Blu-ray Review “True Story”

Actors: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Felicity Jones, Ethan Suplee
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
DVD Release Date: August 4, 2015
Run Time: 99 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

Honestly, have heard much about the film “True Story” but what a cast it boasts with James Franco, Jonah Hill and Felicity Jones. There is some major talent in here. I am shocked this film didn’t get more play time with the cast alone. Props to both Franco and Hill for taking the drama route. They definitely nail it. Worth checking out for performances alone.

Official Premise: After journalist Michael Finkel (Hill) is fired from The New York Times for embellishing a story, he learns that accused murderer Christian Longo (Franco) has been claiming to be him. Hoping this story will save his career, Finkel begins interviewing Longo in prison. But soon, the men find themselves in an eerie game of cat and mouse.

The special features included on this disc are decent, including over 15 minutes of deleted scenes with optional commentary by Rupert Goold. There are four production featurettes looking behind-the-scenes and into the true story of the film. There is an audio commentary with director Rupert Goold, discussing the film and his first time directing. Lastly there is a gallery and trailer included.

Film Review “True Story”

Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill and Felicity Jones
Directed by: Rupert Goold
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour 40 mins
Fox Searchlight

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

In a remote village, two young men are talking to a journalist, explaining to him the horrible conditions they endure at work. The reporter introduces himself as “Mike Finkle – New York Times. Meanwhile, in Mexico, a woman tourist strikes up a conversation with a man she meets at a museum. Surprisingly, he also introduces himself as “Mike Finkle – New York Times.” Whaaaaaaaaaat?

A film with performances much better than its material, “True Story” tells the, presumably, true story of Christian Longo (Franco), a seemingly nice man who may or may not have murdered his family and his relationship with Mike Finkle (Hill) who is, you guessed it, a reporter for the New York Times. Their meeting comes when both are down on their luck. Finkle has been dismissed by the paper for, at the advice of his editor, jazzing up a recent story. Finkle visits Longo in prison to see why he impersonated him, with Longo telling him that he is a longtime admirer of his work. Longo agrees to chat with Finkle about his case, with the reporter figuring that “everybody deserves to have their story told.” Longo agrees to give Finkle an exclusive while Finkle agrees to help Longo write. However, as with most deals made with the devil, things don’t always go as planned.

As stated above, Franco and Hill do well, even though the story does neither of them any favors. I found it incredulous that a reporter with the reputation pointed out in the film as Finkle would lose his job over mis-identifying one of his subjects in his story. It wasn’t like he was Jayson Blair, a real NY Times reporter who plagiarized and fabricated dozens of stories (also made into a much better film called “Shattered Glass”). The more Finkle investigates the more you know Longo’s stories don’t make sense yet Finkle is so set on selling the story as a book that he just disregards any journalistic instinct he may have. The supporting cast is also strong, with Jones scoring as Finkle’s fiancée’.

Author Jason Offutt talks about his latest book “A Funeral Story”

Depending on who you ask, Jason Offutt is one of the leading journalists on things that go bump in the night, or he’s the helpful professor for hundreds of future journalism students at Northwest Missouri State University. Both can agree though, he’s a damn good writer. Avid readers of Jason’s work might be surprised by his next release, “A Funeral Story”. Instead of providing a good non-fiction scare, and a need to leave a nightlight on, Jason has crafted a fiction book that will have people snickering and laughing as they turn the page. Jason Offutt took time during a busy finals week at Northwest to talk with Media Mikes about his first novel.

Jeremy Werner: Alright Jason, tell us about “A Funeral Story”
Jason Offutt: “A Funeral Story” is a story about a 30-year-old man that still lives at home, plays dungeon and dragons with his old high school buddies every Friday and nobody knows that he likes to pick up and have sex with strange women at funerals.

JW: (laughs) Where does an idea like that come from?
JO: I have no idea, actually, where it came from. I was sitting at Kansas City International Airport waiting for a flight to Houston and it just popped into my head. I carry a notebook everywhere and I probably wrote three chapters as I was waiting on a plane.

JW: So this isn’t based on anyone?
JO: No. Nobody at all.

JW: Do you see any of yourself in this character?
JO: No. I never picked up any strange people at funerals…I think lots of writers do this, they try to put people in ridiculous situations and see how they react. And somebody trying to pick up sex at a funeral is probably the most extreme I could think of. That’s probably where it came from.

JW: I’ve read the book and it can be pretty filthy. Was there any part of you that was worried about publishing something like this?
JO: Well…a little bit because what I’ve written before is family friendly. So to that extent, yes. I am going to put a warning out there for people who are use to my non-fiction that this is not family friend, but one of the things that I’ve been known to do is take things to a level that people probably shouldn’t go to. (laughs) That’s what I did with this.

JW: Now, if someone who doesn’t know you was to look at your previous writing examples, and even people who’ve read all your works, they’ll notice you usually write about the paranormal. Were you starting to get burnt out on writing about the paranormal or did you just want a change of scenery?
JO: Right. I’ve been finding that out. I’m going to be on a Travel Channel show this season because I’m the go-to paranormal guy. But…I’ve always wanted to write novels. Ever since I was 10-years-old, I remember telling my parents I’ve wanted to write novels when I grew up and of course they laughed, rubbed my head, and sent me off to play. But that’s something I’ve wanted to do forever. I’ve been stuck with the non-fiction mainly because I was a journalist for 17 years and that’s what I’ve done. And I finally decided…if I want to write novels, I should probably do it because if I don’t now, I’m going to regret it later.

JW: Is this your first novel?
JO: It’s my first novel being published. I wrote one before it that’s being published in a year from January. I got two novels coming out in 2016. They’re a book series on…it’s an apocalyptic type series.

JW: Are you going to stick with fiction for a while or do you see yourself going back to writing about paranormal occurrences and what not?
JO: If the right subject, the right book hits me, yeah, I’ll definitely go back to non-fiction. But I’m having a lot of fun right now writing fiction.

JW: In terms of your fiction writing, do you ever see yourself straying away from humor and going more for a serious tone?
JO: No matter what I write, something funny comes out because that’s just what I’m use to. I really, really want to write a horror story. I really want to write something terrifying. So that’s something I got going on in the future.

JW: I assume you’ll pull some inspiration from some of the real-life horror stories you’ve heard from people.
JO: Oh yes. I’m definitely going to heavily rely on the non-fiction work that I’ve done on the paranormal and on ghosts, spirits, monsters. I think that’ll help…lend it a lot of realism.

JW: I know you’re always working on something. Do you have anything that you’re piecing together and working on now?
JO: I’m working on something. I’ve got a lot of notes down. My wife and I just had a baby about a month and a half ago.
JW: Oh wow. Congratulations. I didn’t hear that.
JO: Well, (laughs) it was a bit of a surprise because I had vasectomy six years ago.
JW: Oh. Holy crap.
JO: (laughs) Yeah…I was OK six years ago, everything went well, but I was one in a couple of thousand people that found out my super power is I can heal myself. So I took notes throughout the pregnancy and wrote a bunch of funny stuff that happened. The tentative name for the book is “The Vasectomy Diaries”.

JW: I know you’ve written about your kids and being a father before. Do you still do that?
JO: I still write a weekly humor column and I write funny stuff about the kids, once and a while when they do something ridiculous, which is quite a bit. So I still do that kind of writing.

JW: I know you have a lot of different projects and there was a monster killing book you were working on. How’s that coming along?
JO: I found a publisher and it’s coming out in January.
JW: Tell us about it.
JO: The book’s called “How to Kill Monsters Using Common Household Items”. It’s a book about what would happen if the monsters took over and invaded your house. What do you have if a werewolf breaks into your house? What do you have lying around that you can use to kill it? And I go through just random things around your house that could kill a werewolf, vampire, demonic clown, gnome, killer robot from the future, velociraptor, lots of other different types of monsters.

JW: Is this another humor book or could it be considered real advice?
JO: It’s more humor, but you know what? You could seriously beat a zombie to death with a prosthetic leg. So it’s pretty handy.

JW: How many monsters do you cover in this?
JO: 14. Including reanimated corpses like Frankenstein’s monster, dragons and your evil twin from an alternate dimension.

JW: Do you ever see writing as your full-time gig?
JO: That…I think that is about every writer’s dream, to do it full time, but realistically…there are only about 120 writers in the country, that’s all they do is write books. I could see that if I got successful, but you know what? I really enjoy teaching college students. So even if I did get to the point where I could write books for a living, I don’t know if I would. I think I’d keep teaching.

“A Funeral Story” is available December 19th.
You can check out Jason at his website, http://www.jasonoffutt.com, or follow him on Twitter: @TheJasonOffutt
You can also read his writings, at jasonoffutt.blogspot.com and at from-the-shadows.blogspot.com

 

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Book Review “Into the Black: The Inside Story of Metallica 1991-2014”

“Into the Black: The Inside Story of Metallica 1991-2014”
Author: Dave Van Ronk Elijah Wald
Hardcover: 289 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Into the Black: The Inside Story of Metallica 1991-2014” is the second book in a two book series written by Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood. The follow up to 2013’s “Birth, School, Metallica, Death” which chronicles the bands first decade from 1981-1991. “Into the Black” takes you deeper than its predecessor as the book covers the bands dealing with subjects like fans and fame to competing with other bands in the heavy metal aren. The book recounts one of the bands more turbulent era’s as it looks at the bands dispute with Napster, the disastrous tour with Gun’s N’ Roses and the band return to the spotlight after front man James Hetfield’s battle with addiction.

Authors Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood cover both the highs and lows that the band has experienced in the later part of its career and though not an officially licensed “biography” this is probably the closest thing I have seen thus far. Everything from bassist Jason Newsted’s departure to the release of “Death Magnetic” and the epic Big 4 tour is recounted in this book. Though I enjoyed the writing duo’s first book I found “Into the Black” went a bit further. Growing up during this era of the bands career the book sparked some great memories for me related to the music and remembering the noted headlines and occurrences in the bands career that were being shared in this book. The book also had several photos of the band that I hadn’t seen before which was cool in its self making this a must have any true Metallica fan out there.

 

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Theatre Review “A Christmas Story, The Musical” Orlando Repertory Theatre

A Christmas Story: The Musical
November 10 – December 28, 2014
Orlando Repertory Theatre
1001 East Princeton Street
Orlando, FL

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

You know those flyers that you get in the mail and just throw away cause they are usually garage? I think I will be taking a closer look at them now. I received one a few days again and it was holiday themed, my favorite holiday, so I decided to give it a look. In there I found an advertisement for the Orlando Repertory Theatre (The REP) presenting a production of “A Christmas Story, The Musical” based on the story by Jean Shepherd with book by Joseph Robinette, and words and music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. I have seen this production before and have been dying to see it again since. Now I had the chance!

Official Premise: A Christmas Story, The Musical is the classic account of Ralphie Parker’s hilariously desperate quest to ensure that the most perfect of gifts ends up under his tree this Christmas – a Red Ryder® Carbine-Action BB Gun! All the cherished moments are here – the Old Man’s leg lamp, the tongue-on-a-flagpole, the bunny suit, the Santa slide, and all of Ralphie’s extravagant daydreams! Enjoy the perennial favorite in a new way with this Tony-nominated Best Musical.

Turning a classic movie like “A Christmas Story” into a musical was definitely a definitely task I am sure. The songs are good. I have to admit though. I have the soundtrack but it has never been a must-listen for me. “Counting Down to Christmas” is a catchy one. “What A Mother Does” is sweet and had the wife sniffing a little bit. “A Major Award” is definitely a real hoot.  The cast for this production was also good. Highlights for me were Clifford Lyons as Jean Shepherd, Candace Neal as Mrs. Shields, and my favorite Sage Starkey as The Old Man. At first I thought that Sage was too young to play the Old Man, to be honest, but once he stepped on stage, I knew he was going to nail it. Gavin would have been proud!

I thought the production itself was very well done. It really represented “A Christmas Story” very well. It also felt very festive. I have seen many plays in my time and they could have gotten away with much less here. They really had great sets and really get design for this one. I also love the range of these actors. The dialogue and songs were perfectly balanced throughout the theater. I was seeing in Row I, if I remember correct, closer to the top of the theater, centered, and we really enjoyed the entire presentation of the play. I have seen shows at Bob Carr Performing Arts Center and sat 10 rows from stage and couldn’t hear them as well as this theatre.

Prior to this, I have never visited the Orlando Repertory Theatre. Following this, this theatre is going to be in my spotlight. From the moment the wife and I stepped into this theatre, we both just looked at each other and said “Wow!” I loved the vibe of the theatre and I love how intimate it felt. I also appreciate that in addition to productions, The REP conducts community engagement initiatives and the REP Youth Academy provides classes and workshops for children, along with professional development opportunities to classroom teachers. I will be returning to this theatre in the very near future. And if you are looking for a way to get into the holiday spirit, you have your answer right here!

A Christmas Story, The Musical runs Saturdays and Sundays from November 10 – December 28, 2014 at 2pm and 5:30pm. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for students, seniors (55+), and members of the military with valid ID, and $12 for the youth (ages 3 to 17). All performances of A Christmas Story, The Musical take place at the Orlando Repertory Theatre at 1001 East Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32803. Tickets may be purchased online, over the phone, or at the Box Office. Please visit www.orlandorep.com or call 407-896-7365 for more information. Don’t miss it or you might shoot your eye out!

 

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Book Review “I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy from Anthrax”

“I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy from Anthrax”
Author: Scott Ian w/ Jon Wiederhorn
Hardcover: 316 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Just another Jewish latchkey kid living in a cramped apartment in Queens with his mother and brother. After hearing “Rock and Roll All Nite” and seeing Kiss perform at Madison Square Garden in the late seventies the fire was lit. Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian’s “I’m the Man” recounts the trials and tribulations of being in a band that was at the fore front of the early 80’s thrash scene. “I’m the Man” is much more than a collection of road stories as Ian delves deep in to his personal experience with love, life and all things Dimebag Darrell.

Lately it seems harder and harder to sift through the endless tell all biographies that are being released from all sorts of celebrity and public figures. Usually you spend countless chapters sifting through stories that have no real rhythm or reason other than just to fill pages. I won’t say that there isn’t a little of that with this book however in the end all of the stories Ian shares intersect.

Ian even recounts the events which led up to Lars Ulrich almost being fired from Metallica. Over the books 316 pages Ian is candid and unabashed with his experiences making this book a solid read. The book includes a forward by Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, 32 pages of rare photos and a 16 page graphic novella which alone is worth the price of admission. For newer fans and for those who have followed Scott “Not” Ian from the early days this book is for you.

 

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DVD Review “Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys”

Director: Brian Stillman
Number of discs: 1
Rated: Unrated
Studio: X-Ray Films
Run Time: 70 minutes

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

“Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys” tells the behind the scenes story of how one of the most successful toy lines ever came to be. From the lackluster early planning stages of a toy line/film destined for failure to the over whelming response which prompted the creation of the “Early Bird” mail order set to meet the immense demands. Directed by Brian Stillman the film is a fresh and in-depth look at not just the toy lines creation but also how it impacted countless childhoods.

This is not just another “Star Wars” documentary retelling stories fans of the series have heard time and time again. Instead Director Brian Stillman and company have put together a fun and informative documentary about the next best thing besides the films…the toys! Packed full of interviews with the people who designed the toys along with interviews from various collectors the film is part formal information and part childhood memories. Accompanying the interviews are a slew of vintage commercials, television spots and photo stills that catapult you back to the glory days of immense toy isles chocked full of your favorite “Star Wars” items. Equally impressive is the new animation that was created to transition various sections of the film. The art is fresh and new while retaining that late 70’s early 80’s feel. Something I very much enjoyed.

Alongside the film are a variety of Special Features including one titled “Know Your Lightsaber”. A fun spoof that had me cracking up from start to finish as it recounts the various light saber models and subsequent knock offs that were produced throughout the years. Whether you are a hardcore “Star Wars” collector, a casual fan or someone just wanting to take a trip down memory lane “Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys” is a fun film from start to finish that can be watched by the whole family.

 

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Doyle & Alex Story talk about their new album “Abominator”

Former Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein is currently out on tour in support of the band’s debut release titled “Abominator”. The band which also features vocalist Alex Story, bassist Left Hand Graham and drummer Anthony “Tiny” Biuso will be out on the road through August and Media Mikes had a chance to speak with the band prior to the tours kick off in Rochester, NY where we talked about the recent departure of drummer Dr. Chud as well as what the band has planned for the rest of this year and beyond.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us what happened with Dr. Chud deciding to leave the tour prior to its start and what your most looking forward to about getting out and playing the new material live?
Doyle: He just decided not to come out on the road with us. That’s pretty much all there is to it. We are looking forward to just ripping stuff up every night we play. Tiny our new drummer came in on short notice and just really energized all of us. Tiny is a guy I met at the NAMM show one year and we just hit it off and became friends from there. He was always asking me about who was drumming for me at the time and what not and now he is the guy.

AL: Can you tell us about the VIP packages that you are offering at each show?
Doyle: We are doing VIP meet and greets after every show on this tour. Along with getting to meet the band you get a free music download, a tour laminate and a signed photo. It’s a chance for fans to get a little more out of coming to us.

AL: You shot a DVD for your previous band Gorgeous Frankenstein. Will you be doing any shooting while out on this run?
Doyle: I think we have a guy coming out to film the New Jersey show and also to do some footage at the Connecticut and Los Angeles shows. Alex and I will also be doing a new photo shoot with Jeremy Saffer while we are out on the road which should be really cool.

AL: With “Abominator” being out for a couple months now what has been people’s reaction to it?
Doyle: I think everything has been really great. I really like the album and I think if people haven’t done so yet they need to go out and buy it! (Laughs)

AL: You have said before that during the writing process you wrote enough material for two more albums. Can you tell us the status of those?
Doyle: Everything has been recorded. All we have left to do is finish the drums and then mix them. From there we will get the artwork done up and proof all the words for the album notes. We are shooting for a spring 2015 release date.

AL: Alex, when you were putting this material together what type of process did you guys have for writing?
Alex Story: When we were first putting this all together Doyle gave me a list of things that he liked to hear songs about. There was a lot of stuff about strippers and Satan in there. (Laughs) I really challenged myself and tried to write a song about everything he mentioned in his list. That’s really where we went from. Doyle writes all the music and arrangements. He gives me full bass, drum and guitar tracks and I really don’t like to ask him to change things around for me so I just go with what I am given. I try to write vocals that accent his playing.
Doyle: Sometimes he writes songs in a day and sends them over to me which is just crazy. He sends me stuff that he has screamed in to his laptop.

AL: When Doyle is out on the road with Danzig what do you do to keep busy musically?
AS: I have another band that I have been doing for years called Cancerslug. I do that in my off time and when ever Doyle is ready I shift gears and we do this.
Doyle: It works the same way for me when I am working with Danzig. When he calls we go out and do it and then we go back working on this.

AL: What are your plans for the next Cancer Slug release? And how have things changed for the group since you first started?
AS: Cancerslug is sort of like my little pet project. Once things sort of slow down here were going to put out a new album. We have a really solid line up right now and our last tour was very successful so we are looking to do another run of shows as soon as we can. With Cancerslug I just sort of throw these ideas down when I have them and if people like it that’s cool if they don’t, they don’t. Once I get some down time from doing this I will start work on all of that. When I first started Cancerslug there was no internet or cell phones which made being independent very difficult. Nowadays it makes doing a project like Cancerslug a lot easier as there are just so many ways to get yourself out there which makes splitting my time between the two bands that much easier.

AL: Can you tell us about your upcoming appearance in Alan Roberts “Killogy” comic book?
Doyle: I toured with Alan years ago when we were out on the road with his band Life of Agony. He called us up one day and asked if I would be interested. I just got the draft of it the other day and it looks really great. I think the plan is to have it out around Halloween time.

AL: This first run of shows is just a month long. Are there any further plans to continue touring throughout the rest of the year? And is there any chance of seeing you do some shows with your girlfriends band Arch Enemy?
Doyle: We are working on a bunch more stuff here in the States for the coming months. As for shows with Arch Enemy we are trying really hard. It’s up to Angela. I am afraid of her! (Laughs)

Blu-ray Review “Toy Story of Terror!”

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Carl Weathers, Stephen Tobolowsky, Timothy Dalton
Director: Angus MacLane
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Run Time: 22 minutes

Special: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

One of the best things to happen to “Toy Story” was the continuing of the franchise through Toy Story Toons. These are short and absolutely amazing mini-stories that have been shown in front of Pixar and Disney films since “Toy Story 3”. “Toy Story of Terror!” is the longest of the group and was planned as Halloween special last Fall. The film sees the original talents returning including Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Timothy Dalton, Don Rickles, Kristen Schaal, Wallace Shawn and Carl Weathers as series newcomer Combat Carl.  The film is a little scary but definitely another great installment in this franchise.

Official Premise: What starts out as a fun road trip for the Toy Story gang takes an unexpected turn for the worse when the trip detours to a roadside motel. After one of the toys goes missing, the others find themselves caught up in a mysterious sequence of events that must be solved before they all suffer the same fate.

The Blu-ray edition of Toy Story of Terror! comes in a Combo pack with a Blu-ray and Digital HD copy. The 1080p transfer is gorgeous like you would expect from the Toy Story franchise and Disney/Pixar. It crazy to believe but this special also comes with an epic DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track. I am really impressed with this track.

Toy Story of Terror! Blu-ray doesn’t come alone either as it is comes with three of Toy Story Toons shorts including “Hawaiian Vacation”, “Small Fry” and “Partysaurus Rex”. It also includes some never-before-seen bonus features as well. There are three Vintage Toy Commercials, which can be viewed as act breaks during the film or separately with Director Introductions. There is also an Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes with Editor Introductions and “Team of Specialists,” in which director Angus MacLane goes behind the scenes.

“Toy Story of Terror!” isn’t the only Toy Story Toons short to get extras though, “Hawaiian Vacation”, “Small Fry” and “Partysaurus Rex” also come with audio commentary tracks. So if you think about you aren’t just buying this for “Toy Story of Terror!”, you are getting much more as well. Lastly there is also a D23 Teaser included. Disney/Pixar is tackling Christmas this year with the new special, “Toy Story That Time Forgot”, so I can’t wait for that and also up next is a new Toy Story Toons short, “Mythic Rock”.

Book Review “Yours for Eternity: A Love Story on Death Row”

“Yours for Eternity: A Love Story on Death Row”
Authors: Damien Echols and Lorri Davis
Hardback/ 448 pages
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Release Date: June 17, 2014

Our score: 3 out of 5 stars

Lorri Davis was a single woman, living in New York City, when she was invited by a friend to go to an early screening of a new documentary. What she saw changed her life. Lorri saw alienation, and she saw herself being represented onscreen. Coming from the South she had always felt like she didn’t belong there, and that she did not fit in with those around her. This documentary showed her a teen-age boy who had gone through the same situation: only a hundred times worse. The documentary was “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” and the teen-age boy she identified with was Damien Echols; one of the West Memphis Three.

The story of the West Memphis Three, as told through “Paradise Lost” stuck with Lorri, and haunted her. She became relatively obsessed with Damien, and could not get him out of her head. So, like dozens of others whom viewed the same film, Lorri decided to write to Damien. And so began a love story like no other.

Damien and Lorri started to write each other letters, reaching a point to where they both would write several letters a day. They felt a real connection with each other, and within less than four years they were married. The ceremony being unique in and of itself: a Buddhist ceremony held on Death Row. Lorri Davis would soon quit her job, move to Arkansas, and lead a team of investigators and lawyers to one day bring release and exoneration to her husband. While the release has occurred, the exoneration still has not.

In “West of Memphis”, one of the four documentaries that cover the West Memphis Three case, Lorri mentions her and Damien having written somewhere around 5,000 letters to each other; all between 1996 and 2011 (the latter being the year Damien was released from prison). Lorri also states in the film that she had contemplated burning all of the letters; presumably as a way to start anew and move on. However, she and Damien did no such thing.

“Yours For Eternity: A Love Story on Death Row” is a collection of a very small portion of those letters; as well as present day notes to fill the reader in on the authors’ mindsets. Giving bits of notations to things referenced or alluded to. It truly is a wonderful journey into the minds of two people; two people slowly falling in love, no less. Damien has always been a writer and a poet. Having self-published a memoir in 2005 called “Almost Home”, and an updated version of the same book, with more content, in 2012 entitled “Life After Death”.

“Yours For Eternity” offers a unique perspective on the West Memphis Three case, in as much as it almost has nothing to do with the case itself; but offers a look at the circumstances Damien and Lorri were put in because of the case. Together they don’t spend their time delving into clues and information about who may or may not have committed the crimes; they leave that to the outside world. Within the letters they spend their energy trying to decipher and decode each other. They create a world and a life together using only their words. Damien and Lorri built a friendship, relationship, and a marriage, using the only thing Damien was allowed to have on Death Row: anything made of paper.

This book is a fast and easy read, and it’s rather beautiful. The reader is allowed access to the most intimate of thoughts and feelings and will allow you to view the people involved in this case in a whole new light. Damien Echols and Lorri Davis are currently traveling the United States in support of this book. Go see them if they come to your city.

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Theatre Review “Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz” Kansas City, Missouri

WICKED: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz
October 10, 2013
Music Hall
Kansas City, Missouri

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

For those not familiar with the story, “Wicked” tells the story of the witches of Oz before they are visited by a certain little girl from Kansas. The two main characters are Glinda the Good Witch (Hayley Podschun) and Elphaba (Jennifer DiNoia) the “Wicked” Witch of the West. The story begins where the well known story of “The Wizard of Oz” ends, Dorothy has just gone back to Kansas and the Munchkins are singing and celebrating now that the Wicked Witch is finally dead. As the celebration and singing continues a question is put to Glinda as to the actual relationship she shared with Elphaba when they were growing up. We are than transported by way of Glinda’s memory to her school days and her first meeting with Elphaba.

As you can probably figure, Glinda and Elphaba were very different from the beginning. Glinda grew up in a higher class family, which made it quite simple to achieve any dream she had. She just had to ask and it was given to her. Even though Elphaba’s father is the Mayor she has a little tiny problem that keeps her from making friends… she is green! Her sole purpose in life is to take care of her beautiful and normal looking sister, Nessarose, who is confined to a wheelchair. We follow Elphaba and Glinda to “college,” where their disdain for each other grows. As time progresses we watch them deal with their differences, their disagreements, their shared following of sorcery and their shared love of the same boy, Fiyero.

What’s most enjoyable about “Wicked” is that the story continually works in the story of “The Wizard of Oz,” with some twists involved that make all to much sense to the story that we already know. We learn how the scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion all come to be. We learn why there must be good to match evil or, in this case, where there must be evil to match good. What we are all lead to do is to accept the thought that we must unlearn what we already know. You will never watch “The Wizard of Oz” again and feel the same way about any of the characters.

Most impressive of “Wicked” was that the story was all new to me, I went in with only expectations of being entertained and satisfied with the production I saw. What I witnessed was something entirely different. It was an emotional experience that left me drained by the end. You’re not sure if you should choose sides; is there a good and evil in this story? Is it all evil? Is it all good? Do I root for just one character or do I just trust that sometimes there can be two right sides to every story? “Wicked” is a top notch production with great music and a fantastic crew currently running in Kansas City through October 27. It’s a story that you should experience at least once. My only regret about the show is that it has taken me ten years to see it!I

The entire cast of “Wicked” in KC was amazing, with special kudos going to DiNoia and Kansas City native Podschun. Many in the cast had played the same roles on Broadway. I could tell from the beginning that this performance would be like nothing I had seen recently at the theater. “Wicked” was nominated for ten Tony Awards, winning three, and boasts a Grammy winning soundtrack of such memorable tunes as the Act 1 finale “Defying Gravity.” If “Wicked” blows your way I suggest you go see it before a house drops on YOU!

There are currently two touring companies of “Wicked” making their way around the United States. This cast can next be seen in Des Moines, Indianapolis and Cleveland. For more tour information http://www.wickedthemusical.com/broadway-tickets

 

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A Christmas Story Star Zack Ward Fights Bullying with “Go Fark urself & get Bullyproof” Campaign


“A Christmas Story” is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary this Christmas and Zack Ward, who played Scut Farkus in the film is looking to show my appreciation by giving back. “Fark-O-Vision!” is an app that raises money for Bully Prevention programs around the country! Click here to support the campaign and spread the word before November 30th, 2013.

Here is Zack’s pitch from indiegogo.com:
“We’re creating a free app that will allow people to “Fark-i-Fy” their photos. Ya know, you can take your face and mess it up…in a good way. You can then send your photos via text, email, Facebook, Twitter, or hard copy postcard to your friends, family, enemies, or random strangers. The postcard will cost about $1-$2 and that’s where we’ll raise money for Bully Prevention programs. So when it comes to sending out your personalized holiday greetings, you’re all set…and you help some kids at the same time.

The idea of Bullying has changed. Society has gotten smarter and more aware of the short term and long term damage it causes. It effects all races, sexes, religions and ages. It’s time for us to end it. And we can.

You can help us create programs for kids in underserved schools and communities. We can show them, in person, that there is a choice for both the victim AND the bully, to change and enrich their lives, and then pay it forward. We envision a world of young, kind hearted mentors, that find inner strength and gain confidence by helping their peers succeed. A true synergy for our children and our country.”

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Blu-ray Review “American Horror Story: Asylum”

Actors: Zachary Quinto, James Cromwell, Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Lily Rabe, Sarah Paulson, Frances Conroy
Directors: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Bradley Buecker, Craig Zisk, David Semel, Jeremy Podeswa
Number of discs: 3
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: October 8, 2013
Run Time: 572 minutes

Season: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

After the first season of “American Horror Story”, it became one of my favorite shows on television. I was blown away with what they did after the first season and was dying to see what they had planned next. “American Horror Story: Asylum” started off decent but lost focus very quickly. The various plots ranged from focusing on the madness of the asylum to aliens, serial killers and even Nazi’s. Quite frankly it was a little too much.  The first season focused on ghosts and it worked so well and even the third season is just focusing on witches. I think they wanted to deliver a bigger show and it got lost in its ambition.

Official Premise: Step inside a madhouse of horror and experience the chilling new incarnation of TV’s most daringly provocative series. The sins of the past haunt the present at the notorious Briarcliff home for the criminally insane, ruled with an iron fist by Sister Jude. Forbidden desire and terrifying evil lurk around every corner…from alien abduction to demonic possession to a skin-wearing psychopath known as Bloody Face.

Despite the season being amazing or not, the show does pack a stellar cast including Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, James Cromwell, Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Lily Rabe, Sarah Paulson and Frances Conroy.  Ensemble is really want this group of actors really are. They all come together and makes this show working watching just for them.  I still have a lot of faith in this show since I think they are going to bounce back with the third season. I just felt that they tried to focus on too many themes that this season didn’t get a chance to deliver one solid story, instead a few decent but not amazing ones.

In terms of the release itself, like the first season, Fox delivered an impressive release, even though I would have loved to see an Ultraviolet digital copy included. This is becoming a trend now with TV shows that are being released on Blu-ray and I think that Fox should get on that bandwagon as well. The 1080p transfers are sharp and work very well with the creepy off-centered look for this season.  The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 comes together as well and packs a nice punch.

In terms of special features, like the season I was left wanting much more. There are a few brief deleted scenes spread out over disc two and three. There is a short interview featuring an orderly talking about Bloody case called “The Orderly”. “What Is American Horror Story: Asylum?” is a 20-minute behind-the-scene look on the season with interviews. “Welcome to Briarcliff Manor” dives into what it took to make the asylum. Lastly “The Creatures” talks about the season’s make-up and prosthetics effects.

Blu-ray Review “Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space (Story 51)”

Actors: Jon Pertwee, Nicholas Courtney, Caroline John
Directors: Derek Martinus
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
Release Date: August 13, 2013
Run Time: 96 minutes

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

“Doctor Who” is bigger than it ever has been.  With news of the 12th doctor recently released and the upcoming 50th anniversary episode, things have never been hotter for the series. So that is a perfect time to release “Spearhead From Space (Story 51)” on Blu-ray for the first time. In fact it is the first of any classic Doctor Who episodes to be released in this format. This was the first story of Season 7 of Doctor Who and also was the first to feature Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. We also get introduced to Caroline John as the Doctor’s new companion, Liz Shaw.  “Spearhead from Space” is a great story in the series and this is a must buy for any “Doctor Who” fan for sure. I hope that BBC has plans for future stories in this format.

Official Premise: Exile! The Time Lords have banished the newly regenerated Doctor to Earth. But the Doctor isn’t the only alien to have arrived, as a swarm of meteorites have crashed into the sleepy English countryside, bringing with them a terrible new threat to mankind. As the Nestene plan takes shape, UNIT, the Doctor and his newly appointed scientific advisor, Liz Shaw, race against time to stop humanity being replaced by a terrifying plastic facsimile race.

If you are curious as to why there isn’t more classic “Doctor Who” episodes being released on high-definition on Blu-ray, that is because “Spearhead From Space” was the first o be shot entirely on film, due to BBC strike. It was also the first classic story to be presented in full color. It has been restored from the original 16mm film elements and scanned into a beautiful high definition transfer.  It looks amazing on Blu-ray and within its original television 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The audio is also impressive with a sharp DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 track. There is also a few decent special features included on the Blu-ray including “A Dandy and a Clown”, “Carry On: The Life of Caroline John”, “Title Sequence Material” and “Restoration Comparison: Digitally Remastered Picture and Sound Quality”. So this is a well-rounded release, another solid release from BBC.

 

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Naomi Grossman talks about her role of Pepper in “American Horror Story: Asylum”

Naomi Grossman played the role of Pepper in “American Horror Story: Asylum”.  She completely transformed for her role in the show.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Naomi about her role in “American Horror Story: Asylum” and her highlight from the show.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about your audition for the role of Pepper in “American Horror Story: Asylum”?
Naomi Grossman: They didn’t let on as to who or what the character was… I just knew she was petite, given that I was one of the few non-little people in the waiting room (and well, I’m only 5′). There were two parts to the audition. First was an improv. They gave us a ball, and asked us to persuade the casting director to play with us, like a child. Now, in retrospect, we know that was early Pepper. Then, we did one of Jessica Lange’s monologues from Season One. Which obviously showcased the later, evolved Pepper. But none of this made sense to us at the time. I mean, why read scenes that had already been shot, much less by the star herself? But now we know they just wanted to see if we had range.

MG: Take us through your transformation to become Pepper?
NG: I went in for a good seven or so preliminary makeup-meetings. First, before I was even cast, they took a bunch of pictures of me, which they manipulated to see how I would look as the character. That, and of course Schlitzie from the 1930’s, were their models. Then they made casts of my head and hands– I had to sit very still while they poured silicone over me, which hardened and would later be cut out to make my various prosthetic pieces. There was a specialist brought in to punch in the hair for the eyebrows and arms, and another to create the teeth. I met with an optometrist to fit me for contact lenses. Once all these pieces were in place, they put them together in an initial makeup test. At first, they covered my hair with a bald cap. It looked fine for my money, but these guys are consummate professionals. They (and the camera) see things we non-makeup folks can’t. So it was decided that they would shave my head– which made their job each morning much easier. Not that they had an easy job! Every day they applied the various prosthetic pieces one-by-one with adhesive, then painted them with an airbrush. Then I’d go to hair to get my pony curled, and to my trailer to get into wardrobe. But this was just my physical transformation– becoming Pepper as an actress was a whole other process.

MG: At what point did you find out what the role entailed in terms of the look?
NG: The day I was cast. I went in for my initial makeup meeting and they showed me the pictures of me that they’d manipulated. They told me I would look like this “Freaks” character named Schlitzie, who from that point forward, I watched non-stop.

MG: What research, if any, did you do to get into character psyche?
NG: Obviously, watching “Freaks” was pivotal. I read a lot about microcephaly. I’d practice, emulating Schlitzie’s movements and expressions alone in my apartment. I worked with a coach, with whom I shaped a bit of a back story. Because even though Pepper didn’t say much at first, she needed to be a full character, with a past and dreams and needs like any other. And of course, I wanted to be sensitive since this is a real condition… I was deathly afraid of hate-mail. Especially given my comedy background where we’re encouraged to make fun. But this was obviously not the place.

MG: How was it working with the musical number in the episode “Name Game”?
NG: That was a blast. I was truly in my element. I remember the AD over a microphone saying, “Everyone can go bigger except Pepper.” There were a ton of us packed in that common room, dancing seemingly nonstop, while “The Name Game” played on a loop. We shot top to bottom, the entire song at a time. There was minimal blocking for the principles, and cameras on cranes swirling around. I remember worrying how (with my one working eyeball) I’d navigate through all those dancing extras, without bumping into a big, expensive, moving camera or worse yet, Jessica Lange. I danced up a sweat in that sweater and fat suit, so the makeup people were constantly running out to poke and fan me between takes. Needless to say, I was sore the next day– I hadn’t spent the day crouched over like that since Pepper went pee!

MG: Are you shocked with the fans reaction to your character?
NG: Of course. There’s just no way to anticipate these things. You don’t take a little co-star or guest-star part expecting to be tattooed on people’s limbs! Or made into street art, promoting you as President! I knew it was a cool character, but the cast was star-studded– who’s going to pay attention to me when there’s Chloe Sevigny and Marc Consuelos and Adam Levine? For all I knew I was just one of many pinheads. It wasn’t until my first day on set that I was able to look around and see that I was, in fact, the craziest one in the asylum.

MG: Looking back on the season, do you have a highlight?
NG: All of it. From the moment I was cast, to the season’s end– it was one big highlight. Having zero expectations. Then suddenly, becoming my own internet meme, and taking over Tumblr. Driving by the “Pepper for President” posters around town. Seeing my face tattooed on a fan’s leg and chiseled into pint glasses. Making front page of the “Huff Po,” and “Best of 2012” by Entertainment Weekly. Watching my IMDb star meter shoot from 93K to 3K, then 3K to 300, settling somewhere between Catherine Zeta Jones and J-Lo. Stepping onto the red carpet and feeling those cameras flash. Hearing a fan shout, “We love you, pinhead” from the audience at Paly Fest. Getting my very own chair. Being affiliated with such a high-profile show, nominated for 17 Emmys! Working so intimately with powerhouses like Jessica Lange and James Cromwell. Having such a fun, over-the-top character to play… then watching her evolve, basically getting two roles in one, as well as the chance to really use my acting chops. Singing and dancing and delivering babies and monologues. Never having to do my hair again. From the superficial to the profound, it was all a highlight.

MG: Since Ryan Murphy is good with returning actors, any word about season three?
NG: No word. But even at the height of the Peppermania, I never knew if or when I’d be back. We pinheads are used to being clueless!