Film Review: “Birds of Passage”

Starring: Carmiña Martinez, José Acosta
Directed by: Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra
Rated: Unrated
Running Time: 125 minutes
The Orchard

Operating with dangerous impunity from roughly 1976-93, the infamous Medellín Cartel of Colombia was once among the most powerful and notorious drug trafficking organizations in the Western Hemisphere. While it is hard to tell how much is fact, or fiction, the Colombian entry in this year’s Academy Awards, “Birds of Passage,” which did not make the final cut of five, does take us back to the humble origins of the drug trade in the years just prior to the Medellín Cartel’s savage rise. From the late 1960s to the late 1970s, “Birds of Passage” paints an intriguing, although uninspired picture of the native Wayuu people and how a desire to pay for a dowry turned into a bloodbath heated by blind revenge.

If you have never heard of them, the Wayuu are a Native American people from the Guajira Peninsula, straddling northern Columbia and northwestern Venezuela. Unlike many other native groups, the Wayuu were never fully conquered by the Spanish thanks in large part to their adaptation of using guns and horses. Their indomitable spirit is still reflected in the matrilineal society we are introduced to in the late 1960s when Zaida (Natalia Reyes, who is set to co-star in “Terminator: Dark Fate”), the daughter of protective clan leader Úrsula (Carmiña Martínez), is ceremoniously presented as being ready for marriage.

Rapayet (José Acosta) is a single man who announces his desire to marry Zaida through a “word messenger.” However, the dowry is steep. While contemplating his quandary, the unemotional Rapayet and his friend Moisés (Jhon Narváez) encounter some American Peace Corps members who are looking to score weed to take back to the United States. Rapayet seizes the opportunity and convinces his older cousin Aníbal (Juan Bautista Martínez) to harvest some whacky weed for the gringos. Not only do the profits allow him to pay the dowry, much to the chagrin of Úrsula who disapproves of Rapayet, but they also provide everyone involved a way to become filthy rich.

Greed begets power and power begets violence as Rapayet’s influence grows, but a pivotal moment involving the hot-headed Moisés has vicious repercussions for years to come. Additionally, the ancient traditions of Úrsula’s clan come under increasing attack from the new times they live in. It all comes to a bloody head that is reminiscent of something straight out of “The Godfather,” “Scarface,” or virtually any other organized crime-type of drama. And that’s a major problem with the film.

Directed by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, who previously worked together on the 2015 drama “Embrace of the Serpent,” “Birds of Passage” does contain a terrific, Shakespearean tragedy at its core. It is saddening to witness the meteoric rise and epic downfall of both a family and an ancient culture all at the hands of the illegal drug trade. However, it’s boringly predictable and the characters are stereotypes. Furthermore, the acting varies between being wooden and over-the-top with pacing that is sluggish at times. Take a pass on “Birds of Passage.”

Tippi Hedren reflects on “Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds” and her foundation

It’s the classic story of being in the right place at the right time. Newly moved to California in 1961, Tippi Hedren appeared in a television commercial that caught the eye of one of the most acclaimed filmmakers in history: Alfred Hitchcock. “Hitch” tracked Ms. Hedren down and cast her as Melanie Daniels in his classic film “The Birds.” She worked with him again alongside Sean Connery in “Marnie.” More than five decades later she continues to work, both on screen and in her continuing fight to stop the breeding of big cats through her THE ROAR FOUNDATION. And talent runs in the family. Her daughter, Melanie Griffith, is an Oscar-nominated actress and her granddaughter, Dakota Johnson, will star in the highly anticipated film version of “50 Shades of Grey.”

As she prepared for her upcoming appearance in Omaha this week at a charity screening of “The Birds” Ms. Hedren took some time to speak with me about the event and her foundation.

Mike Smith: You’re originally from Minnesota. Will this be your first visit to Nebraska?
Tippi Hedren: Not at all. I’ve been there before and I’m looking forward to returning and taking part in the festivities.

MS: How did you get the name “Tippi?”
TH: My father gave it to me. My baptismal name is Nathalie Kay Hedren and that was quite much for a little tiny girl. My father, who was of Swedish descent, started calling me “Touksa,” which is a Swedish term of endearment apparently. It went from Touksa to Tippi. And that’s the story!

MS: What do you think it is about “The Birds” that makes it a “must see” film more than 50 years after it was released?
TH: That movie has a life of its own! But when you do a Hitchcock film you know it’s going to be good but this has just been outrageous. One decade after the other. People like to be afraid and when you can be made afraid of something that you see every day that makes it even better.

MS: As with a lot of the screenings in Omaha, the artist Nicolosi has designed a special United States Post Office envelope to commemorate the event. Have you seen it yet?
TH: No, I haven’t.
MS: It’s a beautiful piece of work. I know you’re going to like it.
TH: I can’t wait to see it.

MS: Your daughter, Melanie, is a movie star in her own right and your granddaughter is about to star in what will surely be one of the most popular films of 2015. Have you ever felt the need, or have they ever asked you, for any advice on how to deal with Hollywood?
TH: Not really. I’ve never felt the need to talk with them. As a family we certainly respect each other’s talent but we’ve never given each other advice.

MS: “The Birds” was your film debut. Do you approach a film role the same today as you did back then?
TH: No. You have to understand that “The Birds” was a unique experience. For someone who had always wanted to be an actress, this was like Cinderella. I was chosen for the part because of a commercial I had done. I had been a model for the Ford Agency in New York City in the 1950s but the 1960s brought along the television and, of course, the television commercial. Commercials were financially lucrative, so much so that I was able to take three months off and travel around the world. Apparently Mr. Hitchcock became interested in me after seeing me in a commercial for a product called Sego, which was a diet drink. It was a commercial with a story line, not just a product plug. He asked Universal to find the girl in the commercial. Lo and behold, I had just moved back to California with Melanie and…
MS: Wow! Perfect timing.
TH: Perfect.

MS: Tell a little about your work with big cats.
TH: I’ve been rescuing big cats…lions and tigers…since 1972. This has become a major, major part of my life. I feel very strongly that these animals should not be bred and born in the United States to be sold as a pet or for financial gain. I’m very busy trying to get my second federal bill passed to stop the breeding. It’s titled the “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act” and I hope your readers will look it up and write to their senators and congressmen to stop the breeding.

For more information on how to support Miss Hedren’s bill, go to

Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” to Invade Omaha

On Friday, November 7th, Film Historian Bruce Crawford will present his 35th Classic Film Tribute by hosting a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Crawford’s special guest that evening will be actress Tippi Hedren, star of the film as well as Hitchcock’s next film, 1964’s “Marnie.”

As with most Classic Film Tributes, artist Nicolosi has designed a commemorative U.S. Postal Envelope honoring the film and it will be unveiled at the event. The envelope will be available for purchase by fans and both Miss Hedren and Nicolosi will autograph it.

Crawford has brought many classic films to Omaha over the years, pairing each one with a special guest star. Recent films (and guests) include “Jaws” with Carl Gottlieb, “Young Frankenstein” with Cloris Leachman, “The Miracle Worker” with Patty Duke and “The Great Escape” with David McCallum.

The screening will be held at the beautiful Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge Street, Omaha, Nebraska. Tickets are now on sale and available locally at all Omaha Hy Vee Food Store customer service counters. Proceeds from the screening will benefit the Nebraska Kidney Association.

For more information, call 402-932-7200 or visit

Blu-ray Review “Free Birds”

Starring: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date: February 4, 2014
Run Time: 91 minutes

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

“Free Birds” is not a bad movie, it is just not a great movie. The story is kinda blah and rather bland. The animation is solid and there are some good jokes but just nothing special. What the film does have is a solid voice cast including Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler. In fact, this film was released in theaters in 3D and that was actually the best aspect of the film…yet there is no 3D Blu-ray. Kids might enjoy. Parents will hate.

Official Premise: From the Academy Award-Winning producer of Shrek comes a hilarious animated adventure about two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks who travel back in time in order to keep their species off the Thanksgiving menu. Featuring an all-star voice cast, including Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler, Free Birds is loaded with laughs and stuffed with fun for the whole family!

The 1080p transfer is sharp and like I said the animation is quite vibrant and crisp. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track works well the film’s antics. The special features are decent. There consist of a few featurettes: Birds Flipping History, Animating Free Birds: The Main Course, Winging It: Animators in Action, Talking Turkey with Composer Dominic Lewis, Shake a Tail Feather and a theatrical trailer. The extras aren’t very kid friendly but do have some good behind-the-scenes content.

Blu-ray Review “Angry Birds Toons: Season One – Volume One”

Rated: Unrated
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: December 3, 2013
Run Time: 73 minutes

Episodes: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I have to admit, I am totally obsessed with the Angry Birds-mania, which is taking over the world. From what started as a smart phone video game has since expanded into a cultural phenomena. Included in the first volume of the “Angry Birds Toons” are 26 episodes from season one. The show is wordless but if you are a fan of the games you will enjoy seeing these characters come to life.

Official Premise: Life isn’t easy on Piggy Island for the Angry Birds. Red and his fearless feathered companions, Chuck, Matilda, Red, Bomb, Blues and Terence, must band together to protect their eggs – and their future – from the wily plotting of the Bad Piggies.

The animation is very crisp and look great with their 1080p transfers. I have seen these episodes before on my smart phone via the “Angry Birds” apps. So the colors are very sharp and really impressive. The DTS-HD Master Audio tracks are good but if you know the show there is not much in terms of dialogue, more like sound effects..but it still works. I am curious to see how this is going to translate and expand in the upcoming feature film.

In terms of special features, there is some decent content including “Meet the Characters” and “Meet the Flock” Pods. There are three Behind-the-Scenes featurettes on the show. There is the special holiday episode “Wreck the Halls”, which themed perfectly with the upcoming holidays. There is a Character Art Gallery. Lastly there is a bonus Angry Birds Windows PC Game included.

Win an Exclusive Prize Pack for “Free Birds” [ENDED]


To celebrate the release of “Free Birds” in theaters on November 1st. Media Mikes would like to giveaway an amazing prize back for the film. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of these great prizes, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite holiday film. This giveaway will remain open until November 19th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

This fun FREE BIRDS branded prize pack, includes the following items:
Branded back-pack
Branded drawstring bag
Branded light-up chick
Branded coloring wheel
Branded turkey hat
Turkey cookie cutter
FREE BIRDS soundtrack (digital download)
Fandango Gift Card ($30)

Release: November 1, 2013
Director: Jimmy Hayward
Cast: Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Amy Poehler
Story by: David I. Stern and John Strauss
Screenplay by: Scott Mosier and Jimmy Hayward
Producer: Scott Mosier
Executive Producers: Aron Warner, John Strauss, David I. Stern

Synopsis: In this hilarious, adventurous buddy comedy for audiences of all ages, directed by Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!), two turkeys from opposite sides of the tracks must put aside their differences and team up to travel back in time to change the course of history – and get turkey off the Thanksgiving menu for good.

Instagram: @freebirdsmovie
Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram: #freebirds


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Book Review “The Making of Hitchcock’s The Birds”

Author: Tony Lee Moral
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Oldcastle Books
Release Date: September 1, 2013

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When you think of great suspense horror films, you can’t help but immediately think of Alfred Hitchcock. The guy has such an eye for making films.  He was meticulous about his shots and has inspired a countless number people since with this style. “The Birds” was Hitchcock’s next film after “Psycho” and I am sure that the anticipation surrounding it was very high.  I saw this film first when I was a child and it scared the living daylights out of me.  Watching it as an adult, it is still very effective as it was then.  This new behind-the-scenes book is planning perfectly to coincide with the film’s 50th anniversary this year and it is also the first book-length look into the making of this production.  I had the privilege of speaking with the film’s star Tippi Hedren earlier this year, read here, and she reflected on this film and it’s reign over popular culture. The recent HBO film, “This Girl”, read our review here, also focused on the topic of the making of “The Birds” as well. Highly recommend. This book is a must for any fast of Hitchcock’s work and a very in depth look into the making of this amazing and rather timeless film.

Official Premise: Featuring new interviews with stars Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, and Veronica Cartwright, as well as sketches and storyboards from Hitchcock’s A-list technical team, Robert Boyle, Albert Whitlock, and Harold Michelson, the book charts every aspect of the film’s production all set against the tumultuous backdrop of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and JFK’s presidency. Using unpublished material from the Alfred Hitchcock Collection, Evan Hunter’s files, Peggy Robertson’s papers, and Robert Boyle’s artwork, this is the ultimate guide to Hitchcock’s most ambitious film. This book analyzes the film’s modernist underpinnings, from art director Robert Boyle’s initial sketches influenced by Munch’s The Scream, to the groundbreaking electronic score by pioneering German composers Remi Gassmann and Oskar Sala. There is also a time line detailing the film’s production to its release at MOMA in New York, and the 1963 Cannes Film Festival.

The book is authored by Tony Lee Moral, who is a documentary filmmaker, a writer, and the author of “Alfred Hitchcock’s Movie Making Masterclass” and “Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie”. So I think that he is the right person for this job.  He has a vast understanding of Hitchcock and a real passion in his words. You can tell when you are reading this book that there is a certain admiration behind the words.  The only thing that I would have wanted more from this book would have been more photos.  I am sure that there are tons of great behind-the-scenes photos from this production. Don’t get me wrong there is a nice middle section with some very crispy color and black and white shots. I am just a visual guy and a big fan of the art of books.  I would have like to have seen the photos spread out throughout book and posted in areas where they were relative to the book’s narrative. Overall though, I enjoy this quite a bit and look forward to passing it to a friend to enjoy as well. Now if you excuse me, I have to go watch “The Birds” again on Blu-ray. I have a sudden urge to enjoy this masterpiece of cinema for some strange reason.


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Book Review “Angry Birds: Hatching a Universe”

Author: Danny Graydon
Hardcover: 162 pages
Publisher: Insight Editions
Release Date: June 4, 2013

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Hatching A Universe” is a perfect name for this book. In late 2009, the first “Angry Birds” gave was released for the iPhone and I remember I bought it and haven’t stopped playing since. This game has not only spawned four sequels including “Angry Birds Seasons”, “Angry Birds Rio”, “Angry Birds Space” and (my favorite) “Angry Birds Star Wars” but also clothing lines, action figures and much more. These “Angry Birds” are everywhere right now. This game has also changed the face of mobile gaming. It just happened to be the right time for “Angry Birds”, it received a success that I am sure every game developer hopes for but not every one gets. This book does a great job of looking into the world that has been created around this game and it is a must buy for any fan of the series.

It is hard to believe that this “little” mobile game has become the giant entity that it has in terms of all media not just mobile gaming. In “Angry Birds: Hatching a Universe” we get to go to see what happens inside of the creative process of this game and backed with some amazing artwork, never-before-seen sketches, concept art and more hidden treasures. If that is not cool enough there is also some interviews with the key players at Rovio. Insight Editions is known for some of the best companion books and this one is just another great example of why I look forward to each of their latest releases.

The author, Danny Graydon, is no stranger the “art of” book genre, though his last one was in 2009 with “The Art of Planet 51”. He really captures the phenonomon of “Angry Birds” and will leave fans satisfied. There is also an encouraging word from the CEO of Rovio Entertainment, Mikael Hed, who gets to tells his story of success. If you are a “Angry Birds” junkie like myself and looking for more in between new updates and games there is a current TV series based on the game, “Angry Birds Toons” and will consist of 52 short 2-3 minute episodes airing through the app, online and through some cable providers. Of course then there is also the upcoming CGI film announced for release on July 1, 2016, which will be developed, produced and financed by Rovio and distributed by Sony Pictures. This franchise is expanding it’s universe every day, so get ready cause there is much more to come!


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Tippi Hedren reflects on working with Alfred Hitchcock and the 50th Anniversary of “The Birds”

Tippi Hedren is known best for her roles in the Alfred Hitchcock films, “The Birds” and “Marnie”. This year “The Birds” is celebrating its 50th anniversary, yet the film is as popular as ever and still very relevant. Besides acting, Tippi also works with animal rescue at the Shambala Preserve, which is a 73-acre wildlife habitat which she founded in 1983. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tippi about working with Hitchcock, his films and her work on the Shambala Preserve.

Mike Gencarelli: With “The Birds” celebrating its 50th anniversary, what is your most memorable experience with this film?
Tippi Hedren: There were so many of them, since it was such an overwhelming experience for me. “The Birds” was my first film. So not only having Alfred Hitchcock discover me in a commercial that I had done, but he took me under his wing – you might say. He put me under contract before I had even met him just based on my commercial and photo work. It was a very exciting time for me.

MG: Can you reflect on the film with about today’s audience and why the film is still relevant?
TH: “The Birds” really seems to have a life of its own. So many people are really enchanted with it. The fact that this film was even able to have been done is amazing. Year after year, the film gets introduced to a younger generation. When you watch it with the audience of today, when you see the telephones 50 years ago they start laughing. It is interesting for me. But on the other hand the film holds up so well. Fortunately Hitchcock always had his leading women dressing in very traditional clothes. I could wear that green suit right now and be perfectly in style, which I actually still have six of them today.

MG: I recently saw the HBO film “The Girl”, which was based on the making of “The Birds”; how accurate was the film to what happened?
TH: Yes the film was totally accurate. In fact, the writer Gwyneth Hughes came out to my Shambala Preserve, where I live and she spent an afternoon with me talking about my years with Hitchcock. So, yeah the film is absolutely accurate. Also at the time that she was writing she would also call me and discuss any issues or concerns.

MG: What are your feelings on seeing Sienna Miller playing yourself in the film?
TH: I thought she was wonderful. Sienna also came out to the preserve and I got to spend an afternoon with her as well. She called me several times during the filming, which was done in South America. There was a close comradery between all of us.

MG: In the final attack scene of the film; how many times did you have to shoot that?
TH: When I opened the door to that room and all those birds came flying at me and I was under attack for a full week from Monday to Friday. It was unbelievable and also very exhausting.

MG: How would you compare Hitchcock’s style to other director’s you’ve worked it?
TH: The thing that impressed me so much was that he was always so well prepared. He literally worked 9-5pm. At 5 o’clock, we had the martini shots…every day. Most directors will go into very late at night or tremendously long hours, which is actually the norm. With Hitchcock, he always kept to a schedule. That was pretty amazing.

MG: How did the production of “The Birds” and “Marnie” compare?
TH: They are two entirely different films. In “The Birds” you have the added problem of working with live animals, which is always a difficult situation. They do not care about being in a movie. So there is a great deal of difference. I loved doing “Marnie” since it was such a psychological piece and entirely different.

MG: My site partner told me that if I didn’t ask you about working with Sean Connery that he will quit, so tell us about working with him in “Marnie”?
TH: I was very fortunate having Rod Taylor as my leading man in “The Birds”. I was working with all  consummate actors including Jessica Tandy and Suzanne Pleshette. They were all great. So, it was kind of a surprise for me when they told me I was going to play Marnie. I play a compulsive thief that is so frigid that she screams every time a man comes near her. So when I was asked who would be playing Mark Rutland in the film, Hitchcock told me that it would be Sean Connery. I said “Sean Connery? The Sean Connery that just got out of ‘Dr. No’? Sean Connery, who could melt the iciest of blondes? Mr. Hitchcock, do you remember that Marnie is so frigid that she screams everything a man comes near her? How am I supposed to handle that?” He simply told me “It’s called acting my dear”. And that was the end of that [laughs].

MG: How was it being the topic of the season and guest starring on the season finale of “Cougar Town”?
TH: It was great fun. It was such a short piece. The whole season was about how can they find Tippi Hedren, so then at the very end is when I appeared. I wish it would have been a little longer but it was still a lot of fun.

MG: Tell us about the inspiration behind the film “Roar”?
TH: Well it goes back to 41 years ago when I started rescuing lions and tigers. I had just done two films in Africa. During those years, environmentalists all over the world were saying that if we didn’t do anything right then, which was 1969-70, to save the animals in the wild then by the year 2000 they would be gone. So my then husband (Noel Marshall) and I decided to do a film about the animals in the wild. We choose the great cat, because people are either enchanted with them, scared to death of them or think they should be admired from afar. We had seen an abandoned house while on a photo Safari in Mozambique. The owner had moved out since it flooded during the rainy season. So when he moved out a tide of lions moved in. It was the largest pride in all of Africa. We couldn’t count me but there was somewhere between 25-30 lions of all sizes that were living in this house. We thought that this was incredible. They were sitting in the windows looking like great portraits. There were going in and out of the doors. They were napping on the verandas. So we decided to use these animals as our stars. We then went back to California and got the script written. When we gave the script to the trainers of these Hollywood animals and they all came back to us laughing that this film could not be made. They told me to get my own animals for the movie. All of the sudden I had little lions and cubs all over my house. It was quite an experience and we learned right then and there that they are definitely not pets.

MG: Tell us about continued your work today with the Shambala Preserve?
TH: The preserve is 73-acres and it is very beautiful. We keep the animals that we rescue for the remainder of their lives. We give them huge areas in which to life, many of which are over an acre. It is so expensive though. I have to raise over a million dollars a year, which is quite difficult. I would appreciate if your readers can visit our website, and see what we have to do in order to keep this going each year. I am doing everything I can and any help is appreciated since this place is so beautiful and necessary. I am also working on federal bill which will be introduced this month, which will stop the breeding of lions and tigers to be sold as a pets. So please look that up as well.