Matthew Patrick Davis talks about his stage version of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”

Photo Credit: Joanna Brooks

You may not know the name Matthew Patrick Davis yet but he is making a name for himself very quickly. He recently made headlines when his stage version of “Jack’s Lament” for “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” showed up on online. He has also been behind some very funny stage productions with the UCB Theatre including “The Shining! The Musical!” and “Jurasic Park: The Musical!”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Matthew about his work and what he has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: Let’s talk about your stage version of “Jack’s Lament” for Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas”? Have you been contacted at all or do you have plans to expand it?
Matthew Patrick Davis: As a 6’8” physical actor who grew up loving Tim Burton, Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo, playing Jack in a live adaptation of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” has always been a dream of mine. A couple years ago, I put up a few scenes from “Nightmare” in my acting class. The class freaked out and got super excited about it, so that’s when we decided to shoot some of it, and that’s where the video comes from. If this video could accomplish anything, I guess it would be for it to be a viral thingy and get the attention of the people that own the rights and actually have the power to make it a legitimate piece of theatre: Tim Burton and Thomas Schumacher, the President of Disney Theatrical Group. It would obviously have such mass appeal, and I think could be something insanely great.

MG: Tell us how did you come up with the ideas for “The Shining! The Musical!” and “Jurassic Park: The Musical?”
MPD: I write the movie musicals with my friends Joe Chandler and Zach Paez; friends from high school who are now television writers in Los Angeles. We just pick movies that we love, and musicalize them into part parody, part tribute. “Jurassic Park” was a movie that was very formative in our youth; as 14 year olds, we would often be found doing impressions of the Raptors or the Spitter in a Denny’s parking lot somewhere. “The Shining” is another one of our favorite films — we just enjoyed the juxtaposition between the darkness of man slowly going insane and trying to murder his family, with the light-heartedness of a musical.

MG: Any plans to ever perform these again or record and release them?
MPD: We perform the movie musicals semi-regularly at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles, so there will definitely be another performance sometime in the future.

MG: What do you have planned next to turn into a musical?
MPD: We’ve done four movie adaptations, (JP, The Shining, The NeverEnding Story, and The King of Kong) so next, we would love to do an original. So we’ll do that, and/or do one of the movies we’ve always talked about doing, i.e. T2, Top Gun, Glengarry Glen Ross, Braveheart, The Sixth Sense, etc.

MG: How did you end up as the Sprint Zombie for their commercials?
MPD: It was a pretty standard commercial audition process, just like any other. I got lucky with this one, in that they ran it so much, and it was actually a funny spot that I was really pleased with. The director said that one the reasons they hired me was because they like the way I added the “cool, cool cool cool…” in the audition, so I guess that’s something.

MG: What else do you have planned for 2014?
MPD: I’m going to be releasing an album of some of my songs that can be found on my YouTube page. I’ll be writing more songs and musicals. I’m hoping to take my one man show to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC — it’s called, “Matt Davis Gets A Girlfriend:” A One Man Musical about One Man’s quest to not DIE ALONE. Also, I’ll be doing the revival/reboot of the musical Side Show at the Kennedy Center in DC in June and July, having just done it at the La Jolla Playhouse.

Tim Kirk talks about producing “The Shining” documentary “Room 237”

Tim Kirk is the producer of the new documentary “Room 237: Being an Inquiry into ‘The Shining’ in 9 Parts”. The film takes a look behind the film “The Shining” and exposes some of the films deeper meanings. If you are a fan of “The Shining”, then you need to watch this film ASAP! Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tim about the film and his thoughts on the theories.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you end up getting involved producing “Room 237”?
Tim Kirk: For several months a few years ago, my baby daughter could only sleep while being gently rocked in my arms. During this time, I completed the Internet. In the deep recesses I found a mind-blowing essay about The Shining. I sent it to my friend Rodney Ascher, knowing he would dig it and hoping that he was awake. He called 10 minutes later and Room 237 was born.

MG: Tell us how the documentary ended up being split into nine parts?
TK: When we sat down to structure the film, we had many sequences of varying lengths. We tried a number of structures and this one seemed to work the most. Numbering the parts was aimed at giving the viewer a sense of the shape going into it, and a way to keep track of where they are in the film as they are watching. It’s an unusual structure so we tried to provide clues along the way.

MG: The documentary is thought-provoking and intriguing; what was your biggest challenge with this project?
TK: I think the biggest challenge of making this film was that there is no map for making a film like this. That’s also why making it was so fun and liberating.

MG: How long did the film take to complete from conception to release?
TK: We spent a year researching. Another year interviewing and editing. Then another year in post.

MG: Some of the theories are a little bit of a stretch in my mind; which ones do you feel have the strongest case in the film?
TK: We tried to make the strongest case we could for each theory. Rodney once described the apparatus of the film as being “this persuasion machine.” I have completely believed each theory at one point or another. Right now, three some years in, I don’t know what to think any more.

MG: Are you shocked by the response that this film has generated since its release?
TK: I am blown away by the response to this film. At many times during the making of the film, Rodney wondered if he wasn’t Jack, typing away on his nonsense novel. In that scenario, I am probably Lloyd, pouring the drinks and urging him on.

MG: Is there any extra footage planned for the Blu-ray release? What other kind of extras can we expect?
TK: We have some deleted scenes, many audio, for the DVD. Some great theories and ideas that didn’t make it into the film. Let me just say “Big Dipper.” Also, some alt trailers and other goodies.

MG: Being a fan myself; what is your personal favorite scene in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”?
TK: I think my favorite scenes are when Jack is at the bar, talking to Lloyd. We get a glimpse into the sort of novel Jack would be writing if he could. He clearly fancies himself a working man’s writer, using crass and derogative language. His spells of angry eloquence here and on the stairwell are in real contrast to the phoney we meet in the interview scene.

MG:What do you have planned next after this film?
TK: Working with Rodney is great and we have a couple of documentaries in the works. There is a narrative project I’m working on. I’m also hoping to become a fierce soccer dad.

As I Lay Dying's Tim Lambesis talks about Austrian Death Machine's third album "Triple Brutal"

Tim Lambesis is the vocalist for the metalcore group As I Lay Dying. The group released their 6th studio album titled “Awakened” in September of 2012 after spending the summer performing on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival. Tim’s side project Austrian Death Machine is set to release their third album titled “Triple Brutal” and with the help of indiegogo.com the group is offering fans once in a life time chances to help make the new album a reality. Media Mikes spoke with Tim recently about the upcoming release and found out just how dedicated he is to this record and the fans.

Adam Lawton: How did Austrian Death Machine originally come together?
Tim Lambesis: I wanted to do something that would be light and fun. There are all these great Arnold Schwarzenegger one liners from movies I grew up watching as a kid that I thought would make great song lyrics. The project really started out as more of a joke. I started writing the music and things just began coming together. We have this sort of cult following now which is pretty cool.

AL: In the past you have been responsible for the majority of lyrics and instrumentation. Was this still the case for the new album?
TL: With this being our third release now I kind of wanted to mix things up. I wanted to bring in friends and have them work on various songs. Most of the songs on the new album have been co-written which I think gives the record a more diverse feeling. There are a couple of tracks on there where I did things the old way which had me playing all the instruments and doing most of the vocals. Having those different people come in I think has made this release the best.

AL: I assume things were a little less stressful then for you this time around?
TL: It was. The thing is that even though I wasn’t doing as much song writing I was doing a ton of coordinating. Getting everyone together took some work. We actually are still working on the solos as we speak. Once those are completed we will be able to start the mixing process. I sort of traded one stress for another.

AL: Did the recent resurgence of Arnold Schwarzenegger in films influence the new album at all?
TL: That was definitely one of the motivating factors. We kind of let the project sit for awhile after putting out 2 records. Fans of those records were always asking me when new material was going to be coming out. That is what made me decide to get things up and running again.

AL: Can you explain your involvement with indiegogo.com?
TL: One of the reps for the site had gotten in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in doing something with them as Austrian Death Machine hadn’t done a new album in awhile. Fans of this band are real diehard fans and I thought doing something like this would give those fans more of a direct connection with the group. We have come up with some really special perks that probably wouldn’t happen when working on a normal record.

AL: Can you tell us about some of the unique packages that are available?
TL: We threw a bunch of stuff out jokingly and we actually ended up using some it. It’s one of those things that will get people talking and keep things interesting.  We did have to limit some of the packages like the one where if you pledge $5,000 I will tattoo your name on my ass. That one is limited to two. One on each side will be the maximum. I came up with about 20 initial ideas and brought them to the guy at indiegogo.com I am working with. We narrowed it down to the best ones  and then we fine tuned them.

AL: Are there plans to tour in support of the release?
TL: That sort of depends on a couple things. First we have to see how the pledging campaign goes. We still have quite a few days left on that. If there are funds and the means to do a tour we will definitely be out there. The shows in the past have always been a fun time and the guys who play with me on those dates are always asking if we can do more shows. It’s one of those things where it’s hard to put together shows when I am gone so long with As I Lay Dying. If the opportunity becomes available I would love to do it.

AL: Has As I Lay Dying confirmed any dates for the coming Spring/Summer?
TL: We are getting ready to release the info for a tour that is going to be really cool. That I think starts in May sometime. After that most of our summer will be spent over in Europe doing festivals.

To help support Austrian Death Machines new album “Triple Brutal” and get your hands on some really cool limited edition stuff head over to http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/336354/ and pledge now!

Twink Caplan revisits her role in “Clueless” and working on “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie”

Twink Caplan is best known for her role of Miss Geist in “Clueless”.  She also had a fun role in this year’s raunchy comedy “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie”.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Twink about her role in the film and reflect on playing Miss Geist.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about working with Tim & Eric in “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie”?
Twink Caplan: Working with Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim in “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” was insane fun. We had met a few years earlier when I worked on “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show.” It was a huge compliment to find out the duo had me in mind while writing the role of Katie. The cast was impressive with Will Ferrell, Zack Galifianakis, John C. Reilly, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Loggia, Will Forte… I was excited to play the lead female in this glorious company of men.

MG: The duo are know for their bizarre comedy, where you aware of this before coming on board?
TC: Reading the script I couldn’t wait to start. I was in my 60’s playing the older woman girlfriend of Eric, who is in his 30’s.

MG: What was the funniest thing that happened on the production?
TC: The funniest thing that happened on the production? The sex scene …when Tim slapped a realistic suction-cup dildo to his forehead and still had the remnants of the indentation and a red rash the next day. He’s very fair skinned. That scene was so wild with escalating in-the-moment improvisation.  When you are so absorbed in the character you realize later you might have done something or you might have gone too far or you might have…oh no…its a Tim and Eric movie!!

MG: What did you enjoy most about playing Miss Geist in “Clueless” movie?
TC: I loved the 40’s fitted clothes and stunning wedding dress Mona May designed for me. The character was humble and sweet and playing opposite Wallace Shawn was the topping on the cake. Hiring Paul Rudd and watching his career blast off. Alicia was adorable and Donald was a ball of energy and Breckin and Brittany were so funny….and gorgeous Stacey…I loved working with the entire cast and we were very close. I’m working with Stacey Dash now playing her old school agent in “Stacey Dash is Normal,” for television. The best opportunity was working with Scott Rudin who is a genius and Sherry Lansing who is not only beautiful but an amazing woman.

MG: …and TV series?
TC: Paramount Studio is luscious and Amy Heckerling and I had Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin’s bungalow. It was brilliant. We continued to do the Clueless series and I was one of the Executive Producer’s as well as playing the role of Miss Geist. It was fun casting the Guest Stars and meeting new actors and its always fun to be able to be in a position to grant wishes.

MG: How did you meet Amy Heckerling and work with her on various projects?
TC: I met Amy Heckerling at Warner Brothers. She had just finished filming European Vacation. We hit it off immediately. We were yin and yang and it was a perfect match! Our working relationship continued for twenty-two years. Amy is a wonderful friend and very clever. I loved her writing and knew she was special. They say a happy set starts at the head of the fish and our sets were always calm and happy which speaks for Amy.

MG: Tell what you have planned upcoming?
TC: In January, I’m looking forward to start filming writer/director Craig Goodwill’s “Boy Toy,” a satirical fairytale adaptation of his award winning short, “Patch Town.”

 

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Tim Heidecker talks about his dramatic role in “The Comedy”

Tim Heidecker is half the comedy duo, along with Eric Eric Wareheim, that is Tim and Eric. They have worked together on numerous TV series on Adult Swim like “Tom Goes to Mayor” and “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!” and films like “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie”. Tim is starring in the film “The Comedy”, which is actually sits more in the dramatic genre. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tim about his dramatic turn in this film and also what we can expect next from him and Eric Wareheim.

Mike Gencarelli: What made you want to approach this dramatic role in “The Comedy”?
Tim Heidecker: Well, I liked the director Rick (Alverson) and I liked his work. We had a long conversation about the movie and what he wanted to do and I really liked his approach.  It just sounded like a cool and fun project to do.

MG: How did you get yourself into the character of Swanson?
TH: We worked developing the character starting from myself…and then worked from that. We sort of dressed me up like a hipster and turned off all the regulators my brain that keep me from saying nasty things. We treated it with a more classic Hollywood filmmaking sensibility. We wanted to focus more on the technical and no so dramatic, theatrical or method style of filmmaking.

MG: You are no stranger to offensive comedy, were you ever concerned about letting too much comedy through your performance?
TH: I think because the film itself is so severe, dramatic, quiet and serious. We all felt that any moments of humor will act as relief and create a nice balance. We wanted to tap into the natural sense of humor that I have and try and use that in a different kind of way.

MG: The film is still quite edgy; do you think that fans of Tim & Eric are going to dig this?
TH: I think our audience in general is a really smart, creative, artistic sensibility type of audience. The reaction from the the core audience so far has just been super positive and encouraging. They are grown-up and they can understand that we can work outside of a certain box. Frankly, it was interesting to see if we could challenge our audience to give them something different to watch.

MG: In this overall experience, what would you say was your most challenging aspect?
TH: It was a pretty pleasant experience, believe it or not. The crew made it very easy. The director and I got along very well. I think just relaxing…was my main challenge. With Tim and Eric and most of the other stuff I have done, there is a real sense of instinct to overdo things in a comedic way and be ironic on camera. The challenge was to play things in a more naturalistic and quiet way. I focused a lot on patience and keeping it small, which is something that I am not used to doing.

MG: Was all the dialogue in the film improv?
TH: Yeah, it was all improvised dialogue. There was a written conceptual aspect in the script. Like “This is where Swanson goes into a bar and becomes provocative”. What comes out of my mouth is all improvised for the most part. That is just is the way that I am comfortable working. When you are shooting quickly, using mostly master shots and with long takes, it makes for a more relaxed and comfortable environment to get natural performances.

MG: Do you see yourself pursuing more dramatic work over comedy?
TH: I am grateful for any opportunities that are presented to me. I don’t have a lot of control over that. If things are offered to me, I consider them based on quality and project that interest me. But like I said I usually don’t have a lot of control [laughs].

MG: You have worked for yourself mostly in the past, how was it taking direction from Rick Alverson?
TH: It was a relief actually for the most part. For me, I enjoyed not worrying about that end of it. I trusted Rick and the only way I thought it would work is if I let go and let him lead. After a few days, I think Rick and I were on the same page and enjoyed collaborating. I think it was helpful for him having a guy that used to come from behind the camera all the time, since I understand what he was going through. Overall, it was just a really pleasant collaboration.

MG: Tell us about you have planned next?
TH: Eric and I are currently sitting around writing a mini-series idea for Adult Swim. We are still working out the details for it. But we want to comeback and return to TV next year for sure. So far we have some great new material in the works.

 

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Rick Alverson talks about directing Tim Heidecker in “The Comedy”

Rick Alverson is the director of the film “The Comedy”.  The film stars Tim Heidecker, known best for “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!” & “Tom Goes to Mayor”, taking on his first dramatic role. Rick took out some time to chat with Media Mikes about the film and its serious underlying themes.

Mike Gencarelli: Your new film is called “The Comedy” but tell us about the serious themes underlying in the film?
Rick Alverson: The initial plan was to make a film about desensitization. It was a movie about the desire for an idiosyncratic and creative interaction with language and people. An idea of flirtation with the world, antagonism, desire to both connect and potentially irate or change or alter the world or be altered by it. There is a lot of underlying interest in inertness and mortality. Yeah, it is all there [laughs].

MG: How did you end up working with Tim Heidecker with his first dramatic role?
RA: Tim has a very unique set of skills. He has this capacity for a very particular kind of social engagement that I knew would, and did, work very well for the role. He was kind enough to come in, since we did not know each other prior. He saw my previous film “New Jerusalem” and him and Eric were interested in my work after that. We managed to portray Swanson in a way that is very volatile and most importantly ambiguous. It lightly straddles the line between the passive and the antagonistic and between humor and pathos, I suppose.

MG: The film still has some unsettling moments, were you concerned about offending?
RA: Well, that was impulse of the project. It is about the desire of an individual to push envelopes and to activate, whether it is disgust, it is pity or anything. There is a perfect parallel between the way the movie should act on an audience and the way the character acts on the other characters in the film. There is a symbiotic nature between the form and the content that way. It is strange to me how some individuals have been repelled by the movie, which actually isn’t a bad response. I would think to be repulsed by something would mean that it is serving a kind of larger purpose. I think, as American mainstream film-goers  we are used to being playcated and self-affirmed by our entertainment. We would our entertainment to do a very specific thing. We have been conditioned for that. Literally when that entertainment fucks with us, we get angry. This is a very gulf between what some people describe as the institutions of fine art and the mass-marketable, consumable enterprise of commodity entertainment. People go into museums to be perplexed. People go to theaters to be massaged. I think that needs to be shaken up a bit.

MG: This film kind of sticks with you after viewing; was that your intention?
RA: That is what I got to see movies for. If I am going to spend my time and money in something it should change me. It is worth you money that way. It is funny how people go into movies that advertise recreational escape and expect to have a good time.

MG: Tell us about the production; what was your most challenging aspect?
RA: Well, working against New York City. I mean with trying to work with a landscape that is so emblazed and cauterized in our mind as this particular place. I had to figure out how to literally film in that place and do it justice and respect, while at the same time not to be redundant. That was quite a challenge. I think the other challenge – probably the biggest challenge was finding those particular notes and walking that tight rope between the engagement of the thing and the dystopian kind of awfulness of the things, like the antagonism, cruelty, disrespect and obscenity. How do you do two or three things at once while making it palatable to the characters and also palatable to the audiences if the film was couched as a comedy entirely. Also how to also show some real distance where we recognize that as uncomfortable facts. I don’t know but it is a real tight rope to walk. People love to go to movies and to hate the bad guys and love the good guys. I think that it doesn’t help anyone outside the theater and we should likely be the other way around sometimes.

MG: Tell us about what you have planned next after “The Comedy”?
RA: I am making a movie called “Clement” that takes place in 1868. It deals with the early clan and freedmen communities in rural Virginia. It is kind of an anti-epic cruelty tale. It is something that looks at the literal root causes of the dystopian world that we see in “The Comedy”.

 

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Vision of Disorder’s Tim Williams chats about new album “The Cursed Remain Cursed”

Tim Williams in the lead singer in the Long Island-based hardcore band Vision of Disorder. I have been a fan of these guys since day one and were a major influence in my taste of music. The band released their latest album “The Cursed Remain Cursed”, which was the first studio recording in over a decade. The album is also one of their best to date. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tim about the album and the how the hardcore scene has changed over the years.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about the inspiration behind “The Cursed Remain Cursed”?
Tim Williams: Long story short, it was a long process…which is fine. We took our time. A lot of the inspiration both the songs and the lyrics were based on how I was feeling during the time. Things were a little hairy in my life for a while. So I was dealing with that and then also the disbanding of Bloodsimple. I was looking forward to just getting in the studio, taking my time and not having to rush out on the road right away. Just kind of settling down a little, you know? Things were really busy for a long time and it was good just to say in one place and make some music.

MG: It’s been 11 years since your last studio album; how do you feel that the sound for VOD has evolved in that time?
TW: I think we have changed as people and musicians. We are a little wiser and know what we want and know how to get it. I think going when we went out own way for that time and made it on our own terms really helped also. I think the biggest difference this time around for VOD is that we are more mature and know how to handle the business better.

MG:The tracks on this album are just as hardcore matching the self-titled album, you have any difficulty keeping that level of anger through the lyrics?
TW: No, not at all. There is plenty to be mad about [laughs]. There are also plenty of things to talk about in the world. The things that I draw my lyrically content from are very present and have not run dry from that well. It is difficult to do well, so you need to take the time to make it what it is. Just pushing out the first thing in your head and holding it. So it is not hard to conjure it but it is hard to make it good.

MG: What was your biggest challenge heading into the studio?
TW: My biggest challenge was to try and not make the same mistakes. I wouldn’t go as far as to stay relevant but to make really good music and not fall back on the stuff that we have already achieved.

MG: How was it working with producer Will Putney on this album?
TW: It was great. I have done work with Will before back on Bloodsimple. He engineered their second record. VOD recorded about 3-4 demos for this record to see how they sounded. We did a demo with Will and that one just destroyed every other demo we did. It just captured what VOD should be. We went back and forth with a couple different producers. Long story short, based on the connection I had with him, I just kept pushing for Will over and over. Finally, it all worked out. It couldn’t have been a better choice because the proof is in the pudding and Will was a very intricate part of that record. He really just let us be VOD and that is why it worked. Will knows how the band is supposed to sound and I feel that we did it right.

MG: Any B-sides that didn’t make it onto this album?
TW:We wrote a lot of songs for this record. There was a lot that we didn’t even bring to the pre-production. There was one song that actually was tracked but  there was so much shit I had to get done and I didn’t even listen to it. Everything was going so good and I didn’t want to waste 2-3 days on a new song, when the other shit was so great. That might come out some day…you never know.

MG: How does you feel that the hardcore scene has changed since you started?
TW: It has definitely changed. How do I feel? It doesn’t really matter…it changes, you know? It will change with or without me. I feel fortunate that VOD was around when it began – or I would say was morphing into a different thing, like from the 80’s into the 90’s. We were very fortunate to have been involved with the scene in the 90’s with bands like Madball, Dark Side, the original Life of Agony, Sub-Zero and all those bands that were really hardcore. To be a part of that and actually succeed was a cool thing. Seeing VOD be able to come back is even better. It has really been a crazy ride.

MG: We going to have to wait another decade before we get more material again?
TW: This album is still new, obviously. But yes, we will like to do more records down the line. We are just going to continue on and probably crank out another one and just keep going. Why will we stop right?

 

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Tim Rose talks about puppeting Admiral Ackbar in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” and working with Jim Henson

Tim Rose is best known for his his work in “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” playing Admiral Ackbar, Sy Snootles and Salacious Crumb. Tim has also worked with Jim Henson on projects like “Labyrinth” and “The Dark Crystal”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Tim on this film work and reflect on his cult fandom with Admiral Ackbar.

Mike Gencarelli: How can you reflect on the fan base behind your role of Admiral Ackbar?
Tim Rose: When you create one of these characters you have to work 14hr days, sacrifice your home life, and get paid very poorly by you Masters. My reward comes at the Conventions when I get to see just how many people, “my silly little playing with dolls” has managed to touch and communicate with.

MG: Was the costume easy to work with during shooting “Return of the Jedi”?
TS: Compared to some of the prosthetic characters that can take up to 5 hours to get into, mine was a doddle, just a simple mask to pull over my head. And when my body temperature got to 100f, just as easy to pull back off again.

MG: Why did you end up not voicing the character? TS: When you are inside the character, the recorded sound of your performance is too muffled. It’s good enough as a guide track to get the sinq right, but not as final performance. I lived in England and the film was edited at ILM. They never would have paid for me to fly all the way out there for 2 hours work in a dubbing studio.

MG: Do you still get asked to say “It’s a Trap” at conventions?
TS: Only, ALL THE TIME!

MG: Besides your own, who is your favorite “Star Wars” character in the saga?
TS: Pre CGI Yoda of course, I learned everything I know from the master. (Frank Oz)

MG: From “Star Wars” to Jim Henson, can you reflect work on such classic films as “Labyrinth” and “The Dark Crystal”?
TS: “Dark Crystal” had a four year pre-production, that had never happened before or since. Four years of getting paid to play in the worlds best toy shop, creating the dreams of Jim Henson. Because he was a performer himself, he insisted that every thing he made be an instrument that a puppeteer could play. Three quarters of what is made today is a torture chamber that a performer has to endure if they wish to get paid.

MG: How does a puppeteer still stand prevalent in a world of CGI efforts?
TS: Animatronics is much more restricted in what it can visualize than CGI. But it can offer ten times the dramatic interaction on set, the ability to create a magic moment on screen that was never in the original script, and do it all at one quarter the cost of CGI. Producers are slowly beginning to realize this.

MG: What would happen if Admiral Ackbar, Sy Snootles and Salacious Crumb where all in a room together?
TS: The Admiral would be having his afternoon nap. Sy would be looking for the nearest exit to get back to where the action is, and Salacious would be trying to stick rolled up napkins up the sleeping Admiral’s nose.

Blu-ray Review “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie”

Directed by: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim
Starring: Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, John C. Reilly, Will Forte
MPAA Rating: R
Distributed by: Magnolia Home Entertainment
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Running Time: 94 minutes

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

Tim and Eric are definitely one of my favorite comedy duos. Ever since “Tom Goes to the Mayor, they have continued to make awkward comedy…cool! “Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job!” was one of my favorites show on television and this movie is just a giant blown-up sketch and succeeds in all areas. The main and only real probably with this film is that it will not appeal to “non Tim and Eric” fans. It is mainstream to the point of production but not beyond that. I have seen this film many times and I find that each time I like it more and more. I look forward to seeing what they will come up with next…”Trillion Dollar Movie??”

“Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie’ is definitely the weirdest comedy of the year, no question. If you are a fan of long stretches of awkwardness and zany humor, this will be the film for you to check out. The basic premise for the movie is that they blow a billion dollars making a movie and escape Hollywood to go run a mall.  That’s about it. If you are looking for all the familiar faces from “Awesome Show”, you will see them but they are very minor. Palmer Scott playing the Shrim God, steals the show.  I don’t blame Tim and Eric for focusing on the bankable names in the movie like Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, John C. Reilly and Will Forte, especially since they all have worked with Tim and Eric before.

The Blu-ray presentation overall is impressive.  The video looks sharp but of course there is Tim and Eric’s trademark VHS-quality sketches as well. The sound is also good with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, but doesn’t really push it too much.   The Blu-ray combo pack also comes with a DVD and digital copy of the film.  I like this option in case I am at work and don’t have access to a DVD player or I am on the road and have the digital option.  I wish they would switch to digital streaming service, Ultraviolet though.

The special features are decent but I was hoping for a little more I think. There is a decent yet a bit restrained audio commentary track with Tim and Eric. There are eight deleted scenes, including a commercial for EZ Swords, and are worth checking out. There is about three improved extended scenes, which run about 20 minutes. “Good Evening S’Wallow Valley” is a basic behind-the-scenes promo but with a Tim and Eric twist. There is an incredibly awkward and long interview with Tim and Eric. “HDNet: A Look at Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie” is the typical Magnolia piece. The coolest feature has to be “Shim Dance Screensaver”, which runs content for almost five hours. Lastly there are a bunch of promo videos and trailers included.

3D Blu-Ray Review “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas”

Directed by: Henry Selick
Starring: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Ken Page
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 76 minutes

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

I have been a fan of “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” since the first time I saw it in the theaters in 1993. Since then it has captivated audiences and became a major cult classic. In 2006, it was put back into theaters with new added 3D technology…I was in heaven. Since then it was also released in 2007 through 2009 in 3D during the Halloween season. So when the news was announced that Disney was releasing this film on its pristine Disney 3D Blu-Ray, I was out of my mind. I have to say, I have seen this film probably 100 times but watching it on 3D Blu-Ray was like it was the first time again. I was seeing new things that I have never seen before and hearing things I have never heard before. The picture quality was so clear and bright (despite the fact that most of the film is dark and black). The music was so fantastic in glorious 7.1 surround sound, which Disney never fails to include. I think my neighbors windows shattered for sure with the volume I watched it at. Let me just say that since I received this Blu-Ray, I have in fact watched it 5 times and it is not even September yet. I might need to go out and purchase a new one before Christmas due to wear. If you do not have a 3D TV or Blu-ray, now might be the time to start things about it because this is a release that you do not want to miss.

The extras on this disc are jam packed and are similar to the 2008 release. First there is audio commentary by producer Tim Burton, director Henry Selick and composer Danny Elfman from 2008 and it was actually recorded separately. Christopher Lee reads “Tim Burton’s Original Poem”, which inspired the film and is backed by animated concept art. “The Making of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” is a six-chapter 1993 television special that covers the development, overall production and of course the music of the film. “The Worlds of The Nightmare Before Christmas” focuses on its three production settings “Halloween Town”, “Christmas Town” and “The Real World” with concept art and character designs. There are three deleted storyboards, “Behemoth Singing,” “Oogie Boogie with Dancing Bugs” and “Alternate Identity of Oogie Boogie”. There are also four fully animated deleted scenes, “Jack’s Scientific Experiments,” “Vampire Hockey Players,” “Lock, Shock and Barrel” and “Oogie Boogie Shadow Dance.” Next up is a feature called “Storyboard to Film Comparisons” it is a short comparison, nothing special. “What’s This? Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour” shows how The Haunted Mansion attraction gets a “Nightmare Before Christmas” redux. Fans of Time Burton will be happy to have the “Frankenweenie” and “Vincent” shorts, even though they are not in HD. Lastly there are the film’s teaser and theatrical trailers and a gallery of “Nightmare” posters. These are some amazing special features even though nothing is new for this release.

Interview with Tim Kazurinsky

It’s one of those moments you always hear about but never think it could happen to you. You offer to take someone to breakfast, show up at the restaurant and discover that your wallet is nowhere to be found. Such began my interview with the multi-talented Tim Kazurinsky. While he was in Kansas City recently appearing in a production of “The Odd Couple,” the Emmy and BAFTA nominated writer and former “Saturday Night Live” cast member agreed to take some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk about his career. Imagine my embarrassment when I turned up, tape recorder in hand, with the image of my wallet sitting safely on my sofa floating in my head. Thankfully Mr. Kazurinsky had remembered HIS wallet, so he was able to eat his breakfast.

Born in Pennsylvania but raised in Australia, Tim Kazurinsky literally stumbled into his show business career. While working in advertising he realized that he had a fear of talking in front of people, which is pretty hampering when you go to present an idea. On a whim he enrolled in a class at Chicago’s famed Second City Improv Theater. He was such a good student that he was offered a place in the troupe as both performer and writer and he hasn’t looked back. While at Second City Mr. Kazurinsky had small roles in two films shot locally: “My Bodyguard” and “Somewhere in Time.” He then co-wrote and co-starred in the television program “Big City Comedy.” He eventually earned a spot as a writer and cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” At the time the program had switched producers, with the reigns being taken from creator Lorne Michaels and passed on the Dick Ebersol. After leaving the show in 1984, he co-wrote the hit film “About Last Night” and starred in several of the “Police Academy” films.

Mr. Kazurinsky was very close to the late John Belushi. Almost three decades after Belushi’s death, the pain of that memory is still fresh. I mention that I have visited Belushi’s grave on Martha’s Vineyard while on a “Jaws” vacation. This revelation causes him to relate his tale about seeing the film for the first time:

“I saw it in Chicago. I’d heard so much about it that I knew I had to see this movie. I get to the theatre and it’s packed. And I am the only white guy in the theatre. It was a revelation to me. I had no idea movie watching was a participation sport. I had never experienced anything like it. Everybody was talking to the screen. And there was a guy behind me who had obviously seen the film before. The movie starts and the girl swims out and you hear the music…dum dum, dum dum, dum dum. The gentleman behind me says, “Get out of the water, bitch.” Dum dum, dum dum, dum dum. “Get out of the water, bitch.” The music gets louder…DUM DUM, DUM DUM, DUM DUM…and the guy stands up and screams, “GET OUT OF THE WATER…CAN’T YOU HEAR THE MUSIC, BITCH?!” I thought my head was going to explode.”

Mike Smith: Though you were born in the states you grew up in Australia. What guided you towards a career in show business?
Tim Kazurinsky: It was because I was in the advertising business. I was afraid to present my commercial ideas. That’s why I ended up at Second City…to get over my fear of talking in front of people. I got to Second City and saw everyone in their silly hats and robes and costumes and I felt like I was six years old again.

MS: Rumor has it that you were the final cast member added to “SNL” at the end of the 1981 season and that you had to beat out Paul Reubens. True? Also, your very first show was the last show of the season and didn’t have a guest host. Why was that?
TK: I actually just heard that. I can’t believe that anybody would pick me over Paul Reubens, who to me is one of the funniest men on this planet. If that was the case it’s news to me. Although I do remember a few years later I was up for a job and I couldn’t do it because I had a screenwriting commitment so my agent told me they decided to go for their next choice, F. Murray Abraham! I went “what planet…what universe….do you call me before F. Murray Abraham?” And my agent told me it was because of my “TVQ.” I was on television so I was more recognizable because of “SNL” and the three “Police Academy” movies. And I told him that was just wrong. Cosmically wrong. (My cell phone rings – it’s my wife, Juanita, asking me if I knew that my wallet was on the couch. I did.) As for the last show, I think it may have been that a lot of the hosts candidates were being loyal to Lorne. Or maybe they just wanted to showcase the new people on the show. There’s probably a “public” reason and a “real” reason. (laughs)

MS: What do you recall about your 1980 television show “Big City Comedy?” Was this an off-shoot of your work at Second City?
TK: I had just left Second City, had worked on “My Bodyguard” and was finishing the first draft of what was then called “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” written by an unknown David Mamet. When I met David he was the dishwasher at Second City. He would watch John Belushi on stage and that is where he developed the character of Bernie Litko. Anyway, after I left I wrote a pilot that NBC picked up as a vehicle for John Candy. We shot the show in Orem, Utah at the Osmond’s studio. The studio cost $93 million. And this was back when a million was a million. It had an ice skating rink in it. And it was paid for in cash. Because the elders of the Mormon Church will not bless anything that is purchased on “time.” Merrill Osmond was the point man for us…very helpful. Because after a few days the crew and I realized we might not survive. We needed coffee. We needed Coca Cola. And we needed beer and ashtrays. And he was able to provide it. I remember going to a store…I had to drive about 30 miles before I was out of a dry county. So I bought my beer and the girl at the checkout wouldn’t touch it. I had to bag it myself. I was just supposed to be a writer on the production but because it was a Can/Am production they needed some Canadians for the cast and some Americans for the cast. So I was picked to be a part of the American cast. And what a show. It only lasted a season. But it was John Candy…before he became JOHN CANDY. I can remember hanging out with him and his lovely wife Rose and holding his beautiful baby daughter Jennifer in my arms. We just had a reunion at Second City and Jennifer showed up. She’s 28 years old now and I used to hold her in my arms. But what a great opportunity to hang out with John. I mean we’d walk into a hockey game in Toronto and the whole stadium would be “Johnny! Johnny!” He was Johnny Toronto. He owned that town. The show only lasted a season but I loved every minute doing it.

MS: Speaking of talent taken way too soon, you worked with the late John Belushi in “Neighbors” and “Continental Divide,” which were both very different roles than Belushi fans were used to? What are your memories of working with him and how do you think his career would have played out had he lived? (NOTE: A visible sadness comes over Mr. Kazurinsky’s face and his voice lowers)
TK: One of the great tragedies of my life was losing John. John got me hired at “SNL.” I never auditioned. He just told Dick Ebersol “you should go to Chicago and see this guy. He should be the den mother of the next troupe.” That’s what got me hired. Ebersol came…saw the show…and hired me on the spot. I wasn’t even aware I had gotten hired for the cast. I thought I was being hired as a writer. He asked me for my AFTRA card (NOTE: the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is the union for television actors and radio broadcasters). I asked him why and he said I needed an AFTRA card to be in the cast. I said, “What do you mean be in the cast. I thought you just hired me as a writer.” He looked at me and said, “You write?” I loved John dearly. He and his wife, Judy, were so kind to me when I got to New York. They looked after me. They were my guardian angels. (Mr. Kazurinsky’s voice gets even quieter). My birthday is March 3. The three of us were going to have dinner but Judy called me up and told me we’d have to cancel dinner on my birthday because John was still in Los Angeles. I could tell she was crying and I asked her what was going on. “I think he’s in trouble out there.” John had a bodyguard named Smokey, who had been a body guard for Elvis Presley. That week it was also his daughter’s birthday so Smokey went back to Tennessee. And of course a horrible confluence of things happened. (NOTE: On March 5, 1982, John Belushi died from an accidental drug overdose. He was 33.) And now, as of March 5th next year, John will have been dead 30 years. Where did it go? 30 years? He was such a totally misunderstood artist and man. That awful book by Bob Woodward did not serve him well. (NOTE: known for helping break the story that inspired his book “All the President’s Men,” in 1984 Woodward released the book “Wired.” The book, and the film later made of it, were critically slammed. In 1991, Judith Jacklin Belushi released the book “Samurai Widow,” a book that gave John Belushi the respect and honor he certainly earned). That book was nothing but character assassination. John felt he was being “labled” as a performer. It’s like when the Rolling Stones, influenced by the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Sgt Peppers,” did “Their Satanic Majesties Request” album. It was full of psychedelic music and their fans went, “No! John felt his fans were thinking, “you can’t do Mike Royko in “Continental Divide”…you can’t do “Neighbors”…you’re Bluto with the mashed potatoes.” But John was really smart. He was a great improviser. And he kept asking “do I have to be THAT guy for the rest of my life?” I think it really depressed him. Billy Murray was having success with “Stripes” and…I don’t really know what was going on inside John’s head but I know he wasn’t happy. He was self medicating himself and….I look at that book “Wired” and I ask “where’s the man I know…he’s not here.”

MS: You obviously wrote a lot on “SNL,” even earning an Emmy nomination for your work. But whatever prompted you to attempt to adapt David Mamet for “About Last Night?”
TK: I never went to the Emmy’s because we had to pay our own way! But we had a great writing staff. And the writing staff for the first five years of the show was incredible! And they had a great cast…John, Danny…best cast EVER, of course. But when Dick Ebersol took over most of the writers stayed away out of respect for Lorne. After Ebersol left then they came back and worked again. And I certainly had my battles with Dick Ebersol creatively but I have to say that he kept the show alive through his years. He kept the heart beating. Again, you have to remember he wasn’t DAVID MAMET yet…he was just another unknown Chicago playwright. If you go back to the original play you’ll see a world of differences. Seven years I wrote and re-wrote that thing. Thirteen full drafts. For those that think screenwriting is an easy thing….it ain’t. As David’s work became more and more famous, the fact that I was on “SNL” kept that script going. We got into doors that normally we wouldn’t have gotten into, just because I was on “SNL.” Thank God for that. It was only a one act play. And you have to remember that I started to write it in 1979. And it took seven years to get it made. I think Ed Zwick (the director of “About Last Night”) did a terrific job. But because of the title “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” the networks wouldn’t run ads for it. They refused to run any ads because it was such a salacious title. You have to understand this was pre-cable. They weren’t going to run the ads. So after seven years of living with that title, a month before the movie opened they had to find a new title. We sat for days trying to pick a new title and they picked probably the worst title in Hollywood. (As Mr. Kazurinsky relates this story I produce (2) studio stills of Rob Lowe and Demi Moore – on one, in large black letters, is the film’s title, “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.” On the other, it reads “About Last Night”) I mean the film was in the can ready to be released. I mean, looking back, it was almost Victorian how things were back then.

MS: How did you get involved with the “Police Academy” films?
TK: I get married. I’m on honeymoon in Greece. Nobody knows where I am. But my sister found me. She called around to all of the touristy places and tracked me down. She told me that a couple of my pals from “Saturday Night Live” had written “Police Academy 2” and they wanted me to be in it. I got ahold of them and they told me that they wanted me to be in this little scene and I told them o.k. Well my wife thought I was crazy. “Why would you take one day’s work?” Because they were my friends. They asked me to do it. And I’m not going to say “no” to my friends. So I go out…we shoot for a day. Later they fire the original director and they hired Jerry Paris. Jerry looks at the footage and says, “I hate it all except the old guy in the shop.” So, he kept me around. And he loved Bobcat Goldthwait. He let Bobcat and I screw around and come up with bits. I ended up staying six weeks. Bobcat and I ended up improvising all kinds of stuff. Jerry loves us. They screen the movie and the word is that kids love Bobcat and the old guy in the shop. So they bring us back for “Police Academy 3” as members of the police force. This can only happen in Hollywood. So we end up doing three movies. And I said to my wife, “That’s why you take the one day of work!”

The interview over I sheepishly ask Mr. K if he would autograph an “About Last Night” poster, which he does. The inscription: “Michael, thanks for breakfast!” Next time I’ll be prepared.

 

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