Blu-ray Review "The Men Who Built America"

Directed by: Patrick Reams, Ruán Magan
Actors: Justin Morck, Eric Rolland, Adam Jonas Segaller, Alex Falberg, Michael Chmiel
Rated: Unrated
Studio: A&E Home Video
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Run Time: 360 minutes

Series: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

This mini-series original aired on History as an eight-hour, four-part miniseries. The series focuses on Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan and Henry Ford and how they…take a guess…built America. This series is arriving on a 3-disc Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. This series is nice blend of dramatic recreation with plenty of learning factor as well. History really delivers a very entertaining series here and even though it is eight hours, I literally almost had to watch this series in one sitting. It keep you completely enthralled and actually has great reply value. This is a must for History buffs.

Official Premise: The Men Who Built America™ tells the story of those that played a significant role in the shaping of this country. From Carnegie, Morgan, Rockefeller, Vanderbilt and Ford, the epic mini-series looks at how these individuals took a nation decaying from the Civil War into the greatest economic and technological superpower the world has ever seen. The Men Who Built America™ is the story of a nation at its crossroads and of the people who catapulted it to prosperity.

The first episode is called “A New War Begins” follows Cornelius Vanderbilt as takes over the railroad empire. It also shows the rise of John D. Rockefeller and as he founds Standard Oil. The second, “Bloody Battles”, focuses on Andrew Carnegie as his builds his steel empire and his struggles between Henry Frick. The third, “Changing the Game”, follows J.P. Morgan as his goes forward with the direct current electric light of Thomas Edison and faces competition from George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. The last episode is called “When One Ends, Another Begins” and it focuses around Rockefeller, Carnegie and Morgan as they team up to help elect William McKinley as US President. Of course due to assassination it falls to Theodore Roosevelt. Morgan buys out Carnegie Steel. Henry Ford founds the Model T and starts his own business, Ford Motor Company.

History is known for consistently delivering many impressive Blu-ray presentations. The 1080p transfer really looks sharp and really shows the amount of scale that this series brings forward. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 also works really well. The special features are actually quite impressive for a mini-series. Normally a show like this would not come with any additional footage but this series does not skimp out. There are seven featurettes included on this release including “From Richer to Richer”, “The American Dream”, “Monopoly”, “Competitive Nature”, “The Every Man”, “The Rise of Cornelius Vanderbilt” and “Traits of a Titan”. If you are a fan of this series when it aired on History last Fall, I would highly recommend this Blu-ray just for the extras.

 

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DVD Review “2016: Obama’s America”

Directed by: Dinesh D’Souza, John Sullivan
Starring: Dinesh D’Souza
Distributed by: Lionsgate
MPAA Rating: PG
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Running time: 89 minutes

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

It is rare that a documentary makes this big of a splash. With 2012 being a Presidential election year, it is not unexpected though. Back in 2004, Michael Moore released “Fahrenheit 9/11”, which didn’t shine light well on George Bush. “2016: Obama’s America” is Dinesh D’Souza’s attempt to show the unknown story of Obama. It is like a repeat of 2004 for me personally, except this time I am on the other-side of the table. The film has grossed over $30 million at the box office, so it has this hype behind it but I wasn’t going for it at all. Having voted for Obama myself back in 2004, and will again in 2012, even though the film is anti-Obama I still thought I would give it a shot. I wasn’t looking to be converted to the “dark side”, just curious to see his points.  Let’s just say that 89 minutes felt like over 3 hours.

Official Premise: Immersed in exotic locales across four continents, best-selling author Dinesh D’Souza races against time to find answers to Obama’s past and reveal where America will be in 2016. During this journey he discovers how “Hope” and “Change” became radically misunderstood, and identifies new flashpoints for hot wars in mankind’s greatest struggle. The journey moves quickly over the arc of the old colonial empires, into America’s empire of liberty, and we see the unfolding realignment of nations and the shape of the global future.

The film is based on the New York Times best seller by Dinesh D’Souza, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage”, who is a former staffer for President Ronald Reagan and member of the American Enterprise Institute. I may not agree with Dinesh’s speculation about where America may be four years from now if President Obama is re-elected but he isn’t really bashing our president just providing his views focusing on the negative angles.  Love it or hate it.  Everyone is able to have their own opinions and this is expected around election time.  The DVD was obviously rushed from theaters and released to be timed with events this November comes completely bare-bones with no extra content at all. It also is only available on DVD, no Blu-ray. This will definitely find a market within the conservative parties but will not appeal to any supporters of our current President.

Blu-ray Review “How to Make It in America: The Complete Second Season”

Created by: Ian Edelman
Starring: Bryan Greenberg, Victor Rasuk, Luis Guzman, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Shannyn Sossamon, and Kid Cudi
Distributed by: HBO Home Entertainment
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Running Time: 260 minutes

Season: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Since HBO hit it big with “Sex and the City”, they have been ever trying to recreate that magic. This show was one of those attempts, it is not the strongest but also not the worst. Season two of this half-hour comedy continues to follow on the urban adventures of Ben (Bryan Greenberg) an aspiring designer and Cam (Victor Rasuk), Ben’s best friend. The cast is definitely impressive led by Bryan Greenberg, Victor Rasuk, Shannyn Sossamon, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Luis Guzman, and Kid Cudi. Since the show is very character based, each actor really embraces their role.

If you are a fan of this show though, don’t hold your breath for more since it was canceled in December of 2011 following the end of this season. Though Mark Wahlberg, who is the Executive producer said in an interview shortly after that the show may return on another network.

On television the show might be presented in HD but only 1080i, so the show does look a lot better it is full HD 1080p presentation. It also sounds fantastic with its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, though since its a comedy it doesn’t push the barrier. The special features on this release are a little light but. There are three audio commentaries tracks included from various members of the show. There are also two featurettes including “3 Days Downtown” and “Inside the Series”, both have cast/crew interviews and a look a the production.

Film Review “Battlefield America”

Directed by: Chris Stokes
Starring: Gary Sturgis, Tristen M. Carter, Marques Houston, Kida Burns, Zach Balandres, Camren Bicondova, Edward Mandell, Kyle Brooks
Studio: Brian and Barrett Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 103 minutes

Our Score: 1 out of 5 stars

It is really rare that I have trouble finishing a film. Well let’s just say that “Battlefield America” was one of those films. I have seen “You Got Served” and enjoyed it quite a bit…it is hard to believe that this is from the same people. There has been many dance films to follow like the “Step Up” series, which I also love. But this one isn’t even in the same boat as those.  This is a kids version of “You Got Served, but even though kids are the focus but there is no way I would let my young kids see this film.

The film focuses on a young businessman who get sentenced to community service for getting in trouble with the law by only following his own rules. Not sure how but he goes from businessman to dance teacher but he ends up being a mentor and coach to a group of misfit kids and getting them into a underground dance competition.

Marques Houston, best known for his role in the TV series “Sister, Sister”, didn’t really fit in this film. His role in “You Got Served” was more interesting to watch. I wish they would have made the film more about dance and less his relationship and work ethics. When the film had dance scenes, they were fantastic but they were WAY too far and few between. If the film would have played the way it did after the opening scene, this would have turned out a whole lot different.  While watching this, I recall looking at the clock and expected this to be almost over and instead found out that it still had 40 minutes.  If you like dance films, you will be better off missing this one and save yourself two hours you won’t get back.

“The Lorax” Helps Celebrate Read Across America 2012

March 2, 2012 – The New York Public Library was filled with Truffala trees this morning in celebration of the kickoff of Read Across America 2012 and the release of The Lorax on Dr. Seuss’ 108th Birthday.

Three hundred NYC public school children, dressed in bright orange Lorax shirts and his trademark yellow mustache, were treated to a reading of the original Dr. Seuss classic by the film’s stars Danny DeVito and Zac Efron at the event hosted by the National Education Association (NEA).

Since 1998, Read Across America has motivated kids of all ages to continue reading every day as research shows those children who do so wind up becoming better students at school. DeVito, who plays the Lorax himself, spoke at the event about the importance of reading at home, “We should encourage youngsters and their parents, and their aunts, their uncles, grandfathers, to read to them. And let them read to you. It’s a really great way to broaden your horizons and it’s a stepping stone to a better life.”

In addition to a reading of The Lorax, the audience got a sneak peak at the film which opened today. In it Efron plays Ted, a 12-year old boy who sets out to impress his dream girl Audrey (played by Taylor Swift) by finding her a real live tree. There are no more where they live, and in flashbacks we learn of the Lorax who had fought to save them. DeVito recalled another one of his movies when talking about the story’s positive environmental message: “I did a movie called Death to Smoochy and Smoochy was a very big environmentalist and he used to say when they were commercializing him, ‘You can’t save the world,’ one person can’t save the world, ‘but you could make a dent!’ You know? You can really start it. So one boy or girl or adult or anybody who just clicks in and thinks, ‘I can make a difference, I can shut the lights in the house, I can plant seeds, nurture the garden. I could take care of other people…’ You take from the Earth, you take from each other, but you give back. It’s a two way street.”

The curious students at the library were also given the chance to ask questions of the two cheerful actors, such as:

Third Grader: How do you make the characters look so real?
DeVito: Okay, well the first thing we do is we read the script. Zac and I read the script…and we perform in front of a video camera the way we read the lines.
Zac Efron: Then they take all the crazy things that he does when he reads his lines–
DeVito: And he does!
Efron: He gets really crazy when he reads his lines.
DeVito: And then they use those to draw with the computer and they try to capture the movements of the actors in the movie, so it looks real.

Third Grader: How do you think Dr. Seuss came up with The Lorax?
DeVito: Well I think that Dr Seuss wrote this book forty years ago and it’s still current and going on today because he probably–I’m just guessing now–he probably was looking around at what was going on in the world and saying a lot of people are doing certain things like taking the rain forests down and wasting things…and what he was looking for was a champion. The trees can’t speak, they have no voice, so he was looking for somebody to be the speaker for the trees and a champion for the trees…I think that’s where it all comes from, The Lorax. And then he just figured it couldn’t be a Lorax going out speaking for the trees, but it needs to be a human being…who cares enough for the trees.

Third Grader: Why is the Lorax so hairy?
Devito: Well the thing about it, in the forest even though it looks like it’s always summer, sometimes it gets a little cold. And that’s why he has the mustache and all the fur on. He also does live down underground, under that stump, so it’s pretty chilly at night down there. Especially when he’s eating, he likes to keep his mouth warm!

At the conclusion of the event, all of the students recited the NEA’s Read Across America Pledge and the costumed Lorax character joined NYC’s PS 22 chorus in performing the song “Let it Grow.”

You can read more about Read Across America, including the NEA’s Lorax Student Earth Day, at their website: www.nea.org/readacross

All article photos by Mike Sonesen

Interview with America Olivio

America Olivio is known for your roles in recent films like the remake of “Friday the 13th” and “Bitch Slap”. She also has recent work on Broadway’s “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” and is starring in the upcoming film “No One Lives”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with America about her work and what is coming up next.

MG: How did you get involved with the “Friday The 13th” remake?
AO: I got involved last minute which seems to be the case a lot of the time. Someone had been fired off the production and I received the call while I was working on “Bitch Slap”. There was still some work to be done on “Bitch Slap” and I was exhausted. I wasn’t really interested in being in “Friday the 13th Part 25” (Laughs) I was told no this was completely different and it was a fresh start for the franchise. I was just so tired but I said ok. As I read the script I really enjoyed it. I was wrapped early on “Bitch Slap” and then was immediately off to shoot in Aspen.

MG: Can you tell us about your role in “Bitch Slap”?
AO: That film took two years off my life for sure! I had the crap beat out of me. I am very proud of that film. It was definitely one of the hardest things I have done but also the most rewarding. We all were having fun but it was very difficult to pull off. Everyone involved in the project was there for the love of the project not the money. We shot in the middle of the Mojave Desert which was super cold in the morning and extremely hot during the day. I feel stronger from a lot of the stuff I learned on that shoot.

MG: Do you enjoy playing the “kick ass” female roles?
AO: Of course! No one wants to play the girlfriend/mom role. Strong women roles are not easy to come by. It was nice to get the opportunity that I got working on “Bitch Slap”.

MG: You do some of your own stunts correct?
AO: I do some of the stunts on normal films. (Laughs)  The real hardcore stuff I like to leave up to the pros. I don’t profess to be a stunt person as I haven’t had that training but I do try and do as much as I can. You really have to tip your hat to the pros

MG: Do you prefer working in one genre more than another?
AO: I like to work in the good genre. I like good projects. Not everything you read on a page turns out the way you envisioned it. I strive for projects that meet mine and the other people working on the project’s vision. I don’t really care what genre a project falls in as long as it’s something that is challenging to me and the people behind it have good intentions.

MG: What can you tell us about working on “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” on Broadway?
AO: That was another learning experience. I got to do a lot of wire work. Scott Rogers designed my rig. I was one of the first few people that got to try this harness that was specifically design for this production. The only way I can describe it is it was like riding in the front of Space Mountain but while singing. I was there for nine months and it was really great.

Mike Gencarelli: What can you tell us about your film “No One Lives”?
America Olivio: We shot that in Louisiana and it stars Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens and Derek Magyar. It was directed by Ryuhel Kitamura who also directed “Midnight Meat Train”. He was amazing to work with. He has just a great eye for horror graphics. It’s an intense film about a group of thieves who have a kidnapping go wrong. The film is very different and the kills featured in the film are very unique. It was a lot of fun.

MG: What are you currently working on and or have coming out?
AO: “No One Lives” of course will be coming out as well as a film I did titled “Conception”. Both will be coming out sometime in 2012. I also will be appearing on “NCIS: Los Angeles”.

DVD Review “Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy- Volume 1”

Starring: Larry the Cable Guy
Episodes: 10 out of 20 episodes
Running time: 376 minutes
Original channel: History Channel

Volume 1: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Something about Larry the Cable Guy is like a car accident…you can’t look away. No matter how corny or stupid he may be, he is damn entertaining. This show is funny and is also very informative. In the series, Larry travels America as he experiences different lifestyles, jobs and hobbies. that occur “only in America”. It is sort of like “Dirty Jobs” except the hillbilly version. I really enjoyed this series and Larry the Cable Guy is a good show host.

Here is just some of the things that Larry does on this season…Larry Makes Moonshine, Larry Goes to the Swamp, Larry Shoots Guns/Larry Gets the Horns, Larry Breeds Mules, Larry Races Dogs, Larry Gits a Gator, Larry Goes Trucking, Larry Is an Astronaut, Larry Rides with the Hells Angels and Larry Deep Fries Everything.

Larry seems to make fun of all these different lifestyles, jobs or hobbies but he does really seem to enjoy them overall. What I like about this volume of episodes the most is that there are no commercials, opening or ending credits. What this means is each disc, for a total of two, is just one 2 hour and 51 minute episode. It is work well when re-watching the series and make it feel like you are watching less and just keep watching.  I look forward to volume two of this season and hopefully season two.

Film Review “Captain America: The First Avenger”

Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 2 hours 5 mins
Paramount

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

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Finally! After years of teasing and Samuel L. Jackson cameos, the “Avengers” movie is almost ready. We just needed to meet the one that started it all. And here he is. Ladies and gentlemen, standing a robust 5’ tall and weighing a whopping 120 pounds, I give you “Captain America!” But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In what appears to be present day Antarctica, a discovery has been made. A large item is buried in the ice. When a team is lowered inside, they come across a lot of frost and a large metal disc emblazoned with a single star. Hmmm. Jump back to Norway in 1942. In a near empty castle lies a secret. A secret that Adolph Hitler wants for himself. However, while the fuehrer’s men are “out in the desert looking for religious artifacts” (a nice “Raiders of the Lost Ark” reference, thank you very much), one of his most treacherous henchmen searches for that secret: the Cosmic Cube, one of the most powerful jewels of Odin and seen briefly during the afore-mentioned Samuel L. Jackson cameo earlier this year in “Thor.” Said henchman, Johann Schmidt (Weaving) has another name in Hitler’s Third Reich: the Red Skull. Meanwhile, in New York City, Steve Rogers (Evans) is attempting, for the fourth time, to enlist in the Army. Due to his slight frame and penchant for attracting practically every ailment known to man, Steve is classified 4F, making him unsuitable for military service. This is upsetting to Steve whose best friend, James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is heading off to Europe to battle the Nazis. A chance meeting with Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci) gives Steve one more chance, a chance that changes the course of the war for good.

Like “Spider-Man” and “Thor” before it, “Captain America: The First Avenger” is the story of a genuinely good man thrust into something he doesn’t fully comprehend. In order to serve his country, Steve agrees to be part of an experiment being conducted by Dr. Erskine and Colonel Phillips (Jones). Unknown to Rogers, Herr Schmidt was also a guinea pig for Dr. Erskine, with less than spectacular results. That’s why they call him the Red Skull!

As the final piece of the “Avengers” puzzle, “Captain America” is a film that keeps the audience up to date on the upcoming “Avengers” film. Colonel Phillips and Dr. Erskine have a third partner in their work, military defense specialist Howard Stark, better known as Tony (Iron Man) Stark’s father. Steve is told that Schmidt’s experiment was a failure because of the man involved. The experiment is triggered by what you are as a person. “Good people become great,” he’s told. “Bad people become worse.” Indeed. After the experiment Steve, whose unscheduled chasing of a Nazi spy gains him the cover of most newspapers, is swept off by a local congressman to dress up as the highly patriotic “Captain America” and sell war bonds. The gig works until Steve is sent to entertain a unit overseas. This is Bucky’s unit, and Steve learns that 80% of the men in the unit have been presumed dead. Not believing this, Steve dons his bond selling suit and heads out to comic book immortality.

As directed by Joe Johnston, who has helmed popular fanboy films including “The Rocketeer” and “The Wolfman,” “Captain America: The First Avenger” is a comic book truly brought to life. The heroes are colorful, the villains are nasty and the gadgets most impressive. The cast does a fine job of giving life to their characters, making them more then 2D drawings on a page. Evans, who has gone down the super hero route before in “The Fantastic Four” films, gives Steve a quiet humanity that is needed to make the character believable. He truly IS a good man. Weaving, his face recalling Harry Potter’s Lord Voldermort with a bad sun burn, is commanding as the man who believes he and he alone is meant to rule the world. The supporting cast handle their roles well, especially a group that Steve rescues who form an almost “Hogan’s Heroes” like band of merry men. The special effects are well done, as are the many battle scenes between “Cap” and the Red Skulls’ toadies. Though not the best of the “Avenger” films, it’s certainly not the worse.

Visit Dunkin’ Donuts 7/22 To Support Florida’s USO & “Captain America”

In support of tomorrow’s opening of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, Dunkin’ Donuts has partnered with the USO throughout Florida to support our troops at home and abroad.

At seven Dunkin’ Donuts locations throughout the state of Florida, fans are being encouraged to stop by their local store and sign a giant THANK YOU card in support of America’s troops. In exchange for signing the card, the first few hundred people will receive a special gift courtesy of Dunkin’ Donuts. At the end of the events, the cards will be shipped off to the Greater Jacksonville USO (Florida’s only USO) for distribution to the troops.

At select locations throughout the state, there will also be other special events taking place, like our very own CAPTAIN AMERICA stopping by the store to take photos with fans or the local National Guard bringing a some of their toys down and personally thanking everyone for their support.

Please see below all of the exact details throughout the state:
JACKSONVILLE (two locations) 7 to 10 a.m. – Free star shaped donuts per location to the first 100 who sign the USO card
– 2158 Mayport Rd., Atlantic Beach
– 5555 Roosevelt Blvd., Jacksonville

MIAMI – 10am to 1pm. – Free star shaped donut to first 250 to sign USO card
– 901 West State Road 84, Ft. Lauderdale

ORLANDO – (two locations) 7 to 10 a.m. – Free Dunkin Donuts/Captain America gift bags to first 200 and 100 star shaped donuts per location to those who sign the USO card
– 4510 W State Road 46, Sanford FL 32771 9009
– 1935 East Osceola Pkwy, Buena Ventura Lakes FL 34743

TAMPA – 7 to 10 a.m. – Free Star shaped donut to first 300 to sign the card
– 22722 State Road 54, Lutz, FL 33549

WEST PALM BEACH – 10am – 1pm. – Free Captain America Tri-Cups with the purchase of any beverage to the first 100 people, in addition to star shape donuts to the first 250 to sign the USO card
– 5401 N Military Trail Riviera Beach, FL

“Midnight in Paris” Becomes Woody Allen’s Highest Grossing Film of All Time in North America

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS BECOMES WOODY ALLEN’S HIGHEST GROSSING FILM OF ALL TIME IN NORTH AMERICA

NEW YORK, NY (JULY 17, 2011) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that MIDNIGHT IN PARIS has become Woody Allen’s highest grossing film of all time in North America.  MIDNIGHT IN PARIS has grossed $41,792,695 to date. This is Allen’s 42nd feature film that he has written and directed and his 4th film with Sony Pictures Classics.

Sony Pictures Classics’ upcoming releases include THE GUARD; HIGHER GROUND; RESTLESS; TAKE SHELTER; THE SKIN I LIVE IN; CARNAGE; and A DANGEROUS METHOD.

ABOUT SONY PICTURES CLASSICS

Michael Barker and Tom Bernard serve as co-presidents of Sony Pictures Classics—an autonomous division of Sony Pictures Entertainment they founded with Marcie Bloom in January 1992, which distributes, produces, and acquires independent films from around the world.

Barker and Bernard have released prestigious films that have won 27 Academy Awards® (23 of those at Sony Pictures Classics) and have garnered 114 Academy Award® nominations (93 at Sony Pictures Classics) including Best Picture nominations for AN EDUCATION, CAPOTE, HOWARDS END, AND CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON.