastasio’s brilliant “Salome”, an all-female dance version of the tale. Here is the link to the video of the some music I created with Kevin and Bill Moseley for a Vampira: the Movie music video recently made to honor Vampira’s Birthday.

MG: How do you compare working on your music to composing a film?
AL: Admittedly, my forte is performing songs, singing while playing a Machete-shaped Keytar that sounds like lightning and thunder. Composing soundtracks is now becoming more interesting to me though, especially since I have been watching great films as much as possible for inspiration. The difference between writing songs and soundtracks is truly one of texture and time. A song works in one way, and a soundtrack in another. The great Maestro Harry Manfredini, who wrote the soundtrack for “Friday the 13th”, “Wishmaster” and many more films, gave me some insight to the more spacious, linear, and temporal world of soundtrack composition. Abstraction is crucial there. I am hoping to learn more!

MG: What else do you have planned upcoming? .
AL: FIRSTJASON goes back on tour in the US in March, from the Midwest to the East Coast this time, and then it’s off to Germany and Italy in May. There are two Graphic Novels based on FIRSTJASON and myself coming from the EU, one is called “FIRSTJASON Rising” from Germany and the other, “Jason Must Rule”, from Italy. I will be appearing in several Indie Horror films that will be shot in 2011 too, and introducing a the Camp Crystal Lake Machetes. FIRSTJASON was just signed to Dark Star Records in Chicago, and we plan to record and release a new CD this year called A World of Pain”. I want to take this opportunity to thank you and your readers, and to remind you all:

JASON NEVER DIES!!!
MANY THANKS FROM CAMP CRYSTAL LAKE!!! – ARI LEHMAN/JASON#1
http://www.firstjason.com/

Click here to purchase the films in the “Friday the 13th” series

Interview with Seamus Dever

Seamus Dever is known for his role of Kevin Ryan on ABC’s hit show “Castle”. “Castle” is one of the rare shows that actually gets better with each episode and only mid-way through season three the show was already renewed for season four. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Seamus about his role in the show and what is planned for the future.

Click here to purchase “Castle” DVD’s & Blu-Ray’s

Mike Gencarelli: You weren’t involved originally in the “Castle” pilot, how did you come on board?
Seamus Dever: After they shot their pilot presentation, which was only 37 minutes long, they did some recasting and I think they wanted someone that would be John’s partner. They liked John but they didn’t have someone who was a match…was the right height…had a similar sensibility. Someone suggested “how about an Irish cop” and when I heard about it I jumped on it and did all I could to get in on it. That’s how it came about. They shot the pilot in New York, four or five months before we started the series. I was working on another project at the time so I didn’t even hear about it. They shot it with a totally different crew, a totally different director of photography. They like to make fun of me some times that I came late to the party…”Oh, you weren’t there for the pilot, you missed such a great time.” But the truth is, there were only seven series regulars, our two executive producers and one of the writers and that’s it! That’s all that were there for the pilot that carried over to the series so I don’t feel like I missed out on too much. The series has become what it is based on the people who work on it out in Los Angeles.

MG: Tell us what draws you to your character Kevin Ryan?
SD: Kevin Ryan is kind of quirky…he’s not too serious. He’s very dry in his sense of humor. I love that we’re allowed to be funny. I’m amazed that some times we make decisions based on what’s funnier. I can’t tell you how many times I ask Nathan or John “what’s funnier, this way or that way?” I love that the character is not so serious that he can’t make fun of his partner or he can’t make fun of Castle or he can’t crack a joke in the middle of a crime scene.

MG: In the last few episodes, your character is getting a little romance. How do you feel about that?
SD: It’s funny because the character of Jenny really emerged in, I think, episode seven of the first season but we didn’t really get to meet her until the second season. There was a long gestation process in that time. I really advocated for my real life wife, Juliana, to play Jenny. But they held out and waited, and Julie held out and waited because she had auditioned for other roles on the show…thank God she didn’t get those parts or she wouldn’t have been available for Jenny. So they brought her on and that’s how that happened. I hope to see a lot more of Jenny. First, it would mean I get to work with my wife but more importantly it means we’re getting a chance to look into Ryan’s personal life.

MG: What is the best part for you working on “Castle”?
SD: Sometimes when you’re working on a scene the best part is the collaboration. Of course, there’s what’s written on the page and most shows do what’s written on the page. But we, as actors, we’re always looking for moments or the thoughts behind the action. Sometimes when we do a scene there will be the four of us and we’ll do a moment that we’ll explore together that turns out so funny because everyone is contributing ideas. Nathan will contribute an idea about my performance or I’ll contribute something for Jon to think about..it’s really like instant theater. Everyone coming up with different ideas and really collaborating. We did a scene that was really fun the other day…one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. We’re looking at a character through a window…a very simple scene of us talking in the break room. We’re just throwing out ideas and then Jon comes in and says “what are you guys looking at?” It’s really funny when that happens because we’re really comfortable with each other. Everyone knows it’s about making a good show. You can’t do a good show and not talk about the process of acting…not talk about ideas. It’s not one of those shows where they tell you to leave the other actors alone…don’t force your opinions on them. With our show we’ve always had this understanding. We all want to contribute because we want to make it interesting. We want to help each other out. And that’s my favorite part…when you get together and you know a scene is going to pop and you know the audience is going to love it. We just have fun doing it. And discovering as an actor just how funny and alive the work is…that’s my favorite part of it too.

MG: Tell us about working with Jon Huertas and such a great cast?
SD: John and I get along really well. He and I have a relationship based on carpentry! We’re always talking about fixing up our homes a lot. We talk about that a lot. And we both enjoy wine…we’ve gone up to the wine country and drank too much! (laughs) John’s really cool. We have such a natural rapport that we fell into, which is great. Everyone thinks we’re constantly in character. They’ll observe a conversation that John and I are having and ask “are you guys playing this out?” And we’re like, “no, that’s just the way we talk. We’re not acting here.” At the beginning they wanted our relationship to be something like a marriage. When you spend that much time with somebody you know the things that annoy them. You know all of their stories. You’ve heard them all at least a thousand times. I can’t tell you how many times John says “hey, did I tell you about the time I was in the Air Force and I met this girl and she did this thing?” We had someone in the car with us the other day and he says “did I tell you the story about the midget,” and I say “John, you’re mixed, you can’t tell the story about the midget!” And he’s like, “oh yeah, right.” It’s a great story but not one for mixed company…especially when he’s wired. We know each other really well. We work together very fast…we have a short hand now for everything. It’s really amazing. We know exactly where to stand, how to do something. It’s a perfect working situation because everybody’s cool and we’re working on quality material. It’s really great.

MG: Congrats on the show being picked up for season four. Did you think this show was going to be this big of a hit?
SD: I think it’s great. Our show has been growing steadily. A lot of shows debut to big numbers and then slowly it’s a kind of attrition with the audience. But our shows audience has been growing and that’s great. This is my first show as a series regular so I was really hoping that my first show wouldn’t be one of those stinkers that people attach your name to for the rest of your career. I know for the rest of my career that I have this quality show called “Castle” attached to me.

MG: What can you tell us for the upcoming episodes?
SD: We’re working on a two-parter right now. We did one last year that was pretty successful. We had Dana Delaney on last year, this year we have Adrian Pasdar. He started the other day. It’s about terrorism. It’s sort of a cool cliffhanger. And hopefully we’ll see more of the serial killer…the 3XK serial killer comes back. I know for sure we’re going to see more of Jenny this year. And of course we’ll see more of Esposito and Lanie. That relationship is fun. Every episode since then we’ve had a conversation about that, where my character is now trying to school Esposito in the ways of romance. There’s all of these possibilities…we talk about all kinds of things…Valentine’s Day, things like that. It’s really funny. And to be honest one of my favorite episodes that we’ve ever shot is coming up this week. It’s called “Knock Down.” It’s a continuation of Beckett’s mothers’ murder and getting back to that story. It’s a great episode, written by Will Beall, who’s one of our best writers. He’s the one who wrote “Sucker Punch” from last year. His dialogue is great and there’s always action and a lot of cool stuff we get to do. It’s going to be good stuff.

Click here to purchase “Castle” DVD’s & Blu-Ray’s

Interview with Wayne Ewing

Wayne Ewing is the man behind some of the best documentaries about the late Hunter S. Thompson, such as “Breakfaster with Hunter”, “When I Die” and his latest film, “Animals, Whores and Dialogue: Breakfast with Hunter, Vol.2”.  Wayne took on maybe roles in his films such as Cinematographer, Director, Editor and Producer.  They are very intimate and really feel like labors of love.   There have been many documentaries about the late Hunter S. Thompson, but Wayne’s films get a chance to get inside of his head directly.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Wayne about his relationship with Hunter and his films.

Click here to read our review of “Animal, Whores and Dialogue: Breakfast with Hunter, Vol.2” DVD
Click here to enter our giveaway of “Animal, Whores and Dialogue: Breakfast with Hunter, Vol.2” DVD

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how you originally met Hunter S. Thompson?
Wayne Ewing: In the early 1980’s I found myself living in Woody Creek, Colorado not far from Hunter Thompson, who had always been a hero of mine. I had just finished two films as an independent producer for the PBS series “Frontline” and was looking for a new subject for a film for them. The word was out that Hunter was working in San Francisco as the Night Manager of the Mitchell Brothers’ O’Farrell Theater which seemed a good hook for a film. The Executive Producer of Frontline, David Fanning, encouraged me to pursue the story, at my own expense of course, so I made contact with Hunter’s secretary Deborah Fuller and flew her and myself to San Francisco to meet with Hunter. That weekend at the O’Farrell, a place Hunter called the Carnegie Hall of public sex in America, was more than you can imagine (see my vodcast “The O’Farrell” @ www.HunterThompsonFilms.com/vodcast for the lurid details). However, by the time I returned, David Fanning had chickened out and I realized I would have to make my own film about Hunter – what ultimately became Breakfast with Hunter.

MG: Was he a fascinating person to be around, I never had the chance to meet him?
WE: Hunter was charismatic to be sure, and moreover truly a lot of fun to hang with. His Mother would recall how when he was just five or six years old, all the other young kids in the neighborhood would gather on their front porch and wait, sometimes for an hour or more, for Hunter to come out to play. An invitation to Owl Farm, whether to watch football and gamble or work on a column or book with Hunter was a gift from the literary gods. He ran the best salon and saloon in the West.

MG: Did it take a lot of convincing to get Hunter to do the documentary “Breakfast with Hunter”?
WE: “Breakfast with Hunter” evolved out of that weekend in San Francisco. The next year, 1985, I found financial backing to make a pilot for a television series we were going to call “Breakfast with Hunter” – a parody of morning TV talk shows with a title suggested by Jack Nicholson. We paid Hunter to travel to Key West for the filming. Once again, check out my vodcast for the details. It was quite a trip. But I never sold the pilot or the series and Hunter began asking me to record various political events in Aspen that he was involved in. When cheap digital technology became available in the mid-nineties, I began shooting in earnest, and released Breakfast with Hunter in 2003, and then three other Hunter films, including the latest – Animals, Whores & Dialogue – all of which are exclusively available at www.HunterThompsonFilms.com

MG: Why did you decided to make “Animals, Whores & Dialogue: Breakfast with Hunter, Vol. 2”?
WE: There was so much material left over after I edited Breakfast with Hunter and more that I shot after its release in 2003, that I thought I could make another documentary feature about Hunter concentrating more on his work as a writer and less on his flamboyant lifestyle. Imagine if someone had been able to record Mark Twain in the same way. The film is meant to be a documentary for the ages, and I’ve been gratified to receive quite a few library orders, along with fans who already have the earlier films, and new ones as well.

MG: Was it difficult for you making “When I Die”, I think it is amazing that you were able to share that experience with his fans?
WE: Emotionally, it was quite difficult for me, since I had lost my best friend. But, in the end, like all funerals but even more so in this case, the process of documenting the construction of the monument (which went on for months), the struggle to get the community to accept it, and the blast off itself, gave me quite a bit of closure.

MG: What are your feeling on the film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, are you a fan?
WE: I’m a fan of Johnny Depp’s performance in “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas”, but not of the film itself, and I think the same was true for Hunter. Ironically, after Hunter got Alex Cox fired as Director for his insistence on using animation that Hunter called “cartoons,” (see the famous scene in “Breakfast with Hunter” where Cox flees the kitchen at Owl Farm) the Producers of the film hired Terry Gilliam, who began his career as a cartoonist. Gilliam was in England, not the US, during the turbulent sixties and prides himself on having never taken drugs, so perhaps he was limited by his own lack of experience.

MG: Have you had a chance to see “The Rum Diary” yet?
WE: No, but I’m looking forward seeing “The Rum Diary”, hopefully sometime in 2011.

MG: Do you have any more plans to make future film about Hunter S. Thompson?
WE: Probably not a feature length documentary like the last four, but look for new, short scenes to be released in the future on our web site – www.HunterThompsonFilms.com – especially about “The Rum Diary”.

Interview with David Walton

David Walton is the star of the new show on NBC’s “Perfect Couples”. David has also appeared in last fall’s “Burlesque” and the upcoming “Friends with Benefits”. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat to David about his new show “Perfect Couples” and his upcoming role.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your new show “Perfect Couples” and your role of Vance?
David Walton: The show premiers January 20th on NBC. It’s a comedy about three very different couples who are all friends. The show is based around the couples trials and tribulations due to being newly married or about to get married. I play Vance who is in love with a character named Amy. They are soul mates but probably would have been better off not ever meeting. Vance is a really passionate character and isn’t afraid to say what he’s thinking.

MG: How did you get involved with the show?
DW: I auditioned in early February of 2010 and I think they saw something in me they liked. It was a really quick and somewhat easy audition process. Within a couple weeks, I had the role and we shot the pilot in April. The show was picked up in May. We started shooting the series in August and shot 13 episodes. Everything has moved really fast.

MG: Tell us about how it has been working with your fellow cast?
DW: (Laughs) everyone gets along really well. I had known most of the cast previously and am friends with a lot of them. It was nice because we all have good chemistry with each other.

MG: How do you think the show will stand out amongst the other comedies?
DW:A lot of the comedies that are on television right now are work place comedies. Our show is a relationship comedy. Our show is very simple and it focuses on small moments in relationships that have happened to a lot of people at one time or another. I think our show is different because it’s smaller and a little more real.

MG: How was it working with Cher & Christina Aguilera on “Burlesque”?
DW: That was great! Christina was very sweet. She always would be humming to herself in between takes so I would try and stick around to hear her sing. There was one scene where I had to be shirtless, so I went into the makeup trailer to make sure I was all set for that role and Stanley Tucci was in there doing the same thing. I don’t know how old that guy really is but he is ripped and huge! I’m 31 and getting totally out done by this older guy. (Laughs) I ended up wearing a blanket for the entire scene of the movie. I was totally embarrassed.

MG: Tell us about working on the upcoming film “Friends with Benefits”?
DW: That’s a role that probably won’t make my mother or grandmother too proud. (Laughs) I have a scene where Mila Kunis walks in and I am on all fours wearing a horse type costume. Patricia Clarkson is dressed up as a fairy princess and is riding me! I play a FedEx pilot that she picked up at the airport. That was really hard to keep everything together while shooting that scene. Leather chaps aren’t as uncomfortable as they seem! (Laughs)

Interview with Kevin Conway

You may not recognize the name Kevin Conway but you surely know his work.  Of course, if you saw him in “Funny Farm” or “Mystic River” you still might not have known his name because he doesn’t appear in the credits.  Billing counts in Hollywood and if you can’t be featured it’s best not to be mentioned at all!  After beginning his professional life working with IBM he pursued acting by studying at the Dramatic Workshop at New York’s famed Carnagie Hall, later moving on to the famed HB Studio.  He soon found himself doing regional theatre, including what he calls his favorite role, that of Randal P. McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”  He made his Broadway debut opposite Charles Durning, Stacy Keach, Sam Waterson and Raul Julia in the play “Indians.”  In 1973 he won critical acclaim for his role as Vietnam veteran Teddy in Mark Medoff’s play “When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder.”  Among his other theatre triumphs:  the role of Dr. Frederick Treves in the Broadway production of “The Elephant Man” and Lawrence Garfinkle in both the New York and Los Angeles productions of “Other People’s Money.”  He made his film debut in 1971’s “Believe In Me” and gained recognition as Weary in “Slaughterhouse-Five” that same year.  He also has the distinction of having starred in the first film made exclusively for PBS, “The Lathe of Heaven.”  Mr. Conway has appeared recently on the popular CBS television program “The Good Wife.”  When he’s not working he devotes his time and celebrity to a great cause: the rescue and adoption of animals.  He recently appeared in a PSA to benefit the Best Friends Animal Society (you can view here) and encourages his fans to either visit their web site – www.bestfriends.org – or their local no-kill shelter and find a home for a new friend.  He also recently started his own web site – www.kevinconway.com – which is currently under construction.  Mr. Conway recently took the time to sit down with MovieMikes and talk about his career:

Michael Smith: You won an Obie and a Drama Desk Award for your performance in the off-Broadway show “When You Coming Back, Red Ryder?”  Did you feel like you had “made at” after being recognized for your work?
Kevin Conway: Absolutely.  Before that even.  I had done several plays before “Red Ryder,” including my favorite role, McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which I did for almost two years in New York and Philadelphia.  I couldn’t wait to get on stage every night.  It’s really American mythology,  that whole play.  McMurphy being the tragic figure…not that something bad has happened to you but knowing in advance that something bad IS going to happen to you.  But you have to do what you have to do anyway.  It’s like Oedipus…just don’t ask who your mother is.  Let it go.  And he can’t let it go.  That role is still the most satisfying I’ve had.  I’ve been very lucky.  Even before that.  My first play in New York was a John Guare play, which wasn’t too shabby.  And the second one was a play called “Saved,” directed by Alan Schneider, one of the great stage directors of that era.  Alan did the premieres of all of the Becket and Albee and Pinter plays.  And it was an important play.  It was an English play and at the time England had a person called the Lord High Chamberlain.  The Lord High Chamberlain would go to a play and if he didn’t like it…if he didn’t think it was a suitable play for the public…it was over.  Gone.  He would withdraw their license to perform.  Edward Bond was the writer of “Saved” and other plays.  He went to court over “Saved” and the court ruled that his work was free speech.  Nobody forces you to go to a play.  If you don’t want to go see it don’t go see it.  The play has a right to be performed.  And I did the play in the states with James Woods.  It was a very controversial play.  So that was really the first time I did anything that got noticed.  I then did a play called “Moonchildren.”  I was a little long in the tooth to be playing a college kid, but then so was the rest of the cast, which included James Woods, Stephen Collins, Christopher Guest, Edward Hermann, Jill Eikenberry, Michael Tucker and Robert Prosky.  And even though it didn’t make it to Broadway there was a big hue and cry because of the way it was mishandled…the way it was publicized.  We started off in Washington D.C.  I had just finished filming “Slaughterhouse-Five” in Czechoslovakia and went right into the show.  I spent one day in New York and then went down to Washington.  From there I moved on to “Cuckoo’s Nest” and then to “Red Ryder.”  Then I did “Of Mice and Men” (with James Earl Jones) and then I went Hollywood for a few years! (laughs)  I came back to New York and did “The Elephant Man” for two years, than I did the television production of “The Elephant Man.”  Then back to film and television for most of the 1980s.  Then “Other People’s Money” came along and I did that for two and a half years.  I also directed the show in Chicago and San Francisco and starred and directed the show in Los Angeles, which was very successful.  It ran almost a year there.  And I have to tell you it all went by fast.  I turned around and it seemed like I had just done “Red Ryder” the other day!

MS: Your first major film role was as gangster Vince Doyle in “F.I.S.T,” which was Sylvester Stallone’s follow up to “Rocky.”  What are your memories of that production?
KC: Well, the film was shot in Dubuque, Iowa and one of the reasons they chose Dubuque was that the film took place in the 1930s.  They needed a place where there weren’t a lot of television antennas.  Dubuque was one of the first towns in the country to have cable television.  It was like an experiment to see if cable was viable.  So because of that the town was perfect architecturally to play the 1930s.  Lots of old trucks and warehouses.  It was perfect.  I was a little nervous, being the big city kid, thinking I was going to go crazy spending months in Dubuque.  But it turned out to be a very friendly town with lots of great things to do…mainly involving alcohol.  (laughs)  On our off days.   So we filmed there and then went to California for a lot of the interior work.  And that’s how I ended up in Hollywood.  I just stayed there for a couple of years.

MS: You worked with Stallone again when, as director, he cast you in “Paradise Alley.”  As “Paradise Alley” ends it’s revealed that your character, Stitch Mahoney, secretly wears women’s undergarments.  Can you share how that came about.
KC: That came about because I have a big mouth!  We were having lunch and I was talking about what a strange, repressed little Irish guy Stitch is.  He’s always talking about his mother and he’s got his gang of thugs.  But on the other hand, there’s something a little “off” about him.  So I said to Sly, “you know, I bet that under all the black clothes and the fedora…the stickpins and the black gloves and the gold teeth…I bet he wears garter belts and women’s underwear.  Stallone stopped eating and looked at me.  “I love it!” (delivered,  I should say,  in a perfect Stallone voice).  So we wound up shooting two endings.  One where there is a big battle in the ring and I get thrown out.  And one where I’m wearing break away pants, which come off when the guy grabs me.  And it had to be ME getting thrown out of the ring, because I had a line to say as the guy holds me over his head.  So we did about ten takes of me being thrown out of the ring from various angles.  And I became an honorary stunt man.  Stunts Unlimited gave me a hat that said that.  And they were incredible.  They basically had to catch me each time and it’s almost like a science.  Each one of them takes a different part of your body as their responsibility so that when you come flying out of the ring somebody goes for your hips and somebody grabs your head and neck and somebody grabs your legs and you fall on them and they act like they’re being crushed but they are really taking care of you.  I didn’t get a scratch on me.

MS: I visited NYC the day AFTER “The Elephant Man” closed on Broadway!  You starred in the production as Dr. Treves and later reprised the role in the television version.  How do you continue to perform a role for so long without losing focus?
KC: People ask me that question a lot.  “How can you do the same play eight days a week?”  And I tell them it’s like walking into a party or some kind of event.  You get a sense of the atmosphere.  Sometimes you feel like the party is going to be a dud.  You can just tell…there’s no energy in the room.  The next one you walk into you can feel a spirit going on.  It’s always different.  Different people create different energy.  So each audience is different.  And I always approach the theatre as if I’m doing it for the very first time.  It’s always an investigation.  And any good actor will tell you that from the moment the play gets started and you begin doing it over and over again you’re really not doing exactly the same play.  Your own mood, your own sense of the energy you have that day…you start investigating the moments in the play and you find that they change.  Sometimes in subtle ways…sometimes in pretty big ways.  The very last performance I did of “The Elephant Man” with Philip Anglim…we found a moment.  We got off stage and looked at each other and said, “Damn, why didn’t we do that? Why didn’t we find this nine months ago?”  It was a great little moment that we had and we found it in the very last performance.  Of course we found others during the course of the show as well.  But there is something about theatre that has an immediacy.  And it’s really your life.  If you’re doing live theatre you’re not going to be able to stay home and watch “Jeopardy” every night.

MS: Can you tell us about how “The Elephant Man” came about?
KC: The show started out as a small play in London called “Deformed.”  It played at one of the smaller fringe theatres…almost a warehouse really.  It was a small, fringe theatre production and it didn’t go anywhere.  But it happened to be seen by Philip Anglim, who was on vacation in London.  And he saw it and realized there was a good part for him (Anglim, like Mr. Conway an American actor,  would go on to receive Drama Desk and Theater World Awards for his work in “The Elephant Man,” as well as a Tony Award nomination.  When the show was performed for television he also earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations).  He persuaded a producer friend of his to bring it over here.  It started out as a very limited production.  It was only scheduled to run for about two weeks.  And at the last minute the producer got a special off-Broadway contract so that, if we could, we could make it an open ended run.  There was no theater.  When the show started we were working in the basement of a church on Lexington Avenue that had about 60 seats.  He had to rent chairs for people to sit in.  We opened up and I never had this experience…by the second or third night I knew it was going to be a hit just from the audience reaction.  We opened and the reviews were fantastic.  So we moved to Broadway.  But because where we originally were was so small, the set had to be totally reconceived  for the bigger Broadway stage.  And we wanted to wait for the Booth theatre, which is the primary theatre on Shubert Alley.  And so while we waited for the Booth to come available  I went down to Texas to make “The Lathe of Heaven.”  I had about ten days before we re-opened on Broadway so I flew to Dallas and shot the film.

MS: You also played Johnny Friendly in the Broadway production of “On the Waterfront,” a role played so memorably in the film by Lee J. Cobb.  Was it hard to step into a role that so many people already have a preconceived notion of?
KC: The thing about Johnny Friendly…Lee J. Cobb was perfect.  Nobody could do it better than him.  He’s in the movie that’s the classic.  Nobody could top it.  In the original Budd Schulberg story there is no happy ending.  It’s based on a true incident that really happened about a guy like Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando in the film, played in this production by Ron Eldard).  He really did do what happens in the film…he testified.  But in real life not long afterwards he disappeared.  And nobody ever saw him again.  And the character that Johnny Friendly was based on, he wasn’t that big.  Not like Cobb, who was physically imposing himself.  There was something a little off with him.  They hinted almost that there was a kind of homo-erotic relationship with boxers.  And his power came from the position he had, not from his own physical strength.  So we went more for that.  There was still a big fight at the end of the play…I got my ribs cracked during that fight with Ron Eldard.  But we went for it…we tried to do a good stage fight, which is difficult.  You have to be careful when you have a knock down dirty fight on stage…you can’t just go for it because you’re doing it eight times a week.  You don’t want to make a mistake.  I mean look at “Spider-man.”  You make a mistake and you don’t have a show anymore. (Mr. Conway is referring to the new Broadway production “Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark,” which has had several cast mishaps and has gone through constant delays).  We choreographed something that was pretty brutal for Broadway and one night I got hit in the ribs.  Ron used to box so he could punch!  So I wore a protective vest after that.  But it was more that Johnny Friendly was dangerous because of what he could have done, not what he could physically do.  And Ron also played Terry much differently than Brando.  Which I think was right because you can’t imitate the roles of a classic film that almost can’t be improved on.  James Gandolfini was in the show, as well as David Morse, who was playing the Karl Malden part.  I really think the show could have been good but there was just too many backstage problems between financing and switching directors.  The show never really gelled, never came together.  I was hoping it would succeed because when you looked at the drama that was being performed on Broadway at the time it was primarily British plays.  They would import them over with the British cast.  The British cast would play for awhile then leave.  They’d re-cast the show with American actors and then the show would close in a month.  And “On the Waterfront” was purely and American story.  And it had a cast that wasn’t movie stars.    When I won the Drama League award for the show I made a speech that might have been ill advised.  I didn’t have to but I did.  All of the producers were there and I said, “you know, it used to be that Hollywood would come to Broadway to look for talent.”  That’s where Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda and Jimmy Cagney…Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn.  These people all came from Broadway.  They were brought out to Hollywood by the studios because the studios wanted the “class” that came with having a Broadway actor.  Cagney and Joan Blondell were brought out to reprise a small role they had in a show that was owned by Al Jolson.  Jolson agreed to give the studio the rights to make the film if they agreed to take Cagney and Blondell.  And I said what’s happening now is that you have a play with me and Ron Eldard and Penelope Ann Miller and David Morse…we’re not well known actors.  We don’t necessarily sell tickets.  But we have good reputations.  We’ve all done theatre.  I’d probably done more than all of them.  But the mindset became “if we can get a Hollywood actor who’s between movies and get him to play this part for a couple of months we can get a big advance sale on his or her name.”  And if that actor leaves they’ll get another, hopefully cheaper actor with a name.  A play is about chemistry.  You have to find the right chemistry between actors.  You rehearse.  If you can bring in a movie star and make your money back, that’s fine.  But don’t forget to do plays that are worth doing with the right actors in them.  And I said now it looks like Broadway is looking to Hollywood for actors to come slumming for a few months, when it used to be the other way around.  I said I’m not really holding my breath to see Kevin Costner’s  “Coriolanus.”  These are movie actors…very good movie actors, but movie actors.

MS: You directed and appeared in the film “The Sun and the Moon.”  As an actor, what was your hardest challenge as a director and vice versa?
KC: I had a small part in the film.  I did it to save money because I was very inexpensive.  Zero.  I didn’t have to pay myself anything.  It was the first, and last, narrative film I’d ever directed.  I didn’t expect to direct it but the original director fell ill and I had to jump in and do it.  I helped them raise the money for it.  It was a nice little film and I’m still proud of it.  It’s a film about the Puerto Rican experience in New York City and how, among all the Hispanics, the Puerto Ricans are the only ones who are American citizens.  They can freely travel back and forth to Puerto Rico…they’re not aliens, if you will.  And it’s caused a cultural schizophrenia.  People have emigrated here from the island to get jobs and raise their kids, but then they want to go home.  They want to go back to the island.  But the kids don’t.  The kids become “Americanized.”  In New York they call them “Nuevo Ricans.”  And this causes an interesting dynamic because the parents tend to be more old fashioned and conservative in their values while the children were wilder.   The story is about a woman who is from Puerto Rican heritage who lives with my character, a sort of Phil Donahue type who is a talk show host.  And I’m a terrible husband…I cheat on her and everything.  So she runs away from her comfortable Manhattan life style and the only place she knows to go to is where she was born, which was the South Bronx.  And when she gets there she becomes involved with the people who live in her building…very different characters.  The film got some very nice reviews but by the time it came to be released it was almost, may I say, too soft for the market.  Even though it took place in the South Bronx there was no crime in it.  No rats.  There was a problem with the landlord but that was it.

MS: What do you have coming up?
KC: I’m leaning toward the theater.  That’s what I want to do next.  I’m always open to offers.  I was just offered something but I didn’t like the part.  I’m very lucky in that I don’t have to take every part that comes along.  This one was for a pilot and I really didn’t want to do it…I didn’t want to lock myself in.  I’m really looking to do some theater.  That’s what I like to do.  A short run…no two year shows anymore.  If I could find a show here in New York and get those muscles going again, that would be great.  And hopefully a big movie somewhere in Paris or Morocco or someplace else I’ve never been.  I’ve been to Paris but I’ve never been to South America.  Maybe something in Buenos Aires!?

Interview with Mark Pellegrino

Mark Pellegrino is starring in SyFy’s newest show “Being Human” which premieres January 17th. Mark is known for his roles in ABC’s “Lost” and “The Big Lebowski”. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Mark about his role in the new show and looking back on his other roles

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about working on the TV series “Being Human”?
Mark Pellegrino: It is a remaking of the BBC show. However we are only using the original as a template. We had decided we really wanted to venture out on our own and try to make the story ours. The story is based on a ghost, vampire and werewolf living together, all while trying to help each other with various character flaws and situations. I figure into this story in that I am the one who made the vampire character a vampire. He is trying his hardest to get away from my character and live more of a human life. I play I guess what you would call the temptress. The cast was really great to work with.

MG: Where you familiar with the BBC series “Being Human”?
MP: I wasn’t really familiar with the series until I got the part. I was able to watch one episode and thought it was very good. I didn’t want to watch very much because I didn’t want to come up with any ideas that maybe I shouldn’t have. I have been very tempted to go back and watch more but I wanted to stay locked in on our version.

MG: How do you feel the series differs from the BBC series?
MP: The main templates of the characters are directly from the BBC version but after that the characters go in the new original direction. I know my character in the BBC version has very different things going on than in our “Being Human.”

MG: How was it being a part of the “Lost” universe?
MP: For me I have moved onto the next project but I think “Lost” is one of those things that never leaves you. That show was really special and it transcended a lot of stereotypes in television and became a force in itself. I think it’s great that people continue to love and show their appreciation for the show. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

MG: Can you reflect on working on such a cult film like “The Big Lebowski”?
MP: The cast was really amazing. I think that movie is one of the few that seems to just get better with age.  I really can’t think of too many other films that each time you watch it you get something different out of it.

MG: Tell us about working on the film “Capote”, which you had a great performance?
MP: The experience of that filming was so great.  Having the chance to pick such great actors brains like Phil Seymour Hoffman was unbelievable. It was really like a school of acting for me working on that film. I played the third wheel on that project and was the character that was always trying to get my voice heard. As an actor it was a phenomenal experience.  I am glad it translated well and I could be a part of it.

MG: Do you have a favorite project?
MP: I could probably pick five projects that are really great but all for different reasons. “Lost” is a favorite as well as “Being Human” which was another great project but, it’s hard for me to say. I think I am still looking for that one project that I have to really give 100%. All of my roles have been great though.

MG: Do you prefer working on movies or television?
MP: The thing that’s great about movies, especially if you have a large budget, is that you can take your time and shoot a lot of film to ensure you get those moments. TV and independent films you often are shooting at a faster pace or what you can shoot is limited by the budget and things can get missed. The general public might not notice something small caused by that rushing pace but as an actor you instantly recognize that maybe you could have been better with more time. One bad thing though about working on those big movies is that it can take a lot of time. Sometimes you end up just waiting for hours until they are ready for you. It just really depends on the day that you ask me as to what I like more. There are pros and cons to each.

MG: What can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
MP: I have been writing my own script and have a few offers out there for it but with all the holiday stuff going on I have been laying kind of low. I think once everything slows down I will poke my head out and see what going on.