Meet Our New Contributor: Keith Stevenson

As Media Mikes celebrates their 11th Anniversary, we are proud to welcome Keith Stevenson to our stable of writers.

Keith has been a lover of cinema since he was a young man and runs almost 20 film pages on Facebook, with a total membership of almost a quarter-of-a-million fans. His pages include tributes to JAWS, the ALIEN anthology, Directors Ridley and Tony Scott, Spike Lee and Black Cinema and Filmology – A Cinema Group, in which he writes about films of all genres. Give the page a look by clicking HERE

Look for his first essay, on the film TAXI DRIVER, later this week!

Welcome aboard, Keith!!

Book Review: Keith Morris’s “My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor”

“My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor”
Author: Keith Morris w/ Jim Ruland
Da Capo Press
Hardcover: 309 pages

Our score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Keith Morris is known the world over as the real deal, a seminal figure in hardcore punk, revered by any fan of the genre. As a co-founding member of Black Flag and as the front man for the seminal west coast punk band Circle Jerks “My Damage” is a memoir that covers not only covers Keith’s forty-year history in music but also his struggles with his health and drug use, told straight through the eyes of someone who shared the stage with just about every major figure in the industry.

From page 1 to page 309 “My Damage” keeps the reader’s attention making this a hard book to put down. Through candid accounts of Black Flag/Circle Jerks front man Keith Morris’s early struggles within the Hermosa Beach community to the reincarnation of “FLAG” close to 40 years later the book covers immense ground in an easy to follow format which for readers who may not be as familiar with Morris’s work is a great feature. The books drive matches that of the author as it moves quickly and is unrelenting in details. No matter how edgy or unsettling the story may be Morris pulls no punches and tells the story as it was from his perspective. No phony names or reader friendly versions here folks.

The sheer realness of “My Damage” makes this book appealing to not only punk rock music fans but to readers looking for a candid takes-no prisoners approach to storytelling. Keith cuts out the unneeded drab and quickly gets to the guts of his life and his experiences in the music business. At times over shadowing those story is his struggles with drugs and alcohol which at several points made me question just how the author is still with us and able to recount his journey in detail he does. “My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor” is a must read for biography and music fans.


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Keith Coogan reflects on his film “Adventures in Babysitting”

You may recognize Keith Coogan from his work in such popular films as “Adventures in Babysitting,” “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” and “Toy Soldiers.” Or you may remember him from his recurring role on “The Waltons,” where he was billed as Keith Mitchell. Coogan used his mother’s maiden name until the passing of his grandfather, Jackie Coogan. Jackie Coogan was the screen’s first child star, appearing opposite Charlie Chaplin in “The Kid” and then finding fame as an adult with his role as Uncle Fester in the classic television series, “The Addams Family.” His grandfather was a trailblazer for young actors and both Coogan’s Law, which mandates how children actors can work, and Coogan’s Account, which is where 15% of a young actor’s income goes to be saved until they are an adult, are both named for him.

This coming Monday, September 14, Keith Coogan will be appearing in person at the Kansas City Alamo Drafthouse Theatre for a screening of “Adventures in Babysitting.” In between flights on his way to KC, he took time off to talk about his career.

Mike Smith: You’re going to be in Kansas City on Monday, attending a screening of “Adventures in Babysitting” and the Alamo Drafthouse. When fans approach you on the street, is that the film they most want to talk about?
Keith Coogan: It’s really neck and neck with “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.” Of course I also have a lot of people that love to talk about “Toy Soldiers” as well. I think “Adventures in Babysitting” is the one that reached the most audiences. The other night I was doing an appearance at the Alamo Draft House in Lubbock and I kept wondering if the people were thinking to themselves, “Who is this old man sitting behind Keith Coogan’s table?” (laughs) It’s been 28 years since “Adventures in Babysitting” came out and it still plays great to the house. It still gets all the laughs. It really does hold up.

MS: It’s ironic that you star in the two greatest movies ever made about babysitting. I have to ask…was that planned?
KC: No. Not planned. In fact, it was sprung on me mid-production on the second one. It was originally supposed to be called “The Real World,” because it focused on the girl (Christina Applegate) and her career goals. MTV was a producer on the film and they noted that they had a reality television show coming out with that title. They said they polled a bunch of 13-year old boys and the new name of the movie is, “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.” I asked them, “you know I was in another babysitting movie, right?”

MS: You work consistently in both film and television. Do you have a preference?
KC: Not at all. Wherever the good material is. I just finished a play about a month ago…I even tried stand-up for the first time. I really think television has come around. You see more and more featured actors making their way to television. The stigma of, “Oh, it’s television,” is gone. They can do so much more in thirteen hours with “Daredevil” then they could have in a two-hour movie. There would have been so many things they would have had to lose. Television…cable…the Internet…NetFlix. It’s all happening.

MS: This year marks the 101st birthday of your grandfather. As the first real child star, did he ever offer you any advice when you were starting out in your career?
KC: Yes. Watch your money and be careful of mothers! (laughs) He never really would offer any tips on acting. He always said it was my own thing. I remember once I was going up to play Tom Sawyer. My grandfather had appeared in the first talkie version of “Tom Sawyer” but he wouldn’t give me any advice. He told me I had to make it my own. He would only give me professional advice. Things like being on time, be prepared, know your stuff. Don’t be a brat on the set. And, of course, to keep an eye on your money!

MS: Do you feel an obligation to carry on his legacy?
KC: He was the world’s first child star. Which means he was the world’s first former child star. He had a lot of insight into the cyclical nature of the industry. Enjoy it when it’s up…keep control when it’s not. He enjoyed working up until the last few years of his life, which is something I want to do. I want to keep doing this forever. It’s a legacy I want to continue. It’s a legacy my wife and I are constantly working on (in the background Mr. Coogan’s wife laughs and says, “Wow!”)

MS: What do you have coming up next?
KC: I am actually going to dive in and make a short film. I’ve written it and I’ve got another draft to go. It’s kind of ambitious. A great concept. It will be a nice little test run. Because what I really want to do is direct! (laughs) That’s a T-shirt you can get from the Screen Actors Guild because all actors really want to direct. I think I’m ready!

Keith Miller talks about new film “Five Star”

After almost a decade as a short-film maker, director Keith Miller hit pay dirt in 2012 when his first feature film, “Welcome to Pine Hill,” was either chosen, or nominated, as Best Narrative Feature at film festivals from Atlanta to Tribeca. With that history behind him, fans were ready for his next film, the gang drama “Five Star,” which again earned Miller acclaim both behind the camera and for his editing. Not to be outdone, he also wrote the screenplay!

Currently playing in New York City, the film opens today (July 31st) in Los Angeles and will be available on VOD and iTunes beginning August 4th. While promoting the upcoming release, Mr. Miller took time out to talk about “Five Star.”

Mike Smith: How did you conceive the story of “Five Star?”
Keith Miller: I wanted to tell a story about manhood, and what it means to be a man. I met Primo (Primo Grant, the star of “Five Star,” is a former member of the Bloods street gang) and we did a one-hour, on-camera conversation. We hung out a bunch of times and got close so I decided to tell a story and use a lot of the details from his stories. So that was the origination of setting the story in that locale and with those specific figures.

MS: A majority of the cast, Primo among them, are not professional actors. Was that something you looked for when casting…trying to gain more realism?
KM: Yes, definitely. There are a couple people in the film who are actors but the goal of the movie, and an important part of the decisions I make to heighten the realism, is my shooting style. The lighting…the choice of locations…and definitely casting. I want it to feel like the audience is actually visiting the places I’ve imagined and are being introduced to them and the people there.

MS: Because of Primo’s past was there ever a time he felt he needed to correct something in the script…maybe disagree with a line or a situation?
KM: Rarely. There was one point where we talked about him getting mad and mentioning his work with his family around and he said he wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t talk about work at all in front of his kids. There were also small things in other scenes that, to him, didn’t feel right, but it was really no different than working with any other actor.

MS: You mentioned trying to achieve realism. The film almost has a documentary feel to it. Was that an intentional decision on your part?
KM: Yes. The inspiration for the movie is a lot of what I would consider “realist” movies from the past five years or so and also a lot of observational documentaries. Movies that really made you feel like you were experiencing something from the inside. I wanted the camera and the look of the movie to feel as non-judgmental and intimate as possible. I thought that if it were locked down on sticks…on a tripod…it might be more cinematically recognizable but also that it would feel more staged. And I didn’t want that. Also, two of the four camera operators I used shoot mostly documentaries and I really wanted to work with them.

MS: What else do you have coming up?
KM: I’m working on a comic web-series that was written by a friend of mine, Chris Poindexter. And I’m working on the script of my next feature, which is still in the early stages. I’ve got a long way to go!


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David Keith talks about his latest film “Awaken”

There are some actors who, when you first see them, they stick with you. The first time I saw David Keith on screen was when he played the young Army PFC that spends some time with Bette Midler in “The Rose.” Next for me was his role as Robert Redford’s fellow prisoner (and eventual right hand man) in “Brubaker.” But it was his role as Naval Pilot Candidate Sid Worley in “An Officer and a Gentleman” that made not only earned him two Golden Globe nominations but stardom.

Since then he has had high profile roles in both film (“Firestarter,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Major League II”) and television (“Flesh and Blood,” “High Incident,” “The Class”). I had the great opportunity to meet Mr. Keith in 1993 on the set of “Major League II” in Baltimore and a nicer, more down to earth person I’ve never met. Especially at 11:00 at night on a cold October evening at Camden Yards.

This week, Mr. Keith’s film, “Awaken, co-starring Daryl Hannah and Jason London, arrives on DVD. Mr. Keith recently spoke with me, with that soft Tennessee twang, about his latest role, his work preferences and feeling much better, thank you.

Mike Smith: Give us a brief introduction to “Walsh,” your character in “Awaken”
David Keith: He is a black market organ harvesting surgeon on an island where some bad people are kidnapping people, making them live in the jungle so they can clean out their systems and then harvest their organs for wealthy people who have loved ones who need an organ transplant but don’t want to wait in line for them.

MS: What, if anything, attracted you to the project?
DK: The producer and co-writer (Natalie Burns) is a friend of mine. She asked if I would come do a role for her. I said “yes” before I read the script.

MS: You seem to work equally between film and television. Do you have a preference?
DK: If I could be stuck in one job for the next ten years it would be in a situation-comedy. That is the best medium because it combines the best of theater and the best of film. When you do a play on Broadway you have to sign a two-year contract, but you get sick of it after about three months when you’re doing eight shows a week. When you do a movie, you never shoot anything in order. There’s no audience. There’s no real feeling of the project as one piece like there is in theater. In a sit-com it’s like doing a different play every week. You’re the same character but you’ve got new lines – new scenes – new things to do each week. And the hours are tremendous work – about four to six hours a day – five days a week, instead of fifteen hours a day, six days a week on a film. So sit-coms are my favorite medium. And “The Class” is my favorite sit-com that I’ve ever been on.

MS: You’ve directed in the past. Any intention of getting back behind the camera again?
DK: Yes, but only under my terms. Those were not great directing experiences – I didn’t have the control I needed. I did the best I could with what I had to work with. I have a script I hope to make. I had the money all in place years ago but then the guy who had signed the contract reneged on the contract. That script is still sitting in my drawer waiting for someone to come along and say, “let’s make this movie.” (laughs)

MS: What do you have coming up next?
DK: I don’t actually know what my next job is going to be. I had some medical issues – nothing serious, nothing to worry about – that kept me out of work for the last year. I haven’t worked in a year for the first time in my career.

MS: Everything is good now?
DK: Everything is good, yes. I’m healthy and ready to go. Now it’s up to my agents. I don’t live in L.A., I live in Tennessee. I don’t go to auditions. Somebody has to remember me and want me. (laughs)

Keith David talks about playing multiple roles in “Cloud Atlas”

Since our last chat with Keith David back in April of 2010, he has gone on to co-star in one of my favorite films of 2012, “Cloud Atlas”, in which he plays four different roles. Also as we speak, he currently has three films in theaters. Keith is known best for his roles in projects like “The Princess and the Frog”, “Platoon” and “They Live”. He has won two Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance on projects like “The War” and “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat about “Cloud Atlas”, as well as his other recent projects.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your four very different roles in “Cloud Atlas”?
Keith David: I met the directors and they offered me a job and it was great. This project was one of the most thrilling experiences of my career actually. I got to work with and meet some really great actors. These are people that I have admired from afar for years. Before this, I had never met Halle (Berry) before. I had met Tom (Hanks). We actually did a stage reading for “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” many years ago. It was fun to be on a set and really get to watch these different characters evolve as they were doing make-up tests. It was just thrilling and I had a blast.

[Note: Here is a breakdown of his four roles. Kupaka – “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing” set in 1849 and was directed by The Wachowski’s; Joe Napier – “Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery”, set in 1973, and directed by Tom Tykwer; General An-Kor Apis – “An Orison of Sonmi~451”, set in 2144 and directed by The Wachowski’s; and lastly, Prescient – “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After” set in 2321, also directed by The Wachowski’s.]

MG: Speaking of make-up, what was your most challenge role? Was it An-Kor Apis?
KD: Yes, I think that An-Kor Apis was one of my favorites. He was the most drastic transformation for me. He was also the culmination of the previous two characters that I play. Kupaka starts out as a slave. Joe (Napier) also sort of works for ‘the man’, until he gets the opportunity to step up to the plate and become more of himself. Then in the next re-incarnation, An-Kor Apis becomes the leader of rebellion. In terms of soul, it was a nice journey for me.

MG: You got to work with both Tom Tykwer and The Wachowskis, how was it switching between the different aspects of the production?
KD: It was amazing. I have never been a part of something like this before. It was such a seamless collaboration. The Wachowski’s, Lana and Andy work together beautifully. Even when they asked for slightly different things, it still felt like one voice. The pre-production before we got there must have been tremendous. There is a lot of back stories and how each piece fits into the puzzle, but the three of them were so clear on it. Going back and forth between the two teams, there was nothing abruptive about it. It was very wonderfully seamless.

MG: How was it filming in Germany and Spain?
KD: I mean what is not to like [laughs]. It was extremely beautiful. When I wasn’t shooting, I got to wander around and explore. I went to the beach and got to swim in Spain. Berlin is such a wonderful city and there is just so much to do. I even have some friends from the States, who now live in Berlin, who I have done shows together with back in New York about three years ago. One of them even has her own Gospel group, so I got to sing in eight Gospel concerts while I was in Germany. That was very cool!

MG: Tell us about your role of Big Earl in “Christmas in Compton”?
KD: That was another fun piece. Big Earl is the nurturer of the neighborhood and runs this Christmas tree lot, which is how he makes a living. He is raising his son, who is really a grown man. After going to college for a few years, his son decides he wants to be a record producer. After Big Earl has a heart attack, he puts his sons name on the lot and tells him to take over. His son, in a bit of bad judgment, puts up the lot on a bad deal and dad has to come to the rescue. I personally love stories about fathers and sons. Sometimes when fathers want more for their children, they end up being harder on them than necessary. This ends up hurting them more than applying the growth that we want most for them. Overall, though I feel it has a nice message.

MG: You have another film “The Last Fall” out now as well, tell us about that?
KD: Again, I thought it was a really good story about what happens after your dream is disrupted. Sometimes you have to be careful what you ask for or you may get it or if you’re not careful you will lose it. I thought that [director] Matthew Cherry did a great job with it. It is in theaters now and hits DVD in January.

MG: You also got new TV series called “Belle’s” slated for next year, what can we expect?
KD: I play the head of a family. My wife is deceased but I still carry on the restaurant with her name on it. I have two daughters, who have trouble getting along and a sister-and-law that gets on my nerves [laughs]. I also have a lovely granddaughter that I am crazy over. The show focuses around what happens behind-the-scenes of the restaurant and also when it gets busy. It is really run and premieres also in January.

MG: Did I miss anything? What else you got planned for 2013?
KD: Right now, I am also narrating a documentary for the History Channel called “The Bible”. It will be airing right before Easter.