4DX Theater Experience Review “Transformers: The Last Knight”

Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Hopkins
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release date
Running time: 149 minutes

4DX Score: 4 out of 5 stars
Film Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Recently, I have been contacted to see if I wanted to review one of this Summer’s movies the brand new 4DX Theater Experience. This is not your typical movie going experience. Here is an example of the effects that you can expect going into a 4DX screening: water, air, bubbles, fog, scents, motion seats with vibration and ticklers as well as environmental effects like rain, storming, snow, wind and lightning. This seemed like the ONLY way to see a film like “Transformers”. Currently, I believe there are only a handful of these theaters across the United States, one of them luckily being in Orlando FL at the Regal Pointe Orlando Stadium. If you are in the area or are lucky enough to have one local to you, I would highly recommend checking out this experience at least once.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” is the fifth installment in the Hasbro toy inspired franchise. Honestly, each film sort of blends together. The plots in the past films have been convoluted and confused and this film is no different. Is it entertaining…YES! Will I remember it and be able to distinguish between it and the previous four films….NOPE! Just pure popcorn Summer fun. If you dig explosions and robots, then it worth checking out then for a mindless two and half hours. But let me tell you one thing, seeing this film in 4DX definitely made it a better experience for sure and if you are thinking about seeing a 4DX film, “Transformers” is a great example to test it out with.

If you have ever visited Disney World parks and went on the attractions “Honey I Shrunk the Audience”, “Captain EO” or “Mickey’s PhilharMagic”, this 4DX Theater Experience reminded me of all of those combined together and more. I have to admit though, by the end of the two and a half hour movie of “Transformers”, I was exhausted. This is definitely not for those people that just want to kick their feet up and escape into a movie. This is a workout. You are almost constantly moving the whole time, some times subtle movement and sometimes huge motion jumps, twists and turns…I definitely saw a popcorn bag get tossed during my screening. Personally, I wouldn’t want to see every new film that comes out like this but I can definitely see it being an event to do every once in a while right the right film comes out. If you are curious though about this do not wait, definitely check it out because it is definitely an experience.

MediaMikes 2017 Summer Movie Preview

Summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime. Yes indeed, time for school to end and the non-stop days of fun to begin. Unless you have a full time job, like all of us at MediaMikes do. Then it’s just time to find a few hours a week to watch something good. And there appears to be plenty of good for everyone from now until school starts again. “Summer” has gotten off to a big start, with “Fate of the Furious” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2” already kicking serious box office ass. But not to worry, there are plenty more movies to see.

Once again, some synopsis information courtesy of our friends at the Internet Movie Data Base and, please remember, opening dates are subject to change at the whim of the studios.

MAY 26

“Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”

Starring: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and, I swear to God, Paul McCartney
Directed by: Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg
Synopsis: Captain Jack Sparrow is back and this time he’s searching for the trident of Poseidon. Looks much better then the last installment. I interviewed the directors a couple years ago and they seemed to have an enthusiasm for the project that had been lost.

“Baywatch”

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario
Directed by: Seth Gordon
Synopsis: Lifeguard Mitch Buchanan and his team uncover a criminal plot that threatens the future of the Bay. Go for Zac Efron’s abs, stay for, I hope I hope, a sweet David Hasselhoff cameo.

“War Machine”

Starring: Brad Pitt, Ben Kingsley and Anthony Michael Hall
Directed by: David Michod
Synopsis: A no-holds-barred look at the career of US Army General Glen McMahon. Ooo-rah!

“Berlin Syndrome”

Starring: Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt
Directed by: Cate Shortland
Synopsis: A passionate holiday romance leads to an obsessive relationship when an Australian photojournalist wakes one morning in a Berlin apartment and is unable to leave. I’ve been to Berlin. The apartments were THAT amazing.

JUNE 2

“Wonder Woman”

Starring: Gal Gadot, Robin Wright and Chris Pine
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Synopsis: The best part of “Batman vs Superman” gets her own origin film. Fingers crossed for a Lynda Carter cameo.

JUNE 9

“The Mummy”

Starring: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe and Courtney B. Vance
Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
Synopsis: An ancient princess is awakened from her crypt beneath the desert, bringing with her malevolence grown over millennia, and terrors that defy human comprehension. This is not Brendan Fraser’s father’s Mummy!

“Megan Leavey”

Starring: Kate Mara, Tom Felton and Will Patton
Directed by: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Synopsis: Based on the true-life story of a young marine corporal whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq. Love dog movies. As opposed to movies that ARE dogs.

“It Comes at Night”

Starring: Riley Keough and Joel Edgerton
Directed by: Trey Edward Shults
Synopsis: Secure within a desolate home as an unnatural threat terrorizes the world, a man has established a tenuous domestic order with his wife and son, but this will soon be put to the test when a desperate young family arrives seeking refuge. Keough’s grandfather passed away 40 years ago. You may have heard of him: Elvis Presley.

JUNE 16

“Cars 3”

Starring the voices of: Owen Wilson, Armie Hammer and Larry the Cable Guy
Directed by: Brian Fee
Synposis: Lightning McQueen sets out to prove to a new generation of racers that he’s still the best race car in the world. And that “Cars 2” was just a bad dream.

“The Book of Henry”

Starring: Naomi Watts and Jacob Tremblay
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow
Synopsis: A single mom raises a child genius. Tremblay was the best thing about “Room.” Maybe in his next film he can actually have a father.

JUNE 23

“Transformers: The Last Knight”

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Gemma Chan and Anthony Hopkins
Directed by: Michael Bay
Synopsis: Seriously? You actually care about the PLOT of this movie? Fine. Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.

“The Big Sick”

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan and Holly Hunter
Directed by: Michael Showalter
Synopsis: A couple deals with their cultural differences as their relationship grows. Just like real life.

“The Bad Batch”

Starring: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Mamoa and Jm Carrey
Directed by: Ann Lily Amirpour
Synopsis: A dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland, set in a community of cannibals. I’m just getting into “Breaking Bad.” I thought this had something to do with blue meth.

JUNE 28

“Baby Driver”

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Lily James and Kevin Spacey
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Synopsis: After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail. You know who has never failed? Edgar Wright.

JUNE 30

“Despicable Me 3”

Starring the voices of: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Trey Parker
Directed by: Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin and Eric Guillon
Synopsis: Balthazar Bratt, a child star from the 1980s, hatches a scheme for world domination. Oh, and the Minions.

“The Beguiled”

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst
Directed by: Sofia Coppola
Synopsis: At a girls’ school in Virginia during the Civil War, where the young women have been sheltered from the outside world, a wounded Union soldier is taken in. This is a remake of the 1971 Clint Eastwood/Geraldine Page film.

“The House”

Starring: Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler and Ryan Simpkins
Directed by: Andrew J. Cohen
Synopsis: A dad convinces his friends to start an illegal casino in his basement after he and his wife spend their daughter’s college fund. Bet with your head, not over it!

JULY 7

“Spider-Man: Homecoming”

Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton and more than one Avenger
Directed by: Jon Watts
Synopsis: Following the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” Peter Parker attempts to balance his life in high school with his career as the web-slinging superhero Spider-Man. The few minutes he was featured in the last “Captain America” film showed Holland to be perfectly cast as the young web-master.

“A Ghost Story”

Starring: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara
Directed by: David Lowery
Synopsis: In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try and reconnect with his bereft wife. Is that an Oscar under your sheet or are you just glad to see me?

JULY 14

“War for the Planet of the Apes”

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn and Andy Serkis
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Synopsis: After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

JULY 21

“Dunkirk”

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Synopsis: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, Canada, and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Clive Owen and John Goodman
Directed by: Luc Besson
Synopsis: A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

JULY 28

“Atomic Blonde”

Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy and, once again, John Goodman
Directed by: David Leitch
Synopsis: An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents. Director Leitch is also helming the second “Deadpool” film.

AUGUST 4

“The Dark Tower”

Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey and Jackie Earle Haley
Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel
Synopsis: The Gunslinger, Roland Deschain, roams an Old West-like landscape where “the world has moved on” in pursuit of The Man In Black. He’s also searching for the fabled Dark Tower, in the hopes that reaching it will preserve his dying world. Good thing I’m going to read this later…until just now I thought Ron Howard was directing.

“Wind River”

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen and Graham Greene
Directed by: Taylor Sheridan
Synopsis: An FBI agent teams with the town’s veteran game tracker to investigate a murder that occurred on a Native American reservation. Director Sheridan wrote both 2015’s “Sicario” and last year’s Best Picture nominee, “Hell or High Water.”

“Ingrid Goes West”

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, O’Shea Jackson Jr and, once again, Elizabeth Olsen
Directed by: Matt Spicer
Synopsis: Ingrid Thorburn, a mentally disturbed young woman, becomes obsessed with Taylor Sloane, a social-media star who appears to have the perfect life.

“Detroit”

Starring: John Krasinski, John Boyega and Anthony Mackie
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Synopsis: A police raid in Detroit in 1967 results in one of the largest citizen uprisings in the United States’ history. Another team up of Oscar winning writer Mark Boal and Academy Award winning director Bigelow.

AUGUST 18

“Logan Lucky”

Starring: Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum and Adam Driver
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Synopsis: Two brothers attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race in North Carolina. And then run moonshine?

Snap Creative’s Bill Howard chats about “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

Bill Howard, CEO of Snap Creative, whose company has been creating “talk of the town” products for over 20 years, discusses how Snap has created innovative packaging concepts for all of the Transformers films, including the $1 billion global smash Transformers: Age of Extinction, which arrives on Blu-ray and DVD September 30, 2014.

Media Mikes: You have been creating collectible Transformers home entertainment packaging since the release of the first DVD. How did you get involved with the Transformers business
Bill Howard: Paramount challenged our team at Snap Creative to create a DVD package for the first Transformers film that could turn into OPTIMUS PRIME, but it had to be the height and width of a standard DVD to fit on a store shelf and it had to be no more than double the depth. Our solution required a design that had hidden parts that could reveal for conversion, and we used bas relief sculpture on the front so that we could have layered parts but stay within the depth. All the sculpt detail and deco was on the front side which let us maximize it. That DVD was a huge hit and we’ve continued designing for the Transformers releases ever since.

MM: How do you keep the designs fresh for each release?
BH: On each subsequent movie we have upped the ante creating 2.0, 3.0 and now 4.0 for the new Transformers: Age of Extinction Blu-ray and DVD slated for release in September 2014. They have all been awesome, but I am confident that this OPTIMUS PRIME is our best one yet. It has new features that make it cooler for sure, and we worked with Hasbro and digital assets directly from the movie that provided great sculptural marrow. I am already thinking about how we take it further for 5.0, and am glad the film is a few years off to give us enough time to really get creative.

MM: What makes your packaging designs so desirable to collectors?
BH: Our Transformers designs historically have been hugely successful because the fans appreciate our level of extreme detail and authenticity. We often design multiple packages that are available at different retailers, and real fans go out of their way to get them all because they each have something unique and collectible about them.

MM: You also did theater promotions for Transformers: Age of Extinction this year to coincide with the theatrical release. Tell us more about those.
BH: Our movie theater popcorn collectible packs are really brilliant— they have one piece of board cut once and glued in one place which provides a package that holds cup, popcorn and candy. It can be carried with one hand and the operations folks at cinemas love it because it goes from flat to built in just a few seconds.

Each year we run about 15 promotions in theater with these packs. We have partnered with many of the top Hollywood studios to do licensed versions for some of the biggest movies including Transformers: Age of Extinction. These packs (some geared towards kids, some toward adults), are usually paired with a small collectible toy which is a fun way for property owners to extend their brands to families in theaters and at home. The Transformers: Age of Extinction pack featured a transforming keychain and collectible cup. Exhibitors love it because they generally see about a 20% lift in sales with these branded collectible packs and we’ve grown the program from around 2 million pieces to 6 million pieces just in the last two years. We are also continuing to grow internationally with programs in Thailand, China, Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Canada and more.

MM: You seem to have quite the collector following for your products. Many times it seems like your products double in value or more on the after-market. Why?
BH: One word: authentic. We work on every detail to get it right not just for Transformers, but for everything we do. Enthusiasts appreciate that we “get” them because we ourselves are collectors, so we understand just what they are looking for in a product. For powerhouse franchises like Transformers, we make a point of honoring the legacy of the franchise while also moving it forward in new and different ways.

3D Blu-ray Review “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Jack Reynor, Nicola Peltz
Directors: Michael Bay
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Paramount
Release Date: September 30, 2014
Run Time: 164 minutes

Film: 3 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 5 out of 5 stars
3D: 5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

When I saw “Transformers: Age of Extinction” in theaters, I was very optimistic that this was going to “reboot” the franchise. In a sense it did but it also fell right back into the same old thing while doing so. The story like the past “Transformers” films is just chaos. There is so much going on that you just need to dumb down and just watch the action the pretty colors on the screen. That is what I believe will make you enjoy this film. It is also extremely over long. But all that aside, it is still a fun ride. It is also the year’s only $1 billion worldwide blockbuster. So expect a “Transformers 5” real soon.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” picks up four years after the battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons left Chicago in ruins. Due to this there is an all our war and hunt against the Transformers. The humans are hunting them down under the command of Harold Attinger (Grammer). All Transformers have gone into hiding. We meet Cade Yeager (Wahlberg), a struggling investor, who comes across an old truck while looking for a way to make some money to help save his house and send his daughter (Peltz) to college. What he finds is a very injured Optimus Prime. After fixing him, the race is on to reunite with the remaining Autobots and find out the truth behind the hunt on them.

This review will focus on the Blu-ray features of this release, so if you want more about the film read our film review here. Paramount is releasing this film as a combo pack with a Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet digital copy. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” may not be the year’s best film but it is definitely one of the best Blu-rays. The film simply delivers a stunning 3D presentation. I loved this aspect in the theaters and I love it more at home. It is also mixed with a ton of 1.78:1 IMAX footage, which makes it even more cool, last Blu-ray to this was “The Dark Knight”. This is definitely a film that needs to be viewed in 3D and on a nice big screen. This is a very visual film and it is a marvel to watch in this format.

This Blu-ray for “Transformers: Age of Extinction” also comes stocked with the first EVER brand new Dolby Atmos surround track for ultimate presentation. The track is describes with the following “This audio presentation is mixed specifically for Dolby Atmos® enabled receivers and speaker configurations to produce full, multidimensional sound without channel restrictions in the home — even overhead. Dolby Atmos is compatible with current generation Blu-ray players. Also select this option for Dolby 7.1 TrueHD speaker configurations. For Dolby Atmos playback, set your Blu-ray player to bitstream out and disable secondary audio”. All I have to say is WOW just WOW! I spoke with a composer named Steven Price, who just won the Oscar for “Gravity” and he spoke nothing but amazing things for Dolby Atmos and it’s future.

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” also comes stocked with a nothing short of mind-blowing 7.1 TrueHD track. It is just extremely amazing. When I was watching this film, I couldn’t help but say out loud how much I loved this score. Steve Jablonsky did an amazing job of delivering a really epic score for this film. What I loved is that it is seriously go from soft to freaking insane and still blend so very well. Everything from the constant explosions (we all know how well Bay likes to blow shit up) to the transforming. This track is just plain and simple perfect. Make sure that your picture frames are secured cause this one will give those nails a run for their money.

The special features are almost just as awesome as the audio/video presentation. There are over three hours of bonus content here. First up is “Bay on Action”, which is easy enough the director talking about his craft. There is a super epic, eight-part making-of feature called “Evolution with Extinction”. It dives into everything from casting to filming locations to digital effects. It is runs cumulatively around two hours all by itself. “Just Another Giant Effin’ Movie” shows the lighter side of the production. “A Spark of Design” looks into the creation of Grimlock. “T.J. Miller: Farm Hippie” is a funny set visit with the actor. Lastly there are some trailers and fun spoofs with “Kre-O” and “Angry Birds” included.

Here is a clip from the “Rise of the Dinobots” featurette:

Ashley Eckstein talks about new Marvel and Transformers lines for Her Universe

Ashley Eckstein is known best for her role of Ashoka Tano in the TV series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. She also started the company Her Universe, which has a mission to create stylish, fashion-forward merchandise for female sci-fi fans. Her Universe has joined forces with some of the biggest names in the sci-fi/fantasy world to create merchandise exclusively for female fans – both apparel and accessories for such well-known names as Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek and The Walking Dead. Ashley Eckstein has now become one of the leading voices for female fans while Her Universe is making fangirls “geek chic” from head to toe! Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ashley to discuss her new lines for this Summer and also what she has planned for this year’s San Diego Comic Con.

Mike Gencarelli: Let’s talk about your exciting team up with Marvel for your Ultimate Fangirl Fashion Apparel Line, what can we expect?
Ashley Eckstein: Our Marvel line is something that I am really excited about. It was something that I have been on working on for well over a year now. Fans have been asking me for Marvel at least a couple times a week, every week for a long time. So Marvel was the top of my list of licences to get next. It took some searching to get the right contact but once I got it, I reached out and we just had some great conversations. Marvel is so supportive of their female fans. They have been trying to find a way to do more and to shine the spotlight on their female fans. We were able to get a deal with them in the Fall of 2013 and we were off and designing in December of 2013. It takes a while to develop and line and get product made. We have been working on it though for quite some time. It was a very tough secret to keep.

MG: How did you go about picking which characters would be featured in this line?
AE: That is the tough part [laughs]. Marvel has such a huge universe. There are so many characters and where do you start? To give the short story, there are only so many characters in our license, so that narrowed it down a bit for us. With the new films this year like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, that was a big inspiration for us. You also need to design in mind for “The Avengers”, so we do have some Black Widow. We started with a few classics and are already designing for many more characters and listening to the fan feedback everyday to offer fans what they want.

MG: I know plenty of fangirls who love the character Loki…
AE: Yes, we already have a Loki dress that we will be coming out with soon [laughs].

MG: Sticking with Marvel; you are also voicing Dagger on the animated series, “Ultimate Spider-Man” in the upcoming season…
AE: Yeah, they haven’t aired yet. I believe these are airing sometime this Fall. But I am excited to voice that classic character, which we haven’t seen in a while.

MG: Marvel is not the only new line you have; you also just launched a “Transformers” Fangirl Fashion Line; tell us about that?
AE: We have been working on Transformers about the same length of time we have been working on Marvel. We got the license back in the Fall and have been designing for that since then. Since it is such a classic franchise, there is so much you can do with it. Of course we started with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. We went a little retro with it especially with Dinobots being in the new film. So we have them and. of course. we are designing for some Decepticons as well as some of the female Transformers as well. There is just so much and I am very excited to get to play in this universe.

MG: If those two aren’t cool enough, I see you also launched a new Doctor Who line; tell us about that?
AE: Yeah, Doctor Who is something that is constanstly going on for us. I am such a massive Doctor Who fan myself, especially with the new Doctor coming up this August. In the meantime, I feel like all the fangirls in America still have Doctor Who fever including myself [laughs]. So you can look forward to a lot of new Doctor Who designs coming up. Also I am excited that our Doctor Who line is now available in Walt Disney World’s Epcot in the UK Pavilion. So that is really cool as well.

MG: You are also still coming out with great new “Star Wars” lines including your all-new Custom R2-D2 My Hero Jewelry Line; tell us about that new exciting line?
AE: The jewelry is all handmade, great quality and made in the USA over in Downtown Los Angeles. I have the opportunity to collaborate with The Sparkle Factory and they did this collection for us. I love jewelry and I was getting fed up with some that fall apart after only a few wears. These are higher end collectible pieces that are going to last the test of time. I wanted some nicer jewelry for “Star Wars”, so we got this opportunity and these are great pieces and pieces that you can be proud to give as a gift. While they are more expensive, I still wanted to keep them affordable for the quality that you are getting. They are priced between $38-85 dollars. I am very proud of this jewelry and there is definitely more coming. We are playing with Darth Vader next, got to give some love to the Dark Side as well. We started with R2-D2 because he is my favorite…and my hero.

MG: Also tell us about your #FlauntYourWorld Instagram Fangirl Fashionista contest?
AE: I am just so inspired by all the fangirls that are posting their photos with Her Universe lines. We used that hash tag before but we wanted a way to be able to search these photos. So we were asking the fans to use #FlauntYourWorld hashtag for their photos and once a month we are picking an Instagram Fangirl Fashionista. She will appear on the our website for the entire month and also get a $50 gift card. It is exciting for me to see everyone’s photos. I never wanted to be the only Her Universe model, so I am excited to be able to showcase our fans.

MG: Lastly, I hear you have some exciting plans and are collaborating with Nerdist Industires at San Diego Comic-Con for the very first “Her Universe Fashion Show”?
AE: Yeah! We are doing the first ever “Geek Couture” fashion show at San Diego Comic-Con this year. We are teaming up with Nerdist and also Hot Topic. We have pre-selected 36 designers. They range from some professional and some amateur designers. They are going to be walking the runway on July 24th at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, which is just two hotels down from the convention center. These are “Geek Couture” pieces and they are seriously awesome. They are going to blown people away. We are going to pick two winners, a judges pick and an audience pick. They are going to have the opportunity to design a Her Universe collection with myself to be sold at Hot Topic. Nerdist will be posting the entire fashion show at somepoint in August as well for those who can’t make it. We are really excited about this! So if you are going to San Diego Comic Con, don’t miss this!

Film Review “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Sophia Myles,
Li Bingbing, Titus Welliver, T. J. Miller, Melanie Specht, Victoria Summer, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Running time: 165 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It is that time people…more “Transformers”. Watching this film, I just couldn’t help but think how much Michael Bay like to blow shit up. The film definitely better “Dark of the Moon” but it is just too wicked long. Running in at a very mean 2 hours and 45 minutes, the beginning of this was great, the middle was kind of terrible and the ending saved it for me. I mean who can say no to freaking Dinobots! They only pop up in the end as an accessory to battle but they are still mad cool. Whether you love “Transformers” films are not, I know most critics don’t, but for Bay knows how to give audiences what they want. This film is like I said too long but it is still entertaining and an overall fun time. Either way gear up since this is only the first film in a new trilogy, the fifth and sixth installments are on their way.

The film is a sort of sequel to the last “Transformers”, it picks up four years after the battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons left Chicago in ruins. Due to this there is an all our war and hunt against the Transformers. The humans are hunting them down under the command of Harold Attinger (Grammer). All Transformers have gone into hiding. We meet Cade Yeager (Wahlberg), a struggling investor, who comes across an old truck while looking for a way to make some money to help save his house and send his daughter (Peltz) to college. What he finds is a very injured Optimus Prime. After fixing him, the race is on to reunite with the remaining Autobots and find out the truth behind the hunt on them.

If you are familiar with Michael Bay’s films you should know the story doesn’t always get the most attention. Nonetheless, this is “Transformers” and I just want to see giant aliens fighting other giant aliens. In fact, the fourth time around the Transformers have never looked better. With “Dark of the Moon”, they moved so fast you couldn’t even tell what was going on and who was fighting who half the time. This is much cleaner and they are just bad ass…did I mention already dinobots!? They easily steal the show. Optimus Prime is quite dark in this film much different than the last but never been better. Bumblebee got a clapping applaud when he first hit the screen, definitely a fan favorite. But personally in terms of Transformers, Hound takes the prize for me. John Goodman voiced him and really stole the show and was funny as hell.

With “Age of Extinction”, we get an all-new cast. Mark Wahlberg takes the lead and does a great job. His acting sometimes feels a little iffy but I have to remind you it is a “Transformers” movie. Nicola Peltz plays his daughter, she is definitely a better actress than Megan Fox but I couldn’t get over her spray tan look. Jack Reynor plays her boyfriend and he was a solid newcomer, I can see him getting very big…very quick. We got the chance to interview the Irish actor actually, read here, so keep an eye out for him. Stanley Tucci is a riot as Joshua Joyce and gets a ton of laughs. No question the best new addition to the cast. Kelsey Grammer is also quite the surprise and absolutely bad ass as Harold Attinger.

Besides the action and the dinobots (eek!), there is some other great parts in the film. The band Imagine Dragons have a fantastic song “Battle Cry”, which I immediately downloaded after seeing this film. Michael Bay did a great job of inserting that song into various parts of the film. Steve Jablonsky also delivered an amazing score for this film. In fact, I think it is easily one of my favorite recent action films. It also reminded me a bit of the “TRON Legacy” score as well. So “Age of Extinction” is far from perfect. It is drags major ass in the middle but it is a still a great popcorn flick and will no question take the crown for summer box office.

Enter to Win an Official “Transformers” T-Shirt [ENDED]

Media Mikes is teaming up with TVStoreOnline.com to giveaway some great official “Transformers” T-shirt’s to celebrate the release of “Transformers: Age of Extinction”. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of these great prizes, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite Transformer. This giveaway will remain open until July 11th 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.


Autobots, Roll Out! If you’ve always wanted to roll with these awesome robots, why not show some love for the good side? This officially licensed Transformers t-shirt features the Autobots logo, making it an excellent choice for any die hard fan of Optimus Prime and his group of Transformers. If you’re a fan of this classic Saturday morning cartoon, show it off in style with an awesome Autobots t-shirt!

Enter to Win a Transformers MIMOBOT Designer USB Flash Drives [ENDED]

To celebrate the release of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” in theaters, Media Mikes is teaming up with Mimoco for an exciting giveaway of three . If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of these great prizes, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite Transformers character that you want to see made into a MIMOBOT! Who knows Mimoco might just listen!! This giveaway will remain open until July 4th 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.

For 9 million years, Megatron has battled for control over Cybertron and the Universe’s energy supplies. Now he has set his evil mind on seizing control of your data! With steel-colored armor, menacing scowl and piercing eyes, Megatron MIMOBOT® boasts his classic Transformers style and will stop at nothing, least of all the feeble attempts of Optimus Prime, to gain the Universe’s data, and that means your documents, music, pictures and more!

For 9 million years, Optimus Prime has battled Megatron over the Universe’s energy supplies and control of Cybertron. Now Optimus Prime is battling to defend your data! The leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime MIMOBOT® stands heroic with his trademark red, white, and blue armor, and matching helmet. He’s travelled across the galaxy with a singular purpose: to protect your data from falling into the greedy clutches of the evil leader of the Decepticons, Megatron. Optimus Prime MIMOBOT, Transform and Roll-out! Learn more here!

Cover your ears! Megatron’s greatest rival for control of the Decepticons is now available in MIMO-form! With his F-15 wings folded behind him, STARSCREAM MIMOBOT captures the Decepticon arrogance and power with a smirk all-knowing, and all-cruel. 64GBs of data storage capacity and AMAZING preloaded digital goodies like vintage 1980’s comic books and episodes of the animated series, make Starscream MIMOBOT ready to shriek his way into your world. Get him before he transforms and takes off!

Win Tickets to an Advance Orlando FL Screening of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” [ENDED]

This is not war, it’s extinction. “Transformers: Age of Extinction” hits theaters on 06.27.14 but you could be one of the first to see it!! Here is that you need to do if you would like to win some tickets to an advance screening in Orlando, FL.

In order to win tickets we need YOU submit a photo of your own homemade Transformer costume, or send proof of why your are the biggest fan. You can submit your to us on our Twitter or Facebook pages using the hashtag #TransformersFan. Only one entry per person, per household. The best ones will be chosen and will win one of the following prizes:

GRAND PRIZE (best entry) will get VIP/GUARANTEED seats for them and a guest
Ten (10) runners will be chosen to win regular tickets for them and a guest

This giveaway will remain open until June 20th

The screening will take place on June 25 at Regal Waterford Lakes – 7:30PM

TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION is the fourth film in director Michael Bay’s global blockbuster franchise. Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Li Bingbing , Kelsey Grammer, Sophia Myles, T. J. Miller, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor and Titus Welliver star. The film begins after an epic battle that left a great city torn, but with the world saved. As humanity picks up the pieces, a shadowy group reveals itself in an attempt to control the direction of history… while an ancient, powerful new menace sets Earth in its crosshairs. With help from a new cast of humans, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) and the Autobots rise to meet their most fearsome challenge yet. In an incredible adventure, they are swept up in a war of good and evil, ultimately leading to a climactic battle across the world.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is in theaters 06.27.14

Official site: TransformersMovie.com
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/transformersmovie
Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/transformers

DVD Review “Transformers Animated: The Complete Series”

Actors: David Kaye, Corey Burton, Bumper Robinson, Bill Fagerbakke, Jeff Bennett, Tara Strong, Tom Kenny, Susan Blu
Number of discs: 6
Studio: Shout! Factory
DVD Release Date: June 10, 2014
Run Time: 930 minutes

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

A Japanese animation take on the “Transformers”…how can that be bad? I never really jumped on board with the series “Transformers Animated”. I love the animation style but the feel of the show didn’t land well with me. I feel it feels more like “The Powerpuff Girls” than “Neon Genesis Evangelion”. I know the “Transformers” have always been a little campy but this went a little overboard for me. I feel that it took one too many tips from “Transformers: Rise of the Fallen”. Even though I am not in love with this series, hardcore “Transformers” fan will did it.

Official Premise: Trapped on Earth, far from home and living in disguise, the brave Autobots must protect the ancient, all-powerful AllSpark from getting into the hands of the malevolent Decepticons. As if their task weren’t difficult enough, the team (led by the honor-bound Optimus Prime and including Bulkhead, Prowl, Ratchet and Bumblebee) must also protect Earth from its own nefarious super villains! Can this mere maintenance team live up to the highest standard of what it truly means to be Autobots?

The main Autobots in this series are Optimus Prime (of course), Prowl, Ratchet, Bulkhead, and Bumblebee. The main Decepticon include Megatron (of course), Starscream, Blitzwing, and Lugnut. The show ran for three seasons and was never renewed for a fourth.  This series aired from 2007-2009 and this release includes all 42 episodes and they are finally able own the complete series along with the never-before-released third season, right here in one collection!

3D Blu-ray Review “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”

Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Josh Duhamel
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Distributed by: Paramount Home Entertainment
Running Time: 154 minutes

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

The “Transformers” series has really turned into a love it or hate it series. Fans have been doing nothing but fighting Michael Bay after the very over-producing and story lacking “Revenge of the Fallen”. “Dark of the Moon” definitely makes up for some the mistakes of the film prior but also presents a few new issues of its own. The major issue is that film needs to be a least 30 minutes shorter. When I originally saw this film in 3D IMAX, I wasn’t completely in love with the film at first. After letting it sit a while and especially watching it at home, I had a chance to really enjoy it a lot more.

The Blu-ray presentation on this release is absolutely fantastic. This honestly has to be THE most action packed Blu-ray in my library and also the best use of a Blu-ray to date. This film’s audio track also shines boasting Paramount’s Dolby TrueHD 7.1, easily one of the best I have ever heard on Blu-ray…and almost blew up my surround sound. The 3D on the Blu-ray really works well with the film since it was actually filmed in native 3D. There are no cheap tricks used in this film with the effect. I actually enjoyed the 3D quite more at home then in the theaters and thought it was a lot more focused. The story, well, that’s a another story but by this time in the series I think we have come to understand that these are movies about robots and visual effects.

Let’s discuss the other details of the release besides the 3D Blu-ray. This set also includes a Blu-ray disc of the film in 2D, as well as DVD disc. I am a big fan of the new digital copy service called, Ultraviolet. If you haven’t took advantage of this amazing digital streaming service, this is the film to start with.

The special features on this release are out of control and jam packed. The biggest feature on the release is “Above and Beyond: Exploring Dark of the Moon” is a super extensive five-part documentary that runs about two hours. The really dive deep into the development of the film ranging from the design to location filming to the stunts to the amazing post-production.  The next feature “Uncharted Territory: NASA’s Future Then and Now” runs about 30 minutes and focuses on exactly what its title suggests, no surprise here. “Deconstructing Chicago: Multi-Angle Sequences” is a visual effects featurette that is split in two parts.  The first is called “Previsualizations”, which allows you to view the visual effects raw with optional commentary by Director Michael Bay and Previsualization Supervisor Steve Yamamoto.  The second part is called “Visual Effects” which breaks down the VFX shots and also includes optional commentary by Visual Effects Supervisors Scott Farrar and Matthew Butler.  Both these features are able to be viewed individually or side-by-side with the final shots. “The Art of Cybertron” is a collection of still focusing on the world of the alien robots. “The Dark of the Moon Archive” is another production feature focusing on the 3D, the Moscow World Premiere and the stunt performers.  “The Sound of ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon'” is focused on the film’s sound engineering, which scores the film two Oscar nominations in Sound Mixing and Editing. Lastly there is a collection of teasers/trailers and other promotional material in “The Matrix of Marketing”. Overall amazing extras for an amazing release.

Interview with Freddie Highmore

Freddie Highmore is known best his roles in “Charlie in the Chocolate Factory” and Finding Neverland”, both with Johnny Depp.  Next up, he is starring with Emma Roberts in the upcoming romantic comedy “The Art of Getting By”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Freddie about his new film and discussed about his career to date.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your most recent film “The Art of Getting By”? What drew you to this project?
Freddie Highmore: It was a fantastic film. New York was a joy to be in.  What really attracted me to the film was the honesty of it.  It doesn’t present the sort of stylized version of high school that you often get with some of these movies.  It is incredibly real and it is actually quite refreshing. People will go and see the film and have it actually represent the feeling of growing up…feeling of that first love…feeling of that wanting to succeed and the pressure to succeed. The film encompasses all though things and in a real way.

MG: How was it working with Emma Roberts?
FH: Emma Roberts was fantastic.  It was a real joy to get to work with her. The fact we got a long so well right from the start was incredibly helpful.  It is great to get along with someone that you are working with especially with the more intimate moments, they felt more real

MG: Are you generally a fan of the romance genre?
FH: Yeah I am.  I am, obviously.  But some of them perhaps what they are lacking is the way the actor portrays it.  They sometimes need to overdue it emotionally and make it too obvious to people.  I think people really will enjoy our film and see that start they think George is a bit depressed and a bit deluished in life. But actually by the end they will find out who he is.  I think people enjoy seeing that kind of movie.

MG: You’ve worked with so many A-list directors, Tim Burton and Ridley Scott for example, how was it working with first time director Gavin Wiesen?
FH: It was great. One thing that all directors seems to have in common is an amazing amount of energy.  For Gavin, despite the film being somewhat based on real events and in fact on him, he is incredible open.  He is open to the fact that it will be a movie and people will have various interpations of the story.  It was really rewarding that he was able to give up a certain part of something felt attached to him.

MG: After working on the very large production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, how does working on a film like this compare to indie “The Art of Getting By”?
FH: I think on the independent film, each day was definitely more filled up.  You definitely get through more in the day oppose to just doing one massive shot, which will take the whole day shooting.  There is just something nice about working on the independent film.  You are with a smaller crew and get to know everyonestraight away. Everyone is really willing to be there, excited and looking at the same goal.  It makes it a really excited project to be apart of. We were just running around New York and grabbing shots on the go.  Perhaps New York represents the aim for the film, not just going for the postcard picture of Manhattan.  It is sort of the real New York and the people that live and work in it.

MG: What would you say has been your most challenging film to date?
FH: I think they have all been different.  I am not sure if one has been more challenging than an other one.  I have been lucky in that way.  I have been able to play different character for different genres and not get tied up in one thing in particular. Every film should be a challenge and it keeps you popping and really focused about doing it.

MG: “Arthur and the Invisibles 2 & 3″ were just recently released, how was it working on those films not only acting but also voice acting?
FH: It was fun doing a voiceover in the film oppose to just acting.  I think the people think it is always easier to do a voice but for me I thought it was more challenging.  Since you are never really working with the people.  You just sort of go off and make it up on your own.  There is definitely a lot of preparation for a role like that.

MovieMikes’ “Falling Skies” Interviews

“Falling Skies” is a new sci-fi drama series that was created by Robert Rodat and Steven Spielberg. The series will be premiering on TNT on Sunday, June 19, 2011, with a two-hour premiere. The series will consist of 10 episodes.

The story behind the show deals with the aftermath of an alien invasion. It follows a group of survivors who come together to fight back against the invading aliens. The cast for the show Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Dale Dye, Drew Roy and Peter Shinkoda.

I have had the pleasure of watching the first five episodes in advance and let me tell you this is a show you will not want to miss this summer. The show mixes sci-fi with really great human drama which leads to a great show. I was also lucky enough to interview most of the primary cast from the show. They were able to chat with me about their experiences on the show and what we can expect from it.

We will be posting new interviews each day leading up to the premiere of the show on Sunday. Hope you enjoy them and feel free to leave comments.

FALLING SKIES CAST INTERVIEWS:


Dale Dye

Drew Roy

Moon Bloodgood

Noah Wyle</


Peter Shinkoda

Interview with Jason Lee

Jason Lee is currently starring in the TNT’s “Memphis Beat”, which is begins season two starting June 14th. Prior to this Jason has worked on the TV series “My Name is Earl”. In film,. Jason is known for his roles in Kevin Smith’s films “Mallrats”, “Chasing Amy” and “Dogma”. He has also played Dave in the “Alvin in the Chipmunks” series, with its second sequel being released this Fall, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked”. Movie Mikes had a chance to attend a conference call with Jason Lee to discuss the new season of “Memphis Beat” and what we can expect from it.

Mike Gencarelli: Do you find it difficult for you combining the comedy with the drama for this show?
Jason Lee: This season it’s easier because that was more of the direction we wanted to take this season because we felt that that was lacking a little bit last season in retrospect. I think with anything you do characters have to be believable, acceptable, likeable that’s always sort of my stance like even with a guy like Earl.  With just a massive list of wrongs you still like the guy, you know what I mean? I felt like we needed with “Memphis Beat” and have Dwight feel even more tangible real likeable, accessible, approachable and less of the character or a sort of a iconic thing that we were trying to have him be in the first season. Strangely, I thought a lot about Burt Reynolds back in the 70’s, that strong kind of jokes every man just that kind of humor from that and the camaraderie with like those movies like “Cannonball Run” and “Smokey and the Bandit”. I guess trying to incorporate that into this show and making it have more of that old school kind of Southern flair, that energy and you see more of that coming out and that’s balanced with the more dramatic stuff of I’ve seen them today these guys are cops and people are being murdered and no shit there’s a lot of stuff happening here. But I think it was a little to precious the first season.

MG: What would you consider is the most challenging part working on the show?
JL: I would have to say the lip-syncing and the performances. I try to be as genuine with those and make that feel as heartfelt as possible and make it look as good as I can. That’s sometimes a difficult thing learning those songs and…putting my heart into it and making it feel right. I want to do justice to that. Also always being conscious of walking that balance between reality and fiction and trying to keep it real and not cheesy or forced but as believable as possible.

Q: Well you’ve got a great show. Were you surprised how well the show went over last season?
A: I mean yes, I thought it was interesting enough as the start to something potentially better…and we’ve made it better this season in my opinion.  Sometimes you do something with one formula and then you look at it and you go, well you know what it didn’t quite feel what it – the way it should have felt and then so you reconvene you look at it all and you start fresh with the strengths from last season and then having sort of gotten rid of the weaknesses. I think the show is more fun this season Dwight is a little bit more identifiable he’s less of a character and more of just a guy. It’s less of a sacred kind of Elvis thing and more of just a Southern dude who loves music and he happens to be a musician and a performer. This season there’s less of country Elvis thing and more of just Dwight performing music. Certainly Elvis is his idol but you know what really kind of didn’t help in our favor at the beginning of the first season was that people have this ideal that the show is like cop by day Elvis impersonator by night and that kind of screwed us up a little bit. Because it was not that and then when we presented the show as something else it was difficult to work our way around that. Now we just sort of shed all of that and it’s just more about Dwight loving the South and being just a guy who loves everything from Elvis to Johnny Cash to Muddy Waters to probably Simon and (freakin’) Garfunkle.  He’s just a guy who loves music and he’s a performer. So it was really important this season that we made Dwight more of a just a dude and less of this kind of character or this icon or something. We just have a more fun kind of lighter, looser kind of old school cop show with more car chases and shoot outs and more more joking and having fun and more camaraderie among among us, there’s a gang. We needed to go through season one to see all this stuff and make this season more fun.

Q: Okay you were talking about a minute ago about Dwight and he’s one of the coolest cops in recent TV history. What you did to bring that cool swagger to this role?
A: Oh man, well it’s I think it was the boots, some of the wardrobe, the car, the music, the old guitars. It’s sort of like there’s a little bit of a modern day kind of cowboy vibe to the guy, which I think is really interesting. But that could get real cheesy real fast. So I just try to be aware of the importance of this guy’s job and making it as much about how much he cares as it is about how “cool” the guy might be and how fun it is to play this guy. It’s kind of walking a little bit more of a line between character and realities than we did I think last season. So I learned – we all sort of learned a lot from last season.

Q: All the music on this show is incredible. Can you talk a little bit about that the barrage of great songs that crop up throughout each episode?
A: Well that’s the beauty of the show it’s taken straight from the South.  It’s like you’re going to get those flavors of blues, R&B, Elvis.  It’s like the backdrop to the show because it takes place in Memphis and we all know how important music is to the Memphis to the South. So it’s like it’s kind of – it’s the character to the show just as much as Dwight’s car is.  We get away with a lot of stuff that I don’t think we’d get away with it if the show took place somewhere else because in the South your town is like you’re very prideful of it. There’s such a sense of camaraderie and community here because everybody shares everything and that’s very much a Southern thing I found. So with that comes a real sense of pride and Dwight carries that pride with him. There’s a pride of “hey we do things differently around here”, which I think is really cool.

Q: What is the City of Memphis think of Dwight in the show When you go to Memphis,even if it’s just to shoot exterior scenes, do they greet you like you’re a local hero?
A: It speaks volumes of about how awesome Memphians are.  The biggest disappointment that we’ve heard is Memphians saying that they have seen quite a bit of New Orleans in the show and saying that they totally understand that we really wanted to shoot in Memphis but they still embrace the show.  They understand that it’s a bunch of red tape sort of logistical kind of governmental tax incentive stuff all this stuff.  They’re usually kind to us. This season we have a fantastic production designer and she is very anal and we’ve tried even harder this season to make it even more authentic. Overall though the Memphians are they like the show. I’ve done press there locally in Memphis and and they say, “We like the show and we’re certainly happy that it has just the title Memphis in it and we understand why you can’t film here. It’s disappointing but we don’t hate the show” so of course that’s nice to hear.

Q: Have you ever been much of an armchair detective in real life? When it comes to crime dramas and mysteries do you watch them? Do you read them? And if so who are some of your favorites?
A: I’m a product of the 70’s.  My favorite stuff is like “Streets of San Francisco”, “Rockford Files”, “Dukes of Hazards”, “C.H.I.P.S”, you know what I mean? Like “Smokey and the Bandits”…that’s my vibe.  Something that I bought to the table for this season is like that we needed to make it feel a little bit more fun and action packed than kind of just old school like these other shows. We tried to do that season one but we didn’t quite nail it. I feel like that energy that you see on shows like “Rockford Files”. Just that fun camaraderie and that’s just like energy…just the style of it.  I feel like we’ve tapped into that more because to me it’s just cool aesthetic and it fits this Southern Dwight thing…the old car that he drives, the music, the energy.  There’s more laughs this season. It’s a little lighter and it feels a little bit more just down home.

Q: What do you think of Sam Hennings as an actor and as a person?
A: Oh Sam is amazing he has really found his thing this season even more so I think. Just because overall the energy has shifted and there’s more room to have fun and just be real and not be so serious all the time. Quite a few scenes this season, I’m not in this time around because we’ve tried to balance out the work load.  We are trying to put more focus on the other characters.  Sam’s had some great story lines so far and he’s really gotten the shine. He’s a great fit for this show. He’s from Macon, Georgia and he’s just like he’s an old school.  He’s the perfect old school kind of cross city cop.

Q: Last season ended on kind of an emotional cliffhanger with Dwight finding out that his dad might have been a dirty cop. Is that storyline going to be followed up at all?
A: Yes sir we’ve already filmed that episode.

Q: Does your schedule allow you to do any films on your hiatus?
A: Yes I really want to get back into doing some film work.  Hopefully this year later this fall. I miss that, I miss it and I’m really looking to find something that I can do for this year.

Interview with American McGee

American McGee is the man behind the game ‘American McGee’s Alice” and its follow-up “Alice: Madness Returns”. American currently runs his own game development company, Spicy Horse, which is based in Shanghai, China. Movie Mikes had a chance to pick American’s brain about the new games as well as other projects he is currently working on.

Click here to read our review of “Alice: Madness Returns”
Click here
to enter for a chance to win a copy of the game on Playstation 3.

Mike Gencarell: So why the 11 year wait between “American McGee’s Alice” and “Alice: Madness Returns”?
American McGee: There wasn’t really anything magic of the time between the new game and the last game.  The truth is that it was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, which was also the case when we made the first game.  But this time around…I had left EA after the first game and lived in Los Angeles for a while.  Then I moved to Hong Kong, then to Shanghai.  I had to move to Shanghai and start a studio here before I thought we had the development capabilities to tackle doing a sequel.  So I called up EA and let them know what I had in mind.  They thought it sounded good so we got it started.  It really just came down to “right place, right time.”

MG: What inspired you to take the wacky world of “Alice” and turn it into a very dark psychotic world?
AM: Basically EA asked me to come up with the game concept.  I spent the years prior to working at EA working at id software, where we did all the “Dune” and “Quake” games.  I was actually tired of the whole “space marine/big brown worlds and guns” games and I had a feeling that I wanted to come up with something that would really push both the technology and the story telling.  I was driving in my car one day and this song by the Crystal Method came on.  It was called “Trip Like I Do.”  The song opens up with a guy doing sort of a monologue talking about a world of wonder.  And those words hit my brain and I started thinking “wonder….wonder….wonderland.”  I thought we could do something really fantastic with “Alice in Wonderland.”  So when I got back to my office I sat down and started thinking about the characters and Alice’s world and how it could be adapted to appeal to gamers but also maintain the appeal that the books have to such a wide audience around the world.  So out of that was born this world and this story and this take on it which a lot of people seem to think feels like a good direction.

MG: Tell us about the development for the CGI cut-scenes in the new game?
AM: We still kept it kind of old school.  We use a lot of storytelling in the environment.  It’s a lot of passive stuff so that we don’t take the player out of the game playing experience.  Then we also have the cut-scenes in game, like a lot of games do, where we’re using the characters in the world to tell some of the story.  The only thing we have that is sort of pre-rendered are the 2 ½ D motion graphic cinematics.  We just recently released one of those, which is the opening to the game.  It’s a two and a half minute long animation showing the opening of the game.  We actually ended up doing over 30 minutes of animated content like that.  It’s really cool because it suits the game really well.  It tells the story really well.  It really fits into her world.

MG: If you had to choose one thing, what did you enjoy most about doing the new game?
AM: I’d say that it’s the overall sense of pride the studio has in having delivered the game because it’s actually quite historic to see a full blown cross-console/cross-platformplay Triple A western game concept get developed from start to finish in China.  For gaming China has historically been a place that’s mainly used for outsourcing.  Even when you have companies like EA and other big studios here a lot of the creative direction…a lot of the development…is actually being done off shore, outside of China.  They’re giving a lot of the core production work to the team here.  This is the first time that, from start to finish, we built a game of this size and this caliber in China.  The whole team is quite proud of that.

MG: What was the biggest challenge in bringing “American McGee’s Alice” to Xbox Live and PlayStation Network?
AM: There were a lot of little obstacles and hurdles for the tech team to get over.  That was almost purely a tech job.  Basically on our side we had two guys, Jake and Milo, doing all the coding.  We also had a company on the west coast of the U.S.  It’s kind of ironic.  We’re in China and we outsourced the work for some of the technology to a company in California.  They did have to jump over some hurdles to get the game to fit to memory and for the interface  to come up to the standards that are required by the platforms.  But so much time has passed.  The power that is now available on the consoles is definitely up to the task of playing the game.  And it looks great.  If you play the old game now, on a console and a big screen, it’s absolute gorgeous.  The original “Alice” was envisioned as a console title early on.  There was meant to be a console version – a PS 2 version – when we finished the PC version.  It actually comes over very nicely.  At its core the soul of the game is really a console  platformed action game. It came over quite nicely.

MG: The music composed by Chris Vrenna in the first game was fantastic.  Tell us about the score for “Madness Returns”?
AM: Chris came out early on and actually consulted with our composers and sound designers here in Shanghai.  He ended up contributing one track but the bulk of the music was done by Jason Tai.  We also had a guy named Marshall Crutcher in San Francisco that did a lot of the more classical pieces that were traditionalist instruments like cello and violin.  So if you listen to the main theme of the song that was something that Marshall contributed.  But the bulk of the audio done in China was done under Jason’s direction.  Jason is Malaysian but went to school in England so he brought with him a really wide range of ability and an exposure to music from around the world.  So when you play the game and you move through the world you get a really good sense of that.  There’s a lot of diversity…a lot of variety in the music.

MG: Was it different making a multi-platform game vs. just a PC game?
AM: I’d like to say that there was something really different about it but the truth is that so many people on the team, myself included, had prior experience in console development and the technology these days allowed us to create a game that is automatically cross-platform right out of the box.  It really makes it pretty straight forward as long as you put your planning together the right way early on.  Something as a studio that we really pride ourselves on is being really good at the planning for these long term projects.  And as a result we’ve actually developed a pretty sane development process and schedule.

MG: There have been talks since 2004 about a film adaptation of”Alice.”  Now that it is back in the spotlight, do you think those ideas will be revisited?
AM: It’s largely out of my hands.  There’s a film producer in Hollywood that is in control of the rights.  That’s the destiny of the project.  But I know that he’s trying many ways to get it set up and made.  I decided a long time ago not to hold my breath when it comes to the ways and moves of Hollywood.  Sometimes things can happen ridiculously fast and sometimes it can take decades for stuff to get made.  I think we’ll all just have to wait and see if maybe the new game has an impact on getting the film to move forward.

MG: Why was the game production on “American McGee’s Oz” canceled and do you ever plan to revisit that project?
AM: It was really sad.  When I left EA we had all of this momentum because of the success of “Alice.”  I figured I’d done “Alice in Wonderland” so I decided to tackle “The Wizard of Oz.”  So we came up with some story lines and some art and started building the concept.  We had toys made, had a book deal in place, got the game deal set up…had the film rights sold.  Everything was moving along and feeling really great.  Then one year into production on the game the publisher ran into pretty significant financial troubles.  And they killed, across the board, all of the their games except for one.  They were just finishing up the MMO for “The Matrix.”  They had run out of money and they cut out work on all games except for the one they thought would make them some money back.  So we were a victim of their financial woes.  And once the game fell a lot of the other stuff also started to fall by the wayside.  When the film guys saw that the game wasn’t going to get made they cooled on the film idea.  And so forth and so on.

MG: Is that something you can now proceed on with your own studio, Spicy Horse?
AM: Right now that project is so messy in terms of the rights.  The game rights are owned by Atari still.  The film rights are sitting at Disney with Jerry Bruckheimer.  Somebody has the toy rights, somebody has the book rights.  I think today to get the momentum back and get the project moving again would just be so much work and trouble.  I think, in fact, should we decide to ever revisit “Oz” we would just start from scratch.  Because it is a public domain story we could come up with a whole new take on it and just relaunch completely from scratch.  We may do that someday but for now we have a lot of other stuff that we’re working on that’s keeping us occupied.

MG: What’s next from Spicy Horse?
AM: We just announced some news.  Actually, “Alice,” for us, was a bit of a distraction from our core business strategy, which has a lot to do with why I came to China in the first place.  And that was to be in the on-line game space.  Our first project was strictly on-line, an episodic project called “Grim.”  We just announced that we’ve secured financing that we’re going to use to self-fund a lot of original IP.  And we also just signed a deal with a company in which we’re going to take one of their existing IPs  and transform it into a 3-D free-to-play game.  So from this point forward all of our focus is going to be on making on-line multi-player free-to-play games.  These will be in 3-D.  A lot of your Facebook games are in 2-D and we want to help transition the market to 3-D.  So that’s where a lot of our energy will be going as we move forward.