Blu-ray Review "The Man with the Iron Fists"

Actors: RZA, Russell Crowe, Rick Yune, Cung Le, Lucy Liu, Byron Mann, Jamie Chung
Directors: RZA
Rated: R / Unrated
Studio: Universal Studios
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Running Time: 96 minutes (Theatrical) / 108 minutes (Unrated)

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

“The Man with the Iron Fists” is a real labor of love for the rapper RZA, he not only directs but also co-wrote and stars in this wannabe-grindhouse kung-fu film. Let’s say he might have taken a bit more than he can chew. The plot is a mess and all over the place. The film is co-written and produced by genre favorite Eli Roth and is presented by Quentin Tarantino but they don’t really lend anything to the film. I think the reason why I am so upset is that this film didn’t live up to what it could have been. The only thing that made this film barely watchable is the occasional and rare action and the gore. This definitely not for everyone but the hardcore genre fans.

I had a real problem with the constant narrative by RZA. You can tell that he is really trying to fill in the major plot holes with useless dialogue. The fighting scenes are great and are well choreographed. The blend of CG effects work sometimes and then look crazy fake the rest. Props needs to go to my buddy Greg Nicotero and his partner Howard Berger for delivering some really sweet gore, which like I said is one off the saving graces for this film. This Blu-ray contains a theatrical and an unrated cuts of the film. The theatrical runs 95-minutes long, while the unrated cut runs an extended 107-minutes. The 12 minutes are made up of additional plot and gore, which for the most part adds enough to the film to check it out again.

RZA…I am sorry but the guy is not an actor. He may be a great rapper but the dude can’t carry this film and drags in down. He plays it way too serious and almost laughable. Russell Crowe continues his travels to becoming my favorite actor after his fantastic role in “Les Misérables”.  I mean the guy literally guts a man’s stomach and screams “My name is Mr. Knife.  You can call me Jack”. This guy is the shit, hands down and he is a freak in this film. Byron Mann also kick-ass as the film’s main baddie. Keep an eye out for cameos from Pam Grier and Kung-fu legend Gordon Liu

Universal delivers in terms of the release here, yet again.  It comes in a two-disc combo pack with Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy + UltraViolet.  The DVD actually comes with both the theatrical and unrated cuts, usually that is not the case.  Universal also did the same with this year’s “Death Race 3: Inferno”.  The 1080p transfer on the Blu-ray is stunning and looks fantastic but with a supposed grindhouse film, should it really look this polished? The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track also works well with the action and RZA’s score. You can literally hear the bones breaking and the body parts flying. In terms of the audio/visual, this release is fantastic.  That again goes to Universal who has yet to disappoint recently with their stunning releases.

Back to the negative side again of this film, the special features are not spectacular. There are about 20 minutes deleted and extended scenes.  Some of decent but the rest is just filler.  There is a super short featurette called “A Look Inside”, which has RZA talking about the film. It was actually quite interesting and then the two minutes were up and it left you wanting more.  Next up we have “On the Set with RZA”, which is also very short and consist of five one-minute promos on the story, the cast and the special effects. Lastly “A Path to the East” is another two-minute behind-the-scenes with RZA. I was left wanting a lot more…and where is the animated short prequel that was made to promote the film?

Vlad Yudin talks about directing the long-awaited follow up to "Pumping Iron" titled "Generation Iron"

Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard

Growing up in Russia, Vlad Yudin took advantage of his countrymen’s love of movies by seeing pretty much everything he could.  Be they action films from America or the more “art” films of Europe and Asia, each time he left the theatre he could envision himself making movies one day.

After a successful series of documentaries on rap artists like Big Pun and Twista, he turned to features.  His first film, “Last Day of Summer” earned good reviews and can currently be seen on the various Showtime cable television channels.  His next project is “Generation Iron,” a revisit to the world of professional bodybuilding that was made popular in the 1977 documentary “Pumping Iron,” the film that introduced Arnold Schwarzenegger to the world.  What was intriguing about “Pumping Iron” was not the actual body building contest but the mental contest played between the participants.  In one segment Schwarzenegger senses that Lou Ferigno is not mentally ready to compete and slowly begins to attack him.  By the time Ferigno took to the stage he was already a loser in his mind, enabling Schwarzenegger to win his 7th consecutive Mr. Olympia title.  The film also serves as an early example of the sheer willpower that Schwarzenegger has to achieve whatever his goals may be, from Mr. Olympia to Hollywood star to Governor of California.
While in post-production on “Generation Iron”, Mr. Yudin took time out to talk about his inspirations, the benefits of bootlegging and his upcoming projects.

Mike Smith: As a young man growing up in Russia what inspired you to try your hand in the film business?
Vlad Yudin: As a young boy I enjoyed going to the movies…all kinds of movies. Living in Russia gave me access to films from all over the word. European films, American films, Asian films…I used to watch everything. I would watch a film and think about what it would be like to make one. So that’s where the interest came from and I kept that interest growing and growing and growing and little by little I got into it.

MS: We’re there a lot of western films available to you?
VY: In Russia in the early 1990s there was a lot of bootlegging going on. You could get almost anything on VHS tapes. So we would buy them and trade them with each other. That gave us a chance to see everything from action films to horror films.

MS: Addressing “Generation Iron.” What made you want to revisit a film like “Pumping Iron” and update it?
VY: Well first it’s important to mention that “Pumping Iron” was a monumental film. Not only as a documentary, but as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s introduction to the world. It changed the entire fitness industry and introduced body building to the world. In the 35 years since it’s been released the fitness industry has gotten huge…it’s big all around the world, but the sport of body building is still relatively unknown. It seemed like a great sport to revisit and to try to introduce some characters who just happen to be body builders. I think that’s what made the first film so interesting and fun to watch. The guys were just so colorful. So to me it made sense to revisit it.

MS: Besides the present day body builders will there be any appearances by some of the original “Pumping Iron” stars, like Schwarzenegger or Lou Ferigno?
VY: (laughs) I will only tell you that there are a lot of cameos. And that fans of the original “Pumping Iron” will not be disappointed.

MS: The competition aside, to me the best parts of “Pumping Iron” were the behind the scene looks at the various competitors and their lives. Will “Generation Iron” continue that theme?
VY: Definitely. That’s what really made the film. The great access I had to these guys behind the scenes…how they prepare. I mean, the most important thing is the preparation. In body building, when you go on stage and pose you’re showing off what you’ve been working on for the last year. Dieting…working out…your lifestyle…pushing your body to its limits every day. This is all of the stuff that takes place off stage. This film is about how much these guys want to win and how seriously they take it.

MS: A lot of your work to date has been documentaries. Do you hope to branch out and create fictional feature films?
VY: Absolutely. I would love to work in both directions. To me it comes down to making an interesting film…be it a documentary or a narrative feature. As long as the film is interesting to watch.

MS: Do you have a project planned after the release of “Generation Iron?”
VY: A few projects. “Generation Iron” is scheduled to come out this summer. Then we have a graphic novel being developed called “Head Smash” which will then be developed into a feature film. The graphic novel will be unveiled this year at the San Diego Comic Con. We also have a horror film in post production called “Catskill Park,” which should be ready by the end of the year.

Rick Yune talks about new film “The Man With the Iron Fists”

Rick Yune is known best for his roles in films like “Die Another Day” and “The Fast and The Furious”. He is starring in the new film “The Man With the Iron Fists” directed by RZA. Rick took out some time to chat about the film and what we can expect next.

Mike Gencarelli: What can we expect from the film “The Man With the Iron Fists”?
Rick Yune: It’s a great movie that is a martial arts themed film but it is also an epic adventure that brings characters together from all around the world to focus on a common cause.

MG: Can you tell us about your character Zen Yi and the inspiration for the character
RY: Zen Yi is the son of a warlord who has turned his back on that life. Instead he has fallen in love and lives in the mountains with the woman of his dreams. He finds out that his father has been killed and leaves the mountains to avenge his father’s death. It’s interesting because here is a guy who wants to do the right things but gets pulled back in to a life he doesn’t agree with. It’s just a kick ass film!

MG: What was it like working with such an amazing cast?
RY: I have known Rza for about 8 years. He has an uncanny ability to draw the best out of people. He can get people to raise themselves to a level they have never been to before. I saw him do this with people who couldn’t even speak English. He did things that I am surprised any director let alone a first time director could do. Because of him I was able to do stuff I didn’t think I could. Russell Crowe is one of the nicest, gentlest people you will ever meet. He spent so much time giving advice and support to others. Lucy was great on set kicking ass and was really fun and professional.

MG: What do you think was the most challenging part of the project for you?
RY: I lost 30 pounds for this role. I am a food addict so losing that weight and keeping it off was hard. All I could eat was yams and egg whites.

MG: You have played a number of villains in films like “Die Another Day” and “The Fast and The Furious” but in this film you play a hero. What did you like most about taking on that role?
RY: I don’t generally look at a role as being a hero or a villain or it being in a certain genre. I look at the character and the story. When I do play a villain I try and make him human. When you play a hero you have to understand the dark side because that is something that everyone has. No one is born Luke Skywalker. Most people are more like Han Solo.

MG: What other projects do you have in the works?
RY: I just finished “Olympus Has Fallen” with Gerard Butler and Antoine Fuqua who is just great. Working with guys like Antoine who know what it likes to be in a less than bad situation can convey that very easily on film. These guys grew up in tough neighborhoods so risk is not unknown to them. You will see that in the movie

“The Man With the Iron Fists” ROE Tickets Giveaway! [ENDED]


If you would like to enter for a chance to win free passes to see THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS during its run of engagement (AKA ROE), please leave a comment below with your favorite martial arts film. Winners will be chosen on a RANDOM BASIS on November 2nd. ONLY ONE ENTRY PER PERSON/PER HOUSEHOLD PLEASE! OTHERWISE ALL ENTRIES WILL BE DISREGARDED. The winners will be will notified via email if chosen to win. Good luck and thanks for supporting

Quentin Tarantino presents THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, an action-adventure inspired by kung-fu classics as interpreted by his longtime collaborators RZA and Eli Roth.  Making his debut as a big-screen director, co-writer and leading man, RZA—alongside an exciting international cast led by Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu—tells the epic story of warriors, assassins and a lone outsider hero who all descend on one fabled village in China for a winner-take-all battle for a fortune in gold.

Blending astonishing martial-arts sequences from some of the masters of this world with the signature vision he brings as the leader of the Wu-Tang Clan and as one of hip-hop’s most dominant figures of the past two decades, RZA embarks upon his most ambitious, stylized and thrilling project to date.

Joining Crowe, RZA and Liu in the cast are Rick Yune, Jamie Chung, Cung Le, Dave Bautista, Byron Mann, Daniel Wu and Pam Grier.

Universal Pictures will release THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS on Friday, November 2, 2012.

Blu-ray Review “Iron Sky”

Starring: Julia Dietze, Peta Sergeant, Götz Otto, Udo Kier, Christopher Kirby, Kym Jackson
Director: Timo Vuorensola
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Entertainment One
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Run Time: 93 minutes

Film: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

“Iron Sky” had me locked in from the minute I read its premise.  I mean, Nazi’s on the dark side of the moon, how can you go wrong? Well this film doesn’t really deliver much in the laughs department…but it definitely makes it up in the visual effects department. There is some really top-notch CG work here, it reminded me a bit of this year’s “Lockout” as well. The film has Udo Kier playing the Führer but does not use him to his potential and let’s just say he doesn’t stick around that long. Nonetheless, I honestly think that this film is worth checking out JUST for the visual effects.  The word is that there is going to be a prequel and sequel for this as well, so this story isn’t done yet.

Official Premise: In the last moments of World War II, a secret Nazi space program evaded destruction by fleeing to the Dark Side of the Moon. In the intervening 70 years, the Nazis constructed a gigantic space fortress with a massive armada of flying saucers. Their plan: travel back to Earth and re-colonize the planet. Now, mankind’s greatest enemy is no longer history as the Reich strikes back in this eagerly-anticipated worldwide box office phenomenon which has enjoyed a U.S. theatrical release – demanded in over 70 markets. When American astronaut James Washington (Christopher Kirby) puts down his Lunar Lander a bit too close to the secret Nazi base, the Moon Führer (Udo Kier) decides the Fourth Reich must act, so two Nazi officers, ruthless Klaus Adler (Götz Otto) and idealistic Renate Richter (Julia Dietze), travel to Earth to prepare the invasion. In the end, when the Moon Nazi UFO armada darkens the skies, ready to strike at the unprepared Earth, every man, woman and nation alike, must unite to save humanity!

“Iron Sky” looks awesome on Blu-ray. It’s 1080p transfer looks amazing in its 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Since the film is jam-packed with action, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track really delivers. The special features are not as impressive though, but still decent. There is an audio commentary track with Producer Samuli Torssonen and Director Timo Vuorensola. There is a lot of focus on the visual aesthetics. “Making of Featurette” focuses on the production and runs just over 15 minutes. There is another look Behind the Scenes which focuses on various featurettes focusing on the film. Lastly there is a theatrical trailer and teasers included.


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DVD Review “Iron Man: Armored Adventures – Season 2, Volume 1”

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Distributed by: Vivendi Entertainment
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Episodes: 6
Running Time: 141 minutes

Our Score: 1 out of 5 stars

This show does not work on any level at all. I am a big fan of the character “Iron Man” but this is a waste of time for any real Marvel fan. It will surely entertain young kids, who only do not know any better. The 3D CGI toon doesn’t even look good. It’s animation looks to date back to the days of “ReBoot”. I have a love of the simple hand drawn look of other Marvel shows like “The Super Hero Squad Show”.

This series also focuses on a younger (still cocky) Tony Stark, at the age of 16. It is a look inside early Stark’s life acting as heir of the billion-dollar corporation Stark International. Though he is already sporting the famous iron suit and friends with teenage version of Pepper Potts (who is incredibly annoying in this series). Season two focuses on Tony and his friend fighting to keep control of Stark International. They fight evil who seek to steal the suit and team up with rivals like Black Panther.

When the first season of “Iron Man: Armored Adventures” was released on DVD, it was presented as a complete series with a total of 26 episodes. Now for season two, they have decided to release them in 6 episode intervals. I am not a fan of this decision, it seems like a way to cash in the recent explosion of “The Avengers”. And they seemed like they didn’t want to wait for season two to be completed.   The episodes included are: “The Invisible Iron Man Part 1: Disassembled!”, “The Invisible Iron Man Part 2: Reborn!”, “Look into the Light”, “Ghost in the Machine”, “Armor Wars” and “Line of Fire”.

DVD Review “Marvel Anime: Iron Man – Complete Series”

Directed by: Yuzo Sato
English Cast: Adrian Pasdar, Neil Kaplan, Milo Ventimiglia, Cindy Robinson
Japanese Cast: Keiji Fujiwara, Unshō Ishizuka, Rikiya Koyama, Hiroe Oka
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Running Time: 287 minutes

Series: 3 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I am a huge fan of Japanese anime. Combine that with the amazing work of Marvel superheros and you should have match made in heaven. Although besides the fact that this series looks really cool as an anime, it just doesn’t entertain as much as I thought it would. The series is rather slow and doesn’t get really start until it is almost over. Overall, this series had some good parts and I would recommend to Iron Man fans. I enjoyed the fact it was produced and default to Japanese audio with subtitles, I think that really adds a lot to the feel of the show. If you are looking for some kick-ass Marvel Anime, I would also highly recommend the X-Men series.

The show follows Tony Stark as his arrives in Japan to build a new arc reactor that will deliver unlimited free energy to the Japanese people. He also plans to retire from suiting Iron Man and focus on plans to mass-produce armor known as “Iron Man Dio”. Stark faces not only challenges from the Japanese government and a mysterious organization Zodiac funded by terrorists. Stark needs to battle of them in order to save the day. Keep an eye out for crossover from Marvel including X-Men’s Wolverine.

The special features on the DVD are impressive and included some decent extras. The first feature called “Re-Imagining Iron Man” focuses on converting the show to anime. “21st Century Hero: The Technology of Iron Man” focuses on Tony Stark’s goodies and gadgets. “Special Cross Talk” is a roundtable discussion with the shows creators. “Voicing Tony Stark” is an interview with Japanese voice of Tony Stark, Keiji Fujiwara. I hope Sony is planning on releasing the rest of the Marvel Anime series for “Blade” and “Wolverine” as well. Fingers crossed.

Iron Maiden “En Vivo!” DVD Giveaway [ENDED]


To celebrate the release of the new live Iron Maiden DVD“En Vivo!” Media Mikes would like to giveaway one (1) copy of the 2 disc DVD edition to one of out lucky readers. If you would like to enter to win this great prize leave us a comment below or send us an email telling us your favorite Iron Maiden song. The giveaway will be open until Sunday April 29th at Noon Eastern Time and is only open to residents of the United States. Only one entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Once the giveaway ends Media Mikes will randomly select one of the winners and notify them via email.

“EN VIVO!” was filmed on April 10, 2011, in front of over 50,000 ecstatic fans at the Estadio Nacional, Santiago, during the Round The World In 66 Days leg of The Final Frontier World Tour,and captures a magnificent performance by the band, ardently embraced by the legendary Latino passion and energy of their Chilean fans. With spectacular stage backdrops, dynamic musicianship and a literally jaw-dropping appearance by Eddie, this live show encapsulates to perfection the heart and soul of Iron Maiden 2011.

Product Description:
DVD DISC ONE LIVE AT ESTADIO NACIONAL, SANTIAGO (approx running time 120 min.)
BONUS DISC – DVD DISC TWO BEHIND THE BEAST (approx running time 102 min.)

Blu-ray Review “The Iron Lady”

Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd
Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Distributed by: Anchor Bay
Release Date: April 10, 2012
Running Time: 105 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Well it’s very clear why Meryl Streep won the Oscar for her role in this film. It is also quite clear why it also won for Best Makeup, such a phenomenal job. Look at DiCaprio’s makeup hack job in “J. Edgar” and this look at this fantastic film for both Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent, but very stunning. There were talks about this film that it didn’t show Margaret Thatcher in the best light. Instead of focusing on her wonderful political career and accomplishments, the story is said to focus on an older, senile and hallucinatory Thatcher. I actually really enjoy it, nonetheless. I feel it worked better as a film and less like a biopic. We all know her life story, I was excited to see Meryl Streep nail her as a character and tell an interesting story.

The story switches between an old Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) and the confident Prime Minster and even a young adult Thatcher.  We focus on Thatcher dealing with today’s world, which is much more different socially and technologically than she is familiar with.  She spends time reflecting back to her past and and fighting with herself as she get spends time talking with her deceased husband (Broadbent).  It also shows her rise to Prime Minster and some of the events with her in office.  They don’t spend a lot of time in the politics but that is what I like most about this movie.  It would have been safe to stick with politics but more risky to take another route.  I commend them.

The Blu-ray presentation itself is also a thing of beauty. It features a wonderful 1080p high definition transfer, just looks fantastic. The audio is also very fantastic, where it is from the subtle dialogue to the explosions with its superior DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. Besides the Blu-ray disc, the release itself comes jam back with a DVD copy of the film and also a digital disc. I wish they would have left out the digital copy disc for an streaming Ultraviolet copy.

Unfortunately, the special features are not so glorious. I enjoyed them all but they are also are only in standard definition and run very short.  The first extra is called “Making The Iron Lady” which features cast and crew as they talk about bringing Margaret Thatcher to the film. “Recreating the Young Margaret Thatcher” is a short feature that focuses on the role taken on by Alexandra Roach.  “Denis: The Man Behind the Woman” is feature on Jim Broadbent.  “Battle in the House of Commons” talk about shooting in locations.  “Costume Design: Pearls and Power Suits” focuses on the work of Consolata Boyle.  Lastly “History Goes to the Cinema” is a look into the following films and their real life stories “My Weeks with Marilyn”, “W.E.”, “Coriolanus”, “The Iron Lady”, and “The Artist”.

Film Review “The Iron Lady”

Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent and Richard E. Grant
Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd
Rated: PG 13
Running time: 1 hour 45 mins
The Weinstein Company

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

November 2008. As the daily papers highlight the recent terrorist bombings in Turkey a kindly old lady is sitting down to breakfast with her husband. Over their eggs she complains about the price of milk. A knock on the door alerts her to a busy day of book signings. Such is a day in the life of Margaret Thatcher.

Skillfully portrayed by Meryl Streep, on her way to Academy Award nomination number 17, “The Iron Lady” is a look at the decisions Thatcher made that took her from a little respected member of Parliament to one of the most famous leaders of the 20th Century. The story is told in two parts. The flashback sequences show how Thatcher, played by Alexandra Roach in these scenes, went off to Oxford, became a barrister and began her fight for the people of England. The modern day scenes are curious because though we see Thatcher speaking constantly with her husband, Dennis (Broadbent), she is only doing so in her mind. Dennis Thatcher passed away in 2003.

Director Lloyd, who directed Streep previously in “Mama Mia!,” stages these intimate scenes between Margaret and Dennis well. But she relies too much on dramatic music and heavy dialogue to establish Margaret Thatcher’s toughness. After Argentina invades the Falkland Islands it is her decision to go to war. The music builds as she is told one of the Argentine ships that attacked is steaming away. “Sink it,” she spits out to her naval commander. But even these detractions can’t take away from the masterful performance Streep delivers. Of course, she’s been delivering them for more than three decades so I don’t understand why I seem surprised.

The supporting cast is also first rate. As Dennis Thatcher, Broadbent brightens each scene he’s in. Ms. Roach also shines as the young Margaret as does Grant who plays Michael Heseltine, who challenged Thatcher’s leadership of the Conservative Party, which later led to her resignation.

Interview with Cris D’Annunzio

Cris D’Annunzio recently starred in the acclaimed short film “Clemency”, which showed at the 2010 Sundance Festival and won several awards from other film festivals. He wrote and co-starred in the Ray Liotta and Rory Culkin film “Chasing 3000”, which follows the real-life story of two brothers driving across country to see Baseball Hall-of-Famer Roberto Clemente get his 3,000 hit with the Pittsburgh Pirates. While the film was made in 2008, it will get its official release in Summer 2010. Movie Mikes had the chance to talk to Cris to discuss “Chasing 3000” and his flourishing career.

Click here to purchase “Chasing 3000” DVD

Mike Gencarelli: It has not been an easy road for “Chasing 3000.” How do you feel now that it is finally hitting the big screen?
Cris D’Annunzio: It’s interesting. Obviously I’m very excited that it’s finally coming out and hitting the big screen. And yet there’s also…I don’t know how to describe it, it’s not disappointing…I just feel a little bad that it’s taken the film so long to get out there because it’s a really sweet film. I mean, it premiered three years ago at the Tribeca Film Festival. I judge certain things by my wife and my kids’ reaction and they just loved it. I think it’s a nice family, kid oriented film. It’s too bad that it had to take the route it took to get here but, with that being said, I’m really thrilled that it’s going to get a release. Hopefully it will pick up some steam after people see it and it should do real well on home video.

Mike Gencarelli: You co-wrote the screenplay with Bill Mikita. How was that experience?
Cris D’Annunzio: Any creative/artistic endeavor has it’s challenges. Ultimately the story really came to me through Bill. It’s loosely based on his life and growing up with his brother, who is the oldest surviving person IN THE WORLD with MS. The story really touched me when he first told it to me and my experiences with my own sister who, unfortunately, passed away a year and a half ago…she had a disease called Lupus…the experiences that I had growing up. My parents divorced and my mom basically took my sister and I and left. It’s a lot like the story in “Chasing 3000.” Oddly enough, what brought my sister and I closer together was baseball. We both shared a fondness for baseball. The Mets were our favorite team. The experience of writing it with Bill…with both of us bringing our personal situations and our personal histories into it…it’s interesting that we’re talking about this over the 4th of July weekend. It was nine years ago, over the 4th of July weekend, that we locked ourselves in an office at Warner Brothers and wrote the script over a long three day weekend. It’s kind of interesting when you have two grown men sitting in a room crying a lot and writing. It was a good experience.

Mike Gencarelli: You play Principal Motley in the film. Tell us about your character?
Cris D’Annunzio: What happens in the film is that the two boys, played by Trevor Morgan and Rory Culkin, move with their mom to California. They grew up in Pittsburgh and moved to California primarily because the younger brother has this disease and the warmer weather is better for his lungs. Of course the older brother becomes despondent and misses his friends and has a lot of teen angst. He starts to not do well in school and get in trouble and I’m kind of the principal who…not necessarily sets him on the right course but…disciplines him, puts an ultimatum to him. He kind of makes him realize that California is not the place he needs to be in at this moment. So he and his brother “borrow” their mother’s car and head across the country to see Roberto Clemente get his 3000th hit. Hopefully you’ll see it…hopefully a lot of people will see it. The casting director did a fantastic job of assembling a pretty well known cast. It has Ray Liotta and Lauren Holly and Ricardo Chivara from “Desperate Housewives.” The story, I think, touched a lot of people and that really touches me. I think that’s why a lot of people got involved in this project.

MG: Tell us about your one man play “Digging Up Dad”? Any plans to return to the stage?
CD: I just completed the run about a month ago…we ran for about three months. The play was an autobiographical solo show about my relationship with my father and his mysterious death at an early age…he died when he was 48 under very mysterious circumstances. The story is really about me trying to come to terms with that and also the fact that my mother left him when I was 12. At that age I was still developing my knowledge and my opinions about my father and it wasn’t until after he passed
that a lot of his life and what he did and was involved with…it wasn’t until then that I became aware of them. I grew up with it and I was aware of it. And I’ll use the word “mafia” but today I can’t whole heartedly tell you or anybody with any certainty that there is such a thing as the mafia, at least not in the way we think it should be based on what we see on television and in the movies. Maybe that was what my father was involved in but my father certainly wasn’t John Gotti. If anything he was…I would liken him to Paulie Walnuts from “The Sopranos” which was about the level of involvement that he was at.

MG: Your short film, “Clemency” has been hitting the festival circuit. Tell us about it?
CD: It’s a little project that I’m very excited about. It’s an interesting piece. It’s been playing the festival circuit but it’s kind of been categorized as a horror film but it’s really more of a mystery/suspense thriller. The way it’s shot and edited is a lot like the film “Se7en.” It’s about a sociopath in the mountains of West Virginia that abducts and murders some girls. One sister actually escapes and comes back many years later. The guy has spent many years in prison on death row and right before he’s scheduled to be executed he receives clemency from the governor who rules him insane. The sister who survived comes back and poses as a reporter. She gets in to interview him and ends up killing him. I play the murderer, which is a 180 degree turn from the character I play in “Chasing 3000.”

MG: Tell us about your upcoming web series, “Vampire Mob”?
CD: The first episode aired this past week and it runs six episodes. It’s done by some people I got involved with when I did my one man show, the Ruskin Group Theater. Every month they do what they call a “cafe” play. Five writers come in on Friday morning and they’re given a theme and two head shots and are told to write a ten minute play based on the theme and based on the two actors they’ve been given the pictures of. They write the play in the morning, give the play to the actors at noon. They rehearse it from noon until six and then they have the opening night performance at seven and the closing night performance at nine that evening. One of the writers, Joe Wilson, had written a play loosely based on a vampire hit man for the mob and that gave him the idea to do the web series. It’s about a mob hit man who gets shot and makes a deal with the devil not to die. But in choosing to live forever he also has to choose to be a vampire. He figures that since most of the work he does is at night anyway this would be perfect for him!

Click here to purchase “Chasing 3000” DVD

Interview with Paris Themmen

Paris Themmen played Mike TeeVee in 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. Paris took time out on his birthday to talk to Movie Mikes and discuss how it was working on the film, what he has done since and how he is hoping for a 40th anniversary cast reunion.

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Mike Gencarelli: How did you originally get the role of Mike TeeVee in “Willy Wonka”?
Paris Themmen: I started acting when I was six.  My mother brought me into an agent and I went up for a commercial.  The first commercial I ever went up for was for Jiff Peanut Butter where I had to sit on top of a mountain of peanuts.  Of course it was just an angled chicken wire creation.  I hooked the first commercial I went up for and then the second commercial was for a product called “Crazy Bubbles.”  I was the only six year old who could say “Crazy Bubbles Bubble Blowing Bubble Bath.”  I could say it three times fast so they hired me.  In those days there weren’t many child actors in New York.  So I kept doing commercials.  Eventually I booked a Broadway show called “Mame” with Ann Miller as Auntie Mame.  So I was doing a lot of commercials and theater in New York…I did Circle in the Square…and when I was around eleven years old I auditioned for the film.  As I recall there was at least one call back…not a lot.  As I said, there weren’t really a million child actors in New York…maybe me and a few others.  I had a call back and I remember being in a phone booth with my mother and getting the news and both of us being very excited that we were both going to go to Munich, Germany to film the movie.

Mike Gencarelli: What was your most memorable moment on the set of “Willy Wonka”
Paris Themmen: My most fondest memory was the chocolate room.  Unlike Julie who didn’t like it because, strangely, she doesn’t like chocolate, I loved the Pure Imagination room.  As you may have heard elsewhere, the reaction shot that they took of us from the top of the stairs was a true reaction shot.  It was a closed set and we had never seen the room before.  So when they opened the doors…unlike today where they digitize things or build them in portions…it was all laid out for us.  We were probably 30 or 40 feet above it looking down at the whole room…the river flowing, the waterfall flowing, the boat moving.  I think that was the first day we saw the Oompa Loompas.  It was such an amazing feeling to be looking down at what the crew had been laboring on.  To see the fruits of their labors was amazing.  That was probably my favorite moment on shooting the film.

Mike Gencarelli: Do you still keep in touch with the cast and crew?
Paris Themmen: Mostly by email, but yes.  Here are the people I’ve seen in the last 20 years:  I’ve seen each of the four other kids, I’ve seen Diana Sole, who played Charlie’s mom. I’ve seen Rusty Goff, who played the lead Oompa Loompa.  I’ve seen Mel Stuart, who directed the film.  I’ve seen Frawley Becker, who was the script consultant.  I think for people that were directly associated with the movie…that’s it.  No wait!  I saw Leonard Stone one day.  I was doing commercial counseling sessions and he came in as a commercial actor for me.  And that’s it.  I know a lot of them have passed…like Jack Albertson.   Oh, and I did see Gene (Wilder) once.  I saw him about a year ago at a Barnes and Noble signing for his book.  And the thing about being Gene is…I was eleven, the other kids were thirteen.  People ask me who was nice and who was mean.  Julie, surprisingly, was a very well mannered, well behaved British young woman.  Peter, true to form, was a very gentle and well behaved young man.  Michael didn’t speak a lot of English and Denise was a lot like me…sort of a hardened child actor.  But I was two years younger…and I was trouble.  I was rambunctious and precocious everywhere on the set and Gene remembered this.  He tells a story about being asked about a part in the additional footage on the DVD when someone asks “what about me” and he replies “oh, he was definitely a brat.”  Then he pauses, looks into the camera and says, “But Paris…You know I love you now,” in a very Gene Wilder sort of way.  And another one that I love…Gene was asked what he thought about working with the kids and he said, “four of them are great and one of them I’m going to kill tomorrow!”  Wait a minute, my girlfriend is correcting me.  He says “Four of them are fantastic, one of them I’m going to shoot in the head tomorrow!”  (laughs).  So years later I go to this book signing and I say, “Hi Gene, I’m Paris, I played Mike TeeVee” and he says, sure as rain, “Oh…you grew a brat.”  So that’s his recollection of me. And I told him that I’d like to think I’ve had time to change and he said, “yes, of course…I’m sure you have.”  But like I say I was sorta precocious…much like my character.

MG: After “Willy Wonka”,  you didn’t do a lot of other films.  Why?
PT: The real question is, “Paris, what have you done since?”  There are a couple of answers.  One:  After the film I went back to Broadway in a play called “The Rothchilds.”  I also did the first national tour of the show.  I did a couple more commercials.  I basically worked from six to sixteen.  Then I got my degree in theater at NYU and they didn’t want you to work at that time.  They wanted you to be process oriented, not results oriented.  So they really didn’t want you to work.  Then I got out of college, got distracted and discovered other things.  I did a few commercials in my thirties and I was in the background of some films, mostly because I was working in film production.  The other side of that question is what have I done NOT as an actor and…that is a lot.  I’ve travelled all over the world…I backpacked through sixty different countries on six continents.  Particularly in some very exotic locations like Borneo, the Sahara Desert, the Amazon, the Great Pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal.  Just try to imagine the cool adventurous things you’d want to do in your life…I’ve done many of them.  Swimming with sharks…piranhas.  I’ve done some sky diving.  I’ve also had some great business experiences…managing money with Smith-Barney…being a real estate broker…film production, like I said.  I worked in casting for awhile.  I was what they call a Walt Disney Imagineer, during when they were building Euro Disney.  I’ve started two or three businesses.  So I haven’t been just sitting in my room contemplating my navel.  I’ve been out doing things.  In terms of major motion pictures that people will remember…that’s it…one film, “Willy Wonka”.  One good film.

MG: With next year being the 40th anniversary of the film, how do you feel about its impact over the years?
PT: I agree with you that the film has had a life of its own.  And it’s been passed down from parents to children throughout the years.  The script that Roald Dahl wrote appeals not only to children but also to adults, with many adult references, so the parents don’t mind watching it with the kids.  And they are in fact excited about bestowing it upon their children.  And as the film has grown there are very old Wonka fans now and there are very young Wonka fans now.  So in terms of my reaction to that I think it’s great.  I think it deserves to be where it is.  Obviously at the time none of us expected that it would be that way.  But watching the film I understand its enduring popularity.

MG: Ok, the dreaded question, have you seen the remake from 2005? Your feelings?
PT: Here’s my experience with the new film…there was a time right after it came out when people would ask me “what do you think of the new film” and I would say, “Oh, I think it’s great!”  I don’t remember exactly what I said but I know I was positive.  But as the years go by and I speak to fans who tell me that they prefer the old one I feel more and more comfortable expressing my opinion which is that the new one had some things about it that I liked…things like the squirrels.  And by that I mean Veruca getting eaten by squirrels, which was true to the book.  I liked the pink Seahorse boat.  I thought the chocolate looked more authentic in the river then ours.  But I thought that there were many ways that they missed in the new one.  Chief among them is the relationship between Wonka and Charlie.  I felt that, although the new movie is called “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the focus in fact was more on Willy Wonka, while the old movie was called “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” but the emphasis was more on Charlie.  In terms of the relationship with Wonka, I think that one of the key moments in the old film was in the end when Gene says “My boy you’ve won,” and there’s this great moment that happens between him and Charlie.  To me that’s the heart of the problem in the center of the film.  The choices Johnny Depp made, and far be it from me to judge Johnny Depp…he’s one of our finest actors…created such a neurotic persona so that there was no relationship between Wonka and Charlie.  I thought that was the biggest problem.

MG: Do you ever think we will see another cast reunion any time soon? Perhaps for the 40th anniversary?
PT: There is some talk of doing something but I really can’t give specifics until things are nailed down.  But, yes, we’re definitely talking about doing that, either at the end of this year, which technically be 40 years since we shot the film or in 2011.

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