Film Review: “Minions: the Rise of Gru”


  • Staring the voices of:  Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Julie Andrews
  • Directed by:  Kyle Balda, Brad, Ableson and Jonathan del Val
  • Rated:  PG
  • Running time:  1 hr 27 mns
  • Universal


Ah, the Minions.  Since their debut in “Despicable Me,” they have brought joy to moviegoers all over the world.  They have also multiplied in my inflatable Christmas yard display each year.  But where did they come from?  And how did Gru become such a bad guy – albeit one with a big heart?


If you’ve wanted to be an evil genius since you were a boy, who do you admire?  In the case of Gru (Carell), it’s a highly publicized group of villains so popular they have their own toy line.  Of course you have to be evil…correction…EVIL, to even get an invitation to join and Gru, accompanied by Minions Bob, Stuart, Kevin and Otto, will stop at nothing to be recognized.   The prank I personally enjoyed most was setting off a stink bomb during a sold out showing of “Jaws,” causing the theatre to empty and leaving our quintet their choice of seats and refreshments.  When a vacancy opens up on the Villain Squad, Gru feels he’s a shoe-in to fill the seat.  But not all evil is judged the same.

A fun treat for the whole family, “Minions: the Rise of Gru” is another in a string of successful and well made animated films starring these Twinkie-looking oddities and their hook-nosed leader.  It’s great to hear Carell back as Gru, and the film lets us in on how he met some of his closest associates, including Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand).The main Minions are a joy to watch…like a yellow version of the Three Stooges.  If the film has one drawback, it may be that it’s too busy, an unusual feeling from a film that’s under 90 minutes long.


Still, the animation is top notch and reason enough to see this film.

Behind the Screen: Why Does the “Rise of Skywalker” Trailer Make Me Cry?

I have to admit here that I wasn’t as anxious to see “Star Wars” as many of my friends were.  We were 16 when the film came out and I was more than a year into my love affair with “Jaws.”  Like my friends, I wrote away for, and received from 20th Century Fox, a very nice, full color campaign book.  Four decades later, I still have it.  I liked the film the first time I saw it but, as it got closer to edging out “Jaws” as the most successful film of all time, I began to dislike it.  I wanted to see it again but I didn’t want my $2,50 to be the money that put “Star Wars” on top!   Of course, like the rest of the world, I ended up seeing the film several times that summer.  Like “Jaws” it is an important part of my youth.  Something I could, and still can, share with my friends.  So when they first released the trailer for the upcoming ninth episode – “The Rise of Skywalker” – I watched the live stream so I could be among the first to see it.  And a funny thing happened.  When it was over, I noticed that I was crying.  Not sniffling but CRYING!  Maybe there was something in the air.  So I watched it again.  And I cried again.  I just watched it 10 minutes ago – four months after having first seen it – and guess what?  The tears began to flow.  Was there something wrong with me?  Had I hit some point in my advanced age where I couldn’t control my emotions.  Was this payback for bringing Richard Dreyfuss to tears when I moderated his Q & A?  

I’ve gone back and tried to analyze this.  I think what sets me off are the words “THE SAGA COMES TO AN END.”  That and the shot of Lando in the Falcon, which proceeds those words, trigger so many great memories for me.  Like the time we drove to Orlando to see “The Empire Strikes Back” in 70 mm.  We were so stoked when we left the theatre that we circled the shopping center and informed all of those waiting in line over the car’s CB/PA system that  (SPOILER ALERT) “Darth Vader is Luke’s father!”  OK, yes, it was a dick move.  But we were kids.  Sue us.  

I have a lot of great “Star Wars” memories.  Chief among them is being asked to moderate a Q & A a few years ago with a panel that included Gary Kurtz, Alan Dean Foster and Charles Lippincott.  I was honored to be asked to host this event and I brought the campaign book I had received in 1977 with me to get autographed.  When I opened it I was surprised to find a letter inside, telling me about how exciting “Star Wars” was going to be.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that the letter had been signed by Mr. Lippincott.  He basically introduced the film to me and now, 40 years later, I’m helping him and the others introduce it to a new generation.  This memory makes me smile.  So why the waterworks?  

I think it’s the shots of Carrie Fisher that  have an effect on me.  Our Princess was taken from us way too soon.  “No one’s ever really gone,” Mark Hamill tells us in the trailer.  But Carrie Fisher is and that will continue to make me sad.  I commented on a friend’s Facebook post about this the other day and it finally hit me.  This film will officially put an end to my childhood.  I still, and always will, have the memories I’ve shared with friends while we sat in the dark and took on the Empire.  Sadly, many of those friends are no longer with us.  But when I leave the theatre after seeing “The Rise of Skywalker” I’m going to imagine that those friends, like Obi-Wan, Yoda, Qui Gon and Annakin, will be standing in the lobby and smiling as our 42 year journey comes to an end.

Life Of Agony Announce “Rise of the Underground Tour 2018”

LIFE OF AGONY Announce “Rise of the Underground Tour 2018”

New York’s LIFE OF AGONY has announced dates for a headlining trek called “Rise of the Underground Tour 2018” spanning the USA and Europe. The shows will begin with two sold-out, hometown warm-up gigs April 18th & 19th at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, and conclude November 2nd as headliners of The Sound of Revolution Festival in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Full list of dates are below.

“With 2018 marking the 25th anniversary of our debut album, we are just so incredibly grateful to our fans for sticking with us all these years and wanted to do something really special for them. We’re breaking out some old fan favorites that we’ve never played before live and hitting cities we haven’t been to in over a decade,” says bassist Alan Robert. “You really can’t beat the crazy energy of a packed, sweaty, tiny club, like we used to play back in the day, so we decided to include some very intimate rooms on this tour, along with the bigger venues, to feel that deep emotional connection again with our die-hard fans. It’s gonna be insane.”

Joining Rise of the Underground Tour 2018 as main support during the September US dates will be Silvertomb, the new band featuring Johnny Kelly and Kenny Hickey from Type O Negative. More support acts to be announced soon.

LIFE OF AGONY emerged from the New York music scene in the early ’90s with one of the most distinctive sounds in its genre. Best known for its 1993 metal/crossover debut River Runs Red, the band instantly built a cult following. For over two decades, the group toured relentlessly all over the world, sharing stages with the biggest names in rock, including Metallica, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Foo Fighters, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. After the much-praised Ugly (1995), LIFE OF AGONY opted for a highly energetic alternative rock approach on Soul Searching Sun (1997) and Broken Valley (2005) – the latter produced by Greg Fidelman (Slipknot, Metallica). Last year, the group released their 5th studio album A Place Where There’s No More Pain (2017) to critical acclaim, debuting at #24 on Billboard’s Hard Rock Album Chart. LIFE OF AGONY has sold over one million albums to date.

4/18: Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus (SOLD OUT)
4/19: Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus (SOLD OUT)
4/21: Worcester, MA @ New England Metal & Hardcore Fest, Palladium
5/16: Los Angeles, CA @ Whisky A Go-Go
5/18: Anaheim, CA @ Parish at House of Blues
5/19: Las Vegas, NV @ Beauty Bar
5/20: Phoenix, CA @ Club Red
5/22: San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
7/13: Mansfield, OH @ INKcarceration Festival
9/14: Baltimore, MD @Soundstage
9/15: Philadelphia, PA @ Theater of the Living Arts
9/16: Teaneck, NJ @ Debonair Music Hall
9/19: Ft. Wayne, IN @ Piere’s
9/21: Joliet, IL @ The Forge
9/22: Flint, MI @ Machine Shop
9/23: Pittsburgh, PA @ The Rex
9/25: Buffalo, NY @ Ironworks
9/29: New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom

6/15: Nickelsdorf, Austria @ Nova Rock Festival
6/16: Gräfenhainichen, Germany @ With Full Force Festival
6/17: Kiel, Germany @ Kieler Woche Festival
10/12: Papenburg, Germany @ Kesselschmiede
10/13: Dusseldorf, Germany @ Zakk
10/14: Leeuwarden, Netherlands @ Nueshoorn
10/16: Aschaffenburg, Germany @ Colos-saal
10/18: Mallorca, Spain @ Full Metal Holiday Festival
10/21: Salzburg, Austria @ Rockhouse
10/23: Budapest, Hungary @ A38
10/24: Zagreb, Croatia @ Culture Factory
10/26: Ljubljana, Slovenia @ Kino Siska
10/27: Pinarella Di Cervia, Italy @ Rock Planet
10/28: Munich, Germany @ Technikum
10/30: Sint-Niklaas, Belgium @ De Casino
10/31: Leige, Belgium @ Reflektor
11/02: Eindhoven, Netherlands @ The Sound of Revolution Festival

For More Info Visit:

Deftones and Rise Against announce Co-Headline Summer Tour

North American Run Kicks Off June 9 In Chicago
Tickets Go On Sale To General Public This Friday, February 10

LOS ANGELES (Feb. 6, 2017) – Deftones will join forces with Rise Against this summer for an extensive co-headline tour. Produced by Live Nation, the North American run will kick off on June 9 in Chicago, IL at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island. It will include shows at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY (June 13), Starplex Pavilion in Dallas, TX (June 27) and Concord Pavilion in Concord, CA (July 6). See below for itinerary.

“Every once in awhile you get to share the stage with a band so powerful they make you work harder. After conspiring for years, we’re excited to finally share the road with such an epic band. We can’t wait to put Deftones and Rise Against fans under the same roof in 2017,” said Rise Against.

Tickets will go on sale to the general public this Friday, February 10, at 10 AM local time. In addition to regular Deftones/Rise Against single ticket options, fans in select cities will have access to a special 3- or 4-show TICKET TO ROCK package, which will include a lawn ticket to multiple rock shows at select venues this summer. For full package listings and additional information, visit

Deftones have released eight studio albums to date – including 2016’s Gore – and have sold over 10 million albums worldwide. “Hard rock thrives on conflict and chaos, and no band has found more beauty and soaring aggression within those ingredients than Deftones,” said the Los Angeles Times. The multi-Platinum, GRAMMY®-winning alternative rock band from Sacramento, CA is vocalist/guitarist Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter, keyboardist/samplist Frank Delgado, drummer Abe Cunningham, and bassist Sergio Vega.

             Photo Credit: Frank Maddocks

Chicago-based band Rise Against’s most recent album is The Black Market, which hit No. 1 on the Alternative, Top Rock and Hard Rock albums charts. Alternative Press awarded The Black Market four stars, noting, Whatever meaning you take from them [the songs]…one thing remains solid—the sheer heart with which they were forged and the very visceral emotion they contain” and Kerrang praised the album as “a magnificent wake-up call.” Rise Against is Tim McIlrath (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Zach Blair (lead guitar), Joe Principe (bass) and Brandon Barnes (drums).

              Photo Credit: Patrick Münnich

Deftones and Rise Against North American Co-Headline Tour

6/9 – Chicago, IL @ Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island

6/10 – Sterling Heights, MI @ Michigan Lottery Theater at Freedom Hill

6/11 – Toronto, ON @ Budweiser Stage

6/13 – Wantagh, NY @ Nikon at Jones Beach Theater

6/16 – Boston, MA @ Blue Hills Bank Pavilion

6/17 – Philadelphia, PA @ Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing

6/18 – Raleigh, NC @ Red Hat Amphitheater

6/20 – Charlotte, NC @ Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre

6/22 – Tampa, FL @ MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre

6/23 – Miami, FL @ Bayfront Park Amphitheater

6/24 – Jacksonville, FL @ Daily’s Place Amphitheater

6/26 – The Woodlands, TX @ The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion

6/27 – Dallas, TX @ Starplex Pavilion

6/28 – Austin, TX @ Austin360 Amphitheater

6/30 – Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center

7/1 – Salt Lake City, UT @ USANA Amphitheater

7/3 – Seattle, WA @ White River Amphitheatre

7/6 – Concord, CA @ Concord Pavilion

7/7 – Chula Vista, CA @ Sleep Train Amphitheatre

7/8 – Las Vegas, NV @ Downtown Las Vegas Events Center

7/9 – Phoenix, AZ @ Ak-Chin Pavilion

Book Review “The Art of the Films: Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes”

Author: Matt Hurwitz
Hardcover: 173 pages
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: July 8, 2014

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

When “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was released in 2011, I was very upset when it didn’t have an art of companion book. All the work, all the visual effects that went into that film to make it amazing as it was needed to be shared with the world. Well with the release of “Dawn of Planet of the Apes”, we are now getting an art of book for both of them. The book is a literally amazing from the hard cover to the last page including tons of great production photography and concept art for both films. I absolutely love both of these films and if you do as well, this is a must own.

So it is kind of obvious what the focus of this book would be and that is the creation of the apes. I recently went back and re-watched “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” after seeing Dawn of Planet of the Apes” and if you look at the apes in the first film compared to the second, there has been such an improvement. I thought they looked amazing in “Rise” but “Dawn” really delivered 10x the visual effects. So this book includes some fantastic concept art, production stills, VFX renders and finished frames from these movies showcasing those aspects. You also have to remember that these apes aren’t just CGI effects they included state of the art technology mixed with motion capture performances from some very talented actors.

Aside from the apes creation, there are also tons of great locations that was focused on. From “Rise”, there is the lab, Will’s home, primate shelter and, of course, the Bridge. In “Dawn”, there was a bit more since it takes place 10 years after “Rise” and shows pretty much the wipe out of the human race a very degraded world. I really enjoyed this section quite a bit for sure. Between the apes lair and the human’s hold up in a run down San Francisco, it just shows how much work went into this film. Kudos again to Titan Books for releasing yet another gem and my wife is cursing you for us needing a gigantic coffee table since each book is better than the next.

Blu-ray Review “300: Rise of an Empire”

Actors: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Hans Matheson, Rodrigo Santoro
Directors: Noam Murro
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Run Time: 102 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 of 5 stars

When I heard about the plans for a sequel to “300”, I have to admit, I did roll my eyes a little. Honestly though, “300: Rise of the Empire” is a actually a really solid follow up to “300” and in same way even a better film than the first film. It is adapted from a screenplay by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad, and based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel “Xerxes”. It has a great cast lead by the gorgeous Eva Green (“Dark Shadows”) along with Lena Headey (“Game of Thrones”) and Rodrigo Santoro (“Love Actually”) who return to reprise their roles. After watching this I was left just saying “Wow, that was crazy”. Highly recommend.

Official Premise: “300: Rise of an Empire” takes the action to a fresh battlefield — the sea — as Greek general Themistokles (Stapleton) attempts to unite all of Greece by leading the charge that will change the course of the war. Themistokles must face the massive invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes (Santoro) and Artemisia (Green), vengeful commander of the Persian navy.

Warner Bros is releasing the film as a combo pack with a Blu-ray, DVD and an Ultraviolet Digital Copy. This film was made to be seen in 3D and I am sure it is amazing in 3D but the film also worked very well in 2D. The 1080p transfer is easily one of the best that I have seen all year. It is flawless and really pops off the screen and that is not in 3D. I just love the style and this is just visually stunning. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track is literally insane and such a powerhouse! It had my walls shaking and my wife screaming to lower it, so that means it was very effective!

In terms of special features, there are some decent extras here. The main powerhouse here is “The 300 Effect”, which consists of four featurettes focusing on the film including “Brutal Artistry”, “A New Breed of Hero”, “Taking the Battle to the Sea”, which focus on taking the fighting to the sea and 3 Days in Hell” looks into the how the battle scenes were created. “Real Leaders & Legends” and “Women Warriors” shows us some of history legends that changed history. “Savage Warships” gives us an inside look into their creation. Lastly “Becoming a Warrior” looks into the challenge that was required to get ready for shooting.

Own “300: Rise of an Empire” on Blu-ray 3D combo pack, Blu-ray combo pack, 2-disc DVD special edition and Digital HD on 6/24

CD Review: Saliva “Rise Up”

“Rise Up”
Rum Bum Records
Produced by: Bobby Huff
Tracks: 12

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Hard Rock heavy hitters Saliva are back with their 9th studio album titled “Rise Up”. The album is being released via Rum Bum Records and features 12 all new tracks produced by Bobby Huff. “Rise Up” marks the true revival of Saliva, presenting the band doing what they do best true, gritty, heavy rock n roll.

When any member of a band leaves in inevitably changes the makeup and camaraderie of the group. However when it’s the groups lead vocalist not only do the previously mentioned factors change but so does the biggest factor. The groups sound. Former Saliva vocalist Josey Scott had a very signature style which was captured on the groups break out hit “Click, Click Boom” laying the foundation for the groups sound up to his departure from the band in 2011. Scott’s replacement Bobby Amaru now in his second release with the band has taken what Scott created and took it to the next level. Though “Rise Up” is not Amaru’s first recording with the group it is certainly his strongest. Songs like the “Rise Up”, “Redneck Freakshow” and “Army” are classic Saliva with an updated feel make this album one you will certainly want to pick up and have on hand for those quickly approaching summer barbecues.

As I said before anytime a founding member leaves a band things are going to change sometimes for worse sometimes for better. In the case of Saliva’s latest offering “Rise Up” it’s certainly for the better as the band sounds stronger than they have in years.

Track Listing:
1.) Rise Up
2.) She Can Sure Hide Crazy
3.) No One But Me
4.) Lost
5.) 1000 Eyes
6.) Redneck Freakshow
7.) Choke
8.) Army
9.) Closer
10.) In It to Win It
11.) The Enemy
12.) I Don’t Want It

Film Review “300: Rise of an Empire”

Starring: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green and Lena Headey
Directed By: Noam Murro
Rated: R
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Warner Brothers Pictures

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Prepare for another trip into the re-imagined green screen history of ancient Greece. Prepare for another thick dose of blood splatter to coat the screen. Prepare for another unnecessarily high body count that probably outweighs the actual population of ancient Athens. Prepare for pure testosterone driven men who’ve never heard of the word shirt. Prepare for…ah hell, you get the picture. It’s time for another heaping plateful of gore in Zack Snyder’s stylized look at war, between the Greek city states and Persian Empire.

If you haven’t seen “300”, then don’t bother seeing this; you’re going to be confused. “300: Rise of an Empire” takes place before, during and after the movie “300”. It wraps itself around its predecessor like a cocoon and heavily relies on the viewer having previous knowledge of it. That’s not to say there isn’t a story here. The movie starts off with the Battle of Marathon, detailing the heroics of Themistocles (Stapleton), as he repels the first invasion by Persia and slays Darius, the father of Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). That segues into Xerxes’ path towards vengeance that will eventually lead to the second invasion of Greece nearly a decade later. He slowly deludes himself into believing he is a God among men. You can thank his right hand woman, Artemisia (Green), for polluting his mind with such a silly notion. Artemisia is Greek by blood, but wills the Persian army to avenge the wrongs made against her. We then see the duo’s carefully laid out land and sea invasions. Since we already the land invasion ends with King Leonidas and 300 Spartans biting the dust, we follow Artemisia as she commands a fleet into two sea battles. Themistocles and Artemisia lead their respective sides into battle, both seemingly invincible when participating in the melee.

I would probably be scolded for this sentiment, but I enjoyed this one more than the first. Where the first one took itself way too seriously and forcibly jammed the idea of freedom into it’s story, this one appears to realize how absurd it’s premise already is and just settles into violent popcorn entertainment. The extreme nationalistic pride is still there, but not persistently regurgitated in conversation. The movie instead propels the war forward as a personal vendetta by Xerxes and Artemisia. With that said, this movie would have crumbled without Eva Green playing a fantastic femme fatale. She owns the role of Artemisia in every way possible, clothing or not. I suspect Green has wanted to be the bad guy in movies for a while because she outshines the 10 foot tall Xerxes and is nothing short of malicious.

Zack Snyder seemed to tag along instead of sit in the director’s chair for this movie. He found Noam Murro to pilot this sequel and I’m not sure why he selected Murro. His only other directorial job was “Smart People”, where he had Dennis Quaid rediscover love and happiness with Sarah Jessica Parker. Maybe I’m wrong in my assumption. Maybe there’s a scene in “Smart People” that hinted at the director’s insatiable appetite to film disembowelment and decapitations of Persian underlings. Regardless, he seems to have filled Zack’s directorial shoes. If you had told me Zack directed this, I would have believed you.

Sure, I could go over the historical inaccuracies that tally higher than the corpse count, but that would be pointless. This movie’s purpose isn’t to be a glimpse into Greek history, but instead just a silly bloodbath. It’s more of the same, but it’s also a re-establishing of the brand Snyder put out way back in 2007. It’s simple minded violence that’s visually exciting and a true thrill to watch play out as it challenges itself to become more ludicrous with it’s psychotic clashes. “Rise of an Empire” manages to do what the Greeks did so famously with their own myths. It takes the history and culture and bloats it to make the heroes appear unbeatable and the enemies hopelessly evil. It then weaves it in an entertaining fashion.

Blu-ray Review “Young Detective Dee: Rise of The Sea Dragon”

Actors: Mark Chao, William Feng, Angelababy, Carina Lau, Lin Gengxin
Directors: Tsui Hark
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Well Go USA
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Run Time: 134 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: N/A

When I see a film from Tsui Hark, I don’t care what it is I just immediately add it to my list. I did that with his 2011 film, “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” and was so glad that I did since it was amazing. “Young Detective Dee: Rise of The Sea Dragon” is a prequel to that film and really amps up the ante. In fact, the prequel improves not only the story but also the visual effects. I felt like huge-budget epic summer film. Epic is the word that comes to my mind. What I also liked most is that this film is well-balanced and is exciting in the beginning, the middle and ridiculously awesome in the third act. Highly recommend to watch this film (but if possible in 3D, see below)

Official Premise: From legendary action director Tsui Hark and the creators of international smash hit “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame” comes the captivating tale of Dee Renjie s beginnings in the Imperial police force. His very first case, investigating reports of a sea monster terrorizing the town, reveals a sinister conspiracy of treachery and betrayal, leading to the highest reaches of the Imperial family.

I am really upset with not being able view this film in its intended 3D format. The film really sets up a lot of its visual effects with the added dimension and I felt like I missing a lot here. This is not the first time that Well-Go has done this either. They released terrible films like “Dino King 3D”, “Sadako 3D” and “Tormented 3D” all with 3D Blu-ray releases, so I have no idea why they have cheaped out on titles like this one, which would have been AMAZING in 3D. Bad move! To top it off there are no special features either. Great movie, terrible Blu-ray. I would try and import this release and get the 7.1 Dolby HD track with 3D Blu-ray.


Related Content

“Rise of the Fellowship” Now on DVD

As JRR Tolkien fans the world over await the upcoming release of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” Phase 4 films has released the highly anticipated love letter to Tolkien, the new comedy “Rise of the Fellowship.”

Starring Justin Moe, Emma Earnest, Alyssa Jacobsen and Cole Matson, the film follows a group of “The Lord of the Rings” fans on an amazing and amusing journey. Similar in tone to the popular “Star Wars” themed “Fan Boys,” the film was written with online gamers and Tolkien fans in mind.

The DVD is now available at and Walmart via Vudu and can also be obtained via iTunes.

Kill Devil Hill’s Mark Zavon talks about new album “Revolution Rise”

Mark Zavon is the guitarist for the hard rock group Kill Devil Hill. The group, which also features former Pantera bassist Rex Brown, Heaven and Hell drummer Vinnie Appice and vocalist Dewey Bragg, has just released their second album titled “Revolution Rise” via Century Media Records. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with mark recently about the creation of the new record and what the band has planned for the coming year.

Adam Lawton: What can you tell us about the new Kill Devil Hill album “Revolution Rise”?
Mark Zavon: The new album is just killer! Jeff Pilson co-produced the album with us. That guy was a huge positive influence on the whole process. He is a great songwriter and had a lot of good input. The album turned out great and we are super proud of it.

AL: What do you feel were the biggest changes made on the record compared to the bands previous release?
MZ: We had a lot more time to spend on this new record. The first record we had to do in about a month. Along with the limited time frame we also had a limited budget so we had to try and get things done as quick as we could. Things are both good and bad that way. This time around we had the time to spend getting things together. We also had a couple breaks in there as well as Rex had his book come out and Jeff plays with Foreigner. Getting everybody’s schedules to line up at times was a little difficult. Even though that part of things was a little bit difficult it gave me time to work more on the songs. We were able to put a little more energy into the writing/recording process this time around. I think it turned out a lot better than the first album.

AL: What type of approach do you guys take when it comes time to start working on a new record being that you all don’t live in the same area?
MZ: Every song is different. Sometimes we work together sometimes we work separate and send ideas back and forth to one another. Some of the songs on this new record were written originally for the first album however we had too many tracks so we held on to them. There was definitely a more collaborative approach to writing on this record as everyone was involved and contributed ideas. It was nice having everyone involved this time around as with the first record a bunch of that stuff was written before Rex even joined the band. There was a lot more of a combined effort this time around and we all demoed stuff in different places and then put it all together. We literally came from every angle when putting this album together.

AL: Prior to the albums released you signed to Century Media. What has that partnership been like thus far?
MZ: The thing that we were really missing on the first record was the promotional aspect of things. We were working with a label from Germany who had no real presence here in the States. That was tough as they didn’t really get behind the release all that much. With Century Media things have been much different. We actually started out by going down to their offices and playing a small acoustic set for everyone there. They are located right in Los Angeles, which is local for me. They came to one of our shows at the Roxy and they have been like family. Century Media is the type of label that likes to get behind their artists and promote them. Combining that with the whole family vibe has been a step in the right direction for us. Something like this is what we have all wanted for a long time.

AL: A lyric video for the song “Why” was released recently, Are there any plans to shoot a full production video for any of the songs of this album?
MZ: I think there will be some more lyric videos to come out for the other songs but we also just shot a video for the song “Leave It All Behind”. That should be coming out soon and is going to be really cool. We shot the video at an old missile silo site north of the San Fernando Valley. It was cool and we all had a good time. We actually worked with the director before on our last video and I think it turned out great.

AL: What other plans does the band have in place for the rest of this year leading into 2014?
MZ: We have plans to take the holiday season off and then start back up towards the end of January. There are some plans in the works for the upcoming NAMM show to do some things with our sponsors. From there the plan is to hit it hard and promote this record through out the coming year. The more we play the happier I am.

Blu-ray Review “Mulan: Rise of a Warrior”

Actors: Zhao Wei, Jaycee Chan, Kun Chen
Directors: Jingle Ma
Rated: TV-MA
Studio: Funimation
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Run Time: 115 minutes

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

I can’t help it (and I am sure I am not the only one), whenever I think about “Mulan”, I can’t help but think about the 1998 Walt Disney animated film. Well before watching “Mulan: Rise of a Warrior”, you must separate that connection because it is two very different film. There is no smart-talking dragons here, sorry Eddie Murphy. The director Jingle Ma, who is known for action films like “Tokyo Raiders” and “Seoul Raiders”, really had a vision for this and for the most part he is successfully in making it work. The film itself seemed a little too long for me but it is packed with great performances and impressive action sequences. So I think it is worth recommending to check out for a renter at least.

Official Premise: When barbarian hordes threaten her homeland, the brave and cunning Mulan disguises herself as a male soldier to swell the ranks in her aging father’s stead. The warrior’s remarkable courage drives her through powerful battle scenes and brutal wartime strategy. Mulan will be no stranger to sacrifice as she rises to become one of her country’s most valuable leaders. She’ll lose dear friends to the enemy’s blade—but can she win the war before her secret is exposed?

I originally though that this was an odd title for Funimation to be releasing since they are primarily known for releases some of my favorite Japanese animes. But I give them credit for rescuing this film, which was shot back in 2009, and gave it a proper Blu-ray release. In fact, they released this as a Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack, which is a real treat. The 1080p transfer works with the epic feel that this film brings especially in the battle scenes. This release also comes stocked with both a Mandarian Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track and also an English dub with same specs. I preferred the original language track for sure over the dub but I still like having the preference.

There is no much in terms of quantity for the special features but there is great content. The “Making of Mulan” runs the length of a feature film just over 70 minutes. I enjoyed this quite a bit, there is a lot of great footage included in here. You really get a feel for the depth of the production within this feature. The other extra is a collection of interviews with the cast and crew, which runs about 15 minutes, also worth checking out for sure. Both extras are presented in Mandarin with English subtitles. So like I said no a lot of extras but they pack a solid punch. Great job overall, Funimation! Hope to see more live-action entries in your upcoming library as well, as your normal kick-ass animes.


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Brandon Auman talks about writing “Iron Man: Rise of Technovore”

Brandon Auman is the writer of great TV shows like “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” and “Iron Man: Armored Adventures”. He also has done features like “Dead Space: Aftermath” and most recently “Iron Man: Rise of Technovore”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Brandon about “Iron Man: Rise of Technovore” and what we can expect next.

Mike Gencarelli: Since “Iron Man: Rise of Technovore” is animated, is the scale ever a concern when you are in the writing process?
Brandon Auman: Not really, the beauty of writing 2D is that you’re not as constrained as you are in live-action or CG animation. I really love 2D animation and I’m so glad that Japan is keeping it alive, they feel like the last bastion of hope on this front. TV Studios really want to move completely into CG and as it gets cheaper, they will. I fear 2D is a thing of the past. My favorite sections of the film are in 2D and it looks beautiful. Some may complain there is a lack of animation, but that’s very anime. Long pauses on beautiful drawings. If the paintings are cool, who cares?

MG: I loved that you incorporated The Punisher into the story; tell us about that decision?
BA: Everyone at Marvel loves the Punisher. I pushed for him early on, thinking the idea would get shot down, but everyone loved it. I was really excited; finally I get to write some Punisher action! He rarely makes appearances in TV animation, but when he does, he always comes off… well, not Punishing. More like the “Kinda” Punisher. Who can’t kill bad guys, but maybe shoot a billboard down on top of them.

MG: What do you enjoy most about working with superheroes and with the animation genre?
BA: I love everything about it. It’s just so much fun, it’s a total dream job. I haven’t really left the genre either, because now I’m story editing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon. They’re sorta superheroes. Well they’re ninjas, and the stories are smaller… but it’s close.

MG: What other new projects do you have in the works for Marvel animation?
BA: I have a few things happening there. I wrote a bunch of episodes on “Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” that I’m excited about. I get to work pretty closely with Henry Gilroy, Todd Casey and Jeph Loeb, three awesome creative guys at Marvel. I was always a big fan of Jeph’s work, so it’s really exciting, and I’ve worked with Henry many times in the past, he’s terrific.

Megan Thomas Bradner talks about producing “Iron Man: Rise of Technovore”

Megan Thomas Bradner is the director of development and production at Marvel Animation. She has worked on TV shows like “Iron Man: Armored Adventures”, the “Marvel Anime” series and also producing the new feature film “Iron Man: Rise of Technovore”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Megan about the film and also the Marvel Universe.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your role on the film “Iron Man: Rise of Technovore”?
Megan Thomas Bradner: I am the director of development and production at Marvel Animation. I have been with the Marvel Anime almost since the beginning. I came on after it was premiered at Comic-Con and I have worked on all of the TV series since then.

MG: Having produced “Iron Man: Armored Adventures” and the “Marvel Anime” TV series; how did this feature film differ?
MTB: I appreciate that we have a little more time with the feature than we did with the TV series shows. With the TV series, we were under the gun.  When we worked on the animes they were all around the same time as each other. “Iron Man” was done around the same time as “Wolverine” and X-Men” was done around the same
time as “Blade”. With the feature, we had time to sit down and talk about the story and which characters we wanted to use.

MG: Do you think we could expect more feature films based on the Marvel Animes?
MTB: We love the Marvel Universe. I am a big fan myself. I would love to return to the anime series. We are currently seeing what is going to happen with that. But we also would love to do another movie. We had such a great experience on “Technovore”, so I would love to do it again!

MG: I think we need more Norman Reedus as “The Punisher”?
MTB: He was great. We are all big “The Walking Dead” fans and we thought that we would never be able to get him. But luckily he is a fan himself, so that was a pretty cool opportunity. I was able to watch in the recording booth and get to see him turn into The Punisher right before our eyes. So that was super cool.

MG: What is your favorite aspect about working with the “Iron Man” franchise?
MTB: The aspect that is so attractive about Iron Man is that he is that human character that you can identity with. He is not perfect. He is this guy, who had to built this suit around him in order to protect him since he has this damaged heart. He recognized that he has done something wrong (in the beginning) and tries to change. I think we can all relate to that.

MG: In the world Marvel universe, who is your all-time favorite character?
MTB: I would have to go with Jean Grey from X-Men. In this film “Technovore”, I am a big Pepper Potts fan. I would love one day to get her in the armor…maybe in the future.

Blu-ray Review "Iron Man: Rise of Technovore"

Starring: Norman Reedus, Matthew Mercer, Clare Grant
Directed by Hiroshi Hamasaki
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: April 16, 2013
Run Time: 88 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

With “Iron Man 3” a mere weeks away, who isn’t excited for anything “Iron Man” related.  This new animated film is arriving just in time to cash in on that demand. I was unaware but the film origins from Japan and is directed by Hiroshi Hamasaki, the genius behind great films like “Paranoid Agent” and “Highlander: The Search for Vengeance”.  The story comes from Brandon Auman, who knows the Marvel universe quite well with his experience on “The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” and “Iron Man: Armored Adventures”.  The film is sure to leave hardcore fans very satisfied for sure.  It is action packed and very entertaining.

It also doesn’t hurt that it featuring tons of great Marvel superheroes besides Iron Man himself, including War Machine, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and (my favorite) The Punisher. Speaking the characters, they are voiced by great talent including Matthew Mercer (“Resident Evil Damnation” & “Thundercats”) as Iron Man and Norman Reedus (TV’s “The Walking Dead”) as The Punisher. Reedus easily steals the show, I just would have loved to seen him more in the film.  Marvel/Sony, do I smell an solo “The Punisher” animated film with Reedus in the cards? You better! There are a lot of “Walking Dead” fans out there!  I hope that this is also only the beginning of a new chapter in the popular “Iron Man” franchise. I would love to see additional animated projects for sure.

Official Premise: Billionaire Tony Stark, in his Iron Man armor, prevents an attack from a mysterious new foe, but innocent bystanders are killed, including his best friend War Machine, Lt. Colonel James Rhodes. Detained for questioning by S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Man escapes, determined to find the mastermind behind the attack. Pursued by Black Widow and Hawkeye, Iron Man enlists the help of the ruthless vigilante The Punisher. But can the Armored Avenger handle what he finds when he catches the person responsible and is forced to face his deadliest weapon, a biotechnology called Technovore that could wipe out all life on the planet?

Marvel Entertainment and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment delivered a very impressive Blu-ray release.  The film comes with the Blu-ray and also an Ultraviolet streaming digital copy, but where is the DVD disc?  The 1080p transfer is a thing of beautiful with the crisp animation and very sharp colors.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track was shaking my walls when I cranked it up, especially during the action scenes. The special features are a bit of a let down to this fun film.  There is an interactive art gallery, exclusive to the Blu-ray.  Besides that there are only two behind-the-scenes featurettes: “Tale of Technovore”, which looks into the production of the anime; and “S.H.I.E.L.D.: Protecting the Marvel Universe” takes into its the superhero organization in the comics and adapted in the film.


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