Interview with “A Christmas Story” star Zack Ward

Ever since his debut as Scut Farkus in “A Christmas Story” over three decades ago, Zack Ward has steadily carved out a career both in front of and behind the camera.  But there is a lot more to Cleveland Street’s best known bully.

Zack and co-star Scott Schwartz will be appearing in Omaha this Friday, November 10, where they will host a charity screening of “A Christmas Story.” I had the opportunity to speak with Zack this week and he shared his thoughts about the film and his career.

Mike Smith:  Why do you think, more than 30 years after its release, “A Christmas Story” is still so popular?

Zack Ward:  I’ve been asked that question many times over the years and I’ve been able to give the answer a lot of thought.  It has something to do with the combination of many things.  The writing.  The story is the same story structure of Homer’s “The Iliad.”  A young boy goes on a mythical adventure.  He fights all of these different demons.  And he does this to finally earn the respect of his father.  That’s what the B.B. gun is about.  It’s not that it’s a toy.  It could have been anything.  If you remember what happens at the very end of the film, when the father says to Ralphie, “What’s that behind the tree?”  The mom doesn’t even know what’s there.  And he finds the B.B. gun and the mom is upset.  But he tells her that he had one when he was that age.  What the whole statement of the B.B. gun is is a coming of age.  It’s the father’s acceptance of the son being responsible and becoming a man.  Transitioning from being a child.  And getting that respect from the parents that you adore means everything.  It doesn’t matter what the toy is.  What matters is what it represents.

MS:  That is the greatest answer to that question that I’ve ever gotten.

ZW:  (laughs)  Thank you.  I’ve had many years to ponder this.  The other thing is the direction.  If you look at the film again, and I’m sure you will now, you’ll notice that it is shot from the child’s view.  Bob Clark had the camera lowered so that the camera was always shooting from Ralphie’s point of view.  That never happens.  Usually adults are looking down on children.  In this situation, it’s always from the child’s perspective.  At a certain point, Bob Clark had them remove the floor from part of the set to ensure they could get the camera dolly low enough in order to have the right perspective.  He fought for that tooth and nail.  Also, the film is multi-generational.  It’s what they call in the industry “co-viewership.”  It’s like “Modern Family.”  You can watch “Modern Family” if you’re a grandpa, if you’re a mom, if you’re a dad, if you’re a teenager or if you’re a kid.  And “A Christmas Story” captivates all of those life moments.  You can see it as a child.  Understand it as a parent.  And reflect on it as an adult, thinking about your own childhood.  I’ve been amazed to watch 70-year old men with their 50-year old sons and 25-year old grandsons and 5-year old great-great grandsons walk up to me because they all want to meet the kid from “A Christmas Story.”  And they’re all surprised it’s me because they actually think it was shot in the 1940s.  That’s the thing that’s incredible.  How multi-generational it is.  How inclusive it is.  There’s no CGI.  There’s no special effects.  It’s just a great story that connects with people.

MS:  Do you have a favorite memory from the shoot?

ZW:  Yes I do.  My favorite memory from the shoot was when I came to the set one day.  We were shooting in Cleveland and there was no snow.  It was the middle of winter and all of the lawns were dark brown.  Cleveland at that time was not a city you really wanted to be in.  It was going through a very severe economic crisis.

MS:  I was born in Cleveland so I know what you’re talking about.

ZW:  So you know.  We were not allowed to go outside of the hotel after 6:00 pm for good reason.  It was a scary place at night.  We walked down to the set, to the house which is now a museum, and we turned the corner.  And every other street is just brown grass and ugly lawns.  But in the middle of the street is a house covered in snow.  With a big tree in the yard full of icicles glistening in the sun.  And it was all man-made.  That for me was a “wow” moment.  It took my breath away and still today I remember that feeling…that anything is possible.

MS:  You have worked steadily since “A Christmas Story,” which is very rare for someone whose career started when they were a child.  What’s your secret?

ZW:  (laughs)  I think it’s because I’ve got this face that people look at and want to punch!  It’s not my fault.  I’m a sweetheart of a guy.  I just happen to have slanty eyes and red hair.  And I really think people want to punch me in the face.  Definitely it’s helped.  (laughs)

MS:  You’ve written and directed in the past.  Do you see yourself doing more of that in the future?

ZW:  I’m actually in the process of doing that now.  I’m writing a series called “Fracture” and we go into pre-production in December.  It’s a series I co-created with a friend of mine and I’m the single writer on it.  I won’t be directing this one but I will be executive-producing and writing.  But I do love directing.  I’m actually getting ready to direct a commercial being shot in Akron, Ohio in about a week.  I love working on both sides of the camera.  The one job I hate is producing.  It sucks!  It’s such a horrible job.  Everybody blames you for everything and nobody thanks you for anything.  No matter what you pay them!

MS:  Anything else coming up soon?

ZW:  Yes.  Onscreen I have a T.V. show called “Swedish Dicks,” as in detectives.  The old, 1940s style term.  He’s a flatfoot.  I appear with Peter Stormare and a little fella named Keanu Reeves.  I tell you, I don’t know but I think he’s got a career ahead of him.  I’m also working on something I’m very excited about outside the entertainment environment.  It’s called “All Sports Market” and it is the world’s first stock market for sports team.  We’ve been working on it for the past 15 years and we’ve had a data model up for the last 3.  The whole concept is that you can buy shares in your favorite sports team.  And you can sell or trade them like you would stocks.  It’s something that goes back to the Roman times, when at the Coliseum people would place their bets.  And the sport always suffers because someone always takes a dive.  Even if there is a suspicion of collusion towards throwing the game, gambling sours sports.  It poisons it like a cancer.  This takes that element out of the game.  And it allows parents to bond with their children over their favorite sports teams.  Do you have any children?

MS:  One

ZW:  How old is he?

MS:  33

ZW:  If you said to your 10-year son, “hey buddy, let’s talk about market fluctuation and dividends and stock prices because you need to learn how to be an investor so you won’t be homeless when you’re 33,” I can pretty much guarantee you that he would fall asleep or start crying.  But if you find out his favorite team, you can tell him that together you’re going to buy 10 shares in his favorite team and you can watch what happens over the season.  It’s something you can do together.  And by the end of the season you’re son or daughter is now financially literate.  They know how to make investments.  Because you took the moment and educated them on something important while to them they were just talking with dad about their favorite team.

You can learn more by going to www.AllSportsMarket.com.  And if you sign up you get $2500.00 of play currency, what we call “learning capital.”  The whole thing now is a learning market.

MS:  Last question.  You run into Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) in an alley.  Who wins the fight this time?

ZW:  (laughs)  Is there any doubt in your mind that Scut Farkus took a dive?  Another point against sports gambling.  You KNEW I took a dive.  I was bought out.  I went down harder than a sack of potatoes.  I’ve got a couple of black belts and was in “Black Belt” magazine so I think I’d do well.  On the flip side, Peter did produce “Iron Man” so he’s probably got more bodyguards!

 

 

 

Book Review: “Last of the Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses” by Mick Wall

“Last of the Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses”
Author: Mick Wall
Lesser Gods
Hardcover: 432 pages

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Guns N’ Roses exploded during the 80’s glam metal scene and boldly redefined rock ’n’ roll for a new era. Mick Wall met Guns N’ Roses when the band members lived together in Los Angeles and became a part of their inner circle. Thanks to Wall’s longtime friendship and connections with Guns N’ Roses, he conducted exclusive interviews with all the original members and, for the first time, their original managers, who were in the trenches with Guns N’ Roses (from 1986 to 2004). They share all-new revelations about the band’s rock-star debauchery in the studio, on tour and behind the scenes. “Last of the Giants” is a celebration of Guns N’ Roses: the last of the extraordinary, excessive, not-giving-a-shit rock stars.

Imagine you are a fly on the wall during some of the most pivotal and monumental moments during Guns N’ Roses career. Arguably one of the most legendary rock and roll band in the last 3 decades “Last of the Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses” is the account of that such fly (Mick Wall). Told through third person accounts and candid interviews with members and associates pass and present “Last of the Giants” is brimming over with behind the scenes stories and fresh interviews which shine new light on the bands fame and persona. Probably my favorite part of the book was amidst the chapters were 28 pages of full color photos highlighting the band at various points. These photos are not the same old reprints we have seen time and time again but new fresh photos that helped accentuate the text before and after each section.

“Last of the Giants” gives readers the inside track via behind the scenes firsthand accounts and through newly conducted interviews with those directly involved in some of the most important moments of the bands career. You get all the details and more in the latest offering from Mick Wall. I think I would have been more in to the book if this was an official release from the band however after reading this book you may understand why something of that nature hasn’t come to fruition. That aside no matter how intense of a G N’R fan you might be “Last of the Giants” is worth checking out.

Enter to Win Free Run-of-Engagement Passes and Soundtrack for “A Ghost Story”

To celebrate the release of A24’s latest film “A Ghost Story”, Media Mikes would like to give three of our fans a chance to win run of engagement passes to see “A Ghost Story” at AMC Theaters in Orlando, FL and also CD’s of the film’s soundtrack as well as a Vinyl LP. If you want to win these great prizes, please leave a comment below or use the contact us page above with your favorite ghost story. This giveaway will remain open until August 6th, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US only and obviously the tickets are only good in Orlando. 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.

WEBSITE: https://aghost.store/

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TWITTER: https://twitter.com/ghoststorymovie

INSTAGRAMhttps://www.instagram.com/ghoststorymovie/

HASHTAG: #AGhostStory

 

A GHOST STORY

Fantasy/Drama

Release:                    July 28, 2017

Starring:                   Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara

Directed By:            David Lowery

Written By:             David Lowery

Produced By:         Toby Halbrooks, James M. Johnston, Adam Donaghey

SYNOPSIS

With A Ghost Story, acclaimed director David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon) returns with a singular exploration of legacy, loss, and the essential human longing for meaning and connection. Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost(Academy Award-winner Casey Affleck) returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife (Academy Award-nominee Rooney Mara), only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence. An unforgettable meditation on love and grief, A Ghost Story emerges ecstatic and surreal—a wholly-unique experience that lingers long after the credits roll.

Film Review “A Ghost Story”

Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara
Director: David Lowery
Distributed by: A24
Rating: Not Rated
Runtime: 92 minutes

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

A24 has been releasing some very interesting films recently including this year alone with “Free Fire” and “It Comes At Night”. With a title like “A Ghost Story”, it definitely grabbed my interested…unfortunately not for long. Don’t get me wrong this is definitely a film that will stay with you for a bit. I can’t say that I hated it overall but damn was I bored at some points. I have a feeling this might be a film to benefit from multiple viewings but I don’t think that I could make it through a second time here. I mean there is a pie eating scene that lasts five minutes and I understand why its there but it is painful to get through….pretty much like the whole film.

Official Premise: Recently deceased, a white-sheeted ghost (Casey Affleck) returns to his suburban home to console his bereft wife (Rooney Mara), only to find that in his spectral state he has become unstuck in time, forced to watch passively as the life he knew and the woman he loves slowly slip away. Increasingly unmoored, the ghost embarks on a cosmic journey through memory and history, confronting life’s ineffable questions and the enormity of existence. [A24]

The cast for “A Ghost Story” includes recent Oscar Winner Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. Funnily enough reuniting together again along with the director of this film after all working together on 2013’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”. Performances are good from Mara and the loss is definitely depicted well, almost too well. Please make sure you realize though, this is not a scary horror film at all. I see the aspect of horror but it is not the same. Deep is a word, I would use to describe the message in this film, much deeper than I usually like. So if you are interested in a different kind of ghost movie that has few words, very long scenes with sometimes little happening but leaves you thinking a bit afterwards you might then be interested in this.

Blu-ray Review “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Actors: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang
Directors: Gareth Edwards
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Walt Disney Studios
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Run Time: 133 minutes

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

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” was a very risky film in the “Star Wars” universe but it also paid off 10x. I want to start with I commend the director Gareth Edwards for taking on such a challenging project and yet still come out looking like a rock star leaving even the most hardcore “Star Wars” fans satisyed. This film is a great stand alone to the series which tells a very important story seperately like still keeping the big universe in its eye sight and giving us perfect cameos of characters like Darth Vader and even Princess Leia (via CGI). An obvious must see for any “Star Wars” fans and let me tell you it gets better and better with each viewing.

Here is the film’s premise: Jyn Erso, a Rebellion soldier and criminal, is about to experience her biggest challenge yet when Mon Mothma sets her out on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. With help from the Rebels, a master swordsman, and non-allied forces, Jyn will be in for something bigger than she thinks.

The Blu-ray presentation of “Rogue One” is nearly flawless. The 1080p transfer looks perfect and the “Star Wars” “universe has never looked sharper. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio track delivers a flawless sound for this film and packs a helluva punch! With every blaster to droid sound to John Williams score, the sound is just perfect. The film comes in a combo pack with a Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet Digital HD copy.

The special features are decent and worth checking out. Not perfect like everything else on this release but still impressive. There is a collection of featurettes focusing on all aspects of the production. “A Rogue Idea” takes the film getting started from the idea pitch. “Jyn: The Rebel” looks at the lead character in this story. “Cassian: The Spy” focusing on Diego Luna character. If you can guess which the next featurette is focused on with “K-2SO: The Droid”, who stole the show. If you are catching the drift here the characters are all covered in featurettes and even the Empire has its own assorted one. Lastly there are featurettes on the digital effects and Rogue cameos.

Book Review: Keith Morris’s “My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor”

“My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor”
Author: Keith Morris w/ Jim Ruland
Da Capo Press
Hardcover: 309 pages

Our score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Keith Morris is known the world over as the real deal, a seminal figure in hardcore punk, revered by any fan of the genre. As a co-founding member of Black Flag and as the front man for the seminal west coast punk band Circle Jerks “My Damage” is a memoir that covers not only covers Keith’s forty-year history in music but also his struggles with his health and drug use, told straight through the eyes of someone who shared the stage with just about every major figure in the industry.

From page 1 to page 309 “My Damage” keeps the reader’s attention making this a hard book to put down. Through candid accounts of Black Flag/Circle Jerks front man Keith Morris’s early struggles within the Hermosa Beach community to the reincarnation of “FLAG” close to 40 years later the book covers immense ground in an easy to follow format which for readers who may not be as familiar with Morris’s work is a great feature. The books drive matches that of the author as it moves quickly and is unrelenting in details. No matter how edgy or unsettling the story may be Morris pulls no punches and tells the story as it was from his perspective. No phony names or reader friendly versions here folks.

The sheer realness of “My Damage” makes this book appealing to not only punk rock music fans but to readers looking for a candid takes-no prisoners approach to storytelling. Keith cuts out the unneeded drab and quickly gets to the guts of his life and his experiences in the music business. At times over shadowing those story is his struggles with drugs and alcohol which at several points made me question just how the author is still with us and able to recount his journey in detail he does. “My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor” is a must read for biography and music fans.

Book Review: “Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements”

“Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements”
Author: Bob Mehr
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Hardcover: 520 pages w/ 32 pages of black and white photographs

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

“Trouble Boys” is the first definitive biography of one of the last great rock ‘n’ rolls bands of the twentieth century: The Replacements. With the participation of the group’s key members including reclusive singer-songwriter Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson- Author Bob Mehr is able to tell the real story. Additionally based on interviews conducted with family, friends, managers and musical colleagues, Mehr paints a deeply intimate portrait of the band. Far more than a conventional band bio, “Trouble Boys” is heartbreakingly tragic, frequently comic and ultimately a triumphant tale.

Right away I was interested in picking up this book and learning more about a band I was fairly late to discover in my music listening exploits. The Replacements were always a band I saw cited as an influence of some of my favorite artists however I had limited knowledge of the actual group aside from guitarist Paul Westerberg. As a cautionary mention before I go too far do yourself a favor and brush up on your Replacements knowledge prior to diving into this book’s immense 520 pages. Time and time again the author sites numerous names, events and locations both big and small all throughout the book and with limited knowledge of the bands career the reader can easily become lost. At several points during my reading I found myself having to go back over sections to find where the book was at as the story of just the band and its members is easily lost amidst miniscule details that were explained in far more detail than they probably needed to be leaving me to seriously question the books editing.

What “Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements” lacks in being clear and concise makes up for the shortcoming in content as I stated before the book is very detailed. The addition of 32 pages of photos was also a very cool addition. Hardcore Replacements fans will already have this book on their radar but more casual listeners may also want to take notice as this book will be a welcome addition to any music fans reading library.

 

 

Enter to win a Blu-ray of Jackie Chan’s “Police Story: Lockdown”

To celebrate the Blu-ray release of Jackie Chan’s “Police Story: Lockdown”. Media Mikes would like to give our fans a chance to win one of three Blu-ray’s of the film. If you want to win this great prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite Jackie Chan film. This giveaway will remain open until August 28th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. 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.

Police Captain Zhong Wen (Jackie Chan) knows all about sacrifice. He s always been too busy chasing bad guys to be a father to his daughter Miao (Jing Tian). Tonight, he s seeing her for the first time in years and meeting her fiance, club owner Wu Jiang (Liu Ye). But Wu knows Zhong. And his plans for the evening include taking Miao, Zhong, and the entire club hostage. Zhong knows about sacrifice. What will he give up to save his daughter?

Blu-ray Review “True Story”

Actors: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones, Ethan Suplee
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date: August 4, 2015
Run Time: 99 minutes

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

Honestly, have heard much about the film “True Story” but what a cast it boasts with James Franco, Jonah Hill and Felicity Jones. There is some major talent in here. I am shocked this film didn’t get more play time with the cast alone. Props to both Franco and Hill for taking the drama route. They definitely nail it. Worth checking out for performances alone.

Official Premise: After journalist Michael Finkel (Hill) is fired from The New York Times for embellishing a story, he learns that accused murderer Christian Longo (Franco) has been claiming to be him. Hoping this story will save his career, Finkel begins interviewing Longo in prison. But soon, the men find themselves in an eerie game of cat and mouse.

The special features included on this disc are decent, including over 15 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary by Rupert Goold. There are four production featurettes looking behind-the-scenes and into the true story of the film. There is an audio commentary with director Rupert Goold, discussing the film and his first time directing. Lastly there is a gallery and trailer included.

Film Review “True Story”

Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill and Felicity Jones
Directed by: Rupert Goold
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 40 mins
Fox Searchlight

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

In a remote village, two young men are talking to a journalist, explaining to him the horrible conditions they endure at work. The reporter introduces himself as “Mike Finkle – New York Times. Meanwhile, in Mexico, a woman tourist strikes up a conversation with a man she meets at a museum. Surprisingly, he also introduces himself as “Mike Finkle – New York Times.” Whaaaaaaaaaat?

A film with performances much better than its material, “True Story” tells the, presumably, true story of Christian Longo (Franco), a seemingly nice man who may or may not have murdered his family and his relationship with Mike Finkle (Hill) who is, you guessed it, a reporter for the New York Times. Their meeting comes when both are down on their luck. Finkle has been dismissed by the paper for, at the advice of his editor, jazzing up a recent story. Finkle visits Longo in prison to see why he impersonated him, with Longo telling him that he is a longtime admirer of his work. Longo agrees to chat with Finkle about his case, with the reporter figuring that “everybody deserves to have their story told.” Longo agrees to give Finkle an exclusive while Finkle agrees to help Longo write. However, as with most deals made with the devil, things don’t always go as planned.

As stated above, Franco and Hill do well, even though the story does neither of them any favors. I found it incredulous that a reporter with the reputation pointed out in the film as Finkle would lose his job over mis-identifying one of his subjects in his story. It wasn’t like he was Jayson Blair, a real NY Times reporter who plagiarized and fabricated dozens of stories (also made into a much better film called “Shattered Glass”). The more Finkle investigates the more you know Longo’s stories don’t make sense yet Finkle is so set on selling the story as a book that he just disregards any journalistic instinct he may have. The supporting cast is also strong, with Jones scoring as Finkle’s fiancée’.

Author Jason Offutt talks about his latest book “A Funeral Story”

Depending on who you ask, Jason Offutt is one of the leading journalists on things that go bump in the night, or he’s the helpful professor for hundreds of future journalism students at Northwest Missouri State University. Both can agree though, he’s a damn good writer. Avid readers of Jason’s work might be surprised by his next release, “A Funeral Story”. Instead of providing a good non-fiction scare, and a need to leave a nightlight on, Jason has crafted a fiction book that will have people snickering and laughing as they turn the page. Jason Offutt took time during a busy finals week at Northwest to talk with Media Mikes about his first novel.

Jeremy Werner: Alright Jason, tell us about “A Funeral Story”
Jason Offutt: “A Funeral Story” is a story about a 30-year-old man that still lives at home, plays dungeon and dragons with his old high school buddies every Friday and nobody knows that he likes to pick up and have sex with strange women at funerals.

JW: (laughs) Where does an idea like that come from?
JO: I have no idea, actually, where it came from. I was sitting at Kansas City International Airport waiting for a flight to Houston and it just popped into my head. I carry a notebook everywhere and I probably wrote three chapters as I was waiting on a plane.

JW: So this isn’t based on anyone?
JO: No. Nobody at all.

JW: Do you see any of yourself in this character?
JO: No. I never picked up any strange people at funerals…I think lots of writers do this, they try to put people in ridiculous situations and see how they react. And somebody trying to pick up sex at a funeral is probably the most extreme I could think of. That’s probably where it came from.

JW: I’ve read the book and it can be pretty filthy. Was there any part of you that was worried about publishing something like this?
JO: Well…a little bit because what I’ve written before is family friendly. So to that extent, yes. I am going to put a warning out there for people who are use to my non-fiction that this is not family friend, but one of the things that I’ve been known to do is take things to a level that people probably shouldn’t go to. (laughs) That’s what I did with this.

JW: Now, if someone who doesn’t know you was to look at your previous writing examples, and even people who’ve read all your works, they’ll notice you usually write about the paranormal. Were you starting to get burnt out on writing about the paranormal or did you just want a change of scenery?
JO: Right. I’ve been finding that out. I’m going to be on a Travel Channel show this season because I’m the go-to paranormal guy. But…I’ve always wanted to write novels. Ever since I was 10-years-old, I remember telling my parents I’ve wanted to write novels when I grew up and of course they laughed, rubbed my head, and sent me off to play. But that’s something I’ve wanted to do forever. I’ve been stuck with the non-fiction mainly because I was a journalist for 17 years and that’s what I’ve done. And I finally decided…if I want to write novels, I should probably do it because if I don’t now, I’m going to regret it later.

JW: Is this your first novel?
JO: It’s my first novel being published. I wrote one before it that’s being published in a year from January. I got two novels coming out in 2016. They’re a book series on…it’s an apocalyptic type series.

JW: Are you going to stick with fiction for a while or do you see yourself going back to writing about paranormal occurrences and what not?
JO: If the right subject, the right book hits me, yeah, I’ll definitely go back to non-fiction. But I’m having a lot of fun right now writing fiction.

JW: In terms of your fiction writing, do you ever see yourself straying away from humor and going more for a serious tone?
JO: No matter what I write, something funny comes out because that’s just what I’m use to. I really, really want to write a horror story. I really want to write something terrifying. So that’s something I got going on in the future.

JW: I assume you’ll pull some inspiration from some of the real-life horror stories you’ve heard from people.
JO: Oh yes. I’m definitely going to heavily rely on the non-fiction work that I’ve done on the paranormal and on ghosts, spirits, monsters. I think that’ll help…lend it a lot of realism.

JW: I know you’re always working on something. Do you have anything that you’re piecing together and working on now?
JO: I’m working on something. I’ve got a lot of notes down. My wife and I just had a baby about a month and a half ago.
JW: Oh wow. Congratulations. I didn’t hear that.
JO: Well, (laughs) it was a bit of a surprise because I had vasectomy six years ago.
JW: Oh. Holy crap.
JO: (laughs) Yeah…I was OK six years ago, everything went well, but I was one in a couple of thousand people that found out my super power is I can heal myself. So I took notes throughout the pregnancy and wrote a bunch of funny stuff that happened. The tentative name for the book is “The Vasectomy Diaries”.

JW: I know you’ve written about your kids and being a father before. Do you still do that?
JO: I still write a weekly humor column and I write funny stuff about the kids, once and a while when they do something ridiculous, which is quite a bit. So I still do that kind of writing.

JW: I know you have a lot of different projects and there was a monster killing book you were working on. How’s that coming along?
JO: I found a publisher and it’s coming out in January.
JW: Tell us about it.
JO: The book’s called “How to Kill Monsters Using Common Household Items”. It’s a book about what would happen if the monsters took over and invaded your house. What do you have if a werewolf breaks into your house? What do you have lying around that you can use to kill it? And I go through just random things around your house that could kill a werewolf, vampire, demonic clown, gnome, killer robot from the future, velociraptor, lots of other different types of monsters.

JW: Is this another humor book or could it be considered real advice?
JO: It’s more humor, but you know what? You could seriously beat a zombie to death with a prosthetic leg. So it’s pretty handy.

JW: How many monsters do you cover in this?
JO: 14. Including reanimated corpses like Frankenstein’s monster, dragons and your evil twin from an alternate dimension.

JW: Do you ever see writing as your full-time gig?
JO: That…I think that is about every writer’s dream, to do it full time, but realistically…there are only about 120 writers in the country, that’s all they do is write books. I could see that if I got successful, but you know what? I really enjoy teaching college students. So even if I did get to the point where I could write books for a living, I don’t know if I would. I think I’d keep teaching.

“A Funeral Story” is available December 19th.
You can check out Jason at his website, http://www.jasonoffutt.com, or follow him on Twitter: @TheJasonOffutt
You can also read his writings, at jasonoffutt.blogspot.com and at from-the-shadows.blogspot.com

Book Review “Into the Black: The Inside Story of Metallica 1991-2014”

“Into the Black: The Inside Story of Metallica 1991-2014”
Author: Dave Van Ronk Elijah Wald
Hardcover: 289 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Into the Black: The Inside Story of Metallica 1991-2014” is the second book in a two book series written by Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood. The follow up to 2013’s “Birth, School, Metallica, Death” which chronicles the bands first decade from 1981-1991. “Into the Black” takes you deeper than its predecessor as the book covers the bands dealing with subjects like fans and fame to competing with other bands in the heavy metal aren. The book recounts one of the bands more turbulent era’s as it looks at the bands dispute with Napster, the disastrous tour with Gun’s N’ Roses and the band return to the spotlight after front man James Hetfield’s battle with addiction.

Authors Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood cover both the highs and lows that the band has experienced in the later part of its career and though not an officially licensed “biography” this is probably the closest thing I have seen thus far. Everything from bassist Jason Newsted’s departure to the release of “Death Magnetic” and the epic Big 4 tour is recounted in this book. Though I enjoyed the writing duo’s first book I found “Into the Black” went a bit further. Growing up during this era of the bands career the book sparked some great memories for me related to the music and remembering the noted headlines and occurrences in the bands career that were being shared in this book. The book also had several photos of the band that I hadn’t seen before which was cool in its self making this a must have any true Metallica fan out there.

Theatre Review “A Christmas Story, The Musical” Orlando Repertory Theatre

A Christmas Story: The Musical
November 10 – December 28, 2014
Orlando Repertory Theatre
1001 East Princeton Street
Orlando, FL

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

You know those flyers that you get in the mail and just throw away cause they are usually garage? I think I will be taking a closer look at them now. I received one a few days again and it was holiday themed, my favorite holiday, so I decided to give it a look. In there I found an advertisement for the Orlando Repertory Theatre (The REP) presenting a production of “A Christmas Story, The Musical” based on the story by Jean Shepherd with book by Joseph Robinette, and words and music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. I have seen this production before and have been dying to see it again since. Now I had the chance!

Official Premise: A Christmas Story, The Musical is the classic account of Ralphie Parker’s hilariously desperate quest to ensure that the most perfect of gifts ends up under his tree this Christmas – a Red Ryder® Carbine-Action BB Gun! All the cherished moments are here – the Old Man’s leg lamp, the tongue-on-a-flagpole, the bunny suit, the Santa slide, and all of Ralphie’s extravagant daydreams! Enjoy the perennial favorite in a new way with this Tony-nominated Best Musical.

Turning a classic movie like “A Christmas Story” into a musical was definitely a definitely task I am sure. The songs are good. I have to admit though. I have the soundtrack but it has never been a must-listen for me. “Counting Down to Christmas” is a catchy one. “What A Mother Does” is sweet and had the wife sniffing a little bit. “A Major Award” is definitely a real hoot.  The cast for this production was also good. Highlights for me were Clifford Lyons as Jean Shepherd, Candace Neal as Mrs. Shields, and my favorite Sage Starkey as The Old Man. At first I thought that Sage was too young to play the Old Man, to be honest, but once he stepped on stage, I knew he was going to nail it. Gavin would have been proud!

I thought the production itself was very well done. It really represented “A Christmas Story” very well. It also felt very festive. I have seen many plays in my time and they could have gotten away with much less here. They really had great sets and really get design for this one. I also love the range of these actors. The dialogue and songs were perfectly balanced throughout the theater. I was seeing in Row I, if I remember correct, closer to the top of the theater, centered, and we really enjoyed the entire presentation of the play. I have seen shows at Bob Carr Performing Arts Center and sat 10 rows from stage and couldn’t hear them as well as this theatre.

Prior to this, I have never visited the Orlando Repertory Theatre. Following this, this theatre is going to be in my spotlight. From the moment the wife and I stepped into this theatre, we both just looked at each other and said “Wow!” I loved the vibe of the theatre and I love how intimate it felt. I also appreciate that in addition to productions, The REP conducts community engagement initiatives and the REP Youth Academy provides classes and workshops for children, along with professional development opportunities to classroom teachers. I will be returning to this theatre in the very near future. And if you are looking for a way to get into the holiday spirit, you have your answer right here!

A Christmas Story, The Musical runs Saturdays and Sundays from November 10 – December 28, 2014 at 2pm and 5:30pm. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for students, seniors (55+), and members of the military with valid ID, and $12 for the youth (ages 3 to 17). All performances of A Christmas Story, The Musical take place at the Orlando Repertory Theatre at 1001 East Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32803. Tickets may be purchased online, over the phone, or at the Box Office. Please visit www.orlandorep.com or call 407-896-7365 for more information. Don’t miss it or you might shoot your eye out!

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

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

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

DVD Review “Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys”

Director: Brian Stillman
Number of discs: 1
Rated: Unrated
Studio: X-Ray Films
Run Time: 70 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

“Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys” tells the behind the scenes story of how one of the most successful toy lines ever came to be. From the lackluster early planning stages of a toy line/film destined for failure to the over whelming response which prompted the creation of the “Early Bird” mail order set to meet the immense demands. Directed by Brian Stillman the film is a fresh and in-depth look at not just the toy lines creation but also how it impacted countless childhoods.

This is not just another “Star Wars” documentary retelling stories fans of the series have heard time and time again. Instead Director Brian Stillman and company have put together a fun and informative documentary about the next best thing besides the films…the toys! Packed full of interviews with the people who designed the toys along with interviews from various collectors the film is part formal information and part childhood memories. Accompanying the interviews are a slew of vintage commercials, television spots and photo stills that catapult you back to the glory days of immense toy isles chocked full of your favorite “Star Wars” items. Equally impressive is the new animation that was created to transition various sections of the film. The art is fresh and new while retaining that late 70’s early 80’s feel. Something I very much enjoyed.

Alongside the film are a variety of Special Features including one titled “Know Your Lightsaber”. A fun spoof that had me cracking up from start to finish as it recounts the various light saber models and subsequent knock offs that were produced throughout the years. Whether you are a hardcore “Star Wars” collector, a casual fan or someone just wanting to take a trip down memory lane “Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys” is a fun film from start to finish that can be watched by the whole family.