Actor/Director Harold Ramis Dead at the Age of 69

Harold Ramis, whose early career writing jokes for “Playboy” magazine lead him to a career as one of the most successful comedy film writer/directors, passed away today in Chicago.  He was 69.  Cause of death was listed as complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis.
Chicago born, Ramis began his comedic career as a writer and joke editor for “Playboy.”  At the age of 25 he joined the prestigious Second City Improvosational Comedy Troupe and soon was recruited to move to New York City to write and perform for the popular “National Lampoon Show.”  While there  he worked with such up and coming comedians as John Belushi, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray.  In 1976, while those three were gaining fame on “Saturday Night Live,” he became head writer for the popular Canadian program “SCTV,” whose cast boasted such comic legends as John Candy, Martin Short and Joe Flaherety.  In 1978 he earned his first Hollywood film credit as co-writer of the enormously popular film “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” which was produced by Ivan Reitman.  He later teamed with Reitman by co-writing the script for “Meatballs.” 
In 1980 he got his first shot behind the camera when he was named the director of the classic golf comedy “Caddyshack,” again co-writing the script.  He finally got his chance to appear on camera when he and Murray starred in the military comedy “Stripes,” again co-writing the script and directed by Reitman.  In 1983 he concentrated on directing when he helmed “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” written by John Hughes and starring Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo.  The next year he made movie history when he co-starred again with Murray and Dan Aykroyd in one of the most beloved films of all time, “Ghostbusters.”  Again, he shared co-writing duties, this time with Aykroyd.  Other films he helped write include “Back to School,” “Club Paradise,” “Ghostbusters II,” “Analyze This” (and it’s sequel) and “Groundhog Day.”
As an actor he is probably best remembered as Dr. Egon Spengler, the heart of the Ghostbusters.  He often made brief cameo appearances in his own films and was also featured in “Airheads,” “Baby Boom,”  “Knocked Up” and “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.”  His last film was 2009’s “Year One” and he last directed in 2010 with an episode of television’s “The Office.”
Ramis is survived by his second wife, Erica, their two children and a child from his first marriage. 
R.I.P. Egon

Blu-ray Review “Harold & Kumar Ultimate Collector’s Edition”

Actors: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris
Directors: Jon Hurwitz, Danny Leiner, Todd Strauss-Schulson, Hayden Schlossberg
Number of discs: 3
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Run Time: 285 minutes

Ultimate Collector’s Edition: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Before we even get started, I am a huge fan of this series.  The first film is one of the most outrageous and funny comedies in the last then years. The second was good but didn’t really trump its predecessor, besides NPH.  “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” is the latest and one of my favorites from 2011.  No it is not best film ever but it gets some amazing laughs, especially in 3D.  But it is not released in 3D on this release, so that is a big disappointing.  I think it would have been at least a half a star added on the score if it did. The package offers a total of four cuts of the three films, including the extended editions of each and also the theatrical cut of “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas”.

Besides the film, this Ultimate Collector’s Edition comes in a “collectible tin, ideal for stashing the movies and any other necessities a Harold and Kumar fan might have.” This includes fun extras like a White Castle-scented car fresheners and White Castle-scented drink coasters.  If you don’t already own any of these prior releases and don’t care of 3D, then this release is for you. Otherwise, the coasters and car fresheners aren’t worth the re-purchase.

Each film in this collection are delivered in their original aspect ratio – “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle” and “Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” are presented in 1.85:1 and “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” is presented in 2.39:1. Like the previous releases they all looks nice in thei r 1080p transfers, though I still prefer “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas” in 3D over 2D.  They are also all accompanied with a sweet 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. Not going to complain for the original Blu-ray release of “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”, what happened to it’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track?

All of the previous special features from the prior releases are all included on this Ultimate Collector’s Edition. “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” includes three really fun commentary tracks with director Danny Leiner and actors John Cho and Kal Penn and also a commentary track with writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. There is also an “Extreme” commentary with Danny Bouchard, highly recommended. “John Cho and Kal Penn: The Back Seat Interview” chat about the their roles with co-star Bobby Lee. “Art of the Fart” focuses on the sound effects editing for the bathroom scene with the two Princeton girls. “A Trip to the Land of the Burgers” is a featurette on the animated sequence. “White Castle Cravers’ Hall of Fame” is a look into the annual awards ceremony the burger chain holds in Columbus, Ohio. “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay Sneak Peek” is a sneak peak into the sequel and well as the trailer. There is 20 minutes of interviews and commentary from the cast and crew along with another 15 minutes of deleted and alternate scenes. Lastly there is a music video for “Yeah (Dream of Me)” by All Too Much and two trailers included.

“Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” special features include 27 additional scenes and an interactive feature called “Dude Change the Movie” that puts you in control of Harold and Kumar’s trip and allows you to select from new and alternate scenes to change the course of the film! There is two commentary tracks with the Directors and Stars and also the real “Harold Lee”, and the guy who plays George W. Bush. Lastly there is a “The World of Harold and Kumar” featurette and a Bush PSA included.

Lastly we have “A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas”, which has the least impressive of the special features. They include a few of EPK shorts hosted by Thomas Lennon called “Through the Haze with Tom Lennon”. They are hilarious and definitely worth checking out as Lennon was a great asset to the film. There is a look into the claymation sequence and includes picture-in-picture with its animated storyboard reel and the final scene. Lastly there are about four minutes of deleted scenes…funny but not hilarious. Again did I mention that this release doesn’t include the 3D version of the film?

“Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”: 3.5 out of 5 stars – Directed by Danny Leiner (“Dude Where’s My Car?,” TV’s “Backwash”), Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle follows John Cho (“American Pie” films, “Star Trek”) and Kal Penn (TV’s “House”, “The Namesake,” “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” films) as they set out on a journey to satisfy their craving for White Castle’s delicious burgers and find themselves on a hilarious all-night adventure as they run into one wacky obstacle after another.

“Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay”: 3 out of 5 stars – The second installment of the franchise marks the triumphant return of these two hilarious, slacker anti-heroes. The movie stars John Cho (“American Pie” films, “Star Trek”) as Harold and Kal Penn (TV’s “House”, “The Namesake,” “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” films) as Kumar, two stoners who can’t seem to get a break. Their last adventure found them traveling across country to find a White Castle hamburger in order to satisfy a weed-induced case of “the munchies.” This time, the boys get themselves in trouble trying to sneak a bong onboard a flight to Amsterdam. Now, being suspected of terrorism, they are forced to run from the law and try to find a way to prove their innocence. What follows is an irreverent and epic journey of deep thoughts, deeper inhaling and a wild trip around the world that is as “un-PC” as it gets.

“A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas”: 4 out of 5 stars Following years of growing apart, Harold Lee (Cho) and Kumar Patel (Penn) have replaced each other with new friends and are preparing for their respective Yuletide celebrations. But when a mysterious package mistakenly arrive at Kumar’s door on Christmas Eve, his attempts to redirect it to Harold’s house ends with the “high grade” contents – and Harold’s father-in-law’s prize Christmas tree – going up in smoke. With his in-laws out of the house for the day, Harold decides to cover his tracks, rather than come clean. Reluctantly embarking on another ill-advised journey with Kumar, through New York City, their search for the perfect replacement tree takes them through party heaven – and almost blows Christmas Eve sky high.

The ‘highly flammable’ three-movie set, Harold & Kumar Blu-ray Ultimate Collector’s Edition, blazes into stores November 13!
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Harold Perrineau talks about his role on FX’s “Sons of Anarchy”

Harold Perrineau is currently playing the role of Damon Pope in FX’s “Sons of Anarchy”. He joined the cast of the show this season with it’s all-star cast. Harold is known for his roles in shows like “Oz” and “Lost”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Harold about his role and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you become involved in this show “Sons of Anarchy”?
Harold Perrineau: I knew they were looking for Damon Pope for a while. Kurt Sutter was tweeting about it and I followed him on Twitter. My wife is always reading it and one day she said, “You know, they still haven’t found Damon Pope, Maybe you should try to send Kurt an e-mail.” And so, I did and sent him an e-mail just to see if I could get a meeting with him and he took the meeting and we sat and talked about it. By the time I got home, he bravely said, “Let’s do it.” And so, there I am.

MG: Can you talk about kind of how you prepared for your role of Damon Pope and how you just go into that mindset?
HP: I had talked to Kurt Sutter a bit about the character. We talked at length a bit about his ideas about Damon Pope, some of the people that Damon Pope reminded him of; one of them being Frank Lucas who was the movie “American Gangster” that Denzel Washington did, was based on his life. And then, I started doing a bunch of research on my own about a different guys who took their sort of street life and then turned them into more legit businesses and that’s kind of how I sort of setup Damon Pope and how he might think or the way he may act in retaliation to things that are very emotional for him like that. So, basically, I just sort of pulledon these different sorts of businessmen and gangsters who I thought had similar kinds of backgrounds.

MG: Listen, so in this show, everyone’s a bad ass, how does it feel coming into this during its fifth season and playing the main baddie?
HP: It was a little daunting I have to say because they are a bunch of dudes who play bad asses. They’re great actors and they do really, really well. And so, I felt in the very beginning it was going to be sort of interesting trying to ingratiate myself into this group of guys while also keeping a bit of distance because I knew that my character is just going to be an adversary and I didn’t want any of my own personal feelings about liking them or any of that stuff to come across with Damon Pope because I think Damon Pope is very focused and serious about what he needs done and wants to do. So, it was a little tricky, but they’re a great cast of people and great actors. And so, they made it really, really easy.

MG: So, what was it about Pope that you liked?
HP: I like the show Sons of Anarchy. I like Kurt Sutter. I like the idea of this guy who’s not just rolling in as some gangster to be tough, but he’s a guy who just lost his child. One of the things that I felt like might be really challenging and kind of fun is to see if the audience members just go like, “Oh, he’s just a terrible guy” or if someone can go, “Hey, if somebody had killed my daughter for a frivolous reason that ‘Tig’ killed his daughter, what would I do” and actually have some empathy for “Pope.” I’m really curious about whether that will ever play out, or if it’s just going to be like, “He’s just a bad dude.” So, for me I thought that was an interesting thing to try to spot and then try to bring to the character.

MG: Have you had a chance to see any of the fan reaction to your character so far either from your existing fans who have followed you to this series or fans of “Sons of Anarchy”
HP: Because of all the social media stuff, yes. Right after the opening episode, the very first episode, I gained a whole lot more Twitter followers and people who were really excited about it, people who were really happy to see me, had seen me do other things before, people who had never seen my work before, people who were really mad at Damon Pope, but super excited about what was going to happen next. And so, pretty immediately I got to experience a lot of the “SOA” fans.

MG: What else can we expect from Pope in the coming episodes?
HP: You can expect a guy who is looking for satisfaction and he will not be denied. He wants some satisfaction for the death of his daughter and he won’t be denied, period.

3D Blu-ray Review “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas”

Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, Thomas Lennon, Danny Trejo
Distributed by: Warner Bros Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating: R (Theatrical) / Unrated (Extended)
Running time: 90 minutes (Theatrical) / 96 minutes (Extended)

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Traveling back to 2004 with “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle”, who knew that today we would have a third film about these guys. Not to mention a Christmas movie…not to mention again that it would be in 3D. I think that this film is easily the best installment in the series. The Blu-ray video looks so fantastic and vibrant with the color especially the claymation scene. The sound is another issue if you are watching the theatrical cut either 3D or 2D it is amazing. The extended cut is missing the amazing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 for a decent but lacking Dolby Digital track. Let’s talk about the 3D Blu-ray as it seriously makes the whole movie. The 3D adds so much to the film and really allows the film to additionally laugh at itself within the third dimension. You can still watch this film in 2D, but it does loose some of the fun factor and over-the-top cheese that this film delivers.

If you are looking to watch the extended cut in 3D, look again as it is only available in 2D. That is a little disappointing, but the extended cut is really nothing special. There are some gross gags added to the cut but the film works well without it. Next up, I am a HUGE fan of the UltraViolet Digital Copy and I recommend everyone to start using this great service. Other special features includes a bunch of EPK shorts hosted by Thomas Lennon called “Through the Haze with Tom Lennon”. They are hilarious and definitely worth checking out as Lennon was a great asset to the film. There is a look into the claymation sequence and includes picture-in-picture with its animated storyboard reel and the final scene. Lastly there are about four minutes of deleted scenes…funny but not hilarious.

When Kumar accidentally burns down Harold’s father-in-law’s prized tree on Christmas Eve, the two embark on another ill-advised journey to New York City to replace it.

Buy It 2/7 on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack with UltraViolet Digital Copy or Download to Own

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Film Review “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas”

Starring: John Cho, Kal Penn and Neil Patrick Harris
Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 30 mins
Warner Brothers

Our Score: 4 out 5 stars

I’ve found out over the years that the best of the adult-humored raunchy comedies have one thing in common. The unquestionable bond of friendship. Dante’ and Randall in “Clerks.” Seth and Evan in “Superbad.” Now add to that list Harold and Kumar.

It’s been two years since we last saw the title characters. We find Harold (Cho) working on Wall Street, married and anticipating spending the holidays hosting his wives’ family. Kumar (Penn) has grown a beard, lost Vanessa and spends his time sampling the finest holiday themed marijuana his Santa Claus-playing dealer (Patton Oswald) can provide. When a package meant for Harold arrives at Kumar’s apartment, he decides to personally deliver it. And so begins the season of giving.

Funny to its core and filmed in gloriously rendered, over the top 3D, “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas” is full of the humor fans of the previous films have come to expect. And like the previous films, the story’s success revolves around it’s supporting cast. Danny Trejo plays Harold’s father-in-law, a rough and tough character who has a soft place in his heart for Christmas. He has brought along his own tree, which he has spent the last eight years growing just for the big holiday. Throw in a waffle-cooking robot, a crazed Russian gangster and the always funny Neil Patrick Harris and you’ve got a film that keeps you laughing from start to finish.

Unlike so many other films advertised in 3D, this one not only utilizes the process but takes it to its intended level. Eggs, traffic barrels, shattered glass…even a clay-mated rendering of an important body part hurl towards the audience with seemingly nothing to contain them. The jokes come fast and are definitely of the adult variety. And another extended musical cameo by “NPH” is a true highlight. The two leads have developed a genuine bond between them, one the audience can feel. For Harold and Kumar, Christmas without each other is…well, definitely not Christmas!