Concert Review “Rockstar Mayhem Festival” Scranton, PA

“Rockstar Mayhem Festival”
Slipknot, Slayer, Motorhead, Asking Alexandria, Anthrax, As I Lay Dying, The Devil Wears Prada, White Chapel, I The Breather, Bleeding Ink
Date: Saturday, August 4th 2012
Venue: Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Scranton, PA

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

On Saturday August 4th the heavy metal circus known as “The Rockstar Mayhem Festival” screeched its way into the Toyota Pavilion located in Scranton, PA. Kicking of the day was the band Bleeding Ink who despite only playing a 20 minute set seemed to really give there all as fans were still slowly making their way through several security/ticket stops. I The Breather was up next followed by White Chapel and As I Lay Dying. Closing out the second stage was NY thrash legends Anthrax. Though I feel the band would have been more suited for the main stage they did do a great job packing their 40 minute set with such classics as “Caught in a Mosh and “Madhouse” before ending with the always popular “I Am the Law”.

After an afternoon of battling heat and the occasional crowd surfer in the venues parking lot the festival moved its way over to the main stage. The UK band Asking Alexandria opened up the evening with a brief 7 song set. Definitely the youngest band on the main stage and probably the least know by those in attendance were sadly given a luke warm reception. Despite the minimal crowd response the band forged on until their 30 minute set came to a close. Heavy metal icon Lemmy and his band Motorhead would be up next and instantly kicked the volume to the max. Performing such classic songs as “Damage Case”, “Killed by Death” and “Ace of Spades” the crowd sprung to life with pumping fists and banging heads. Slayer were up next and treated the crowd to a pyro packed set which was highlighted by such legendary Slayer tracks as “War Ensemble”, “South of Heaven”, “Angel of Death” and of course “Reign in Blood”. Immediately after pulverizing the crowd Slayer would leave the stage and a dark red curtain would be lowered. Following a brief intermission Slipknots intro “742617000027” began cranking over the pa. With a flash bang that could be heard for miles the masked clad band launched into an energy filled set that would entertain even the most casual of Slipknot fans. Highlights of the set included “Wait and Bleed”, “Vermillion”, “The Heretic Anthem” and, “Psychosocial”. Front man Cory Taylor wasted little time in between songs talking with the crowd as there certainly was an agenda and time frame for the evening.

I was super excited to be able to catch one of the stops on this year’s tour. With such a great line-up surely a good time was going to be had. However, catching the second to last show before of the tour did not yield such results. Yes I got to hear a number of my favorite songs by some great bands but with the exception of Slipknot and maybe one or two other acts the performances were a tad underwhelming and seemed rushed. I am sure by this stage in a tour bands are tired and ready to go home but, fans at the end of a tour pay just as much as those at the start of a tour and deserve a top notch performance. Despite a great looking bill and some really cool promotions related to the tour I think the show in Scranton, PA was a bit of a dud. Thankfully Slipknot closing out the end of a long, hot day and some promising performances from the Jagermeister stage left me with a glimmer of hope for next year’s run.

Slipknot Set List:
Intro- 742617000027
1.) (Sic)
2.) Eyeless
3.) Sulfur
4.) Wait and Bleed
5.) Disasterpiece
7.) Gently
8.) Vermillion
9.) The Heretic Anthem
10.) Psychosocial
11.) Duality
12.) Spit It Out
13.) People=Shit
14.) Surfacing
Outro- ‘Til We Die

Slayer Set List:
Intro- Darkness of Christ
1.) Disciple
2.) War Ensemble
3.) Die by the Sword
4.) Hate Worldwide
5.) Mandatory Suicide
6.) Alter of Sacrifice
7.) Jesus Saves
8.) Season in the Abyss
9.) Hell Awaits
10.) Dead Skin Mask
11.) Angel of Death
12.) South of Heaven
13.) Raining Blood

Motorhead Set List:
1.) Bomber
2.) Damage Case
3.) I Know How to Die
4.) Stay Clean
5.) Over the Top
6.) The Chase is Better Than the Catch
7.) The One to Sing the Blues
Drum Solo
8.) Going to Brazil
9.) Killed by Death
10.) Ace of Spades

Asking Alexandria Set List:
1.) Welcome
2.) Closure
3.) Breathless
4.) A Lesson Never learned
5.) To the Stage
6.) Dear Insanity
7.) Morte et Dabo

Concert Review “Rockstar Uproar Festival” Syracuse, NY

“Rockstar Uproar Festival”
Shinedown, Godsmack, Staind, Adelitas Way, Fozzy, In This Moment, Duece, Candlelight Red, Mindset Evolution, Cruz
Date: Saturday, August 25th 2012
Venue: New York State Fair Grand Stand, Syracuse, NY

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

The Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival came to the Great New York State Fair on Saturday August 25th and despite a few band cancelations the festival was quite enjoyable. The day’s festivities kicked off on dueling side stages sponsored by Jagermeister and Ernie Ball. Due to the venue layout all three of the festival stages were side by side making it very easy to watch all of the performances. Besides not missing one note of music the rotating stages allowed for a very mini lag time between groups. This not only kept the energy of the crowd up but gave the show a great flow and feel. Despite the absence of P.O.D and the recent cancelation of Papa Roach each of the bands on the smaller stages did a great job filling in the time and the afternoon was capped off by energetic performances from In This Moments and Fozzy which features WWE Superstar Chris Jericho on vocals.

Prior to the start of the main stage performances fans we made to clear the venue which did cause quite a bit of confusion and chaos as fans were shuffled through various small openings leading under the grandstand viewing area. After a 40 minute wait fans were finally allowed to re-enter and take their seats for the rest of the evenings events. Up and coming hard rock band Adelitas Way opened the night and gave the fans a brief but energy packed set which came to a close with lead singer Rick DeJesus jumping in to the crowd for some quality time where he remained signing autographs and posing for photos for some time after the rest of the band left the stage. Staind would follow with a surprisingly energetic set which featured hits like “It’s Been Awhile”, “Mudshovel” and “Outside”. Despite singer Aaron Lewis preparing to take some time away from the band to promote his upcoming country album band moral seemed high and it really showed in the group’s performance. Hard rock heavy weights Godsmack would be next playing a greatest hits set consisting of songs from each of the bands albums. Highlights of the set were “Keep Away”, “Bad Religion” and of course the dueling drum solo’s between Shannon Larken and Sully Erna. Having seen the band several times now it would have been great to see something different from the band as this set was almost identical to the set performed by the band on this past springs “Mass Chaos Tour”. Shinedown closed out the night with a pyro packed performance featuring songs off the band latest album “Amaryllis”. Though the bands stage show featured a number of cool effects and a guest appearance by In This Moment front woman Maria Brink I felt the performance by the band was a bit boring. Singer Brent Smith very rarely left his podium and spent little to no time interacting with the crowd. At times the sound of the band seemed very produced and digital which I felt hurt the performance more than helped it. I am all for bands embracing technology however you have to know when enough is enough.

Though the “Rockstar Uproar Festival” is a bit smaller and doesn’t have as many big names artists as Rockstar’s other traveling tour “Mayhem Festival”. The smaller set ups gave each performance a more intimate feel. Having attended both festivals the “Uproar Festival” featured a wider variety of musical styles, better stage set up and a far better sound production. If Uproar is coming to your town be sure to grab a ticket and get to the show early to check out some really great talent.

Shinedown Set List:
1.) Sound of Madness
2.) Diamond Eyes
3.) Enemies
4.) If You Only Knew
5.) Devour feat. Maria Brink
7.) I’ll Follow You
8.) Unity
9.) .45
10.) Simple Man
11.) Second Chance
12.) Fly From the Inside

Godsmack Set List:
1.) Enemy
2.) Keep Away
3.) Cryin’ Like a Bitch
4.) Straight Out of Line
5.) Awake
6.) Bad Religion
7.) Speak
8.) Voodoo
9.) Drum Solo
10.) Whatever
11.) I Stand Alone

Staind Set List:
1.) Eyes Wide Open
2.) Right Here
3.) Now
4.) For You
5.) Paper Wings
6.) It’s Been Awhile
7.) Not Again
8.) Outside
9.) Mudshovel
10.) Something to Remind You

Adelitas Way Set List:
1.) The Collapse
2.) Hurt
3.) Alive
4.) Cage the Beast
5.) Criticize
6.) Sick
7.) Invincible

SyFy Kicks off Summer 2012 with Memorial Day Weekend Movie Festival

SYFY KICKS OFF SUMMER 2012 WITH MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND MOVIE FESTIVAL

PREMIERE OF SUPER SHARK ON SATURDAY, MAY 26 AT 9PM

NEW YORK – May 18, 2012 – Syfy will kick off Summer 2012 with a four-day, Memorial Day weekend movie extravaganza highlighted by the dyn-o-mite premiere of Super Shark, starring classic TV stars Jimmy Walker (“J.J.” on Good Times) and John Schneider (Smallville, Dukes of Hazzard) on Saturday, May 26 at 9PM (ET/PT).

Syfy launches the holiday festival on Friday, May 25 with a Nightmare on Elm Street marathon. Creature features devour the Saturday, May 26 schedule, including Sharktopus and Lake Placid 2, the highest rated Saturday Original Movie ever.

On Sunday, May 27, Syfy unleashes a theatrical movie bonanza ranging from Serenity and Stealth to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Closing out the long holiday weekend on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, Syfy will present films such as Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace,starring Daniel Craig as 007.

Syfy is a media destination for imagination-based entertainment. With year round acclaimed original series, events, blockbuster movies, classic science fiction and fantasy programming, a dynamic Web site (www.Syfy.com), and a portfolio of adjacent business (Syfy Ventures), Syfy is a passport to limitless possibilities. Originally launched in 1992 as SCI FI Channel, and currently in more than 98 million homes, Syfy is a network of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies. (Syfy. Imagine greater.)

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Tribeca Film Festival Review “One Nation Under Dog”

Directed by: Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Amanda Micheli, Jenny Carchman
Producers: R.J. Cutler, Julie Goldman, Allyson Luchak, Danielle Renfrew, Ellen Goosenberg Kent
Tribeca Film Festival
Running time: 73 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

It’s difficult to say who One Nation Under Dog, which screened last week at the Tribeca Film Fest, will appeal to when it makes its debut this summer on HBO. Dog lovers, of which I include myself, will undoubtedly find it at times unbearable and those who swap over channels when they see Sarah McLachlan’s SPCA ad starting up might mistakenly do so again. However, to do so would be needlessly dismissive to an extremely well made look into the conflicting relationship this country has with man’s best friend.

In three parts derived from the doc’s subtitle, ‘Stories of Fear, Loss and Betrayal,’ directors Kent, Micheli and Carchman show the various ways in which a population so obviously in love with dogs comes to euthanize millions of them every year. ‘Fear’ gives a fascinating view at the ins and outs of how dogs, in this case a New Jersey family’s pack of Rhodesian Ridgebacks with a history of violence, come to be legally defined as ‘dangerous’, ‘potentially dangerous’ and ‘vicious.’ The distinctions sound small but they do determine whether a dog lives or dies after biting a human. ‘Loss’, arguably the most sensitive third of the film, delves into how people cope with their pets’ passing. It may surprise some to watch an adult dog-loss support group in progress, but to anyone whose lost a significant pet it’s not hard to see the benefits of such a place and the filmmakers never once look down on them. Neither is the funeral of a terrier at a pet cemetery treated with any less sincerity than that of a human friend.

It’s in the last third of the doc, ‘Betrayal’, where the film turns from the stories of individual lost pets to the outright slaughter that occurs on a daily basis for preventable reasons. Betrayal hammers home the importance of spaying or neutering pets and the merits of adopting the shelter dogs so desperately in need of homes. Some of the footage in this chapter comes with a warning about its graphic nature and it is indeed brutal to the point I felt physically unsettled but ultimately a documentary on this subject would have been incomplete without going this far.

To those who watch this documentary, you will need tissues at the ready for the obvious lost dogs but thankfully, also for the inspiring stories of dogs saved from the brink of death by the numerous rescuers who stand up for those who can not for themselves. Watching one such trainer turn some left for dead, terrified animals into loving members of new family’s was one of the most astonishing things I saw amongst Tribeca’s docs this year.

One Nation Under Dog: Stories of Fear, Loss and Betrayal premieres on HBO June 18th at 8pm

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Burn”

Directed by: Tom Putnam, Brenna Sanchez
Producers: Tom Putnam, Brenna Sanchez
Tribeca Film Festival
Running time: 85 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Burn”, winner of the Heineken Audience Award for Documentary at TFF, takes a look at the firefighters of Detroit, a city where abandoned buildings are everywhere and arson is rampant. More specifically, directors Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez, reveal the ups and downs of fire fighting in the Motor City through the eyes of Engine 50. Ultimately Burn is a heartfelt and character driven documentary, that doesn’t lose sight of the larger picture of a struggling US city.

The directors of “Burn” introduce us into the company through a good cross section of figures within it. We first meet Dave Parnell, a field engine operator on the eve of his retirement after 33 years of driving the truck. He opens the film with the sage sounding “I wish my mind could forget what my eyes have seen.” It’s a beautiful and sincere statement but also brilliantly connects him to his younger colleagues who in quick edit repeat this mantra they’ve obviously heard during Parnell’s many years. The camaraderie among the ladder company is immediately recognizable here and the directors smartly establish the whys of these men’s chosen occupation when the risks are so great. The ladder company is their home away from home, they bicker and eat together like family and when the time comes they admittedly get an adrenaline kick from the actual fire fighting. Burn includes footage actually shot from the firemen’s helmets that is incredibly impressive.

Being able to capture the bonds between Engine Company 50 early on is crucial to the rest of the film, as we turn to how many sacrifices these men make and just how much help they still need. For all the dedication of the firemen, they are severely underfunded and often their equipment is in need of repair that’s not in the budget. In a city full of abandoned buildings, an ethical dilemma arises in the form of deciding whether or not it’s worth the hazards of saving a building “designed to kill firemen” or to just let it burn. The latter option is brought in by a new executive fire commissioner, Donald Austin, who to the film’s credit is treated really fairly despite clearly being seen by the Engine 50 men, as an outsider. Austin was born in Detroit but spent 30 years in Los Angeles. The let-it-burn policy will of course save on the company’s equipment but it reveals to us the dedication of the E50 men whose instincts it goes against. It’s hard to choose either well meaning side and the film rightly doesn’t try to.

A third focus shows explicitly what these men can face when we meet Brendan “Doogie” Milewski who at age 30 became paralyzed from the waist down after a wall in an arson fire collapsed on him. Putnam and Sanchez get an intimate look into his physical therapy process and he is completely candid about the struggles he now faces both physically and mentally. Doogie is grateful to have survived but neither him nor the filmmakers downplay the lost plans for his future.

At 85 minutes, “Burn” moves swiftly and yet in an amazing balancing act still manages to engage us in so many personal amongst the story of a city in need. These men give so much to the city they care about, it’s about time this dedication was shown to a larger audience.

Peter Cilella talks his new film “Resolution”

Peter Cilella stars in the upcoming film “Resolution” which will be part of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Media Mikes talked with Peter recently about his role in the film.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about the film “Resolution”?
Peter Cilella: This film is about a guy who goes out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere to get his friend clean from drugs. My character takes drastic measures to get him clean. Throughout the course of the movie we each deal with personal demons and without giving too much away there is something else out there. The movie is about different controls in our lives. I think this is something everyone can relate to even when it veers off onto an odd path.

AL: What drew you to the role?
PC: I am friends with Justin Benson who wrote and co-directed the film. I had done a bunch of short projects with him and I had also worked previously with Vinny Curran who is the other lead actor in the film. We felt that we had a good chemistry and everything worked. Justin had wanted to do a feature and I suggested to him about setting this film out in the middle of nowhere. A couple months later he had the script and money. It’s really nice to get to work with people who actually walk the walk. I am very fortunate to have such a good friendship with these guys.

AL: I know you have done a lot of stage work in the past. Did you find it difficult transitioning from stage to screen work?
PC: I think the length of time we were away on location was the hardest part. We shot the film in about 20 days. Being immersed to that degree was different. I had done shorter commercial shoots and short film shoots but nothing like this. We had a pretty lengthy rehearsal process for the film which was pretty unique. Usually that doesn’t happen. I found there were a lot of great skills I could take from theater and apply them to film. It’s really a work ethic. The more you do it the better you get. If you are going to be a professional actor you have to do your training and work at it.

AL: Are there any other plans to take the film to more festivals after Tribeca?
PC: This is just the beginning. However I don’t know anything that is really concrete of where or what the film will be doing next.

AL: What other projects are you working on?
PC: I have co-written an action comedy with one of my good friends. We are shopping that around right now. I am also working through my first solo full length script. That has been a challenging process. I am actually trying to finish the first draft before the Tribeca Festival. Writing is really challenging but also very rewarding.

AL: Do you see yourself going more towards writing than acting?
PC: I would love to balance both. That is when I am the most happy. If I am only doing one or the other I feel like I am neglecting a side of me that needs to be fed. When I started writing years ago it was more out of frustration. I needed a creative outlet. I was between jobs and I had some down time. I needed to express myself and I really got into writing. I love story telling and it’s something that I don’t think I would ever want to abandon.

 

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Tribeca Film Festival Review “Off Label”

Directed by: Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher
Producers: Anish Savjani, Vincent Savino
Tribeca Film Festival
Running time: 80 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Off Label”, a new documentary from Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, draws its power from getting personal with those most affected by the pharmaceutical industry’s usage of humans as guinea pigs. For some, it’s a financial choice, while for others it’s as a last ditch effort when other means have failed them.

With subjects spanning across the country, some of the most devastating accounts come from Andy Duffy, a 22-year-old army medic stricken with PTSD from being stationed at Abu Gharib, and Mary Weiss, the mother of a man who killed himself while in a medical study. At 17, Duffy could not believe that he was being deployed as a medic to one of the war’s most notorious locations and Off Label’s directors rightly make no effort to shield its viewers from the horrors he faced there. Understandably Duffy returned to the country in a real need of psychiatric help. What he found was doctors giving him a plethora of medications for various symptoms and off label prescriptions that fit under their medical plan better than more expensive, perhaps more appropriate, drugs. They’re basically throwing anything at him to see what works. In any case, Duffy is the not the only interviewee who presents a massive stock pile of little orange pill bottles in this doc and that’s the trouble. “I don’t need medication. I need help,” Duffy says. This loss of humanity in the search for the most effective drug mixture is at the heart of the problem examined in the doc. Duffy ultimately turns to other war veterans for more effective support, but other subjects lack such groups.

For me, the film’s most powerful figure is Mary Weiss. Weiss committed her 26-year-old son, Dan Markingson, for psychiatric help. Though he was committed, his personal consent to be put into a closed clinical study for anti-psychotics was irreversible by Weiss as he was not a minor. What resulted was Weiss being incapable of pulling her son from the drug study even though she could tell he was much worse off and eventually he committed a grisly suicide. Weiss became dedicated to fighting corruption within the drug testing system and in the film she is a striking and passionate interviewee. When she speaks to the filmmakers she is composed but the rage she has felt since losing Dan is palpable. Her account of her son’s death is haunting and I suspect will have many viewers rally to her cause. She is truly remarkable.

To counter the stories of those directly affected by prescription abuses, Palmieri and Mosher have also smartly included an ex-pharmaceutical rep, Michael Oldani, to detail the mechanics of getting various drugs into the public’s minds. Reflecting on his past occupation, Oldani dubs the role of drug reps as shady and some of the tactics he reveals to get a patient to prefer one drug over another are eye opening in their simplicity.

Besides Weiss’ fight, Off Label isn’t so much about directly confronting the rampant drug marketing in the United States as examining the human cost of such a culture. Beautifully shot footage of each of their interviewees in their day to day lives—Duffy practicing with his rifle, two of the “human guinea-pigs” celebrating an unconventional wedding— contribute to an intimate look at a massive problem.

2012 Tribeca Film Festival Reviews

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal & Craig Hatkoff as a response to the attacks on the World Trade Center. Conceived to foster the economic and cultural revitalization of Lower Manhattan through an annual celebration of film, music and culture, the Festival’s mission is to promote New York City as a major filmmaking center and allow its filmmakers to reach the broadest possible audience. Since the inaugural festival, Lower Manhattan has become a thriving cultural and economic center.

Over the course of 12 days, the Tribeca Film Fest exhibited 89 feature films and 60 short films to over 116,000 movie-goers.

Media Mikes was fortunate to screen and review a bunch of films throughout the fest.  Check out our reviews below, but don’t worry if you missed the festival many of these features hopefully will be distributed soon to a wider audience. Stay tuned!

Check out the following link for the 2012 schedule and film guide


As Luck Would Have It

Burn

Downeast

Journey to Planet X

Mansome

Off Label

One Nation Under Dog

The Revisionaries

Side By Side

Take The Waltz

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Mansome”

Directed By: Morgan Spurlock
Producers: Jeremy Chilnick, Meri Haitken, Michael Rushton, Morgan Spurlock
Featuring: Morgan Spurlock, Zach Galifianakis, Will Arnett, Paul Rudd, Jason Bateman, Judd Apatow
Tribeca Film Festival
Running time: 84 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Morgan Spurlock’s newest documentary, Mansome, isn’t so much about what it means to be A Man in the modern world as it is a chance for a group of eccentric subjects and celeb commentators to riff on the level of manscaping that’s going on. And as it involves a reunion of Arrested Development’s Bluth brothers, Will Arnett and Jason Bateman (also serving as executive producers), I’m pretty much fine with that.

Arnett and Bateman’s interactions frame loosely themed segments of the film focusing on things such as beards and hair products. The two men are having a spa day where they ponder the question of masculinity while they also take turns taking comedic jabs at each other. In a standout bit, they hold an impromptu challenge as to who can withstand the rougher massage. Other celebrity interviewees who aren’t exactly taking the subject at hand seriously include Paul Rudd and a hilarious Zach Galifianakis. All of Galifianakis’s answers drew big laughs and he later dominates the over-credits footage after the film. One can only hope there could be more, from all parties really, on the eventual dvd/blu-ray.

When not watching talking heads, the film follows a few men whose lives seem to center around maintaining their hair. Jack Passion is the World Beard Champion (that exists!) and we’re privy to one of their competitions (pageants?) in Germany. Shawn Daivari is a TNA wrestler whose quest to keep up with the hairless culture he works in means he must call in a buddy to shave his “ass shelf.” Ass shelf. Manscaping. This film’s educational value seems to rest on introducing new phrases to a wider audience. Though I could have lived without the creator of Fresh Balls ruining the term “bat wing” in this pre-Dark Knight Rises spring.

If neither of these sides of the doc sound like they appeal, or if you’re looking for the deeper cultural implications of well groomed men, perhaps it’s best to avoid Mansome. But it’s a light, amusing film that’s definitely worth checking out for comedy fans and anyone else who wants to gawk at some really elaborate beards.

Upcoming TFF Screenings of Mansom
Fri. 4/27 – 9:30pm, SVA-1
Sat. 4/28 – 3:00pm, AV7-1

Tribeca Film Festival Review “The Revisionaries”

Directed by: Scott Thurman
Producer: Pierson Silver, Orlando Wood, Scott Thurman
Featuring: Kathy Miller, Don McLeroy
Tribeca Film Festival
Running time: 83 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Before seeing “The Revisionaries”, I would have been hard-pressed to identify a more noxious sound than that of a dentist’s drill at work. I now know that if the dentist behind that tool is also interrogating the patient on their thoughts on god, or badly singing “For the Bible Tells Me So” as he works, the auditory punishment is that much worse. Talk about a captive audience. It’s a perfect introduction to one of this great, often startling, documentary’s most polarizing figures, Don McLeroy, former head of the Texas State Board of Education.

Thurman’s film focuses on this small board, fifteen members in all, because as one of America’s top purchasers of high school textbooks, the standards they approve for the writing of those books dictate what the nation’s students will be reading for the next ten years. Following Abraham Lincoln’s quote, “the philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next,” the members of the board have become increasing politicized. Particularly in the realms of science and history. McLeroy enters into the film on the side of the religious far right. A young Earth creationist since he was 29, McLeroy would swear up and down he doesn’t let his personal beliefs enter into his role in education while simultaneously insisting that “science is great, but it doesn’t deserve the plateau [sic] that they put it on”. If it were up to him he would teach kids that dinosaurs walked alongside man and rode on the ark 6000 years ago. There is something profoundly disturbing about a man with, as he described it, a “mind boggling” amount of power chanting to his followers that they must “stand up to the experts!” where education is involved. This type of disgusting anti-intellectualism continues to pervade the political debate today. Just look at failed presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s recent college-is-for-snobs rhetoric for evidence. McLeroy’s stance is backed by other board members like Cynthia Dunbar, another one who will say at the Board meetings that she’s not pushing a theological agenda, but she’ll start a State board meeting with a Christian prayer. If these peoples’ views, ignorance and downright hypocrisy are all infuriating, to director Scott Thurman’s credit, it’s not through any cinematic trickery that this impression is achieved. Thurman gives McLeroy and his cohorts plenty of screen time in which to calmly lay out their beliefs in talking head segments.

On the other side of the debate is Kathy Miller, leader of the Texas Freedom Network, an organization aimed to stop the hijacking of America’s classrooms for political gain. On her side would be the aforementioned experts such as anthropology professor Ron Wetherington and Eugenie Scott, the executive director at the National Center for Science Education. They’re tasked with having to deal with powerful board members who got there via election, not nearly as much education as the experts needed to get to their respective titles. I suppose that’s what makes them experts. Occasionally debates among the panel actually have to pause to have scientific phrases explained to board members. Thurman’s camera does a brilliant job of capturing the moments of silent shock on some of the more level headed commentators in such instances. Wetherington in particular has a wonderfully expressive face when caught off guard. These slips are in great contrast to the restraint the professor shows when dealing with McLeroy in a one on one debate that gets so overly polite it starts to rival Warner Brothers’ Goofy Gophers.

The first half of the documentary focuses on the hot button debate over evolution, with the right wing side pushing for textbooks to accentuate the “weaknesses” of a “theory.” Such petty wording will have a profound effect that should not be underestimated. For me though, the more startling debate appears in the second meeting we see regarding America’s history books. The Board actually seeks to downplay Thomas Jefferson, only the writer of the Declaration of Independence, and emphasize John Calvin in the founding beliefs of the United States. (Calvin being of the belief in predestined eternal damnation or salvation.) It’s an interesting switch for such fervent self-proclaimed patriots to propose but as said before, these people are no strangers to hypocrisy. It is worth noting that while Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence he’s also been quoted many times in connection to religious skepticism. Famously writing to John Adams,“The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being…will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva, in the brain of Jupiter.” Thurman does not delve into such motivations behind the voting panel’s anti-Jefferson attitude, but that was not far from this viewer’s mind.

For a film that centers largely on votes taking place in a boardroom setting, “The Revisionaries” is riveting. Particularly in the sequences regarding amendments to history books which can be swiftly proposed, rejected, reworded, and re-spun as entirely new ones at the speed of a tennis volley. Some of the phrase nitpicking and absurdity had me recalling Armando Iannucci’s brilliant political satire “In The Loop”.  Thurman’s doc is well timed too as November 2012 will see the election of all 15 spots of the Board of Education. Voter turnout for the McLeroy chair as shown in the film was only 20% and hopefully with enough exposure, Thurman’s film can rally more to chime in on this shockingly influential yet tiny group of people. It’s an important film to bring attention to a vote that might otherwise be overshadowed in this presidential election year.

Upcoming TFF Screenings of The Revisionaries:
Wed. 4/25 – 6:00pm, CCC-7
Sat. 4/28 – 6:00pm, AV7-1

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Take this Waltz”

Directed by: Sarah Polley
Producers: Susan Cavan, Sarah Polley
Starring: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby
Tribeca Film Festival
Running Time: 116 minutes

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

In Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz, Michelle Williams is Margot, a young married woman who is terrified to discover the hot guy she shared a seat row, and flirtatious conversation with on a homebound flight is in fact her new across-the-street neighbor David (Luke Kirby). He’s stirred something within her and she starts to question her comfortable five year marriage to cookbook author, Lou (Seth Rogen).

What follows is a very, very long string of will-they, won’t-they encounters between David and Margot. The more scenes they share, the clearer it becomes that they have more serious chemistry than Margot does with husband Lou. Married at 23, it appears that Margot and Lou have not matured past baby-talking each other. When the married couple speak in hypotheticals, it’s to play who can gross the other out more (threats include “I’m going to skin you with a potato peeler!”). When Margot and David speak in hypotheticals, it involves David describing what he would do to her body given the chance. Strong scenes like these between the illicit couple make the audience restless for Margot to either run away from Lou or completely stop David’s everything-short-of-physical advances. Her indecision is seemingly endless and the more encounters she herself arranges with David only to eventually shut him down, border on making Margot unlikeable and David weak. When Margot does make her decision, the film goes into an unexpected overtime exploring all the implications of it when the audience was really just waiting for her to make a choice.

There also are many leaps of faith one has to take when watching this film. Obviously, the odds of neighbors David and Margot’s meeting on the plane seem very slight but it’s necessary for the whole setup. However, there’s many other elements about these characters’ lives that come off as unrealistic and they pile up. Everyone seems to live impossibly outside of their means given their occupations (Margot, a wannabe writer. David, secret artist/rickshaw driver. Both, occupying large, quirky, suburban homes). For such young characters it is also odd that outside their immediate families, we don’t see them with any friends. Are Lou and Margot so repellant they can’t hang out with other couples? David especially seems to exist purely to interact with Margot and if he weren’t so perfect really, you’d call him a stalker.

If their lives seem improbable, fortunately the actors bring authentic emotion to their characters. As proven in last year’s 50/50, Seth Rogen can be amazing in more dramatic roles. Lou really has no reason to suspect anything is wrong in his marriage, so when Margot combusts in front of him while he’s cooking, his plea of “I was just trying to make chicken” is strong and heartbreaking. Michelle Williams continues to do amazing work especially so when she’s left to her own devices as on a carnival scrambler ride with David where we see her go from joyous to terrified and back. And set to The Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star” of all songs. As David, Luke Kirby is suitably sexy and so appealing it’s hard not to root for him. If only there was more to David than an object of Margot, and this film’s, fantasy life.

Upcoming TFF Screenings of Take this Waltz
Mon. 4/23 – 7:00pm, AMC Loews Village 7-2
Thu. 4/26 – 1:00pm, AMC Loews Village 7-2

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Downeast”

Directed by: David Redmon and Ashley Sabin
Tribeca Film Festival
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running time: 76 minutes

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Downeast tells the story of the aftermath of the closing of the United States’ last sardine canning factory in Gouldsboro, Maine. With the factory’s workforce unemployed–and because of many of their advanced ages, unemployable– an Italian immigrant arrives with the goal of turning the old facility into a lobster processing plant and putting them back to work.

There’s a lot at stake in David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s documentary for these Maine townspeople and yet unfortunately they are oddly lost in the shuffle. Instead the focus is on Italian businessman, Antonio Bussone’s fight against the town elders (would-be lobster competitors) and the red tape preventing him from access to federal funding to keep his factory afloat. This often times translates to many scenes of him doing deals over the phone in his office or scrolling through bank accounts on his computer. This is not very interesting to watch and even confusing as he laments negative balances while the factory is still up and operating. One wonders if he ever clued his rehired employees into how badly off he was.

Where the film shines is when it focuses on the lifelong employees of the Stinson sardine cannery. You sense a real camaraderie between, for example, three ladies sitting together comparing how many years each worked there (all thirty years or more). There’s a wonderful scene where three elderly ladies, adjusting from the shift of canning already-dead sardines to starting with live lobsters, debate whether or not the lobsters feel much pain in the process. It’s charming, if slightly macabre. We also get to meet a salty old lobster fisherman named Sherman who doesn’t care for town politics and only cares who will pay him the most for his catch. These are all great personalities I wish the film would have stayed with longer instead of the businessman.

It is also often in these scenes where the film is most interesting visually. The seemingly endless supply of shiny red lobster shells is shuffled through the plant hypnotically while the workers go at an amazing pace. It’s a great contrast from Bussone’s sterile office dealings. Unfortunately that office is really where the success of this factory project lives or dies and in the end the fate of the workers is left sadly unresolved.

Upcoming TFF Screenings of “Downeast”:
Sat. 4/21 – 1pm, AMC Loews Village 7-2
Tues. 4/24 – 7:30pm, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea 9
Sat. 4/28 – 9:45pm, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea 8

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Side by Side”

Directed by: Chris Keneally
Producers: Chris Keneally, Keanu Reeves
Featuring: Keanu Reeves, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, James Cameron, George Lucas
Tribeca Film Festival
Running time: 99 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Film lovers may or may not know that as of October 2011 the major manufacturers of cameras for motion pictures–Arri, Panavision, Aaton– stopped making new film cameras. In January of this year Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy in the face of insurmountable digital competitors. So is celluloid film dead?

This is the central question up for debate in Side by Side, an in depth documentary produced by Keanu Reeves and directed by Chris Keneally, which takes a look at the digital revolution which has been picking up steam in Hollywood since the turn of the millennium. The doc is making its stateside debut at this week’s Tribeca Film Fest with a planned release in August.

Reeves and Keneally have rounded up an impressive roster of interviewees who fall on all sides of the digital-versus-film argument and come from every step in the production and post-production process. In this corner we have director Christopher Nolan and his cinematographer Wally Pfister maintaining they’ll be the last people shooting on film, and in this corner we have digital proponents such as George Lucas and Robert Rodriguez swearing off celluloid for good. Occupying the middle ground are heavy hitters like David Fincher, David Lynch, Steven Soderbergh and Martin Scorsese (fresh off the digitally-shot “Hugo”).

The documentary itself never takes a side which makes the debate that much more engaging and I found myself shifting allegiance throughout. Additionally, on-screen interviewer Reeves is great at getting honest, candid reactions from his insider interviewees. Furthermore Keneally takes the time to explain the mechanics behind much of the debate’s technical aspects, a step which may cause digital-saavy folk to become a little bored, but it certainly makes the doc more accessible to the average movie goer.

In the end the most startling thing about Side by Side is how rapidly this technological change is occurring. In 1999, for the debut of The Phantom Menace, only four theatres in the country had digital projectors, four years later–in time for Attack of the Clones–there were 150. Statistics like this made me grateful that these filmmakers have been there to record, in whatever form they choose, this massive shift in cinema.

Upcoming TFF Screenings of Side by Side:
Tues. 4/24 – 8:30pm, SVA Theater 2 Beatrice
Thu. 4/26 – 7:00pm, AMC Loews Village 7-2
Fri. 4/27 – 2:30pm, AMC Loews Village 7-3
Sat. 4/28 – 4:00pm, AMC Loews Village 7-2
Sun. 4/29 – 2:30pm, SVA Theater 2 Beatrice

MouseTrap Films Snaps up Four Pix for the Launch of Film Festival Flix & Redefines Indie Film Distribution

First appearing on the scene at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, newly launched MouseTrap Films has been rapidly snapping up films for distribution via its FILM FESTIVAL FLIX monthly theatrical series and ancillaries. Acquisitions include “Face to Face,” “The Calling,” “The Holy Land of Tyrol,” and “Rancid.” MouseTrap President / CEO, Benjamin Oberman, has teamed up with VP of Theatrical Distribution, Jill Gray Savarese, to roll out the films theatrically.

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) February 29, 2012
First appearing on the scene at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival, newly launched MouseTrap Films has been rapidly snapping up films for distribution via its FILM FESTIVAL FLIX monthly theatrical series and ancillaries. MouseTrap President / CEO, Benjamin Oberman, has teamed up with VP of Theatrical Distribution, Jill Gray Savarese, to roll out the films theatrically.

Early acquisitions include Michael Rymer’s (QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA) “Face to Face” which won the Panavision Spirit Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress at the Newport Beach International Film Festival. The film, which is based upon a play by Australian Playwright, David Williamson, is frequently compared to “12 Angry Men.” Awarded Best of Fest at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Jan Dunn’s “The Calling” stars Oscar®-nominated actress Brenda Blethyn and was the last film of Oscar®-nominee Susannah York. “The Holy Land of Tyrol” (aka “Mountain Blood”) is a visually stunning German foreign language film by director, Philipp J. Pamer. Alastair Orr’s “Rancid” is a highly-anticipated sci/fi horror film. An additional 10 films are in negotiations and expected to close soon.

Oberman, who founded MouseTrap says, “MouseTrap Films was started to find the film festival gems that regularly fall through the cracks. The FILM FESTIVAL FLIX platform was created as a solution to the traditional challenge of marketing and branding a great film that lacks star power or other elements associated with a traditional campaign. We present great films and the film festival experience, monthly in your community, and make the films available to independent film enthusiasts on multiple platforms.”

The FILM FESTIVAL FLIX series will host actors and filmmakers for Q&A in 25 theaters nationwide, while simulcasting the events in up to 200 more. In an unprecedented move, filmmakers and actors may earn the right to screen their 5- minute short films theatrically before the features. Rewarding one local artist who coordinates the event-screening in their community, MouseTrap will screen their short film in that venue. The winner of the monthly online nationwide contest will be screened in all FFF theaters and distributed online at http://www.FilmFestivalFlix.com.

According to Savarese, who will establish and head-up the theatrical division, “My belief is that we, as distributors, can strengthen the reach of independent films by giving merit-based opportunities to new filmmakers and actors and by supporting the small exhibitors. To that end, we will strive to make our films available to even the smallest venues (including those without digital conversion) and offer them cross-promotional and grassroots marketing support.”

Branching out into film distribution is a natural progression for Oberman after 7 years of producing films, documentaries, and commercials. Savarese, who was a child performer and had a long career as an actor and producer on stage and film is also at home here. A curiosity that some don’t know, however, is the “consultant” parallel between them. Oberman, a former professional pairs figure skater who performed in the 2002 Olympic Games Opening & Closing Ceremonies, was a Figure Skating Consultant on Paramount / Dreamworks’ “Blades of Glory.” Savarese, a political interpreter who interpreted for President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair, was the Sign Language Consultant on the Fox Searchlight film, “The East.”

About Mousetrap Films:
MouseTrap Films offers an alternative releasing strategy, with FILM FESTIVAL FLIX functioning as a powerful new platform to launch and distribute Independent films. MouseTrap, via FILM FESTIVAL FLIX, plans to release 3 films a month in theaters across the US with day and date VOD/DVD. The films will be available for DVD Purchase, Download to Own, and Streaming Rental through the soon-to-be launched website http://www.FilmFestivalFlix.com and through additional partnerships and platforms.

Book Review “A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival”

Author(s): Harvey Kubernik, Kenneth Kubernik
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Santa Monica Press
Release Date: November 1, 2011

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Before Woodstock, the summer of 1967 brought us the Monterey International Pop Festival. It was the first festival where thousands of hippies went to experience the summer of love. The book provides a really great insight into the event where you feel like you were there. There are such detailed documents including copies of telegrams, contracts, newspaper clippings, line-up posters, and other rare memorabilia from the festival. If you are fan of such music icons, such as Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, and Otis Redding…than this is definitely a book for you, no question.

Besides all the amazing rare photos provided a great behind the scenes look at the festival, there are also many new interviews with musicians like Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and some members of the Jefferson Airplane and more! The book is split into seven chapters. What I enjoyed most is that it is a chronicle of each act that performed at the event. It is not just the authors telling us about the events. The first takes us through the preparation and leading up the event. The second chapter takes us through the events of the first night on Friday, which features music from Simon and Garfunkel and Lou Rawls. Chapter three focuses on Saturday afternoon with Canned Heat and The Steve Miller Band as a few of the acts giving their comments on the festival. Chapter 4 focuses on Saturday night with The Byrds and Jefferson Airplane for example. Chapter 5 takes us through the events of Sunday afternoon with detailed accounts from Ravi Shankar. Sunday night, the last night, is covered with biggest names like Buffalo Springfield, The Who, Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. The last chapter takes us through “Monterey Pop: The Movie” and follows D.A. Pennebaker’s account of the festival and working on the film.

The photos in the book really captures the essence of this truly amazing event. I feel that the personal account of each night really draw you into the book and if you close you eyes you can see the bands and here there music. I think that is probably the goal for a book like this one. Whether you were there at the Monterey International Pop Festival that June 16-18, 1967 or whether you weren’t even born, this book is a great tribute to the event. It is a must purchase for fans of this era of music.