Book Review: “Last of the Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses” by Mick Wall

“Last of the Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses”
Author: Mick Wall
Lesser Gods
Hardcover: 432 pages

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Guns N’ Roses exploded during the 80’s glam metal scene and boldly redefined rock ’n’ roll for a new era. Mick Wall met Guns N’ Roses when the band members lived together in Los Angeles and became a part of their inner circle. Thanks to Wall’s longtime friendship and connections with Guns N’ Roses, he conducted exclusive interviews with all the original members and, for the first time, their original managers, who were in the trenches with Guns N’ Roses (from 1986 to 2004). They share all-new revelations about the band’s rock-star debauchery in the studio, on tour and behind the scenes. “Last of the Giants” is a celebration of Guns N’ Roses: the last of the extraordinary, excessive, not-giving-a-shit rock stars.

Imagine you are a fly on the wall during some of the most pivotal and monumental moments during Guns N’ Roses career. Arguably one of the most legendary rock and roll band in the last 3 decades “Last of the Giants: The True Story of Guns N’ Roses” is the account of that such fly (Mick Wall). Told through third person accounts and candid interviews with members and associates pass and present “Last of the Giants” is brimming over with behind the scenes stories and fresh interviews which shine new light on the bands fame and persona. Probably my favorite part of the book was amidst the chapters were 28 pages of full color photos highlighting the band at various points. These photos are not the same old reprints we have seen time and time again but new fresh photos that helped accentuate the text before and after each section.

“Last of the Giants” gives readers the inside track via behind the scenes firsthand accounts and through newly conducted interviews with those directly involved in some of the most important moments of the bands career. You get all the details and more in the latest offering from Mick Wall. I think I would have been more in to the book if this was an official release from the band however after reading this book you may understand why something of that nature hasn’t come to fruition. That aside no matter how intense of a G N’R fan you might be “Last of the Giants” is worth checking out.

CD Review: Crystal Lake “True North”

“True North”
Crystal Lake
Artery/Cube Records
Tracks: 10

Our score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Japanese hardcore/metal band Crystal Lake has just released a brand new full length album titled “True North”. The album (the bands 6th full-length) is being released via Artery Record in the United States features 10 tracks which blend and blur a mixture of unique styles and sounds which instantly sets them apart from other bands in the genre.

Being somewhat unfamiliar with Crystal Lake I jumped in blindly as I hit the play button. Right away the band had my intention as the albums opening track “Alpha” teases your senses with underlying synth rhythms before hitting you like a ton of bricks. Vocalist Ryo Kinoshita pushes his voice to the near edge on tracks like “Omega” and “True North” while tracks like “Breathe Deep” and “Metro” showcase the bands diversity and musicianship as they bounce between light melodic verses, aggression fueled choruses and fist pumping breakdowns providing a unique rollercoaster like listening experience. Even if you are not a fan of heavy music there is enough substance in “True North” to make this a worth-while listen.

Despite finding some of the sound structures a little redundant mainly in the way of the albums electronic elements it wasn’t enough to pull my attention away from the core elements of each song. For fans of heavy music looking for something a little different give the latest offering from Crystal Lake a try as you won’t be disappointed.

Track Listing:
1.) Alpha
2.) Omega
3.) Hatred
4.) Metro
5.) True North
6.) Breathe Deep
7.) Black and Blue
8.) Six Feet Under
9.) Walk on Water
10.) Waves

 

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Book Review: Keith Morris’s “My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor”

“My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor”
Author: Keith Morris w/ Jim Ruland
Da Capo Press
Hardcover: 309 pages

Our score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Keith Morris is known the world over as the real deal, a seminal figure in hardcore punk, revered by any fan of the genre. As a co-founding member of Black Flag and as the front man for the seminal west coast punk band Circle Jerks “My Damage” is a memoir that covers not only covers Keith’s forty-year history in music but also his struggles with his health and drug use, told straight through the eyes of someone who shared the stage with just about every major figure in the industry.

From page 1 to page 309 “My Damage” keeps the reader’s attention making this a hard book to put down. Through candid accounts of Black Flag/Circle Jerks front man Keith Morris’s early struggles within the Hermosa Beach community to the reincarnation of “FLAG” close to 40 years later the book covers immense ground in an easy to follow format which for readers who may not be as familiar with Morris’s work is a great feature. The books drive matches that of the author as it moves quickly and is unrelenting in details. No matter how edgy or unsettling the story may be Morris pulls no punches and tells the story as it was from his perspective. No phony names or reader friendly versions here folks.

The sheer realness of “My Damage” makes this book appealing to not only punk rock music fans but to readers looking for a candid takes-no prisoners approach to storytelling. Keith cuts out the unneeded drab and quickly gets to the guts of his life and his experiences in the music business. At times over shadowing those story is his struggles with drugs and alcohol which at several points made me question just how the author is still with us and able to recount his journey in detail he does. “My Damage: The Story of a True Punk Rock Survivor” is a must read for biography and music fans.

 

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Book Review: “Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements”

“Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements”
Author: Bob Mehr
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Hardcover: 520 pages w/ 32 pages of black and white photographs

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

“Trouble Boys” is the first definitive biography of one of the last great rock ‘n’ rolls bands of the twentieth century: The Replacements. With the participation of the group’s key members including reclusive singer-songwriter Paul Westerberg and bassist Tommy Stinson- Author Bob Mehr is able to tell the real story. Additionally based on interviews conducted with family, friends, managers and musical colleagues, Mehr paints a deeply intimate portrait of the band. Far more than a conventional band bio, “Trouble Boys” is heartbreakingly tragic, frequently comic and ultimately a triumphant tale.

Right away I was interested in picking up this book and learning more about a band I was fairly late to discover in my music listening exploits. The Replacements were always a band I saw cited as an influence of some of my favorite artists however I had limited knowledge of the actual group aside from guitarist Paul Westerberg. As a cautionary mention before I go too far do yourself a favor and brush up on your Replacements knowledge prior to diving into this book’s immense 520 pages. Time and time again the author sites numerous names, events and locations both big and small all throughout the book and with limited knowledge of the bands career the reader can easily become lost. At several points during my reading I found myself having to go back over sections to find where the book was at as the story of just the band and its members is easily lost amidst miniscule details that were explained in far more detail than they probably needed to be leaving me to seriously question the books editing.

What “Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements” lacks in being clear and concise makes up for the shortcoming in content as I stated before the book is very detailed. The addition of 32 pages of photos was also a very cool addition. Hardcore Replacements fans will already have this book on their radar but more casual listeners may also want to take notice as this book will be a welcome addition to any music fans reading library.

 

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Wes Craven, A True Master of Horror, Dies at 76

Wes Craven, the creator of both the “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” film series, passed away today at his home after a battle with brain cancer. He was 76.

After briefly teaching English at Westminster College, he decided to pursue a career in the film industry, beginning as a sound editor in New York City. He also began working in a film warehouse along-side a former filmmaker turned musician named Harry Chapin. Chapin had been approached by a dentist-friend of the warehouse owner who had $50,000 to invest in a horror film. Chapin, who had earned an Oscar-nomination for his 1968 documentary, “Champions,” was no longer interested in filmmaking so he recommended his co-worker, Wes, for the job. The film became 1972’s “Last House on the Left,” which was the first of many horror films written and directed by Craven. Craven also worked in the early world of pornography, mostly writing and editing films. It is rumored that, under the pseudonym “Abe Snake,” he directed the X-rated film called “The Firecracker Woman,” in which a young Craven also has a small role (clothed).

In 1977 he wrote and directed the brutal “The Hills Have Eyes,” following that up with “Deadly Blessing,” “Swamp Thing” and “The Hills Have Eyes Part II.” In 1984 he wrote and directed a film that would change horror movies forever, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” I was just getting into the theatre business when the film opened and I often filled in at the Town Theatre in Baltimore, which had the honor of being the theatre with the highest grosses during “Elm Street’s’ run. He finished the 80’s out by directing several episodes of “The Twilight Zone” television show and the films “The Serpent and the Rainbow” and “Shocker.”

He began the 90’s with “The People Under the Stairs” then turned to horror/comedy by directing Eddie Murphy in “Vampire in Brooklyn.” In 1996 he hit the horror jackpot again with the film “Scream.” A tongue in cheek look at the various tropes of horror films, the film went on to gross over $100 million and spawn three sequels. Proving he could do more than horror, he directed Meryl Streep to an Oscar nomination in the film “Music of the Heart.” He was currently serving as an Executive Producer on the upcoming “Scream” television show.

On a personal note, I’d like to mention that it was Wes Craven, who I had the good fortune to meet, that inspired me to write a screenplay about the life of one of my personal heroes, Harry Chapin. “If you ever sell it I’ll direct it,” he told me. Sadly, he’ll never have the chance.

Mr. Craven is survived by his third wife, Iya, and his children, Jonathan and Jessica. Jessica’s step-father is Tom Chapin, Harry’s brother.

Blu-ray Review “True Story”

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

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

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

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

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

Film Review “True Story”

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

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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

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

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

Dewar’s True Profiles: Giving Back to those who give so Much

Dewar’s, the worlds’ most recognized and awarded Blended Scotch whisky brand, is synonymous with quality and an innate sense of class. True to form, its innovative Live True campaign is set to be reprised after experiencing huge digital success a few years ago, when the brand looked to launch a series of videos profiling special individuals who have impacted positively on the lives of those around them. Whether this impact relates to the local community or locations further afield, the personalities featured in these videos have all pursued their passion and encouraged others to follow suit.

 

 

 

With this in mind it stands to reason that the individuals featured in these videos are extremely successful and diverse in their nature. Take the television personality Sal Masekela, for example, who has earned considerable plaudits for his role as the founder of the charitable organisation Stoked Mentoring. Using actions sports such as surfing and skateboarding as a catalyst for positive change in the outlooks of young people, it embodies the spirit of Dewar’s Live True campaign and the impact that driven individuals can have through innovation, determination and an ability to inspire others.

This is just one of many memorable profiles that the brand have shared, however, each of which tells a unique and touching narrative of how humanity and an interest in the lives of others can impact positively on almost every aspect of modern life.

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Book Review “Not the Life It Seems: The True Lives of My Chemical Romance”

“Not the Life It Seems: The True Lives of My Chemical Romance”
Author: Tom Bryant
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Da Capo Press

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

“Not the Life It Seems: The True Lives of My Chemical Romance” is the story of how a band defied stereotypes and championed uncomfortable subjects. Through unorthodox vocals and stage performances My Chemical Romance helped address often controversial topics head on. Journalist Tom Bryant recounts how the bands personal experiences resulted in some of their biggest hits. Bryant looks at the bands growing success over its four albums and the bands subsequent breakup in 2013. The book delves in to each member’s personal history leaving no stone unturned.

Over the books 384 pages Bryant chronicles the band’s various struggles with addiction, media exposure and issues between the group’s members. With a lot of these stories being told for the first time there was certainly a lot of info included that peaks the reader’s interest to further delve in to the following chapters. The biggest thing that kept weighing on my mind while reading this book was the fact that these stories were being told from an outside source and compiled from a number of unpublished interviews. Now I am certainly not discrediting the authors work however I think the book would have had a more personal feel if it was told via the band members directly and not via an onlooker.

Very seldom do I find biographies of this nature to be as telling as they could be when the actual players are not directly involved. However fan’s of the band will want to check the book out as it does give a fresh look on the events surrounding the groups break up. The book also includes some interesting black and white photos of the band which are worth checking out on their own.

 

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DVD Review “True Blood: The Complete Sixth Season”

Actors: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Alexander Skarsgård
Creator: Alan Ball
Number of discs: 4
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: HBO Home Video
DVD Release Date: June 3, 2014
Run Time: 600 minutes

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

“True Blood” even though the series has an end in sight, the sixth season shows no signs of slowing down. I personally think it is just as sexy, scary, entertaining as it was in the first season. With Vampire Bill being rebirthed as a powerful ancient deity to Louisiana Governor Truman Burrell declaring open season on all vampires to Sookie Stackhouse finding herself sidelined by a mysterious stranger with a hidden agenda, this season is the most exciting yet. Like I said, the end is near and fans can catch up on this season before the final season makes its HBO debut this summer. This is also the series first season with out creator Alan Ball, who left to work on HBO’s “Banshee”. So fans were worried but I feel that this show has grow so much since the first and I can’t wait to see what they have planned for season seven!

Official Premise: Season six introduces several exciting new story lines that threaten what little sense of normalcy remains in Bon Temps, The Authority is in flames, and True Blood is in short supply. As Bill comes to terms with his newfound powers after emerging reincarnated from a pool of blood, Louisiana’s governor has declared war, replete with novel anti-vamp weapons and a high-tech internment camp established to wipe out the vampire race forever. Meanwhile, Sookie and Jason must steel themselves for an encounter with their parents’ killer: the mysterious and ancient Warlow.

The cast continues to shines as well. Regulars like Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgård, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Sam Trammell, Nelsan Ellis, Deborah Ann Woll, Kristin Bauer van Straten and Joe Manganiello all really step up there game this season. Also joining them are new cast for season six includeing: Arliss Howard as Louisiana Governor Truman Burrell; Rob Kazinsky as Ben, a stranger with faerie ties; Rutger Hauer as Niall, a faerie grandfather; Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Nicole, a pro-vampire activist; and Amelia Rose Blaire as Truman Burrell’s daughter, Willa. Did I mention I can’t wait till season seven?

This DVD set comes with the full 10-episode season and I am very upset to find out that there is no Ultraviolet digital copy included with this…only Blu-ray. Honestly, that is a real bummer…what does it seriously cost HBO to include this?  There are also less special features on the DVD set than the Blu-ray set. Here only get ten clips of “Inside the Episodes” going behind the scenes on each with the show’s writers. There are five audio commentaries with cast/crew including executive producer Brian Buckner, Stephen Moyer, Carrie Preston, Amelia Rose Blaire and more! Lastly there are previews & recaps included.

TV Review: HBO’s “True Detective” Episodes 1-4

Created by: Nic Pizzolatto
Directed by: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Potts, Tory Kittles
Rating: TV-MA
Running Time: 60 minutes
Premiered: January 12, 2014

Episode 1: 3 out of 5 stars
Episode 2: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Episode 3: 3 out of 5 stars
Episode 4: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“True Detective” follows two Louisiana State Police Criminal Investigations Division homicide detectives as they hunt for a serial killer across seventeen years. The show flips back and forth between 1995 and 2012. There are extended flashbacks used with Det. Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Det. Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) being interviewed separately and are the grounds for the whole story. I liked the fact that “True Detective” takes the approach of a mini-series, which is becoming a popular format after shows like “American Horror Story”.

The show is very dialogue heavy and character driven. It is also edgy and quite provocative. I am a big fan of director Cary Fukunaga (2010’s “Jane Eyre”). I think he has a great vision for this show and he really does great things with this mini-series. Louisiana is also used almost as another character and intertwines well with the characters and the story. The performances are not good but quite amazing. We all know that McConaughey and Harrelson are great actors but these roles are perfect for them and they simply nail it.

The first episode of “True Detective” is spent introducing us to characters of Cohle and Hart. We start with them getting the case for the ritualistic murder of a former prostitute. Their investigation for the case is started and we get the lowdown. The story is well setup here and I liked the characters. I find that I don’t like a show’s characters I usually do not enjoy the show no matter how good. I think though there could have been a little more added to this episode since I was left wanting a little more…but I guess that was the point.

The second episode really get deeper into both McConaughey and Harrelson’s characters. You start to learn a lot about them and some of their secrets. The story starts getting some steam and you are drawn into trying to figure out what is going on and where they are going with this show. This episode also has Alexandra Daddario (“Texas Chainsaw 3D”) and she is quite a sight. After the first episode, I have to admit, I wasn’t really racing to place the next right away. After this one, I immediately had to watch episode three.

Episode three really gives deeper into our characters. We learn more of their flaws and their unique views on the world. There are some interesting details of the investigation revealed in this episode. There is also a bit of tension revealed between the two partners, which gives an interesting dynamic. Hart also experiences some relationship issues (and I am sure it is not the end of it either). There was some decent reveal about the investigation in this episode as they track the killer. Thought it ran a little slow compared to the first two episodes, it was equal with the first episode.

Episode four is packed with tension between Hart and his wife, as well as investigation details. It also goes deeper into Cohle’s issue with drugs and his background. I love the dialogue in this episode, not that it is weaker in earlier episodes but this particular episode is really sharp. I liked seeing the partners team up and work together closely. Another aspect of love about this show is the car drives. They always seem to have these deep conversations while driving and McConaughey leaves you speechless. This was probably my favorite of the four episode to date. Let’s just say shit goes down and it is quite freaking intense!

So I found that I am not completely in love with this show but with these performances and the Louisiana feel, I am hooked. There is something very simple about it that draws you in. It is very slow-moving but I am sure that there is going to be a solid payoff worth waiting for. I am dying to see where they are going to go with the remaining episodes. In fact, I can’t believe we are already half-way through the series but I am in and very anxious to see where we go from here.

Blu-ray Review “True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season”

Actors: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley
Creator: Alan Ball
Number of discs: 7
Rated: Unrated
Studio: HBO Home Video
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Run Time: 720 minutes

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

Who doesn’t love HBO’s “True Blood”. The show has been going strong for five seasons now. When you start watching its is hard not to completed get sucked in. This season packs some great storylines i.e. Bill and Eric behind bars, Tara getting used to her new life as a vampire, Alcide turning his back on the wolfpack and a vampire civil war on the horizon. There is no shortage of action and drama this season. In fact this season is one of my favorite to date from the show, besides the first. You would think that after five seasons that this show would lose some steam but it only seems to get more interesting and entertaining. Season five also definitely can be considered a game-changer for the show and it was also creator Alan Ball’s final season. Season six has already started and completed last week and it was such a powerhouse of a season. Brian Buckner stood up to replace Ball as the show’s showrunner and continued without missing a beat, which just proves that this show is a force to be reckoned with.

The fifth season sees the return of our favorite True Blood cast members including Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgård, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley and Sam Trammell…just to name a few. They are all in fine-form and deliver some of their best performances of the series especially Ryan Kwanten, who has a fantastic arc. This season introduces various new cast members including Scott Foley as Patrick Devins; Christopher Meloni as Roman; Valentina Cervi as Salom; and Lucy Griffiths as Nora. I love the storyline surrounding the Authority and their affects on these characters. Each character their own arc, which works well for the most part, this season and the finale really brings it all together quite well.

HBO has delivered a very impressive DigiPack combo pack release for the fifth season of “True Blood”. Thanks to HBO Select, this release offers buyers the choice of three ways to watch in one set – Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy. The digital copy included is redeemable via iTunes, Vudu or Amazon and of course my favorite, UltraViolet. The 12 episodes are well represented with their 1080p transfers. The show has been given consistently impressive releases thanks to HBO and have continued to look very sharp and impressive. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks also deliver the mood for the show very well. I love composer Nathan Barr’s score for this show and as usual it is well represented here.

The special features are sure to leave diehard “True Blood” fans feeling very satisfied. “True Blood Episode Six: Autopsy” is an in-depth look behind-the-scenes with the cast and crew on that episode. “Authority Confessionals” gives you an inside look at the mysterious institution. There is an enhanced viewing option for the series allowing you to tap in Character Bios, Vampire Histories and fun facts while watching the show. There is a Flashback/Flash Forward option that will allow you to travel back through the show’s timeline and relive pivotal moments or Flash Forward to reveal the significance of a certain scenes. Lastly “True Blood Lines” is a fun guide to tap into secrets from relationships past and present.

Next up, the next batch of special features are available on the Blu-rays but are the only extras available on the DVDs. “Inside the Episodes” is an look into various back stories from each episode this season. There are five audio commentary tracks with cast and crew including creator/executive producer Alan Ball, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Denis O’Hare, Carrie Preston and many more! There are also Previews & Recaps from the series, in case you need to play catch up. Lastly you are able to watch these episodes seamless, so they flow really well together especially if you feel like marathoning it.

Thanks to Connect Your Home for setting us up with this great review. Can’t wait for what HBO has in store for “True Blood: The Complete Sixth Season” and also don’t forget that the show has already been renewed for a seventh season, which is planned for Summer of 2014. Keep it coming guys! This show is amazing!

Blu-ray Review “True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season”

Actors: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley
Creator: Alan Ball
Number of discs: 7
Rated: Unrated
Studio: HBO Home Video
Release Date: May 21, 2013
Run Time: 720 minutes

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

Who doesn’t love HBO’s “True Blood”. The show has been going strong for five seasons now. When you start watching its is hard not to completed get sucked in. This season packs some great storylines i.e. Bill and Eric behind bars, Tara getting used to her new life as a vampire, Alcide turning his back on the wolfpack and a vampire civil war on the horizon. There is no shortage of action and drama this season. In fact this season is one of my favorite to date from the show, besides the first. You would think that after five seasons that this show would lose some steam but it only seems to get more interesting and entertaining. Season five also definitely can be considered a game-changer for the show and it was also creator Alan Ball’s final season. I am still looking forward to what happens next in the upcoming sixth season, coming this June! Bring it on!

The fifth season sees the return of our favorite True Blood cast members including Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgård, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley and Sam Trammell…just to name a few. They are all in fine-form and deliver some of their best performances of the series especially Ryan Kwanten, who has a fantastic arc. This season introduces various new cast members including Scott Foley as Patrick Devins; Christopher Meloni as Roman; Valentina Cervi as Salom; and Lucy Griffiths as Nora. I love the storyline surrounding the Authority and their affects on these characters. Each character their own arc, which works well for the most part, this season and the finale really brings it all together quite well.

HBO has delivered a very impressive DigiPack combo pack release for the fifth season of “True Blood”. Thanks to HBO Select, this release offers buyers the choice of three ways to watch in one set – Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy. The digital copy included is redeemable via iTunes, Vudu or Amazon and of course my favorite, UltraViolet. The 12 episodes are well represented with their 1080p transfers. The show has been given consistently impressive releases thanks to HBO and have continued to look very sharp and impressive. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks also deliver the mood for the show very well. I love composer Nathan Barr’s score for this show and as usual it is well represented here.

The special features are sure to leave diehard “True Blood” fans feeling very satisfied. “True Blood Episode Six: Autopsy” is an in-depth look behind-the-scenes with the cast and crew on that episode. “Authority Confessionals” gives you an inside look at the mysterious institution. There is an enhanced viewing option for the series allowing you to tap in Character Bios, Vampire Histories and fun facts while watching the show. There is a Flashback/Flash Forward option that will allow you to travel back through the show’s timeline and relive pivotal moments or Flash Forward to reveal the significance of a certain scenes. Lastly “True Blood Lines” is a fun guide to tap into secrets from relationships past and present.

Next up, the next batch of special features are available on the Blu-rays but are the only extras available on the DVDs. “Inside the Episodes” is an look into various back stories from each episode this season. There are five audio commentary tracks with cast and crew including creator/executive producer Alan Ball, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Denis O’Hare, Carrie Preston and many more! There are also Previews & Recaps from the series, in case you need to play catch up. Lastly you are able to watch these episodes seamless, so they flow really well together especially if you feel like marathoning it.

CD Review: Blake Shelton "Based on a True Story…"

Blake Shelton
“Based on a True Story…”
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Label: Warner Bros.
Tracks: 12
Running Time: 44 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Blake Shelton has been very busy for the last two years.  His last major album was “Red River Blue”, which was easily one of the best of 2011 and last year’s “Cheers, It’s Christmas”, which was also fantastic.  Then there is this little show he is involved with called “The Voice”.  Where does this guy have time to be this busy?  Well “Based on a True Story…” is a fantastic follow-up to “Red River Blue”.  When I found out about the album, I thought it is going to be real hard to top that album. But this album is such a smash hit! Since I received the album it has been a constant loop and I just keep enjoying the songs more and more.  If you love Blake, then you shouldn’t need to even read this, pick this up! If you are new to his music, then this is a great start and also a must have for any country music fan!

“Based On A True Story…” features 12 tracks with each track trumping the next. The first track released as a single, “Sure Be Cool If You Did”, is already a smash hit and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Digital Tracks chart. The great thing about that track is that it is amazing but not even the best track on the album.  So if you love that song, like many do, just think that the best is yet to come.  It is catchy and real draw for the album though. What thing I love about Shelton is that he is country but doesn’t really throw it in your face, if you don’t like the genre there are still some great songs on the album that you would enjoy. I like to say that he has a little bit for everyone on his albums.

My person favorite on the album is “Do You Remember”.  What a beautiful song.  I see this being a very big single for him.  But like I said when you listen to an album like “Based on a True Story…” you literally have the option to release each song as a single that is not always the case. If you like Pistol Annies, who doesn’t, they pop in on the first track “Boys ‘Round Here”.  This song is a great kick off for the album. It has a lot of attitude and gets those toes tapping! Another talent musician to appear on the album is Gwen Sebastian on the track My Eyes”.  Whatever you are doing Blake, keep it up brotha cause it is working well for you!! He should start getting ready to clean up the Grammy awards with this new album for sure! Can’t wait to see what is next!

Track Listing:
1. “Boys ‘Round Here” (featuring Pistol Annies)
2. “Sure Be Cool If You Did”
3. “Do You Remember”
4. “Small Town Big Time”
5. “Country on the Radio”
6. “My Eyes” (featuring Gwen Sebastian)
7. “Doin’ What She Likes”
8. “I Still Got a Finger”
9. “Mine Would Be You”
10. “Lay Low”
11. “Ten Times Crazier”
12. “Grandaddy’s Gun”

Blu-ray Review “Cinderella II: Dreams Come True / Cinderella III: A Twist in Time”

Starring: Jennifer Hale, Tress MacNeille, Rob Paulsen, Corey Burton, Holland Taylor, Susanne Blakeslee
Directors: Frank Nissen, John Kafka
Number of discs: 3
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 20, 2012
Running Time: 73 / 70 minutes

Cinderella II: Dreams Come True: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Cinderella III: A Twist in Time: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

How can you follow up to wonderful and timeless story of “Cinderella”. “Cinderella II: Dreams Come True” is a poor excuse for a sequel to one of the best fairy tale stories ever. The animation really is poor and really shows it’s direct-to-video roots. To be honest, I wouldn’t purchase this if it wasn’t in a combo pack. “Cinderella III: A Twist in Time” is a much better follow-up.  It delivers a really nice twist on the classic story and also packs some really fun songs. This film does make this release worth the purchase and I would just take “Cinderella II”, as a bonus feature.  In terms of delivery, “Cinderella II & III” are presented on one Blu-ray disc, while each film is also available on their own individual DVD. Overall, I would recommend this for probably only hardcore Disney fans!

“Cinderella II: Dreams Come True”: As a newly crowned princess, Cinderella quickly learns that life at the Palace – and her royal responsibilities – are more challenging than she had imagined. In three heartwarming tales, Cinderella calls on her animal friends and her Fairy Godmother to help as she brings her own grace and charm to her regal role and discovers that being true to yourself is the best way to make your dreams come true.

“Cinderella III: A Twist In Time”: Princess Cinderella is living a charmingly perfect life until her stepmother gets her hands on Fairy Godmother’s magic wand. With a wicked spell that turns back the clock, she erases the Prince’s memories of the girl he met at the ball and shatters Cinderella’s happily ever after! Jaq and Gus scurry to save the day before time runs out. But was it all really just a dream in Cinderella’s heart, or will true love triumph over all?

Despite being pretty bad, “Cinderella II: Dreams Come True” still looks the best it ever has on Blu-ray with its 1080p transfer and its 1.66:1 aspect ratio. “Cinderella III: A Twist In Time” also looks fantastic with its 1080p transfer and its 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Both films also sport a nice DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. The special features do not add much to this release. There is a feature called “Becoming a Princess” which is included in a two-part feature. The 1st Edition is with “Cinderella II” and 2nd Edition is with “Cinderella III” and both are new features for this release. They takes you through princess school and the process of being transformed into a Disney Princess. “Musical Magic” looks into the songs in the “Cinderella 2”. Lastly, there is a music video for the song “Put It Together”.