CD Review: A Day To Remember “Common Courtesy”

A Day To Remember
“Common Courtesy”
Producer: Jeremy McKinnon, Andrew Wade, Chad Gilbert
Tracks: 16

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Ocala, FL natives A Day To Remember are back with their 5th studio album titled “Common Courtesy”. The album which is being self-released consists of 13 all new tracks which run the gambit of sounds and styles which have made the band popular across multiple genres. Produced by vocalist Jeremy McKinnon, Andrew Wade (Close To Home) and New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert “Common Courtesy” could be the bands strongest effort yet.

Though the album was initially slated for release back in October it has basically been in somewhat of a holding pattern due to the logistics of a messy split from the bands previous label Victory records. Well it is finally available and I am pretty confident in saying that it was well worth the wait. Not only does the album include some really great songs such as the explosive opening track “City of Ocala” and the emotional rollercoaster titled “End of Me” but it also include some great artwork created by Mike Cortada along with a bonus DVD containing the bands recent webisodes. Even though I could have done without some of the albums dialogue and the questionable cohesiveness of the albums tracks I found the music contained on “Common Courtesy” to be spot on and I think each piece is more than capable of standing on its own as prospective singles.

The latest from A Day To Remember is more than just another album. “Common Courtesy” is a testament to the DIY attitude which has been present since the early days of Rock and Roll and only further proves that you don’t need a big label to make a great sounding record. Whether you are a hardcore fan, a punk fan or just a music fan in general do yourself and your ears a favor by picking up a copy of this album.

Track Listing:
1.) City of Ocala
2.) Right Back at it Again
3.) Sometimes You’re the Hammer, Sometimes You’re the Nail
4.) Dead and Buried
5.) Best of Me
6.) I’m Already Gone
7.) Violence
8.) Life @ 11
9.) I Surrender
10.) Life Lessons Learned the Hard Way
11.) End of Me
12.) The Document Speaks for Itself
13.) I Remember
Bonus Tracks:
14.) Leave All the Lights On
15.) Good Things
16.) Same Book But Never the Same Page

Blu-ray Review “George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead (Collector’s Edition)”

Actors: Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Richard Liberty, Joseph Pilato
Directors: George A. Romero
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Shout! Factory
DVD Release Date: September 17, 2013
Run Time: 101 minutes

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

I have always loved “Day of the Dead” but it is a very hard act to follow! “Dawn of the Dead” is easily one of the best horror films ever. But “Day” still has a ton of life in it (get the pun?!) and still holds up today even after almost 30 years. With TV shows like “The Walking Dead” and  films like “World War Z”, zombies have never been hotter, so this is a great time to revisit this classic. You also get to see “The Walking Dead” Director/Co-Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Artist Greg Nicotero start off in the business with his first acting role. “Scream Factory, which is part Shout Factory, is finally giving this film the release that it deserves with this Collector’s Edition Blu-ray. This film has never looked so good and shines with this release. If you own Starz/Anchor Bay rather bland 2007 release of this film, it is definitely worth the upgrade. No question!

Official Premise: The concluding part of George A. Romero’s cult horror trilogy opens with the undead roaming the planet freely. The living have been forced underground, where they make their base in a hidden missile depot, helping with the experiments of scientist Doctor Logan (Liberty), who hopes to domesticate the zombies. However, the military faction of the human survivors favour a more direct approach, and with food stocks becoming ever more depleted, they decide to take action. What folllows is the final showdown between the forces of the living and the armies of the dead.

Scream Factory gave this film a lot of love with a brand new high-def transfer…and it looks stunning. I have the older 2007 Blu-ray and the comparison is really amazing.  Top that with a solid DTS-HD Master Audio track and this release is kicking on all cylinders. There is also some fantastic special features including two brand new extras. “World’s End: The Legacy of “Day of the Dead” is a brand new documentary, which is easily worth the purchase of the disc alone. “Underground: A Look into the ‘Day of the Dead’ Mines” is another new feature looking into the film’s shooting location.  There are two audio commentary tracks, the first with writer/director George A. Romero, Special Make-up Effects artist Tom Savini, Production Designer Cletus Anderson and actress Lori Cardille. The second is with filmmaker Roger Avary.  There is some great behind-the-scenes footage coming straight from Tom Savini’s personal archives. Lastly there are Photo Galleries, Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots included.

Waxwork Records releasing “Re-Animator” & “Day of the Dead” soundtracks on Vinyl!

Waxwork Records is excited to release the original soundtrack to the 1985 horror film, RE-ANIMATOR. This limited release guarantees buyers the score on green 180 gram vinyl. A limited number of variant glow-in-the-dark vinyl will be randomly inserted. Composed and conducted by Richard Band, the score has been specifically re-mastered for vinyl. LP sleeve includes composer notes by Richard Band, director liner notes by Stuart Gordon, and original photos of the actual 1985 recording session in Rome, Italy. This LP package includes a heavy duty jacket with a sleek matte laminate finish for added structure and a silky feel. Full LP package artwork (front and back cover, record sleeve, and vinyl center labels) created by Ghoulish Gary Pullin. Massive 18″ x 24″ full color poster of cover art included. Click here to purchase this release!


Also on Tuesday, August 27th our second release will be made available for pre-order, John Harrison’s score to the 1985 zombie horror classic George A. Romero’s Day Of The Dead. This release features, for the first time ever, every musical cue used in the film (over an hour’s worth of music). Our source material for this release were the original 1985 master tapes. The tapes were restored and re-mixed by composer John Harrison (Creepshow, Tales from the Crypt, Tales From The Darkside) and mixing engineer Michael Farrow (music scoring engineer of The Big Lebowski, Cabin Fever, Hostel, Halloween, Where The Wild Things Are). The score was then re-mastered for vinyl by former White Zombie guitarist, J. Yuenger. Click here to pre-order this great release!

Day Of The Dead will be a 180 gram 2xLP limited release on Cream Yellow Marble vinyl (Sides A & B) and Military Green Marble vinyl (Sides C & D). All housed in a heavyweight old-school tip-on matte varnish gatefold jacket with spot UV gloss finish. There will be only 300 variants of Zombie Flesh and Blood vinyl available exclusively through the official Waxwork Records web store on Tuesday, August 27th. The full LP package artwork and layout (front and back cover, inner gatefold art, inserts, and center labels) has been created by Jay Shaw. This limited release features essay length director notes from “The Godfather Of Zombies” himself, George A. Romero. This release will also include an 11×22 replica of “THE DEAD WALK!” newspaper article from the opening credits of the film. The newspaper article was re-created by Jay Shaw and includes essay length composer notes from John Harrison.

 

Blu-ray Review “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (Director’s Cut)”

Actors: Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Billy Connolly, Clifton Collins Jr., Julie Benz
Director: Troy Duffy
Rated: R (Restricted) / Unrated
Studio: Sony Pictures
DVD Release Date: July 16, 2013
Run Time: 117 / 144 minutes

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

I remember I rented the first “The Boondock Saints” on VHS when it was a ‘Blockbuster Exclusive’ rental. This was almost 15 years ago and before it was this cult phenomenon. When there was word that “The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day” was being made 10 years after the first, I think it made every fan jump up and down (including myself). Well it’s been 4 years since this sequel was released and we can get excited again since Writer/Director Troy Duffy’s is releasing a new Director’s Cut which features 27 Minutes of Never-Before-Seen Extended Footage. There is a longer opening sequence, a lengthened fantasy sequence and an extended elevator sequence leading up to the Prudential shoot-out. So with the director’s cut the running time gets bumped up to 144 minutes and it is AMAZING!

“The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day” is a a rare feat where it actually tops the original. This sequel to back the original cast, Including Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus and Billy Connolly along with new additions including Clifton Collins Jr., Julie Benz, Peter Fonda and Judd Nelson. I do not remember a more explosive theatrical experience then when I saw this film in theaters. I know fans have been bugging writer/director Troy Duffy to do a third film and I really hope that happens one day. I am not sure why this release is coming now, if not to capitalize on Norman Reedus’ insane fandom from “The Walking Dead”, but either way I am excited and it is a must for any fan of this series!

Official Premise: From Troy Duffy, writer and director of The Boondock Saints, comes the much anticipated sequel to the tough, stylized cutting edge saga of the MacManus brothers (Norman Reedus, Sean Patrick Flanery). The two have been in deep hiding with their father, Il Duce (Billy Connolly), in the quiet valleys of Ireland, far removed from their former vigilante lives. When word comes that a beloved priest has been killed by sinister forces from deep within the mob, the brothers return to Boston to mount a violent and bloody crusade to bring justice to those responsible. With a new partner in crime (Clifton Collins Jr., Star Trek) and a sexy FBI operative (Julie Benz, TV’s Dexter) hot on their trail…the Saints are back!

The 1080p transfer still looks great like the past releases, especially with the new footage. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is killer as well with the non-stop action. The line “Ding Ding Motherfucka! Ding Dong!” is presented perfectly. The real catch for this release is that it comes as a two-Disc Blu-ray combo pack with both the Theatrical and Director’s Cut versions. This release is currently set as a Best Buy exclusive release, so fans need to be sure to pick this up for sure.

The special features are in-line with the past Blu-ray releases. We get a pair of audio commentary tracks from cast and crew. There are two short deleted scenes. Then there are seven featurettes including “Unprecedented Access: Behind the Scenes”, “Billy Connolly and Troy Duffy: Unedited”, “The Cast Confesses: Secrets From the Set”, “Inside the Vault: The Weapons”, “‘The Boondock Saints’ Hit Comic-Con”, “Saints Off Script” and “Back to Boondock”. All these special features are must see for any fan of the series but they are not anything new for this release. But don’t forget that this new release contains the pretty sweet director’s cut of the film, so that is enough for me!

 

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Blu-ray Review “A Good Day to Die Hard”

Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney, Cole Hauser, Sebastian Koch, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Yuliya Snigir
Director: John Moore
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date: June 4, 2013
Run Time: 98 minutes

Film: 1.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I have to admit, it might affect my “man-card” but I am not a big fan of the “Die Hard” series as a whole. The first film has its moments and plus who can say no to a Christmas-themed action movie. Also I am a fan of the third film, which teams McClaine up with Samuel L. Jackson. I never even saw or wanted to see “Live Free or Die Hard” and yet we are getting a fifth installment of this seemingly tired franchise. I know that Bruce Willis was once badass as John McClane but he definitely seems to be getting to old for this shit. The plot to this film is such a mess and, in fact, barely exists. It is just a massive bunch of explosion mixed together and set in Russia. Not a big fan of Jai Courtney at all either. But as it pains me to say this, the boys will be back again and “Die Hard 6″ is moving forward with Fox.

Official Premise: Bruce Willis is back in action – mind-blowing, heart-stopping, rip-roaring action – as John McClane, the heroic New York cop with a knack for being in the wrong place at the right time. John’s latest predicament takes him all the way to Russia to track down his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has been imprisoned in Moscow. But the mission takes a deadly turn as father and son must join forces to thwart a nuclear weapons heist that could trigger World War III!

Despite this film being a big mess, in terms of audio and video though it is absolutely kicking! 20th Century Fox delivers a nice Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack. The digital copy includes an UltraViolet and iTunes digital copy. My copy was delivered missing a code, so I hope that isn’t happening for others as well. The Blu-ray disc includes both a theatrical cut and an extended version, which features a few changes to the beginning and end of the film. It doesn’t make the film any better off either. The 1080p transfer is solid and delivers the scale of the film quite well. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 is a beast and really kicks some ass, especially with the action – which is non-stop.

The special features are impressive, despite the painfulness of the film itself. There is an audio commentary track from director John Moore and first assistant director Mark Cotone. “Making It Hard To Die” is a 15-part behind-the-scenes documentary, which runs an hour and covers all aspects of the production. “Anatomy of a Car Chase” is a featurette on the opening action sequence. “Two of a Kind” looks into the father/son relationship. “Back in Action” is a piece on the return of John McClane…again. “The New Face of Evil” focuses on the three villains. “Pre-Vis” and “VFX Sequences” looks into the special and visual effects from the film. Lastly there are seven deleted scenes and five storyboards sequences included, as well as a Concept Art Gallery and Theatrical Trailers.

DVD Review “Picture Day”

Actors: Tatiana Maslany, Spencer Van Wyck, Steven McCarthy, Mark DeBonis
Directors: Kate Melville
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Arc Entertainment
DVD Release Date: May 21, 2013
Run Time: 93 minutes

Film: 2 out of 5 stars
Extras: N/A

I am usually not a fan of dramatic comedies, but I figured I would give this one a try since it starred Tatiana Maslany. Let’s just say I should have stuck with my gut despite the cast. Tatiana is gaining a lot of steam recently due to her role in BBC America’s “Orphan Black”.  She is ok in this film but she can’t carry the entire film on her own. The story feels like a weak coming-of-age dramedy. I didn’t really end up caring for any things characters and thought they were quite boring. To be quite honest the whole film is quite depressing. Definitely a big pass here!

Official Premise: Forced to repeat her senior year in high school, Claire’s (Tatiana Maslany) reputation is sliding from bad-ass to bad joke. At night, she escapes to would-be rock star Jim (Steven McCarthy), while at school, she bonds with Henry (Spencer Van Wyck), a nerdy freshman she used to babysit. Eventually, Claire learns the difference between sex, intimacy, and friendship.

Arc Entertainment released this film on DVD, which to me is a dying format. Not that Blu-ray would have done anything for this film. The DVD features an Dolby Digital 5.1, which works for the dialogue focused film. There are also no special features included at all which only leads me to be more disappointed for this release. This is Kate Melville’s first film, so I should have given it a little bit of leeway but I just got more and more frustrated as this film progressed. So I wouldn’t wish this film upon anyone is watch, unless you are a die-hard Tatiana Maslany fan.

Best of Warner Bros. Mother’s Day Movie Night Giveaway [ENDED]

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED AND WINNERS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED VIA EMAIL. PLEASE CHECK BACK EACH WEEK FOR NEW GIVEAWAYS!

We think that most can agree… Moms are the best – and they do a lot for us! Now it’s time to return the favor and celebrate this Mother’s Day by giving mom the movie night she deserves! Celebrate Sunday, May 12th in the best way possible by spending quality time with your family and watch one of YOUR favorite classic films! Watching a classic flick together tells the story of a different time and place, and is the perfect opportunity to catch up and share stories with your family… tell them something that they never knew about Mom!

To celebrate Mothers Day and WB’s 90th Anniversary, Media Mikes would like to giveaway one of the following Blu-ray titles below to our readers! (Prize will be chosen randomly from the titles below!) If you would like to enter for your chance to win this great prize, please post your results from the Guess-the-Scene Game below. Highest score wins! This giveaway will remain open until May 15th 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.


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Disneynature’s Breathtaking Feature “Wings of Life” Lands on Blu-ray® Combo Pack, Digital and on Demand April 16, 2013, in Time for Earth Day

LIFE BLOOMS THIS SPRING WITH DISNEYNATURE

DISNEYNATURE’S BREATHTAKING FEATURE “WINGS OF LIFE” LANDS ON BLU-RAY® COMBO PACK, DIGITAL AND ON DEMAND APRIL 16, 2013, IN TIME FOR EARTH DAY

 BURBANK, Calif. (March 8, 2013) — Spring is in the air—literally—as Disneynature prepares to unveil “Wings of Life,” a spectacular, closer-than-close, high-definition look at the intricate world of butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and bats, and their life-sustaining collaboration with flowers. Directed by Louie Schwartzberg (“America’s Heart & Soul”) and narrated by Academy Award® winner Meryl Streep, “Wings of Life” will be available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, Digital and On Demand on April 16, 2013—just in time for Earth Day.

“In the chaos and craziness of our day-to-day lives, few of us stop to consider what’s happening behind the scenes in nature that makes our lives possible,” said Streep. “This film is a stunning adventure that literally takes flight alongside all kinds of winged creatures—butterflies, bees and bats—each working hard to pollinate our planet.”

Said Schwartzberg, “For me, the joy of doing this film is to be able to explore worlds that humans can’t easily experience—bats sipping nectar in the middle of the desert at night, orchid bees expertly manipulated by a bucket orchid, exotic hummingbirds flying like airborne dancers, and a clustering monarch colony with millions of butterflies. I hope to share the spectacle of nature and to spark in others the sense of wonder I have about the natural world.”

Employing multiple cameras, both time-lapse and high-speed cinematography and extraordinary patience (while nature took its time unfolding), filmmakers shot on location in more than a dozen areas, ranging from the El Rosario Preserve in Michoacán, Mexico, to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Park in Arizona. “Wings of Life” features extraordinary imagery shot with digital cameras—one capable of frame rates of up to 1500 frames per second, and the use of a pinhole lens, which allowed the cameraman to get within millimeters of an insect subject while retaining a clear view of the background. The resulting imagery—intimate and breathtaking—is brought to life for audiences through spectacular high-definition picture and sound quality.

To celebrate the debut of “Wings of Life,” Disneynature has made a contribution to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) to protect pollinators worldwide. The DWCF has already supported more than 20 projects across North America focused on protecting pollinators and their habitats. Grants have helped conservationists save endangered butterflies, expand habitat for honeybees and educate children about the importance of pollinators and how they can help protect them.

The “Wings of Life” Blu-ray Combo Pack includes a sneak peek at Disneynature’s 2014 big-screen adventure “Bears.” In an epic story of breathtaking scale set against a majestic Alaskan backdrop teeming with life, the film, which is currently in production, follows two mother grizzly bears as they impart life lessons to their impressionable young cubs.

ABOUT THE MOVIE:

From Disneynature, the studio that brought you Earth, Oceans, African Cats and Chimpanzee, comes Wings of Life — a stunning adventure full of intrigue, drama and mesmerizing beauty. Narrated by Meryl Streep, this intimate and unprecedented look at butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, bats and flowers is a celebration of life, as a third of the world’s food supply depends on these incredible — and increasingly threatened — creatures.

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg, Wings of Life utilizes riveting high-speed, time lapse and macro filmmaking to showcase in spectacular detail these unsung heroes of our planet.

Film Review "A Good Day to Die Hard"

Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney and Sebastian Koch
Directed by: John Moore
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 37 mins
20th Century Fox

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

In 1988 the know-it-alls in Hollywood laughed when it was learned that 20th Century Fox had given $5 million to a television actor to star in a film whose lead character had already been offered to, and turned down by, such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Don Johnson and Richard Gere. Of course now you know that the actor was Bruce Willis and the film was “Die Hard.” Who’s laughing now?

It’s a bad time in Russia. A political prisoner, a scientist who once worked at Chernobyl, is about to go on trial. But a member of the government does not want his voice heard, even on a witness stand. As this problem is being worked out we visit a Moscow nightclub where an assassination is attempted. The would be killer is apprehended.

In New York City we reunite with Detective John McClane (Willis). He has been informed that his son, Jack (Courtney), is currently in a Russian prison, charged with attempted murder. Though their relationship isn’t the best, John knows that a dads gotta do what a dads gotta do. Yippie Ki Yay!

Packed with wall to wall action (sometimes too much), the fifth film with the words “Die Hard” in the title is a worthy addition to the family started with John McTiernan’s classic original. Taking the story outside the United States for the first time, the story is a well written puzzle full of double-crosses, car chases and machine gun fire. The action is well delivered by director Moore, who opens the film with an incredible car chase through Moscow involving a utility van and an armored personnel carrier. Moore does not depend on miniatures or CGI in this sequence, choosing instead to destroy what surely must be every car in the Russian capital. While fun to watch, the chase seems to go on f-o-r-e-v-e-r, which eventually ratchets down the excitement. Ironically, it’s when the actors are center stage that the film succeeds. Willis and Courtney have an ease with each other, sharing the same mannerisms and smart-aleck attitude. Peeved that his son continually refers to him as “John,” McClane finally asks, “Whatever happened to dad?” Jack’s reply: “Good question.” The relationship feels real, a father and son trying to one up each other. There is even a physical resemblance between the two, with Courtney looking more like a junior Willis then Joseph Gordon-Levitt did in “Looper.”

The supporting cast also does a fine job helping the plot along, particularly Koch and Rasha Bukvic, who has some fun as a tap-dancing enforcer. Also strong as the corrupt politico is Sergey Kolesnikov, an actor who appears to have been separated at birth from the great Clancy Brown. Production values are strong and the story moves along fairly well thanks to a sharp score by Marco Beltrami.

Incidentally, there was one more actor that turned down the role of John McClane. He had appeared in the film “The Detective” which, like “Die Hard,” was based on a book by Roderick Thorpe. The actor had it in his contract that should another film based on Thorpe’s character be made, he would have first refusal of the role. Thankfully, 73 year old Frank Sinatra passed.

 

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Complimentary Passes to the Kansas City Screening Of "A Good Day to Die Hard" [ENDED]

THE GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED AND WINNERS HAVE BEEN NOTIFIED VIA EMAIL

Media Mikes has teamed up with 20th Century Fox to send (50) of our readers and their guest to the advance screening of “A Good Day To Die Hard.” All you have to do is let us know which “Die Hard” film is your favorite and why. (50) random entries will be selected and the winners will be notified by email The contest will run through Sunday, February 10. Good luck!

Date: Tuesday, February 12
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Cinemark Merriam Theatre, Merriam, Kansas

Opening Date: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Official Website: www.DieHardMovie.com
Rating: Rated R for violence and language.

Synopsis:
Iconoclastic, take-no-prisoners cop John McClane, for the first time, finds himself on foreign soil after traveling to Moscow to help his wayward son Jack — unaware that Jack is really a highly-trained CIA operative out to stop a nuclear weapons heist. With the Russian underworld in pursuit, and battling a countdown to war, the two McClanes discover their opposing methods make them unstoppable heroes.

John Hyams talks about directing "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning"

John Hyams is the writer and director of “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning”, officially the fourth film in the series. John breathed new life into this franchise with “Universal Soldier: Regeneration” also reuniting Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with John about this franchise and the latest film.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us where “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” fits in the franchise?
John Hyams: When I first became involved with the Universal Soldier franchise in 2009 (with Regeneration) the idea was to focus on the broad mythological themes while ignoring specific storylines from the previous films. Although it was an action movie, I immediately responded to the Frankenstein myth elements, which kept one foot firmly planted in the sci-fi and horror genres. I felt that a movie made 20 years after its predecessors should be a stand alone film, while at the same time pay respect to the mythology of the first movie. With Day of Reckoning, the idea was to embrace the very same challenge – to make a movie that picked up where Regeneration left off, from a mythological standpoint, but could also stand alone as a unique interpretation of the material. This time we focused more on the psychological horror elements. We aimed to create a subjective, often hallucinatory experience, punctuated by moments of explosive action and violence. So, to me it fits right next to Regeneration, where they both can stand together or alone.

MG: Tell us about working with and also reuniting Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme?
JH: Regeneration served as a more formal reuniting of Dolph and Jean-Claude, since that movie pitted the two against each other, and allowed for a dramatic showdown more reminiscent of the scenario from the first movie. This time, their characters served a different function – as obstacles standing in between our protagonist, played by Scott Adkins, and his goals. As for working with them, I know them better this time around and we have a comfortable working relationship. I like them both as people and collaborators, but they’re very different from each other and present unique challenges. Jean Claude is emotional and leads with his heart, whereas Dolph is more analytical, and thinks in more technical terms. We all had a good time working on this one.

MG: What made take on the role of writer, as well, this time around?
JH: It’s always better to be involved with a story from the ground up. By coming up with the story and writing the script I could take part in the evolution of the mythology, and take it into directions I’d like to see it go. Ultimately, it leads to a much more interesting, challenging experience.

MG: After four films in the franchise, tell us about turning the hero Luc Deveraux into the villain?
JH: Regeneration ended with Luc Deveraux escaping. Day of Reckoning answers the question of what happened to him after he escaped. In order to facilitate this story, it was necessary that we introduce a new protagonist, whose journey was to find Luc Deveraux and, in this case, attempt to kill him. Therefore, Luc is the antagonist of the story… however, whether or not he is actually the villain is the central idea the film seeks to explore.

MG: Tell us about the decision to shoot “Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning” in 3D and was it a challenge?
JH: It wasn’t my decision to shoot in 3D, the producers sold it that way oversees, so it was part of the deal. 3D is a huge challenge because, quite simply, it costs more money and takes longer. So, on a budget as low as ours, it leaves you with less shooting days and less hours each day to work with. Therefore, the fact that it was going to be shot in 3D directly affected the content of the story. In essence, the decision to focus on subjective, horror thriller elements instead of large scale spectacle was informed by our budgetary constraints, due in large part to working in 3D. From an aesthetic standpoint, we used 3D to create an immersive environment. Since the perspective of the movie is very subjective, we felt that 3D could help enhance that feeling of being in the room with the characters while they interact. Conversely, we avoided the ‘comin-at-ya’ gimmickry often associated with 3D. The goal was to make the film work just as well in 2D as 3D.

MG: How did the productions differ from “Regeneration” To “Day of Reckoning”?
JH: Regeneration was shot in 2D, had a bigger budget and was shot in Sofia, Bulgaria, whereas Day of Reckoning was shot in the US. Therefore, Regeneration had a shooting schedule of almost 47 days, vs Day of Reckoning, which was shot in 29. So, Regeneration was larger in scope, involved more group battles, and was more of a straight action movie. Day of Reckoning, because of it’s schedule, became a much more intimate movie, though in some ways I think we achieved some even better action this time around.

MG: With 2012 being 20 years from the first film, how do you feel this franchise has evolved?
JH: I feel like the first Universal Soldier film was a product of its time, when movies like Terminator and Robocop had inspired an interest in bio-mechanical ideas. That coupled with the tongue in cheek nature of action movies from the 80s and early 90s, led to an aesthetic that was very much of its time. It did not take itself too seriously, and, in fact, embraced the comedic aspects of the story. For Regeneration and Day of Reckoning I took my cues from films like Alien, Sorcerer, The Terminator, as well as films by John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, among others, to create an aesthetic that took the mythology seriously, and tried to create a believable aesthetic. That idea led to the dark, serious tone that ended up dominating the proceedings.

MG: How was it getting to bring this series back to theaters after going DTV?
JH: I feel a sense of accomplishment that we took a franchise that had long been forgotten and reintroduced it in a way that created renewed interest. From the discussions I’ve had with people, whether during interviews, film festivals or on Facebook, there seems to be an appreciative audience out there that Is pleased with the direction we’ve taken things.

MG: Now that you have life back to “Universal Soldier”, do you see yourself continuing with this franchise?
JH: I have been developing a concept with the producers that we imagine as a larger scale production. If we are able to raise the budget necessary to execute these ideas, than I’d be interested.

MG: Can’t wait to see what you have planned next, any ideas?
JH: In addition to Universal Soldier, I’m developing a potential action franchise with a renowned sci-fi writer, as well as finishing an original screenplay of my own. Other than that, reading scripts and meeting with producers. Truth be told, I’m itching to get back in the trenches. When I’m not making a movie I feel like Captain Willard — drunk, naked and bleeding in a Saigon hotel room, just waiting for a mission.

Blu-ray Review "Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning"

Actors: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Dolph Lundgren
Directors: John Hyams
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Run Time: 113 minutes

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

First I would like to thank director John Hyams for breathing life back into the “Universal Soldier” franchise with “Regeneration”, which was a fun action packed ride. “Day of Reckoning” packs a nice punch as well but really focuses more in the horror/thriller genre (at least for the first 45 minutes). This installment brings back Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren but in very minor and rather useless roles, yet they are the focus on the box art – which is very misconceiving. The star and main focus of the film is Scott Adkins, who don’t get me wrong kicks some major ass but it really doesn’t feel like a “Universal Soldier” installment. Fans of the franchise should still check it out though (in 3D if possible) but don’t expect an action packed entry.

Official Synopsis: John (Scott Adkins) wakes up from a coma to discover his wife and daughter were slaughtered in a brutal home invasion. Haunted by images of the attack, he vows to kill the man responsible, Luc Deveraux (Jean Claude Van Damme). While John tries to piece his reality back together, things get more complicated when he is pursued by a relentless UniSol (Arlovski). As John gets closer to Deveraux and the rogue army of genetically enhanced warriors led by back-from-the-dead leader Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), John discovers more about himself and begins to call into question everything he believed to be true.

The story itself starts off really interesting with a quite haunting opening scene but where a normal film would then explain the plot, this drags a bit and never really regains focus. I originally had the privilege of watching this film in 3D and it really is the way to watch this film, without it you lose a lot of the added depth especially in the first half of the film. The 2D version still is decent but I honestly wouldn’t recommend it. Unfortunately, there is no 3D US Blu-ray release planned by Sony. I watched it via VOD on DirecTV, so if you can catch it there, I would! Also there is an NC-17 cut of the film, which is also not on this Blu-ray release.  I am not sure why Sony missed the mark on both of these great aspects of the film, it would have made this quite more desirable to purchase. I would just put this Blu-ray now as a renter.

The release looks sharp with its 1080p transfer and watch out for the strobe light scenes (which look better in 3D, sorry I will stop now). The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track really comes in great for the second half of the film, where the action is amped up. The special features are not jam-packed but overall decent. There is a nice audio commentary track from the director John Hyams and Dolph Lundgren. Besides the commentary, there are also three behind-the-scenes featurettes. The first is called “Coming Into Focus”, which takes a look at the production, it’s challenges and the films characters. “There Is No End” is a look at the tools used to create the final scene. Lastly “Production Wrap” is an in-depth look on the last days on set with cast/crew.

Book Review “Chu’s Day” by Neil Gaiman

Author: Neil Gaiman
Illustrator: Adam Rex
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: January 8, 2013

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. Coraline is one of my favorite stories in the last decade. It may be a little too scary for some kids but I am a big kid, so it is ok. This book is aimed a much younger audience. On the book cover it says Newborn to 4 but Amazon is listing the book as 4 and up. I feel that this book is much more suited for under age 4. It may not be my favorite book from Gaiman but more important my daughter loved it and that is all that matter.

The story of Chu is short and sweet. It follows a a little panda that packs a big sneeze and as the book reads, “when Chu sneezes, bad things happen”. It is a very simple story and does get a few laughs even for the adults like myself that was acting out the lines. I felt like some of the words could have rhymed a bit better but overall it was still a cute and fun book.

Adam Rex has delivered some very colorful and interesting illustrations. As I was reading this book to my 6-month old daughter, she was literally grabbing the pages right out of my hand and turning them. The book itself is a little short in terms of quality but at least it has great replay value. I believe I ended up reading this book about 5 times in one sitting.

Blu-ray Review “The Day”

Starring: Dominic Monaghan, Shawn Ashmore, Shannyn Sossamon, Ashley Bell, Michael Eklund, Cory Hardrict
Director: Douglas Aarniokoski
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: ANCHOR BAY
Release Date: November 27, 2012
Run Time: 84 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1.5 out of 5 stars

I have seen a lot of post-apocalyptic movies and they never seen to get it right. “The Day” was very satisfying in that department. It packed a great cast delivering strong performances, as well as some fantastic gore. The film was obviously on a low-budget so the apocalyptic part is implied but still works well. The film has this black and white tone to it except when there is bloodshed…and their is quite a bit of that. It also reminded me of “Sin City” in that sense. WWE Studios, that’s right the wrestling company, is behind this film and like it’s recent film “Barricade”, read my review here, they are picking some great titles to stand behind!

Official Premise: A group of five survivors, armed with shotguns, axes and machetes, wander the back roads of a ravaged landscape looking for refuge in The Day, a terrifying look into a post-apocalyptic future. As war ravages humanity, destroying civilization and most of life on earth, the survivors realize they must do whatever it takes to stay alive. Lost, starving, and exhausted, they seek shelter in a seemingly safe abandoned farmhouse. However, while searching for food and resources, they unwittingly set off a trap signaling to their ruthless predators lying in wait to begin their deadly attack. With food and ammunition dwindling, the group must make a desperate final stand—over a 24 hour period—battling for their ultimate survival.

Even though this is a low-budget film it still has a fantastic young cast including Shawn Ashmore known best for Bobby Drake / Iceman in “X-Men Trilogy”, Ashley Bell from “The Last Exorcism”, Cory Hardrict  from “Battle Los Angeles”, Shannyn Sossamon from “One Missed Call” and “40 Days and 40 Nights” and lastly, Dominic Monaghan from “Lost” and “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy” pops in but let’s just say he doesn’t last long.

“The Day” is being released as a combo pack including both Blu-ray and DVD discs. The 1080p transfer works well with the color and shading, as described above. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is also very impressive, which adds great atmosphere into the film.  The only special features though is an audio commentary with executive producer/director Doug Aarniokoski, producer Guy A. Danella and writer Luke Passmore. It is good if you are a fan of the film, since there is a lot of technical talk.  I would have loved to seen more production aspect featurettes and maybe even a cast commentary track.

NCM Fathom Events Brings “The Nutcracker Mariinsky Ballet” in 3D to Theaters for One Day!

NCM® Fathom Events, More2Screen and EuroArts Music bring the magic of Tchaikovsky’s beloved holiday ballet, “The Nutcracker,” to life on the big screen for the first time in stunning 3-D in select theaters with RealD™ 3D technology. “The Nutcracker Mariinsky Ballet” on Monday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m., with special matinee screenings in select theaters, was pre-recorded at the historic Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg in December 2011 where the original Nutcracker first made its debut 120 years ago in 1892. This special cinematic holiday event will draw audiences into the performance on stage, taking them on a magical journey with Clara, her Nutcracker, exquisite dancers and toy soldiers.

“The Nutcracker Mariinsky Ballet” tickets are available at participating theater box offices and online at www.FathomEvents.com. For a complete list of theater locations and prices, visit the NCM Fathom website (theaters and participants are subject to change). This special holiday presentation will be broadcast to more than 500 select movie theaters through NCM’s exclusiveDigital Broadcast Network and also via the new digital cinema projection systems.

The ballet opens with a Christmas Eve party and a young girl, Clara, being given a nutcracker doll by her godfather, Drosselmeyer. Later in the evening when Clara sleeps, she finds herself in the midst of the Nutcracker’s battle against the Mouse King and his army of mice. Coming to Clara’s aid, the Nutcracker is transformed into a Prince and journeys with her to an enchanted island where spectacular celebrations are held in their honor.

This production showcases the impeccable virtuosity of two of the Mariinsky Theatre’s rising stars – Alina Somova as Clara(Masha in the original Russian ballet) and Vladimir Shklyarov as the Nutcracker. EuroArts Music International filmed “The Nutcracker” in 3-D for this cinematic event.

Under the leadership of General and Artistic Director and renowned conductor, Valery Gergiev, the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, Russia was the first ballet company to embrace 3-D technology with the theatrical release of “Giselle in 3D” in 2011, distributed worldwide by More2Screen, and NCM Fathom Events in the U.S.

“The Mariinsky Theatre is one of the world’s leading opera and ballet companies with a far–reaching global profile,” said Gergiev. “Through ground–breaking projects like ‘The Nutcracker in 3-D,’ produced to the same exacting standards for the big screen as for the stage, we are able to share our beautiful productions with many more people worldwide.”

The Mariinsky Theatre was the original home to Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” in 1892, when it made its worldwide debut, and this brand-new version in both 2-D and 3-D marks the 120th anniversary year of the ballet.

“Attending ‘The Nutcracker’ ballet each year is a long-standing holiday tradition for many families across the world,” said Shelly Maxwell, executive vice president of NCM Fathom Events. “With Tchaikovsky’s eternally popular score, the grand staging and exquisite costumes, this Mariinsky Theatre production of ‘The Nutcracker’ in movie theaters will be a unique way to experience this beloved classic.”

About National CineMedia (NCM)

NCM operates NCM Media Networks, a leading integrated media company reaching U.S. consumers in movie theaters, online and through mobile technology.  The NCM Cinema Network and NCM Fathom Events present cinema advertising and events across the nation’s largest digital in-theater network, comprised of theaters owned by AMC Entertainment Inc., Cinemark Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CNK), Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC) and other leading regional theater circuits. NCM’s theater advertising network covers 183 Designated Market Areas® (49 of the top 50) and includes over 19,300 screens (over 18,400 digital). During 2011, approximately 680 million patrons (on an annualized basis) attended movies shown in theaters in which NCM currently has exclusive, cinema advertising agreements in place.  The NCM Fathom Events live digital broadcast network (“DBN”) is comprised of over 720 locations in 170 Designated Market Areas® (including all of the top 50). The NCM Interactive Networkoffers 360-degree integrated marketing opportunities in combination with cinema, encompassing 41 entertainment-related websites, online widgets and mobile applications.  National CineMedia, Inc. (NASDAQ: NCMI) owns a 48.6% interest in and is the managing member of National CineMedia LLC. For more information, visit www.ncm.com or www.FathomEvents.com.

About More2Screen

More2Screen is the UK’s leading distributor of alternative content events with more than six years of experience acquiring and distributing world–class opera, ballet, music concerts, theatre and special event films to cinemas across the globe. New content is being added to a fast–growing portfolio on a regular basis and productions released internationally include 2D/3D LIVE and recorded formats. www.more2screen.com

About The Mariinsky Theatre

The Mariinsky Theatre, (formerly the Kirov), is one of the leading opera and ballet companies in the world. Its origins date back to the 18th century and its founder Catherine the Great. As the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, it was the most famous ensemble of the Tsarist Empire and its history is interwoven with many ballet greats including Rudolf Nureyev, Vaslav Nijinksy, Anna Pavlova, and Michel Fokine. The Mariinsky Theatre is enjoying a second golden age under the dynamic, forward–thinking leadership of General and Artistic Director, Valery Gergiev. www.mariinsky.ru/en orwww.mariinsky.us