The timeless quality of movie making magic, and can future innovation cross a line

Since the early days of film making, the audience at the cinema have happily engaged in a suspension of disbelief and partook in the grand illusion of movies. The magical aspect of film making is getting the viewer to believe – to accept the storyline, the characters, the mis en scene, the location, and anything else they may see on the silver screen. Believe all this even though none may be true. The pioneers of cinema such as George Méliès in his 1902 French film ‘A Trip to the Moon’ (Le Voyage Dans la Lun) employed a number of cinematic technique and special effects to show a rocket blasting off into space. Since the industry was brand new, Méliès used many tricks of his own invention or learning such as disappearances that occur in substitution splices, smoke pyrotechnics, and transitional dissolves. Anyone familiar with Buster Keaton’s comedies know the artful use of these jump cut tricks to achieve a certain reaction. This was the silent era, where the film making focus was primarily visual. At times, a piano accompaniment would play in the cinema, yet the only dialogue or description was that of the readable black screen text shots during the film. Without sound and a voice, the silent film actor usually had to convey their expressions differently on screen and this if often why silent acting can seem effusive and theatrical. The always entertaining Charlie Chaplin, for instance, became famous for his ability to convey emotions with a multitude of facial features and movements on screen to evoke laughter or sympathy in the viewer.

The advent of sound at first terrified many in the film industry, especially actors who now had to use their voice and learn dialogue. In the classic film Singing in the Rain the character who plays a former silent film actress has such an awful, high-pitched voice that it needs to be dubbed over. Dubbing the voices or music in film went through a tipsy training wheel’s process whereby often synchronization issues led to sometimes comical situations (such as when the man had the woman’s voice or vice versa). Moments like these broke the veil of illusion or magic of cinema as the viewer would then be made aware that what they were watching was indeed a film full of mechanical or camera tricks. Unless the director wanted to achieve a certain message, as reflected with the oeuvre of Godard or Truffaut or with actors breaking the 3rd wall by looking at the camera, the inner workings must always be kept hidden. There is the famous scene in the Wizard of Oz where the powerful wizard demands “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” This essentially is a terrific metaphor for film making.

Another famous moment in the Wizard of Oz is when Dorothy steps out for the first time in the land of Oz and the world has magically turned to colour. Colour is another pivotal benchmark in the film industry as this led to greater realism and a deeper effect of the illusion. Before viewers were well aware that what they watched was a film, but now the world on screen reflected their own with colour and sound. Film buffs often love watching behind the scenes specials, playing trivia games, and also online games related to movies. For example, there are many online casino sites where film fanatics can discover slot games specific to movies. Online slots such as Elk Studios ‘Bloopers’ and ‘Platooners’ both show the process of film making while players spin 5 reels, 3 to 4 rows, and a set number of paylines. These slots are engaging, easy to learn, and offer many features and bonuses for the chance to win rewards. They also are great as casino slots, so an actor can even spin while getting their makeup done. Other movie themed titles include ‘Book of Oz’, Halloween’, and ‘Jurassic World.’

Speaking of Hollywood blockbusters like Jurassic Park, the introduction of colour also saw the rise of Studio era film making where set backgrounds and effects could magically shoot a Sahara Desert sandstorm in Egypt in the morning and a snowstorm in the Arctic circle after a lunch break. The magic of the Studio lot allowed for movies to be filmed anywhere in the world and at any time. From the 1950s onward, cartoons and in particular Disney grew to massive a success. Yet until now there has always been a clear identification between what is a piece of animation and what is filmed in real life. In the past couple decades, however, leaps and bounds have been made with animation that coincides with the digital age. Skilled animators use CGI technology to further heighten the movie making magic and create virtually lifelike animations that blend with real world shots or backgrounds. For instance, creating a believable looking dragon or even characters that walk and talk like live actors, yet are complete animations. Most viewers may not even recognize what is real and what is not.

There is a paradox in cinematic animation when a CGI creation is so real that it crosses a line over to the ‘uncanny’, which has a tendency to turn off and even creep out audience. This was the case with the 2011 movie ‘The Adventures of TinTin’ that received uncertainty among critics who were distracted by the slight indicators that the characters were not human, even though the animation was so good they appeared to be living. Lifelike dolls have this same tendency, which is why they are often featured in horror films. With animation so good, it further raises the question of whether resurrecting deceased movie stars crosses an ethical line. For instance, ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ used animation mixed with an actor to create Princess Leia that resembled the recently passed actress Carrie Fischer and Grand Moff Tarkin played by late actor Peter Cushing. This relatively new area in film making remains a grey area with divided opinions. The key to maintaining the magic, however, is to keep the audience guessing and most importantly entertained.

 

 

 

Related Content

The Future of Land-based Casinos: Will They Survive?

For the past few decades, the gambling industry has gone through radical changes that many of us never thought possible. Since online casinos like those listed on http://slotmine.com/online-casinos/ went mainstream, land-based casinos have been taking a beating year after year. From betting kiosks to bingo halls, brick and mortar gambling settings have seen a significant decrease in footfall through their doors.

The deterioration of the land-based casino business has been so terrible that operators and experts in the gambling market have been questioning the future of the industry. With a lot of gambling fans diverting to online casinos, is it a sign that land-based platforms could die out? Let us look at some of the factors that could give us answers or at least help us peek into the future.

How Technology Disrupted Land-Based Casinos

We are living in an age where the smartphone has disrupted various industries, with betting being among the most affected. While the number of online casino bettors via mobile websites and mobile apps has been on the rise, for the land-based casinos across, things seem to be turning sour. The latest innovations in technology allow punters to enjoy their preferred casino games on the go or at the comfort of their homes. Why would anyone skip that convenience?

Keeping Up With Changing Times

So, what does the future hold for land-based casinos? Well, while the upcoming projections for the industry seem challenging, there could be light at the end of the tunnel. Innovative land-based operators that keep up with the times will manage to remain relevant and competitive. For instance, operators can include more advanced gambling machines and combine the latest tech to keep their lobbies enticing. Thus, it’s the same technology that’s causing a shakeup in the traditional (land-based) casino industry that could well turn out to be its savior.

So, just like in any other business or industry, casinos that don’t innovate, perish. Thus, even as the sector suffers from a decrease in customers, those diligent enough to change with the times will eventually survive. With zillions of prospect gamblers available online, several casino operators currently offer apps and websites. This has provided operators with ample revenue to compensate for losses suffered at physical locations. While so many branches have been closed, technology provides unexploited potentials for the industry too.

Next-generation Tech for More Immersive Entertainment

Developing technologies like Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR and AR) may perhaps have the key to saving what in the past was seen as a dazzling way of spending the evening. VR and AR are nowadays used in gaming to offer gamblers a more immersive experience on their devices.

They can also be used to improve in-store engagement. A good instance of this is the Pokémon GO game. The game used Augmented Reality to get players outside more. The similar idea can be employed by traditional casinos to provide the ‘retail experience’ that modern spenders seek in land-based sites. Technology should be viewed as a tool, not a threat!

The Offline Experience

Sensibly though, the probability of the land-based casino industry completely disappearing soon is zero. Why? Regardless of how incredible online casinos could be, for millions of players worldwide, offline gaming remains the best.

Think of it this way- between watching a World Cup Final football match live on TV or the experience of attending the game in person, which is more thrilling? Better yet, what about listening to music versus attending live performances? From the two instances, you realize the online experience lacks much of the atmosphere of the real thing. Take a trip to Las Vegas to grasp the difference better; there’s only so far online casinos can take things.

Many years down the line, VR could enable players to relish a massive chunk of real casino experience but from home. Even so, you’ll still be sitting or standing alone in an empty room, instead of getting into the thick of things with other players, shoulder to shoulder.

Furthermore, land-based casinos are not only meant for gambling. Most players make a real event of it- socializing, having one or two drinks, dining out and all that. All these are plus points exclusive to traditional casinos.

The Best of the Two

The fact is, both online and land-based casinos have their unique advantages and disadvantages. If you consider yourself to be a casino fan, it’s worth accepting the best of both worlds. Just decide which one is the best for you at the time and progressing appropriately. Therefore in the meantime, it’s quite safe saying that the land-based casino industry isn’t going anywhere. Even though businesses are struggling to remain afloat, the entire industry is just too big, too powerful, and too popular. It can’t just curl up and vanish in the thin ai

 

The Future of VR Gaming

2017 was a HUGE year for virtual reality. Products like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift has been taking off as has console platform VR like Playstation VR, which is finally starting to release good games like “DOOM” and “Gran Turismo”. I would say that 2017 has easily been the year of VR…but it is only the start. 2018 has been taking off with new tech like the Oculus Quest and Go stand alone products revealed! Now is the time for VR

Virtual reality is not limited to gaming though, even theme parks are adapting this technology into their locations. SeaWorld in Orlando, FL recently revamped its classic rollercoaster “Kraken” and it now has VR option added to the ride, which adds A LOT of replay value to this ride. If you have ever wanted to go behind the sea and battle a real monster all while being twisted and turned on a rollercoaster, then you need to experience this coaster. Other theme parks, including Legoland Florida, as well are developing and implementing these new features as well.

If you are asking what are VR games, you will not have to look far for answer because it is becoming more mainstream every day.  You will find it even crossing over into your Smartphones with using devices like Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR, which can be used with your devices at home. Personally, I have tried this and I am not too thrilled of having to take off my phone case each time in order to use it but I can see that in the future this is easily going to be able to fixed.

Visiting IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions), which is a global amusement-industry trade show, which also took place in Orlando, FL in November of this year, it was filled with new VR technology. I do not see this technology getting old anytime soon in fact I only see it getting bigger and bigger each year.

From wearing VR glasses during rollercoaster, playing at home with your handheld devices, there is some great ways to get ready for the new year and enjoy this new technology. Some people thing that VR might be a bit of a gamble since it is still new but you will be amazed at the features available to you. Being a gamer, whether you are enjoy online casino sites like, https://www.casino.com/ca/, or the future of VR is not a gamble. This is ia sure win. How awesome would it be to see online gamling in VR, man I would definitely pay to experience that.

I am just waiting for the day when this technology is implementing future into school or even movie theaters. Imagine seeing a movie like “Avatar” or something where it is fully immersive experience with all the senses including touch and smell within the VR world. I can see that easily being the future.

“Back to the Future” heading to Omaha!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long time readers know that our friend, film historian Bruce Crawford, loves to bring classic movies back to the big screen.  Since I’ve known him, Bruce has presented such films as “Jaws,” “Young Frankenstein,” “The Great Escape” and “American Graffiti,” among others, to packed theatres in Omaha.    On Friday, November 9, 2018, he’s doing it again.

“Back to the Future,” one of the most beloved films of all time, will be shown that evening at the Joslyn Art Museum, located at 2200 Dodge Street, in Omaha.  Of course, like all of Bruce’s presentations, you get much more than a movie.  Bob Gale, the co-creator (with Robert Zemeckis) of the BTTF Trilogy, will be on hand to participate in a Q&A before the screening and a meet-and-greet autograph session with fans after the show.  Joining Mr. Gale is actor Harry Walters, Jr., who played musician Marvin Berry (Chuck’s cousin) in the film.

 

Tickets to the event are now on sale for $24 each and can be purchased at the customer service counters of all Omaha-area Hy Vee food stores.  Proceeds from the event will benefit the Nebraska Kidney Association.

For more information, you can call (402) 830-2121 or (308) 830-2121.  You can also click HERE.

 

To read my 30th Anniversary Interview with Bob Gale, click HERE.

“Back to the Future” 30th Anniversary Trilogy Traveling to Blu-ray™ and DVD on October 20, 2015

THE FUTURE IS NOW!

BACK TO THE FUTURE 30th ANNIVERSARY TRILOGY

Traveling to Blu-ray™ and DVD on October 20, 2015 along with Back to the Future: The Complete Animated Series & Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures

Universal City, California, July 16, 2015 – Great Scott! In 1985 Director Robert Zemeckis, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg and Producer/Screenwriter Bob Gale embarked on a three-part journey through time that broke box-office records worldwide and catapulted Back to the Future into one of the most beloved trilogies in motion picture history.  In 1989, the filmmakers gave us a glimpse of the future in Back to the Future Part II as Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled to 2015…or, if our calculations are correct, October 21, 2015, to be exact.  “The Future” has finally arrived.

Now, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment celebrates this once-in-a-lifetime date, as well as the 30th Anniversary of the groundbreaking first film, with three new releases debuting on October 20, 2015.  Available on Blu-ray & DVD, the

Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy will include all three movies plus a new bonus disc with more two hours of content. Back to the Future: The Complete Animated Series will be released for the first time ever on DVD featuring all 26 episodes from the award-winning series and Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures will include all three movies, the complete animated series, a new bonus disc, a 64-page book and collectible light-up “Flux Capacitor” packaging.  Featuring more than two hours of content, the bonus disc will include all-new original shorts, documentaries, two episodes from the animated series and more.

In addition to the home entertainment release, the Back to the Future celebration continues in theaters when the films go back to the big screen on October 21, 2015.  Check local listings for show times.  Additionally, Universal Music Enterprises is reissuing an all-new 30th Anniversary picture disc vinyl soundtrack, available October 16th in stores and through all digital partners.

About Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy (Blu-ray & DVD)

Experience the future all over again with the Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy! Join Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and a time traveling DeLorean for the adventure of a lifetime as they travel to the past, present and future, setting off a time-shattering chain reaction that disrupts the space time continuum! From filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, this unforgettable collection features hours of bonus features and is an unrivaled trilogy that stands the test of time.

Includes:

  • Back to the Future, Back to the Future Part II, Back to the Future Part III

  • Bonus Disc with More than Two Hours of Content

  • Digital HD with UltraViolet (Blu-ray Exclusive)

  • Collectible Packaging (Blu-ray Exclusive)

Bonus Features:

  • All New Original Shorts:  Including Doc Brown Saves the World!, starring Christopher Lloyd.

  • OUTATIME: Restoring the DeLorean: An inside look at the 2012 restoration of the most iconic car in film history.

  • Looking Back to the Future: A 9-part retrospective documentary from 2009 on the trilogy’s legacy.

  • Back to the Future: The Animated Series: 2 episodes (“Brothers” and “Mac the Black”) from the 1991 series featuring live action segments with Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown.

  • Tales from the Future 6-Part Documentary

Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy (Blu-ray & DVD) Bonus Features Continued:

  • The Physics of Back to the Future

  • Deleted Scenes

  • Michael J. Fox Q&A

  • Eight Archival Featurettes

  • Behind the Scenes Footage

  • Music Videos

  • Audio Commentaries

  • Back to the Future: The Ride

About Back to the Future : The Complete Animated Series (DVD)

It’s about time!  The adventures continue with all 26 episodes of the award winning Back to the Future: The Complete Animated Series, in its entirety and uncut! Join Marty McFly and Doc Brown, Doc’s wife Clara, sons Jules and Verne, and dog Einstein for more hilarious escapades as they time travel to Prehistoric Hill Valley, Ancient Rome, Medieval England, the Civil War, the days of the pirates, the far future and beyond.  Featuring live action segments with Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown, science experiments by Bill Nye the Science Guy and the vocal talents of Mary Steenburgen (Clara), Thomas Wilson (Biff) and Dan Castellaneta (Doc), it is family entertainment at its best and a true treasure for all Back to the Future fans!

Bonus Features:

  • Drawn to the Future: New interview with creator/writer Bob Gale and writer John Ludin.

  • Galleries: Rare archival materials featuring character art, DeLorean designs and more.

About Back to the Future : The Complete Adventures (Blu-ray & DVD)

Great Scott! For the first time ever, Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures pairs together the original beloved trilogy starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd along with the complete TV series.  Join Marty McFly, Doc Brown and a time traveling DeLorean for the adventure of a lifetime as they travel to the past, present and future, setting off a time-shattering chain reaction that disrupts the space time continuum.

Includes:

  • Back to the Future, Back to the Future Part II, Back to the Future Part III

  • Back to the Future: The Complete Animated Series DVD

  • Bonus Disc with More than 2 Hours of Content

  • Digital HD with UltraViolet (Blu-ray Exclusive)

  • Back to the Future: A Visual History 64-Page Book

  • Light-Up “Flux Capacitor” Packaging

About Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (UPHE) is a unit of Universal Pictures, a division of Universal Studios (www.universalstudios.com). Universal Studios is a part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. NBCUniversal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment television networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, world-renowned theme parks, and a suite of leading Internet-based businesses. NBCUniversal is a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation.

Bob Gale reflects on working with Robert Zemeckis on the “Back to the Future” series

I’ve been a huge fan of Bob Gale since the year I graduated high school. That year (1978), he and his writing partner, Robert Zemeckis (who also directed), came out with a small film called “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” a movie which detailed a group of youngsters plotting how to meet the Beatles during their first visit to New York City. Next up for the duo was the Steven Spielberg-directed comedy “1941,” an all-star epic featuring an amazing cast including Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Nancy Allen, Tim Matheson and Treat Willliams.

In 1980 the two wrote (and Zemeckis again directed) the outrageous comedy “Used Cars,” a film still on my top ten list of funniest films ever. Things changed for the duo in 1985 when Universal released “Back to the Future,” a film that spawned two successful sequels, earned Gale and Zemeckis their first Academy Award nominations and made Michael J. Fox a star. While Zemeckis continued on his path to Oscar-winning director, Gale continued to write and produce, eventually moving behind the camera himself.

In the mid 90’s, Gale partnered with Sony Pictures to produce an interactive theatre experience called “Mr. Payback.” I was very fortunate to work for Loews Theatres (owned by Sony) at the time and my theatre was one of the trial theatres for the film. Mr. Payback was a cyborg who punished the bad guys when they needed it. As the story progresses, the audience decides the punishments Mr. Payback dishes out to those who deserve them.

This Saturday evening, April 18, Mr. Gale will be appearing at the Kansas City Film Fest, where he will present a 30th Anniversary screening of “Back to the Future.” As his appearance grew near, we spoke about his early films, the resurrection of “Mr. Payback” and if he has any money on the Cubs winning it all this year.

Mike Smith: Hello.
Bob Gale: You called right on time. You score points for punctuality!

MS: 30 years ago your life was about to change. Did you have any idea that “Back to the Future” was going to be so well received?
BG: (laughing) Hell no! We had a hard enough time getting the movie made when we did. It took us almost three and a half years from when we did the first draft to get the movie into production. People kept telling us that it was a time travel movie and that time travel movies never make any money.
MS: Surprise.
BG: (laughing) Yeah.

MS: Your earlier films, among them “1941” and “Used Cars,” are now considered classic comedies with a great fan base. I actually saw “Used Cars” here in Kansas City when it screened at Showarama.
BG: Oh yeah, we did come out to Showarama to talk “Used Cars.”

MS: Can you explain why some films, especially comedies, sometimes take time to be recognized?
BG: Sometimes it has to do with the marketing. People need a reason to go to a movie. If they could figure out a way to do it right every time more movies would be more successful. I mean, the problem with “Used Cars” is that we opened in half of the country the weekend after the movie “Airplane!” opened. And “Airplane!” got all of the attention. And it should have, it was a very funny picture. Also, in hindsight, “Used Cars” was probably not the best title. You mention “used cars” to people and they have a bad connotation with the concept. Maybe if we’d called the movie “Trust Me” (the campaign slogan of Kurt Russell’s Rudy Russo) it would have done better. And Kurt Russell was not as well-known back then as he is now. And of course, older movies are now more easily accessible, with cable television and all the streaming home video. Now it’s not that hard to search out a movie that somebody has talked about to them.
MS: I would proudly put a RUDY RUSSO bumper sticker on my car!
BG: (laughs heartily)

MS: Tom Wilson (Biff in the “Back to the Future” films) famously sings during his stand-up act that “Back to the Future 4” ain’t happening. Any chance he’s wrong?
BG: No, he’s not wrong. Who would want to see a “Back to the Future” movie without Michael J. Fox in it?
MS: (feeling like an ass because I tried to be cute and instead sounded like an idiot) Wow. I didn’t even think about that.
BG: There you go. Besides, what did you think about “Indiana Jones 4?”
MS: Gotcha.
BG: Sometimes it’s best to just quit while you’re ahead, right?

MS: Any chance they’re ever release the Eric Stoltz footage? (NOTE: for those readers who don’t know, when Michael J. Fox was originally unable to star in “BTTF,” the role of Marty McFly went to Eric Stoltz. Apparently the filmmakers were not happy with Stoltz’s performance and made a deal with the producers of Fox’s television show, “Family Ties,” that allowed Fox to do both the series and the film).
BG: We’re not in a big hurry to do that because it would make Eric look bad. We’re not interested in shining a light on the guy and saying, “Jesus, see how (bad) he was?” We never destroyed the footage. Maybe it will be released after Zemeckis and I are dead. We felt it was of enough historic value that we wouldn’t authorize its destruction.

MS: Last “Back to the Future” question – if you had a chance to get into the DeLorean, where would you go?
BG: (laughs) What day is it? Every day you read about something and you wonder, “Gee, I wonder what really happened back then?” I have to say, I would really love to watch my parents on their first date. There is just something so sadistically voyeuristic about that. I would also like to go back in time to attend a lecture by Mark Twain…I’d like to go to some of the great, old World’s Fairs, to see what they were really like. I’d like to be a time traveling tourist.

MS: I worked for Loews Theatres back east and we were one of the theatres that had “Mr. Payback.”
BG: Wow!
MS: In this day and age, with everything being so interactive, is there any thought of bringing that process back?
BG: I’ve got a DVD where I recorded a couple plays of the show and I periodically take it around and show it to people and say, “Hey, we can do this. We can do this now.” But people still don’t get it. Eventually I think that they will. I do hope so. We were definitely ahead of our time with that thing.

MS: You’ve written for comics. Is it easier as an artist because you don’t have any time constraints? Where normally you’d have a 5-hour movie, now you can just stretch it out over enough issues?
BG: Every medium that you work in has its own rules and restrictions and conventions that you need to be aware of. So is it easier to write for comics then for movies? Not necessarily. There are certainly a lot fewer people that you have to deal with to get to the point where somebody pushes the button and says “let’s go” but you also have the matter of them saying, “OK, we want this series to be finished in four issues” when you thought you were going to have five or six to do it in. Again, you still have marketing to deal with and all kinds of crazy stuff because what it looks like from the outside is never the same as when you get in there.

MS: Finally, what are you working on next?
BG: I’ve got a television pilot I’ve been trying to get off the ground. This year has been so…everyone has been so crazed about “Back to the Future” and its 30th Anniversary…it seems like I can’t get two uninterrupted hours to work on something where I’m not interrupted by a phone call or email or an interview regarding some of the events were putting together for the rest of the year. There’s a fabulous book coming out, on or about October 21st, that is pretty much the definitive “making of” about the trilogy. You’ll see plenty of photos of Eric Stoltz in that. So for everybody that wanted to know what it looked like with him in it, they’ll get a taste of it.

MS: Quick follow-up that just hit me…do you have any money on the Cubs winning the World Series this year? (NOTE: In “BTTF II,” Marty travels to the year 2015 and is surprised to learn that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series that year, beating Miami).
BG: (laughs for a while) No, but interestingly enough, the Miami Marlins…the guys in their promotion department are big “Back to the Future” fans…they’re planning most of their season off of “Back to the Future II,” saying they’re going to rewrite history and win the World Series, not the Cubs. They’re going to do a big promotion at Marlins Park on September 25th (sadly, the Marlins play the Braves that night, not the Cubs). We’re going to go there and throw out the first pitch and they’re even going to make their uniforms look like the way we depicted them in the movie. Now when we made Part II, there was no baseball franchise in Florida, so when we created them we thought they would be the Miami Gators. The plan that I heard was that they were going to make Miami Gators uniforms for that night. But would I ever bet on the Cubs? Not a chance! I’m from St. Louis.
MS: Cardinal fan.
BG: That’s right.
MS: Wow, it must have hurt for you just to write that the Cubs won the World Series.
BG: Not at all. It’s a great joke! But look, here’s the deal. If the Cubs actually get into the World Series, Bob Zemeckis and I will be hailed as visionaries! But if they choke, the joke will remain funny for many more years to come.

MS: Thank you so much for your time. It’s been a real pleasure to speak with you.
BG: Thank you, Mike. It’s always a pleasure to speak with a “Used Cars” fan.
MS: I work for the local electric company and I deal with customers every day and I often find myself quoting Jack Warden to myself.
BG: (in a gruff Jack Warden voice) You don’t know dick!
MS: Exactly. That and “what are you, a f***ing parrot?!”
BG: (laughs)
MS: Have a great day and thanks again.
BG: You too, Mike. Bye. (continues to laugh as he hangs up the phone – I must say it feels so great to hear someone who makes you laugh think you’re funny).

The “Back to the Future” event with the Miami Marlins on September will raise money for Parkinson’s research. Media Mikes would like to ask its readers to please take the time to learn about the disease by visiting the Michael J. Fox Foundation at www.michaeljfox.org Thank you!

Powerman 5000’s Spider One talks about new album “Builders of the Future”

Spider One is the lead vocalist for the industrial metal band Powerman 5000. The group has just recently released a brand new album of original material titled “Builders of the Future” and will be hitting the States this summer with (hed) p.e. Media Mikes had the chance recently to speak with Spider about the new album, the bands creative process and their upcoming video release.

AL: Can you give us some info on the band new album “Builders of the Future”?
Spider One: We are so bad about putting out new material in a timely way. The last album of original material we put out was in 2009 and then we had an album of covers come out which was a bit weird. That covers album was a project that I thought was never going to come out. I didn’t want it to be a record but somehow it ended up being one.  I had thought we were going to do some songs for licensing purposes but then it turned into more than that. That album took up some time but in reality the band doesn’t work in the traditional schedule of record and tour then repeat. We sort of work more off and on. This record was made in bits and pieces and probably if you added up all the time we put into the record it would all even out but this one did take a little longer. I like how we work as it give me time to think about the songs and even try stuff out on the road. We actually started playing the first single off this record “How to Be a Human” over a year ago. We were able to get a good test of how people reacted to it. By the time it came out as a proper single people were expecting it and knew it. We create things sort of erratically.

AL: By working in the way you described do you find yourself revisiting material that at one time you felt was completed and reworking on it?
SO: Sometimes. We do a lot of self editing. You always hear about bands recording 40 plus songs and then narrowing it down to 11. We edit things as we go so by the time we get to the end we have the songs that are going on the record. We don’t end up with a lot of extra material. If something isn’t working we just scrap it. There are some older ideas that made it on the album but for the most part we don’t keep a lot of extra stuff lying around.

AL: Does everyone bring in song ideas or are you the primary writer for the group?
SO: I usually work in conjunction with at least one other member. I play a little guitar but not enough to where I can do everything on my own. I write a majority of the lyrics and handle the arrangements but as far as guitar parts go I might lay out something very primitive and then give it over to the other guys to give it that little something extra. I’m definitely not in the studio creating these songs on my own. Everyone works on the track to make it their own.

AL: Being known as a visual band has there been any talks of releasing a new music video?
SO: We released a lyric video for “How to Be a Human” and we also have a more traditional video set to release for that same song. Things are much simpler these days when it comes to shooting a video. The days of making million dollar videos that at the time were considered “cheap” are long gone. If you can scrounge $5,000 to do a video today you’re doing ok. We went very stripped down with this new video and I think it looks really cool. It was kind of a relief to make a video that basically just shows the band playing.

AL: Did you find it harder to capture what you wanted to get across with that limited budget?
SO: You have to be smart about what you are doing. You have to know that you aren’t going to be able to make “Star Wars” on a $5,000 budget. You have to approach things correctly. I have shot videos for other bands as well and it’s pretty amazing what you can do with a smaller budget. You don’t need a huge budget to make a quality video. Things can certainly be more challenging but there are a number of elements that are a lot easier.

AL: Can you tell us about the two versions of the album which are available?
SO: A lot of times with certain retailers they ask for different versions of an album that is sold exclusively in their stores. Obviously the idea is to get the person buying the album to come to their store. We don’t generally have a lot of material lying around but we were able to come up with a couple bonus tracks for a deluxe version of the album which will be available exclusively at Best Buy.

AL: Are there plans to tour behind the release?
SO: We just wrapped up a 6 week U.S. run and we getting ready to head over to Europe for a run of shows over there. We will be hitting a number of the big festivals over there which puts us on bills with ands like Metallica, The Rolling Stones and Prodigy. When we get back from there we will be hitting the States again with the band Hed P.E.

 

Related Content

CD Review: Powerman 5000 “Builders of the Future”

“Builders of the Future”
Powerman 5000
T-Boy Records/UMe
Tracks: 10

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Powerman 5000 are back with their first collection of new material in nearly five years. “Builders of the Future” features 10 brand new tracks reminiscent of the groups groundbreaking 1999 release “Tonight the Stars Revolt”. The new album is being released via T-Boy Records and is available in both standard and deluxe versions with the deluxe version featuring two additional tracks.

A lot can happen when a band takes extended time off between releasing new material. In the case of Powerman 5000 the group appears to have gone back to their beginnings as their new album “Builders of the Future” has a very late 90’s nu-metal sound. Though the sound of the album definitely feels a bit dated it’s not so far out in that it feels out of place. Spider One and the band combine both new and old PM5K sounds on standout tracks such as “We Want It All” and “Live It Up Before You’re Dead” and even venture into acoustic territory with the track “I Want to Kill You” which is an eerie little track the sticks with you long after initially hearing it.

Though I found a number of songs to be a bit repetitive and the production tended to be a little overdone there was not enough negatives to classify this as a “bad” album however, it is lacking quite a bit in order to be considered a “great” album. Long time PM5K fans will certainly be happy to hear this album as it is a very familiar sound however newer fans to the group may not fully appreciate the album without first going back and listening to the bands earlier releases.

Track Listing:
1.) Invade, Destroy, Repeat
2.) We Want It All
3.) How to Be a Human
4.) You’re Gonna Love It, If You Like It or Not
5.) Builders of the Future
6.) I Want to Kill You
7.) Modem World
8.) Live It Up Before You’re Dead
9.) I Can’t Fucking Hear You
10.) Evil World

John Ottman Talks about editing and scoring “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

John Ottman is known best for his roles of editor and also composer on numerous films including “The Usual Suspects”, “X2”, “Jack and the Giant Slayer, “Superman Returns” and most recently “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with John again about working with Bryan Singer and returning to the “X-Men” franchise.

Mike Gencarelli: Having score “X2” and now “X-Men: Days of Future Past”; tell us about returning to the franchise and about your approach to this score?
John Ottman: “X2” was one of my first big movies that I got to tackle. I always look back at those times very fondly because that exhibits an exciting time in my life. It was also a film that went very smoothly for all of us involved. I looked forward to going back into the series, especially since musically I had themes that I always wanted to go back to but wasn’t able to because we didn’t stick around for the third film. In the score for “X2”, I wrote a lot of motifs that I had planned to put somewhere in the next movie. So it always irked me that I wasn’t able to complete what I started. So this film came me an opportunity to pick up where I left off with “X2”. Naturally, it is a different kind of story, a little more modern, and also eleven years later. So I was just really excited that I got to preserve my themes.

MG: Since the film takes place in the past and the future; what was it like combining those two different sounds into one cohesive score?
JO: That is the trick actually to make it all cohesive. But because there is such a vast difference between the past and the future, it wasn’t that difficult to work with because the score was actually set the difference between the two time periods. In the 70’s, I got to infuse some analog synthesizer sound, some electric piano and guitar and so forth. So, that was actually really fun for me to do.

MG: What was your biggest challenge on “”X-Men: Days of Future Past”?
JO: Time travel [laughs]. I have said this in a few interviews. When I look back at this movie, I think about a Whac-A-Mole game. With time travel, you Whac-A-Mole to solve one problem and then create another. We just kept whacking and whacking until the smallest mole comes up that we could live with. Since you can never solve every issue. Really my job was to build consensus and really fight for things I thought we needed to do in the movie. That is how I look back on my experience on the movie basically. There was a lot of passion pleases to do certain things [laughs]. It was a very complicated film. The main challenge was the keep the story clear given all the convolution of the various situations.

MG: This is your seventh film working with Bryan Singer; what keeps you guys coming back together?
JO: I guess good stories and scripts. He keeps telling me to edit his films otherwise he won’t let me score them [laughs]. It is the blackmail that keeps us together.

MG: Speaking of the editing, as with “X2” and many other films, you took on the role of editor as well as composer; tell us about this other aspect of working on the film?
JO: The short story is that when we did out first feature film way back, “Public Access”, which won the Sundance Film Festival. I came on as the editor on the film and also ended up writing the score as well. So when we put “The Usual Suspects” deal together, I said “I just want to write the score” and Bryan said “Hell no, you are going to edit the film as well”. He saw the symbiosis that occurs when you do both jobs. Basically the same story just continues through today. He prefers that I leave my scoring career and go into what I call “editing jail” for two years. Both tasks are telling the story and if they are both being done by the same person it can bring better clarity into the storytelling.

MG: What is your next project and what can we expect next?
JO: Life [laughs]. A life. I purposely did not line anything up after this. I didn’t want to jump right into another project. After “Jack and the Giant Slayer” and then “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, it was three solid years and I need to take a break. I am sure I will get itchy and start looking in a few months but then again maybe not [laughs].

 

Related Content

Film Review #2 “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 2 hours 11 mins
20th Century Fox

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

What do you get when you put eight Academy Award nominated actors in a film that takes place primarily in the 1970s. If you said “American Hustle,” you’d be wrong (only five nominees in that one). The correct answer is easily the best film in the “X-men” series so far, “X-men: Days of Future Past.”

Our story begins sometime in the future. The world, as we know it, is no more. Mechanical soldiers known as Sentinels have taken to destroying most of mankind – both mutants and humans. A small band of mutants is doing their best to survive when they come upon an idea. Knowing what spawned the Sentinel Program, they devise to send someone back in time, to 1973, to stop the event that has brought them to this bleak future. It is decided that, because of his genetic makeup, Logan (Jackman) should make the trip. Though the time travel trip will be dangerous, Logan’s mission once he gets there makes the trip look like smooth sailing.

A well written and brilliant mash up of “X-Men” characters, both past and future, “X-men: Days of Future Past” is a smartly crafted, brilliantly acted comic book related masterpiece! When Logan completes his time travel journey, his task is an unenviable one: he needs to reunite Professor Charles Xavier (McAvoy) with his one-time friend Erik Lehnsherr (Fassbender). The hard part of the mission will be convincing the duo that Logan has been sent back to contact them…by them! Along the way Logan will meet younger versions of his fellow X-men, among them Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and the girl known as Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). Not only are these mutants younger, they have not all developed the way they will in the future. The same goes for Logan, who discovers that his adimantium claws have yet to be made. When he springs into action he’s back to just plain old bone. But he still knows how to use them!

Perfectly accompanying the story is an incredible display of special effects that will boggle your mind (especially in 3D). One such scene features an attempted prison break slowed down to milliseconds courtesy of Quicksilver (Evan Peters). The third highlight of the film are the performances. Once again, Jackman leads the way, giving Logan the same emotional depth he showed in last year’s stand-alone Wolverine film. McAvoy and Fassbender continue the great work they showed in “X-men: First Class.” Great work also by their futuristic counterparts, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. And new to the story, as the main catalyst of the Sentinel program, is the outstanding Peter Dinklage.

Director Singer, sadly making headlines for some alleged off-screen antics, keeps the action in the forefront while not sacrificing the story. Put everything together and you’ve got one of the best films of the summer.

Film Review “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Directed by: Bryan Singer
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Running time: 131 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is the seventh film in the “X-Men” film series. It is billed as partially a sequel to “X-Men: The Last Stand” and also a sequel to  “X-Men: First Class”. If you are not familiar with the series, “The Last Stand” was the final X-Men before they did two spin-offs with Wolverine and made “First Class”, which was a prequel story. So if you not caught up to date with this series, things could get a little confusing with this one. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” also brings back director Bryan Singer, who directed 2000’s “X-Men” and 2003’s “X2”. “X2” is probably still the best film in the franchise but it is great to see Singer back behind the directors chair. You can tell that they were really trying to give this film a lot but for me it feel a little flat in terms of being epic.

What “X-Men: Days of Future Past” does has is one hell of an ensemble cast including Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, Nicholas Hoult, Shawn Ashmore, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Now as cool as that sounds, I really wasn’t blown away. I enjoyed the film but I felt that it was very slow moving throughout certain parts. I also felt like the parts set in the future weren’t really fleshed out and it felt like a way for them just to throw in the past roles for Stewart and McKellen to get a better drawn. In fact, these guys did fairly little at all in this film. Jennifer Lawrence was exceptional as usual. James McAvoy also did a fantastic job. Halle Berry was next to useless in the film as well as Anna Paquin, who was like billed fifth yet had about five seconds of screen time and no lines. I dig what they were going for but it feels just a bit too ambitious and the pay off is too obvious.

The film picks up in the dystopian future of 2023 with all life forms practically extinct at the hands of the robots known as Sentinels. We meet up with the few remaining mutants  including Professor X, Magneto, Wolverine, Storm, Iceman, Shadowcat, Colossus and even a few new characters (to the series) including Warparth, Sunpot and Blink (all of whom, I would have loved to see fleshed out much more).  They are all teaming up in order to survive and try to find a way to eliminate the creation of the Sentinels. With the help of Shadowcat, they send Wolverine back to 1973 to stop Raven aka Mystique from killing the scientist that created the Sentinels, which was the event that lead to their current impending doom. Wolverine has to race against time to try and convince a much younger Professor X and Magneto to work together in order to try and save the world.

My biggest problem with this film is that it relies heavily on the events of “X-Men: First Class”, which is not my favorite entry in the franchise at all. There were parts that I really loved here like the addition of Quicksilver (Evan Peters) but the character was there and gone again before you finished blinking. Our audience in the theaters was literally screaming out loud with laughter and cheer during his scene and I was so hoping that there would be more…but that was not the case. I do not know why they went heavy on focus with Wolverine (again!). I mean hasn’t he had enough films focused around his character already, I want a few face for these films…aka more Jennifer Lawrence perhaps. There is quite the future already planned out for this series with “X-Men: Apocalypse” already scheduled for a May 27, 2016 release date.

“X-Men: Days of Future Past” film was actually shot in 3D, which I thought that it was very impressive. I have heard mixed feelings on it already but I actually really enjoyed it. The scenes set in the future were very well done and the ending climax was quick impressive as well. Since this film was set split from the future and 1973, there is two different look to the film itself. I really liked how the 70’s scenes have a completely different almost washed out look to them. I also enjoyed the Super 8 footage used in certain scenes. If you have read any other reviews, I have seen this film being called “the best superhero films to date”, I personally didn’t think that was the cast at all. It is definitely a step up from “X-Men: First Class” but there were certain parts that dragged for me. I also felt like the story set in the future ended up really being more of a filler and didn’t really get a chance to really kick ass. Worth checking out if you love “X-Men” just keep expectation on the lower side.

Corey Taylor talks about his new book, comics and future of Slipknot

Corey Taylor is best known for his work as the front man of the platinum selling heavy metal groups Slipknot and Stone Sour. Corey has also penned a New York Times Best Seller titled “Seven Deadly Sins” and is now back with the follow up titled “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven: (Or, How I Made Peace with the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots…)” which is a collection of stories documenting Taylors experiences with the paranormal and his efforts to understand the how and why of those events. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Corey recently about the book, his recent foray into comic book writing and the future of Slipknot.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us an overview of your new book?
Corey Taylor: Essentially the book is about my various experiences with ghosts and the paranormal. I am basically trying to figure out what these things could be as a lot of the research I have done has left me unsatisfied. This is me trying to figure things out balanced with some of my stories and things I have seen. I think everything came together pretty well.

AL: What was it like revisiting some of these experiences?
CT: The cool thing was when I would start writing about a place or experience I got to learn a little more about the history of things. The mansion we wrote one of the Slipknot albums in is a good example of that. I did quite a bit of research on the place and looked in to the various owners in an effort to dispel some of the myths and rumors. I found out Houdini was never connected in any way to the property which was a big thing that was always brought up when talking with people about the property. In doing that I was really able to trigger some of the experiences I had there. I also talked to some of the other guys in the band and had them recount their experiences. It was really cool to be able to go back and look at things from this point of view. It helped trigger a lot of great memories.

AL: Did you have to edit the stories down in anyway?
CT: Pretty much everything that I could gather made it into the book. Weather things came from my own memory or from someone else’s. I don’t think I left anything on the table as I wanted to make sure that I covered all of the bases. If I did leave anything out it was probably something I forgot. Really for the most part I tried to get as much of my experiences on paper as possible.

AL: The book also features some really interesting photos which transition the chapters. Can you tell us about those?
CT: That was an idea I had in order to be able to bounce back and forth between pictures that represented what the chapter was going to be like and being able to show people that the book isn’t all heavy. Everything I do I try and balance with a little bit of humor. I know stuff can get really heavy so during the photo shoot I wanted to make sure that people knew this was from my point of view. I wanted them to know that I wasn’t trying to change the world or anything I was just trying to make up my own mind. My mind wouldn’t be anything without balancing the seriousness with a sense of humor. Another really cool thing about the photos that I am in is that I am wearing the actual costume that was worn by the actor who played John Wilkes Booth in the movie “Lincoln”. My photographer and friend Paul Brown was able to get that actual suit. I think he did it knowing that I am such a history buff. That era especially is a favorite of mine. I just freaked out and thought it was awesome!

AL: Being this book is quite a bit different from your first how did the writing of the two compare and contrast?
CT: The thing I loved about the first book was the format. I was able to come at things from two different ways. On one hand I was able to tell a bunch of crazy stories and on the other hand I was able to take a topic and just write about it. I could just go off on whatever it was. With the first book where I talk about the seven deadly sins and try and take the wind out of those sails. You know going in that you have seven built in chapters that you’re going to be writing about. I love the way that before I even started writing that book the format was in place and sort of showed it’s self. I loved that! That gave me a jump start on this second book. I sat down knowing I wanted to write it and that each place I had an experience was going to be a chapter. From there I could jump in and out of those formats while also telling stories about the places while making a point of what I think these spirits or bundles of energies actually are. The book was half written before I even started typing.

AL: Also within the past year you have written a comic book. How did that opportunity come about?
CT: The comic book came about because of the two part concept album Stone Sour was releasing. What really triggered it was the short story I had written which encompassed both sides of the story that was being told throughout the album. While I was writing that short story I thought that it would make a really great comic book as I was trying to be very visual and evocative. Being a huge comic book fan this was something that I really wanted to do. Luckily when I sat down with Dark Horse Comics they saw the vision for what I wanted to do and they thought it would be a really cool mini-series. I had never written a comic book script in my life and thankfully Dark Horse sort of held my hand through the process and helped me figure out how to write it. It was a real big thrill.

AL: What do you feel was the biggest difference between your previous writing and writing a comic book?
CT: With a comic book script you sort of have to write for two different audiences. You are trying to write a script that will draw in the reader but at the same time you’re trying to format the story for the artist as well. I really had to jump back and forth between what I assumed the audience would want to read and see and also what I wanted the artist to come up with. I really had to rein myself in and not get too far ahead of the process so that the artist didn’t have to call me with a thousand different questions. It was a good challenge that I loved doing. I liked getting in to that mind set where I thought things were going to look great. I lucked out working with Richard E. Clark as he is fantastic. With writing something like this new book you just sort of type until you are tired. (Laughs)

AL: Have there been talks of you doing more comic book writing in the future?
CT: I haven’t put it away so to speak. I don’t have any ideas as of yet but the one thing I realize is that the best way to make god laugh is to announce your plans out loud. I just never say never and if an idea comes to me for an original comic book then I would definitely take it to Dark Horse first as they were so good during the process of this first comic. Right now I don’t have any plans to write anything but again if something down the line comes my way and its different and something that I would enjoy reading I would be open to that.

AL: Can you give us an update on the status of Slipknot?
CT: We have two shows scheduled for October in South America. Other than that I have the rest of the year off which is awesome. The plan right now is that early next year we will get together and start throwing new music at each other. It feels like it’s time so right now everyone is putting demos together and starting to get ideas together in our heads. We all have stuff going on outside of Slipknot and are very busy so there is no time table other than sometime next year. I think we are all in the position now to where we are looking forward to it.

AL: In your position as a singer do you wait until you hear demos before writing or do you write on your own before hearing anything else?
CT: It’s kind of both. I definitely get excited when I hear new music from those guys but at the same time my skills at writing and my proficiency on guitar has gotten better over the years. Now not only do I get excited when I hear other people’s ideas but I am also starting to write more and more Slipknot stuff. That’s something that I didn’t have the confidence to do before but now I am starting to feel really confident in my abilities. I love being able to write stuff for Slipknot but still enjoy hearing and writing to the other guys material.

AL: Being Slipknot is a very intense and demanding project how soon do you start preparing both mentally and physically for your work in the group?
CT: We do try to really get our heads ready for things as there is really no other preparation that can be done. We try to go into things with the mind set of excitement as we are going to be hearing something that no one has ever heard before. We are going to write something that hopefully people haven’t heard before. That’s what drives us. The excitement and new ground is what we love. We try to go into things very open and that I think helps us capture the energy we need for Slipknot music.

Eddie Jackson talks about the future of Queensrÿche and their new album

Eddie Jackson is the bassist and a founding member of the progressive metal group Queensrÿche. In the past year, the group parted ways with original singer Geoff Tate and brought in former Crimson Glory front man Todd La Torre to fill the vacant spot. The band sounds better than ever and Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Eddie recently about the split and the group’s upcoming album.

Adam Lawton: Can you clear up any misconceptions from the past year about the two different versions of Queensrÿche going around?
Eddie Jackson: There are currently two bands out there. Geoff has his version of the band and Michael Wilton, Scott Rockenfield and I have our own version of the band. We are just focusing on us and moving forward. We want to keep doing what we are doing and that is playing music and performing live. The transition away from Geoff as the lead singer was something that Michael, Scotty and I felt needed to happen.

AL: How has the band been received since the change was made?
EJ: Fans have been enjoying it and have really embraced Todd. We have enjoyed welcoming him in to our family. Fans have been very receptive and have enjoyed hearing some of the older material that we are now able to perform. With Todd’s vocal style he is able to sing and perform stuff from albums like “Rage For Order” and “Operation Mind Crime”. Things are going really great. We think it’s been great having fans connect with Todd.

AL: What has it been like revisiting that older material in a live setting?
EJ: It’s interesting. One of Todd’s favorite albums is “The Warning”. Going back and playing some of that stuff has been really fun. It may have taken us a few practices to relearn some ofthat older material but it’s refreshing. We have been having a lot of fun with everything.

AL:Can you give us an update on the new album?AL: What led to the band signing recently with Century Media Records?
EJ: It was kind of a mutual thing between the band and Century Media. We collectively sat down and we both wanted to create a new relationship. So far they have been a class act and we are very happy to be working with them.

EJ: The new album will be released on June 11th. We are all looking forward to having the fans check it out. Things are pretty much completed but we are still tweaking some things here and there. It has been nice working with James “Jimbo” Barton again. We have a great relationship with him from the past and we wanted to put out an album that captured the style of our previous albums. James was a blast and our first day back together was like no time had passed.

AL: What type of creative process did you take towards the new album?
EJ: We all sort of came in with our own pieces. There may have been a song or two that was already written but for the most part it was a collective effort. Todd is a great musician that not only sings but he plays drums and guitar. We all just threw out ideas and began working on the ones that we thought were the best and fit our style the most. When you can sit down and talk through what you are going to be working on it makes things a lot easier. We haven’t been able to do something like that in quite awhile.

AL: Can you tell us about the first single off the album?
EJ: The song is titled “Redemption” and it was released a few weeks ago. Stylistically this felt like the first song that we should release. This song was the one that we all thought would most identify with what the band is doing now.

AL: What types of tour plans are in the works to support the new album?
EJ: We have some US dates in the works right now. We also will be performing over in Europe and are working to get to a few other countries. We are going to be very busy this year and we are looking forward to it.

James Tolkan reflects work in “Top Gun” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy

In a career spanning six decades, James Tolkan has conquered every medium he’s ever attempted. While pursuing a career in music at college he auditioned for a school play on the advice of a friend who suggested performing in front of an audience would help him with his stage fright. Tolkan was cast in the lead and he hasn’t looked back. Though best known for his work in “Top Gun” and the “Back to the Future” trilogy, I knew him best for his theatre work. In 1984 Mr. Tolkan originated the role of quick-tempered real estate salesman Dave Moss in the Pulitzer Prize winning drama “Glengarry Glen Ross,” a role I myself played many years later. While preparing for his appearance at this weekend’s Con X Kansas City Convention Mr. Tolkan spoke to Media Mikes about Broadway, “Back to the Future” and his memories of directors Tony Scott and Sidney Lumet.

Mike Smith: I guess I’ll start with the standard first question: what led you to become an actor?
James Tolkan: Oh my gosh! It’s a really complicated answer. When I got out of the Navy I was totally lost. I went back to college where I majored in art and minored in music. I was studying singing. I was very nervous getting up in front of an audience so a friend of mine suggested I try out for a play so I could get used to being in front of an audience. So I tried out for a play and was cast in the lead. I was like, “hey, this is interesting.” So I did another play at the community theater and suddenly I became very interested in acting. I then went to the University of Iowa, which had a large theater department and it was there that I was “encouraged” to go to New York and study the Method with some of the great teachers. So in 1956 I got on a Greyhound bus in Iowa City with $75 in my pocket and I went to New York to become an actor. I didn’t know what I was getting into…I was a total hick. I got off the bus and I was scared to death. I went through all kinds of various jobs while I studied with Stella Adler. After the first year she gave me a full scholarship to study with her. And then I started working. The first play I auditioned for off-Broadway I was cast. A lot of casting people saw me and I started going from one play to another. I also wanted to study with Lee Strasberg, which I did for three years. Both teachers were very valuable…but very different. It’s been a great experience. I’m really just a New York actor. I’m a stage actor. And I said I was never going to Hollywood until Hollywood sends for me. And in 1984, while doing the David Mamet play, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” on Broadway, Robert Zemeckis called me and asked me to be in “Back to the Future.” Of course nob ody knew who Robert Zemeckis was back then but I said “ok” because this was my chance to go to Hollywood. So after a year on Broadway I went to Hollywood and did the movie. I stayed in California and did some television series. Then I did “Top Gun” and all of a sudden I’m a Hollywood actor! It’s been a wonderful odyssey and I’ve survived it all!

MS: You started your career in what is now referred to as the “golden age” of television. In your opinion, what’s the biggest difference in the way television shows are produced today versus then?
JT: Well, at that time, a lot of television was done live. It was live television. You go on and you do it and that’s it! Today everything is much more safe. The three camera comedies. You have a live audience and a controlled condition. And the writing is very different. The writers today are very bright and very…demanding. They don’t always know how to use actors.

MS: You understudied Robert Duvall in a couple of Broadway shows, including “Wait Until Dark.” Did you ever get to play “Wait Until Dark” villain Harry Roat on stage?
JT: I took over the role of the Longshoreman in Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” from Robert Duvall on Broadway and played that part for many months. Then “Wait Until Dark” opened with Lee Remick. Two weeks into the run I get to the theater and there’s no Robert Duvall. The director tells me Duvall broke his hip riding horseback and I was on. I was ready and I went on and I played that part for two years. I played it for a year on Broadway with Lee Remick then I played it with Shirley Jones on a tour and then later with Barbara Bel Geddes. And the character was so dark. Believe me it was hard on one’s psyche to do that.

MS: I’m so glad you mentioned “Glengarry Glen Ross.” You originated the role of Moss on Broadway and I’ve actually played Moss in a production here in Kansas City.
JT: Really? Good for you. Isn’t that just a fantastic play? It was a great experience in my life. To work with David Mamet. We previewed in Chicago and it was a big hit there. Then we took it to New York where it was a huge hit. It was one of those shows where you know you held the audience the whole night in the palm of your hands. It’s getting ready to go back to Broadway this year with Al Pacino playing Shelly “The Machine” Levine.

MS: Really? Pacino was a great Ricky Roma in the movie. Of course he’s older now.
JT: Before the movie was made Sidney Lumet had the rights to the show and he called all of us to come in and have a reading up at his office. At the time Sidney wanted Pacino to play Shelly but Al insisted on playing Roma. The project fell through and the production ended up in someone else’s hands and Al got to play Roma.

MS: Which leads me to my next question. You were obviously a favorite of Sidney Lumet, having worked with him several times. As a director yourself did you pick up any tips from watching him work?
JT: If you want to learn about how to approach actors and acting on a film, work with Sidney Lumet! Of course it’s a little late now but he was so special…so wonderful. He made you feel like THIS is why you want to be an actor. He was just amazing. With most movies in Hollywood you get together just before you start shooting and sometimes it’s 20 takes…50 takes…whatever until everyone is comfortable with the scene. With Sidney it was three weeks of rehearsal. The first week you just sat around the table. He’d say, “OK, no acting…just talk.” It’s very simple. We’re just trying to relate and connect with each other. The second week we’d start getting up on our seats and playing the various scenes. The third week we’d run through the script in sequence like it’s a play and he’d would go off with the cinematographer setting up all of the shots. So when we got on the set everybody knew their job. You’d start shooting and he’d get everything in one or two takes. You were going home every day at four o’clock. It was like working with a master. He was just a wonderful, warm and brilliant person.

MS: Tony Scott, who directed you in “Top Gun,” recently passed away. Do you have any memories of him to share?
JT: He was such a regular guy…rough and ready. He was always smoking a cigar. He was a mountain climber and he rode motorcycles. He was quite different from Sidney Lumet but a very good man to work with. Sometimes he’d want to do a scene that wasn’t scheduled and I’d tell him I wasn’t ready and he’d just smile and say, “you can do it, James” and we’d get it done. He was very off the cuff and non-chalant. But at the same time intense, if that makes sense. I’m still stunned about how he passed. Why he would make that kind of choice is totally a mystery.

MS: Originally “Back to the Future” ended with the words THE END. Only when it was released on home video did the words TO BE CONTINUED appear. Were you aware while you were filming that there were three films planned?
JT: Oh no. The first film was a very small movie. Steven Spielberg at the time was more interested in another movie he was producing called “Goonies.” This was something that was really on the back burner. Nobody knew who Robert Zemeckis was. We were working for not a lot of money and had really tiny dressing rooms. Then that movie opened and it was an amazing success! Like they say, all of the planets had to have been aligned for that movie to be so successful. And right after that they said they were going to do a part two and part three. But when we finished filming part one there was no talk whatsoever of the sequels.

MS: Were you able to do any scenes with Eric Stoltz?
JT: I did. When I got to the set Eric was playing Marty. But after seven weeks of shooting they shut down the production. During the dailies the filmmakers discovered they were more interested in the characters AROUND Marty rather than Marty himself. And that’s when they decided they would wait for Michael J. Fox to wind up his television series and then start up production again. And believe me that was a very brave decision. If that didn’t work out you would never have heard of Robert Zemeckis or Bob Gale. I was told that when they shut down the production after seven weeks Eric Stoltz was in his dressing room and he commented, “well, they can’t fire me now.” And that very day he was fired. But that’s how it goes. It’s a crazy business. (NOTE: Michael J. Fox was the producer’s original choice to play Marty McFly but, due to his commitment to the television series “Family Ties” the studio went with Eric Stoltz. Due to many reasons, including those Mr. Tolkan mentioned, Stoltz was let go and Fox brought on, often fulfilling his television duties during the day and filming “BTTF” at night.)

MS: Are you working on anything now?
JT: No, I’m pretty much retired. I did do an HBO movie over the summer with Al Pacino and Helen Mirren about the trial of record producer Phil Spector. I play the judge. Again, it’s a David Mamet script which he also directed. He called me up and cast me. If someone calls me, I’ll do it. But right now I’m enjoying my life.

Brian O’ Halloran talks about the future of “Clerks”

Brian O’ Halloran is best known for playing Dante Hicks in the “Clerks” series. He also recently appeared in the horror film “Mr. Hush”. Brian took out some time to chat with Media Mikes to discuss the future of the series and also his love for working in theater.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with the film “Mr. Hush”?
Brian O’ Halloran: I met the director, David Lee Madison, at a horror convention and he was finishing up the edit for the DVD release. He told me about the film and asked me to be apart of the teaser for the sequel. I said sure that sounds fine. So we shot my scene earlier this Spring and he edited in to the end for the DVD release. It is kind of a tease of the tease.

MG: What do you enjoy most working in the independent horror genre?
BOH: The reason I like working with independent filmmakers is that you are not dealing with a studio and them telling you what you can/can’t do. Yes, there is a struggle with independent that you have to do out and find distribution and sell your piece. Don’t get me wrong I like that studios can bring in everything you need to make your film. But with independent films, I find that the storylines are stronger personally because they don’t have the money to do the flashy special effects and giant budgeting for A-list celebrities. You have to count on a better script to bring people to your project. These writers and directors really put in their heart and soul. As far as the horror genre, there is no other fanbase that I find that is well as hardcore fans. They are like the Howard Stern fans of film. Horror fans don’t let you slide either, they are not afraid to let you know when something sucks. But that also keeps the genre honest, if you think about it.

MG: Looking back on “Clerks”, almost 20 years, how can you reflect on its cult status?
BOH: What is great about it is that it is this timeless piece of filmmaking. It is about this guy that gets calls in on his day off and everybody can relate to something like that. It speaks to generation after generation. I am glad the fanbase has followed along these characters and are still asking “when is there going to be another?”. They are still interested in it.

MG: What’s the word that I hear about Kevin Smith resurrecting “Clerks: The Animated Series”?
BOH: You are hearing the say thing I have been hearing [laughs]. I should be talking to Kevin soon about this. But I would love to bring this back. I think it is a lot easier and cheaper to produce something like that then it was to do back in 2000, when we first do it. At the time it wasn’t really the right outlet for us, especially since ABC screwed us and only aired two episodes. When he twitted about a few months ago, I got blasted with emails asking if this was true. To today that was still one of the easiest and best jobs I have had. We also had such great guest stars the first time like Alec Baldwin, Gilbert Gottfried, Gwyneth Paltrow, James Woods and Michael McKean. I know that still today so many people love it. So I would love to do it again.

MG: Smith also recently teased “Clerks III” on Broadway, care to comment?
BOH: I saw that also. I saw that someone recorded his saying that during a recent book signing. He say that I would obviously be on board since I come from a theater background, which is true. It is going to be Jeff (Anderson), who is going to be difficult to get on board. He was also difficult when we did “Clerks II”. Until he saw some of the footage and was satisifed that we were going to do it right, then he was on-board. To get him to do a movie, where it is five weeks of shooting and then done, is one thing. But trying to get him to do seven-eight performances a week for six months, that is going to take a big bulldowser. I think if he is not on-board, no one would do it. It would be impossible to replace him. So if it happens, I do theater all the time and it would be the highlight of my theater career. To get to hang out on Broadway, I would be completely down.

MG: Besides film you do a lot of theatre, what do you enjoy most about stage?
BOH: I enjoy most the live feedback from the audience. If it is a comedy, you are earning their laughter and that is awesome to feel that energy. The opposite side is that while working it each night you are able to correct or improve on your performance. Each night is a new adventure. It get’s my blood going.

MG: What other projects do you have planned upcoming?
BOH: I am working right now on a comedy web series and right now it is called “New Jersey Theatre Players”. There will be a website, NJTheatrePlayers.com but is still under construction. We are just getting a bunch of friends together and just having fun. It is based on a community theater in New Jersey and the kookiness that happens with that. We just started shooting it at the end of August. Hopefully we will have the first few episodes completed by December and ready to launch by the beginning of the year.