CD Review: “Live at Wacken 2016: 27 Years Faster: Harder: Louder”

“Live at Wacken 2016: 27 Years Faster: Harder: Louder”
Silver Lining
4 Discs
Runtime: 271 minutes

Our score:  CD 2.5 out of 5 stars
BluRay/DVD 3.5 our of 5 stars

The ultimate heavy metal event-in-a-box is now available for fans to enjoy in the comfort of their very own home. “Live at Wacken 2016: 27 Years Faster: Harder: Louder” is a collection of some of the best performances from the 2016 Wacken Open Air festival held in Germany each yr. The double disc CD and DVD/BluRay features music from over 30 artists including Arch Enemy, Saxon and Bullet for My Valentine all packaged nicely in multi fold digipack.

No need for lengthy international travel or standing in a soggy bog along the European country side as “Live at Wacken 2016: 27 Years Faster: Harder: Louder” allows you to enjoy a majority of the Wacken Open Air festival from the safety and dryness of your own couch or recliner. Get comfortable as with a runtime of over four hours you are definitely in for a long haul especially if you plan to check it out from start to finish. If you want to skip around a little I highly recommend checking out the performances from Eluveitie, Bullet for My Valentine and Dio Disciples as they were easily my favorite. I also enjoyed the video version of this package a little more as it included in most cases a couple songs from each artist.

Invite a few friends over crack open some drinks and thrown on either the DVD/BluRay or the included audio versions of the release. Though a majority of the performances contained on the set are from European acts I wasn’t too familiar with there is still plenty of other material from bands I had heard before. Though I enjoyed seeing bands like Steel Panther and Saxon I think I had more fun checking out the bands who I hadn’t heard of because those performances were fresh and new to me. It’s always great to be exposed to new music and that’s certainly what “Live at Wacken 2016: 27 Years Faster: Harder: Louder” does. I do feel though that if you are a more casual metal fan there might not be enough familiarity included to warrant purchasing the cumbersome four disc set however, If you are a dedicated, die hard metal head that has yearned for the Wacken experience but couldn’t make the trip then this release is certainly for you as it gets you as close as you can be without actually being there.

BluRay/DVD Track Listing: Disc 1

1.) Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons- Big Mouth
2.) Profaner- Killing On Command
3.) Hamatom- Alte Liebe Rostet Nicht
4.) Auan- Pjaning Heillar Bjodar
5.) Saxon- Battering Ram
6.) Saxon- Heavy Metal Thunder
7.) Zombies Ate My Girlfriend- Appropriate Hate Crimes
8.) Vader- Triumph of Death
9.) Tsjuder- Demonic Supremacy
10.) Immolation- Despondent Souls
11.) Therapy? Screamager
12.) Michael Monroe- 78
13.) Orden Ogan- F.E.V.E.R.
14.) Orden Ogan- The Things We Believe In
15.) The Vintage Caravan- Expand Your Mind
16.) Bury Tomorrow- Man On Fire
17.) Entombed A.D.- Dead Dawn
18.) Equilibrium- But Im Auge
19.) Equilibrium- Born To Be Epic
20.) Die Krupps- Fatherland
21.) Axel Rudi Pell- Game Of Sins
22.) Axel Rudi Pell- Rock The Nation
23.) Ektomorf- Holocaust
24.) Girlschool- Take It Like a Band
25.) Lemmy- Born To Lose, Live To Win

Bluray/DVD Track Listing: Disc 2

1.) Torfrock- Trunkenbold
2.) Torfrock- PreBlufthammer B B-Bernhard
3.) Eluveitie- Tegernako
4.) Eluveitie- Havoc
5.) Bullet For My Valentine- Tears Don’t Fall
6.) Bullet For My Valentine- Waking The Demon
7.) Tarja- No Bitter End
8.) 1349- Sculptor Of Flesh
9.) Red Fang- Prehistoric Dog
10.) Unisonic- Unisonic
11.) Caliban- Paralyzed
12.) While She Sleeps- Four Walls
13.) Eskimo Callboy- Muffin Purper-Gurk
14.) Myrkur- Jeg er Guden, I er tjenerne
15.) Borknagar- Colossus
16.) Borknagar- Winter Thrice
17.) Metal Church- Gods Of Second Chance
18.) Therion- Sons Of The Sun
19.) Therion- Sons Of The Staves Of Time
20.) Steel Panther- Asian Hooker
21.) Steel Panther- Community Property
22.) Steak Number Eight- Black Eyed
23.) Triptykon- Morbid Tales
24.) Buffalo Summer- Money
25.) Barb Wire Dolls- Heart Attack
26.) Arch Enemy- War Eternal
27.) Budderside- Pain
28.) Dio Disciples- The Last In Line
29.) Dio Disciples- Stargazer

CD Track Listing: Disc 1

1.) Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons- Big Mouth
2.) Hamatom- Alte Liebe Rostet Nicht
3.) Saxon- Battering Ram
4.) Vader- Triumph Of Death
5.) Tsjuder- Demonic Supremacy
6.) Immolation- Despondent Souls
7.) Theraphy?- Screamager
8.) Michael Monroe- 78
9.) The Vintage Caravan- Expand Your Mind
10.) Bury Tomorrow- Man On Fire
11.) Entombed A.D.- Dead Dawn
12.) Equilibrium- Born To Be Epic
13.) Die Krupps- Fatherland
14.) Axel Rudi Pell- Rock The Nation
15.) Girlschool- Take It Like a Band
16.) Ektomorf- Holocaust
17.) Torfrock- PreBlufthammer B B-Bernhard
18.) Eluveitie- Havoc

CD Track Listing: Disc 2

1.) Bullet For My Valentine- Tears Don’t Fall
2.) Tarja- No Bitter End
3.) 1349- Sculptor Of Flesh
4.) Red Fang- Prehistoric Dog
5.) Unisonic- Unisonic
6.) Caliban- Paralyzed
7.) Eskimo Callboy- Muffin Purper-Gurk
8.) Borknagar- Colossus
9.) Metal Church- Gods Of Second Chance
10.) Therion- Sons Of The Staves Of Time
11.) Steel Panther- Community Property
12.) Steak Number Eight- Black Eyed
13.) Triptykon- Morbid Tales
14.) Buffalo Summer- Money
15.) Barb Wire Dolls- Heart Attack
16.) Arch Enemy- War Eternal
17.) Budderside- Pain
18.) Dio Disciples- Stargazer

How Gambling Changes Over the Years

Gambling has always been a major part if history, with players from countries all over the world engaging in casino games and betting options. For the majority of that time, bettors resorted to land casinos and bookmakers to place wagers, but times have changed. Ver the past 20 years, the emergence of online casinos has definitely altered the gambling scene and now, players can enjoy top notch casino games and sports betting right from home in a legal and secure environment. The enhanced technology has played a large role in the success and growth of the online casino industry.

Since the first online gambling games were introduced, they have been enhanced and made to be more realistic. Technology has changed the way we gamble and offers players more choices, better experiences and the feeling of being right in a casino setting. The biggest and best software providers in the industry have embraced technological advances and have applied them to the portfolio of games that are offered, completely changing how we gamble online and how we experience classic casino games. Not only has technology altered how we enjoy games at casino sites, but it also has offered the ability to engage in mobile gambling on smartphones and tablets.

Future Gambling with VR

As more and more people become engaged in gambling online, they will be able to benefit from enhanced technology in the form of Virtual Reality. With this form of technology, online casinos and betting sites will be able to engage customers and provide an immersive and realistic experience. All operating online casinos are seeking ways to stand apart from the many competitors in the industry. By offering VR, online casinos can allow players to virtually stroll through the casino and enjoy an amazing selection of games in a virtual setting.

In regards to the offering of VR and online casinos, SlotsMillion was the first site to offer a VR experience. Here, players are able to interact with various users and support agents and can select from 40 slot titles from many top providers. The explosive 3D graphics are what appeals to many players and the VR experience can offer a way to enjoy online gambling like never before.

Discover the Action Online with PlayOJO

Another way technology has changed the way we gamble online is with the offering of live dealer games. These types of games are just like the standard card and table games at a casino setting, but they are played in real time and offer the ability for players to interact with everyone at the table. One of the main benefits of these games is the fact they are not controlled by random number generators, allowing players to make use of different skills and strategies that may not be able to be used with online casino games. The selection at the live casino PlayOJO presents players with some great game choices. There are two live casino lobbies, one being the Gold Live Casino by Extreme and the other is the Live Casino by Evolution.

Win a copy of Time Life’s “The Wonder Years: The Complete Series”

In preparation for the upcoming “The Wonder Years: The Complete Series” DVD box set re-issue on August 23rd Media Mikes and Time Life would like to give fans of the show a chance to win a copy of the series for their very own. Please leave us a comment below or email us your favorite memory from the show. This give away will remain open until Wednesday, August 31st at 5pm, Eastern Time. One entry per-person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select a winner and notify them via email.

“THE WONDER YEARS: THE COMPLETE SERIES”

For six seasons, The Wonder Years captured the angst of growing up in suburban middle-class America in the late ’60s, as seen through the life and times of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage).
Audiences eagerly followed his evolution as a typical awkward teenager who remembered every moment of his transition from childhood with excruciating detail and remarkable hindsight. From his first kiss with Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) to his friendship with Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) and the ups and downs of the Arnold family, fans shared in laughter, love, and loss, but above all, wonder.

This 22-DVD set contains all 115 episodes from the six seasons of this landmark series that aired from 1988 to 1993. Included in this specially-priced slipcase set are complete show notes with episode synopses, cast member reflections, “Current Events,” and more plus nearly 12 hours of bonus material, as well as an astounding soundtrack of over 300 classic period songs as they were featured in the original broadcasts featuring such artists as: Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, and of course, Joe Cocker’s unforgettable theme.

BONUS FEATURES
• Highlights from the first cast reunion in 16 years
• Roundtable discussions with Danica McKellar, Fred Savage, and Josh Saviano
• 6 newly produced featurettes
• Farewell set tour
• One-hour ABC broadcast of the series finale
• Exclusive interviews with the show’s creators and cast including Fred Savage, Danica McKellar, Josh Saviano, Alley Mills, Dan Lauria, Olivia d’Abo, Jason Hervey, and more!

ABOUT THE WONDER YEARS
The Wonder Years debuted in 1988 following ABC’s broadcast of Super Bowl XXII, and the affectionate look at growing up in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s in suburban America was unlike anything else on television. It was 1968 — the year of Nixon, space walks, Mod Squad, and Vietnam. Enter Kevin Arnold, a sixth grader at Kennedy Junior High School. Set against the suburban backdrop of Anytown, USA, Kevin sought to minimize his teenage angst while dealing with an older, noogie-happy brother Wayne (Jason Hervey), a rebellious sister, Karen (Olivia d’Abo), distant, workaholic father, Jack (Dan Lauria) and doting housewife mother, Norma (Alley Mills). Add to the mix Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano), his nerdy, allergy-riddled best friend, a potential love interest in winsome girl-next-door Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) and narration by an older, wiser, wittier Kevin (voiced by Daniel Stern) to add perspective to the nostalgia, and you have the perfect recipe for TV greatness.

The contest is now closed and the winner has been emailed.

Me and Sly…40 Years of Friendship

Stallone in Tampa, 1976

Let me start off my saying that Sylvester Stallone and I are not friends.  Though we’ve spent countless hours together in the dark, it’s been almost four decades since we last spoke.  But as Oscar night is almost upon us, and Stallone is nominated, I thought it would be a good time to talk about my favorite films of his and share the memory of when we first met.

I’ve been in the movie “biz” since the mid-1970s.  I started out as a theatre usher when I was 16.  In 1976 I was a junior in high school.  I joined the staff of the school paper under the guise of wanting to write reviews.  In all honesty, the main reason I joined was because the time we were allotted to work on the paper was right before lunch time.  Many times, we would have to leave campus, under the guise that we were going to try and sell advertising.  But actually it was a great excuse to pass up the school cafeteria and pay a visit to Steak and Shake, Subway or Arthur Treachers.  For those of you under the age of 40, Arthur Treachers was a very popular Fish and Chips restaurant chain, long before Long John Silvers showed up.  To my knowledge, there is only one Arthur Treachers left, located in the food court of the Christiana Mall in Delaware.  But I digress…

In late November of 1976, I was contacted by Steve Otto, who was the film critic of the Tampa Times.  Steve was a former graduate of my high school and had been quite helpful whenever I had a question.  There was an upcoming press junket scheduled for Tampa to highlight a new film coming out called Rocky.  Would I be interested in accompanying him?  Would I have to miss school?  Heck yeah!  For those who aren’t familiar with the event, a press junket is a gathering of film critics who get to see a film early and then spend time with some of the talent.  Most of them take place in New York or Los Angeles these days, though on occasion there are still some regional ones, especially to get the word out on smaller films.

Steve and the others in attendance had seen the film a week before so they had their questions prepared.  I hadn’t, so I just sat quietly and listened.  First up was actress Talia Shire, who I recognized from The Godfather Part II.  She was very polite and answered every question with a smile.  After she had answered every question put to her we were told that “Sly will be here shortly.”  Sly?  Who the hell is Sly?  A few minutes later one of the reps brought in a guy who seemed to be nervous.  The first thing I noticed was that he was shorter than I was.  As he sat down behind a long table the rep said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the writer and star of Rocky, Sylvester Stallone.”  For the next 30 minutes I listened to Stallone talk about his life.  How he felt connected to the character of Rocky Balboa because, like Rocky, his life was changed by a stroke of fate and some amazing good luck.

For those who aren’t familiar with the story, here is a quick rundown.  On March 24, 1975, Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali took on a boxer named Chuck Wepner.  The fight was held at the brand new Richfield Coliseum in Ohio.  Wepner, nicknamed “The Bayonne Bleeder” due to his ability to take a punch, was a true underdog.  Before the fight, Ali declared that he would win in three rounds.  Surprisingly, Wepner stood toe to toe with the champ, finally losing by Technical Knock Out with nine seconds left in the 15th and final round.  The fight was televised via closed circuit and in Los Angeles, one of the people watching the fight was Stallone.  A writer as well as an actor, Stallone was inspired by Wepner’s courage and sat down at his typewriter.  Three days later he had the first draft of Rocky.

When the script was circulated around Hollywood, producers jumped over each other in an attempt to purchase it.  But there was a condition.  Whoever bought the script had to agree to let Stallone play Rocky Balboa.  The studios were appalled.  They wanted the script so they could feature Ryan O’Neal, James Caan or Robert Redford.  The bidding got as high as $350,000 but Stallone held firm.  Finally, producers Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler agreed to his terms.  Stallone was paid a total of $25,000 for writing and acting in the film.  But, like Rocky, his 100-1 shot paid off.

As the press event ended Steve and I walked up to Stallone and said hello.  I told him that I, too, was an actor and I hoped to one day be in the same position he was in.  He reached into a folder and removed a photo of himself.  On it he wrote, “May your dreams come true.”  And he signed it “Sly.”  My first autograph, which I still have and cherish to this day.

Of course, Rocky went on to make over $100 million – very unheard of at the time – and won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  Stallone was nominated both for his screenplay and for Best Actor, losing the script award to Paddy Chayefsky and the acting award to Peter Finch, both from the film Network.  The only thing he took home that night was a new notebook and a gold pen, given to him by Chartoff and Winkler, who told him, “now go home and write the sequel.”  And the rest, as they say, is history.

Here is a list of my 10 favorite Sylvester Stallone films.  Some you may agree on while others you may scratch your head.  Scratch away, my friends.  It’s MY list.

ROCKY
Where it all started.  For a long time this film battled with Jaws for the honor of my favorite film.  I saw the film many times while it was in the theatre and listened to the soundtrack album constantly.  In fact, if you play the music heard during the fight in the film I can tell you almost punch for punch what is happening on screen.  The script is top notch and contains some great lines.  My favorite line in the film takes place after the fight, when Rocky is being peppered by questions.  Calling for his lady love, Adrian, Rocky doesn’t want to acknowledge the reporters surrounding him.  Finally he snaps, “Oh come on, I’ve had enough things in my face tonight.”

F.I.S.T.
The studios lined up at Stallone’s door in the hopes that he would make his next film with them.  The winner was United Artists, who signed Stallone to play Johnny Kovaks, a fictionized version of Jimmy Hoffa.  Stallone also earned a screenplay credit, though, according to co-writer Joe Eszterhas, he didn’t write a word.  There is a great telling of the story in Eszterhas’ book, “Hollywood Animal.”

PARADISE ALLEY
This is Stallone’s directorial debut, working on a script he wrote.  The story deals with the Carbone brothers and their lives in New York’s Hells Kitchen.  Entertaining as hell and featuring Stallone himself singing over the end credits.

FIRST BLOOD
The first appearance of John Rambo, who here is a much more vulnerable than the later Rambo movies.  Stallone did extensive work on the script, including changing the ending of the original novel, in which Rambo dies.

STAYING ALIVE
Technically this is a Stallone film in name only as he co-wrote and directed it.  The film stars John Travolta as Tony Manero and is a sequel to Saturday Night Fever.  However, Stallone does appear in the film as the fur coat wearing gentlemen Travolta bumps into while walking on the sidewalk.  One of my “films I like that no one else does,” I really highlight it to point out how cognizant Stallone was of the Broadway theater scene.  In the film, Tony stars in a new spectacular show called “Satan’s Alley.”  Stallone somehow was able to predict that Broadway would soon be a place where shows were HUGE and over the top.

RHINESTONE
The second film on my “films I like that no one else does” list.  In it, Stallone plays a New York cab driver who becomes the man in the middle of a bet between country singer Dolly Parton and her sleazy manager, played by Ron Liebman.  Here Sly gets countrified and I still laugh every time I hear him pronounce the word “dog” and making it sound like it has two syllables:  “Da-og.”  On the down side, Stallone’s singing is best summed up by co-star Richard Farnsworth, who, after hearing Sly tackle a song, replies, “why that was scary, son.”

TANGO & CASH
Whoever dreamed of teaming up Stallone and Kurt Russell was a genius.  This is a fast and fun film with some great writing and on-screen action.  Extra points to Sly for having a sense of humor.  When one of his fellow law officers chastise his style, saying “he thinks he’s Rambo,” Ray Tango casually replies, “Rambo is a pussy!”

COP LAND
Stallone gained 40 pounds and worked for scale in this drama and, in the process, held his own on screen alongside actors like Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta.

ROCKY BALBOA
After the disappointment that was Rocky V, Stallone resurrected his most famous character and gave him back his dignity.

CREED
Stallone turned down writer/director Ryan Coogler’s request to play Rocky Balboa again for several years before he finally said yes.  In doing so, he becomes the sixth actor to receive (2) Academy Award nominations for playing the same character.  If there is any justice, on Sunday night the Oscar will be going home with Sly.  I warn you, if you’re sitting near me, please have some tissues handy.  If Stallone’s name is called I do believe I may shed some tears of joy.

Film Review “45 Years”

Starring: Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay
Directed by: Andrew Haigh
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 35 mins
IFC Films

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I love actors. When placed in the right mouths, words that may seem meaningless become poetry when those mouths open. Two of the best ever, at least in my generation, are Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. You may remember Rampling as the dishonest love interest of Paul Newman in ‘The Verdict” and Courtenay holding his own against Albert Finney (both men earning Oscar nominations) in “”The Dresser.” Three decades later these two are still at the top of their game in the new film “45 Years.”

Meet Kate (Rampling) and Geoff (Courtenay) Mercer. They are full of excitement as they prepare to celebrate 45 years of marriage. As Geoff was ill when year 40 rolled around, Kate has decided to make this event one for the ages, and the majority of their small town will be at the celebration But as the day approaches Geoff receives a mysterious letter from Switzerland. He learns that the body of Katia, his first love, has been discovered. She disappeared over 50 years ago. Due to the circumstances she is literally frozen in ice, as beautiful as she was the day she disappeared. Even though Geoff feigns a slight interest, it is evident to Kate that the news is effecting him. Investigating on her own, Kate discovers secrets that make her question not only Geoff’s love, but their marriage.

A film this small scale – there are very few cast members – is only as good as its cast and the two veterans deliver in spades. Rampling, still beautiful at 70 — I’m sorry….is that a sexist statement…like I shouldn’t expect her to be beautiful at this age — says as much with her expressions and mannerisms as she does her words. Courtenay is her acting match here, observing small things and affecting small changes in his life. It’s obvious to both that the mystery of Katia is something that will linger for a long time.

The film is slight as far as subject matter is concerned but the two stars keep the pace moving, with Rampling shining in an Academy Award nominated performance. A fine alternative if you’re tired of bears, both grizzlies and pandas.

Concert Review: GWAR “30 Years of Tourment” Rochester, NY

“30 Years of Tourment”
GWAR, Butcher Babies, Battlecross
Date: Friday, September 18, 2015
Venue: Water Street Music Hall, Rochester, NY

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Antarctic natives GWAR slaughtered their way to the Water Street Music in Rochester, NY on Sept. 18th as part of their current “30 Years of Tourment” tour. Along for the ride this time around were the always lovely Butcher Babies and Detroit darlings Battlecross. The night proved to be a mixture of sweat, energy and several unknown liquids which were expelled on to the crowd by the night’s headliners providing the perfect recipe for Friday night.

Kicking off the night was the band Battlecross who blasted through a 30 minute set which set the bar relatively high for the following acts. Vocalist Kyle Gunther seemed to give everything he had from start to finish which complimented the rest of the bands in your face performance which seemed to ignite the incoming crowd. Up next would be the lovely Butcher Babies who despite this being the bands last night on the tour certainly did an amazing job of taking things to the next level as not only did the band command the crowd’s attention from the stage but took things further as both Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey took turns working the security barrier which at times was over flowing with energetic crowd surfing fans. GWAR would be next where they proceeded to close out the night in typical blood soaked fashion. This was the first time the band has performed in Rochester since the addition of both Pustulus Maximus on guitar and Blothar on vocals and the crowd seemed to enjoy the new characters and what they brought to the live performance. Though the performances seemed to lack the energy and spur of the moment banter once provided by the late great Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie) the set did feature some songs fans hadn’t heard live in awhile such as “I Bonesnapper”, “Babyraper” and the always entertaining ”Meat Sandwich”.

It was great to finally see the latest incantation of GWAR however there was something missing. Undoubtedly the absence of founding member Dave Brockie cast a big shadow for this reviewer and even though the bands current lineup put on a great show it was very apparent that Mr. Brockie left some extremely large latex and goo covered shoes to fill.

GWAR Set List:
(Partial list)
1.) Sick of You (Dubstep Version
2.) Vlad the Impaler
3.) Saddam a Go-Go
4.) Jack the World
5.) I Bonesnapper
6.) Babyraper
7.) Meat Sandwich
8.) Let us Slay
9.) Sick of You

Enter to Win Tickets to “Disney On Ice – 100 Years of Magic” at Amway Center in Orlando, FL

To celebrate the arrival of Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years of Magic Presented by Stonyfield YoKids Organic Yogurt coming to the Amway Center in Orlando from September 4-6, 2015, Media Mikes would like to give our fans a chance to win a family four pack of tickets to this monumental ice skating spectacular. Please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite Disney character. This giveaway will remain open until August 21st 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.

Audiences will be a part of the magic of Disney as Mouse-ter of Ceremonies Mickey Mouse leads a parade of more than 50 beloved characters starring Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and featuring an ensemble of Disney Princesses including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Ariel, Snow White and Tiana. The wintry wonderland of Disney’s Frozen also comes to life with Anna, Elsa, and the hilarious Olaf, as they discover that true love is the greatest magic of all. Exciting moments from Disney•Pixar’s Finding Nemo, Disney’s Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast will leave the whole family with memories to last a lifetime.

The legacy of Disney is displayed through 14 classic and modern stories in this epic production that features an international team of award-winning figure skaters, high-energy choreography and a breathtaking set. With over 30 melodious masterpieces such as “Let It Go!,” “You’ve Got A Friend in Me” and “Hakuna Matata,” Disney On Ice celebrates 100 Years of Magic is the ultimate Disney fan experience.

Where: Amway Center, 400 West Church Street – Suite 200, Orlando, Florida 32801
Dates and Times of Performances:
Friday, September 4 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, September 5 at 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, September 6 at 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Ticket Prices and Purchase:
Tickets start at $25. Also available at $30, $40, $60, $75 (VIP) and $100 (Rink side). (Ticketmaster service charges and facility fees not included.) All seats are reserved, and tickets are now on sale to the public. Tickets are available at www.DisneyOnIce.com or www.ticketmaster.com, at any Ticketmaster outlet, by calling 800-745-3000, or at the Amway Center box office (phone for information only: 407-440-7900). For group ticket sales and information, call 866-248-8740.

Save $5 off per ticket with code MOM5. Not valid on VIP or Rink Side seating. Hurry for the best available seats! Code expires September 3, 2015.

For a complete list of tour dates, visit the Disney On Ice website (http://www.disneyonice.com) and stay current on the latest developments through social media:

Facebook (www.facebook.com/DisneyOnIce)
Twitter (@DisneyOnIce/@NicoleFeld (show’s producer twitter feed))
YouTube (www.youtube.com/DisneyOnIce)

ABOUT FELD ENTERTAINMENT
Feld Entertainment is the worldwide leader in producing and presenting live touring family entertainment experiences that lift the human spirit and create indelible memories, with 30 million people in attendance at its shows each year. Feld Entertainment’s productions have appeared in more than 75 countries and on six continents to date and include Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, Monster Jam®, Monster Energy Supercross, Nuclear Cowboyz®, AMSOIL Arenacross, Disney On Ice Presented by Stonyfield YoKids Organic Yogurt, Disney Live!

Film Review “20 Years of Madness”

Starring: Jerry White, Jr and John Ryan
Directed by: Jeremy Royce
Not Rated
Running time: 1 hour 30 mins

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“20 Years of Madness” is a look back at a local cable access show that aired in the early 1990’s in Michigan called ’30 Minutes of Madness’. It was “Jackass” meets “Tom Green” before either of those shows existed. “30 Minutes of Madness” was written, produced, directed, and starred a group of teen-age friends whom all came together to create madness and insanity, and recorded it on VHS, then put it out for public consumption.

The show was created and overseen by Jerry White Jr., a talented writer/director with a few anger issues. Very controlling and not open to other people’s input, the show hit well with a local audience, but fell apart when tempers would rise as each show was made, and slowly the friendships of those involved broke apart.

Twenty years later Jerry White Jr attends his twentieth high school reunion and uses the opportunity to reach out to those friends, to come back and make one more episode of “30 Minutes of Madness.” Having crowd-sourced funding to make the episode, Jerry returns to Michigan, rents a house, and collects all the previous cast members that he can. From here we see just how much twenty years can change people, and how grudges can remain.

What I really liked about this documentary was that it is extremely honest. You are able to openly like and dislike everyone involved. It doesn’t arbitrarily paint anyone in an unfavorable light, although quite a few of them are behaving in ways that make them hard to care about. But in the end: you do.

“20 Years of Madness” is about that teen-age sense of invincibility. Feeling that you have the entire world within your grasp, and that you can do anything. It’s about doing whatever you want whenever you want as a teen-ager because you can’t see the future repercussions. It’s about ego driving out rational thought, and tempers flaring over art that ruins friendship. It’s also definitely about dreaming larger than what you have the ability to create on your own. Then realizing you have to looked past yourself and ask for forgiveness and for the help of others.

“20 Years of Madness” isn’t about two decades of insanity captured on video; it’s about anger between people whom were once friends trying to come back together and reclaim that sense of innocence and fun that they lost. Director Jeremy Royce has crafted a great story out of the very interesting person that is Jerry White Jr. The film is very well-balanced, and is worth seeing in the theatre.

Kansas City Film Critics Name The Year’s Best

December 14, 2014

The Kansas City Film Critics Circle, the second oldest organized critics group in the country, held their annual end-of-the-year award gathering this afternoon, with “Birdman” and “Boyhood” taking home the lion’s share of the major awards. This is the 48th year the group has awarded their annual James Loutzenhiser awards.

Michael Keaton’s big return to the big screen, “Birdman,” won four awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (for Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton) and Best Original Screenplay. Richard Linklater’s 12-year in the making “Boyhood” received the Robert Altman Award for Achievement in Directing (for Linklater) and Best Supporting Actress (Patricia Arquette). Other films earing awards include “Gone Girl,” “Obvious Child” and “The Lego Movie.”

Here is a complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE: “Birdman”
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD FOR BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN DIRECTING: Richard Linklater – “Boyhood”
BEST ACTOR: Michael Keaton – “Birdman”
BEST ACTRESS: Rosamund Pike – “Gone Girl”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Edward Norton – “Birdman”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette – “Boyhood”
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicholas Glocobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo – “Birdman”
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Gillian Robespierre – “Obvious Child”
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: “The Lego Movie”
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “CitizenFour”
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “Ida” (Poland)
VINCE KOEHLER AWARD FOR BEST SCI-FI, FANTASY or HORROR FILM: “The Babadook”

For more information on the Kansas City Film Critics Circle and previous year’s awards go to www.kcfcc.org

DVD Review “The Wonder Years: The Complete Series”

Growing up in the 80’s, one of the highlights for me on television was always “The Wonder Years”. The cast was about the same age as me when the show aired, so I was able to relate to a lot of the issues that the series presented. This complete series has never before been released on DVD in its entirety. StarVista Entertainment/Time Life is presenting this as a 26-disc collector’s set featuring all 115 episodes housed in a replica metal locker. This is literally one of the best DVD presentations that I have honestly ever seen for a series. It is also jam-packed with over 23 hours of specially-produced bonus programming including featurettes, an incredible cast reunion 16 years in the making and never-before-seen outtakes. If you are looking to revisit the Arnold family and take a trip down memory lane, this is a wonderful release and I highly recommend it. Giving this a 5 out of 5 stars is not even nearly enough to give it the respect that it deserves.

Official Premise: It was 1968 — the year of Nixon and space walks and Mod Squad and Vietnam. Enter Kevin Arnold (Savage), a sixth grader at Kennedy Junior High School. Set against the suburban backdrop of Anytown, USA, Kevin sought to minimize his teenage angst while dealing with an older, noogie-happy brother Wayne (Jason Hervey), a rebellious sister, Karen (Olivia d’Abo), distant, workaholic father, Jack (Dan Lauria) and doting housewife mother, Norma (Alley Mills). Add to the mix Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano), his nerdy, allergy-riddled best friend, a potential love interest in winsome girl-next-door Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) and narration by an older, wiser, wittier Kevin (voiced by Daniel Stern) to add perspective to the nostalgia, and you have the perfect recipe for TV greatness.

One of the biggest aspects that I remember from this series was the music. This show introduced me to numerous songs and bands in my early years. What is amazing to find out is that the team at StarVista Entertainment/Time Life went above and beyond to ensure that the series was delivered in its most available entirety. This release received over 400 clearances and includes near 300 songs from many iconic artists such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Simon & Garfunkel, Jimi Hendrix, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles and The Rolling Stones, plus Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Many More!  I am happy that people behind this release were able to put in the time and effort to deliver this series with all this great music still included. That is definitely not an easy (and cheap) task to deliver. They could have easy just cut these songs and saved a butt load of money but they decided to take this route

When I hear certain songs like “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” by The Byrds, “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen, “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” The Trogg’s “Wild Thing,” “Good Vibrations” and “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” by The Beach Boys, “My Girl” by The Temptations, I am literally transported back to my parents house and find myself sitting in front of the TV watching this show. Of course let’s not forget the show’s timeless theme song “With a Little Help from My Friends” by Joe Cocker. This song is just so amazing and timeless is really the best way to describe it…another 100 years in the future it will still be just as effective and hopefully still synonymous with this show.

Amongst the over 23 hours of bonus features, some of the new features included are a commentary track on the first kiss outtakes by Fred (Savage) and Danica (McKellar) on all six takes of the legendary first kiss from Pilot episode, never before available. “That’s a Wrap! Mark B. Perry’s Farewell Set Tour Season 5” features Writer/Producer Mark B. Perry’s home video set tour from the end of his final season on the show, along with new commentary from him. “From the Vault: Alley Mills and Bob Brush Letters” features Alley Mills reading her emotional, written conversation with Executive Producer Bob Brush about the show’s finale. The one-hour finale as it was originally aired on ABC on May 12, 1993, including a deleted scene not included in the half-hour broadcasts of the final two episodes.

There are ten brand-new featurettes inclluding”With A Little Help From My Friends: The Early Days of The Wonder Years, “The Times They Are A-Changin'”: The Era, “My Generation”: The Kids Grow Up, “When A Man Loves A Woman”: Kevin & Winnie Forever, “Bookends”: Kevin & Paul, “A Family Affair”: At Home With The Arnolds, “”I Love You For Sentimental Reasons”: Fan-Favorite Episodes, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”: The Wonder Years’ Love Stories, “ABC”: Teachers That Made A Difference and “Both Sides Now”: The Music That Made The Moments. My favorite was the 2014 Los Angeles cast reunion, featuring all key cast together for the first time in 16 years.

There are also extensive individual interviews with all seven key cast members (Fred Savage, Danica McKellar, Josh Saviano, Dan Lauria, Alley Mills, Olivia d’Abo and Jason Hervey), as well as with notable actors featured as guest stars or in recurring roles, such as David Schwimmer, Ben Stein, Bob Picardo and Seth Green; plus, in-depth interviews with narrator Daniel Stern, Neal Marlens, Carol Black, Bob Brush and other production personnel. You can tell that the people that put together this release were fans of the show themselves. This is full of such amazing fan service that it will leave everyone satisfied.

If you want to purchase this Complete Series DVD set, click here. Also available now is the complete first season DVD, click here to buy. 

“The Wonder Years: The Complete Series” Now Available to Pre-Order!

JOIN STARVISTA ENTERTAINMENT/TIME LIFE
FOR A TRIP TO THE MOST BELOVED SUBURBS IN TV HISTORY,
AS THEY UNVEIL A HIGHLY-ANTICIPATED, EMMY® AWARD-WINNING
TELEVISON LANDMARK — NEVER BEFORE AVAILABLE ON DVD!
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THE WONDER YEARS COMPLETE SERIES
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NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER –
EXCLUSIVELY AT TIMELIFE.COM/WONDERYEARS 
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Named by TV Guide as one of the “Top 20 Shows of the ‘80s,” the Groundbreaking
Family Sitcom Will Be Housed in a Collectible Kennedy Junior High Locker and Feature Every Complete Episode Across 26 DVDs, a Specially-Designed Yearbook, Two Notebooks Containing Detailed Episode Info, Custom Wonder Years Magnets, Over 15 Hours of Exclusive Bonus Features, Including the First Cast Reunion in 16 Years, Never-Before-Seen Outtakes, Extensive Interviews with Key Cast & Crew, Ten Newly-Produced Featurettes and More!
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Additional Collectible Configurations Include THE WONDER YEARS EXPERIENCE Which Also Includes a Kennedy Junior High School T-shirt and Tube Socks in a Vintage Gym Bag, a Kennedy Junior High Pennant and Patch, Wonder Years Collectible Pins, a New CD and more; and, THE WONDER YEARS SIGNATURE EDITION, Which Includes All Elements Described Above, Hand-Signed by Fred Savage and Danica McKellar and Other Cast Members
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FAIRFAX, VA – Before there was Modern FamilyThat ‘70s Show or Freaks and Geeks, there was The Wonder Years — a nostalgia-inducing take on the traditional family sitcom — and one of the most beloved sitcoms of the past thirty years.  Debuting in 1988 following ABC’s broadcast of Super Bowl XXII, the affectionate look at growing up in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s in suburban America was unlike anything else on television.  And, for the next six seasons, America tuned in to follow the exploits of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), as he navigated adolescence in the most memorable of ways.  Never before released on DVD in its entirety, THE WONDER YEARSCOMPLETE SERIES will be presented as a 26-disc collector’s set featuring all 115 episodes housed in a replica metal locker, along with a host of extras including 15 hours of specially-produced bonus programming —featurettes, an incredible cast reunion 16 years in the making and never-before-seen outtakes, including all takes of Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss from the pilot episode. THE WONDER YEARS COMPLETE SERIES will be available exclusively online, available now for pre-order at TimeLife.com/WonderYears for $249.95.
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It was 1968 — the year of Nixon and space walks and Mod Squad and Vietnam.  Enter Kevin Arnold (Savage), a sixth grader at Kennedy Junior High School.  Set against the suburban backdrop of Anytown, USA, Kevin sought to minimize his teenage angst while dealing with an older, noogie-happy brother Wayne (Jason Hervey), a rebellious sister, Karen (Olivia d’Abo), distant, workaholic father, Jack (Dan Lauria) and doting housewife mother, Norma (Alley Mills).  Add to the mix Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano), his nerdy, allergy-riddled best friend, a potential love interest in winsome girl-next-door Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) and narration by an older, wiser, wittier Kevin (voiced by Daniel Stern) to add perspective to the nostalgia, and you have the perfect recipe for TV greatness.
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With 28 million viewers tuning in to ABC for the first episode, all it took was one kiss between Kevin and Winnie to get audiences hooked on this series created by the husband-and-wife duo Neal Marlens and Carol Black.  From 1988 to 1993, The Wonder Years was one of the most popular shows on TV, achieving a spot in the Nielsen Top 30 for four of its six seasons.  And the critical accolades and awards would follow: after only a scant six episodes, the show captured an Emmy® for “Best Comedy Series;” and, at the age of 13, Fred Savage, would become the youngest actor ever nominated as “Outstanding Lead Actor for a Comedy Series.”  The series would also go on to win 24 awards (and be nominated for 70 more), including multiple Emmy® Awards, a Golden Globe® and, in 1989, a Peabody® Award for pushing the boundaries of the sitcom format and using new modes of storytelling.  Additionally, in 1997, “My Father’s Office” was ranked #29 on TV Guide’s “100 Greatest Episodes of All Time” and in the 2009 list, the pilot episode was ranked #43.  Suffice it to say, The Wonder Years was one of the most critically lauded sitcoms of the late 80s and early 90s.
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An integral part of The Wonder Years was its use of classic period music, so to release the series to the consumer marketplace, StarVista Entertainment/Time painstakingly cleared over 300 songs as they were featured in the original broadcast.  Included among the hundreds of memorable, era-defining recordings are Joe Cocker’s iconic title song, “With A Little Help From My Friends,” plus songs by Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, Smokey Robinson, The Who, Aretha Franklin, Carole King and many others.
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THE WONDER YEARS COMPLETE SERIES is nostalgically packaged in a collectible metal locker, a replica of those used by Kevin and Winnie in Kennedy Junior High School — complete with colorful Wonder Years magnets to custom-design each locker.  Within the locker are housed 26 DVDs, featuring every complete episode* of the beloved series. Also included are two notebooks, each featuring detailed episode information and production photos, as well as a replica yearbook embellished with signatures from cast members, behind-the-scenes photos and classic show memorabilia, and liner notes penned by Fred Savage, series creators Neal Marlens and Carol Black, and executive producer Bob Brush.
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The TV archivists at StarVista Entertainment/Time Life have also put together 15 hours of specially-produced bonuses including the 2014 Los Angeles cast reunion, featuring all key cast together for the first time in 16 years; extensive individual interviews with all seven key cast members (Fred Savage, Danica McKellar, Josh Saviano, Dan Lauria, Alley Mills, Olivia d’Abo and Jason Hervey), as well as with notable actors featured as guest stars or in recurring roles, such as David Schwimmer, Ben Stein, Bob Picardo and Seth Green; plus, in-depth interviews with narrator Daniel Stern, Neal Marlens, Carol Black, Bob Brush and other production personnel; and, ten brand-new featurettes:  “With A Little Help From My Friends”: The Early Days of The Wonder Years, “The Times They Are A-Changin’”: The Era, “My Generation”: The Kids Grow Up, “When A Man Loves A Woman”: Kevin & Winnie Forever, “Bookends”: Kevin & Paul, “A Family Affair”: At Home With The Arnolds, ““I Love You For Sentimental Reasons”: Fan-Favorite Episodes, “Will You  Love Me Tomorrow”: The Wonder Years’ Love Stories, “ABC”: Teachers That Made A Difference and “Both Sides Now”: The Music That Made The Moments.  Finally, never-before-seen outtakes, including alternate versions of Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss from the pilot episode completes this impressive collector’s set, certain to be a fixture in the homes of many a Wonder Years fan and TV DVD aficionado.
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Additionally, being released day-and-date will be two additional configurations sure to excite die-hard fans who’ve been eagerly awaiting the series’ home entertainment release since it left the airwaves in 1993.  THE WONDER YEARS EXPERIENCE, priced at $299.95, includes all the elements from the COMPLETE SERIES, along with a selection of limited-edition memorabilia created exclusively for this set: a Kennedy Junior High School tee shirt, tube socks, and a vintage gym bag; a Kennedy Junior High School pennant and commemorative patch, The Wonder Years collectible pins, and a newly-produced Wonder Years CD, featuring the theme song plus classics by Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, The Beach Boys, The Temptations and many others.
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THE WONDER YEARS SIGNATURE EDITION, limited to 500 sets, includes everything from the COMPLETE SERIES and EXPERIENCE editions; each set will also be hand-signed by Fred Savage, Danica McKellar and other cast members, housed in a numbered locker and  accompanied by a numbered Certificate of Authenticity.
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The most requested unreleased TV DVD in the marketplace, THE WONDER YEARS is the newest DVD release from StarVista Entertainment/Time Life, following in the critically acclaimed footsteps of for top-selling, award-winning boxed sets of CHINA BEACH, THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW and THE DEAN MARTIN CELEBRITY ROASTS, among many others.  And much like Kevin Arnold says in the final episode, perhaps, after all these years, you’ll “still look back with wonder” at one of the landmark television programs of our time.
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Fans interested in receiving Wonder Years updates and exclusive content can visit WonderYearsDVDs.com.
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The Wonder Years was created by Neal Marlens and Carol Black in association with New World Television, which was acquired in 1997 by 21st Century Fox (then News Corporation), the parent company of Twentieth Century Fox Television.
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*All episodes offer closed captioning

Eddie Bakshi talks about producing “Last Days of Coney Island” and this year’s Kansas City Film Fest

If you’re a fan of classic animation you surely are a fan of Ralph Bakshi. In his five decade career he has created such seminal animated features as “Fritz the Cat,” “Heavy Traffic,” “Wizards,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “Cool World” and many more. This week at the Kansas City Film Fest a retrospect of his work will be shown, featuring screenings of “Heavy Traffic,” “Coonskin” and “Wizards,” culminating in a Q&A Skype session with the director after Saturday’s screening of “Coonskin.”

Introducing the films this week will be another filmmaking member of the Bakshi family, Ralph’s son, Eddie. Eddie caught the filmmaking bug at a young age and is finishing up his animated producer’s debut, “Last Days of Coney Island.” While waiting for the Fest to begin, Eddie Bakshi spoke with Media Mikes.:

Mike Smith: Can you give the readers a little inside introduction to the upcoming retrospect of your father’s films at the Kansas City Film Fest?
Eddie Bakshi: The festival is presenting screenings of three of his films: “Heavy Traffic,” “Coonskin” and “Wizards.” There will also be samples of the original art – the original animation cells used to make the film. They will be on display and some will also be available to purchase. In addition, he will be Skyping in to the festival after the Saturday evening screening of “Coonskin” for an audience Q & A. The audience will have a chance to ask him a question about any of his films, be it “Coonskin” or his latest film, “Last Days of Coney Island.” He’s currently editing that film right now and will actually be Skyping in on the same computer he’s editing on.

MS: Can you talk a little about “Last Days of Coney Island?”
EB: “Last Days of Coney Island” is a project that we’re both working on. He’s directing and I’m producing. We’re currently in the middle of editing it. It’s an eighteen-minute featurette. When we announced it on Kickstarter we had said it would be a five to seven-minute short but now it’s a bit longer. Actually, we may continue the project and turn it into a full length feature film. If we can get the funding we would like to tell the entire “Coney Island” story, which takes place in the 1960s and involves cops and a whole lot of seedy characters…the inhabitants of Coney Island. It will be a classic Bakshi film in the vein of “Heavy Traffic.” It has a lot of strange characters and they’re all interlinked. He’s very happy with what he has done now but he would love to turn it into a feature. He’s very happy with the story and how it’s going. He’s been very involved the past several months lengthening the story to eighteen-minutes. The art style is very interesting.

MS: You will be offering some of his original art and cells to the public?
EB: Yes. It’s a great way for his fans to own a piece of his work.

MS: Is this retrospect a way to introduce his work to new fans as well as letting old fans know about his newest project?
EB: It’s a new way to promote Bakshi Productions. It’s really the first real chance people will have to ask him about the project directly. There has been a real spike in the increase of interest in his work since the advent of outlets like Twitter and Instagram. Many new fans are being exposed to his work. An outlets like Facebook these fans are finally getting to see the images from his films and it generated a lot of interest in the new film. We’ve been getting offers from all over the country to attend film festivals to not only talk about “Last Days of Coney Island” but to show his older films as well. It’s kind of like a bundle package. Once “Coney Island “ is ready we can take that to festivals, or show a trailer for it with some of the older films.

The Kansas City Film Fest runs through April 13. For more information go to www.kcfilmfest.org

Blu-ray Review “12 Years a Slave”

Actors: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Paul Dano, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directors: Steve McQueen
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Run Time: 134 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

We had the privilege of  interviewing both Michael Fassbender and Paul Dano (click here) for “12 Years a Slave” last October during New York Film Fest. This was way before this film started drumming up all this critical rave. Along with Fassbender and Dano, this film is jam-packed with some amazing talent. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o both give not good but absolutely phenomenal performances. Even other notable supporting roles include Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti and Benedict Cumberbatch (who is one fire last year). This film just won numerous Academy Awards including the top award for Best Picture of the Year. I personally think “Gravity” was better but I see why this film took home the award. It is a must see if you missed it in theaters, no question. I must warn you though, it is quite an emotional ride and will definitely leave you exhausted until the credit hit.

Official Premise: Based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Pitt) will forever alter his life.

20th Century Fox is releasing this film two days after it cleaned up at the Oscars with a nice combo pack including a Blu-ray + Digital HD UltraViolet copy. “12 Years a Slave” comes wiht a gorgeous 1080p transfer presented with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Director Steve McQueen really had a vision with this film and cinematographer Sean Bobbitt really nailed it. Some of the shots were so beautiful, I actually had to go back just to re-watch. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track works so well with the dialogue and, of course, Hans Zimmer’s beautiful score. This was no question of the best scores of 2013.

In the special features department, I was expecting a little more from the “Best Picture” of the year. I would have loved to see a commentary track included for this film, especially with all the talent that was involved with it. “12 Years a Slave: A Historical Portrait” is a really solid set of behind-the-scene featurettes. It includes Chiwetel Ejiofor reading from Northup’s original book, as well as a various interviews with cast and crew. The next two featurettes are quite short. “The Team” is a brief look which profiles the cast and crew. “The Score”, obviously, takes a look into Hans Zimmer’s music for the film. Lastly there is a theatrical trailer included.

Media Mikes Critics Choose the Years Best Films (and the Worse)

With voting almost over for the 2013 Media Mikes.com awards, the site’s main critics got together and chose their favorite films of the past year. And a few that weren’t anyone’s favorite. As always, it’s a rather diverse grouping of movies. Agree? Disagree? Let us know below!

Mike Gencarelli’s Top 5

FROZE
GRAVITY
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
PACIFIC RIM
THE CONJURING

and

Worse 5
MOVIE 43
BYZANTIUM
AFTERSHOCK
BEAUTIFUL CREATURES
THE HOST

Lauren Damon’s Top 4
Lauren’s original list contained a film that she actually saw this year but will not be released until some time in 2014. Rather than possibly give a look at next year’s list, here are her top four:

12 YEARS A SLAVE
THE WORLD’S END
AMERICAN HUSTLE
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS

Phillip Smith’s Top 5
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
MANDELA
12 YEARS A SLAVE
AMERICAN HUSTLE
DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

Jeremy Werner’s Top 5
12 YEARS A SLAVE
THE WORLD’S END
GRAVITY
THE SPECTACULAR NOW
FRUITVALE STATION

and

Worse 5
MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: THE CITY OF BONES
WALKING WITH DINOSAURS
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS
A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD
ONLY GOD FORGIVES

Michael Smith’s Top 8
I couldn’t stop at five so I thought I’d do my five favorite mainstream titles as well as three more independent features.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
AMERICAN HUSTLE
THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
PRISONERS
THE CONJURING
AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS
THE WAY, WAY BACK
THE SAPPHIRES

and

Worse 5
THE HOST
CARRIE
OUT OF THE FURNACE
A PLACE BEYOND THE PINES
21 AND OVER

New York Film Festival Review “12 Years a Slave”

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano
Directed By: Steve McQueen
Fox Searchlight
Rated: R
Running Time: 133 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

As evidenced by his first two features, Hunger and Shame, director Steve McQueen is fearless in his approach to difficult subject matters. The same is true here in his unflinching and unforgettable third feature, 12 Years a Slave.

The film is based on the true life account of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man in New York who was deceived and sold into a life of slavery from 1841 to 1853. The film opens with Northup already in this role working on a sugar cane plantation and then brings us back to his family life in New York leading up to his deception. The men who will eventually drug and betray him come in the form of Brown and Hamilton, played by Scoot McNairy and Taran Killam, who offer Solomon the promise of violin work in Washington DC. The whole sequence is reminiscent of a sort of hellish version of Pinocchio being lead off by the circus folk and it plays out with a dreadful inevitability that left my stomach churning. When Solomon is awoken in chains, Ejiofor’s bewilderment is heart-wrenching as he struggles between fighting for his identity and recognizing how powerless he’s just been rendered.

Ejiofor is at the center of an embarrassment of acting talent throughout this film with even smaller roles occupied by the likes of Brad Pitt, Michael K Williams, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, and last year’s Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild). Benedict Cumberbatch has a key role as Ford, Northrup’s first owner. Ford is initially presented as a sympathetic man, even seen as such by Solomon himself, but the way McQueen and screenwriter John Ridley disillusion us of the very notion of this idea is masterful. For all Ford’s sympathetic looks and guilt about the institution he is undoubtably a part of, he will still allow a family to be split at auction and won’t hear a word of Solomon’s story despite recognizing his intelligence. Actions speak louder than words and under Ford, Solomon still suffers through some of the harshest tortures in the film. Including selling Solomon off again to the monstrous Edwin Epps in the film’s final act.

Coming from both Hunger and Shame, Michael Fassbender successfully reteams with director McQueen again as Epps. Fassbender is fascinating to watch as his character rages against his slaves with frightening conviction he backs up with biblical scripture. He is further driven to violence by his complete inability to deal with his unhinged infatuation with his most productive slave girl, Patsey (incredible newcomer Lupita Nyong’o).

Truly however the film belongs to Chiwetel Ejifor who imbues Northup with an unwavering determination to not only survive his ordeal, but as he says, to live. To not give into despair. Moreover when it comes to his re-emancipation, we feel the weight of the time lost as much as the relief of freedom.

12 Years A Slave opens is now playing , I screened it as part of the 51st New York Film Festival, you can read our red carpet coverage from the event with an interview from the film’s star Michael Fassbender.