The Vicious Brothers and Brittany Allen discuss their new film “Extraterrestrial”

Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz make up the duo known as the The Vicious Brothers. They are the dudes behind the found footage cult film “Grave Encounters” and its sequel “Grave Encounters 2”. In there latest film, “Extraterrestrial”, they are taking on aliens this time instead of ghosts. The film stars Daytime Emmy winning actress, Brittany Allen as well as Michael Ironside (“Scanners”, “Starship Troopers”). Media Mikes had a chance to chat again with The Vicious Brothers and the film’s star Brittany Allen to discuss the film and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: You guys tackled ghosts with the “Grave Encounters” films, why aliens next?
Colin Minihan: “Extraterrestrial” was actually the first thing that we have ever written even before “Grave Encounters”. We have always loved anything to do with UFO, aliens and abductions We have thought that no film recently has done justice to the sort of alien abduction concept, so we wanted to take it on.
Stuart Ortiz: I think there has been a lot of B-movies in the last early 2000’s with alien scenarios and they are always really low production value. Why hasn’t anyone ever tried to make a “Cabin in the Woods” movie with younger 20’s and instead of it being a slasher make the slasher an alien. When Stu and I write, we usually lock ourselves up on the remote northern tip of Vancouver Island, which is surrounded by woods. You kind of always wonder when you are in the place like that what else is there. You can feel the fear of what is out there in the sky when you are looking up at the stars. I can’t imagine that aliens don’t exist, so I think since we think it could be real it makes it as scary as ghosts, which I also think exist.

MG: Brittany, how did you come on board this project?
Brittany Allen: I got the script through my agent. As soon as I finished the script, I contacted my reps and said that “This is something different and special”. I felt that they took the genre and did something new with it. It was very refreshing to read a strong female character that had very human emotions that she was working through in the contexts of a horror/sci-fi film. I related instantly to everything about her from her pessimism on love and the journey that she takes throughout the film. I had a really strong feeling about it, so I pushed for it and ended up meeting with the guys over Skype and then I got the part.

MG: You guys have much more visual effects here than your previous films; tell us about how you accomplished such amazing effects in the film?
CM: The visual effects undertaking on the film was massive for the budget we had. Stu and I wanted to make a blockbuster and we only had a million dollars to do it with. So we pushed our visual effects company to the point that every artists probably lost some hair to make the film look as good as it does. It is one of those things that when you work on a low-budget film that doesn’t have a major studio behind it, I think people feel more involved with it since there isn’t a thousand person team working on it. It is more responsibility for less people and having them step up into those roles. There is a ton of CGI in the film. The UFO is completely computer generated. The alien in the film is also completely computer generated. I feel like the level of detail in the alien is really quite something because people are thinking that it is a model or even a practical effect. When Stu and I were making the film, we were torn in wanted to do it practical or not. We are fans of the genre dating back to “John Carpenter’s The Thing” where practical effects were at their height. To do that now, it just wasn’t realistic within our shooting schedule. But I believe it was a great choice and I am very happy with it.

MG: Brittany, you’ve done some sci-fi including “Defiance”; what do you enjoy most about this genre?
BA: I like putting myself in another world. I have a pretty wild imagination and being able to use that to get into these characters. There is a freedom that comes with this and it is a real playfulness in it. It was just a rush too. I remember one night we had like an hour left to shoot and it was like 3am in the morning and we would do this crazy scene running in the woods. We would finish and would be screaming with our adrenaline pumping. So it was a lot of fun.
SO: I want to be in the front of the camera, that sounds like fun [laughs]

MG: Your role was quite demanding, especially in the third act; was it a big challenge for you?
BA: I would say the biggest challenge in those scenes was using this stuff called Ultra Slime. It was lathered all over my body. That was probably the biggest challenge. It is exactly like you would imagine it to be, it was the slimiest, grossest feeling ever. It was a challenge that I really embraced though.
SO: You were covering in that slime for like a whole day
BA: Yeah, there was one day that I was covered in the slime all day and I started to feel cold and uncomfortable.
CM: I remember I got a piece of it on my finger and I was like “Eww, get this off me [laughs].
BA: Afterwards, it felt like it was all over me when it wasn’t anymore. Overall, emotionally those scenes were some of the most fun to shoot.

MG: How was it working with Michael Ironside? And I love the aspect of the aliens being able to controls your minds… Were you tempted to blow up his head like in “Scanners” [laughs]?
SO: Yeah, I think we had that discussion every single day.
CM: Or we could have torn his arms off (ala “Total Recall”) or his legs bitten off (ala “Starship Troopers”). Is there a scene montage of Ironside getting limbs ripped off in his film? I just want to shoot a movie so that we can add just one part to that if so [laughs].
SO: Working with Michael was just great. He is super intense and even though he has been making films for 30 years and been in a ton of movies, he is still super passionate and excited about the work. You never know what to expect when you bring an actor in for a few days of work. We are huge fan boys of Ironside and it was great getting to work with him.
CM: He also had a lot of great ideas for his character that he brought to the table right away. In the film, he is wearing these ridiculous shirts and that was all his idea. So he was just so cool.

MG: This is your third film together; how do you feel that you have matured as directors?
SO: It is funny because “Grave Encounters” is such a completely different film from “Extraterrestrial” in every way. “Grave Encounters” is obviously a found footage movie and meant to focus around amateur footage versus “Extraterrestrial” in which we are trying to achieve a huge epic sci-fi extravaganza influenced by Steven Spielberg. I don’t know if we could have made this film first…maybe. I think that we learned a lot on “Grave Encounters”.
CM: We are both self taught filmmakers. Stu and I have been shooting films since he was was 5 and I was 8, so we have grown up with it. So with “Grave Encounters”, it is a found footage movie, you have to abandon the language of cinema that we potentially thought ourselves and throw the concept of elaborately staging a scene out the window because it would feel fake within the context of a found footage film. So I think with “Extraterrestrial”, it shows more of that classic influence like Stu said Spielberg…Zemeckis, these guys that put the focus on the staging of talent and telling the story with a camera. I am grateful that we got the opportunity to showcase our ability to direct outside of the found footage world. I prefer this type of filmmaking much more.

Interview with Adrenaline Mob’s Russell Allen

Russell Allen is best known for his work as the lead vocalist for the progressive metal group Symphony X. Russell is also the vocalist for the progressive metal super group Adrenaline Mob which along with Allen features Mike Orlando, John Moyer and former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. The group is set to release their first full length album titled “Omerta” in late February. Media Mikes had a chance to speak with Russell about the new album and the bands tour plans.

Adam Lawton: What was the idea behind putting this group together?
Russell Allen: I and Mike Orlando were working on some solo material I had while Symphony X was on break. We were kind of getting burned out on it and Orlando said he had some rock band type material lying around. He was helping me with my thing so I figured I would help him with his. I worked on a few tunes and we got immediate interest from a record company. They wanted to hear another song so we put together some more material and before we knew we had a record. Everything came together really fast. The music just happened. When it came time to put an actual band together I sent my friend Mike Portnoy the material and within 30 seconds he emailed back that he was in. The group really started with the 3 of us. I had already recorded all of the vocals and Portnoy came in and recorded his parts. From there we started looking for guys to put a touring group together.

AL: How does the material on the new album compare to what was on the previous EP?
RA: The stuff on the EP has more of a live/heavier feel. We didn’t put a lot of our melodic oriented material on that release as we saved it for the full length album. We also kept the singles off of that because we were waiting for a label to tell us what they wanted to do with those songs. When we did the EP the band was not even signed yet. The songs on the EP were where the band was at during that time. We needed some songs to go out on as we had a great opportunity to go on the road with Godsmack. “Omerta” is the full realization of the songs on the EP. Everything is mixed and produced the way they were meant to be.

AL: Did you take a different approach to this album as compared to your work with Symphony X?
RA: It’s a totally different approach. There was a way more organic and collaborative approach with myself and Orlando. We worked openly on everything. He and I really hit it off and we have great chemistry together. Symphony X is a different animal. The Symphony X arrangements are very intense. I generally will come in after a majority of the songs are laid out and try to make something out of it all. I always have been very lucky with Symphony X to be able to do that but it’s a challenge. It can be a very tedious process. The songs are very well crafted. Adrenaline Mob is an organic rock band that writes in the moment songs. Adrenalin Mob has been a much different experience.

AL: Is there a track off the album you are really looking forward to playing live?
RA: I am into the live feeling stuff. The song “Feelin’ Me” is one of my favorites.  That song is sort of like my soap box song. I get to jaw about how big brother is always fucking everyone over. That song seems to really get the audience going.

AL: What are the touring plans for the group?
RA: We are trying to put something together for the U.S. in the spring to support the album’s release. We currently do have some summer shows booked in Europe for late June. We obviously want to put together a solid late summer tour. We have also looked at trying to get on a U.S. festival tour. We really are still putting our schedule together and trying to find where we will best fit in.

DVD Review “Woody Allen: A Documentary”

Director: Robert Weide
Starring: Woody Allen, Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Penelope Cruz, Larry David, Mia Farrow, Diane Keaton, John Cusack
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Distributed by: New Video
Run Time: 195 minutes

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

This film is really an absolute complete look into the career of Woody Allen. It starts during his teenage years writing jokes for comics and local papers to working for Sid Caesar to doing standup comedian to his writer-director career. In that last career he has averaged one film each year for more than 40 years. If you are fan of Woody Allen this is a great tribute to his amazing career and if you don’t know Allen this is a great place to start.

In this very extensive look his films we get everything covered from his early films “Take the Money and Run” and “Bananas” to the favorites like “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” to his latest critical and commercial successful films like “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Midnight in Paris”. “Midnight” was easily my favorite film of 2011 and re-sparked my interest in his films. I thought I knew quite a lot of his films but I felt myself learning so much about Woody Allen and his work from watching this.

Besides Woody Allen himself, I would like to list just some of his people who contribute new interviews for this documentary: Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Penelope Cruz, John Cusack, Larry David, Mariel Hemingway, Scarlett Johansson, Julie Kavner, Diane Keaton, Martin Landau, Louise Lasser, Sean Penn, Tony Roberts, Chris Rock, Mira Sorvino, Naomi Watts, Dianne Wiest, and Owen Wilson and many others. They all provide great back story into their experience of working with Woody.

The special features on this film are really great and plentiful. If the 3.5 hour film is not long enough for you, there are more extended deleted scenes and interviews. Woody Allen goes around Brooklyn reminiscing more about his neighbors, dating and the local movie theater; Mariel Hemingway talks about Allen’s meeting her family and the story behind Allen’s 1966 debut in The New Yorker are all among the scenes included. Lastly, there is a fast and fun Q&A between Allen and director Robert Weide.

Interview with Allen Haff & Ton Jones

Allen Haff & Ton Jones are the stars of Spike TV’s “Auction Hunters”.  The show is beginning its third season on July 19th with 26 new episodes.  You may not think that buying and digging through storage units is entertaining but these guys are fantastic and make this show one of the best on television.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Allen & Ton about their latest season and their love for what they do.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you guys meet and how did this show become?
Ton Jones: Allen and I were working the auction circuit for years now. Back in the day we were actually competition. We used to go head to head and battle each other out for storage units that we both liked. After beating our heads against each other for so long, we started talking like everyone does in the storage industry. We started finding out what each other likes and I noticed that he was interested in different stuff than I was. We decided that while digging, I came across a bunch of stuff I didn’t not know about that I wanted Allen to try and help me with. So he would help me sell some stuff that I was back stocked on and also vice versa. I would help him get rid of some stuff that he was back stocked on. We both realized we had a vast knowledge of different areas of the auction buying industry. Through years of competition, we decided it was better we worked together and make even more money.

MG: There is a big difference being watching a show and enjoying a show, you guys take a task of storage unit digging and turn it into a hell of an entertaining show, tell us about that process?
TJ: Thank you, well we have a lot of fun. It is easier for us to make a great show due to the team that we work with, they are awesome. But at the same time we each have a blast working together. We make everyday as fun as possible it is not really work when you are doing something that you love. You get to hang out with a buddy, cause trouble, goof off and joke around day in and day out at different locations all around the US. [laughs] And we give each other plenty of crap all the time.
Allen Haff: I can’t believe it, Ton and I have have some nice moments. We had a lot of high fives when the camera weren’t rolling and now they are actually paying us to do this on-camera. Here is the really cool thing…they edit out the really bad moments. So we look like rock stars. The magic of editing is a beautiful thing because I tell you…I buy some really crappy rooms at times. I am trying to say it in the nicest possible way. Ton and I many times have picked some real stinkers. We know now that when we are in the middle of the stinker…we just walk away. In the old days we would have to stick around spend a day unloading the garbage and then spend the next time trying to sell that garbage. Now Ton and I can just turn and burn…and we do. Our whole philosophy is the more money we make the more units we can buy and the better chances we have to hit it big. We do get some big ones but thanks to the magic of editing you do not see all of the bad ones.

MG: How many digs do you have to do to complete to fill a season?
AH: We do hundreds. We wasted some serious tape in the first season because we were trying to please the station since we had cameras there and we thought maybe we should buy some stuff we normally wouldn’t have bought. We threw a lot of money in the garbage can…especially in the first season. The truth is that Ton and I really do not lose money anymore. We got to that point where our strategy and structure of what we do is solid. We got reinforcements we have to come in and sell our stuff and get our money back. We do not lose money…at least not like we used to. For us it is all about buying the hundred rooms…cause when we buy a hundred, our percentage does not lie. We are going to have twenty killer rooms in that hundred. When we first started you’ll have four horrible rooms in a row, and you are thinking about quitting…but it’s worth it for the fifth one if you stick around. Once you have bought enough winners. It is weird, but you can see a winner coming down Main Street. If you know the signs when looking at a storage unit, then it is like playing cards with x-ray glasses on and that is the only way I can describe it. It is not gambling for Ton and I anymore, we know what the cards are.

MG: I read that season three will consist of 26 episodes, compared to the 8 of season one and 9 of season two, tell us about the huge jump?
AH: We are currently finishing up these 26 episodes right now. The idea that we are going to get to travel and go to some places we would normally have to pay to go on vacation…I wanna pinch myself. I can’t believe they are paying us to do it. I think in this season you will see a couple of guys who really know their business in Southern California being thrust into new environments and maybe a few places they should’t have went to. Maybe a few of these places aren’t going to welcome us with open arms. So I would not put the money on the visitors for this one…I will put the money on the home team. These guys know their business and they know their units.  They are going to work together and they are not going to like the outsiders coming in on their turf. I think it is going to be an interesting test. Honestly, if I can just get out of Alaska alive…I will consider that a win [laughs].

MG: I also hear word about a live episode for this season, what can you tell us?
AH: I do not want to disappoint anybody but we work live all the time. I do not know that it will be too much different for us except you might hear a few four letter words from Ton and maybe even from me if I get really excited. I think it will really put the pressure on.  I would really like to choose my live moments, cause let’s face it with the magic of editing…we are now taking that away. There is no safety net. I just hope that it is not a Geraldo Rivera moment. Nine times out of ten, we open up that antique trunk up and guess what is in it…drug paraphilia and as Ton likes to say…
TJ: It’s Christmas porn and George Foreman grills [laughs].
AH: So if that is your idea of live then you have to tune in to see it.  So if we buy the right unit something in there is going to worth our time.

MG: How often do you come across characters like “Chicago Charles” in your work?
AH: That guy looked like Theodore Huxtable, one of my mentors Bill Cosby. He even had the Cosby sweater on. I have never seen a guy talk so much trash. I would have not have picked him to be the real problem at the auction, but man when it came time to buy he was the guy. He was a smart cookie. It is guys like that that make this business really hard. Every single town we go to has a guy like that or worse.

MG: What would you say is one of the coolest items you have found? Weirdest?
TJ: Just imagine that we go through hundreds of storage units a month and anything and everything you can ever imagine that is embarrassing, gross, upsetting, disturbing or funny is in there. It is amazing to go through a lady’s dresser inside the storage unit, you will find reading materials, the Bible…and wow a twelve inch dildo [laughs]. That brings new meaning to the word, her time [laughs]. You go through someone jewelry chest and find their false teeth. Some of these storage units also aren’t 100% sealed. So we will be going through a box and opening something up and out jumps a huge rat in your rat and you near crap yourself cause it just ran down your arm and across the storage unit. We have come across everything. Some units you open up something or move something and you see a leg. You have this moment of sheer panic that there is a body in there and it turns out to be a prosthetic limb. It is insanity. We have so much fun. It is hilarious and disturbing at the same time. Good times.
AH: Ton and I sometimes see things different, which translate pretty well on TV. To speak in your vernacular Mike, I would say that our show is like 50% buddy comedy, 30% horror film, 0% rom-com, and the rest action. Everyday we go into the gladiator pit and battle it out with other guys that think they are best in the business. Just because they don’t have TV shows doesn’t mean that they are aren’t good, because they are good. It is very exciting and you can never relax on our show. When I start to feel comfortable, I disturb myself because I don’t like it. I want to be working hard and always alert.

MG: How you ever found something that you just had to keep?
AH: Let me just say if it was up to Ton, he would keep every single type of gun. We joke, I never met a storage unit I didn’t like and Ton has never met a gun he doesn’t like…ever. One the agreements we made before the camera ever came around was that we would sell the guns. We did a pretty good job of that for a few years but now we are at a point where if he will not get another chance to buy that gun again, then he keeps it. That doesn’t always make for good TV though. But don’t worry because let me tell you that guy has some arsenal [laughs]. He also knows that if there is something that has my name on it and looks like it belongs in “Happy Days” Al’s diner…then it is going in Al’s diner. He wants me to have those things and I want him to have his things. If we take the love of what we do out and make it all about the money…this is not a very interesting business. It is about stories for us and the history. So we definitely keep some stuff but like I said it doesn’t always make for good TV. Let me just tell you though…our houses are the bomb!

Interview with Corey Allen Jackson

Corey Allen Jackson is a versatile composer whose work to date spans from animation to thriller/horror genre to video games. He has also composed music for numerous projects film and television. He recently completed work on the remake of the 1978 horror classic, “I Spit on Your Grave”. MovieMikes had a chance to ask Corey a few questions about some of his projects.

Click here to purchase Corey’s music

Mike Gencarelli: Where did you find inspiration for “I Spit on Your Grave” remake score? Did you look back to the original?
Corey Allen Jackson: The original “I Spit on Your Grave” did not have a score so I was relieved because I know the purists would be listening closely if that where the case. I knew I wanted to set a mood, that didn’t get in the way, but was influenced at times by Bartok, Pendereski. I watched the movie several times and was asked to score the opening sequence to get my take on the film. My visceral reaction to the film is what I put down in score and molded to the filmmakers intentions. I thought it should be dark and lonely not too terrifying until the brutality started. I tried to go balls out when Jennifer starts her revenge. It was a lot of fun to do.

MG: How did you get involved working with Bill Plympton?
CAJ: I sent Bill a demo about 7 or 8 years ago. I did not hear anything back for a while and so I kind of forgot that I had sent it. About a year later, I was on vacation when I get this call on my cell and it’s Bill Plympton. He said that there was a track on my demo that he wanted to use on his film “Hair High”. I said great and we’ve worked together ever since. I just received word this morning that out latest collaboration for the short film “The Cow that Wanted to Be a Hamburger”; is up for an Oscar. I believe that another collaboration “Idiots and Angels” has made the short-list for the animated feature category.

MG: Tell us about working on Alexia Anatasio’s documentary about Bill Plympton called “Adventures in Plymptoons”?
CAJ: Alexia contacted me sometime last year and asked to interview me for the doc she was making about Bill. I arrived at the studio where they were filming the interviews and the background was green screen. She explained that Bill would be animating our interviews. I have been anxiously waiting to see her doc ever since.

MG: In the film “Complacent”, you not only did the score but also produced; tell us how that happened and what it was like?
CAJ: I cannot remember how the conversation started, but I think I was playing gin rummy with my dad and the conversation turned to us making a film “Someday”. He had recently sold his business of almost 25 years and was looking for something to do. Sometime later at a holiday party at director Steven Monroe’s we started talking about it. He had a pile of scripts he wrote and wanted to direct. In another life I had business experience but this was really unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It was very stressful, but at the same time rewarding. It is a miracle that it ever got made. Afterwards I started to look around at pictures coming out, especially the independents, and thought to myself, “These people really have to love what they do to keep them going from start to finish.” There is nothing glorifying about it. No one get’s rich from it. It’s a “roll-up-your sleeves” job. I have a newly found respect for these people.

MG: Tell us about your role of synth programmer on “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore”?
CAJ: I would basically take the cues from the composer and would perform mock-ups, arrangements and production on the cues.

MG: Do you find the process very different working on movies to video games?
CAJ: It really depends on film and the game, but on the games I’ve worked on I had the opportunity to open up a bit more and flex the composer muscle a bit. In films you HAVE to be subservient to the story, dialog, everything. During game play you do have direction but it’s a bit less restrictive. Both are great to do and equally have their own advantages and disadvantages. I love writing to picture, but a game now and then is fun.

Click here to purchase Corey’s music