Film Review- “If Beale Street Could Talk”

IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Starring:  KiKi Layne, Stephan James and Regina King
Directed by:  Barry Jenkins
Rated: R
Running time:  1 hr 59 mins
Annapurna Pictures

2018 may go down as the year when everything old became new again. Especially in films.  Messages(and misdeeds) from the past were brought to cinemas in new, fresh styles but the messages were not lost.  Films like “Black Panther” and “Blackkksman” made audiences, both black and white, take a look atthe world around them and demand that it change.  2019 continues that path with the latest film from “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins, “If Beale Street Could Talk.”

Tish (Layne) and Vonny (James) are young and in love.  Vonny isan artist with dreams of opening his own gallery.  Sadly, they live in a time when society, and even members of their own families, are not as supportive as they should be.  They find their love challenged when Vonny is arrested and charged with committing a brutal rape.  We know he’s innocent but, thanks to a racist cop (the creepy Ed Skrein) and a victim (Emily Rios in a very strong performance) who has fled the country, the deck is already stacked against him.

As someone that has always enjoyed reading, I was well aware of the late James Baldwin.  He was an author who was not afraid to write about the world as he saw it, no matter the view.  Director Jenkins, who shared the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in 2016 for “Moonlight” – and will surely be nominated again for his work here – has kept the novel’s 1970s setting intact, but the tale told could easily have been placed in today’s world, a place where institutionalized racism is still an ongoing problem.

Jenkins has assembled a skilled cast of actors, both new and old, to shoulder the emotional impact of the story.  In her first feature film, Ms. Layne is the heart and voice of the film (Tish narrates the story as it progresses).  Her bright eyes and constant smile tell the audience that she is in love and will always be, no matter the consequences.  Mr. James, who has portrayed such historically important characters as John Lewis and Jesse Owens, is also strong.  He is a strong black man in an era when some parts of society confused “strong” with “trouble.”  As Tish’s mother, Sharon, Regina King delivers one of the best performances in ANY film released this year.   In their review of “Beale Street,”Entertainment Weekly plainly asked “Will someone please give Regina King an Oscar already?”  I wholeheartedly agree!

A film that makes you think, like the perfect diamond, is rare.  “IfBeale Street Could Talk” is flawless.

 
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DVD Review “Sesame Street: Count on Elmo”

Actors: Ryan Dillon, Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, David Rudman, Eric Jacobson, Matt Vogel
Directors: Ken Diego, Kevin Clash, Jim Martin, Joey Mazzarino, Ted May
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Sesame Street
DVD Release Date: July 7, 2015

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Having a young child, the world of Sesame Street is well known in our house. My daughter loved Elmo growing up. As she is getting older and starting to learn her numbers the latest DVD is coming at the perfect time for her. “Count on Elmo” is a great learning tool to aid kids in their process of getting to know their numbers.

Official Premise: Kids can rely on their Sesame Street friends for lots of fun, laughs and counting in Sesame Street: Count on Elmo. When the Noble Counting Prize committee is looking for the World’s Greatest Counter, Elmo knows that his friend The Count is perfect for the prize. Elmo, Grover, Abby and Cookie Monster try and capture The Count’s amazing counting skills on camera so they can enter him in the contest, but everything goes awry! Will The Count win the prize or will it be a Count-astrophe? Kids will learn about friendship and math concepts such as numbers, counting, and enumeration.

It’s crazy to think that Sesame Street has been around for more than 45 years and I am sure it will be around for another 45 years easy. These DVD’s are important and teach very important lessons for our kids. This DVD includes over 2 hours of fun and education for kids (and parents) to enjoy. This DVD also features the new song “Count on Friends” and a bonus video “Pre-School is Cool: ABC’s With Elmo”.

America’s Favorite Furry Monster Makes Learning Fun as Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Sesame Workshop Release “Sesame Street: The Best of Elmo 3” on DVD and Digital March 3, 2015!

DVD Includes Bonus Full-Length Feature, “Elmo and Abby’s Birthday Fun”!

BURBANK, CA (February 18, 2015) – Elmo is back and more lovable than ever as Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, release Sesame Street: The Best of Elmo 3 on DVD and digital on March 3, 2015 for $14.98 SRP. This trip down memory lane will teach Elmo fans both young and old about the importance of friendship and helping others. Elmo sings and dances his way through numbers, letters, vocabulary, and emotions with his Sesame Street pals and a few famous friends like Melissa McCarthy, Taye Diggs, Drew Brees, Romeo Santos, and many more! Order due date is January 27, 2015.

Elmo fans will love this new DVD where everyone’s favorite furry and red friend is reminded of all the fun, friends and music he’s made on Sesame Street. Join Elmo as he does “The Elmo Slide,” finds out about “The Power of Yet” with Janelle Monae, and sings about the number 5 with the band Train. Elmo learns about counting, vocabulary and even how manage his emotions in the hit song, “Belly Breathe” with Colbie Caillat and Common. This special collection is filled with Elmo moments fans will treasure. As an added extra, this release features a special bonus title which will provide over two hours of Elmo!

“With such great response from the release of Sesame Street: The Best of Elmo 2, Warner Home Bros. Home Entertainment is thrilled to release the next edition, Sesame Street: The Best of Elmo 3,” said Jeff Brown, WBHE Executive Vice President and GM of Non-Theatrical Franchise Marketing. “Kids now have the opportunity to see their favorite TV character’s most memorable segments all on one fantastic DVD.”

Celebrating its impressive 45th anniversary this season, Sesame Street is the #1 top-of-mind preschool show with moms. The series has received more Emmy awards than any other show in television history, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award.

About Sesame Workshop
Sesame Workshop is the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street which reaches 156 million children across more than 150 countries. The Workshop’s mission is to use the educational power of media to help all children reach their highest potential. Delivered through a variety of platforms, including television programs, digital experiences, books and community engagement, its research-based programs are tailored to the needs of the communities and countries they serve, helping children everywhere grow smarter, stronger and kinder. For more information, visit us at www.sesameworkshop.org.

About Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment’s home video, digital distribution and interactive entertainment businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios. An industry leader since its inception, WBHE oversees the global distribution of content through packaged goods (Blu-ray Disc™ and DVD) and digital media in the form of electronic sell-through and video-on-demand via cable, satellite, online and mobile channels, and is a significant developer and publisher for console and online video game titles worldwide. WBHE distributes its product through third party retail partners and licensees, as well as directly to consumers through WBShop.com and WB Ultra.

DVD Review “22 Jump Street”

Starring: Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Ice Cube, Amber Stevens, Wyatt Russell, Jillian Bell
Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Sony
DVD Release Date: November 18, 2014
Run Time: 112 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

You got to admit, making “21 Jump Street” with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum was definitely a risk…but it paid off soooo well. The first film is a blast all around but surprisingly the sequel is even better than the first. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are a great team and really play off each other very well. It is a really well-balanced action/comedy/buddy flick! Non-stop action and laughs. Directors Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (“21 Jump Street”, “The Lego Movie”) strike gold again here. My only question: when is “23 Jump Street” coming out?

Official Premise: After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) when they go deep undercover at a local college. But when Jenko meets a kindred spirit on the football team, and Schmidt infiltrates the bohemian art major scene, they begin to question their partnership. Now they don’t have to just crack the case – they have to figure out if they can have a mature relationship.

No idea why a solo DVD is even released anymore when most films come in a combo pack. The special features are 10x better on the Blu-ray release for this film. We get an abridged version here. There is an audio commentary with the directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller and stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, which is an absolutely blast. “The Perfect Couple of Directors” takes a look at the directing duo. “Line-O-Ramas” are a bunch of funny sequences from the film and lastly there are 22 deleted & extended scenes…on the Blu-ray. We get a faction of that here with optional directors’ commentary.

 

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Blu-ray Review “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist”

Actors: Mike Moh, Christian Howard, Mark Killeen
Directors: Joey Ansah
Number of discs: 3
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Funimation
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Run Time: 146 minutes

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

After the success of “Mortal Kombat Legacy”, the video game world scrambled to find the next big web series to deliver a live action version of classic video games. After the disappointing second season of “Mortal Kombat Legacy”, I that would be the end…until creators Joey Ansah and Christian Howard gave us “Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist”. This is a 13-episode web series based on the popular Capcom videogame franchise. This release is not the web series though it is something much better. This Blu-ray contains an uncut 146 minute feature film and is absolutely awesome. If you love the web series, then you need this Blu-ray. If you think you can just watch it online and don’t need to own it then you are missing out.

Official Premise: The genre defining, most successful and most loved fighting video game franchise of all time, Street Fighter, is finally given the epic, faithful treatment it deserves in this hotly anticipated live-action series. Following up from the sensational YouTube pilot, Street Fighter: Legacy, which received critical acclaim by press and fans alike, the series takes fans back to the formative years of iconic characters, Ryu and Ken, as they live a traditional warrior’s life in the secluded, mountain wilderness of Japan.

The 1080p transfer is fantastic and works perfectly with the action sequences. The Dolby TrueHD 2.0 is not a 5.1 track but it still packs a solid punch to it. Much better than my crappy computer speakers, that’s for sure. FUNimation is releasing this as a combo pack also with a Blu-ray and DVD included. If you want more also get ready because there is already a sequel in the cards titled “Street Fighter: World Warrior” and is aiming for release in late 2015 or early 2016.

The special features are also quite awesome. There is a great audio commentary track with the director Joey Ansah talking about all aspects of the web-series turned movie. There is “Ken’s Video Diary”, which follows the actor around the shoot. There is a solid “The Making Of…” featurette looking into the production of the series. If the additional uncut footage isn’t enough there are still additional extra scenes included, as well as outtakes. Lastly there are some trailers included.

Concert Review: “Redeemer of Souls Tour” with Judas Priest & Steel Panther @ Main Street Armory, Rochester, NY

“Redeemer of Souls Tour”
Judas Priest, Steel Panther
Wednesday, October 1st 2014
Main Street Armory, Rochester, NY

Our score: 4 out of 5 stars

After a 2 year hiatus from the music scene the metal gods themselves Judas Priest are back on the road supporting their latest album release titled “Redeemer of Souls”. The tour kicked off on October 1st in Rochester, NY before a near capacity crowd and though opening night didn’t go as smoothly everyone was hoping for both Priest and opening act Steel Panther were at the top of their games.

As the doors to the vast Main Street Armory opened fans quickly flooded the venue in anticipation of the evening’s events. As the evenings advertised 7:30 start time rolled around and quickly turned in to 7:45, 8:00, 8:15 etc. It wouldn’t be till almost 8:40 that opening act Steel Panther would take the stage. The band which has been taking a lot of heat since it was announced they would be part of the tour initially didn’t win over the Rochester crowd as they took the stage to a sea of boo’s. It was unclear if the late start was the fault of the bands or of the promoter however despite the unpleasant welcome the band shrugged it off and blasted through an 11 song set which touched on each of the bands 4 releases. Vocalist Michael Starr handled his vocal duties like a true veteran and in between songs attempted to regain the crowds trust through the bands normal joking and goofing on one another.  This seemed to work as the band left the stage to cheers and applause the total opposite of how the night began.

After a few minutes a large Judas Priest banner dropped from the rafters signaling that the wait was almost over. After a brief intro the arena was filled with smoke and lights as Rob Halford and company ripped into the song “Dragonaut” which is also the first track off the band newest album. Halford seemed a little unsteady at first and was using a cane however by the end of the first number it appeared as though it was just a prop as he lurked back and forth with ease the rest of the night. The band played a variety of songs from their vast catalog such as “Victim of Changes”, ‘Turbo Lover” and “Love Bites” which hasn’t been in the set since 1986. The band’s sound was tight and well rehearsed with Rob’s signature scream being in top form. The newest member of the band guitarist Richie Faulkner seemed even more comfortable and certainly did his part to elevate the night’s excitement. Before calling it a night the band treated the audience to two encores which were both greeted with deafening roars and devil horns thrown high into the air.

When the night was finally over and the venue was silent it was easy to say that despite a few small setbacks the tours opening night was a success.  Both Priest fans new and old were given everything both bands had and then some as it was a great night of music. If the tour is coming to your area make sure to get your tickets as soon as you can as there are very few bands out there right now who can rival the power and fury of the one and only Judas Priest.

Steel Panther  Set List:
1.) Pussy Whipped
2.) Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World
3.) Asian Hooker
4.) Just Like Tiger Woods
5.) Gold Digging Whore
6.) Girl From Oklahoma
7.) Community Property
8.) Eyes of the Panther
9.) 17 Girls in a Row
10.) Death to All but Metal
11.) Party All Day (Fuck All Night)

Judas Priest Set List:
1.) Battle Cry Intro
2.) Dragonaut
3.) Metal Gods
4.) Devil’s Child
5.) Victim of Changes
6.) Halls of Valhalla
7.) Loves Bites
8.) March of the Damned
9.) Turbo Lover
10.) Redeemer of Souls
11.) Beyond the Realms of Death
12.) Jawbreaker
13.) Breaking the Law
14.) Hell Bent for Leather

Encore:
15.) You’ve Got Another Thing Coming
Encore 2
16.) Living After Midnight
17.) Defenders of the Faith

Blu-ray Review “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, PJ Byrne, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau and Jean Dujardin
Directors: Martin Scorsese
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Paramount
DVD Release Date: March 25, 2014
Run Time: 179 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 1.5 out of 5 stars

“The Wolf of Wall Street” is definitely not a film for everyone. It is controversial, edgey and 1 minute shy of three hours in length. In fact, the film has also set the all-time record for the use of the f-word in a film, clocking in at 506 times. This is the fifth collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio and these guys just keep making gold. Leo is supported by a fantastic supporting cast including Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, PJ Byrne, Rob Reiner, Jon Favreau and Jean Dujardin…whew, what a cast. I really had a blast with this film. It is vulgar and sometimes (or a lot) offensive but it is quite the ride and it brought me back to watching Scorsese’s equally epic “Casino” on double VHS tapes…that’s right kiddies back when a three hour movie couldn’t find on one Blu-ray. So love it or hate it but this film is a blast and I sugguest you take it like that and not literally like they are trying to support these characters behavior but point out how fucked up that business was in the 90’s (and probably still is).

Official Premise: Revered filmmaker Martin Scorsese directs the story of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). From the American dream to corporate greed, Belfort goes from penny stocks and righteousness to IPOs and a life of corruption in the late 80s. Excess success and affluence in his early twenties as founder of the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont warranted Belfort the title – “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Money. Power. Women. Drugs. Temptations were for the taking and the threat of authority was irrelevant. For Jordan and his wolf pack, modesty was quickly deemed overrated and more was never enough.

Paramount delivered “The Wolf of Wall Street in a combo pack including Blu-ray + DVD + HD Digital Ultraviolet copy. The 1080p transfer is absolutely amazing. You can see Scorsese’s vision the way this film was shot and it just looks great. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track works so well with the film’s madness and amazing music heard through this film. The soundtrack is actually a favorite of mine as well from the year. The biggest downfall personally for me is the special features. There is literally only one extra included called “The Wolf Pack” It is the basic behind-the-scenes look with interviews from Scorsese, Dicaprio, Hill and a few other cast and crew. This extra is also only on the Blu-ray. The DVD comes bare bones. I would have loved to see a commentary track from any other the amazing cast or director from this film. This release is the case of the film being rushed out on Blu-ray to make it for post-award season.

Blu-ray Review “Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy”

Actors: Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Wes Craven, Lisa Wilcox, Alice Cooper, Mark Patton, Monica Keena, Brendan Fletcher, Ronny Yu
Directors: Andrew Kasch, Daniel Farrands
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Run Time: 238 minutes

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

“Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy” was originally released on DVD in 2010 but thanks to Image Entertainment, we get a new Blu-ray edition. Directing duo Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch has been known for their documentary work in the horror genre including the also recently released “Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th”, which runs over 7 hours itself. This film is a four-hour retrospective documentary that really dives very in-depth in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” film series. I have always loved this series, the good AND the bad and this is really the best way to give this series the respect that it deserves. A must have for any horror fan.

Official Premise: For decades, Freddy Krueger has slashed his way through the dreams of countless youngsters, scaring up over half a billion dollars at the box office. In this thrilling retrospective, fans will enter the world of Freddy Krueger and A Nightmare On Elm Street like never before: exploring what spurred mastermind Wes Craven to craft the first groundbreaking film; delving deep behind the scenes of the original and all of its sequels; learning how the cast and crew brought their worst nightmares to life; and finally, understanding the impact the series and its myths have had on modern pop culture and the horror genre. Child murderer. Dream demon. The son of a thousand maniacs. Any way you slice it there can be only one man, one monster, who epitomizes horror like no other.

So if you haven’t seen this film already it is jam packed with clips from each of the film along with never-before-seen photos, behind-the-scenes footage, conceptual art, publicity materials and exclusive new interviews with over 100 key cast and crew from every Nightmare film. Just some of amazingly talent people include Wes Craven, Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, Jack Sholder, Mark Patton, Kim Myers, Chuck Russell, Jennifer Rubin, Renny Harlin, Lisa Wilcox, Tuesday Knight, Stephen Hopkins, Kelly Jo Minter, Rachel Talalay, Lisa Zane, Alice Cooper, Patrick Lussier, Miko Hughes, Monica Keena, Brendan Fletcher, Ronny Yu and many more. These filmmakers really set out to make the definitive documentary and they achieved that with no question.

In terms of special features, the Blu-ray comes stocked with the same amazing special features that the DVD did back in 2010. If four hours wasn’t long enough there are additional “Extended Interviews” covering each of the films and it definitely consists of some great additional content. There is a (or was a) “First Look: Heather Langenkamp’s “I Am Nancy”, which was a doc that came out in 2011 told from the star’s perspective of attending conventions etc. “For the Love of the Glove” follows online sellers as they talk about their work with making custom Freddy gloves. “Fred Heads: The Ultimate Freddy Fans” gives us an inside look into the world of the collectors behind this series.

“Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: Return to Elm Street” is an episode from the great online series from Sean Clark in which he visits all the old shooting locations of the classic film. “Freddy vs. The Angry Video Game Nerd” features James Rolfe talking about the (rather terrible) NES video game. “Expanding the Video Game Universe: Freddy in Comic Books and Novels” talks with authors and artists about their expanding universe for Freddy. “The Music of the Nightmare: Conversations with Composers and Songwriter” is an amazing extra diving into the memorable music from this great series.

“Elm Street’s Poster Boy: The Art of Matthew Joseph Peak” looks into the work of this very talent artist, who also brought us the cover art for this film. “A Nightmare on Elm Street in 10 Minutes” is an extended version of the actor line readings, which is shown in the film’s credits. Lastly there is a teaser trailer included. Whew! This movie and special features all together are so entertaining and I have never seen so much packed into one release. Don’t miss this one!

Book Review “The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir”

“The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir”
Author: Dave Van Ronk Elijah Wald
Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir” written by Dave Van Ronk and Elijah Wald is a firsthand account of the sixties folk scene, A scene which included the likes of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Woody Guthrie. However this book starts before that as its subject Dave Van Ronk was performing folk style music years prior and has been noted as an influence by those who would go on to define not only a genre but an era. Ronk’s life story is also the subject of the latest Cohen brothers film “Inside Llewyn Davis” which stars Oscar Isaac and Justin Timberlake.

Not being a huge folk music fan I was a bit out of the loop when I first started this book. Prior to my reading the only thing I could really attach to the term folk music was early pictures of Bob Dylan and his acoustic guitar. However after reading “The Mayor of MacDougal Street” I realized that there was a lot more to it and that it didn’t just happen all of a sudden. Van Ronk tells in detail stories of his first taste of recording to the struggles of finding places to perform and throughout the books pages when fitting recounts intimate memories and experiences with the likes of Joni Mitchell and Phil Ochs. For those like myself who didn’t have a lot of knowledge of what would later be called the “Great Folk Scare” which Van Ronk had a huge hand in creating look no further as Wald and Van Ronk himself put together a colorful yet fitting account of what life was like on New York City’s MacDougal Street in the early 1960’s

PJ Byrne reflects on his role in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and his new show on CBS “Intelligence”

PJ Byrne is known best for his scene stealing roles in films like “Final Destination 5”, “Horrible Bosses” and most recently in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street”. He is also the voice of Bolin in Nickelodeon’s hit animated show “The Legend of Korra”. PJ is not only a great actor but also a great personal friend and Media Mikes got to chat with him about about his role in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and his new show on CBS “Intelligence”, which premieres on January 7th.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you got involved with “The Wolf of Wall Street”?
PJ Byrne: Having gone to Boston College as finance major, this was one of those movies that I had been tracking for a while. I wanted to make sure that I got an audition for this film. Mr. Scorsese wasn’t going to be at the auditions and they would be held in New York not Los Angeles, so I decided to put myself on tape and improvise my own monologue. So I came up with this monologue with me calling up a guy and finding out that he passed away from his wife and I end up selling her like $100,000 dollars’ worth of stock, just to show how manipulative these guys where. Mr. Scorsese saw it, loved it and asked me to come out to New York to audition. So I went there and was freaking out but he is just the coolest guy there is man. He put me at ease, I improvised some more and next thing I know I am in the movie and for the part I wanted, which was even better.

MG: What was it like working a legendary director like Martin Scorsese?
PJB: It was a really special experience. He is this great iconic director that if you are lucky you get to work with as an actor. The thing with these iconic directors is that they are also great communicators. They give you the confidence to go out and do anything you want but at the same time they also prepare you so well during that process. At the end of the day, he realized that he wasn’t in from of the camera we were and he just let us do our thing. That was the greatest gift that he could give. The trust he gave me and confidence he gave me to sort of unleash because a lot of the things I did was improvised, which is a scary world in its own but I have been doing it for a while now. It is also scary in the sense that these guys are extremely unethical and crazy guys, so I have to leave PJ at the door and go in and become this character.

MG: How can you address the reactions about people saying that the film is glorifying these characters?
PJB: You want people in America to know how bad these guys are, so you want really get into these characters and portray them correctly. So if anyone ever calls you on the phone, be aware since these people are out to get your money. This is a great way to tell people to be very aware and to raise your radar and in this film, we do it in an interesting way. Removing the fact that this is an artistic movie, we really break down what these guys are doing and how they are taught to sell. Not saying that all guys that sell you stocks are bad but this movie is aimed to raise your awareness to watch and realize who is handling your money. If I learned anything in college is that, first, there is no such thing as a free lunch and second, no one cares more about your money than you do. I think it is important for people to watch this movie so it is seared into their brain.

MG: How does it feel to be called a “scene stealer” in your films?
PJB: I guess it is flattering to be called that but I do not go into a scene thinking that I am going to steal this scene. I think it is a lot of preparation, especially when you are improvising. I did all my work and I know my character. If you wanted me to sell a cupcake, I was so prepared for this guy and I could have sold anything in that moment, using “Wolf” as an example. So that is one thing, the other is coming armed with not necessarily jokes but different approaches to the role. Let’s say I prepared like twenty things and I only use two, I am still fully armed and ready. The third piece of preparing is being ready to roll with it and see where any of it goes. What you prepared might not be useful at all since the director and actors might be thinking about something else. But since you know the character so well, you are ready to go any which way. In the film, there is a bunch of stuff that I prepared for and then there are other parts we just went with. I had no idea that Jonah (Hill) was going to do the part of “Don’t look him in the eyes” and we ended up just riffing off that. I had that horrible line the first time that we see Margo (Robbie) and the line that came out of my mouth even scared me, which was “She is so hot, I would let her give me AIDS”. As horrible as that line is that is exactly who these guys were though. It is inappropriate because the time period is inappropriate with AIDS but is something that is going to stick in your head. This goes back to the idea of glorifying them; this was there to show that these are bad dudes and to be wary of them. So it is not just about scene stealer, it is about being prepared when going into a role.

MG: Let’s talk about your new TV show on CBS called “Intelligence”, tell us what we can expect?
PJB: After doing “The Wolf of Wall Street” and I have done a lot of comedies, you can’t plan this but I have always thought in the back of my head that I would love to do a drama. This came along and everything worked out and I feel just blessed to be a part of it. Everyone involved is really cool and I love the premise. This show is great mixture of “Homeland” meets “The Bourne Identity”. Being a guy that loved watching James Bond as a kid and in this I get to be the Q character a bit was very appealing. I also have this family relationship since Josh’s character who is considered a brother to me and having that conflict there was also interesting.

MG: Can you give us a run down about your character, Nelson Cassidy?
PJB: I am a computer genius in the show. I can do anything that Josh’s character can do on the computer…except he can do it 1.6 billion times faster because he has a microchip in his brain. So that is very annoying to me. My father created this chip and Josh’s character and he looks to him as his own son as he is a brother to me…except Josh is incredibly handsome and I am not as good looking, so that is a point of contention. I can get into fights but he is a trained Delta Force guy, so he can kick ass better than me…and that is annoying. So there is a lot of that brotherly jealously going on if you will [laughs]. But he is my brother and I have his back and we are always there for each other and that is a cool part of the show. When you have that family aspect when working on a show and you play a scene with a person you know or a co-worker you have to be more delicate. But when it involves your brother you can go from 0 to 10 right away and to me that is much more interesting. Another aspect of the character that I love is that I am not just behind a computer; I actually get to be put into the field. I had to shoot guns, save people and pull bombs out of bodies, so it is awesome from that perspective. The last aspect that I loved about the show is that I am like the person at home watching being thrown into this world where Josh’s character is the complete opposite and trained to be in this world. Meghan Ory’s character Riley is Secret Service, so she is also trained to be in this world. Same goes for the character Lillian, who is played by Marg Helgenberger. I just happen to be this super genius and by default I was just thrown into this world. So I do not know how to be a “super-agent” and I had to slowly transition into it and I found that to be a lot of fun to play out.

MG: What else do you have going on for 2014?
PJB: I’ve got this show right now. So this is the first time that I haven’t had to do pilot season, which is a little scary but still comforting. I get to go off now and go into the movie world. I got something brewing but I can’t say officially yet. I have a little window now to shoot something because if the show gets picked up then we go back to work in June. Then I still have “The Legend of Korra”, which is coming back for its third season and let me tell you…it is awesome! We are currently doing ADR and I have seen it all and fans are going to freak out since it’s that good. I am so proud to be a part of that show. So for now be sure to tune in to “Intelligence” on CBS and watch out for some other great projects in the works this year.

Film Review “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Rated: R
Running time: 2 hours 59 mins
Paramount

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

Earlier this month Paramount Pictures announced to film exhibitors that “The Wolf of Wall Street” would be the last film they will release on 35 mm. The digital age is here and from now on film is no more. My only thoughts is that they saved the best for last.

Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) is a man on his way up. He has gotten caught up in the Wall Street boom of the mid 1980s and taken a job at a firm where he soon hopes to be making big bank. He is taken to lunch by, and under the wing of, the firm’s owner (McConaughey) and it is here that he learns the important part of Wall Street: you’re not making THEM money, you’re making YOURSELF money! When the Market crashes on Black Monday, Jordan finds himself out of work and searching the want ads. He applies to a firm that he learns is located in a strip mall. The main staple being sold are penny stocks…companies on the way up (allegedly) that consumers can get for pennies a share. Learning that his commission is 50% of what he sells, Jordan follows his mentors advice and makes himself $3000 on his first deal. Soon he decides to form his own firm, taking a few of his co-workers with him. Among them is Donnie Azoff (Hill, once again back in Oscar territory). Together they start a company where the money rolls in, the drugs roll out and Dwarf tossing is a competitive sport!

Based on the memoirs of the real-life Belfort, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is a humorous, depraved and intriguing look at the excess of the 1990s and the effect it had on people. When we first meet Jordan, his voice over tells us that he made $49 million last year. But he’s not proud of that fact, he’s annoyed. Another $3 mill and he could have said that he made a million dollars a week. Poor guy! As portrayed by DiCaprio, Belfort is a fun loving guy who is more than happy to share the wealth…and drugs…and hookers. His firm becomes so successful that competitions are held between prospective employees before they are even seen for an interview. DiCaprio has done his best work with Scorsese (this is their 5th collaboration) and he knocks it out of the park here. If a fourth Academy Award nomination (and first Award) aren’t forthcoming the Academy and I are going to have a stern conversation. From emotional highs to dramatic lows to some incredible physical comedy, DiCaprio gives Belfort something he probably didn’t have in real life: a soul. Hill is excellent as the nebbish Azoff. Also turning in great supporting work is Kyle Chandler, as an FBI agent on Jordan’s trail, Jean DuJardin as Jordan’s Swiss compatriot and, in a rare on screen appearance, Rob Reiner, who plays Jordan’s father.

Technically, this is Scorsese at his best. Is there a better storyteller working today? Armed with his usual sidekicks, including film editor Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese has fashioned another masterpiece, just in time for the holidays. In my humble opinion, this is the best film of 2013.

Blu-ray Review “Street Trash: Special Meltdown Edition”

Actors: James Lorinz, Mike Lackey, Mark Sferrazza, Bill Chepil
Directors: James Muro
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Synapse Films
Release Date: July 9, 2013
Run Time: 102 minutes

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

I grew up watching Troma movies (and even appeared in one of them) at a way to young age. So growing up in the 80’s I was in love with the horror genre and all the “trash” that came out of it. “Street Trash” is a very unique film, since it aims to offend so much with its super-gore and bad taste but it ends up only entertaining. The special effects are all practical and really make me yearn for those days when everything wasn’t digital. There was a lot of hard work that went into making this film, especially on a low-budget and it is just pain fun. In the world of reboots and remakes, it is great to see something truly original. This is definitely not for the squeamish but highly recommend for all hardcore horrorhounds.

Official Premise: In the sleazy, foreboding world of winos, derelicts and drifters in lower Manhattan, two young runaways eighteen-year-old Fred (Mike Lackey) and his younger brother, Kevin (Mark Sferrazza) live in a tire hut in the back of an auto wrecking yard. Life is hard, but the most lethal threat to the boys is the mysterious case of Tenafly Viper wine in Ed’s liquor store window. The stuff is forty years old… and it’s gone bad. REAL bad! Anyone who drinks it melts in seconds, and it’s only a dollar a bottle!

Synapse Films has beautifully re-mastered this film in high-definition and gave it the love and attention that it deserves. The 1080p transfer with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio presentation is very sharp and for a low-budget movie from the ’80s looks just plain awesome. It was taken from original camera negative and was meticulously restored. The colors in this film are very key and they really pop with this new transfer. The film has a certain cartoon feel to it and this really extenuates that positive. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also impressive. It works very well with the dialogue and especially with the Vietnam War flashback. This track was created specifically for home theater systems and it sounds great. This is easily one of the best Synapse Films in the recent years.

Synapse went all out with the extras included the ability to create your own bottle of Tenafly Viper Wine with an exclusive label sticker included. The special features are stunning like the film itself. There are two commentary track included. The first is with writer/producer Roy Frumkes, which is super informative and fun. The second is with director James Muro, it is more technical and a little drier but still a tons of great info. “The Meltdown Memoirs” is an epic two plus hour multi-part documentary that really encompasses all aspects of the production. There is the original 16mm short film “Street Trash”, which inspired the film.
There is an “Interview with Jane Arakawa” from 2007 sharing her experience making “Street Trash”. Lastly, there are a few Deleted Scenes and Outtakes, as well as Promotional Teaser and Theatrical Trailer included.

 

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Uwe Boll talks about “Assault on Wall Street” and “In the Name of the King III”

Uwe Boll is the director of films like “House of the Dead”, “Postal, “In the Name of the King” series and “Bloodrayne” series. Uwe is releasing his most personal and impressive film to date called “Assault on Wall Street”. The film stars Dominic Purcell, known best for TV role in “Prison Break”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Uwe again about his upcoming films and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you got attached to “Assault on Wall Street” aka “Bailout: The Age of Greed”?
Uwe Boll: I developed it also as a producer. I was basically very pissed with the bailouts that the banks got away with. The movies that were made about the financial crisis where not showing the other side of the story. None of them were focusing on the people that actually lost everything. I wanted to also turn it into more of a revenge thriller, sort of a mix of “Falling Down” and “Death Wish”. Everything came together and I felt that it ended up being a very strong movie.

MG: Did you face any issues shooting an anti-Wall Street film in NYC?
UB: The problem was that when I went into casting a lot of the actor’s agents I asked had problems with the role. They were concerned with the fact if someone then actually went out and shoot up bankers for real then I would have been setting their character as a role model. I told them that it was only a movie and you have to take risks in your life otherwise you will never do anything. I thought it was a story that was worth telling. I have to say though we ended up with the perfect guy, Dominic Purcell. This is his best movie. He carried the movie very well as the lead actor.

MG: The film is one of your most mature and focused film; how does it compare for you to your past films?
UB: I do compare it to one of my other recent films “Rampage”, for example. A lot of my other movies are cold and this one sticks out since I spent a lot of time with the drama. The main character and his wife in the film have a great relationship. [SPOLIER ALERT] I don’t know one person who has watched the movie that wasn’t almost crying when she commits suicide. I think this is the first movie I did where the emotion part actually exists in a way. My video game based movies are more genre films. The other movies are more violent at times and let’s say more clinical. This one is more touching and emotional.

MG: You also reunite with Dominic Purcell in “In the Name of the King III”, tell us about that production?
UB: We went and shot the movie in Bulgaria. We focused it again on time travel but taking place mostly in medieval times. I like working with him so much and I want to continue working with him. At first he wasn’t a big fan of the fantasy aspect of the film. Then when we shot it, we brought in a lot of dry humor and made it fun. I think you will really be surprised how well that it turned out. But it is not done yet though, we are currently working on the CGI phase of the film.

MG: Did you ever think that you would be making a third film, after the first?
UB: No, not at all. Like with “Bloodrayne”, we did three films and with “King” I think now after this it will be the end of it. I do not see a need to really precede with this series after this film. I think it is a good ending and brings the films together. For me I just love shooting movies. If I am able to shoot a film like “In the Name of the King” then I do it. I am not the kind of the director that waits three years for his passion project. I try to make a passion projects like “Assault on Wall Street” but in between I take advantage of other opportunities if I can get funding together.

MG: Speaking of sequels, are you done with the “Bloodrayne” series or can we expect a fourth film?
UB: We developed a fourth one taking place in the present time. But Majesco Games pulled the plug saying that they do not want anymore movies. I couldn’t believe it because the games were never as popular and I feel that our movies were much bigger. Before I got into a lawsuit with Majesco, I dropped the ball and decided to not make it. I would like to do another though to finish the “Bloodrayne” story. Maybe Majesco will change their minds in the future. A lot of the times video game companies change management and maybe we can reactivate our relationship one day.

MG: How did you get attached to produce “Legend of the Red Reaper”?
UB: With “Legend of the Red Reaper”, I am only working with the film during post-production. I wasn’t involved with the shoot. Tara Cardinal, the producer,  actress, director, she did everything on this film. I saw a rough cut of the movie, which was about two and half hours. Inside that cut, I saw a movie and said that we would have to cut it out of it. So now we are in the finishing process now.

MG: Tell us about what we can expect from the anthology film, “The Profane Exhibit”?
UB: The producer David Bond contacted me and showed me the first segment from the film, which was so violent. He asked me if I wanted to act as the sales company to assist in selling the film but also at the same time shoot a segment myself for the film. There are twelve segments from different directors. My segment was based on the Fritzl case, which happened in Austria a few years ago. Basically a guy was keeping his own daughter locked up in the basement for like 20 years. For my segment, I focused on one day in his life of that guy. It is very creepy. The movie should be finished in August/September and we already have invitations from over 25 film festivals around the world. People are really excited and want to see what we came up with this film.

MG: Next up you are directing “Suddenly” again reuniting with Ray Liotta, Dominic Purcell and Michael Paré; tell us about what we can expect?
UB: We shot this already. Yes, it is funny because I worked with Dominic Purcell and Ray Liotta again. I love working with the same actors because I know them already and we are able to get the job done quickly. This is a remake of the Frank Sinatra film of the same title from the 50’s. In the original, Sterling Hayden was the Sheriff and Frank Sinatra was the bad guy. In this film Dominic is the bad guy and Ray Liotta is the sheriff. It is about the assassination of the president and takes place in one day. We shot in Vancouver, Canada in the snow. I even hired an Obama double to play the President, so we almost get to shoot the real Obama [laughs]. It is is post-production now and is almost finished.

Rob Zombie talks about writing and directing “The Lords of Salem” and new album “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor”

Rob Zombie is one of the founding members of the band White Zombie, but is notable for his solo act which spawned hits like “Living Dead Girl” and “Dragula”. While still working in music, he turned his sites over to writing and directing films. He has written and directed films like “House of 1000 Corpses”, “The Devil Rejects”, “Halloween (2007)” and “Halloween II (2009)”. His latest film, “The Lords of Salem”, is his most real and dark film to date. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Rob about the film and also his newest solo album “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor”.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about what or who were you major influences when you were written “The Lords of Salem”?
Rob Zombie: There wasn’t really one thing in particular. Truthfully, the biggest influence for me is that I wanted to make the type of midnight film I remember watching when I was in high school. Back in the day before you can get your hands on everything, I used to have these film books. I used to look at photos from movies like “Suspiria” or “Eraserhead”. I used to say “Fuck, I got to see these movies!” The feeling I would get when I would watch these movies was so special since they were so unique, odd and unlike anything mainstream. I wanted to make a movie that was like that. If you go to see “Lords of Salem” you are going to see something that isn’t what you wouldn’t typical expect to see at the movies. It takes it you to a whole other place. On a grand scale, that was really the inspiration that I wanted to make something like that.

MG: In terms of directing, did you learn any new tricks on this film?
RZ: Well I learned more patience, I think. It is very easy to be impatient when you are making a movie. I learned to just slow the camera down, slow the actors down and let the movie breathe. I wasn’t worried about the audience getting bored or restless, those qualities sometimes can help a movie. It is very easy to make a movie fast paced and keep people interested but sometimes that detracts from the certain mood you are trying to create. Sometimes you need the movie to drag in order to pull people down with it. That was something that I learned on this movie.

MG: The budget was $1.5 million; what was your biggest challenge working with that?
RZ: Everything! [laughs]. Everything was huge challenge. We had no money for anything. The cheapest movie that I have ever made in my life cost $7 million (which was “House of 1000 Corpses”). I was not used to be down in the no budget range. So as we were shooting, I was constantly re-writing the script and constantly changing things. So every second of the day was a challenge.

MG: The witch burning scene was very intense; tell us about shooting that scene?
RZ: We shot that whole scene very quickly, in fact it was done in one night. We had no time. Once again, I had come up with this great plan for shooting the witch burning scene but then I realized that we only had an hour to shoot. I set up one grand shot that I thought would have the most impact and then just went for it. My big goal was to not make it ever look like we didn’t have any time or money. That was what I was always trying to hide.

MG: How did you get genre legends like Patricia Quinn and Meg Foster, who had quite the transformation, on board?
RZ: It was fantastic. I have always loved Patricia Quinn because I was a huge “Rocky Horror” fan. I loved her in everything that she has done but she also hasn’t done a lot. She also hasn’t done a lot recently. But I always wanted to work with her. I had met her over dinner about 15 years ago talking about a movie that never happened, so I had always had her in my mind from day one. Meg Foster was someone who I always thought was cool and very beautiful with those piercing eyes, but I didn’t know if she would be right of this film. I wasn’t sure at first. So I got her on the phone and after talking for about an hour, I know that she would be perfect. She totally understood and got the film.

MG: Being a musician yourself; tell us about working with John 5 on the score?
RZ: He was great to work with on this film and obviously I have been working with John now for over eight years. I know how talented he is, not just as a guitar player but also a musician. It was very easy. I conveyed my ideas and what I was thinking and he executed them perfectly. He was great on this film.

MG: Tell us about the composition of The Lords music track?
RZ: That one was tricky trying to figure out what that track would be. John had worked on a few things and it wasn’t just right. I remember one day we were on the phone together, I was on the east coast and John was on the west, and we were just humming little weird melodies back and forth to each other on the phone. It was then that we found the sound that we were looking for. Neither of us can remember who came up with it first but we just knew we had it when we heard it.

MG: Horror fans are the toughest of any genre fan; what do you think they will appreciate the most within “The Lords of Salem”?
RZ: What I would appreciate most about the film is that it is different. I think that horror fans are tricky. They are all different kinds of people. Sometimes they are not the first ones to embrace something different. But again all of those films that I spoke love as a kid, those weren’t embraced at the time either. So I purposely made a film that would be a tough sell to people…but that is why I made it. I think it will be split. Some people will love it to death and some people just won’t get it.  But that is ok with me since everybody cannot get everything!

MG: Your new album “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor” is heavy and dark; tell us about the inspiration behind this album?
RZ: Well I think the movie and album sort of played into each other. I was doing them both around the same time. I had an editing room in my house were we edited the movie. Then we moved the editing room out and moved in a recording studio. I went right from one to the other. I think the vibe of the two projects sort of melded together. I wanted both of them to be weird and unique and that was the goal for me.

MG: Where do you find time to tour, making films and also new music?
RZ: That is all I do man! Where do I find time for anything else is more the question…[laughs].

MG: Do you still plan on directing “Tyrannosaurus Rex” next? What else is in the cards?
RZ: No, that project isn’t happening anymore. What is happening next besides the two we just spoke about is that I will be doing a lot of touring. I headline the Mayhem Fest 2013 tour, which is starting in June and that will go for a while. But the next film project I got is called “The Broad Street Bullies”, which is a true life sports film about the Philadelphia Flyers… which is totally different!

Peter Noone talks about Herman’s Hermits and "Coronation Street"

Born in Manchester, England, Peter Noone got an early taste of fame when, as a teenager, he appeared on the British television program “Coronation Street.” The show, still going after more then five decades, also boasts such famous alumni as Ben Kingsley, Cliff Richard, Davy Jones and “Law and Order” star Linus Roache. He studied voice and music in college and then attended the Manchester School of Music, where he won the Outstanding Young Musician Award.

It was while performing under the name Peter Novak that he an his group were discovered. Bearing a slight resemblance to a popular U.S. cartoon character, Noone and company became Herman’s Hermits. The band had several hits, both in England and America, including “I’m Into Something Good,” “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” and “Henry the Eighth I Am.” Noone and the boys separated in 1971 and he continues to enjoy a popular solo career both in music and acting. While getting ready for the next leg of his U.S. concert tour, Mr. Noone took time out to speak with Media Mikes about the importance of “Coronation Street,” his long friendship with the late Davy Jones and why he doesn’t care if he’s ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Mike Smith: You’ve been performing on stage since you were 15. Do you still get the same thrill and feelings when you step in front of an audience today as you did in your youth?
Peter Noone: I think I started a long time before I was 15, but always get a thrill doing what I do, which is make it look easy and fun, although it isn’t easy and not always fun. But something unknown makes me want to sort of “win” a crowd, so there have been close calls and easy calls just like an athlete. I must admit that it is more fun now that the crowd knows my music and my songs, and all I have to do is have fun and let them sing along.

MS: As a young man you appeared as Stanley Fairclough on the very popular “Coronation Street,” which has been on the air since 1960. Were you ever a fan of the show and can you explain how the show has maintained it’s popularity for over 50 years?
PN: I am shocked that the show has continued to be a success without me in it, but `I will say that the original cast were the source of much inspiration as they were consummate professionals and always backed each other (and often me) so that if someone forgot a line it was never an issue and I learned (like the marines) to be ready to pick up any slight failures. I now look forward to something going wrong onstage so I can fix it like those early “Coronation Street” actors and actresses did way back then. It is the British version of Dallas and is the story of relationships in a small English town where people care about each other so I imagine there will always be an audience for it as long as people seek that lifestyle.

MS: I’ve read several different stories on how Herman’s Hermits got their name. The most repeated one is that a producer thought you bore a resemblance to the young lad Sherman, Mr. Peabody’s assistant, on the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” program. Can you set the record straight?
PN: It was a publicist at a place near Manchester who said that I didn’t look like Buddy Holly in my horn rimmed glasses but I did look like “HERMAN” from the “Bullwinkle” show. He meant Sherman but we laughed and then he said call the lads “the Hermits because they look like bloody hermits!”

MS: You voiced the character of Adrian on “Phineas and Ferb” alongside Davy Jones, who was Nigel. Sadly we lost Davy Jones last year. Do you have a favorite memory of him that you could share?
PN: I have lots of favorite moments with Davy, whom I first met when I introduced him to the Beatles at “Top of the Pops” at the BBC in London all those years ago. He and Mickey Dolenz were charming and delightful, and very conscious of who the Beatles were and what they represented. Davy was from Manchester like myself and had the type of Northern humor that the Fab Four understood. We always got along great,and did many projects together. I played his manager on the TV show “My Two Dads” and we did many concerts together….probably more than he did with The Monkees. It’s sad that he went just when he seemed to be having more fun than ever.

MS: You continue to tour. What is it about your music that continually adds new fans from new generations?
PN: I think it is my optimism and naiveté that contrasts with many other oldies acts who seem to just go through the motions. I believe in all my songs and their messages and look forward to the next performance as being the best one yet! The audiences know!

MS: Though the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, there are only a handful of other “British Invasion” bands (Dave Clark 5, the Hollies) inducted. Do you think Herman’s Hermits will one day be elected?
PN: I doubt it, because the people who vote don’t think my group was important, and I agree with them. We never wanted to be loved by the critics, We wanted a following who loved us.

To find out if Mr. Noone will be appearing in your area visit, click here.

 

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