Ashley Eckstein talks about new Marvel and Transformers lines for Her Universe

Ashley Eckstein is known best for her role of Ashoka Tano in the TV series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. She also started the company Her Universe, which has a mission to create stylish, fashion-forward merchandise for female sci-fi fans. Her Universe has joined forces with some of the biggest names in the sci-fi/fantasy world to create merchandise exclusively for female fans – both apparel and accessories for such well-known names as Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek and The Walking Dead. Ashley Eckstein has now become one of the leading voices for female fans while Her Universe is making fangirls “geek chic” from head to toe! Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ashley to discuss her new lines for this Summer and also what she has planned for this year’s San Diego Comic Con.

Mike Gencarelli: Let’s talk about your exciting team up with Marvel for your Ultimate Fangirl Fashion Apparel Line, what can we expect?
Ashley Eckstein: Our Marvel line is something that I am really excited about. It was something that I have been on working on for well over a year now. Fans have been asking me for Marvel at least a couple times a week, every week for a long time. So Marvel was the top of my list of licences to get next. It took some searching to get the right contact but once I got it, I reached out and we just had some great conversations. Marvel is so supportive of their female fans. They have been trying to find a way to do more and to shine the spotlight on their female fans. We were able to get a deal with them in the Fall of 2013 and we were off and designing in December of 2013. It takes a while to develop and line and get product made. We have been working on it though for quite some time. It was a very tough secret to keep.

MG: How did you go about picking which characters would be featured in this line?
AE: That is the tough part [laughs]. Marvel has such a huge universe. There are so many characters and where do you start? To give the short story, there are only so many characters in our license, so that narrowed it down a bit for us. With the new films this year like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, that was a big inspiration for us. You also need to design in mind for “The Avengers”, so we do have some Black Widow. We started with a few classics and are already designing for many more characters and listening to the fan feedback everyday to offer fans what they want.

MG: I know plenty of fangirls who love the character Loki…
AE: Yes, we already have a Loki dress that we will be coming out with soon [laughs].

MG: Sticking with Marvel; you are also voicing Dagger on the animated series, “Ultimate Spider-Man” in the upcoming season…
AE: Yeah, they haven’t aired yet. I believe these are airing sometime this Fall. But I am excited to voice that classic character, which we haven’t seen in a while.

MG: Marvel is not the only new line you have; you also just launched a “Transformers” Fangirl Fashion Line; tell us about that?
AE: We have been working on Transformers about the same length of time we have been working on Marvel. We got the license back in the Fall and have been designing for that since then. Since it is such a classic franchise, there is so much you can do with it. Of course we started with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. We went a little retro with it especially with Dinobots being in the new film. So we have them and. of course. we are designing for some Decepticons as well as some of the female Transformers as well. There is just so much and I am very excited to get to play in this universe.

MG: If those two aren’t cool enough, I see you also launched a new Doctor Who line; tell us about that?
AE: Yeah, Doctor Who is something that is constanstly going on for us. I am such a massive Doctor Who fan myself, especially with the new Doctor coming up this August. In the meantime, I feel like all the fangirls in America still have Doctor Who fever including myself [laughs]. So you can look forward to a lot of new Doctor Who designs coming up. Also I am excited that our Doctor Who line is now available in Walt Disney World’s Epcot in the UK Pavilion. So that is really cool as well.

MG: You are also still coming out with great new “Star Wars” lines including your all-new Custom R2-D2 My Hero Jewelry Line; tell us about that new exciting line?
AE: The jewelry is all handmade, great quality and made in the USA over in Downtown Los Angeles. I have the opportunity to collaborate with The Sparkle Factory and they did this collection for us. I love jewelry and I was getting fed up with some that fall apart after only a few wears. These are higher end collectible pieces that are going to last the test of time. I wanted some nicer jewelry for “Star Wars”, so we got this opportunity and these are great pieces and pieces that you can be proud to give as a gift. While they are more expensive, I still wanted to keep them affordable for the quality that you are getting. They are priced between $38-85 dollars. I am very proud of this jewelry and there is definitely more coming. We are playing with Darth Vader next, got to give some love to the Dark Side as well. We started with R2-D2 because he is my favorite…and my hero.

MG: Also tell us about your #FlauntYourWorld Instagram Fangirl Fashionista contest?
AE: I am just so inspired by all the fangirls that are posting their photos with Her Universe lines. We used that hash tag before but we wanted a way to be able to search these photos. So we were asking the fans to use #FlauntYourWorld hashtag for their photos and once a month we are picking an Instagram Fangirl Fashionista. She will appear on the our website for the entire month and also get a $50 gift card. It is exciting for me to see everyone’s photos. I never wanted to be the only Her Universe model, so I am excited to be able to showcase our fans.

MG: Lastly, I hear you have some exciting plans and are collaborating with Nerdist Industires at San Diego Comic-Con for the very first “Her Universe Fashion Show”?
AE: Yeah! We are doing the first ever “Geek Couture” fashion show at San Diego Comic-Con this year. We are teaming up with Nerdist and also Hot Topic. We have pre-selected 36 designers. They range from some professional and some amateur designers. They are going to be walking the runway on July 24th at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, which is just two hotels down from the convention center. These are “Geek Couture” pieces and they are seriously awesome. They are going to blown people away. We are going to pick two winners, a judges pick and an audience pick. They are going to have the opportunity to design a Her Universe collection with myself to be sold at Hot Topic. Nerdist will be posting the entire fashion show at somepoint in August as well for those who can’t make it. We are really excited about this! So if you are going to San Diego Comic Con, don’t miss this!

Concert Review “Tail Gates and Tan Lines Tour” Luke Bryan, Justin Moore & Lee Brice

“Tail Gates and Tan Lines Tour”
Luke Bryan, Justin Moore. Lee Brice
Date: Sunday, June 17th 2012
Venue: Tag’s Summer Stage, Big Flats, NY

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

 Luke Bryan’s “Tail Gates and Tan Lines” tour pulled into the Tag’s Summer Stage in the Upstate NY town of Big Flats on June 17th to kick off the venues 2012 concert season. Along with Luke Bryan were fellow country music acts Justin Moore and Lee Brice.

Long lines stretched out the venues gates as the estimated 5,000 concert goers made their way into the medium sized outdoor venue to enjoy a night of music from 3 country superstars. Lee Brice would kick off the night bringing his brand of rock infused country to the already near capacity crowd.

Brice played a number of songs off his latest album “Hard 2 Love” which quickly had fanson their feet and singing along. The set also included a guest performance from Today Show host Hoda Kotb. Justin Moore would take the stage next as the venue reached near capacity numbers and preceded to kick the energy level up a notch.Moore opened the set with the country meets rock song “Guns” before launching into hits such as “How I Got to Be This Way “, “Small Town USA” and closed out the night with the song “Backwoods”.

Luke Bryan closed out the night and immediately took control of the crowd which consisted mostly of cowboy hat clad women and their unsuspecting boyfriends. Bryan opened his set with the popular song “Rain Is a Good Thing” before leading into his latest single “Drunk On You” and the always popular number “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)”. Those in attendance were treated to a great night of music and entertainment as all three acts seemed to put their best effort forward. I highly recommend checking out the tour if it is making a stop in your area this summer.

Justin Moore Set List:
1.) Guns
2.) How I Got to Be This Way
3.) My Kind of Woman
4.) Backroad
5.) Twang
6.) Til My Last Day/I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends
7.) Heaven
8.) Beer Time
9.) Bait a Hook
10.) Rowdy Friends/Hank It
11.) Small Town
12.) Ass
13.) Backwoods

All Star Voice Cast Lines Up for Animated Family Feature “Escape from Planet Earth”

Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba, Rob Corddry, James Gandolfini and Craig Robinson Provide The Character Voices In This Fun-Filled Alien Break-Out Tale

NEW YORK, NY August 2, 2011 – The Weinstein Company (TWC) and Rainmaker Entertainment announced today the all-star voice cast for ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH which includes Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Alba, Rob Corddry, James Gandolfini and Craig Robinson. The 3D animated family comedy is currently in full production.

The announcement was made today by Donna Gigliotti, TWC’s President of Production, and Catherine Winder, President and Executive Producer, Rainmaker Entertainment. Both Gigliotti and Winder serve as producers on the animated feature film.

ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH is directed by Cal Brunker, best known for his work on the animated feature films DESPICABLE ME, 9 and HORTON HEARS A WHO! Producers Gigliotti and Winder are joined by Rainmaker’s Luke Carroll as a producer on the film. TWC Co-Chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein are executive producers. The film was written by Cal Brunker and Bob Barlen based on an original screenplay by Tony Leech and Cory Edwards.

“ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH has got it all… explosions, romance and a cast of hilarious aliens….what more could you ask for?” said Brunker. “We are having a great time making it which is coming across on the screen. It will ultimately provide a ton of fun for both kids and their parents.”

“We’re excited to have such a talented group of actors bringing this action-packed comedic tale to life,” said Gigliotti. “I’m also very pleased to be working with Catherine and the Rainmaker team. Their outstanding artistry, storytelling and techniques in CGI animation add a new dimension to this film and ensure a fun movie going experience for the entire family.”

Winder added, “A successful animated movie starts with an imaginative story and appealing characters. The addition of such high caliber voice talent is a crucial layer to the mix. With the amazing array of talented artists and creatives from both The Weinstein Company and Rainmaker collaborating on this production, we have all the right ingredients to make ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH a highly entertaining and successful film.”

The 3D animated family comedy ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH catapults movie goers to planet Baab where admired astronaut Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser) is a national hero to the blue alien population. A master of daring rescues, Scorch pulls off astonishing feats with the quiet aid of his nerdy, by-the-rules brother, Gary (Rob Corddry), head of mission control at BASA. When BASA’s no-nonsense chief Lena (Jessica Alba) informs the brothers of an SOS from a notoriously dangerous planet, Scorch rejects Gary’s warnings and bounds off for yet another exciting mission. But when Scorch finds himself caught in a fiendish trap set by the evil Shanker (James Gandolfini), it’s up to scrawny, risk-adverse Gary to do the real rescuing. As the interplanetary stakes rise to new heights, Gary is left to save his brother, his planet, his beloved wife Kira (Sarah Jessica Parker) and their adventure hungry son Kip!

A film from The Weinstein Company, ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH is produced in association with Rainmaker Entertainment and will be released in the U.S. in 2012.

Interview with Freddie Highmore

Freddie Highmore is known best his roles in “Charlie in the Chocolate Factory” and Finding Neverland”, both with Johnny Depp.  Next up, he is starring with Emma Roberts in the upcoming romantic comedy “The Art of Getting By”.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Freddie about his new film and discussed about his career to date.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your most recent film “The Art of Getting By”? What drew you to this project?
Freddie Highmore: It was a fantastic film. New York was a joy to be in.  What really attracted me to the film was the honesty of it.  It doesn’t present the sort of stylized version of high school that you often get with some of these movies.  It is incredibly real and it is actually quite refreshing. People will go and see the film and have it actually represent the feeling of growing up…feeling of that first love…feeling of that wanting to succeed and the pressure to succeed. The film encompasses all though things and in a real way.

MG: How was it working with Emma Roberts?
FH: Emma Roberts was fantastic.  It was a real joy to get to work with her. The fact we got a long so well right from the start was incredibly helpful.  It is great to get along with someone that you are working with especially with the more intimate moments, they felt more real

MG: Are you generally a fan of the romance genre?
FH: Yeah I am.  I am, obviously.  But some of them perhaps what they are lacking is the way the actor portrays it.  They sometimes need to overdue it emotionally and make it too obvious to people.  I think people really will enjoy our film and see that start they think George is a bit depressed and a bit deluished in life. But actually by the end they will find out who he is.  I think people enjoy seeing that kind of movie.

MG: You’ve worked with so many A-list directors, Tim Burton and Ridley Scott for example, how was it working with first time director Gavin Wiesen?
FH: It was great. One thing that all directors seems to have in common is an amazing amount of energy.  For Gavin, despite the film being somewhat based on real events and in fact on him, he is incredible open.  He is open to the fact that it will be a movie and people will have various interpations of the story.  It was really rewarding that he was able to give up a certain part of something felt attached to him.

MG: After working on the very large production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, how does working on a film like this compare to indie “The Art of Getting By”?
FH: I think on the independent film, each day was definitely more filled up.  You definitely get through more in the day oppose to just doing one massive shot, which will take the whole day shooting.  There is just something nice about working on the independent film.  You are with a smaller crew and get to know everyonestraight away. Everyone is really willing to be there, excited and looking at the same goal.  It makes it a really excited project to be apart of. We were just running around New York and grabbing shots on the go.  Perhaps New York represents the aim for the film, not just going for the postcard picture of Manhattan.  It is sort of the real New York and the people that live and work in it.

MG: What would you say has been your most challenging film to date?
FH: I think they have all been different.  I am not sure if one has been more challenging than an other one.  I have been lucky in that way.  I have been able to play different character for different genres and not get tied up in one thing in particular. Every film should be a challenge and it keeps you popping and really focused about doing it.

MG: “Arthur and the Invisibles 2 & 3″ were just recently released, how was it working on those films not only acting but also voice acting?
FH: It was fun doing a voiceover in the film oppose to just acting.  I think the people think it is always easier to do a voice but for me I thought it was more challenging.  Since you are never really working with the people.  You just sort of go off and make it up on your own.  There is definitely a lot of preparation for a role like that.

MovieMikes’ “Falling Skies” Interviews

“Falling Skies” is a new sci-fi drama series that was created by Robert Rodat and Steven Spielberg. The series will be premiering on TNT on Sunday, June 19, 2011, with a two-hour premiere. The series will consist of 10 episodes.

The story behind the show deals with the aftermath of an alien invasion. It follows a group of survivors who come together to fight back against the invading aliens. The cast for the show Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Dale Dye, Drew Roy and Peter Shinkoda.

I have had the pleasure of watching the first five episodes in advance and let me tell you this is a show you will not want to miss this summer. The show mixes sci-fi with really great human drama which leads to a great show. I was also lucky enough to interview most of the primary cast from the show. They were able to chat with me about their experiences on the show and what we can expect from it.

We will be posting new interviews each day leading up to the premiere of the show on Sunday. Hope you enjoy them and feel free to leave comments.


Dale Dye

Drew Roy

Moon Bloodgood

Noah Wyle</

Peter Shinkoda

Interview with Jason Lee

Jason Lee is currently starring in the TNT’s “Memphis Beat”, which is begins season two starting June 14th. Prior to this Jason has worked on the TV series “My Name is Earl”. In film,. Jason is known for his roles in Kevin Smith’s films “Mallrats”, “Chasing Amy” and “Dogma”. He has also played Dave in the “Alvin in the Chipmunks” series, with its second sequel being released this Fall, “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked”. Movie Mikes had a chance to attend a conference call with Jason Lee to discuss the new season of “Memphis Beat” and what we can expect from it.

Mike Gencarelli: Do you find it difficult for you combining the comedy with the drama for this show?
Jason Lee: This season it’s easier because that was more of the direction we wanted to take this season because we felt that that was lacking a little bit last season in retrospect. I think with anything you do characters have to be believable, acceptable, likeable that’s always sort of my stance like even with a guy like Earl.  With just a massive list of wrongs you still like the guy, you know what I mean? I felt like we needed with “Memphis Beat” and have Dwight feel even more tangible real likeable, accessible, approachable and less of the character or a sort of a iconic thing that we were trying to have him be in the first season. Strangely, I thought a lot about Burt Reynolds back in the 70’s, that strong kind of jokes every man just that kind of humor from that and the camaraderie with like those movies like “Cannonball Run” and “Smokey and the Bandit”. I guess trying to incorporate that into this show and making it have more of that old school kind of Southern flair, that energy and you see more of that coming out and that’s balanced with the more dramatic stuff of I’ve seen them today these guys are cops and people are being murdered and no shit there’s a lot of stuff happening here. But I think it was a little to precious the first season.

MG: What would you consider is the most challenging part working on the show?
JL: I would have to say the lip-syncing and the performances. I try to be as genuine with those and make that feel as heartfelt as possible and make it look as good as I can. That’s sometimes a difficult thing learning those songs and…putting my heart into it and making it feel right. I want to do justice to that. Also always being conscious of walking that balance between reality and fiction and trying to keep it real and not cheesy or forced but as believable as possible.

Q: Well you’ve got a great show. Were you surprised how well the show went over last season?
A: I mean yes, I thought it was interesting enough as the start to something potentially better…and we’ve made it better this season in my opinion.  Sometimes you do something with one formula and then you look at it and you go, well you know what it didn’t quite feel what it – the way it should have felt and then so you reconvene you look at it all and you start fresh with the strengths from last season and then having sort of gotten rid of the weaknesses. I think the show is more fun this season Dwight is a little bit more identifiable he’s less of a character and more of just a guy. It’s less of a sacred kind of Elvis thing and more of just a Southern dude who loves music and he happens to be a musician and a performer. This season there’s less of country Elvis thing and more of just Dwight performing music. Certainly Elvis is his idol but you know what really kind of didn’t help in our favor at the beginning of the first season was that people have this ideal that the show is like cop by day Elvis impersonator by night and that kind of screwed us up a little bit. Because it was not that and then when we presented the show as something else it was difficult to work our way around that. Now we just sort of shed all of that and it’s just more about Dwight loving the South and being just a guy who loves everything from Elvis to Johnny Cash to Muddy Waters to probably Simon and (freakin’) Garfunkle.  He’s just a guy who loves music and he’s a performer. So it was really important this season that we made Dwight more of a just a dude and less of this kind of character or this icon or something. We just have a more fun kind of lighter, looser kind of old school cop show with more car chases and shoot outs and more more joking and having fun and more camaraderie among among us, there’s a gang. We needed to go through season one to see all this stuff and make this season more fun.

Q: Okay you were talking about a minute ago about Dwight and he’s one of the coolest cops in recent TV history. What you did to bring that cool swagger to this role?
A: Oh man, well it’s I think it was the boots, some of the wardrobe, the car, the music, the old guitars. It’s sort of like there’s a little bit of a modern day kind of cowboy vibe to the guy, which I think is really interesting. But that could get real cheesy real fast. So I just try to be aware of the importance of this guy’s job and making it as much about how much he cares as it is about how “cool” the guy might be and how fun it is to play this guy. It’s kind of walking a little bit more of a line between character and realities than we did I think last season. So I learned – we all sort of learned a lot from last season.

Q: All the music on this show is incredible. Can you talk a little bit about that the barrage of great songs that crop up throughout each episode?
A: Well that’s the beauty of the show it’s taken straight from the South.  It’s like you’re going to get those flavors of blues, R&B, Elvis.  It’s like the backdrop to the show because it takes place in Memphis and we all know how important music is to the Memphis to the South. So it’s like it’s kind of – it’s the character to the show just as much as Dwight’s car is.  We get away with a lot of stuff that I don’t think we’d get away with it if the show took place somewhere else because in the South your town is like you’re very prideful of it. There’s such a sense of camaraderie and community here because everybody shares everything and that’s very much a Southern thing I found. So with that comes a real sense of pride and Dwight carries that pride with him. There’s a pride of “hey we do things differently around here”, which I think is really cool.

Q: What is the City of Memphis think of Dwight in the show When you go to Memphis,even if it’s just to shoot exterior scenes, do they greet you like you’re a local hero?
A: It speaks volumes of about how awesome Memphians are.  The biggest disappointment that we’ve heard is Memphians saying that they have seen quite a bit of New Orleans in the show and saying that they totally understand that we really wanted to shoot in Memphis but they still embrace the show.  They understand that it’s a bunch of red tape sort of logistical kind of governmental tax incentive stuff all this stuff.  They’re usually kind to us. This season we have a fantastic production designer and she is very anal and we’ve tried even harder this season to make it even more authentic. Overall though the Memphians are they like the show. I’ve done press there locally in Memphis and and they say, “We like the show and we’re certainly happy that it has just the title Memphis in it and we understand why you can’t film here. It’s disappointing but we don’t hate the show” so of course that’s nice to hear.

Q: Have you ever been much of an armchair detective in real life? When it comes to crime dramas and mysteries do you watch them? Do you read them? And if so who are some of your favorites?
A: I’m a product of the 70’s.  My favorite stuff is like “Streets of San Francisco”, “Rockford Files”, “Dukes of Hazards”, “C.H.I.P.S”, you know what I mean? Like “Smokey and the Bandits”…that’s my vibe.  Something that I bought to the table for this season is like that we needed to make it feel a little bit more fun and action packed than kind of just old school like these other shows. We tried to do that season one but we didn’t quite nail it. I feel like that energy that you see on shows like “Rockford Files”. Just that fun camaraderie and that’s just like energy…just the style of it.  I feel like we’ve tapped into that more because to me it’s just cool aesthetic and it fits this Southern Dwight thing…the old car that he drives, the music, the energy.  There’s more laughs this season. It’s a little lighter and it feels a little bit more just down home.

Q: What do you think of Sam Hennings as an actor and as a person?
A: Oh Sam is amazing he has really found his thing this season even more so I think. Just because overall the energy has shifted and there’s more room to have fun and just be real and not be so serious all the time. Quite a few scenes this season, I’m not in this time around because we’ve tried to balance out the work load.  We are trying to put more focus on the other characters.  Sam’s had some great story lines so far and he’s really gotten the shine. He’s a great fit for this show. He’s from Macon, Georgia and he’s just like he’s an old school.  He’s the perfect old school kind of cross city cop.

Q: Last season ended on kind of an emotional cliffhanger with Dwight finding out that his dad might have been a dirty cop. Is that storyline going to be followed up at all?
A: Yes sir we’ve already filmed that episode.

Q: Does your schedule allow you to do any films on your hiatus?
A: Yes I really want to get back into doing some film work.  Hopefully this year later this fall. I miss that, I miss it and I’m really looking to find something that I can do for this year.

Interview with American McGee

American McGee is the man behind the game ‘American McGee’s Alice” and its follow-up “Alice: Madness Returns”. American currently runs his own game development company, Spicy Horse, which is based in Shanghai, China. Movie Mikes had a chance to pick American’s brain about the new games as well as other projects he is currently working on.

Click here to read our review of “Alice: Madness Returns”
Click here
to enter for a chance to win a copy of the game on Playstation 3.

Mike Gencarell: So why the 11 year wait between “American McGee’s Alice” and “Alice: Madness Returns”?
American McGee: There wasn’t really anything magic of the time between the new game and the last game.  The truth is that it was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, which was also the case when we made the first game.  But this time around…I had left EA after the first game and lived in Los Angeles for a while.  Then I moved to Hong Kong, then to Shanghai.  I had to move to Shanghai and start a studio here before I thought we had the development capabilities to tackle doing a sequel.  So I called up EA and let them know what I had in mind.  They thought it sounded good so we got it started.  It really just came down to “right place, right time.”

MG: What inspired you to take the wacky world of “Alice” and turn it into a very dark psychotic world?
AM: Basically EA asked me to come up with the game concept.  I spent the years prior to working at EA working at id software, where we did all the “Dune” and “Quake” games.  I was actually tired of the whole “space marine/big brown worlds and guns” games and I had a feeling that I wanted to come up with something that would really push both the technology and the story telling.  I was driving in my car one day and this song by the Crystal Method came on.  It was called “Trip Like I Do.”  The song opens up with a guy doing sort of a monologue talking about a world of wonder.  And those words hit my brain and I started thinking “wonder….wonder….wonderland.”  I thought we could do something really fantastic with “Alice in Wonderland.”  So when I got back to my office I sat down and started thinking about the characters and Alice’s world and how it could be adapted to appeal to gamers but also maintain the appeal that the books have to such a wide audience around the world.  So out of that was born this world and this story and this take on it which a lot of people seem to think feels like a good direction.

MG: Tell us about the development for the CGI cut-scenes in the new game?
AM: We still kept it kind of old school.  We use a lot of storytelling in the environment.  It’s a lot of passive stuff so that we don’t take the player out of the game playing experience.  Then we also have the cut-scenes in game, like a lot of games do, where we’re using the characters in the world to tell some of the story.  The only thing we have that is sort of pre-rendered are the 2 ½ D motion graphic cinematics.  We just recently released one of those, which is the opening to the game.  It’s a two and a half minute long animation showing the opening of the game.  We actually ended up doing over 30 minutes of animated content like that.  It’s really cool because it suits the game really well.  It tells the story really well.  It really fits into her world.

MG: If you had to choose one thing, what did you enjoy most about doing the new game?
AM: I’d say that it’s the overall sense of pride the studio has in having delivered the game because it’s actually quite historic to see a full blown cross-console/cross-platformplay Triple A western game concept get developed from start to finish in China.  For gaming China has historically been a place that’s mainly used for outsourcing.  Even when you have companies like EA and other big studios here a lot of the creative direction…a lot of the development…is actually being done off shore, outside of China.  They’re giving a lot of the core production work to the team here.  This is the first time that, from start to finish, we built a game of this size and this caliber in China.  The whole team is quite proud of that.

MG: What was the biggest challenge in bringing “American McGee’s Alice” to Xbox Live and PlayStation Network?
AM: There were a lot of little obstacles and hurdles for the tech team to get over.  That was almost purely a tech job.  Basically on our side we had two guys, Jake and Milo, doing all the coding.  We also had a company on the west coast of the U.S.  It’s kind of ironic.  We’re in China and we outsourced the work for some of the technology to a company in California.  They did have to jump over some hurdles to get the game to fit to memory and for the interface  to come up to the standards that are required by the platforms.  But so much time has passed.  The power that is now available on the consoles is definitely up to the task of playing the game.  And it looks great.  If you play the old game now, on a console and a big screen, it’s absolute gorgeous.  The original “Alice” was envisioned as a console title early on.  There was meant to be a console version – a PS 2 version – when we finished the PC version.  It actually comes over very nicely.  At its core the soul of the game is really a console  platformed action game. It came over quite nicely.

MG: The music composed by Chris Vrenna in the first game was fantastic.  Tell us about the score for “Madness Returns”?
AM: Chris came out early on and actually consulted with our composers and sound designers here in Shanghai.  He ended up contributing one track but the bulk of the music was done by Jason Tai.  We also had a guy named Marshall Crutcher in San Francisco that did a lot of the more classical pieces that were traditionalist instruments like cello and violin.  So if you listen to the main theme of the song that was something that Marshall contributed.  But the bulk of the audio done in China was done under Jason’s direction.  Jason is Malaysian but went to school in England so he brought with him a really wide range of ability and an exposure to music from around the world.  So when you play the game and you move through the world you get a really good sense of that.  There’s a lot of diversity…a lot of variety in the music.

MG: Was it different making a multi-platform game vs. just a PC game?
AM: I’d like to say that there was something really different about it but the truth is that so many people on the team, myself included, had prior experience in console development and the technology these days allowed us to create a game that is automatically cross-platform right out of the box.  It really makes it pretty straight forward as long as you put your planning together the right way early on.  Something as a studio that we really pride ourselves on is being really good at the planning for these long term projects.  And as a result we’ve actually developed a pretty sane development process and schedule.

MG: There have been talks since 2004 about a film adaptation of”Alice.”  Now that it is back in the spotlight, do you think those ideas will be revisited?
AM: It’s largely out of my hands.  There’s a film producer in Hollywood that is in control of the rights.  That’s the destiny of the project.  But I know that he’s trying many ways to get it set up and made.  I decided a long time ago not to hold my breath when it comes to the ways and moves of Hollywood.  Sometimes things can happen ridiculously fast and sometimes it can take decades for stuff to get made.  I think we’ll all just have to wait and see if maybe the new game has an impact on getting the film to move forward.

MG: Why was the game production on “American McGee’s Oz” canceled and do you ever plan to revisit that project?
AM: It was really sad.  When I left EA we had all of this momentum because of the success of “Alice.”  I figured I’d done “Alice in Wonderland” so I decided to tackle “The Wizard of Oz.”  So we came up with some story lines and some art and started building the concept.  We had toys made, had a book deal in place, got the game deal set up…had the film rights sold.  Everything was moving along and feeling really great.  Then one year into production on the game the publisher ran into pretty significant financial troubles.  And they killed, across the board, all of the their games except for one.  They were just finishing up the MMO for “The Matrix.”  They had run out of money and they cut out work on all games except for the one they thought would make them some money back.  So we were a victim of their financial woes.  And once the game fell a lot of the other stuff also started to fall by the wayside.  When the film guys saw that the game wasn’t going to get made they cooled on the film idea.  And so forth and so on.

MG: Is that something you can now proceed on with your own studio, Spicy Horse?
AM: Right now that project is so messy in terms of the rights.  The game rights are owned by Atari still.  The film rights are sitting at Disney with Jerry Bruckheimer.  Somebody has the toy rights, somebody has the book rights.  I think today to get the momentum back and get the project moving again would just be so much work and trouble.  I think, in fact, should we decide to ever revisit “Oz” we would just start from scratch.  Because it is a public domain story we could come up with a whole new take on it and just relaunch completely from scratch.  We may do that someday but for now we have a lot of other stuff that we’re working on that’s keeping us occupied.

MG: What’s next from Spicy Horse?
AM: We just announced some news.  Actually, “Alice,” for us, was a bit of a distraction from our core business strategy, which has a lot to do with why I came to China in the first place.  And that was to be in the on-line game space.  Our first project was strictly on-line, an episodic project called “Grim.”  We just announced that we’ve secured financing that we’re going to use to self-fund a lot of original IP.  And we also just signed a deal with a company in which we’re going to take one of their existing IPs  and transform it into a 3-D free-to-play game.  So from this point forward all of our focus is going to be on making on-line multi-player free-to-play games.  These will be in 3-D.  A lot of your Facebook games are in 2-D and we want to help transition the market to 3-D.  So that’s where a lot of our energy will be going as we move forward.

Interview with Ahmed Ahmed

Ahmed Ahmed is a standup comedian who has also appeared in several films and television shows. His newest project is titled “Just Like Us” and documents Ahmed and several other comedians’ tour across the Middle East. Ahmed took time out of his busy schedule to talk with Movie Mikes about his new project.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about your film “Just Like Us”
Ahmed Ahmed: “Just Like Us” is a documentary film that I came up with after doing comedy shows around the Middle East. Around 2007 I toured the Middle East with a group we put together called “The Axis of Evil Tour” which was filmed and shown on television over there. In 2008 we toured there again but not as a group and we didn’t film anything. In 2009 we had a tour that lined up with the International cast and that’s when we actually decided to shoot it.

AL: So the idea came about after touring over there a few different times?
AA: I had started a company with my business partner called Cross Cultural Entertainment and under that umbrella we created Cross Cultural Productions. This would be the portion that would physically produce and put on projects. After doing this my partner asked me what my next plan was. I told him I was going to go to the Middle East and he said I had to shoot it. The timing was great and the topic was relevant so that was part of it. A couple years prior I had done a comedy tour with Vince Vaughn called “The Wild West Comedy Show” which was also turned into a documentary film. From that I sort of had an idea of how to make a documentary. Another thing that kind of brought me to making this project was when I would come back from the Middle East a lot of my friends would ask what I was doing over there. I would tell them comedy shows and they would ask which military base. I would tell them we played theaters for Arabs in English and they get it. The film came out really great and I think people will enjoy it.

AL: What was it like touring and filming at the same time?
AA: I kind of bit off more than I could chew! At first I was going to just be the host for the shows however the promoters started asking me to bring comedians. I in a way started to become a talent booker as well as being relied on to do press. I didn’t have to set up the shows but I did a lot of the grass roots work in setting everything else up and promoting. When we started to shoot that’s where I started to turn into the producer/director (Laughs) It was literally 4 days prior to leaving for the tour that my partner said we should shoot it. I didn’t think we had enough time but he was very adamant about finding camera operators which we did. Once we got back to New York we started almost immediately in post production. We set up an office, purchased the editing equipment, hired two editors and began transcribing everything. We had about 200 hours of footage that we cut down to about 72 minutes. I didn’t really know what I was getting into at the beginning but the film has unfolded into this beautiful project that has taken on a life of its own.

AL: When is the film going to be released?
AA: We did a deal with Lion’s Gate Entertainment and the film is going to be available as a digital download through places like Netflix. My company is also going to release the film independently in select theaters. We hope to get the film into about 10 cities. If it catches wind in its sails we will add more cities. We want as many people as possible to see the film.

AL: Do you have any funny stories from working with Vince Vaughn?
AA: Everyday on that tour was a funny day. It went by so fast that we didn’t have a lot of time in each city but just being a part of that tour was really inspirational and eye opening. That tour really prodded me to make my own film. There were just so many funny things that happened. I can’t think of one that really sticks out.

AL: Had you known Vince previously?
AA: I have been friends with Vince for over 20 years. He had come to a lot of the comedy shows I was involved in which exposed him to the other comedians. He then just had this idea to take it on the road and film it. It was great to be a part of that and we are actually doing some follow up shows in June.

AL: Do you have any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
AA: The film has opened up a lot of doors. I was actually invited to attend a dinner at the White House last year because of this film and that opened up some doors for us which took us to Palestine, Syria and a few other places to do some shows. During this time we accidentally shot a sequel and we will probably start going through that material in the fall. Releases for “Just Like Us” are going to be spaced out from city to city and that will probably take us through July. I travel quite regular and have had a lot of inquiries to go to a lot of different countries that have recently opened up.

Interview with Kevin McDonald

Kevin McDonald is one of the members of the cult favorite comedy troupe “The Kids in the Hall”.  Kevin is by far the most energetic member of the members.  Movie Mikes took a chance to chat with Kevin about working with the troupe and the new mini-series “Death Comes to Town”.

Mike Gencarelli: Did you have a favorite character that you played in the original “The Kids in the Hall”?
Kevin McDonald: During the sketch show, my favorite character would be the King of Empty Promises. I only did it twice during the series because we never did the same characters a lot…besides the head crusher and the chicken lady. We never did the photocopier guy every Saturday. King of Empty Promises is the guy that promises things and says “Will do” and “Slipped my mind”. I am sort of like that, “Yeah you want that…Yeah I’ll get that for you”. I always forget and never do anything. My writing partner in the show Norm (Hiscock) said you have that evil trait and he said that it should be a sketch. So we wrote it up. Instead of me playing myself again, we decided I would do it like Paul Bellini, Scott (Thompson)’s writing partner. I am lousy at doing impressions but me doing Bellini’s impression is what became of the character in ‘Empty Promises’ sketch.

MG: “Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy” was one of my favorites of the 90’s, are you a fan?
KM: I am a fan of it. I am a little disappointed with the end with came up with. We tried hard and actually had a original ending that we shot but it didn’t seem to work with audiences. It probably would have been the right way to go but not in the terms of audiences. Once we got a little more money, we re-shot the ending as a little more mainstream and it would have been better but then took away half the money. So instead of it being eight scenes, it was four scenes and some of the details were lost. Monty Python is so smart. With their first movie it was a gag fest and an excuse for sketches in the “Holy Grail”. I guess we were ambitious, good for us, we jumped right into a real movie. It probably would have taken us two or three movies to get it right. Also learning to write together in the same room is hard. We have been writing sketches like two or three at a time and all six of us were in this board room writing and it was really hard.

MG: Would you consider that the bad time for the group?
KM: The group has had a series of downfalls and up falls [laughs], like any group of creative people. There is always creative differences and arguments. When it works it makes the work better and when it doesn’t work it cripples the works for a bit. When we were a club act before our TV show, we had an argument about what kind of comedy we should do and that was resolve by just doing it over and over. During the TV show, three of us did not like the producer in charge and two of us like him. That was horrible fight we always forget about. “Brain Candy” arguments are more in our mind now but that was a really horrible one which almost split up the group. What saved us originally is that we were canceled after the first season but luckily they changed their mind and then we ended up firing the producer. But “Brain Candy” was just hard for so many reasons Dave (Foley) was becoming a TV star with “Newsradio”. Scott and I had deaths in our family. It was so ambitious…not like “Ben Hur” or “Avatar”…but it was ambitious in the way we were trying to tell a story. I think the story took over the comedy and that divided the group. Dave actually quit right before we started shooting “Brain Candy” and then was still forced to do the movie since he already signed the contract. That part was horribly tense, especially because him and I are like best friends. The movie didn’t do well but in the meantime our show was showing on repeats and that is where we really got our audience. We stopped filming the show in 1995 but from 1996-2000, Comedy Central was repeating our show to death. We were talking in a reunion tour and that is why the troupe is still a troupe. I don’t think we will every split up until the first one of dies and my money is on Dave [laughs].

MG: Tell us about the groups return to TV with “The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town”?
KM: Before that we had the 2008 tour, which was a unique tour from our other tours since it was new material. Between 2006 and 2008, we did some shows at the Steve Allen Theater and we worked out some pretty good material. It was really exciting for us not doing the greatest hits like we had, but to do all new stuff. Led by Bruce (McCulloch), he had an idea for a movie called “Death Comes to Town”. I worked on it with him during the tour. It was so exciting that the new material was going over so well and we wanted to keep writing new stuff. We thought if we got a new TV show our tour, we will sell out every night. It sort of grew and grew and became a mini-series. We always thought mini-series, we never wanted to do a lot of seasons. The writing process was different again with Bruce in charge and I helped out with the writing, instead of all five of us. Then we all met up a couple of times in Toronto with the other three. I think the good thing about that we that we got it done quickly and easily. The bad thing was that I think we missed a lot of the troupes flavor.

MG: What else do you have planned for the future? Any more tours?
KM: The group is trying to get another tour together but it is really hard. We started planning for the Spring, now that isn’t going to happen. So maybe in the Fall now. Like the past year, I am just concentrated on coming to Winnipeg and become a good boyfriend and father figure to my girlfriends two children. But I am writing another pilot with now, which I was hired to write called “Homeland Insecurity”. I just did a TV show, which is 4-minute episode which will be online with plans for a 30 minute format later this year, it is called “Papillon”. It has nothing to do with the Steve McQueen movie but that is what it is called.

Interview with Tracey Walter

Tracey Walter is one of the great character actors of our time. He has been in filming ranging from 1989’s “Batman” to “Conan the Destroyer” to last year remake of “I Spit on Your Grave”. He is has worked with some amazing actors such as Danny DeVito, Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steve McQueen. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Tracey about his films and what he is working on currently.

Mike Gencarelli: How was it working on the remake of “I Spit on Your Grave”?
Tracey Walter: One of the unique things about the film was…although auditions are nice the drawback with auditions is that you might not get the part…what’s better is when they call your agent and say “I want to offer Tracey the part,” which they did. When I first got involved with the film it was called “Day of the Woman.” I was not familiar with the original “I Spit on Your Grave” movie. But I got a call from my agent who said “they’ve offered you a role in this film and they’ll be sending over a script tonight.” That happens all of the time in the movie business. Not just to a “Tracey Walter” – type actor but even to a “Brad Pitt” – type. I just finished a movie…a beautiful movie called “Savannah.” That happens to actors like Jim Caviezel. You’ll get a call and they want to start shooting tomorrow….I’m going to answer your question, I promise (laughs). And that also happens on “A” type films. On “I Spit on Your Grave” I got a call. They wanted to know if I was interested in playing the role. It was really the only character, other than the sheriff’s wife, that was not a really brutal and sadistic character. In fact what lead to his death was his concern for the woman. He calls the sheriff and the sheriff come by, takes him out to the woods with a bottle of whiskey and then blows his brains out. My character was the only decent character in the picture. I’ve been acting for 40 years and I always think I’ve seen it all. But this film was a new one because not only had I not met the director prior to filming, I didn’t even know his name when I showed up on the set (NOTE: his name is Steven Monroe). That was unique. The actors in that picture were really talented and it’s always interesting to work with actors who are not big names. You haven’t seen them before and it makes you realize how many good actors there are out there. If you saw the movie you know what Sarah Butler went through on that movie. No complaints. Same with the actor who played the Sheriff (Andrew Howard). I thought “he’s got a great southern accent.” At the end of the day we finish work, get in the car and drive to the hotel. And I realize he’s English! He pulled off a “Hugh Laurie” to some extent! Whether it’s a film or a TV show, how I get hired has a slight influence on my taking the job. Did they make it a three act play? Was there someone else they wanted to hire? Or, as in this case, did they call and make an offer? They were very respectful. With the conditions while filming and being with the other actors it became really a great experience. And I hope that set experience
does good things for Steve Monroe’s career.

MG: Are you generally a fan of the horror genre?
TW: Not only am I a fan but…Danny DeVito has for the past two years had a web site where he does tributes. The name of the website is And he has created really bloody and over the top tributes to the horror genre’. I did a couple of them. They’re about four minutes long and usually shoot in one day. One had me as a psychiatrist married to Carol Kane. She decides I’m no longer listening to her so she decides to shave my ears off! A real bloody mess. Another one I did I played a doctor who gets revenge on another doctor who has done some botched abortions in the past. That’s also bloody as you can imagine. We just finished another one. DeVito directs them. I haven’t done a lot of horror. I did do some episodes of “Freddie’s Nightmares.” But I love the genre.

MG: How did you get involved with the TV series “Monsters?”
TW: There’s really not a big story behind that. They made the traditional call to the agent and they offered me a part. I’ve still got a great 8×10 photo of me transforming into the monster.

MG: How long did the make up process take for that part?
TW: About two hours.

MG: What was it like to work with Jack Nicholson on 1989’s “Batman”?
TW: I met Jack in the summer of 1977. He directed and starred in a movie called “Goin’ South.” He played a character named Henry Moon and I was a part of the ex-Moon gang. He get’s sentenced to marry Mary Steenbergen and we (the ex-gang) try to get him to come back to the old ways. So I’ve known Jack since 1977. It was great shooting “Batman.” We shot in London. I’ve done two films in London. “Batman” and another one that was based on a book by Larry McMurtry called “Buffalo Girls” with Angelica Huston and Jack Palance. Jack (Palance) also worked on “Batman” but we didn’t have any scenes together. And we also appeared in “Cyborg 2,” though again we had no scenes. I’ve worked with Jack on four pictures, the fourth one being “City Slickers.” He played the sandpaper-faced cowboy and I was “Cookie,” the authentic western cook. The “Batman” experience, on a scale of 1-10 was about a 12! Tim Burton was fantastic to work for. I haven’t worked with him since but I’m surely not ruling it out (laughs). The entire film was a great experience for me. They even made an action figure of me. I’ve really been blessed. As humbly as I can put it, I’ve really been blessed with terrific success in films.

MG: Tell us about working with Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Conan the Destroyer”?
TW: That was an incident where I replaced another actor to play Malak. It was the classic call. My agent called me and asked “can you be on a plane to Mexico TONIGHT?” I was single at the time…no dogs or cats…so I was able to pack a duffle bag, get in the car they sent for me and head to Mexico. That’s how it happens some times. You can imagine how great it was working with Schwarzenegger. We’ve remained friends since. That’s the kind of genre’ that an actor likes to try at least once. Plus I’m a big basketball fan and Wilt Chamberlain, who was in the film, loved to talk. He wasn’t the type of guy who, because he was a basketball star and basketball was his big claim to fame, didn’t want to talk about it. I was reading a book called “Giant Steps” by Kareem Abdul Jabbar and I showed Wilt some photos that he was in. He could tell me, just from looking at the photos, what was happening…where the game had taken place. You know, even with the Internet, there are places that stars can go and not be recognized. Even Schwarzenegger…there are probably places in the world where no one would know who he is. But there was no where on the face of the earth where you could go and not have Wilt Chamberlain turn heads. He was just your average 7’2 millionaire that lived next door! It was a dream come
true for me to do that picture.

MG: Which projects really stick out as most challenging among the ones that you have worked on to date?
TW: Again, humbly, there have been many. “Batman” and “Goin’ South” with Jack Nicholson….”The Two Jakes,” which was a sequel to “Chinatown” that Nicholson directed. “Erin Brockovich” was another great film. Steven Soderberg is another great director. Edward Lachman (the film’s cinematographer) made me look good in that one. Another favorite is a western television series I did called “Best of the West.” I was in “At Close Range” with Sean Penn, Christopher Walken and a talented group of character actors. It’s hard to say what’s challenging. A smart man once said “if you like what you do you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” Again, I’ve been very blessed. This last project I was involved in…”Savannah” with Jim Caviezel…has a wonderful director named Annette Haywood-Carter. She did a real rarity. When I got hired she called me at home to say “welcome aboard.” That’s beyond nice! Directors don’t usually call Tracey Walter – like character actors who appear in the middle of the film. When someone does that you’re ready to not only jump through hoops for them but make a complete fool of yourself. Another film that was a treat to work on was “Raggedy Man” with Sissy Spacek. I also appeared with Steve McQueen in his last film, “The Hunter.” Steve Monroe is a huge fan of McQueen so when I showed up for work that was the first thing he wanted to talk about. “How was he?” “Did he look good?” He died right after making the film but he looked fantastic. I was shocked that he passed away so quickly.

MG: Besides “Savannah,” what other projects do you have coming up?
TW: I just did something with director William Dear. I started working with him in 1981 on the movie “Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann.” It was a sci-fi western. We filmed in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We’ve worked together several times since then. He just took over a picture called “Love Obama: The Election of Barack Obama.” It’s a humorous look at the campaign…especially campaign headquarters. I play an aging hippie…it’s really a dream come true.

Interview with Sung Kang

Sung Kang stars in the upcoming “Fast and the Furious” sequel “Fast Five”. Movie Mikes had chance to speak with Sung about how he got into acting as well as how he became involved with the “Fast and Furious” franchise.

Adam Lawton: Had acting been something you had always wanted to?
Sung Kang: I had really wanted to be a mime. When I was in school every once in awhile they brought in a mime to perform for the students. I found it amazing that another human being could make me laugh or sad and take my mind out of the small town that I lived in growing up. I was always attracted to that idea of performance. I had started performing in plays in high school but I never really told anyone because all the cool kids were athletes. It wasn’t until after I finished college that I really went for it.

AL: Can you tell us about your work in “Mystery Men”?
SK: It was a real treat for me. That was the first time I was ever allowed into the big studio. It was really great getting to see people like William H. Macy and Geoffrey Rush work and interact with the crew. That was my first introduction as to what an actual working actor does and how they should treat their peers. It was a really great because Geoffrey Rush is one of those guys that would come and eat lunch with the other cast and ask us how we were doing. He really understood what it was for us being actors that were just starting out. It was very inspiring.

AL: How was your experience working with Bruce Willis and Justin Long on “Live Free or Die Hard”?
SK: Bruce acted very similar in the way Geoffrey Rush did. The first day I was on set he came over and welcomed me to the team. It was really nice to be around that type of person and crew. Justin really brought a lot of enthusiasm and energy to that set. Those guys as well as my other cast mates really exemplified for me what a movie should be and that’s fun.

AL: How did you get involved with “The Fast and the Furious” franchise?
SK: That evolution came about with the director Justin Lin. He and I did an independent film together called “Better Luck Tomorrow.” That movie is why he and I are in the business today. Justin had paid for that film with his credit card. We really had no money at the time and it was a passion project. That is really where the character I play in “Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift”, Han was born. In that first film Justin and I did I played an over achieving high school kid in Orange county. After “Better Luck Tomorrow” had its success at Sundance, Justin got courted by a lot of the big agents which led him to do the Disney picture “Annapolis.” Once he was done with that film the “Tokyo Drift” project came along. There originally wasn’t a part for me. Justin convinced me to come in and read for the lead even though he told me I wasn’t going to get it. However it was a chance for me to meet the casting directors. There was a small part which was being developed which originally was going to be for an African-American actor and Justin had the idea of why not make it an Asian-American role. I went in and the casting people remembered me from my previous audition so after that it was a little bit of an easier fight for that role.

AL: Can you tell us about “Fast Five”
SK: All the characters from the previous movies come back together for one final heist. Dom and his family are in need of help as they are being chased by a bounty hunter played by Dwayne Johnson. This movie I think will give the fans everything they want while really elevating the game. Each character definitely gets there due. I think the fans are really going to enjoy it.

AL: Do you think this will be the final chapter in the series?
SK: I think it depends. It’s show business so if at the end of the day if it makes money we could see “Fast and the Furious 12”!

AL: Is there one role you have played that sticks out as a favorite?
SK: I did a movie with Justin Lin called “Finishing the Game.” It takes place in 1973 right after the death of Bruce Lee. It focuses on the studio attempting to finish Bruce’s last movie “Game of Death” by using a stand in with a paper cut out of Bruce’s face. Justin had this great idea of making a film about them finding the guy who would play the stand in. That was a really great time.

AL: Do you have any other upcoming projects?
SK: I have a few independent projects that will be coming out soon. I am always looking for the opportunity to do good work. Maybe “Fast and the Furious 12” will come along. (Laughs)

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Interview with Gary Daniels

When you think of actions movies, you should be thinking about Gary Daniels.  He recently co-starred along side Sylvester Stallone in “The Expendables” and Wesley Snipes in “Game of Death”.  Gary took a few minutes to chat with Movie Mikes about working on his films and what he has planned upcoming.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how it working with Sylvester Stallone both acting and directing in “The Expendables”?
Gary Daniels: As you can imagine I was kinda excited at the prospect of working with the writer/creator of “Rocky” and the star of “Rambo” and I have to say working with Stallone didn’t disappoint . The man has an incredible energy, whether working out in the gym with him or working on set…the man is full of energy. He is constantly in motion but is very focused.  He knows what he wants, has a clear vision and knows how to get it. As an actor it instills confidence in you when your director is clear about what h e wants and how to go about achieving that result. He is a very intense director but I found him to be very open minded when I had any kind of suggestions about the blocking or the character. I found him to be very inspirational.

MG: What was the most difficult task of working on “The Expendables”?
GD: There wasn’t too much that was difficult about working on “The Expendables”, I have done quite a few action movies now. For me, as someone that has done leads and is used to having a lot of say in the choreography and direction of my fights, I would say the most difficult thing was not having any input in those areas.

MG: Tell us about working on the film “Game of Death”, does Wesley Snipes still have game?
GD: I was hired on “Game of Death” kinda last minute and the script was being re-written as we were shooting…which presented its own challenges. I wasn’t about to turn down the opportunity to work with Wesley Snipes, but I didn’t get to play the character of Zander the way I would have liked to.  But part of being an actor is being mailable and being able to accept direction, so I always give 100% regardless. It’s always fun playing the bad guy, especially one as ruthless as Zander. Plus its always educational when you have a chance to work with such experienced actors as Robert Davi and Wesley Snipes. Wesley was obviously going through turmoil in his life at the time we were shooting, so whether he bought his A game to the film or not I will let the viewers judge for themselves. He is obviously a talented individual or he wouldn’t have reached such heights in his career.

MG: You reunited with “Expendables” cast Eric Roberts and Steve Austin, in “Hunt to Kill”, tell us about working working on that film and with them again?
GD: Most of my scenes in “The Expendables” were with Steve and Eric, so we spent a lot of time together.  They are both very down to earth and funny guys, so we had a blast together. It was Steve that called me and asked me to work on “Hunt to Kill”, so it was an easy choice to say “Yes”. I didn’t have any scenes with Eric in “Hunt to Kill” but was with Steve most of the time. For a bloke that looks so big and intimidating he is one of the nicest guys you can hope to work with on and off the set. On this film I got to choreograph and shoot a fight between us. It is always a challenge to choreograph for the different kinds of athletes, actors, martial artists that you work with in films and this was no different trying to highlight both of our strengths as we are obviously from very different backgrounds.

MG: How was it working with Steven Seagal in “Submerged”, any cool set stories?
GD: ‘Submerged’ was not one of my favourite experiences, my character was originally very pivotal , but Mr Seagal had other ideas and in the end.  They might as well of hired a stuntman to play the role as all the dialogue and relationship between his and my character was cut. Well every actor has their own vision for their films and being the star of the film you will usually get your way so for me I just get on with it and do the best I can under the given circumstances. Actually most of the cast and crew were from England,  so we all had a blast on and off the set. Nuff said!

MG: Tell us about playing Kenshirô in “Fist of the North Star” and working with Tony Randel?
GD: I was a fan of the anime before I was asked to do the film. So I knew it was gonna be very difficult to translate the anime to live action, especially back in 94 before CGI had been so developed. But I loved the character that I wasn’t about to turn it down. The first challenge for me was the physical one, Kenshiro (like most anime characters) has an awsome, huge physique. So I began a regime of training lifting heavier weights than I had worked with before and went from 180 to 192 lbs. Trouble is we were working such long hours during the summer in a sweltering sound stage with no air conditioning, that as the shoot progressed I slowly lost all that weight as I couldnt get in the gym to maintain. I think Tony had a good vision for the film but he certainly wasn’t into martial arts and didn’t like to shoot the fights. He felt the heart of the story was the love triangle between Kenshiro, Shin and Julia and that by focusing on that it would elevate the film above being a mere ‘martial arts’ film. Personally I think the fans wanted to see Kenshiro kicking ass. Again different visions, but overall I like the film and the way it turned out. The trouble when making an adaptation of an anime or video game is that you have to try to make a film that appeases the hardcore fans but also makes sense to viewers that have no idea about the original source material…not easy.

MG: What has been the most difficult film that you have work on to date?
GD: Every film presents its own challenges. Coming from a martial arts background my hardest challenge is trying to convince producers/directors to take me seriously as an actor so sometimes I end up trying too hard. Then when I choreograph action its tough getting the powers that be to let me control how it is shot and edited. When I do the lead in smaller films, I  wish I could work on bigger films that get more exposure. When you get on bigger films but playing smaller roles,  I miss being involved in the film making process.  The grass is always greener on the other side. Some films you get along with everybody but some there is a clash with other cast members, as I say every film presents their own challenges.

MG: Tell us about some of your upcoming projects?
GD: I just spent three months in Thailand working on the 1st two parts of a trilogy , “The Mark – Light 777” and “The Mark – Bangkok Rising” with Craig Scheffer and Eric Roberts…yes Eric again. The 3rd part will be shot in Europe this summer. Next up will be the lead in a MMA project called “Forced to Fight”. I am also waiting to hear on a bigger project that goes this summer but its not locked so I don’t wanna say too much right now. I am training hard and reading scripts ,so as always in this business the future is never easy to plan.

Interview with Robot Chicken’s Matthew Senreich & Zeb Wells

Matthew Senreich & Zeb Wells are the co-creator and writers of “Robot Chicken” (respectively).  Matt created the show with Seth Green back in 2005 and has since been writing for the show.  Zeb joined the show for season three and since then has been writing for the show as well.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Matt & Zeb at the 2011 MegaCon in Orlando, FL and had a chance to chat about the show and get some cool stories from the guys.

Mike Gencarelli: Matt, in the beginning for the series you directed a bunch of episodes, why did you stop?
Matthew Senreich: [laughs] It was a lot of work.  We realized very quickly to write, direct and produce all aspects of the show was self-destructive. We ended up in our third season bringing Chris McKay on board to direct, so that way he could focus on making it look pretty on screen at all possible times.

MG: Zeb, you joined the show beginning in season three, how did you that come to be and what was your biggest challenge coming in?
Zeb Wells: Well it came to be because Matt used to work at Wizard magazine.  They used to have a video making contest there and I won that contest a bunch of times with making superhero parody videos.  So he brought me in to do a test drive on season three…
MS: To see if he was still funny [laughs].
ZW: [laughs] Yeah.  I think the biggest challenge was your first day you come in and have all these questions you used to have about your toys.  “What if G.I. Joe’s did this?” and so on… At the end of the first day you used up all of those and have to keep coming up with ideas every day one after another. It gets hard. After my first five week cycle, I realized these guys were going to go back and start again next week and I have no idea how anyone could do that.  There is always another idea.
MS: [laughs] There is always something.

MG: What is the timeline for an episode of “Robot Chicken” from idea to finished product?
MS: Oh my God, I always like to use “Star Wars” as an example because it is kind of self-contained. It is usually two to three weeks of writing for a half hour episode.  From start to finish it is like fourteen weeks.  You go from writing it…to doing the storyboards and voices at sametime…and then putting together what is called an animatic…from the animatic it is handed over to animation…through animation to post production…and then sound…and visual effects.  It is a wirlwind process.

MG: Is there an episode or skit that stands out as your favorite?
MS: Everyone always asks that question [laughs].  It is like choosing your baby. I mean it depends on the day and what your feeling on what sketch you like.  If someone says a sketch that you remember and your like “Oh yeah, I love that one”.
ZW: I do like Fumbles.  I think it is my favorite.
MS: [speaking to Zeb] Of all time?…All time?
ZW: I don’t know it has a lot of good lines in it [Laughs]. I might be but yeah on a different day it might be another one.
MS: It always shifts for me.

MG: Matt, how do you feel that the show has changed since it started over 5 years ago?
MS: I think it has gotten a lot better.  when we first started it was just us not knowing what we were doing.  As we got into this fifth season, the production value is really higher. The writing is as sharp as ever. For the first season, I don’t think we realized that it was going to go further that one season.  But now we look at it as we are a family that is just goofing around and having fun.

MG: Did you ever think you had an Emmy winning show on your hands?
MS: [laughs] Yeah it is crazy! It is still weird that we won an Emmy, it has been a crazy year!

MG: Do you have any notable rejected ideas that never made it?
MS: I think there is a lot of stuff that we reject. I always say 99% of what is pitched in the room probably falls by the waist side.  It is a brutal writers room.  People hate each other in that writers room [laughs].
ZW: My favorite sketch that didn’t get in is a Zune getting hit by the Allspark…realizing it is a Zune and then shooting itself in its head.  I tried to get in a few times.
MS: [speaking to Zeb] You are pitching that sketch left and right.
ZW: I got to get it in there [laughs].

MG: Zeb, besides Robot Chicken, you also work/have worked on various comic books, how do you find it differs for you?
ZW: Writing comics is such a soliterary experience, which has its pros and cons. You are more in control of what goes in, but you are also able to get hung up on certain things. But when you are in a room with a bunch of dudes, if you get stuck on something you can all just attack it together.

MG: Do you find that the writing for “Robot Chicken- Star Wars” differs from the TV series?
MS: It is a little more focused which I like better.  You can tell a little more of story and get more into character development. I always find that more interesting to do rather than just being more sketch based. As far as process goes it is just working with the people you like and that is what I love.
ZW: Everytime a “Star Wars” starts I think it is going to be easier. Then I think by the end of the “Star Wars” the regular “Robot Chicken” will be easier”.  It is all hard. [laughs]

MG: When can we expect the next installment of “Robot Chicken- Star Wars”?
MS: We are working on the DVD for “Star Wars: Epsiode III” right now and then after that still to be determined.

MG: What can you tell us about the new episodes set to air in October?
MS: Yes, it is the last ten episodes from season five.  We are going to go have episode 100, so it is going to be epic. So the chicken will be loose [laughs].

Interview with GWAR’s Don Drakulich

If you don’t recognize the name Don Drakulich, you might know him better as Sleazy P. Martini, the leisure suit wearing manager of GWAR. Not only is Don one of the founding members of the horror themed rock group, but Don also is a special effects artist and owns his own special effects production company, Hyper Real Productions. recently had the chance to speak with Don about his career in the effects business as well as his time with GWAR.

Click here to purchase GWAR’s music

Adam Lawton: What made you want to get involved in the FX business?
Don Drakulich: I had always been playing around with stuff.  My dad had bought me a super 8 camera when I was in high school.  Like a lot of kids from the 70’s, I had been wowed by “Star Wars”.  So in my mind I wanted to do the same sort of thing. My friends and I would take models and black backgrounds with pin holes for stars in them and try and duplicate the things from “Star Wars.” After high school, I went to college to originally double major in film and illustration.  But when I got there I found illustration wasn’t what I had expected, and there was no actual proper film degree. They had film classes, but not an actual program. I ended up following through with painting and print making and gave up the idea of being Frank Frizetta. It wasn’t until after my first year out of school that I started hanging out at the dairy which was a spot in Richmond, Virginia where everyone would come together and hang out. That’s when I got back into the FX sort of stuff. It was kind of a return for me to my early interests and from there it was pretty much all self-taught.

AL: Was this around the same time that you met up with Dave Brockie?
DD: Yeah it was about 1985/86 that I started hanging around those guys, and we started doing FX stuff. We didn’t have money at the time to do effects the way they are normally done, so we figured out a bunch of low budget ways to do things. We were using things like cloth re-enforced with glue, which was how we made some of the early costumes. Within about a year we were dabbling in latex, but we were along ways a way from being Rick Baker.

AL: How did you guys come up with what GWAR was going to be?
DD: Initially the GWAR costumes were going to be for a low budget movie that Hunter Jackson wanted to make called “Scum Dogs of the Universe.” Hunter approached Dave about using some of his band Death Piggy’s music in the movie, and Dave saw the costumes and said why don’t you let us open a show or perform in the costumes.  Hunter did and the whole thing snowballed from there. The idea started to run away from Hunter at that time, and it began to be more about the band than the movie.

AL: Did the movie ever get made?
DD: No, not even close. There were aspects of the movie that were eventually shot for shorts but the epic which he had planned which was set to take place on a space ship that gets attacked by space pirates never got off the ground. The closest thing to it would probably be the video for “Cardinal Sin” as it kind of has some of the elements that were going to be for the film. The basic idea was “Road Warrior” in space. That’s kind of how the whole GWAR thing started out. We were heavily inspired by “Road Warriors.”

AL: In GWAR’s first movie “Phallus in Wonderland” aside from your role as Sleazy P. Martini, did you have a hand in any of the production?
DD: I did some of the editing, as well as being the special FX coordinator for the movie. I went out and basically put together the crew that was actually going to do the film. I linked up with Blaire Dobson after meeting him at a show in Canada.  We decided to use his production crew. Unfortunately Blaire was let go about mid way through the process, however some of his crew stayed on to finish.  I guess you could say I was Executive Producer even though I didn’t pull the money strings. I did put together the crew that made that film happen.

AL: Your character, Sleazy P. Martini, made his first appearance as this time correct?
DD: No, it actually started right at the very beginning. Originally, we had two Martini type characters/managers, and after a show or two, we decided to try myself out as the character. I then took the characters and evolved them both into one greasy 70’s Elvis type leisure suit wearing pimp.

AL: You toured with the band in 2008 which was your first time since 1996 correct?
DD: Yep I hadn’t done much touring since 1996. I did a three week stint in 2000 w/ the Misfits which was loads of fun, but I have been staying away from touring since then.

AL: Any particular reason?
DD: As an artist you find it very frustrating. You need to create new things and doing new stuff, and when you are on the road, you are at a kind of always doing the same thing night after night. I had also gotten married at the time.  But personally it was dislike of being on the road. People are always asking me why I walked away.

AL: Recently the Sleazy character did make an appearance on Jimmy Fallon recently, correct?
DD: Yeah that was me. I got to be a face in the crowd. That was interesting.  They always make jokes about how cheap the late night sets are, and not until you get there do you realize they really are cheap (laughs). The production is very small as well as the audience. This was, I think, the first time GWAR had ever performed properly on National TV.

AL: Can you tell us what you have going on lately?
DD: Right now my main efforts are going towards putting together a documentary about the very early years of GWAR. It’s being produced by me and Bob Gorman. Right now I am going through the reams of footage I have. I am kind of looking at it as finding a needle in a hay stack, but the entire haystack is full of needles.  So it’s hard to pick a spot to start. There is about 24-25 hours of interview footage alone, as well as a lot of old performance footage and pictures. I want to show the inception of GWAR when the band first started out at the Richmond Dairy. But overall, what I really would love to do is an FX based project, so put the word out.

Go to to check out photos of some of Don’s work and to purchase limited edition GWAR sculptures and DVD’s

Click here to purchase GWAR’s music

Sleazy P. Martini

Interview with Scott Bakula

Scott Bakula is one of the stars of TNT’s hit show “Men of a Certain Age” which returns this Fall for its second season. Scott is no stranger to television after starring in classic hit television series, “Quantum Leap”, “Star Trek: Enterprise” and “Chuck”. In “Men of a Certain Age”, Scott really shines in his role of Terry. Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Scott about his work on the show and whats to come in season two.

Click here to purchase “Men of a Certain Age” Season One on DVD and Scott’s other films

Mike Gencarelli: What drew you to star in “Men of a Certain Age?”
Scott Bakula: They sent me a script and told me it was for the new Ray Romano TV show. I was interested, as I’m sure everyone was, to say what Ray was going to do after “Everybody Loves Raymond.” I was really just taken by these three guys and their relationship. I thought it was unusual television…I thought it was unique television. And risky because…in the world we live in today is anybody going to tune in to watch three old guys talking about “stuff?” And happily it’s worked out. I think at the time that I came in to audition Andre’ (Braugher) was pretty close to being a done deal. I didn’t know he or Ray so I said, “let’s go see if I can get along with these guys!” We hit it off and then I went back a couple of days later and did some scenes on video, which they sent over to the network. Ray jumped in and we talked about the material. And I got the part.

MG: What has been the best part, for you, in working on this show?
SB: When the three of us are doing something together…that’s when I think the show works great. Ray came from stand up and has a unique sense of humor. He has a lot of character. And a lot of his life’s views are in the middle of this piece…in all three characters. We have a really good time working together. It’s very easy…very natural. We laugh a lot and have a really good time. That’s very unusual I think.

MG: That’s what I like about the show. The three of you guys…it’s so natural. It’s like you’re not even acting.
SB: I agree with you. And that was the hope…that’s why we all went through the audition process. I mean, you have three guys who once had their own t.v. shows. A few t.v. shows. And to put the three of us together could have been a disaster. One guy might want more of this or more of that or more attention. But we just don’t have any of that. It’s very easy and simple. And I think that shows on screen. And that’s lucky.

MG: We recently interviewed Melinda McGraw, who co-stars with you. How is it to work with her?
SB: We’ve had a really great time. You know it’s funny…we worked together 20 years ago on “Quantum Leap.” Her first t.v. show was “Quantum Leap.” And I remembered her well from that show…it was a very distinctive episode. It’s funny, because I hadn’t seen her in 20 years and the way her character is introduced is that she and I had done a commercial 20 years ago. And that commercial is now on YouTube all of a sudden…it’s done in a retro, really bad way. It’s one of those things where you know everybody is laughing at it and making fun of it. And so we reconnect that way. And in real life I hadn’t seen her in 20 years either, so it’s been a really comfortable relationship. She’s a great actress. And she fits in with the style of the show really well.

MG: What can we expect from your character, Terry, in season two?
SB: Well the big thing is that he’s working at the car dealership…and that’s a big challenge for him. Just having a regular job is a huge challenge for him. He’s trying to do a good job for his friend. He’s trying to put his life together. He does a lot of growing up this year on the show. He does a lot of growing up this year on the show. He gets into a rivalry with another employee of the dealership and it’s typical guy stuff. He gets competitive and he gets ticked off and they kind of have this rivalry. But Terry also finds out that he can be successful at something and that is a big deal to him. And now this relationship with Melinda comes along and he’s experimenting in being in a committed relationship. Of course, in the tradition of our show, there are a lot of seriously bad bumps along the way, which I don’t want to give away. It’s a rocky ride for Terry. Which is what you’d expect from a guy like him.

MG: The show is very funny, but also has a very dramatic tone. How is it to play both sides?
SB: I love it. I think any artistic endeavor…if it’s just one thing that’s not life. Life is a lot of things happening at once. Some days it’s tough and other days it’s goofy. It’s moment to moment. The things that pull you down…you just never know. And that’s what I think life is. And I think the show reflects all aspects of it. And I think that’s why people are relating to it. We’re not trying to be, “oh here comes the big drama scene,” or here comes…we’re really bouncing all over the place. With three guys in different places in their lives it also gives us great variety.

Click here to purchase “Men of a Certain Age” Season One on DVD and Scott’s other films