CD Review: Good Riddance “Thoughts and Prayers”

“Thoughts and Prayers”

Good Riddance

Fat Wreck Chords

Producer: Bill Stevenson/Jason Livermore

Tracks: 12

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Punk rock band Good Riddance return with their 9th studio release titled “Thoughts and Prayers”. The album is being released via Fat Wreck Chords as is the follow up to the bands 2015 release “Peace in our Time”. Produced by Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore “Thoughts and Prayers” features twelve new tracks from the Santa Cruz, CA natives.

Since the reformation of the band in 2012 Good Riddance have forged ahead with the same fast paced ferocity that cemented them as a mainstay during the pop-punk boom of the mid 1990’s. The group’s latest album “Thoughts and Prayers” is a solid example of this as it packs a solid one, two punch of fast paced rhythms and catchy melodies. Tracks like the frenzied “Rapture” and the thought provoking “Our Great Divide” combine the bands signature sound with a fresh batch of hooky choruses that will have you singing along in no time. The track “No King but Caesar” does a great job breaking up the album as it slows the momentum just enough for the listener to catch a breath only to be sucked in seconds later as the track ends up morphing in to one of the fastest, most intense songs of the release and makes way for other upbeat numbers “Who We Are”, “Pox Americana” and “Lo Que Sucede” before coming to rest with the closing rallying cries of “Requisite Catastrophes”. 

When a band breaks up and then gets back together you never know if the same energy and cohesiveness that made the original incarnation of the band work will still remain. “Thoughts and Prayers” shows that Good Riddance have not lost a step but they have also kicked things up a notch with an album that showcases the bands progression as people and musicians. If 2015’s “Peace in our Time” record served as a reminder to who Good Riddance was during their heyday then “Thoughts and Prayers” is the road map for where the band is going next,

Track Listing:

1. Edmund Pettus Bridge
2. Rapture
3. Don’t Have Time
4. Our Great Divide
5. Wish You Well
6. Precariat
7. No King But Ceasar
8. Who We Are
9. No Safe Place
10. Pox Americana
11. Lo Que Sucede
12. Requisite Catastrophes

Film Review: 30 for 30 – “The Good, the Bad, the Hungry”

  • ESPN 30 for 30 – THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE HUNGRY
  • Starring: Joey Chestnut, Takeru Kobiyashi and George Shea
  • Directed by: Nicole Lucas Haimes
  • Running time: 1 hr 17 mins
  • ESPN Films

As the 4th of July approaches, many Americans will head to their backyards and throw some hot dogs on the grill. I know I am. And, if I’m particularly hungry that day, I might eat 3 of them. Which would in no way get me invited to Coney Island to participate in the Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest!

The contest has been going on since 1972, but it wasn’t until 2001, when a young Japanese man named Takeru Kobiyashi showed up and ate an amazing 50 hot dogs, with buns, in 12 minutes. He held the title for 5 years when, inspired by Kobiyashi’s success, a young man named Joey Chestnut took a chance at winning the coveted Championship Mustard Belt. He lost. Thus began an rivalry as intense as any in sports. And yes, Competitive Eating is a sport.

A very in-depth behind the scenes look at an event that draws 30,000 people annually, “The Good, the Bad, the Hungry” is another excellent film in ESPN’s 30 for 30 canon. Though I had certainly been aware of the annual Coney Island event, I was surprised to learn that competitive eating as a sport has long been recognized in Japan. We are introduced to early Kobiyashi gastronomic feats, like eating 19.6 pounds of food at one sitting. As the rivalry between Kobiyashi and Chestnut grows, so do the contests. I love me some Krystal hamburgers, but there is no way in hell I’m eating 97 of them. And their calorie intake isn’t the only thing that’s large. Chestnut has made six figures a year doing this.

In 2008, Kobiyashi and Chestnut tied, resulting in a 5-dog Overtime Period

What is amazing is that these two take their skill seriously. They train daily, everything from figuring out the right temperature of water to soak the buns in to training the various throat muscles to help swallow easier. We also learn about each one’s upbringing through conversations with their parents. While Chestnut’s parents are all for Joey’s achievements, Kobiyashi’s father is more subdued. Born after World War II, he notes that to him food is meant to be thankful for and appreciated. This doesn’t mean he isn’t proud of his son, of course,

Another thing noted are the cultural differences. Once Chestnut beats Kobiyashi, the Japanese man is shocked by the crowd’s sudden change. Where they had constantly cheered him, once defeated he is met with cheers of “USA! USA!” Not understanding American culture, his feelings are genuinely hurt.

I should add here that when he arrives in America, Kobiyashi is stunned at the size of some of the competitors. In Japan, most of the competitive eaters are thin. In fact, Kobiyashi only weighs 144 pounds and often celebrates his wins by pulling up his shirt and showing off his six-pack! If I won I’d be flashing a keg!

An entertaining film about an entertaining subject, grab a couple of hot dogs this week and pull up a seat in front of the television. Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired enough to take Chestnut down nest year.

Author Darren Paltrowitz Discusses His NEW Book “Good Advice From Professional Wrestling: Full Contact Life Lessons”.

Darren Paltrowitz is writer/interviewer with 20+ years of entertainment industry experience. He began working around the music business as a teenager and over the years working with artists like OK Go, They Might Be Giants and Tracy Bonham. Darren’s writing has appeared in countless publications including the NEW York Daily News, L.A. Times and Guitar World. Darren’s latest project is titled “Good Advice From Professional Wrestling: Full Contact Life Lessons”.  Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Darren recently about the book and how the idea to draw inspiration from professional wrestling came about.

Adam Lawton: What was your first exposure to Professional Wrestling?

Darren Paltrowitz: I have been trying to really figure that out lately. I think it goes back to watching “WWF Wrestling Challenge” or one of those late 80’s early 90’s weekend shows. The first Wrestle mania that I fully remember was WrestleMania 7. From there I got into WCW. Sadly I wasn’t much in wrestling during the “Monday Night Wars” as music took over at that time. I didn’t love WCW when it was good! (Laughs) Thankfully with the internet I can now go back and watch everything I missed.

AL: How did the idea for the book all come together?

DP: I had gotten a press release about a book from my future co-author D.X. Ferris. It was actually a release about the four books he had coming out. One of those was titled “Good Advice From Good Fellas”. I ended up interviewing him about the book and during that interview he mentioned Diamond Dallas Page. We stayed in touch after the interview and I pitched the idea of a wrestling book. He sent me an email of a paper he wrote back in college which took advice from wrestling and the film “Goodfellas”. This was back in November. Prior to that we had nothing so that is why the book includes a lot of current wrestlers and wrestling information. We wrote this very quickly with the goal of having it ready for WrestleMania in April. D.X. put in a ton of long hours at the end with final touches and we did it!

AL: What was the research process like for the book and, how did you go about selecting which material made it into the book?

DP: That was sort of a mix of factors. One of those factors was D.X. telling me I had to put in some of his hometown Pittsburgh guys like Bruno Sammartino and Kurt Angle. We really had to think about people who along with wrestling talent also showed good business acumen and that were not plagued by scandal. We also thought about who had great quotes. Some of the book’s material came from my own personal interviews with people like Mark Henry. Now that I have been talking about the book for a bit I regret not including people like Al Snow and MJF. This arguably the greatest time in history to be a wrestling fan! There is infinite content out there. In fact there is so much that you cannot watch it all.

AL: Did any of the wrestlers who are featured in the book know beforehand that they were going to be included?

DP: We reached out to a lot of the wrestling promotions asking for material and we received responses from all but one. There were other times where I would have to go through independent reps. We also had a guy in the Ohio area that was able to provide us with some photo material. Initially things were moving slow as people didn’t believe we were doing this thing. One by one we started getting books out to some of the wrestlers and it’s been going great. It continues to be a step by step process.

AL: Did you have any goals for releasing the book?

DP: My first major goal with this project was finishing the book and getting it out. Once that was done it was a major relief. A lot of people say they are going to write a book but never do. Now that the book is out I want it to be the one book that is for people who don’t read “self help” books. I wanted people to realize that a lot of the advice in the book is applicable no matter what your level of exposure to pro wrestling is or was. One other thing I want people to take away from the book is for them to see just how smart and successful the majority of pro wrestlers are. They are no longer failed football players or body builders. These are people who are branding experts who can also act and write their own material. If you want to be successful you have to learn from other successful people. I hope a lot of that comes across in this book.

AL: What other projects are you currently working on?

DP: I have been doing interviews with entertainers and the likes ever since I was in high school. I realized that I should do something with all these interviews. About a year ago I started a pod cast called “The Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz”. It’s a bi-weekly cast that includes clips from various interviews I have done. Last week’s episode featured Adam Duritz from Counting Crows talking about his bar mitzvah, Guitarist Susan Tedeschi and Kaley Cuoco from the “Big Bang Theory”. I am into all kinds of things so that’s what I showcase on the cast.

It doesn’t matter if you are fan of wrestling or just someone wanting a fresh approach to the self help genre “Good Advice From Professional Wrestling: Full Contact Life Lessons” has something for everyone. It’s even got some great photos which accent the wit and wisdom of an often overlooked industry. To Order visit: https://www.amazon.com/Darren-Paltrowitz/e/B07Q4QN8B8/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_2

For more info on Darren Paltrowitz you can visit his official website here: http://www.paltrowitz.com/home.html

Authors Darren Paltrowitz and D.X. Ferris to Release “Good Advice From Professional Wrestling”

Featuring Forward by “DDP” Diamond Dallas Page, WWE Hall of Fame Inductee

Pre-Order Physical Copies via Amazon

This Sunday not only marks WrestleMania 35 – but also the release of Good Advice From Professional Wrestling: Full Contact Life Lessons From The Pinnacle Performance Art, a new book by authors Darren Paltrowitz and D.X. Ferris. The two will lay claim to the Universal Motivational Tag Team Title when the book drops via 6623 Press this coming Sunday, April 7.

Order now via Amazon, where the e-book is already available and is positioned at #1 on the Kindle Store’s New Releases in Wrestling Books chart! 

This eminently readable self-help manual finds useful life lessons in inspiring quotes by icons from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to Bruno Sammartino. Whether you’re a fan, teacher, salesman, or landscaper, Good Advice From Professional Wrestling is an entertaining guide on how to get over and improve your life, one step at a time.

The book’s foreword was written by WWE Hall of Famer and international fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page

“DDP is a hero and role model for both of us,” explains co-author Ferris, a teacher and award-winning writer. “Life coaches like Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss are great, but I like figures like DDP. He encourages you to think big, and he has a realistic attack: You improve by committing to productive habits. You reach one goal at a time. That’s our approach.”

Good Advice From Professional Wrestling concludes with a list of ten habits and practices that famous wrestlers use to become successful, which readers can start today. 

“Professional wrestling is much more sophisticated than most people will give it credit for,”says co-author Paltrowitz, who in addition to authoring other works, is a podcast host. “When done well, it communicates on a universal level, much like music or film. I wanted to spotlight some of the great men and women behind wrestling, and also emphasize its cultural impact.”

The book features wisdom from over 40 wrestling-world greats of today and yesteryear, and archival quotes from rising stars to all-time greats like movie star Dave “Bautista” Batista, rock singer and Hall of Fame inductee Lita, MLW star Salina de la Renta, A.E.W. co-founders Cody Rhodes & the Young Bucks. WWE counterculture iconoclasts Daniel BryanCM Punk, accredited dentist and A.E.W. marquee talent Britt Baker, the late Rowdy Roddy Piper, rock star Billy Corgan, and ECW mastermind Paul Heyman.

Good Advice From Professional Wrestling is the second volume in 6623 Press’ Leadership Every Day Series, which finds life-changing lessons in popular culture. Volume 1 is Ferris’ Good Advice From Goodfellas: Positive Life Lessons From The Best Mob Movie. 

Based in Akron, Ohio, 6623 Press makes unconventional, useful, creator-owned, reasonably priced books about popular culture, success, history, and other cool stuff.

Darren Paltrowitz is an entertainment-industry veteran from Long Beach, New York. His writing has appeared in the New YorkDaily News and the Los AngelesTimes. He hosts the podcast, “The Paltrocast With Darren Paltrowitz.”.

D.X. Ferris is an award-winning writer, Pittsburgh native, and Ohio resident. He has written for Rolling Stone and Alternative Press. He wrote books about Slayer and leadership. This is his ninth. He is plotting a heel turn. 

Guess who had a good time at the Kansas City Crypticon??

PHOTOS BY DAN LYBARGER

A few years ago I wrote a very scathing review of the Kansas City Crypticon Convention.  I felt my review was honest and it was based on not only my own observations but those of people I spoke with, both convention guests and attendees.  While I continued to attend each year, I didn’t write anything about the show because I didn’t want it to look like I was uncaring or that I was just looking to continually kick the organization.

 

 

 

 

Last year the show left the nasty hotel (recently torn down by the city) it called home and headed an hour north up Interstate 29 to the birthplace of Jesse James:  St. Joseph, Missouri.  I wasn’t able to attend last year because of a previous commitment that weekend but this year I decided to check it out.  And what I discovered was a pretty cool con.

The show was held at the St. Joseph Civic Center, and I thought the layout was perfect.  The bottom, open middle section was set up for the dealers.  Whereas in Kansas City the dealers rooms were always cramped and hard to navigate, here they were a breeze to explore.  Plenty of room, and a nice selection of goods.  The upper level was devoted to a few dealers and ALL of the celebrity guests.  The area was bright and clean and every celebrity had a very nice banner, as opposed to the construction paper and magic marker creations from the past.

And the celeb lineup was first class.  As this is mostly a horror-themed convention, the guest list was perfect.  Linda Blair from The Exorcist.  Nick Castle and P.J. Soles from Halloween.  William Kaat from Carrie.  And, for fans of more recent horror, you couldn’t do any better than “American Horror Story’s” Dennis O’Hare.  These guests, and about a dozen more, greeted fans and many of them (especially the Halloween gang) seemed to have a steady line at their tables.  Autograph/photo op prices were pretty reasonable as well, which is always a good thing at one of these events.

One of my “bucket list” celebs – William Kaat. He shared some great stories with me.

Congratulations to the people behind the Crypticon conventions.  You’ve done an amazing job in transforming your show from one of the worse in the Midwest to a destination event.  I look forward to next year.

No hard feelings?  🙂

Poison, Cheap Trick and Pop Evil Join Forces For “Poison…Nothin’ But A Good Time” Summer Tour

POISON, CHEAP TRICK AND POP EVIL
JOIN FORCES FOR “POISON…NOTHIN’ BUT A GOOD TIME 2018” U.S. SUMMER TOUR
STARTING MAY 18 IN IRVINE, CA
TICKETS ON-SALE STARTING FEBRUARY 9 AND 10

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 6, 2018) — Music fans wanting a little variety with their summer tour package will get that very thing with the “Poison…Nothin’ But A Good Time 2018” tour. Iconic rock band POISON, with all original members, will be joined by CHEAP TRICK and POP EVIL on its trek across the U.S. this summer. The tour is set to launch May 18 in Irvine, CA at Five Points Amphitheatre.

Check out this video to learn more about the “Poison…Nothin’ But A Good Time 2018” tour here:

Produced by Live Nation, tickets for various cities will go on sale starting Friday, February 9 and Saturday, February 10. Each band will be offering their own exclusive VIP packages and meet & greet opportunities beginning February 6 at 12pm local time. POISON will be offering direct-to-fan access to the best seats in the house via their own exclusive pre-sales at PoisonOfficial.com for access to exclusive content, ticket pre-sales and VIP packages. VIP Packages for CHEAP TRICK will be available for all dates, details for which can be found at www.CheapTrick.com. POP EVIL will also be offering VIP meet & greets at PopEvilVIP.com. For more information about the “Nothin’ But A Good Time 2018” tour, please visit Livenation.com.

The bands are fired up to make the journey across the U.S. together. Bret Michaels, POISON lead singer and noted philanthropist says, “The all original POISON is headlining again this summer. It’s going to be a mega concert and party combined. We will be playing all the hits and bringing high energy rock and roll good times. I promise this will be awesome. My friends CHEAP TRICK and POP EVIL will be joining us as well as some special guests on select dates. Again, I know all the bands with all the hits will be giving 1000%!!! Over the last years, POISON has got to co-headline with some great bands: Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Kiss, Lynyrd Skynyrd, to name a few, but I promise again, C.C., Bobby, Rikki and myself together will bring NOTHING BUT A GOOD TIME!!!”

“POISON is a just great American Rock and Roll Band,” declares Bob Roux, President of U.S. Concerts, Live Nation. “Along with CHEAP TRICK, this show is going to be Nothing But A Good Time – The Full Tilt Party of the Summer. POISON and CHEAP TRICK always deliver the goods.”

Rick Nielsen, CHEAP TRICK (lead guitar) proclaims, “Another Poison/Cheap Trick Tour!!! It’s always been FUN with these guys!”

While POP EVIL singer Leigh Kakaty concludes, “This summer is going to be an exciting one for POP EVIL, that’s for sure! What a fantastic opportunity to bring our live show across the country on the big stage with such legends like POISON and CHEAP TRICK.”

Check out the “Poison…Nothin’ But A Good Time 2018” tour at any of the following stops.

DATE CITY VENUE

Fri 5/18 Irvine, CA Five Points Amphitheatre
* Sat 5/19 Las Vegas, NV The Joint
* Sun 5/20 Reno, NV Grand Sierra Resort
Tue 5/22 Salt Lake City, UT USANA Amphitheatre
Wed 5/23 Denver, CO Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre
Fri 5/25 Kansas City, KS Sprint Center
* Sat 5/26 St. Louis, MO Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Thu 5/31 Nashville, TN Ascend Amphitheatre
* Sat 6/2 Dallas, TX Toyota Pavilion at Irving Music Factory
* Sun 6/3 Houston, TX Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
* Tue 6/5 Atlanta, GA Verizon Amphitheatre
Thu 6/7 Indianapolis, IN Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center
* Fri 6/8 Detroit, MI DTE Energy Music Theatre
* Sat 6/9 Chicago, IL Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
* Sun 6/10 Cincinnati, OH Riverbend Music Center
* Tue 6/12 Cleveland, OH Blossom Music Center
Wed 6/13 Syracuse, NY Lakeview Amphitheatre
Thu 6/14 Hartford, CT The Xfinity Theatre
Fri 6/15 Gilford, NH Bank of NH Pavilion
* Sun 6/17 Bristow, VA Jiffy Lube Live
Tue 6/19 Toronto, ONT. The Budweiser Stage
* Thu 6/21 Wantagh, NY Northwell Health at Jones Beach
Fri 6/22 Bethel, NY Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
* Sat 6/23 Holmdel, NJ PNC Bank Arts Center
Sun 6/24 Allentown, PA PPL Center

* POISON, CHEAP TRICK, to be announced

Film Review “The Good Dinosaur”

Starring the voices of: Jeffrey Wright and Frances McDormand
Directed by: Peter Sohn
Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hr 50 mins
Walt Disney Pictures

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

65 million years ago a rogue meteor hit the earth, changing the world drastically. One of the big changes was the extinction of the dinosaurs. But what if that meteor had missed?

Meet the Apatosaurus family. Momma and Poppa welcome the arrival of three eggs and their contents. Soon, the family is complete with Libby, Buck and Arlo. These particular dinosaurs are farmers, and they’re bodies allow them the opportunity to act as both the plow and the sprinkler system. Brainy Libby helps out, as does brawny Buck. Sadly, tiny Arlo can only feed the chickens (or at least the prehistoric version of chickens) and help fill the silo with corn so the family can survive the winter. Things go well until, like most films, tragedy strikes and Arlo finds himself on his own. Cue the sad music.

From the PIXAR division of Disney, “The Good Dinosaur” is a visual treat for the eyes. From the ice covered mountains to the rushing river waters it is amazing the advances that have been made in computer generated animation. Like most Disney films, the hero soon finds himself in trouble, where he is rescued by a young boy that Arlo names “Spot.” The best way to describe Spot is to ask if you remember the Feral Kid from “The Road Warrior.” If so, you now have an image of what I’m talking about.

The film follows Arlo and Spot as they make their way back to Three Claw Mountain. Along the way they meet some colorful creatures, including a trio of T-rex’s led by Sam Elliott. The many characters are vividly rendered and all are memorable. And frightening. I have no idea how this film received a PG rating. There is death in and around the story, including a scene where a cute, saucer-eyed animal is suddenly gobbled down and then torn to shreds by a pair of dueling pterodactyls! If you’re taking children under the age of 7 prepare to dry their tears.

CD Review: Good Riddance “Peace in Our Time”

Good Riddance
“Peace in Our Time”
Fat Wreck Chords
Produced by: Bill Stevenson
Tracks: 14

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Peace in Our Time” is the 8th studio release from the hardcore/punk band Good Riddance. This is the bands first release since reforming in 2012 and it features 14 brand new tracks produced by Bill Stevenson and is being released via Fat Wreck Chords.

Fans of edgy, pop tined punk rock look no further as Good Riddance are back with their first new album in 9 years. Titled “Peace in Our Time” the album is the first studio work the band has done together since reforming. Though fans may not have enjoyed the group’s time apart the latest offering from the Santa Cruz, CA natives is fresh and catchy while staying true to the bands original sound. Songs like “Contrition” and “Teachable Moments” feature thunderous bass and drum breakdowns which pave the way for vocalist Russ Rankin’s straight forward vocal approach while tracks like “Take It To Heart”, “Dry Season” and “Our Better Nature” blur the lines of the hardcore/punk genres with graceful ease.

From start to finish “Peace in Our Time” held my attention and made me want to get up and move. The album exudes an energy that is infectious and fun with a sound that harkens back to the mid 90’s punk glory days while still feeling fresh and new. Those looking for a punk rock album with a little bit more edge without going too far look no further than the latest from Good Riddance.

Track Listing:
1.) Disputatio
2.) Contrition
3.) Take It To Heart
4.) Half Measures
5.) Grace and Virtue
6.) No Greater Fight
7.) Dry Season
8.) Teachable Moments
9.) Washed Away
10.) Our Better Natures
11.) Shiloh
12.) Running On Fumes
13.) Year Zero
14.) Glory Glory

Book Review “The Avengers Storybook Collection”

Age Range: 6 – 8 years
Grade Level: 1 – 3
Series: Storybook Collection
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Marvel Press
Release Date: March 31, 2015

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

I wish I had a book like this when I was a kid. “The Avengers Storybook Collection” is a must have for any parent with young boys or even young fan girls for that matter! There is nothing like getting ready a story filled with heroism, adventure and action just before going to slip. These stories are fun, exciting and feature some of our favorite Marvel superheroes. Even though, my daughter is a little young for this one, she still loves it and already came name every character on the cover!

Official Premise: Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Falcon are Earth’s Mightiest Marvels-the Avengers! Join them as they work together to battle against sinister Super Villains such as Ultron, Thanos, the Masters of Evil,and more, to keep the Earth safe. Featuring 20 explosive stories of good vs. evil. Avengers assemble!

Let’s hope that this Storybook Collection is the first of many. There are literally an infinite collection of characters that they can include in future collections. This one has 20 stories included with all of the favorites like Iron Man and Captain America but I would love to be able to introduce my daughter to some of the lesser known characters as well. They could even do a female superhero only book OOHHHH OOHHHH or even better a villains only book. Who wouldn’t want to read a new story featuring everyone’s favorite Avenger villain, Loki! Fingers crossed!

Film Review “The Good Lie”

Starring: Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jal and Reese Witherspoon
Directed By: Philippe Falardeau
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 110 minutes
Warner Bros.

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

In a movie like this, the number one question to ask yourself is, “How much does this movie care about the people it’s portraying?” It’s a very legitimate question that has plenty of factors. The director of “The Good Lie” has a soft visual touch to the difficult issue of the second Sudanese civil war. Writer Margaret Nagle has handled the lives of others in her works, near and dear to her heart, so she doesn’t harm their image. And most importantly, some of the actors and actresses have lived through this kind of experience. So why can’t this movie outgrow its ABC Family TV movie feeling?

Mamere (Oceng), Jeremiah (Duany), Paul (Jal) and Abital (Kuoth Wiel) are happily headed to America after spending years in a Kenyan refugee camp. 13 years prior to that, they had to flee their Sudanese village after it was torched to the ground and their parents were slaughtered in front of them. In their nearly 500 mile trek to safety, they lose friends to starvation, watch other refugees get gunned down and Mamere watches soldiers take his older brother Theo. Mamere has to persevere and become the leader of hope for the group.

The first half hour is a bit harrowing since it pulls no punches through unnerving scenes of lifeless bodies floating in the river and our group having to bury one of their friends in the unforgiving wasteland. Even after all those hardships and helping one another through it, they can’t live together in America. The three men learn that their sister Abital can’t go with them to Kansas City. She has to go to Boston because rules require separating the men and women. Then the tone of the movie does a complete 180 when the trio arrives in cowtown.

While it’s a necessity that we need some humorous culture shocks to add relief to the horrors we just watched, they really seem to heap it on in a slightly dehumanizing fashion that borders on making fun of our group. It’s a bit light hearted to see them react suspiciously to jello, but I would hope it’s not the filmmaker’s intention for us to laugh at them being uncomfortable in their living situations and moving their mattresses into the living room so they can spend their first night in a new country together. Then if that wasn’t enough, the product placement is very blatant and repugnant. Consider the context of one scene where one of them becomes carsick because they’ve never been in a vehicle and have airplane food swishing back and forth in their bowels. What’s the cure? McDonalds. I’ll just leave it at that.

Miraculously it stops itself short of being completely off putting by introducing Carrie (Witherspoon) who instead of giggling at their misfortunes, is there to help them find jobs and seems genuinely concerned about their predicament. She doesn’t get a lot of on-screen time even though the poster for this movie would tell you otherwise. The real emotional draw for this movie is the refugees, but it doesn’t know where to go with them. Mamere wants to be a doctor and is probably the most driven of all of them. Jeremiah even quits a job because he morally doesn’t agree with what his boss has him do. Paul for some reason takes the advice of people he doesn’t know or has any real connection to, and starts smoking pot. It’s almost as if someone didn’t feel confident enough with the men trying to find normalcy after escaping a war torn area theme powerful enough and began shoehorning in another angles and characters.

I commend the actors for portraying something that’s very near and dear to their heart with such honest passion. When they’re on screen spilling their heart out, “The Good Lie” succeeds and nearly redeems its poorer qualities. Despite my complaints, I find it somewhat miraculous that the final moments are still a powerful message about good will. “The Good Lie” is a crowd pleaser, albeit one that is far from knocking it’s touching story out of the park.

Win Tickets to Kansas City Advance Screening of “The Good Lie” [ENDED]

MediaMikes has teamed up with Warner Brothers to give (50) readers and a guest to attend the upcoming advance screening of the new film “The Good Lie.”

The screening will be held on Tuesday, September 30, at the Cinemark Palace on the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. “The Good Lie” is an uplifting story with a Kansas City connection. The film opens on Friday, October 3.

Just go to: http://l.gofobo.us/UQD0OmV8. The first (50) visitors will receive a pass for (2) to this screening. Good luck!

Screening Information
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Cinemark Palace on the Plaza
7:30 p.m.

SYNOPSIS
A Sudanese refugee is taken in by a straight-talking American woman in their new home in the United States. After their village is destroyed and their parents killed by Northern militia, Sudanese orphans Theo, his siblings and other survivors make a difficult journey to a refugee camp in Kenya. Thirteen years later, the group get the chance to settle in the U.S. They are met in Kansas by Carrie Davis (Reese Witherspoon), who has been charged with finding them jobs. However, seeing how adrift they are in 20th-century America, Carrie endeavors to help them in rebuilding their shattered lives.

 

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Blu-ray Review “For No Good Reason”

Starring: Johnny Depp, Richard E. Grant, Terry Gilliam
Director: Charlie Paul
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Run Time: 89 minutes

Film: 5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

When I first saw the film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”, I feel in love with the work of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and his collaborating artist and longtime friend Ralph Steadman. Over the last 15 years, I have been collecting everything I can from these two people. Talking about fandom, I even have Steadman’s work tattooed on my right arm. When I heard about “For No Good Reason”, I couldn’t have been more excited since after the death of HST in 2005, it gives Steadman the much deserved spotlight that he deserves. It also sort of acts a tribute to HST as well, which I really appreciate. This is no question one of my favorite films of the year and one hell of a documentary.

Official Premise: Experience 15 years in the life of seminal British artist Ralph Steadman, whose surreal, often confrontational artwork is frequently associated with Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). Through Johnny Depp’s lead in this intimate portrait, we are able to reach the heart of what make this artist tick, his friendships and fallings out, his love for art and his passion for civil liberties. The inventive, energetic, occasionally harrowing, but inspiring film includes contributions from Terry Gilliam, Richard E. Grant, Tim Robbins and others who offer insight into the man behind the legend.

One thing, that I really loved about this spotlight on one of the most bizarre artists of the 20th century was how brutally honest it was. I had the very lucky privilege to speak with Ralph Steadman about his career and the film, click here to check out our interview with the man himself. You not only get a portrait of Steadman’s work in this film but also who he is as a person and his back story. He is definitely a weird dude just like HST but what artist isn’t a little odd. If you are a die-hard fan of his work, I cannot recommend this enough…same goes if you are just discovering him this is an amazing introduction as well.

Sony is delivering “For No Good Reason” as a combo pack with a Blu-ray + DVD copy…but no digital copy. I was really hoping that this film was going to include an Ultraviolet copy. The 1080p transfer is good but not perfect. The art looks great though, especially the animation sequences. Same goes with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. It is definitely a solid track but also doesn’t get very challenged with this dialogue driven film.

Since this film took over a decade to complete, I was really hoping the special features would be jam-packed but not so much. There are still some decent content including an audio commentary track from Director Charlie Paul and Producer Lucy Paul, which is a nice way to revisit for sure. There is the Toronto International Film Festival Q&A with Ralph Steadman and Charlie Paul included. There is a reading of “Cherrywood Cannon”, animated version of Steadman’s book. Lastly there are a few extended interviews with Bruce Robinson, Richard E. Grant and Terry Gilliam and a few deleted scenes included.

Enter to Win a DVD of Steven Seagal’s “A Good Man” [ENDED]

To celebrate the release of “Steven Seagal’s “A Good Man”, Media Mikes is excited to giveaway one (1) copy of the film on DVD to our readers. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of this prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite Steven Seagal film. This giveaway will remain open until August 29th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to all of our Media Mikes readers worldwide. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

After an illustrious special ops career ends in disaster, Alexander (Steven Seagal) goes off the grid and attempts to lead a quiet life as a handyman at an apartment complex. But when one of his tenants and her family fall under the thumb of a Russian gangster, Alexander is dragged into an all-out war between rival Chinese and Russian gangs; forcing him to not only defend the family, but bringing him face to face with an old foe, and giving him one more chance to reconcile his past.

 

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Ralph Steadman talks about his work with Hunter S. Thompson and film “For No Good Reason”

Ralph Steadman is a British Gonzo artist that is best known for his work with American author Hunter S. Thompson, author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. After meeting each other in 1970 to cover the Kentucky Derby, Steadman and Thompson formed a long-time relationship. Steadman’s did the artwork for Thompson’s books over his career. He is also an author himself having written numerous books focusing on his drawings…or as Hunter would have called it his “filthy scribblings”, according to Ralph. This April, “For No Good Reason” makes its U.S. debut in NYC, which is a documentary on Ralph’s career. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ralph about the film and his work with Hunter S. Thompson.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you got approached for the documentary “From No Good Reason”?
Ralph Steadman: The director Charlie Paul initially came down to see me, then the producer Lucy Paul. This was over a period of twelve years, you know. They would stay for lunch, we would talk and then we would carry on. So over twelve years, we made this film. It just seems so long ago from when we first started it. They got Johnny Depp involved, which was good because he has become a personal friend of mine over the years. He is such a great guy, easy going, warm, genuine and terrific fellow…
MG: I loved Johnny’s narration in the film as well, very nice touch.
RS: Oh yeah, it was lovely. I agree.

MG: How did you feel about having a documentary about your life done?
RS: I first thought “For God’s sake…why?” “For no good reason”…that is what Hunter would have said. I used to always ask “Why are we doing this Hunter?” and he would always say “For no good reason, Ralph” [laughs].

MG: How was it seeing some of your drawings brought to life and illustrated in the film?
RS: That was quite interesting. I couldn’t be an animator in old Disney way when they used to draw one picture and then other but slightly different and then you would put them together like a flip book and they would actually move. The only thing I liked like that was doing something simple like a dot or a splat and putting it in a book form and flipping it and watching it move, that to me was magic. I like doing that kind of thing. But seeing my drawings in the film was really great.

MG: I find it so interesting that you said in the film that your work is unprofessional and “it is as unexpected to me as it is to anyone else”; can you talk about this aspect?
RS: Yeah, that is because I don’t do any pencil work. I never plan anything. I just begin and the drawing becomes what it becomes. My reaction every time is “I don’t know how I did that”. I am always amazed. “How the fuck did I do that?”, I usually say. It’s like Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea that only thing of value is that thing that you cannot say but you can see it. I like that a lot.

MG: So how did your splatter technique come about then?
RS: Oh that was clumsiness. I was clumsy. I said “Oh shit” when I flicked my wrist with my pen but I realized it made this beautiful sweep of blots. I thought to myself them “Oh I like that, it’s quite nice” So I started to use it more deliberately. I would spill ink all over the place. I liked the idea of putting a sheet of paper on the studio floor taking a bottle of ink high on a ladder and dropping it. Not all of it…but just enough. It would make terrific, radiating splatters of different designs. Then you look and think “Hmm, it could be a spider” and I would go from there.

MG: Looking back at the film now, how do you feel that it has come together?
RS: I was amazed by it actually. After twelve years, it was nice to see it all come together. They did cut out a few things that I would have liked them to keep in like my art teacher, Leslie Richardson. This was a pity since I really wanted him in it. What they were after was the notoriety including the fame of Johnny Depp. So poor Leslie Richardson, who is now 93, was left out. But he still goes around kicking old ladies and children in the streets [laughs].

MG: Tell us how you originally crossed paths with Hunter Thompson?
RS: When I was planning to come to New York in 1970, I had some friends that invited me to stay with them in the Hampton’s. They were soon to be married, so I felt a little uncomfortable saying with them for a long period of time. So after staying a little while, I was going to leave for the city and I was about to leave when there was a cal from a guy named J.C. Suarez. He was an editor from Brooklyn. He wanted me to come to Kentucky and meet an ex-Hells Angels, who just shaved his head. I asked why did he do that and he said “Why? Because he’s a Hells Angels. He is a rebel”. So I asked “What for?” He told me that he was not only looking for a photographer but for an artist and they saw my book of pictures called “Still Life with Raspberry”, which was my first book of collected drawings. Don Goddard was the foreign editor of The New York Times and he had found the book in England and then came back and said that they need to put me with Hunter Thompson. So that is how it happened.

MG: Do you feel that your career would have been different if your path’s didn’t cross?
RS: As far as I was concerned, meeting Hunter and going to Kentucky was a bulls eye for me. For all the people that I could meet in America, he would be the one…go figure. Meeting Hunter was the best thing for me in terms of making a career. What we did for journalism was that we became the story and that became know as gonzo journalism. That was really what was so good about it. One day, this guy Bill Cardoso told us that the Kentucky Derby piece we did was “pure gonzo”. Hunter never heard the word before and it really stuck. He used to say “Don’t do those filthy scribblings”. He used to call my drawings filthy scribblings [laughs]. He used to also tell me “Don’t write Ralph, you will bring shame on your family”. But he always loved to sort of go against you but on purpose because he would know that it would provoke me and my work would benefit.

MG: “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” is one of my favorite books and the movie is great as well…
RS: The thing is people get too sniffy about the movie and things like that. They say that it is not quite this or quite that. No! It is a version of the book. I didn’t mind it, especially since the whole damn thing, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” was a crazy idea to begin with.

MG: Do you recall how long it took you to complete the illustrations for the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” book?
RS: I think I did nine pictures in a week and it was done. The rotten thing was that I ended up selling all of the originals since I was told it would be a good career move. I think I got $75 dollars each for them. Can you imagine what they are worth now?

MG: Has your drawings been affected since the death of Hunter S. Thompson?
RS: No, not really. I have been doing bird drawings for the last few years. I don’t like drawing politicians any more, I can’t be bothered. They are so awful. I don’t feel so bitter about it. I do not feel like I am trying to change the world. I have changed the world enough since I started and it is worse now than when I started [laughs]. So good, I have done what I had meant to do [laughing]

MG: Yeah, you start off the film saying you set out to “change the world”; I was going to ask if you felt that you have accomplished that goal?
RS: We’ll you look around, I have done my part but bloody computers have changed everything.The business and also people in general. You can’t walk down a side street without somebody passing you by and they are not looking at you or around them, they are looking down at their phone. I had to go on a train recently to Halifax for a show of my drawings and there was this woman on the train that was a good example. She had red hair which was long down one side and shaved on the other side. I have a drawing of it in my book here. She was so awful, I had to draw her. But she had her makeup out in one hand and her phone in the other from the moment she got on the train. That is the problem about the invasion of the computer, like Twitter. Everyone wants to tweet you now. So that is very weird to me.

MG: Tell us about your latest book “Proud Too Be Weirrd”?
RS: I collected together a bunch of things that I never had no good reason to use [laughs]. I thought I would start with the first page and go through my studio finding this and finding that and just building the book from there and that is how I worked on it. This guy Steve Crist from AMMO Books got in touch with me about doing it. He used to work at TASCHEN. Benedikt Taschen rang me after the book was made and said he was actually very disappointed because he wanted to do the book, but at the time I didn’t know this. He did my book with Hunter, “The Curse of Lono”. Steve Crist used to work with Benedikt and that’s where he began. He sort of adopted the style of big book like TASCHEN did. I really like the title “Proud Too Be Weirrd” and it is a great book

MG: What are some of the artists that inspire you?
RS: I love Picasso. He is such an inspiration for me. There is a film called “The Mystery of Picasso” that is really worth seeing if you can get a copy. It is fascinating for me to watch him at work. The director, who made the film, was allowed to by Picasso to be in the studio with him. This is what Charlie did with me as well for our film. Picasso would set things up for him including painting on glass and having him film from the other side. This is amazing work and it really continues to inspire me.

MG: Are you working on anything else new currently?
RS: I got a new book of creatures that I am working on right now. These are completely made up creatures for example instead of a pelican; you do a pelicant [laughs]. You have to keep doing something otherwise what is the point. I guess I am taking advice from my father, who couldn’t bear to just sit about. I am also learning how to etch steel plates as well. So I suppose I should continue to carry on.

 

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Enter to Win “The Good Witch’s Garden” on DVD [ENDED]

To celebrate the release of “The Good Witch’s Garden” on DVD, Media Mikes is excited to giveaway one (1) copy of the film on DVD. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of this prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite “Good Witch” film in the series. This giveaway will remain open until May 2nd at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

Cassandra Cassie Nightingale has settled into Middleton and is busy making a home of Grey House. Her boyfriend, Sheriff Jake Russell, and his kids are happy to have Cassie in the neighborhood, but she has yet to gain the trust of some people in town. Before long, a stranger rolls into town with papers entitling him to legal ownership of Grey House. Before she knows it, Cassie is left without a home and is convinced Middleton isn t where she belongs. Ultimately, everyone will learn holding on too tightly to something can make it more likely that thing will slip through your fingers.