Film Review: “Mary Queen of Scots”

MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Guy Pearce, Joe Allwyn, Jack Lowden
Directed by: Josie Rourke
Rated: R
Running Time: 124 minutes
Focus Features

By many accounts Mary Queen of Scots had a tragic life. The monarch was widowed at eighteen and eventually beheaded decades later only after nineteen years in captivity in England. She can easily be seen as a victim of the machinations of the men who surrounded her. The film version of her life however, from lauded stage director Josie Rourke and scripted by “House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon, would not have you simplify it as such. Instead, the film Mary Queen of Scots, presents an intimate portrayal of a passionate young woman navigating the troubled political waters of both Scotland and England. Although at times it can be hard to keep track of everyone in play, Rourke delivers a strong, richly designed film lead by a confident Saoirse Ronan.

Rourke’s take on Mary benefits heavily by opening up its scope to include the simultaneously eventful reign of Queen Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). From the opening of the film, we know both that Mary’s very existence threatened Elizabeth’s claim to her throne and that Mary would be condemned to die by that same cousin. Yet, with this is mind, the film never quite pits them against each other. Instead Rourke is able to take a more modern look at how each of them faced no-win choices when being challenged by contemporaries frowning upon female rulers. Elizabeth for her part is always wary of taking a husband or providing the heir that her privy council demands while Mary is viewed as a harlot for doing exactly that—but the wrong husband. This dichotomy of the spinster and the slut stereotypes is keenly observed by Rourke and never too on the nose.

Among the menfolk in this story is where I found some difficulty keeping up. It’s a little difficult at first to grasp onto which lord or musician giving Meaningful Looks from the shadows will evolve into an actual relationship for these women. They can be a bit of a blur of beards. Often times when they were talked about while off screen, I regretted not doing a quick wikipedia read of Mary to get a handle on which of them really warranted attention. Still, David Tennant as a vicious Scot priest set firmly against Mary is a snarly delight in this crowd. Buoying every performance, it cannot be understated, is some truly beautiful costume design by Alexandra Byrne .

Finally of course though, the film rests heavy upon its titular monarch and even though she shares much of the marketing with Robbie, this is Ronan’s film. She is by turns steely and vulnerable, whether on the battlefield or in the private company of her lifelong handmaidens. Rourke’s film shines when it spends more intimate time with Mary than many period films usually do with their subjects. Meanwhile, Ronan seizes her titular responsibility with relish and infuses Mary with such conviction that I was rooting for her even as I knew she was doomed. 

Judas Priest Announce Spring/Summer 2019 North American Tour

JUDAS PRIEST ANNOUNCE SPRING/SUMMER 2019 NORTH AMERICAN TOUR

With Judas Priest’s latest studio album, Firepower, confirmed as one of the most successful of the band’s entire career – landing in the “top 5” of 17 countries (including their highest chart placement ever in the U.S., at #5) – demand to see the legendary metal band in concert is higher than ever.

And North American headbangers will get their chance to experience the legendary band on a nearby concert stage this coming spring/summer, when Priest will tour throughout the continent – with the classic metal band Uriah Heep as support.

Kicking off on May 3rd at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida and wrapping up on June 29th at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, fans will get an opportunity to catch Priest at the height of their concert powers on any one of the tour’s 32 dates.

“Metal maniacs – Judas Priest is roaring back to the USA for one more blast of Firepower! Firepower 2019 charges forth with new first time performances born out of Firepower, as well as fresh classic cuts across the decades from the Priest world metalsphere. Our visual stage set and light show will be scorching a unique, hot, fresh vibe – mixing in headline festivals, as well as the in-your-face venue close ups. We can’t wait to reunite and reignite our maniacs…THE PRIEST IS BACK!” -Judas Priest

There are few heavy metal bands that have managed to scale the heights that Judas Priest have during their nearly 50-year career – responsible for issuing such all-time classic albums as British Steel, Screaming for Vengeance, and Painkiller, as well as the anthems “Breaking the Law,” “Living After Midnight,” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.”

And Priest’s presence and influence remains strong, as evidenced by the chart performance of ‘Firepower’ and its glowing reviews, a Grammy Award win for ‘Best Metal Performance’, plus being a VH1 Rock Honors recipient and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination.

Also, Priest can be credited as being one of the first metal bands to pioneer wearing leather and studs – a look that would eventually be embraced by metalheads throughout the world.

Undoubtedly, Judas Priest’s upcoming North American tour will only add to their ever-growing status of heavy metal legends.

JUDAS PRIEST TOUR DATES:

DATE/ CITY/ VENUE
05/03/19 Hollywood, FL Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
05/06/19 Nashville, TN Nashville Municipal Auditorium
05/08/19 Atlanta, GA Fox Theatre
05/09/19 Biloxi, MS Beau Rivage Resort & Casino
05/12/19 Washington, DC The Anthem
05/14/19 Huntington, NY The Paramount
05/15/19 Huntington, NY The Paramount
05/16/19 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Arena
05/18/19 Albany, NY Palace Theatre
05/19/19 Albany, NY Palace Theatre
05/22/19 Milwaukee, WI Riverside Theater
05/23/19 Milwaukee, WI Riverside Theater
05/25/19 Rosemont, IL Rosemont Theatre
05/28/19 Austin, TX ACL Live at The Moody Theater
05/29/19 Austin, TX ACL Live at The Moody Theater
05/31/19 Dallas, TX The Bomb Factory
06/01/19 Little Rock, AR First Security Amphitheater
06/03/19 St. Louis, MO Stifel Theatre
06/05/19 Colorado Springs, CO Broadmoor World Arena
06/08/19 Saskatoon, SK SaskTel Centre
06/10/19 Lethbridge, AB ENMAX Centre
06/11/19 Edmonton, AB Rogers Place
06/13/19 Dawson Creek, BC Encana Events Centre
06/14/19 Prince George, BC CN Centre
06/16/19 Kelowna, BC Prospera Place
06/17/19 Abbotsford, BC Abbotsford Centre
06/19/19 Airway Heights, WA Northern Quest Resort and Casino
06/21/19 Kent, WA Accesso Showare Center
06/22/19 Portland, OR Moda Theatre of the Clouds
06/24/19 San Francisco, CA Warfield Theatre
06/25/19 San Francisco, CA Warfield Theatre
06/27/19 Los Angeles, CA Microsoft Theater
06/29/19 Las Vegas, NV The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel

Photo By Travis Shin

For more information, please visit judaspriest.com

Concert Review: FOO FIGHTERS in Kansas City

 

 Foo Fighters
 Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO
 October 12, 2018
 
During an introduction a few years ago on CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman,” the now-retired host said this about the Foo Fighters, “We can all sleep easy at night knowing that somewhere at any given time, the Foo Fighters are out there fighting Foo.” With founder Dave Grohl at the helm, Foo Fighters did plenty of that and then some in front of a packed audience for three wild hours on Friday night (Oct. 12) at the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
 
After hitting the multi-generational crowd with three songs – “Run,” “The Sky Is a Neighborhood” and “La Dee Da” – from their ninth studio album “Concrete and Gold,” Grohl, who somehow manages to not blow out his vocal chords, took a break from wailing to let drummer Taylor Hawkins perform an epic solo, which was upon a miniature stage that rose a couple stories above the main stage. This led into “Something From Nothing,” also from their current album, before Grohl and company – bassist Nate Mendel, guitarist Pat Smear, Hawkins, guitarist Chris Shiflett, and keyboardist Rami Jaffee – took the Sprint Center on a rock journey across their 23-year music career.
 
Using just the right amount of laser lights and other visuals to complement their music, the Foo Fighters often went on extended, improvised versions of such classic hits as “The Pretender” and “Learn to Fly.” Without missing a beat, the audience was impressively able to sing every song word for word when called upon by Grohl, who once again proved he is a master showman. Some singers can bore you to tears when they decide to stop and talk in between songs. Grohl is a brilliant exception. Even with plenty of f-bombs to spare, Grohl, much like he did while sitting in a guitar throne three years ago during their last Sprint Center appearance, kept his spectators engaged and entertained.
 
The Foo Fighters took a break from their hit parade to allow each band member to have their own feature solo. No one in the house was disappointed as they demonstrated masterful musicianship, highlighted by a fantastic rendition of “Blitzkrieg Bop” with Smear taking the lead and “Under Pressure” with Grohl on drums and Hawkins on lead vocals. However, perhaps no more fun was to be had than when Grohl explained how important music can be to healing differences with Jaffee playing “Imagine” in the background. With everyone expecting to sing along with the John Lennon classic, Grohl surprised everyone by doing Van Halen’s “Jump” lyrics to the music of “Imagine,” again showing their versatility and playful side.
 
The Foo Fighters wound up the raucous evening of pure American rock with classics “My Hero,” “Monkey Wrench” and “Best of You” before diving into a slightly surprising encore. It featured Grohl inviting an 11-year-old kid onstage to play “Enter Sandman” on guitar, which was to the gleeful delight of the crowd, before the group ultimately ended with mainstay “Everlong.”

SET LIST:  Run, The Sky is a Neighborhood, La Dee Da, Sunday Rain, Something From Nothing, Walk, These Days, Arlandria, The Pretender, Times Like These, All My Life, Learn to Fly, Breakout, Another One Bites the Dust, Imagine/Jump, Blitzkrier Bop, Under Pressure, My Hero, Monkey Wrench, Best of You.  ENCORE:  Enter Sandman, Dirty Water, This is a Call, Everlon.,

 

Film Review: “Beautiful Boy”

BEAUTIFUL BOY
Starring: Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Amy Ryan, Maura Tierney
Directed by: Felix Groeningen
Rated: R
Running Time:  2 Hours
Amazon Studios

Felix Van Groeningen spins a pair of true life father and son memoirs about the latter’s struggle with drug addiction into two really touching turns from both Steve Carell and Timothee Chalamet in Beautiful Boy. The film opens in limited release today and despite some heavy-handed technical choices, succeeds on the authenticity of Carell and Chalamet’s performances.

Steve Carell is instantly sympathetic as David Sheff, who we meet in the midst of his son Nic being missing for a few days—a not unusual occurrence as it turns out. I was relieved when early on his wife (Maura Tierney, bringing a lot to a smaller role) gave him a hug because you can just read on his face such a high level of fragility. He’s worn down by Nic’s habits and tired but also terrified and barely holding it together, he needs that hug! Meanwhile Chalamet suppresses any temptation to overact Nic’s drug addled tics. Instead he keeps all the manic energy behind his eyes and in his slightly unbalanced physicality. Some of the strongest scenes come when Nic is desperately trying to deny that he’s relapsed to get money from an unbelieving David. The film’s greatest strength is resisting the temptation to come down hard on either side of this struggle. “Relapse is part of recovery” becomes David’s mantra when Nic disappoints but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong when he needs to refuse Nic for his own sake. At these moments Carell is almost painfully affecting (frankly, I wanted to hug him too) and I felt my heart racing at times when he, understandably, has to snap and really argue with Chalamet.

There are number of choices Van Groeningen makes however that jar you right out of the story in drastic ways. The music over the opening of the film when we’re introduced to Dave and young Nic’s relationship is so overwrought I felt as though we’d dove right into the climax instead of the titles. These heavy-handed musical interludes occur over and over either in instrumental or lyrical form but I only felt emotionally touched—because how can you not be?—by the titular John Lennon tune which Carrell sweetly sings to young Nic as he tucks him in.

And while I’m discussing Young Nic, besides Chalamet—who, at most is meant to play Nic in his twenties—not just one, but three other boys are deployed to play a younger Nic in flashbacks. It’s distracting not only for the quantity of actors but because the first young Nic is none other than It‘s Jack Dylan Glazer. Glazer himself is fast becoming as recognizable A Name as Chalamet, so when he also gets replaced by still younger models it starts not to feel like the same character. More like props for David. The film is a vital story for a time when America is seeing an epidemic of young people overdosing but in these odd choices, the film gets in the way of itself. When it backs off and let’s the actors take control, A Beautiful Boy shines.

Positron’s Voyager VR Chair Takes Off with First Man

Positron CEO Jeffrey Travis

It’s safe to say I will try anything when it comes to new theatrical experiences. I’ve always loved Lincoln Square’s IMAX screenings, I’ve seen entire Broadway plays done in binaural audio (that’s “3D” sound) and even shelled out extra ticket money to see a favorite film in 4DX once or twice. So I was excited to try out Positron’s Voyager Chair, a VR experience which is being deployed to several theater celebrating the release of Universal’s First Man. Guests heading out to several AMC locations across the nation have not only the chance to just see the Damian Chazelle film, which is released on October 12th, but to take a small excursion to the moon themselves.

I got to try out the Voyager chair on Tuesday both with the First Man VR experience as well as a seasonally-appropriate horror short called “Night Night” and was really impressed with the level of immersion, from the spatial audio to truly being able to look in all directions within my headset. My First Man mission even had an animated co-pilot! Best of all, the Voyager chair itself, whose design looks straight out of Men In Black, was actually pretty comfortable and even after these two shorts I felt no sort of motion sickness, which I was wary of considering 3D films can give me a headache.

Positron’s CEO Jeffrey Travis was in New York this week with the Voyager to talk about the potential that this technology presents to cinematic VR experiences.

Lauren Damon: Was this pod created just for First Man?

Jeffrey Travis: No, we created this to be a platform for cinematic VR in general. So the first kind of wider public experience was we did The Mummy with Universal. So we’ve done three experiences with Universal–The Mummy, Jurassic World and First Man. It was all really cool. But there’s a lot of other studios and places that we use these with. The idea is to create ultimately VR cinemas.

LD: Is the goal here to get whole theaters of these?

JT: Yeah! So we can do theaters with this. Mini ones of twos or threes and we actually set that up here at Pod hotels here in Brooklyn. It’s open to the public. We have pairs of chairs at AMC theaters here in New York at Lincoln Square, San Francisco, DC, LA, but eventually we’re going to be putting this in permanent installations and creating VR theaters of 30-40 chairs and people could buy a ticket and come for an experience that’s either like something of what you’ve just experienced or longer. Somewhere from a half hour to an hour.

LD: Yeah because how long can you view it without feeling it too much?

JT: Yeah we talk about that. I think the ideal length is about half an hour for cinematic VR. I think longer than that, the headsets can get a little heavy on some people. But those are being made by companies like Facebook and Samsung and Microsoft and HP and they’re getting better all the time. So I think we will be able to have 90 minute VR experiences. But right now a half hour feels like a very full meal.

LD: What would the price point be in terms of ticketing?

JT: So probably around—it depends on experience—but probably averaging around $30.

LD: That price is actually similar to they have those “4D[x]” theaters here, what are your thoughts on those?

JT: We do get asked about that. I think it’s still fundamentally different. You know, to me the 4D movie theater, you’re adding some sensory effects that compliment the 2D screen experience. Which is fine and good, but what we’re trying to do here is really bring VR to where you forget about the screen, you even forget about the motion…So it’s almost like you don’t notice it’s happening. You should just feel like you’re actually in the story. That’s kind of the goal, not just a little enhancement but something that’s integrated.

LD: How much testing goes into something like this? How much time does it take to produce?

JT: It really depends on the piece but it goes through a lot of testing. Several months. This next piece that we’re working on is called “Shady Friend,” a VR comedy starring Weird Al Yankovic. It’s a psychedelic comedy that uses scent as well and it’s about a guy that accidentally takes this latest designer drug and goes on this crazy LSD trip. So we’re using motion, haptics and scent and it’s in post-production right now, we shot in July, and it will probably be ready by January. About six months.

LD: When did you start working on this particular First Man experience?

JT: First Man, so that was produced by Ryot and CreateVR and they started actually just two months ago. It was a very accelerated schedule. Which is a little more unusual.

LD: Was all that footage created for this VR?

JT: So obviously the stuff you’re seeing in Mission Control and on the screens is from the film, but then everything else for the VR experience had to be created from scratch. The films assets are mostly 2D and we needed to create these 3D volumetric environments like the moon.

LD: Are you going to get Ryan Gosling to try this out?

JT: I hope so! We had them at the premiere of First Man in the space there. So he was there, I didn’t get a word whether he did it or not. I know the producers of First Man got in there.

LD: There’s definitely a push to add more to theaters considering how much is available for home streaming, do you see this as adding to that?

JT: That’s the idea. I think that movies are certainly in the US and North America, struggling with people going to the box office because they’d often rather stay at home and stream on Netflix. So I think part if the appeal for this is that hey, this is an experience you really can’t get at home. At least not yet. And this brings people out to the movies or at least out to our locations and experiences.

LD: What other films will be having similar tie-in experiences like this?

JT: I mean there’s some coming we can’t really talk about, because they’re not really announced yet. But we’re working working with several other studios besides Universal on some titles and we’ll be announcing as we can.

Positron’s Voyager Chair is offering First Man experiences through October 14th at AMC Theaters in NY’s Lincoln Square, DC’s Georgetown 14, San Francisco’s Metreon 16 and LA’s Universal Citywalk locations

Remembering Scott Wilson

It’s fitting that, on the night before the 9th season of “The Walking Dead” premiered, one of it’s former stars would pass away.  
Scott Wilson, who for three seasons played the beloved Hershel Greene on the AMC program, died Saturday after a long battle with cancer.  He was 76.
Atlanta-born Wilson had planned to attend college on a basketball scholarship yet on a whim decided to head to Los Angeles.  A random chance to go with a friend to audition for a part hooked the young man, who began pursuing acting with a vengeance.
His big break came in 1967, when he was cast as a character suspected of murder in the Academy Award winning “In the Heat of the Night.”  That same year he appeared opposite Robert Blake as two real-life murderers in “In Cold Blood.”  

Robert Blake (l) is Perry Smith. Scott Wilson (l) is Perry Hickock in the 1967 thriller “In Cold Blood”

He followed those two career-making roles with parts in films like “The Gypsy Moths,” The New Centurions” and “The Great Gatsby..”  He portrayed test pilot Scott Crossfield in “The Right Stuff” and appeared in films as different as “Young Guns II” and “The Exorcist III.”
But it was Hershel Greene that Mr. Wilson achieved his biggest success.  A favorite of cast, crew and fans of “The Walking Dead,” Mr. Wilson would often spend his weekends off traveling the country and meeting his fans.  I got the amazing opportunity to meet him when he came to Kansas City as a guest of Planet Comicon.  His representative was a friend of mine and I offered to take them to dinner one night after the show ended.  Piling into my car, I asked him question after question about his career, all of which he answered gracefully.  I told him that I was a huge “In Cold Blood” fan (both the book and the film) and, since moving to Kansas had visited the killers graves and other landmarks in the area.  He seemed pretty impressed and we talked through dinner.  When the check came, he would not let me pay, instead insisting on buying dinner for our group.  The next day, with a starting time of 11:00 a.m., I went to his area of the convention to say hello.  With 15 minutes to go until opening, there were no less than 125 people already lined up to meet him.  Hershel was indeed a popular character and Mr. Wilson was indeed a popular man.

As Hershel Greene in “The Walking Dead”

It was revealed earlier this summer that several former characters, including Hershel, would return in the upcoming “The Walking Dead” series.  According to AMC, Mr. Wilson’s scenes had already been completed before his passing..

Film Review: “The Predator”

Starring: Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes and Jacob Tremblay
Directed By: Shane Black
Rated: R
Running Time: 107 minutes
20th Century Fox

Not too long into “The Predator,” former Army Ranger, Quinn (Holbrook) is assessing an unthinkable predicament. He’s shackled in a military bus that’s carting around other former soldiers. These unmentionables of the U.S. military range from a veteran who’s PTSD has somehow manifested into ill-timed Tourette’s to a former Marine who grins through his suicidal tendencies. But Quinn, after listening to every sad story, might be the king of crazy or the only sane one on-board. He tells them that he’s handcuffed alongside them because he saw an alien. Unfortunately for his future comrades, and the audience, he’s not the Predator killing hero we need. And “The Predator” may not be the Predator movie we need either.

It’s not that Holbrook doesn’t have the muscles to go toe-to-toe with the big boys; it’s just that he’s not charismatic and his one-liners usually fall flat. I think that’s because most of his career has been spent being an antagonist, and he doesn’t have the pedigree that an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Bruce Campbell might have when spouting cheese at CGI monsters and creature effects. At least the cast around Holbrook makes up for it. Some of the highlights are a delightfully funny Keegan-Michael Key, an energetic scientist turned mercenary played by Olivia Munn, and Sterling K. Brown, who plays a bad guy so witty, you tend to forget or question why he’s pulling the trigger so quickly.

If I was to ever summarize the previous “Predator” films for someone who had never seen them, I’d have no problem. I’d actually have no problem hyping them up despite their flaws. I couldn’t do that with “The Predator” and I’d have a harder time summarizing what exactly the film is about. That’s mainly due to the script, that’s not only all over the place, but has a jumbled tone that squeezes in serious sci-fi stakes, family drama, juvenile humor, macho man action and stylized gore. Since it jams in so much with little finesse, the film never rises above being forgettably amusing. Even if you enjoy this movie, you’re never likely to watch it again or enjoy it as much on a second viewing.

I’ve generally liked the work of director and writer, Shane Black. He has this infectious energy about his films and he creates these subtle nods to iconic bits of pop-culture from his own childhood. Surely you’ve seen some of his best pieces, like “Lethal Weapon” or “Last Action Hero.” Tiny traces of DNA from those films are in “The Predator,” like when we first meet the Predator hunting crew in that military bus or when the Predator itself gets in on the black humor after slaughtering countless unnamed soldiers. During those moments, and several others, I tended to slide into a comfort zone where I could care less about the film’s glaring mistakes.

I have one moral quandary about the film’s use of a child with autism and how he fits into the film’s overall narrative. Not only does it feel lazy to use Jacob Tremblay in that fashion, but it feels insulting to people with autism. I won’t dive too much deeper into my major gripe because my frustrations could easily be misplaced. It’s possible that Tremblay’s character wasn’t eloquently relayed, but the antiquated nature of his usage in the film’s plot seems misguided on Black’s end.

I had a real fun time while watching “The Predator,” but as I think about it in hindsight, I’m finding it troublingly easy to nitpick it to death. I think that’s because Black has done better and the “Predator” is still an underrated franchise deserving of praise. The original “Predator” was actually panned upon its initial release in 1987 by several outlets like the New York Times and Variety. They called it dull and average, but it’s now viewed as a quintessential action movie, spawning thousands of fanboys who’ve taken it upon themselves to write their own fan fiction involving the iconic alien. Time may tell if Black’s sequel is worthwhile, but I can’t help but think there’s a fanboy whose script could put Shane’s script to shame.

Win Passes to the Kansas City screening of “God Bless the Broken Road”

 

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures to give (35) readers and a guest the chance to be the first to see their latest film, “God Bless the Broken Road,” which will be screened on Wednesday, September 5th at the B&B Lee’s Summit Theatre.  The screening will start at 7:00 pm.

All you have to do is click HERE.  The first (35) readers to do so will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening.  This is a first come/first serve giveaway.  Once the (35) passes have been claimed, the giveaway has ended.  GOOD LUCK!

GOD BLESS THE BROKEN ROAD

Wednesday, September 6, 2018 – 7:00 p.m.

B&B Lee’s Summit Theatre, Lee’s Summit, Missouri

 

@gbbrmovie #BlessAVet #GBBR

#BlessAVet is a huge initiative for this film launched in partnership with Disabled American Veterans, Fandango, and the film God Bless the Broken Road where people can contribute to give a veteran a night out to dinner and to go see God Bless the Broken Road in theaters this September. Visit http://bit.ly/BlessAVetGen for more information!

The Miseducation of Cameron Post Red Carpet Interviews

Desiree Ahkavan’s new film, The Miseducation of Cameron Post hits theaters this week after both winning the Grand Jury prize for drama at Sundance Film Fest and screening at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. The film, an adaptation of Emily Danforth’s 2012 novel, stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Cameron Post, a high school girl who is caught making out with another girl on prom night. Cameron is subsequently sent to a religious gay “conversion therapy” camp called God’s Promise by her conservative American family. From there, Ahkavan’s touching and honest film follows Cameron as she encounters her fellow campers coping with their sexualities and the camp counselors (Jennifer Ehle and John Gallagher Jr.) who may have their own inner reservations about the work that they do. It is a challenging film for its young stars that’s deftly led by Moretz with support from Sasha Lane, and Forrest Goodluck.
I got to speak with some of this talented cast at their Tribeca red carpet premiere about how they came to be in the film and the message believers in these controversial camps could take away from Cameron’s story.

Tony winner John Gallagher Jr. plays Reverend Rick, himself a former camper turned youth counselor who outwardly is a God’s Promise “success” story but clearly deals with suppressing his true emotions.

Lauren Damon: Your character has so much going on under the surface, how did you work on playing him?

John Gallagher Jr: Yeah! A lot of it was just trusting the script and trusting Desiree. You know it was a very complicated role who’s living right on the edge of something. And I just really looked to [Desiree] to kind of be the leader and to be my guide throughout all of it. And to just try and kind of tell the truth as we had deemed it fit for the film.

LD: What was the most difficult part of working on this?

JGJ: I think, you know living on that edge…of like really preaching something that, I think you start seeing throughout the film, that the character may or may not actually even believe. And that kind of crisis of faith, and that doubt and that second guessing. And really like the guilt that comes with that…I think he’s a guy that really is struggling to do what he believes is the right thing. And I think that his awakening in the film is that he doesn’t know what the right thing is.

LD: I watched this in an admittedly liberal NYC screening room and I think the reactions to a lot of what happens in the camp was that it was ridiculous, but both in the film, and in these real places, it’s really not…

JGJ: It’s not. There is no spin on it, that is their earnest belief. And as I can’t even fathom having that kind of opinion on matters of sexuality, that’s a very real thing. And people do have those exact kind of beliefs.

LD: What would you tell someone with these kinds of beliefs if you could speak to them?

JGJ: Gosh. I would tell them to watch this film and think it over a second time, you know?

Quinn Shephard plays the small but crucial role of Coley Taylor, the girlfriend who Moretz’s Cameron is caught with before she is sent for conversion.

LD: Your role isn’t big in terms of screentime, but it’s so pivotal to the film, how was it to know that going in?

Quinn Shephard: It was great! I was very happy to be a part of the film in any way possible. I keep saying, I just wanted to be a part of the movie because I really believed in it. I think it’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read and I wanted to be in it. And I’m excited that I got to play this role.

LD: As in actress in this film, if you could get a message to people who believe these camps are effective, what would it be?

QS: Oh man. I think it’s like…I mean, look–Some people I think have a lot of fears and they justify things like conversion camps out of fears. But I think that if you come at something from a place of love, it’s impossible to justify. I think if you’re really someone who feels love in your heart and you challenge yourself to love someone who’s gay and imagine…putting that person through that and telling them that they’re not okay, I think it’s impossible to justify. I think people get caught up in their rhetoric and they get up in religious justification. But when it’s human and it’s in front of you, it’s very hard to agree with, you know? And I think that if somebody sits through this movie who believes in it, they’ll change their mind.

LD: How did you go about preparing for the intimate scenes between Coley and Cameron?

QS: I read the book, I read about my character…I’m somebody who’s very comfortable with who I am and it was just about creating a place in myself where I was very happy for what was happening, but at the same time very ashamed of it. I think that’s who [COLEY] is, she’s that duality and that was a difficult place for me to go. It was a very sad place. But it was something that was very important to her. There was a fragility to the relationship because she is not okay with it yet. And then I think as far as the actual intimacy of the scene, we just went into it was a sense of humor. And Desiree was very accommodating and she made us very comfortable and we had fun.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post opens in New York on August 3rd and expands to LA and other cities on August 10th.

Everything nerdy and a splash of horror invades San Diego Comic Con 2018

Some might wonder about the experiences San Diego Comic Con has to offer given that all the information and trailers released at panels drop onto the Internet a short time later, and in some instances before the panel is even set to begin. Some could simply live it through other’s photos or through their favorite Youtube personality. But I urge those with a tingling sense for adventure, or even a nerdy bone in their body, to attend.

As I stated in my article last year, when I was a newbie, that no matter how much research beforehand is done, you’re going to miss out on something. In my second year of attendance, that still holds true. As I heard from several veterans, it’s finding what you want to do and prioritizing it by day. This year I went with an offsite and inside approach. I’d start out my days checking out the sights and sounds before heading in and joining the indoor spectacle.

For a handful of hours Wednesday night, the massive vendor and exhibit hall was opened for thousands. It’s known as Preview Night. Most in attendance were ready to snag some merchandise while others, like me, simply took in all the sights and sounds. Folks with multiple bags of merchandise scurried about while others waited in lines for several booths and exhibits. The hottest spots were at Funimation, Funko, Hasbro, “The Walking Dead” area and a few usual suspects.

For those without a chance to step inside the hallowed grounds of the convention center, the outdoor areas provided some much needed fun, rest and goodies. “The Purge” offsite was literally handing out shirts, as people got to take some play money and purchase exclusive merch with that play money. It was one of the best offsites in terms of simplicity and swag. “Jack Ryan” offered a training ground, gear and (from what I read on Twitter) free money to those ballsy enough. Adult Swim, in the evening hours, opened up a mock camp site as the sun began to set. But when the sun set, “Adult Swim” staples entertained the masses until the midnight hours. The crown jewel of everything outside though was the “DC Universe” offsite where they offered food, drink, previews of games and shows, a Harley Quinn room and an escape room.

Meanwhile, others kept pace by offering simple things. FXHibition is where folks got to take pictures with some items representing their favorite show. The Experience near PetCo Park also offered a lot in terms of a place to stop for a quick bite to eat, or one of their interactive displays, including an escape room. Escape rooms seemed to be the hot thing this year as several other offsite events had an escape room, something I encourage as escape rooms slowly become even more popular. Even offsites like the Nerdist House scored huge points in my book just by offering free food and drink to those who were smart enough to search it out.

Inside, I managed to once again avoid Hall H. That didn’t stop me from getting curious when I read about some experiences on the Hall H line being easier than in years past. The reason, or the truth, behind those tweets are up in the air. Maybe next year I’ll camp out and see what all the fuss is about in the Hall where folks got a preview of “Halloween,” DC movies and an evening with Director/Writer Kevin Smith.

Don’t be discouraged though. Other rooms offer their own treats, whether it be exclusive footage or on-stage appearances by other celebrities. I found myself inside Ballroom 20 for Marvel’s “Cloak and Dagger” only to be treated to the breaking news announcement that a second season had been confirmed by the creator during the panel. Once inside and away from the Exhibit Hall, you’ll find something fun to sit in on or a group of people with the same interests that you can chat it up with.

The takeaway from fans inside was one of pure joy. Sure the long waits, sweat, frustration, and sometimes ineffectiveness of how things work can bear down on you. But when you unpack the gear you snagged and look through the pictures, you know it’s an event you’re happy to have been apart of. And part of you, just like me, will want to go back and do it all over again. If you’ve been on the fence in the past, it’s time to get off that fence and grab a plane ticket. SDCC 2019 is next July 17th-21st, so mark your calendars and start digging through the couch for some loose change.

MEET THE NEW GUY – Media Mikes welcomes writer Michael D. Smith

It is with great pride that we at Media Mikes are able to introduce you to our new film reviewer/writer:  Michael D. Smith.

Michael began his film critic path by writing movie reviews for his college newspaper for a couple years. After graduation, he wrote reviews for his hometown paper in Harrisonville, Missouri for six years before becoming the Arts & Entertainment editor and film critic at a publication in Overland Park, Kansas. a position he held for three years.

Our newest “Mike” – Michael D. Smith

In 2009 was offered an opportunity at KCMETROPOLIS.ORG where he predominately covered independent/art house films.   He will now cover them for Media Mikes as well as contributing commentary when the mood takes him.

Michael is a long-standing member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, the second oldest film critic group in America.

You can find his first review for Media Mikes, of the film “Mountain,” HERE

Interview with Comedian Eric Schwartz

You may have seen comedian Eric Schwartz in hi

1.  Who in the hell is the OTHER Eric Schwartz and how did he beat you to EricSchwartz.com?  He isn’t near as funny as you are.

THANK YOU FOR ASKING THIS QUESTION AND STARTING IT WITH “WHO IN THE HELL…”

Most people don’t realize we’re two completely different people. Yes, two different people, who happen to have the same name, and who happen to both do comedy and music. It’s beyond frustrating–it’s infuriating! But, I have to admit, “the other Eric Schwartz” is a supremely talented musician and brilliant writer.  It’s hard to be mad at the guy when his only crime is not changing the name his parents gave him. At least he’s not out there bringing shame to the name. By the way, I’m pretty sure he calls me, “the other Eric Schwartz,” too.

To make things even more interesting, we actually know each other.  He moved from the East Coast to two blocks from me in L.A. We’ve actually shown up to the same gig before after the booker tagged the us both on Facebook. He once dated someone I knew and she would sometimes accidentally call me all sultry like, “Baby…did you see the moooon tonight?”  I was like, “Yeah, Suzanne. But I’m not taking my clothes off like the last time we talked.”
And yes, one of my biggest career regrets was not grabbing EricSchwartz.com when I was building my first website in 1999.  For some reason, I chose “SuburbanHomeboy.com,” which now forwards to my current site, EricSchwartzLive.com.
2.  How did you get into comedy?
I got hooked on Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, Robin Williams and SNL as a kid. I would do their bits an characters to my friends at school. Everyone already thought of me as a comedian at that point, but I knew I had to start writing material. I was also a DJ, which is where the musical element came in. In college, I put on my own comedy shows in the dorms mixing comedy and music and somehow didn’t get kicked out.
3.  When do you know a joke is working?
Unless my ears take the night off, I can tell right away. The cool thing about a live show is the audience will let you know if it’s working or not.
4.  Follow up – see above
5.  Do you have a good “I put that heckler in his place” story?
Most hecklers are actually having a good time and want to participate. They just go a bit overboard on their approach. But if you ever encounter a mean-spirited heckler, here’s something you can do. Make peace by offering them a free CD. When they thank you, shout, “SEE DEEZ NUTS!”
6.  Besides your tour, what else are you working on.
The Release The Sounds Tour is in support of the audio from my first hour special, “Surrender to the Blender” being re-released to Sirius-XM, as well as digital platforms like Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. I’m also working on shooting my second special this year

Concert Review: Poison/Cheap Trick – Kansas City

REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY DAN LYBARGER

Poison/Cheap Trick/Pop Evil

Sprint Center – Kansas City, Missouri

May 25, 2018

Our Score:     Poison *** out of 5    Cheap Trick  **** out of 5

 

 

Thirty years ago, I wanted to kill a fellow editor at my college newspaper because he went missing the night before the semester’s final edition was due at the printer. When I woke him the next morning, I became even more enraged because he and decided to catch a concert without telling me or my peers, and it was Poison.

 

 

Had he abdicated his responsibility for Todd Rundgren, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones or The Smiths, I might have excused him. But no, it had to be that silly hair band whose songs about partying were relatively easy to play.

 

Another friend who had seen them play, lamented their musical limitations by dubbing guitarist C.C. DeVille “C.C. Distortion” for his sloppy solos, and an another buddy laughed when he saw concert footage of them on MTV and observed they were playing beginners’ instruments. Because my own musical chops are stunted, I’m not sure what was so embryonic about what axes Poison used to play. Nonetheless, we both felt smug as we continued to watch them perform on television.

 

 

After finally seeing the band play for myself on May 25 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, I think I can now easily forgive the other editor. Of course, we still made our deadline. I can also say I don’t envy him because the performance I caught might have been better than the one he saw. Now that their hair has grayed (where it still remains), the band has actually developed some skill and showmanship that wasn’t in their old videos.

 

 

Lead vocalist Bret Michaels constantly thanked the crowd and rattled off other area venues where he played with the band or as a solo act. It’s always nice when the band knows they’re on the Missouri side of the state line and can recall something about your town other than a stage.

 

Cheap Trick, who played before them, one-upped the headliners by claiming they had written a recent tune after eating at Gates Barbecue, a blue collar eatery when the clerks greet you as loudly as if they were playing the Sprint Center.

 

Unlike the musicians, the clerks don’t need microphones.

 

Michaels and the rest of Poison gave the crowd high fives throughout the set and genuinely seemed to enjoy being in the barbecue capital of the world. The band have had personnel changes and breakups, but the original lineup were all performing that evening. The set seemed oddly touching when Michaels briefly mentioned that drummer Rikki Rockett had survived cancer.

 

Both he and bassist Bobby Dall looked healthy and enthusiastic, so it was a jolt to hear that Rockett, who regularly tosses his drumsticks in the air and twirls them between beats, almost didn’t make it to the stage.

 

 

 

Because I was attempting to photograph the show from a pit at the bottom of the stage, I almost felt sorry for people in the back of the arena who couldn’t see what he was doing. When he later played an extended toward the end of the set, it made Michaels’ revelation all the more touching.

 

Michaels, who had a series of frightening health problems of his own in 2010, is also lucky to be alive. Perhaps that’s why their enthusiasm seems genuine. Playing in front of a house that can hold 19,000 people sure beats lying in a hospital bed or worse.

 

While Poison can play their old hits like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” or “Talk Dirty to Me” with more technical assurance than they used to, they do little more than plow through their old catalog.

 

Their fans didn’t object.

 

They did supplement their set with a large video screen that featured cartoons of the band before they took the stage. Their cover of Loggins and Messina’s “Your Momma Don’t Dance” proved to be a great excuse to feature the late pinup queen Bettie Page shimmying as they played. With Bettie just about any band would sound as good as the Stones on their best day.

 

Following a typically lively set by Cheap Trick requires a masochism few bands have. The three original members are all in their sixties and still have their old skills. Whereas DeVille impressed the crowd by mimicking Eddie Van Halen’s finger tapping and slipping in a bit of Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen switched genres, playing styles and even guitars. The 69-year-old ax-man didn’t need a featured solo break because just about every song gave him a workout.

 

 

Oh, and while he was playing tunes like “Dream Police,” he was also tossing out picks at the crowd. Somehow his poses, witty asides to the crowd and acts of violence involving small pieces of plastic, never caused him to skip a note or detract from a solo. How he managed to hit me in the pit with a pick and get through the set at the same time baffles me.

 

Dall treated the crowd to his own version of Henry Mancini’s theme to The Pink Panther, but Cheap Trick bassist Tom Peterson gave his 12-string instrument a thorough workout and even sang a powerful medley of The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man” and “Heroin.” Nielsen complemented Peterson’s work with some tasteful slide solos, which lead vocalist Robin Zander accompanied with his own acoustic 12 string.

 

 

 

Zander happily took a break because during the rest of the set he still pushed his voice to its limit. Thankfully that limit seems superhuman. If his throat cracked a couple of times, he can still effortlessly reach high notes and make 40 to 30 year old songs sound fresh and committed.

 

If you’ve caught Cheap Trick in the past or have listed to At Budokan to the point where you’ve memorized all the words, their current shows are still worth catching. Daxx Nielsen, Rick’s son, has ably replaced Bun E. Carlos on drums, and Zander’s son Robin Taylor fleshes out the band’s harmonies and played most of the rhythm guitar parts.

 

Thanks to That 70s Show, the band have a few songs (like their version of Big Star’s “In the Street”) that are more recent than anything Poison played, and the samples from their newer albums Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello (2016) and We’re All Right! (2017) fit seamlessly in with their hits. Radio stations may ignore their most recent offerings, and it’s the broadcasters’ loss.

 

 

 

They also surprised the crowd by featuring the Melvins, who joined them for a rousing version of “Surrender.” Drummer Hayley Cramer from opening band Pop Evil even joined the bands as they gave the 40 year old chestnut all they had.

 

As lead singer Leigh Kakaty kept reminding the audience, Pop Evil from North Muskegon, Michigan, have been around for a decade. While Kakaty lamented the empty seats on the floor (that were filled when the headliners arrived), and the rest of the ensemble still approached their set with vigor and enthusiasm.

 

 

He opined that the newer generation should learn, “There is a difference between a Gibson guitar and a motherfucking Apple computer.” Fortunately, he and his crew of analog performers and the bands that followed made an eloquent case for that argument.

The tour moves from Kansas City to Pryor, Oklahoma and continues for the summer.  For more information and upcoming tour dates, click HERE.

 

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Win Passes to the Kansas City Premiere of “I Feel Pretty”

 

Media Mikes has teamed with their friends at STX Entertainment to give (50) readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see the new comedy starring Amy Schumer, “I Feel Pretty.”

The screening will be held on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at the B&B Overland Park Theatre in Overland Park, Kansas and will start at 7:00 p.m.

All you have to do is click HERE.  The first (50) readers to do so will receive a pass for two to attend the screening.  This is a first come/first serve giveaway.  Once all (50) passes have been claimed, the contest is over.  GOOD LUCK!

 

I FEEL PRETTY

Tuesday, April 17, 2018  –  7:00 p.m.

B&B Overland Park Theatre – Overland Park, Kansas

 

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Film Review: Ready Player One

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke and Ben Mendelsohn
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Rated: PG-13
Running Time:
Warner Bros. Pictures

Capturing the awe and power of video games has long eluded Hollywood, whether it’s adaptation of the games themselves or bottling the culture’s essence. “Wreck-It Ralph” came close, but it’s fair to disregard its efforts because it was animated, hence it was able to replicate the visual absurdity and calm in the chaos sometimes in video games. With a book, that I’m assume is page soaked in pop-culture references over two decades, Steven Spielberg appears to have cracked the code.

Instead of feeling like you’re watching someone play a video game at the arcade, Spielberg immerses viewers in the OASIS, a worldwide massive multiplayer experience at the center of “Ready Player One” The OASIS is where anyone can be anything they want to be, with digital avatars ranging from humanoids to iconic media characters. Before people can inhabit their digital body, they have to plug into these free-hanging set-ups that look like someone plugging themselves into “The Matrix” via a full-body suit, Nintendo power gloves and a VR viewer attachment. It seems like a hassle and unnecessary expense, but the alternative, reality, is a lot less exciting.

Wade Watts (Sheridan) lives in Columbus, Ohio in 2045. He lives in the slums of Columbus, which is filled with metallic clutter like older cars and technological trash. Most of its inhabitants take up residence in dilapidated trailer park trailers stacked on top of each other like a white trash Kowloon Walled City. With no parents and no real-life friends, or even a job, Watts retreats every day to the OASIS in a makeshift gaming room he’s carved out of the surrounding scrap heap.

Inside the OASIS, he and other players, which make up his clan, are on the hunt for the ultimate Easter egg. The creator of OASIS, the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance), has hidden several clues throughout the game that lead to three keys. If you find all the keys, you get full ownership of OASIS, as well as the money and stock attached to it. But it’s more than just a dream of riches and power; it’s a dream of escaping the rat hole that Watts perceives he lives in. Of course he’s not the only one on the hunt for these keys. An evil corporate shadow looms over the OASIS and looks to control the one thing used by billions.

Despite flirting with the risk of saturating the film with too much exposition, “Ready Player One” cleverly layers it over action sequences and visual feasts. Spielberg, who’s created some of the most iconic figures, creatures, and heroes for the silver screen, handles everything with a master stroke. Watts is immediately sympathetic and likeable; his friends and cohorts are equally the same despite their minimal screen time. The motivations of Watt and his journey rarely get muddied, but because so much of the film’s focus is on him, we lose sight of some of the great characters accompanying him.

There’s the rushed love interest, Art3mis (Cooke). She’s pigeonholed more than a few times, but the moments where her character can demonstrate personality that isn’t cliché are some of her best moments. She’s able to breathe a little, whether it’s solo or complimenting Watt’s introverted personality, but it’s certainly not enough once we realize how powerful she truly is. The movie’s villain, played by Ben Mendelsohn, is an intern that works his way up the corporate ladder looking to cash in on someone else’s idea and then abuse the power he’s obtained. He’d be more menacing if he didn’t pass off so many of his bad guys duties to lackeys and spent his time relegating the fun missions inside the OASIS to a mercenary, played by T.J. Miller.

Character flaws aside, Spielberg puts viewers in this vast digital landscape without ever making it feel overwhelmingly and at times he even makes it feel intimate. The films has a chaotic “Mad Max”-style car race that smacks viewers with dozens of pop-culture references and has a more focused homage in the form of a Stanley Kubrick playground that I dare not spoil. Both work because they not only cater to different tastes, but are easily digestible for those who might not pick up on every reference. However Spielberg neglected the real-world that the OASIS was created in.

What global crisis is happening or has happened that’s led to Columbus looking like a third world country? Why does it seem like Watts and the head of an evil corporate entity is only a couple of blocks away at all times? Why is the resistance to this evil corporate on such a micro-level as opposed to the global scale it seems to be inside the OASIS. We feel like we’re trapping inside Ohio any time we’re not zipping through the OASIS. Those thoughts sometime minimize the character’s plight and the film’s overall narrative.

Luckily you won’t have too much time to nitpick the film’s shortcomings because of how brisk it moves, even within the time span of nearly two and a half hours. For all its faults, and there’s quite a few that I have and haven’t listed, “Ready Player One” had me grinning like a child at the movies for the first time. At times I felt like I was picking up a video game controller for the first time, waking up early on a Saturday morning for cartoons or sneaking out of my room past my bedtime to watch a bad cheesy movie. For those who don’t feel that sense of nostalgia, you’ll certainly feel young again.

 

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