Enhance Your Creativity by Playing Chess Online

Chess is a famous recreational and competitive game played by people of all ages and there are no age barriers to determine the one who should play the game. Also, there are various websites where you can play free chess video games online. For some, you can play chess against the PC by use of an espresso, chess applet or maybe a flash chess program.

Many people talk of the benefits of playing chess; some tend to believe that the game improves analytical thinking while others believe it’s a waste of time. However, playing chess is associated with various benefits.

Some benefits of playing online chess are:

Enrich your life:

Everyone ages with time; therefore, learn to play games that stimulate the mind. This enriches your life as well as gives you a new dimension to your life. By playing online chess, research has also shown that one gets more mature to experience chess to keep the brain cells activated. Sometimes this assists you to reduce the chances of getting mental illnesses.

Stimulate your mind:

Playing stimulating games can lead to staying alert since the game confronts the mind with various problems which require being resolved.

Transforms your thinking pattern:

By playing mentality stimulating games, your pattern of thinking is transformed. Also, by playing online games link sbobet which is compatible with both PC and mobile versions; you get used to looking forward to alternatives to solve issues. The pressure from the game leads to complete focus since no one wants to lose.

Understanding the atmosphere:

Mostly, mentally stimulating games result in an understanding atmosphere as well as the wish to enhance. Every actual chess player needs to improve and learn several mentally stimulating games, versions, and principles. This mindset also applies to real life.

Enhanced concentration:

Chess requires you to concentrate as you play; therefore this leads to enhanced concentration so as to perform well in the game.

Improved visualization:

By playing chess, one could improve their concentration and visualization capabilities.

Increased enthusiasm:

Chess players change the ordinary. True enthusiastic gamers get irritated easily in case they make deadly mistakes. To avoid this, they try as much as possible to avoid mistakes and as well as recalculate options before they make decisions. Since the game requires lots of patience, then any player who lacks such quality is forced to create it to become an excellent player.

Weigh choices:

Chess gives gamers the chance to find alternate solutions as well as think about the pros and cons of various situations.

Concrete evaluation:

Playing chess is an excellent way of teaching you to evaluate situations as the results of making certain decisions. This is applicable to real life situations too; hence your decisions are led by logic and not on impulse.

Think ahead:

Just as in actual life, an individual develops ideas and plans and compares them to ideas that work. Therefore one is able to look at the big picture and not just consider a single option. Also, patterns are as well used in comparison with related circumstances.

There are numerous benefits to playing chess. In addition to the mentioned benefits, there are many emotional benefits acquired by playing chess. As people play, they are able to cope with different experiences which are emotionally useful.

Also mastering the game creates an opportunity for dialogue for players. However, like any other games on link sbobet which is the best link compatible with either your mobile or PC, you will require to spend some time to master it.

20th Annual Planet Comicon Kansas City a Rousing Success!

PHOTOS BY DAN LYBARGER
The legendary William Shatner

I had just begun my position as Director of Marketing for Dickinson Theatres in early 1999 when I received a phone call from a gentleman named Chris Jackson, who explained to me that he had an idea for a local convention that would continue to grow into something amazing. Wanting to be involved, I sent Chris a lot of promotion posters (I’m thinking THE MATRIX, THE MUMMY, and STAR WARS: EPISODE I were included) to give away. Chris even arranged for one of the guests, actor Kenny Baker – he played R2D2 in the various STAR WARS films, to sign some posters for me to use as a giveaway. And so it began.

This past weekend, Chris’ vision, PLANET COMICON KANSAS CITY, celebrated it’s 20th Anniversary with another convention that cements PCKC as not only the best convention in the Midwest, but one of the best in the country.

“The Exorcist” star Linda Blair

The guest list was a virtual honor role of some of the biggest celebrities in film and television. Such icons as Linda Blair, William Shatner and Henry Winkler made appearances (this was Winkler’s first visit to Kansas /City since early
2010, when he graciously became the first ever interview for Media Mikes).

Mr. Shatner had been at PCKC in the past,but you wouldn’t know it from the legion of fans that lined up to greet him. Other celebrity guests included Oscar-nominee Chris Sarandon, PRINCESS BRIDE co-stars Cary Elwes and Wallace Shawn, “Super-men” Dean Cain and Tom Welling as well as well as WWE Wrestling Hall of Famer Mick Foley.

Chris Sarandon

Graphic art fans were also treated to a bevy of comic and graphic novel artists, and an amazing array of fans dressed as their favorite characters.

Members of the “Spiderverse” took the streetcar to the show
Mr. Henry Winkler

The vendor selection, as in the past, was varied, with tables offering pretty much everything for everyone.

This “League of Their Own” fan was there to see Lori Petty
COSPLAY was the theme of the day

All in all, it was an amazing weekend. I can’t wait to see what Chris Jackson has in store for the next 20 years!

SWORN ENEMY UNVEILS MUSIC VIDEO “COMING UNDONE”

*NEW ROB FLYNN-PRODUCED ALBUM, GAMECHANGER, DUE APRIL 5TH***U.S. TOUR KICKS OFF APRIL 26TH**

Photo Credit: Ms. Dezevil

Metallic hardcore heavyweights SWORN ENEMY return with a vengeance on their venomous new record “Gamechanger,” due out next Friday, April 5. Produced by Robb Flynn (Machine Head) and mixed/mastered by Zack Ohren (Suffocation, Fallujah, Warbringer), the hard-knuckled album expertly fuses metal, thrash and New York hardcore.

On the heels of the well-received first single “Prepare For Payback,” which earlier this month cracked the SiriusXM Liquid Metal Devil’s Dozen request countdown, the band is proud to unveil a second new track, “Coming Undone.”

Available now for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp and other digital platforms, the song is also being offered as an instant download with all digital pre-orders of “Gamechanger.” (Physical pre-orders on CD and limited-edition blue splatter vinyl are available at www.m-theoryaudio.com or www.swornenemy.bandcamp.com). 

Check out a music video for “Coming Undone” at https://youtu.be/fYG3ewY_2DE, directed by Bryan Bishop of Digital Thunderdome Productions (https://www.digitalthunderdome.com

“It’s been a while since Sworn Enemy had a chance to film a video and we are pretty stoked the way ‘Coming Undone’ came out,” cites singer Sal Lococco. “Hope you all dig it!” 

SWORN ENEMY will spend much of 2019 touring in support of “Gamechanger,” beginning with a series of record-release shows along the East Coast. From there, the band will join forces with thrash legends Sacred Reich for a number of performances across America. See below for the group’s current itinerary.

Additional dates – including the band’s first shows of the year in Europe – are in the works. SWORN ENEMY was first signed by Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta, who released the group’s first two EPs on his Stillborn Recordings label in 2001 and 2002. He also produced the band’s full-length debut, “As Real As It Gets,” memorably praised by Lambgoat as “music that inspires you to want to beat the living piss out of the next unsuspecting person who walks in the room.”

The album was released by Elektra Records in 2003, a year that saw the band deliver memorable performances on tour with Ozzfest. In the 15 years since, SWORN ENEMY released four additional albums of punishing metallic hardcore and toured with a number of notable acts, including Anthrax, Mastodon, Fear Factory, Sepultura, Suicide Silence, Dying Fetus, Earth Crisis, Madball, Biohazard and Hatebreed. 

SWORN ENEMY live (more dates TBA)

4/26 Brooklyn, NY – The Kingsland

4/27 Falls Church, VA – VFW 9274

4/28 Brockton, MA – Dylan’s

5/4  Denver, CO – Streets *

5/5  Kansas City, MO – Riot Room *

5/17 Mansfield, OH – Belcher’s House of Rock

5/18 Indianapolis, IN – The Citadel *

5/20 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade *

5/22 New Orleans, LA – House of Blues *

5/23 Houston, TX – Scout Bar *

5/24 Dallas, TX – Trees *

5/25 San Antonio, TX – Rock Box *

5/27 Yuma, AZ – Prison Hill

5/28 San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick ^

5/29 Oakland, CA – Metro ^

5/31 Los Angeles, CA – Regent Theater #

6/1  Phoenix, AZ – Club Red #

6/2  Albuquerque, NM – Red Velvet Underground

6/5  Memphis, TN – Hi-Tone

6/6  Chicago, IL – Cobra Lounge

6/7  Pittsburgh, PA – Black Forge Coffee House 2

6/8  Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts

* w/ Sacred Reich^ w/ Sacred Reich, Excel# w/ Sacred Reich, Vio-Lence, Excel, Yidhra

MASKED INTRUDER RELEASE NEW SONG “PLEASE COME BACK TO ME” Album “III” Out In March.

MASKED INTRUDER RELEASE NEW SONG
“PLEASE COME BACK TO ME”
LISTEN NOW ON ALTPRESS.COM

NEW ALBUM III OUT MARCH 1, 2019
THROUGH PURE NOISE RECORDS

NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER AT
WWW.MASKEDINTRUDERBAND.COM

UPCOMING U.S. TOUR WITH THE INTERRUPTERS
KICKS OFF FEBRUARY 27 TICKETS ON SALE NOW

Today, Masked Intruder have released a new song called “Please Come Back To Me”. Fans can listen to it now exclusively on AltPress.com. The song is taken from their upcoming new album III out March 1 through Pure Noise Records.

They previously released the first single and music video for “No Case”, which can be seen here: https://youtu.be/Ro72ES3e3Bo

For the new album, the band – Intruder Blue, Intruder Green, Intruder Red and Intruder Yellow – recruited lead producer/engineer Roger Lima (who also plays bass in Less Than Jake) as well as co-producer Mike Kennerty (who plays guitar in some band called The All-American Rejects) and recorded the album at Lima’s studio, The Moat House in Gainesville, Florida.

“Our songs aren’t just about the feelings and situations that they describe but they’re supposed to hopefully help other people think about and reflect about their own situations,” Intruder Blue summarizes.

Whether it comes to stealing hearts or wallets, Masked Intruder have upped their game on Masked Intruder III and it seems as if even Officer Bradford can’t hold them back, although we’re sure he’ll try.

The band’s most infectious album to date is now available for pre-order at www.maskedintruderband.com.

Track Listing

  1. No Case
  2. Mine All Mine
  3. All of My Love
  4. Just So You Know
  5. I’m Free (At Last)
  6. Please Come Back To Me
  7. B & E
  8. Maybe Even
  9. Not Fair
  10. Stay With Me Tonight
  11. Dream a Little Dream
  12. I’ll Be Back Again Someday

Masked Intruder kick off a nationwide tour with The Interrupters on February 27. Tickets are on sale now and a full list of cities they hit can be found below.

Masked Intruder – Upcoming Tour Dates
w/ The Interrupters

February 27 – Phoenix, AZ – The Van Buren
March 1 – Dallas, TX – Trees
March 2 – Houston, TX – Warehouse Live
March 3 – Austin, TX – Mohawk
March 4 – New Orleans, LA – House of Blues
March 7 – Destin, FL – Club LA
March 8 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Revolution
March 9 – Tampa, FL – The Orpheum
March 10 – Atlanta, GA – Masquerade
March 12 – Richmond, VA – The National
March 15 – Asbury Park, NJ – The Stone Pony
March 16 – Silver Spring, MD – The Fillmore
March 17 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza
March 19 – Quebec, Canada – Imperial Bell
March 20 – Montréal, Canada – Club Soda
March 22 – Toronto, Canada – Danforth Music Hall
March 23 – London, Canada – London Music Hall
March 24 – Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom
March 28 – Pittsburgh, PA – Mr. Smalls
March 29 – Indianapolis, IN – Deluxe at Old National Center
March 30 – Chicago, IL – House of Blues
April 1 – St. Louis. MO – Delmar Hall
April 2 – Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall
April 3 – Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theater
April 5 – Denver, CO – The Ogden Theatre
April 6 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Depot

Follow Masked Intruder
Website: www.maskedintruderband.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/maskedintruder

Our Critics Pick the Best (and Worst) of 2018

Once again, the time has come for your favorite film critics to choose the films they loved – and hated – from 2018.  Agree?  Disagree?  Let us know below.  Happy New Year!

THE BEST

Michael A. Smith‘s TOP TEN

1.VICE – Like his Oscar winning THE BIG SHORT, writer/director Adam McKay gives a humorous take on the life and times of our 46th Vice President. 

2. BOY ERASED – Stellar performances by Lucas Hedges and Joel Edgerton (who also wrote and directed) in a film dealing with “conversion” training.  Edgerton is beginning to look like he will be one of the best filmmakers of the next generation. 

3. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY – The story of Freddie Mercury and his musical group QUEEN.  Some complained that Mercury’s X-rated lifestyle was tamed down too much but Rami Malek’s award worthy performance is the real story here.

4. A STAR IS BORN –  Damn you, Bradley Cooper!  Is there nothing you can’t do?  Cooper stars and directs in the fourth telling of the familiar tale, adding enough twists to make it seem new.  Extra points for casting the amazing Lady Gaga.

 5. BLACKKKLANSMAN –  Easily Spike Lee’s best film since DO THE RIGHT THING, the film’s 1970’s era message is just as important today.

“Risking life and limb for our entertainment”

6. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT – The best of the M:I films, with Tom Cruise once again risking life and limb for our entertainment.

7. CHAPPAQUIDDICK – An early film this year that looks into the fateful accident that derailed the Presidential dreams of Ted Kennedy.

8. BLACK PANTHER – Not a great Marvel Movie…just a GREAT MOVIE.  With FRUITVALE STATION and CREED already on his resumé, director Ryan Coogler has proven to be a voice to be listened to.

 9. HOSTILES – A January release, this is an outstanding period western starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi and, sadly, Scott Wilson in one of his final roles.

 10. CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? – Award worthy performances from stars Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant highlight this true story about an author who had to resolve to forgery to make any money.   

Lauren Damon’s TOP FIVE

1.BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE – I cannot speak highly enough of Drew Goddard’s follow up to one of my Halloween faves, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. Once again Goddard holes up his small cast in a single location that is not quite what it seems and is a joy to explore. And what a cast! While bigger names like Jeff Bridges and Jon Hamm deliver reliably solid performances (the latter chewing all the scenery with a fabulous southern accent), the real revelations are from relative newcomers Cynthia Erivo and Lewis Pullman. The Tony-winning Erivo is the film’s heart as a struggling singer who checks into the El Royale ahead of a nearby gig. When she gets wrapped up in a scheme with Bridges’ character, Goddard uses her powerhouse voice to deliver “You Can’t Hurry Love” in easily my favorite single sequence of the year. Meanwhile Pullman is just barely holding everything together as the hotel’s lone caretaker whose role entails much more than cleaning towels and whose past is bubbling beneath his boyish, twitchy surface. I really just wanted to hug him. Finally, as with CABIN, Goddard goes ahead and subverts Chris Hemsworth’s affable hero persona. This time by casting him as a vile Charles Manson type–this is the 60’s in California after all– whose limited screen time serves merely to concentrate the sinister vibes emanating off his gyrating abs. Everyone is supported by top notch production design, a rocking soundtrack and some gorgeous Seamus McGarvey cinematography. It just really sizzles.

“It’s a crime that Collette isn’t in the major film awards conversations (yet?)” 

2. HEREDITARY – This slow burning descent of one family after the death of their secretive matriarch may be an all time fave viewing experience in a packed theater. Where a lot of modern horror relies on jump scares, Ari Aster held us captive in many scenes by showing the terrors just slightly to the side in the gloom of the frame or holding on the silence after a traumatic event–all while my audience slowly lost its mind. Which was fitting, because we were watching Toni Collette’s character doing roughly the same. It’s a crime that Collette isn’t in the major film awards conversations (yet? C’mon Academy!) because she was so engrossing and almost painful to watch.

3. BLACK PANTHER – Ryan Coogler’s brilliant entry into Marvel was remarkable for so fully realizing a whole new world within a “Universe” we’ve already been living in for the past decade. And unlike some chapters of the MCU, he did it right here on Earth. Wakanda was beautiful and populated by such a well drawn cast of characters, it was nearly impossible to pick a favorite (but it’s Shuri, come on). Meanwhile, unlike some big purple menaces, Erik Kilmonger’s (Michael B Jordan) ‘villainous’ motives were some of the most complex that the franchise has dealt with. So much so that Chadwick Boseman’s T’challa had to face a real crisis of conscience that not many Marvel heroes do!

4. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU – I feel like the less I say about this film, the better new viewers’ experiences will be. Boots Riley’s take on the desolate modern economic landscape just throws a LOT at you with a notable hard turn in the second half that will likely decide where you land on this one. As someone who is rarely surprised at movies today, I was fully on board.

5. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR – I knew going in that every outlet in the Disney-Marvel Marketing Machine kept saying “It’s Thanos’s movie, it’s really going to belong to Thanos” but boy, I was not prepared for…Thanos’s movie! Not only did the Russo brothers bring to life a presence worthy of scaring the bejeezus out of ten years of assembled super heroes, but that they let him Do That was a true shocker. It’s hard for me to judge INFINITY WAR fully until I see what goes down in ENDGAME because, to quote THE PRESTIGE, “making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back.” But for now, I sit stunned.

Michael D. Smith’s TOP TEN

1. BLACK PANTHER – The best movie of the year, BLACK PANTHER proves to be one of the two or three best titles in the 10-year Avengers odyssey. Directed by the brilliantly talented young filmmaker Ryan Coogler (CREED, FRUITVALE STATION), this supremely entertaining, comic book epic has a superb cast and an engaging, intelligent story. Its story of a young king who thinks he knows what it takes to be a ruler but is faced with a day of reckoning that turns his views upside down is a potent one. The climax is tragic to the point that it’s Shakespearean and it’s all assisted by one of the most consistently good performances by an entire cast that you will see, especially in an action movie. Michael B. Jordan, who was cheated out of an Oscar nomination for his role in CREED, is a powerful presence in the film as its lead antagonist. BLACK PANTHER has everything you could ever want in not only a superhero movie but in a movie period. 

2. A QUIET PLACE – In terms of creativity and originality, A QUIET PLACE is only rivaled in recent times by last year’s masterpiece “Get Out.” A brief, yet sophisticated sci-fi horror tale brimming with mystery, A QUIET PLACE stars the husband/wife team of John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as a couple struggling to keep their family alive in a world taken over by aliens who react to sound. You must pay attention to the little details in this one to spot clues to the backstory, which itself is horrifying. The story has a bit of a Stephen King-like vibe to it as the suspense builds around the impending birth of a new baby. A must-see.

3. FIRST REFORMED –  Ethan Hawke shines in what is arguably writer/director Paul Schrader’s greatest cinematic endeavor. It is a work of art in every sense of the word as Hawke plays the minister of a tiny congregation in an old church in upstate New York. His character is haunted by a past that riddles him with guilt and leads him to drink. When we meet him, he has begun to keep a diary of his tormented thoughts as he tries to mentor those that are just as much pain as he is. Hawke is mesmerizing in the most brilliant performance of his career with strong supporting help from Amanda Seyfried and a nice dramatic turn by Cedric the Entertainer. The ending is haunting to say the least and will leave you and anyone you watch it with debating what it all means. 

“Olivia Colman delivers the best performance by an actress in 2018 and it’s not even close”

4. THE FAVOURITE – With some of the best costume designs you will see in any film, THE FAVOURITE is a wonderful historical drama containing the most splendid, witty dialogue of the year. Set against the backdrop of early 18th century England, two women (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) vie to be the favorite of the increasingly sickly Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). The political intrigue is delightful as Weisz and Stone’s characters will go to any lengths to be the apple of Queen Anne’s eye, thereby having access to tremendous power. Colman delivers the best performance by an actress in 2018 and it’s not even close. She is brilliant in every sense of the word as portrays a woman teetering on insanity after having had 18 pregnancies but no living children. There are ultimately no winners in all of it. Just tragic losers. 

5. LEAVE NO TRACE – While watching the powerful performance delivered by New Zealand-born actress Thomasin McKenzie in the drama LEAVE NO TRACE, it is impossible to not think about what director/writer Debra Granik once pulled out of a relatively unknown young actress named Jennifer Lawrence. It is perhaps an unfair comparison considering that Lawrence received the first of her four Oscar nominations for her role as a tough, teenage Ozarks girl in 2010’s WINTER’S BONE. However, as Tom, McKenzie provides something that is special to watch on the silver screen. Through her eyes alone she projects her character’s tough, determined nature which she also reveals is just a façade masking a 13-year-old girl’s desperation to please a father (Ben Foster) traumatized by war. Foster once again demonstrates how skillful he has become in recent years. Pain leaks out of every pour in Foster’s skin as his character is so consumed by PTSD from combat that he puts Tom in danger every day they are on the run without thinking about what he is doing. Based upon the 2009 book My Abandonment by American novelist Peter Rock, LEAVE NO TRACE, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, is a moving work of genuine sadness that will pull at the heartstrings of anyone who has a heart.

 6. BLACKKKLANSMAN – In what is Spike Lee’s best effort in years, BLACKKKLANSMAN is an engrossing crime drama loosely based upon real events. It tells the tale of new African American, Colorado police officer Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) who infiltrates a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s via the phone. To represent himself in person, he convinces a Jewish detective (Adam Driver) to be his face. While it’s an entertaining piece of work that takes a lot of dramatic license, Lee’s effort tackles racism head-on and reveals its ugliness likes few films do. As such, it’s not without controversy but because of that it accomplishes the goal of making people talk and think about racism in America. 

7. GREEN BOOK – Inspired by a true story, this period drama is a surprisingly complex, emotional work considering its director, Peter Farrelly, is best known for comedic fare like SHALLOW HAL and DUMB AND DUMBER. With GREEN BOOK, Farrelly captures the stark racial divide of 1962 America with an exploration of the relationship between white bar bouncer Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and black pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) as they travel across the Midwest and Deep South. Mortensen dazzles with his knack to bring to life every subtle nuance of the characters he plays. This role is no exception as he helps make Tony Lip someone we can truly care about even though in the beginning it’s a little tough to do. Ali, a 2017 Oscar winner for MOONLIGHT, gives Don a vulnerable sophistication while also breathing out a certain degree of naïveté without seeming to break a sweat. It all adds up to GREEN BOOK being the type of rare movie where everyone can feel a little bit happier about the world when the lights go back on. 

8. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? – Like many other people, I grew up on Mr. Rogers so perhaps I’m a little biased, but this documentary feels like a warm and cozy sweater vest. It dispels a lot of myths about the man who wanted nothing more than to work with children. We learn a lot about this kind, gentle soul from those closest to him and it’s refreshing in this age of cynicism and character assassination to discover he was pretty much exactly like he was on the TV.

9. HEREDITARY –  Simply put, this is one of the most messed up movies you will ever see. HEREDITARY is tale of a family being turned upside down when the family matriarch’s death starts a sequence of horrifying events that lead to a supernatural, head-scratching, unsettling climax. Toni Collette is fantastic as the mother of two who becomes increasingly unraveled thanks to a plan set into motion by her recently deceased mother. It goes without saying that a film is automatically creepy when it silently begins with a nondescript obituary on the silver screen. Don’t stay up too late to watch this. Otherwise you will feel the need to keep all the lights on and the covers over your head.

“Rami Malek absolutely commands the screen”

10. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY – Some of have criticized this film for not devoting more time to the exploration of the late Freddie Mercury’s private life. However, this rock biography is not titled “The Freddie Mercury Story.” Instead it focuses on the rise of a band with a singer who had a rock voice like none other before or since. While the story is admittedly a little glossy, the core strength of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is the incredible performance by lead Rami Malek who absolutely commands the screen. He masters every movement, every voice inflection, every insecurity, every bit of bravado of the real Mercury. It is a legendary accomplishment and is worth every penny to see.

Jeremy Werner‘s TOP TEN:

“It’s good for the souls of the young and old.”

1. EIGHTH GRADE -Back in August I wrote, “Cringy. Heartfelt. Anxiety inducing. Unflinching. Heartbreaking. Hopeful…Bo Burnham’s debut film seemingly has it all, and it does.” That still rings true after a few rewatches. Four months later, along with dozens and dozens of screeners, EIGHTH GRADE, is still my favorite film of the year because of how raw and emotional it is. It’s good for the souls of the young and old.

2. BLACKKKLANSMAN -Last year, GET OUT made me feel what it’s like to be a black man in a predominantly white situation or setting. This year, BLACKKKLANSMAN made me feel my own white guilt. Both movies are timely and timeless. BLACKKKLANSMAN is a church sermon that needs to be heard by everyone within an earshot. This is easily Spike Lee’s best film since DO THE RIGHT THING if not his magnum opus.

3. SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE – Phil Lord and Chris Miller should just have their own animation studio. They were robbed of an Oscar for 2014’s LEGO MOVIE and it’ll be another crime if SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE doesn’t win best animated picture this year. It’s a trippy journey that blurs the line between comic book and cinema. Not only is it the best animated film of the year, it may be the best superhero movie of the year. Sorry Disney.

4. SORRY TO BOTHER YOU -What begins as a satire, quickly becomes a hyper absurd sci-fi that blends commentary on racism and classism, along with jabs at America’s path towards corporatocracy. Boots Riley brings a fresh voice and unique criticism that’s familiar, yet distinct. It’s the kind of film with no middle ground. You’ll either love or hate it.


5. WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? -In today’s climate, the world might need another Mr. Rogers, if that’s possible. Without mentioning any names or incidents, WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? feels like a pertinent documentary about the impact kindness and compassion has. Even the iciest of hearts will have a tear in their eye by the end credits.

6. VICE -Comedy doesn’t quite the praise it deserves. Ask any actor or creator how hard it is to craft something funny. Now add in a dose of reality and seriousness. Just like in THE BIG SHORT, Adam McKay tackles a difficult subject and makes it palatable for general audiences. VICE is a dark riot, making us laugh and realize the expanding power of the Executive Branch.

7. BOY ERASED -Not only is this a powerful story about sexual identity, but it’s a somber reminder about how one of the America’s most heinous acts, conversion therapy, remains legal. The film does a nuanced job of highlighting the emotional, mental, and sometimes physical cruelty that conversion therapy puts it’s victims through. It’s simply tragic.

8. MANDY– What if heavy metal music became a movie? You’d have MANDY, an 80’s acid nightmare come to life, with the help of a gonzo, smiling Nicolas Cage, covered in blood. This is a midnight film that will surely develop a cult following, or at the very least, a legion of Cheddar Goblin fans.

9. WIDOWS – This is Steve McQueen’s most mainstream film, yet it’s still visually intellectual like his previous films. McQueen is a master behind the camera and weaves a caper that’s not only rich with heavy material and social themes, but engaging from beginning to end.

10. THE FAVOURITE – THE FAVOURITE  is devilishly funny and cynical. It’s the kind of movie that could delight those who loathe period piece dramas, like myself. The humor and dialogue crackle for two hours as the film’s three leading ladies find new, humorous ways to stab each other in the back.

HONORABLE MENTIONS : SUSPIRIA, ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE, FIRST REFORMED, ISLE OF DOGS, ROMA, BLOCKERS, THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS, LOVE,SIMON, CRAZY RICH ASIANS, MOM AND DAD

AND…THE WORST

Jeremy Werner: 

1. JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM -The bigger the budget, the more it should be looked down upon. This movie cost nearly $200 million and it stunk like one big pile of dino crap. Just think how many good, small budget films could have been made instead, but that wouldn’t have raked in over a billion dollars, now would it?

“Like one big pile of dino crap”

2. BOOK CLUB -Not only do they still make crap like this, but they release in theaters and trick good actors and actresses to star in it. This is pure drivel. Keep this crap off the silver screen and keep it on the Lifetime Network.

3. WELCOME TO MARWEN -The more I think about it, the more this film makes me mad. It’s a steaming crap that’s beneath the actors in it, it soils Zemeckis’ good name and unfortunately mishandles a true story. Unlike most train wrecks, you can look away from this one.

4. SUPER TROOPERS 2 -Careful what you wish for. Fans of the original should have looked towards other fanbases who asked for a sequel, like GHOSTBUSTERS, THE HANGOVER, etc. and got a big pile of crap instead. This movie is an unfunny dumpster fire that should offer a refund to it’s IndieGoGo supporters.

5. TERMINAL – Didn’t hear about this one? Good. To reiterate my favorite word in this list, it’s crap. This is the kind of film I could easily placed at the top, but it’s not as deserving as my scorn as the other films noted above because it quietly came and went without ruffling too many feathers. Still though. This one is crap. Don’t even bother looking it up out of curiosity.

Michael A. Smith:

1.LIFE ITSELF – As I say on our Podcast, I’ve never been so happy to see someone hit by a bus.  THIS IS US plots work in small doses, but on the big screen, they suck!

2. THE MEG – If my 230 pound body can’t swim by people without attracting notice, then a 50 foot shark sure as hell shouldn’t be able to.

 3. OCEANS 8 – Boooooooooooorrrrrrrrrring!

4. LOVE, SIMON – What could have been a film that delivered a great message takes the easy way out by making everything peachy too easily.

5. GRINGO – I had so many high hopes for this film.  Sadly, Nash Edgerton did not get any of the film making skills his brother Joel inherited.  

Stage Review: “The Book of Mormon” – Kansas City

Review by Phillip Smith

“The Book of Mormon”  Music Hall – Kansas City, Missouri – December 27, 2018

Making it’s third trip through Kansas City, the question has to be “Does ‘The Book of Mormon’ hold up?  Thank you, Heavenly Father, because the answer is a resounding “yes!”

Winner of nine Tony Awards in 2011, including Best Musical, “Book of Mormon” is the brain-child of “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who conceived the production with “Avenue Q” composer Robert Lopez.

The show tells the story of two young missionaries, Elder’s Price (Kevin Clay) and Cunningham (Jacob Ben-Shmuel) , who are sent to Uganda to introduce Jesus Christ to the natives.  Of course, things don’t go the way they should, with results that can only be expected from the team that gave us “South Park” and “Team America.”

The production was well staged and the cast enthusiastic.  As was the audience, who erupted into applause when it was noted that “the Garden of Eden was in Jackson County, Missouri,” which is also where Kansas City is located.  

Almost a decade after it premiered, “The Book of Mormon” continues to be one of the best musicals running, and easily one of the best musicals of this century.  

Remembering Stan Lee

Essay by Bear Wolf

I Guess One Man Really Can Make a Difference

Those of you who know me, truly know me, know that mychildhood was quite difficult to say the least. My therapist and I are currently working on my displaced attachment issues and late developing connections to people. Because of that childhood and these issues, my formative  years have been skewed a bit from you ‘normal’ humans.

I had almost no positive male role models in my life. I was surrounded by evil men who did evil things with only a 5-foot-tall,  mostly lonely and depressed single mother as a shield. She did what she thought was her best, and I thank her for that and will always know the true meaning of courage as I saw her take on the role of the human shield to protect her children. But as a result of a brutal mixture of all of the above, there was a Thanos-snapping-half-of-all-existence-away sized void in my life.

Comic books were my savior (and KISS to be honest, but that’s for another rant). I learned how to be a man from Batman, Spider-Man,the Hulk AND Bruce Banner, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Daredevil, Mike Grell’s Green Arrow. I also learned that evil often hid behind masks (thank you Scooby Doo), but I saw the epic struggle between good and evil, between human nature and human spirit, and I chose Good Human Spirit. I may be more of the Wolvie anti-hero type, but I know true evil when I see it and I will always fight against it, regardless of how it is made to look by others (see 1980’s Green Arrow to fully understand, thank you again, Mike Grell).  As I grew older, Black Panther and Black Lightning taught me about true injustice in the system of perpetual racism, government greed and the people who directly or indirectly perpetuate it by ‘just doing their jobs.’  I learned what true intense depth of real internal/ external true love was from The Crow.  Unfortunately the movie never captured that very important aspect of the story.

I did not learn that from a father, or an uncle or grandfather or father figure at all (to be fair I never truly knew my grandfather until it was much later; had I truly known him growing up, no other hero could have possibly compared, but again, that’s for another rant).  I did not even learn that from a man who essentially became my god-father because he chose to reach out to a young man eating bologna by himself for Christmas dinner. Don Howard taught me what true kindness and family are.

I learned how to reach for the best human spirit has to offer mostly from what Stan Lee created. Stan Lee and his legacy is my father figure (in my teen years Mike Grell took that role over).  Not Stan Lee’s creations…no, this is much much bigger than that.  Stan Lee (with a beautiful nudge by his amazing wife) set out to create something different, something special.  Much like the best science fiction writers, he took the fantastic to a place that made us take a good hard look at our humanity and what we should be, what we’re doing compared to where we should be.  Since then, the entire genre of comic books was launched into the realm of the iconic.  Mythic heroes, angels, gods, superheroes…not just pretty stories for children to love, but these are life’s lessons that we should all be paying far more close attention to, especially considering our modern world.  So those I have mentioned not named or directly created by Stan Lee are included in this legacy, whether DC & other comic companies want to admit it or not.

In fact, at this very moment, hearing and responding to the news, I am watching Captain America: Winter Soldier. Why? Because I have been suffering some bitter crippling depression of late and can barely get out of bed. To help me through it, I have been watching all the Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men & Avengers movies, in order. My students and my ASL education can thank Stan Lee’s legacy for my continued participation in life.

I have only ever cried for the passing of a celebrity once before, and that was Jim Henson, maybe not a father figure, but the man who brought magic & manners into my life. I love you like a father, Stan Lee! And I will miss your cameos more than I probably should. I thank you for my moral compass and my childhood, Stan Lee. Without you I may not have had either. Excelsior!!

Win Passes to the Kansas City Screening of “Second Act”

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at STX Entertainment to give (35) readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see the new film “Second Act” before it opens in Kansas City.

The film will be shown on Tuesday, December 18th at the B&B Overland Park Theatre in Overland Park, Kansas and will begin at 7:00 p.m.

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

Good luck!

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.

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