A guide to the UK’s North West for film lovers and TV buffs

Often those visiting the UK will typically head firstly towards the capital city of London, for its massive tourist draws and points-of-interest, not to mention its influence on pop culture and cinema – with unique attractions from its Secret Cinema experience to the London Design Museum, which recently held an exhibition dedicated to the revered director Stanley Kubrick and his works.

However, northern cities such as Liverpool and Manchester offer a strong alternative. They are often the go-to filming destination for big Hollywood films, due to their accommodating nature for production companies, and stunning, historic architecture that can stand in for many iconic locations, from London to New York.

Thinking of visiting? Here is the low down on some of the best places to visit for film buffs in the North West.

Liverpool

Liverpool is an extremely popular filming destination for both independent cinema and big blockbusters alike, and often doubles up as locales to suit fantasy and period dramas.

If arriving in the city by train you might immediately notice a location in Lime Street Station. Those who have seen the recent summer blockbuster Yesterday, from Trainspotting director Danny Boyle will know that this featured prominently in a poignant scene from the film.

Liverpool’s Littlewood’s building, once used during World War II to manufacture parachutes, will bring a state-of-the-art Hollywood-grade studio to Edge Lane in the coming years, sure to produce many great films for the future. Unfortunately, the site suffered setbacks due to a fire this time last year, but the £60m project is set to not only boost the cities’ economy, but also provide the potential for careers in staging, sound engineering and lighting.

This is not the only development ongoing in the city, and many other aspects are also building, in preparation for the future as the area swells in popularity. For example, not only has development in-and-around Liverpool Football Club’s famous Anfield stadium spelled economic growth, but in the Baltic Triangle sector of Liverpool, what has now become a creative and digital hub for business, bars, restaurants and homes are quickly popping up as an alternative destination to the city centre. Property specialists RW Invest state that the area is one of the most demanded in the country currently for students and young professionals, and will continue to grow rapidly in the years to come.

Manchester

Pride of the north and one of the biggest student cities in the UK, Manchester is another city with plenty of destinations worth visiting if you’re a film fan. Again, there’s a variety of things to do here, from walking tours showcasing locations used in the city, to galleries and cinema centres with unique offerings such as HOME.

The walking tour of Manchester features one of its most recognizable landmarks, the Manchester Town Hall in Albert Square. The Victorian and Gothic-esque architecture was used as a filming location for the most recent adaptation of Frankenstein, starring Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe, and James McAvoy of Split/X-Men fame.

MediaCityUK in Salford is another factor that solidifies Manchester’s place on the map for film and TV production influence. The hub for many of ITV and BBC’s studios, the network of buildings employ thousands of people and have done a lot for the city’s economy. Those visiting can go on many different tours of the different sets and blocks, and you could even get yourself into the live audience of one of the many shows filmed there.

CD Review: Leslie West “Soundcheck”

“Soundcheck”
Leslie West
Provogue
Tracks: 11

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Soundcheck” is the newest solo offering from legendary Mountain front man Leslie West. The album is the much anticipated follow up to West’s 2013 release “Still Climbing” which featured guest performances by Mark Tremonti, Jonny Lang and the late Johnny Winter. “Soundcheck” follows in the same suit as “Still Climbing” while taking things to the next level with brilliant performances on all 11 of the albums tracks by West and company.

From start to finish Mr. West and his assembled group of musicians are in top form as they blast through a variety musical styling’s covering everything from gritty rock ‘n’ roll to heart wrenching acoustic tinged ballads that echo to the inner most points of the listeners musical soul. The albums opening track “Left by the Roadside to Die” works perfect in its placement by setting the stage for what the listener is in store for. Mixed in with a handful of original tracks are a plethora of re-worked covers including Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason” a rawkus rendition of Gretchen Wilson’s “Here For the Party” an eerie instrumental version of the Beatles track “Eleanor Rigby” and a one of a kind rendition of “You Are My Sunshine” featuring Peter Frampton. Other guest performers include Queen’s Brian May on the track “Goin’ Down” and the late great Jack Bruce on the live recording of “Spoonful” a recording which until now has never been released.

If you are a long time Mountain/Leslie West devotee then “Soundcheck” will fit perfectly in to your music collection. For the more casual listener you will be hard pressed to find a track on here you won’t like. The production on each of the 11 tracks is really on par and even though the last track is a live track recorded in 1988 it still sounds crisp and in line with the previous 10 tracks making this a great album to listen to over and over.

Track Listing:
1.) Left by the Roadside to Die
2.) Give Me One Reason
3.) Here for the Party
4.) You Are My Sunshine
5.) Empty Promises/Nothin’ Sacred
6.) A Stern Warning
7.) People Get Ready
8.) Goin’ Down
9.) Stand By Me
10.) Eleanor Rigby
11.) Spoonful

Director John Maclean and Stars Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Mendelsohn talk about “Slow West”

Slow West held its New York premiere on April 19th at the SVA Theater during the 14th annual Tribeca Film Festival. Writer and director John Maclean joined stars Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Mendelsohn in speaking with me about the Michael-Fassbender-lead western on the red carpet.

Ben Mendelsohn is a renowned Australian actor who in Slow West takes on the larger-than-life role of Payne. Payne, in his oversized furry coat, is the leader of a vicious gang that Fassbender’s character Silas used to run with, and like his character, Mendelsohn seemed a bit bitter at the abandonedment of his gang-mate…

Lauren Damon: Can you discuss the relationship of Silas and Payne
Ben Mendelsohn: Okay, so Silas and Payne rode together back in the day and Silas essentially decided he was gonna go his own way–you know, he’d had enough, like ‘Yeah yeah, I’ve got what I wanted, I’m off doing my own thing’ Which, when you think about it is sort of a really punk move, you know? Because essentially Payne you know, gave this guy A LOT. Now, I’m not saying Silas isn’t a talented man, he is. But basically, he packed up and he got his tail between his legs and off he ran. And you know, time’s come now where our paths  have crossed again and [Silas]’s got this fine little bounty he’s traveling around with and really I just wanna know what’s up with that? Are we gonna share this spoil? Or are you gonna TRY and take it all for yourself? Or are you gonna try and be “a good boy”? So that’s a lot of what that’s about.

 

LD: And how did you all develop the look of Payne?
Ben: Oh the coat is genius. The very talented wardrobe lady [Kirsty Cameron] had it made and showed me all the pictures of trappers and what not from that period with these massive coats on. So once you put that coat on and that hat and you’ve got the tattoos, the rest of it’s a cake walk.

 

LD: How was it to shoot in NZ and with that wardrobe?
Ben: It was…yeah, it’s really crazy open wide spaces. It’s very desolate, it’s harsh. It’s a harsh sort of enviroment but very beautiful too. New Zealand’s a great place to shoot, it’s really got an extraordinary array of you know, locations and looks and feels…it’s all there. It’s a beautiful place to shoot.

 

LD: What attracted you to the film? I mean for a western it had a sense of humor about it too that I didn’t expect at all.
Ben: Yeah, I wasn’t sure how that would go. Michael Fassbender had started with John Maclean and they’d done a couple of short films and essentially the fact that you know that Michael Fassbender had sort of backed this to the degree he did was a very good sign. I’d seen his short films that John Maclean had done and they had something. You know, you could feel there was something there, western, it felt pretty cool. It felt like a good bit of fun with a decent chance of it working.

 

Director John Maclean had previously worked with Michael Fassbender on the short film Pitch Black Heist, which was shown at the 2012 Tribeca Film Fest.
LD: Can you talk about how you initially came to work with Michael Fassbender, what drew you to him or him to your work?
John Maclean: I think it was around the time that he was shooting with Tarantino [on Inglourious Basterds], I knew his agent. And his agent had given Michael some of my early short films I was making on my own. Michael saw something in them, came to me and said you know, if you want to do something, I’ll give up a day. So we started working together there.

 

LD: And when you approached this script, there’s a lot of dark humor in it—did you primarily come at it as a comedy or a western first?
John: I think, like my favorite films—I mean you look at a film like Fargo and it’s not a comedy, it’s not a thriller—I think some of the films I’m interested in, I think you just have to try and be truthful. And like life, comedy comes in to sad moments and sadness comes in to comedy moments.

 

LD: And it’s unconventional that your young romantic lead, his love interest doesn’t actually like him like that back!
John: I think “spoilers” here!

LD: I know, I’m sorry, my review says he’s been friend zoned
John: I just I mean, maybe that was from personal experience (laughs) when I was younger. But that’s what happens with young boys, I think. I guess it was for personal experience actually but um, I think he was never right for her. I think she was always more practical and he always too much of a dreamer. So from the beginning, I guess it’s doomed.

 

LD: How do you describe the back story between Payne and Silas?
John: Yeah, I think that’s the hard thing with wanting to make a shorter film—you can’t branch out into too many of the backstories but…I just imagined that the wild west, there wasn’t that many people at that time. So people sort of crossed paths much more often than you’d expect. I imagine they travelled together and [Silas] was part of Payne’s gang and then didn’t like the senselessness of some of the violence and left and went to go alone and Payne’s trying to draw him back into it.

 

Kodi Smit-McPhee was recently cast as Nightcrawler in next year’s X-men: Apocalypse, seeing as his previous film co-starred Nicholas Hoult (“Beast”) and this one he shared the screen with Fassbender (“Magneto”) I had to ask about joining them as mutants.

Lauren Damon: Have you contacted your past coworkers here for advice on joining the X-Men?
Kodi Smit McPhee: I haven’t contacted them yet. So we got Nicholas Hoult, Ty Sheridan and Michael Fassbender whom I know well. And I really can’t wait to get on set and work with them. And I haven’t said a word to them.

 

LD: What’re you most looking forward to about playing Nightcrawler?
Kodi: I really love the warmth that comes with the passion behind his character. And the novelty within just the tradition of him. I don’t necessarily have a desire to bring new things to it, but just show the world that they love.

 

LD: And are you familiar with Alan Cumming’s take on it from X2?
Kodi: Yes, absolutely. Usually, I mean if I don’t need to–like for Let Me In, I didn’t look at Let the Right One In–but for something like this, I thought it  was right to just find all the roots, you know, see how Nightcrawler evolved into who he is now.

 

LD: If you could choose your own X-power what would it be?
Kodi: I would love to physically, and within my own body, be able to travel back and forth and time. See how the history and the future plays out.

 

LD: Back onto Slow West, I was rewatching The Road recently and I saw your character there sort of as the young optimist to an older guide, like Jay in this film, did you feel that connection there?
Kodi: Absolutely and maybe in fact this whole story itself and the concept of a western story, it was very much like that. Like desolate and moving towards something hopeful. So yeah I really loved that idea and that was never intentional, but I guess it’s something that I’m just great at expressing and hopefully with Nightcrawler, I can move onto other things.

Next week: A more in-depth discussion with John and Kodi, meanwhile, you can check out my review of Slow West here.

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Slow West”

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Mendelsohn, Caren Pistorious, Rory McCann
Directed By: John Maclean
Running Time: 84 mins
A24/DirecTV

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

There’s a surprising streak of gallows humor coursing through Slow West, available now on DirecTV and having its NY premiere at Tribeca this week. The terrain is merciless and bloody but plenty meet their doom with a darkly ironic twist. Coupled with stunning visuals and a plethora of perfectly cast outlaws, John Maclean’s tale of star crossed lovers in the old west is an unexpectedly quirky entry into the genre.

We meet Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee), an upper class young Scotsman riding through the deep Colorado woods on a mission to find his lost love, Rose (Caren Pistorious). Jay is way out of his depths, bearing with him too much luggage and the old west equivalent of a Frommer’s guide. He narrowly avoids being shot when a lone bounty hunter named Silas intervenes on his behalf. “You need chaperoning,” the rugged Silas says, “and I’m a chaperone.” Naturally Silas has his own agenda regarding Rose, but Jay pegs Silas as a lonely man in need of company and accepts his help.

Naïve Jay is an interesting romantic lead insofar as his flashbacks to his time with Rose in Scotland reveal him to have been ye olde friend-zoned. It puts a nice tragicomic edge on his mission and earnest dealings with Silas. It’s also entertaining to watch the wide-eyed McPhee wear down the gruff Fassbender. The addition of Silas to Jay’s mission comes with its own baggage in the form of Ben Mendelsohn’s Payne. Payne, in an outrageous large furry coat, leads Silas’s old gang each of them looking every inch the old-timey outlaw. They bring with them absinthe and their own absurd tales from the road where Maclean is not afraid to cull some laughs from deadly stories even as Payne’s gang looms ominously over our leads.

Ultimately of course finding Rose is going to come down to a good old fashion shoot out as the west demands. Like the rest of the film, its gorgeously shot (New Zealand subbing for Colorado) and gives all the players a chance to shine before the bullets begin to really fly. It’s a satisfying climax to top off this brief offbeat journey through the west.

 

 

 

Blu-ray Review “A Million Ways to Die in the West”

Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi
Director: Seth MacFarlane
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Universal Studios
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Run Time: 116 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2.5 out of 5 stars

“Ted” is a very funny film and a real tough act to follow for Seth MacFarlane. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” tries its best and really succeeds. The film is also a Western, so right off the bat, that is a really hard act to sell. The film is funny as hell and also extremely raunchy. My only issue is that it is falls into the category of running about 30 minutes too long. It features an amazing cast including Seth MacFarlane himself along with Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Neil Patrick Harris. Honestly, I enjoyed the second viewing is more enjoyable. I recommend this for some great laughs.

Official Premise: Seth MacFarlane directs, produces, co-writes and plays the role of the cowardly sheep farmer Albert in A Million Ways to Die in the West. After Albert backs out of a gunfight, his fickle girlfriend leaves him for another man. When a mysterious and beautiful woman rides into town, she helps him find his courage and they begin to fall in love. But when her husband, a notorious outlaw, arrives seeking revenge, the farmer must put his newfound courage to the test.

“A Million Ways to Die in the West” comes in a great Blu-ray from Universal. The 1080p transfer in 2.40:1 looks amazing. The location outdoor shots are gorgeous and totally unexpected from this film. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is also great and delivers well on Joel McNeely, perfectly themed Western score. The special features are nothing special. There are commentary tracks on both cuts with Director/Producer/Co-Writer Seth MacFarlane, Co-Writers and Executive Producers Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild and Star Charlize Theron. This is worth checking out if you enjoyed the film.

There is an Alternate Opening and Alternate Ending, along with about 10 minutes of Deleted / Extended / Alternate Scenes and a Gag Reel.  There is a basic EPK making of look with “Once Upon a Time, in a Different West” with package’s EPK, with some fun behind the scenes footage and interviews. The Blu-ray also includes an Extended cut of the film which runs about 2 hours and 15 minutes but honestly, it is way too long. I love comedies but they honestly need to be around 90 minutes.

Jason Baldwin talks about being one of the The West Memphis Three and film “The Devil’s Knot”

At the age of sixteen Charles Jason Baldwin was arrested, put on trial, and convicted for the killing of three eight-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. The killings were viewed as ritualistic and Satanic. The only evidence against Jason Baldwin was his long hair, black heavy-metal t-shirts, and his friendship with Damien Echols. In 1994, he pled innocent, yet was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In August of 2011, after eighteen years and seventy-eight days of incarceration, in what is known as the Alford Plea, Jason pled guilty to the crime: and was released from prison. Jason Baldwin is one of The West Memphis Three.

B.C. Allen: It’s been two-and-a-half years since you were released from prison; do you feel fully acclimated to current-day society at this point?
Jason Baldwin: I don’t know if anyone ever gets fully acclimated to current-day society or not. With that being said, I am putting my life together, with a wonderful woman of my dreams. I recently married the love of my life, Holly. We’re building a life together. We have two kittens and a bunny, who act as our babies. I mean, life… life is wonderful. Everywhere we go people are just so gracious and caring, and warm and helpful. It’s been a wonderful experience.

BCA: When were you two married?
JB: We were married in December. I proposed to her in Toronto at AIDWYC, which is the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted. AIDWYC is an organization Rubin “Hurricane” Carter – who just passed – started twenty years ago. Anyway, I had been carrying this ring in my backpack for maybe eight or nine months… like I’m carrying a baby. [laughs] I wanted to get her dad’s permission before I asked her. Long story short, she said “Yes”, and we are having an amazing life now.

BCA: In an alternate world, had you not entered the Alford Plea, where do you think you’d be with the case at this point?
JB: Well, you hope the courts would do what they are supposed to do… and follow the evidence and follow the procedures as they’re set down. The procedures are in place to free innocent people. The evidence was there to free us, but… since I’ve been free I’ve had some college and I had a logic professor who’s also a computer programmer, and he told me “Law is like computer programming. Law is for people and society like computer programming is for computers. But where the difference is, is that the computer has to follow that programming, and it’s going to do whatever the programming says. Whereas people are different; they don’t always do as the law has prescribed. Even though I had every hope and the law was supposed to be on my side to help me be free… I don’t know if they’d have succeeded in murdering Damien or not. And even then, the State didn’t give us the opportunity to save our names, like they should have, and thrown the case out, and opened it up. No matter how long it takes to find whoever really committed the crime. It was a hard position… a horrible position… to be put in, but ultimately, I couldn’t make the decision for Damien. He’s facing death for something he didn’t do. I couldn’t make the decision to stay for him. No one knows what it would be. But the good thing is now there’s still hope, because they didn’t execute Damien. He’s free now, Jessie’s free, I’m free. Even though we still have this Alford Plea hanging over us, there’s still hope. Even though the State officially says the case isn’t open, there’s no statute of limitations on murder. So when we do find who committed this crime – and we will – it’s a matter of time, because we’re not giving up. I believe, I hope, they’ll overturn everything now. I believe they will. And in the meantime I’ll just live my life like I have always lived it. Just do the best I can, and enjoy it. And try and carry myself with a little bit of grace and dignity, and treat everybody the same, and just love this short, precious time we all have here.

BCA: Obviously, to Arkansas the case is closed, officially. But I presume there is still an investigation going on?
JB: My attorney is still working diligently. Doing everything he can as an attorney with private investigators and stuff like that. But he’s not a State’s attorney, he doesn’t have subpoena power and things like that; so there are things he can’t do. We’re doing what we can. The State can do more and they should do more. I like to think that everybody would respect people, or a position, who would admit a mistake and try to correct that mistake and move forward, rather than just to say that there has been no mistake, and just try and hide. The big thing to do is admit that a mistake was made in convicting Damien, Jessie, and myself; and go ahead and move forward and try to find who really did this. That’s the only way that society or any of us are going to be able to heal completely.

BCA: There is almost a weird irony to me, that during your 1994 trial you only spoke three words, you said, “Because I’m innocent.” And now twenty years later you seem to be one of the most vocal of the three of you. Can you say anything about that?
JB: I could have been vocal then too, but everyone, you know… you’re in court and the Judge tells you that you can’t say anything, you can’t have an emotional outburst. No matter what you hear. No matter what type of lies are being said, or you won’t even be able to be permitted to be there at your own trial. So you sit there and you hear all these things, and you try to put the bravest face on that you can, and you hear all of these horrible things. Then you tell your attorneys and everyone who would listen where you were, the people you came into contact with, in full faith. In full faith, that your mom, my uncle, my brothers, my next door neighbor Ms. Littleton, my high school art teacher, the lady who ran the county jail; all these people who could testify for me are going to be given that opportunity, as well as myself. And then, to do everything I am told to do, and come to the trial’s conclusion and never be given those opportunities and to only be able to say, “Because I’m innocent,” it was hard. Never had a chance. Never had a chance. But no one was able to see that aspect.

BCA: I went back and read “Devil’s Knot” again recently – after having viewed the film – and I always catch something new when I read it. I noticed this time through that Dan Stidham, Jessie Misskelley Jr.’s lawyer, was only twenty seven when he took on this case. I mean, that’s what, ten years younger than you are now. Could you imagine taking that on at such a young age; or even now, knowing what you know about the law?
JB: I couldn’t.
BCA: Do you feel that your defense attorney Paul Ford did a decent job, when looking back on it all these years later?
JB: There are so many factors that played against him. I wish he would have let me testify; I wish he would have let all of my alibi witnesses testify, but even if I would have, or everybody would have, we wouldn’t have been able to combat the jury foreman who was convinced he was going to convince the rest of the jurors that we were guilty no matter what was offered, or not offered, in court. So we were up against things like that. Literally, we never had a chance. Never had a chance. From the minute the fingers were pointed at us, we never stood a chance. And that’s the saddest part of it. And that’s because, I think, it was an honest mistake that they lost the evidence from Bojangles, that was collected that night. From that point on we lost evidence… I don’t know that it would have led anywhere, but to me, a guy coming out of the very bayou that the boys would be found in the next day… Come out of there during the time that they are missing… that’s very suspicious. If that person didn’t have anything to do with it, they possibly were a witness. That evidence was very crucial and important, and it’s lost.

BCA: You believe that it was an honest mistake? That wasn’t something deceptive on Bryn Ridge’s or someone else’s part?
JB: Yea.
BCA: That’s your personal belief?
JB: Yea. I always try and give people what was supposed to have been given to me at my trial, and that’s the benefit of a doubt. I just think it was an honest mistake.

BCA: From your interviews, and the hours of footage in the documentaries, you get the gist that you are a relatively positive person – which I have always admired about you – and you’ve always had a positive outlook on everything. That’s interesting to know that you think it was a legitimate mistake.
JB: Thank you.
BCA: With this narrative version of “Devil’s Knot”, this dramatized version of the story, what do you think it will bring to light that Berlinger & Sinofsky “Paradise Lost” Trilogy of films, or Amy Berg’s “West of Memphis” didn’t show? What do you think the appeal is going to be?
JB: I think we’re making a mistake if we try to pit them against each other, or compare them, in that sense. What we should do is look at it like this; there are a lot more people out there who watch movies and don’t view documentaries or read true-crime novels. So this is going to reach a broad base, and hopefully the people who hear of the case for the first time through the film will go back and watch the documentaries, as well, “Paradise Lost” one through three, and “West of Memphis”; read Mara’s book, “Devil’s Knot”, and Damien’s memoirs, do everything. Ultimately, it’s saying this, it’s saying, to whoever did this, if they’re still alive out there – wherever they are hiding – if they’re out there, they’re paying attention. It’s saying to them that even though the State of Arkansas says the case is closed, it says to them, we are not giving up. There is no statute of limitation on murder: the people are not giving up. We all know that Damien, Jessie and I are innocent, we all know someone did this, and we are all looking. No matter how long it’s going to take. And ultimately, the best part… for Pam Hicks, it shows her that no one is giving up; her son is not going to be forgotten. I know the hardest part for her was that Alford Plea, because the State was kind of saying to her, $60 million for wrongful imprisonment money is more important than your son; more important than knowing what happened to your son. And that’s wrong. For us, making this film was sort of a way to give that hope back to her. I witnessed that on set. Meeting all the actors and everybody that worked on set. Everyone I came across there would say that when you get a script and you get a job, you do your best at it, because that’s just what you do. But they said there was something different about this script and this story, because everybody just cared about it; and cared about the people they were representing and the people touched by the case. And to see Reese Witherspoon, who everybody loves, aside from the serious nature of this case; but to see her take Pam in her arms, and hug her and tell her everything is going to be all right. To see that love, all that healing love, that right there made the film being made worth it, just that alone.

BCA: After your release it seemed like you moved immediately to the Pacific Northwest, what is it about that area that attracted you?
JB: I had no idea where I was going when I first got out. When you grow up listening to rock n’ roll, and one of the last cassette tapes you had – before you got locked up – was Pearl Jam’s Ten… He (Eddie Vedder) looks a lot different than he did as a sixteen year old, I mean as you know, we’re both the same age. But when you’re looking at this rock star – who’s not only a rock star, but has given so much of himself when he didn’t have to, and cared about you enough to put his name out there to get you some justice and get you free, and he’s like “Hey, we’re hopping on a plane and going to my house”, you don’t say, “Oh, well I have other plans.” You get on the plane and go to Washington and try to figure things out. I didn’t know where I was going to go, or what I was going to do; because I wasn’t expecting the Alford Plea, I wasn’t expecting to get out right then. I’m looking forward to the December hearing and how long the trial is going to take; I’m just trying to face that, and then I can figure out what I am going to do when I get out. Then all of a sudden I’m out, and at a rock star’s house. In hindsight, Holly and I talked about this a lot… right then I probably could have been flown to the Sahara desert, and after what I had experienced I would have been jumping up and down “Oh, sand! Let’s stay here, I love it!” But it was very fortuitous that we landed in Seattle, because now two-and-a-half, almost going on three years now, after freedom, I’ve had a chance to travel the country, and see a couple of places in the world. And I’ve been amazed, I love every place. But honestly now, after experiencing many places, Holly and I agree, we both choose Seattle. So it’s really awesome that Seattle was the first place we went.

BCA: Do you still have family in Arkansas? Have you traveled back there since your release?
JB: Yea. Holly and I have been back several times. Her dad lives in Arkansas, and my dad lives in Arkansas; we see both of them. My mom goes back and forth between Missouri and Mississippi, and her family lives in Mississippi; so we’ve been to see them as well. She (Holly) grew up in Little Rock, went to high school there, and college; so she’s got a million-and-one friends, so every time we go back it’s always amazing. I meet people who have supported the cause… it’s just always good.

BCA: This past fall you did a Kickstarter campaign – which I gladly pledged to – how is the book coming?
JB: Thank you.
BCA: Is there a release date for that?
JB: I am hoping to have it wrapped up by the end of the year. I’ve got quite a bit written and got a lot more to write. I’m working on a chapter right now, I’m calling it “Jessie’s Girl”.
BCA: Nice.
JB: You know, like the song… [sings] “Jesse’s Girl.” Anyway, working on that chapter right now. I don’t have any chapters finished, because I’m kind of writing them all simultaneously, and just going back and forth. I’m really in the writing phase, just getting it out of me.

BCA: Just getting out the main gist?
JB: Yea, yea. Just putting it all down; then I’ll go back and get an editor and put it together in a book format, ya know, so we can get it to you, since you funded the Kickstarter. Thank you so much for the Kickstarter, because that’s what is paying the bills right now, so I can write it. I’ve never written a book before, it’s hard work. I usually get up around four in the morning, after I feed the cats and everything, then I usually get started on it around six, and work on it throughout the day.

BCA: Is the founding of Proclaim Justice going to be a part of the book?
JB: Definitely yea. I haven’t written any of that yet, I’m still experiencing it, and I’m not limiting it.

BCA: What can you tell me about Proclaim Justice?
JB: My friend John Hardin out of Texas, and I, we started this foundation called Proclaim Justice, and we’re trying to get it off the ground to help innocent people who fall through the cracks for institutions like The Innocence Project, who don’t take their case because they specialize in DNA cases. It’s for innocent people who don’t have DNA in their case; we’re trying to bring those people hope.

The author of “Devil’s Knot”, Mara Leveritt, and Jason Baldwin, worked together on a book entitled “Dark Spell: Surviving the Sentence”, which is set to be released in June. “Dark Spell” is the second part in Leveritt’s “Justice Knot” Trilogy; with a third book, “Justice Knot”, currently in the works.

“DEVIL’S KNOT” will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 10, 2014.

Film Review #2 “A Million Ways to Die in the West”

Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson
Directed By: Seth MacFarlane
Rated: R
Running Time: 116 minutes
Universal Pictures

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

There are actually some lofty expectations for “A Million Ways to Die in the West”. Weird, right? Two summers ago Seth MacFarlane put out the comedy sleeper hit, “Ted”. It combined his “Family Guy” style of random, filthy humor with the likeable personas of Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg coping with the next step of their relationship. Once again MacFarlane throws everything and the kitchen sink from his bag of humor in the hopes of pulling a throaty laugh from his audience and for the most part he succeeds. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” also stirs up a worthy farce of Western movies.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and hail the second coming of “Blazing Saddles”. MacFarlane is the lead, which deters him from drawing some of the biggest laughs in the movie. As Albert, a spineless sheep farmer, he does have some very good quips, but the supporting cast padding is what makes “A Million Ways to Die in the West” a comedy gem. Friends of Albert, Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and Ruth (Sarah Silverman), are a Christian couple who are waiting until marriage to make love; which is constantly complicated by the fact that Ruth is a prostitute with customers who continuously find more unique ways and inopportune times to tell her to get upstairs and bang them. Louise (Amanda Seyfried) is Albert’s ex-girlfriend who is the butt of jokes, but is now dating the master of mustaches, Foy (Neil Patrick Harris). NPH is an absolute pleasure in every scene, selling every moment more than anyone else in this movie.

Then there’s the warm and beautiful Anna (Theron). A smart, quick trigger gal who finds her way into Albert’s slice of hell town called Old Stump. Upon meeting and slowly falling for each other, she fails to mention to Albert that her husband, Clinch (Neeson), is one of the most dangerous and deadly outlaws in the west that has a sadistic code of ethics when choosing who to kill. Anna and Albert complement each other with their smartass remarks and craving to be with someone who appreciates them for who they are. MacFarlane and Theron sport some decent on-screen chemistry which probably comes as a shock for the thousands who were up in arms over MacFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” at the 2013 Oscars.

The characters in this movie have an odd, child-like approach to plenty of crudeness which makes it all the more humorous and ridiculous. Comedic scenarios feature a combination of sight gags, one-liners and a visually gross punctuation. Also slip in the unnecessary violent death to further accent the title of the movie. With such a palette of absurd and juvenile humor, there’s something for everyone in this rapid fire executions of jokes, at least anyone who isn’t afraid of a little inappropriate, sexual and racial provocation. Some of my more favorite scenes feature a hyper violent bar fight and the interactions between Albert and his aging father who speaks his emotions through expletive hyperboles.

While “Ted” was a perfect blend, cast-wise, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” feels incomplete. The lengthy running time starts to show as we continue to wait for the climactic showdown between Albert and Clinch. Also I can’t quite heap on the same amount of praise to MacFarlane that everyone else got. He isn’t admirable enough to be the improbable hero. He has a low level of smugness that ruins the high octane levels of every-guy so we don’t quite see him as amiable. NPH would have been miles better in the lead role and it’s a puzzle as to why no one pointed this out to MacFarlane when the script was being read. Regardless, “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is the comedy to beat so far this summer.

Film Review “A Million Ways to Die in the West”

Directed by: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Liam Neeson
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 116 minutes

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Seth MacFarlane is easily one of the best comedic minds in the business right now. He has taken over the animation world with his shows “Family Guy” and “American Dad” and recently crossed over into film with the huge summer hit “Ted”. “Ted” was a great film that had a heart and yet was still extremely raunchy and also very funny. “A Million Ways to Die in the West” really had some big expectation shoes to fill. Fans are going to be looking for more of what “Ted” delivered and in my eyes it delivers that and more. When I saw the trailer for “A Million Ways to Die in the West”, I just knew I was going to love it. One of the problems I had with the film was that it shows quite a bit of its key jokes in the trailer. There is still much more fun to be had but I would imagine that people that haven’t seen many of the trailers will enjoy this a bit more. Nonetheless, I was hollering out loud for this film and I wasn’t alone either, if people compare this to “Ted”, they are going to be disappointed because they are two very different films but if you look as a stand alone you will have a blast watching “A Million Ways to Die in the West”.

Our story takes place in a small Frontier town called Old Stump in the year 1882. We meet Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane), who is a sheep farmer that loses his beautiful girlfriend Louise (Amanda Seyfried) due to not having enough courage to face a gun duel. While Albert tries to win her back he ends up meeting a newcomer to the town named Anna (Charlize Theron) and the two hit it off. She helps Albert discovers his missing confidence and courage. After spending time with each other they seem to develop feeling for each other but Anna doesn’t let Albert in on the fact that she is the wife to the infamous outlaw Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson). When Clinch arrives in the town, he is looking to call out the man that wooed his wife and it is up to Albert to stand up to him.

I think we have to blame Judd Apatow for running the comedy genre since I feel that he set the path for 2+ hour comedies. I feel that all comedies work best when short and to the punchline. 90 minutes, tops, is what a comedy should be. This film nears the two hour mark and could have easily been trimmed to be much tighter. “Ted” was the same way as well, the film was great in a whole but there were certain parts that dragged major ass, same happens here. You got to give it to MacFarlane though because this is his first film with him in the spotlight, in the leading role, and not hiding behind a voice role. I felt that he really nailed it. He turned out to be a great leading man. I thought he still had great comedic timing and really nailed his jokes. I hope he plans to act more in the future for sure. Charlize Theron was also a nice surprise, I haven’t been a huge fan of her recently but this film really gives her a chance to let loose and have some fun and her performance benefits from it. I like to think that every role can’t be a Oscar winner.

To be completely honest, the rest of the supporting cast including Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman and Liam Neeson are really just background in the film and don’t contribute anything major to the film. NPH is always a riot an,d of course, he sings and dances in this film. I still can’t get that mustache song out of my head. There are also a handful of super quick cameos throughout the film including Alex Borstein, Ralph Garman, Gilbert Gottfried, Ewan McGregor, Ryan Reynolds, John Michael Higgins, Jamie Foxx and Bill Maher. So see if you can catch them on the screen because they are there and gone before you know it. Great Scott, I almost forgot keep an eye out for the great Christopher Lloyd, who pops in for a great cameo as well.

When it comes to Western films, they are a honestly just a hard genre to pull off. People usually don’t come out in droves to see film’s like this but MacFarlance has the balls to try and essentially nail it. I couldn’t help but compare “A Million Ways to Die in the West” to the classic Mel Brooks film “Blazing Saddles”. That film is celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this year and I remember the first time that my father watched it with me. This film reminded me a lot of what that film and what it would have been like if it was made today. This is raunchy, racist, over-the-top and generally offensive. There plenty of foul language, fart jokes and animals getting knocked over. I would be curious to hear Mel Brooks’ comments on the film as well. The locations where this film was shot were also absolutely amazing. Having this be a comedy, you don’t expect amazing visuals but this one really caught my eye and delivered a nice view of the Frontier. This might not be the best comedy ever but I definitely laughed more than not and definitely will be recommending this film!

Win a Blu-ray of Stephen Chow’s “Journey to the West” [ENDED]

You a fan of “Shaolin Soccer” or “Kung Fu Hustle”, well if so then you are in luck because the guy behind that movie Stephen Chow has a new film called “Journey to the West”. To celebrate the release on Blu-ray, Media Mikes is excited to giveaway one (1) Blu-ray of the film to our readers. If you would like to enter for your chance to win one of this prize, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite film martial arts film. This giveaway will remain open until May 30th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

In a world plagued by demons who cause great human suffering, young demon hunter Xuan Zang risks his all to conquer a water demon, a pig demon and the demon of all demons, Sun Wukong. Adhering to his firm belief in giving of one’s self for the greater cause, he embraces the demons as his disciples. However, in order to atone for their own sins and save the common people, the four of them must embark on a journey to the West that’s full of challenges.

Lucas Grabeel chats about voicing Deputy Peck in Disney Junior’s “Sheriff Callie’s Wild West”

DISNEY JUNIOR/RICK ROWELL

Lucas Grabeel is known best for his role of Ryan Evans in the “High School Musical” series. Lucas is currently voicing the character Deputy Peck in Disney Junior’s newest series “Sheriff Callie’s Wild West”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Lucas about the new show and what we can expect.

Mike Gencarelli: What do you enjoy most about being on a show like “Sheriff Callie’s Wild West”?
Lucas Grabeel: I have done a few voice-over guest spots here and there on other TV shows but this is my first series regular position on an animated series. I was a little nervous at first since I had never done something like this on a day-to-day basis. I had all this dialogue, singing and playing multiple characters. I was worried about it at first but I ended up working with Jessica DiCicco, who is a voice-over veteran and she taught me so much. She made me comfortable. Once we got in the studio, we were having fun and laughing. Due to that it was such a great experience and was so much fun. On the flip side, once it was all done and we started watching it, I was just blown away how quite the animation is, how clever the writing is and how everything just came together. It is not only a great show for kids; I sit down with my girlfriend as well and watch it. I am a little biased being in it but we laugh and have a good time.

DISNEY JUNIOR

MG: Where did you come up with the voice for Deputy Peck?
LG: They said in the audition that he was a Barney Fife kind of deputy. It is a country western. I am originally from Missouri. So I basically did an impersonation of my dad and I put it up a couple of octaves. This gave him that high energy frantic feel.

MG: There is tons of great music in the show, what has been your favorite song?
LG: I love getting to sing on the show. Jessica and I also get to do the prairie dog trio, which is kind of my favorite part of the whole job [laughs]. They are just so adorable and funny that I always laugh. We have been recording it for the last two years but the song always pops back into my head is [singing as Peck] “Those peppers, those peppers, those peppers can’t be beat!” I do not know why but it always comes back [laughs].

MG: Tell us about the recording sessions? Are the song recordings separate?
LG: I was always recording with Jessica. So we would come in and record a couple of episodes during each session, the prairie dog songs along with probably two or three songs as well. We would do the episode first then go through and do the music. It was tons of fun. Being with Jessica and the whole group in the booth, everyone was just so nice to calm me down and allow me to get into this comfortable place. We would just laugh and have so much fun the whole time. It is such a great job.

DISNEY JUNIOR

MG: What was your biggest challenge for this role?
LG: This is my most put-on voice that I have ever done. All of the other voices I have done were closer to my natural voice. Doing a voice with the dialogue is one thing but trying to figure out how to sing, laugh, run and yell all together is the part of voice over that I didn’t understand at first. But that is what this whole experience has taught me. It was cool to approach it like acting. You become the character and then think through and put your head into that space and see how it should come together.

MG: What can you tell us about the new single “135n8”?
LG: I just released the single “135n8” on New Year’s Day. It is currently available on iTunes. It is a loungey dance track that I have been working on for a while. The video just came out February 11th on Billboard and it is also available now on my new YouTube channel. I will also be releasing some cool behind-the-scenes videos and featurettes in the coming weeks as well. It was a really cool experience to make the video because I got together some “High School Musical” people including dancers, choreographers and crew. We just came together and I said “Let’s make something exciting and push each other”. I think we did it and I am really excited about the video and I hope that people like it also.

Mountain’s Leslie West talks about new solo album “Still Climbing”

Leslie West the legendary front man for the band Mountain is back with a brand new solo album titled “Still Climbing”. The album features 11 tracks and is classic West through and through. The album also boasts an amazing line up of guest musicians ranging from Johnny Winter to Creed/Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Leslie recently about his work on the album and his career in the music business.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the new album?
Leslie West: I started on the album about a year ago in June. I took my time deciding which songs I wanted to do and who I wanted to play with me on them. I was able to just take my time which kept things from getting jumbled up and eliminated the idea of having a deadline. Things really worked out well.

AL: What was the band line up for this record?
LW: My bass player is Rev Jones; on drums we had my engineer/co-producer Mike Goldberg. Once the album was all recorded we sent it to Mike Frazier in Canada for the mixing. Mike has worked with everyone from AC/DC to Metallica. It was good sending the album to someone we knew could do a really good job mixing it. Mike was able to come in with a fresh set of ears as he wasn’t there during the initial recording process. There were also a bunch of guest musicians like Mark Tremonti, Jonny Lang and Dee Snider who came in and played on some tracks.

AL: When the guest musicians would come in did you have an idea what it was you wanted them to do or did you let them play what they wanted?
LW: With Jonny Lang I knew what I wanted and had the song down. Jonny was doing a show in New Jersey so we picked him up at the airport and brought him over to the studio. Johnny Winter who also is on the album was the same way. My co-producer recorded Johnny in Connecticut but when the track was all finished it sounded like we were right next to each other. Dee Snider came down to do his part for the song “Feeling Good” and we had a really great time.

AL: Are the songs that make up the album ones that you and your band worked on collectively?
LW: No. I wrote the original songs and the others I did all the arrangements. I ended up writing some song with the help of my wife despite my reluctance to have her involved. I would start writing songs on my iPad and then via iCloud things would be popping up that she had added. I asked her if I could use some of that stuff as I had some songs that didn’t have words and some words that didn’t have music. That’s basically how it went. I would go in the studio and we would just build the songs. I used my guitar layout and played to a click track. That could be why it took so long. The song “Fade In to You” is one I originally heard on the television show “Nashville”.  I really liked the song so we reworked it and gave it my sound. I think it turned out great.

AL: Having been in the music business since the 1960’s what do you feel has been the biggest change personally from when you started in the business to where you are now?
LW: I had two legs when I started. (Laughs) Digital was something that really changed things. When I started you had to make edits with a razor blade and some tape. Things would take forever but now you can just move things around very quickly. I think it’s just amazing. When we were recording to analog if you didn’t like an edit you would have to redo it by un-taping it and then re-taping it. You had to find a spot where there was no noise in order to make that edit.

AL: Some artists are very opposed to the idea of digital but you seem quite open to it. Is this true?
LW: I have been very accepting both with this new album and the previous one as well. With digital you have a lot more time to create the music. You can make changes very easily. As far as sounds go I use what comes directly out of the amps. We may have added a little reverb or whatever but for the most part what you hear is what you get. Mike did a great job of capturing the actual sounds coming from my amp.

AL: Has there been any talks of touring in support of the release?
LW: There are a few scheduled for November that we are currently working on. It will most likely be a run of select shows. The biggest thing is I haven’t been able to find a tour bus that is built to handle a wheel chair. It’s hard to believe but there really isn’t anything out there that will allow me to tour like I used to. For now we hit select venues. I can’t quite get used to prosthetics yet as I have been working with them at rehab. They strap the guitar on me and then have me stand to see how long I can balance. The most I have been able to stand for is 40 seconds. I don’t want to have to worry about falling down on stage so I sit now. That’s just the way it is. I am still able to play without that worry of falling.

AL: Other than the standing aspect has the loss of your leg changed the way in which you perform?
LW: Yes. I am no longer able to walk around obviously so when I find a spot that works for me on stage that’s where I stay for the rest of the performance. Having just the one foot also makes it a little more difficult to hit my floor pedals so we have some on a small table next to me and one or two on the floor. I don’t really use a lot live now as I have started using Blackstar amps which have a great tone straight out of the head.

AL: Can you tell us about your new website?
LW: We have the Mountain website still but they are currently working on one for my solo stuff. It will be located at www.Lesliewestofficial.com so people will want to be watching for that.

 

Related Content

CD Review: Leslie West “Still Climbing”

Leslie West
“Still Climbing”
Provogue
Producer: Leslie West/Mike Goldberg
Tracks: 11

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Legendary Mountain front man Leslie West is back with a new solo album titled “Still Climbing”. The 15th release from the 68 year old West is probably his most progressive yet as the album covers everything from hard rock and soul to straight up rhythm and blues.  The album which was co-produced by West and Mike “Metal” Goldberg is being released via Provogue Records and features 10 brand new tracks along with a cover of “When a Man Loves a Woman” which was originally recorded by Percy Sledge in 1966.

Right out of the gate Leslie and his guitar grab you with the track “Dyin’ Since the Day I Was Born”.  The song is a down and dirty hard rocking tune that is the perfect stage for West’s grainy vocals and signature guitar style. As the album progresses Leslie takes you on a musical journey hitting a wide genre of sounds which make this album appealing on a number of different levels. The song “Tales of Woe” is a semi acoustic number that seems to tap in to the darker side of West’s life experiences. The haunting slide guitar featured on and off through the song does a great job playing of the song’s lyrics adding an almost weeping type effect. The song “Don’t Ever Let Me Go” features a catchy guitar line that that gets stuck in your head in the same way a pop song might. One other track worth mentioning is “Feeling Good” which features some impressive dueling vocal lines courtesy of Mr. West and Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider. Even though the pairing may sound a little out there it works.

Fans of Leslies work will certainly want to pick up “Still Climbing” as part of their collection however the album is more than just for West’s devoted fans as it features great arrangements and performances by West and company that any music lover will be sure to enjoy

Track Listing:
1.)     Dyin’ Since The Day I Was Born
2.)     Busted, Disgusted or Dead
3.)     Fade Into You
4.)     Not Over You At All
5.)     Tales of Woe
6.)     Feeling Good
7.)     Hatfield or McCoy
8.)     When a Man Loves a Woman
9.)     Long Red
10.)   Don’t Ever Let Me Go
11.)    Rev Jones Time

DVD Review "40 West"

Actors: Jennifer Nichole Porter, Scott Winters, Brian A. White, Kathleen Kimball, Wayne Newton
Directors: Dana Packard
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Honey Tree Films
DVD Release Date: October 16, 2012
Run Time: 120 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

I have to admit that I had never heard of “40 West” before it showed up at my door. I am glad that I checked this out (for the most part) since it is a well-written low-budget indie with a nice punch ending. This plays out like a slow-burn character drama/thriller, though maybe a little too slow. Running two hours, this could have been easily trimmed by 30 minutes and been much more effective. Jennifer Nichole Porter is not just the star of this film, she is also the writer and composer as well. Being a fan of music, I really enjoyed the music in the film for sure. Speaking of music, who doesn’t love Wayne Newton? His role in this film is very clever and well-executed.

“40 West” focuses on Maeve (Jennifer Nichole Porter), a blues singer, that ends up with her car breaking down and purse stolen, when she is about to take a trip. She is helped out by a stranger Elijah (Scott Winters), who looks helpful but then ends up setting her up with ex-con husband Colin (Brian A. White), who handcuffs her in a hotel room and plays catch up after being in prison for five years. The events get more complicated when Colin’s girl from the pen, Arlene (Kathleen Kimball), shows up and on top of that Arlene’s husband Bud (Wayne Newton) makes his appearance as well.

The film’s website boasts winning 17 international awards, which is very impressive for an independent film. Though I am a little confused since The New Maine Times is quoted on the box calling this “A Gripping Thriller”, while it won Best Comedy at the Mountain Film Awards. I guess the pickings were a little light for that festival, the film has a certain dark comedy aspect but really lands more in the drama/thriller genre. Nonetheless, the film does deserve any recognition it gets. So kudos to them, hopefully more to come! You can get this film from iTunes, Amazon.com, Walmart.com and of course the film’s website.

Ti West talks about making this latest film “The Innkeepers”

Ti West is a name you should know if you are a fan of the horror genre. He  is known best in the genre for writing and directing the amazing film “The House of the Devil”. His new movie from Dark Sky Films is called “The Innkeepers” and is being released on Blu-ray/DVD on April 24th. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with him about that film and what he has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you come with the idea for this classic ghost story “The Innkeepers”?
Ti West: I hadn’t made a ghost story, so I wanted to do that. When we shot “The House of the Devil”, we lived in this hotel and all this weird stuff happened during that time. I didn’t think anything about it because I was just stressed about making the movie. So about a year later, I started thinking I wanted to do a ghost story and I thought to myself, what if it took place in the hotel we lived it and just went back and shoot it there. I know it already exists in Connecticut and I know there is a tax return for making movies there. It worked out well. I wrote it before asking them and then I paniced, in case they said no. Then I would have wrote a movie about a place we couldn’t shoot it. It would be writing a John Wayne movie, then being fucked cause you can’t cast him [laughs]. Thankfully, they said yes and the rest happened very quickly.

MG: Sara Paxton nailed this role, how did you get her involved with the film?
She came through the normal channels, just auditioning. I didn’t know the rest of her work. when she came in to meet, she was just so awkward, goofy and clumsy. I never would seen that coming and I found it so fascinating and charming. Then I went and watched her movies and she wasn’t like that at all. I wanted to exploit that. That made me push for her. I knew she was doing to be very relatable in the role.

MG: What was your most difficult task in making the film?
TW: This one was oddly pretty easy. Which means the next one, I will be completely screwed [laughs]. We made it so quickly, so that was hard, there was never a moment to breathe. The saying during shoot was that we were just waiting for the other shoe to drop and it was like that the whole time. It never really dropped. Maybe since I had two really hard experience before this and then “House of the Devil” was just really hard to make that movie, I think I was just expecting the worse. This was just so much easier.

MG: The film takes it slow in the beginning but delivers in the end, tell us about that tactic used in a few of your films?
TW: I don’t think about it so much. To me it just seems like the only way for me to make the movie. when its done everything uses the term “slow-burn” and I am like “really”? I understand what they mean but for me I see it as you need to have all this done to make it work, so I just do it. It is like hearing you voice on tape and thinking you don’t sound like that…but you do sound like that. I fell like that might be the way with me and the way I make movies.

MG: What do you enjoy most about working in the horror genre?
TW: It’s been good. I feel like I got a few movie in me and then I got to take a break. I don’t to start repeating myself. The last movie I wrote, I remember writing “She slowly walks down the hall” and I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I am writing this again”. What has been good for me in the genre is that I feel it is an experimental genre. Most people do the same thing over and over and I don’t necessarily like doing that. It is nice for me to make six horror movies in the last six years and they are all very different. The style is different. The stories are different. You can do all sorts of different stuff in the genre so I think that is appealing from a filmmakers perspective.

MG: How do you compare “The Innkeepers” to your past films like “The House of the Devil”?
TW: Once the past films are done, I really don’t think about them anymore. “The Innkeepers” feels like the only movie I have made right now because it is all around me. I work with the same crew already, so for me I think of it as those experience that all of us had a friend then more the content of the movie.

MG: What can you tell us about your upcoming films “V/H/S” and “The ABCs of Death”
TW: Yeah, I did those two anthologies last summer and then both come in this Fall. It’s weird, I didn’t think about myself as an anthology person but I liked the people that were working with. They told me I could get this much money and I could do out and make whatever I wanted. That is a really appealing offer. The only instructions were that with “V/H/S”, it has to be aspects of found footage and horror and that was it. I was able to cast whatever I wanted and make whatever I wanted. with “The ABCs of Death”, they gave us a letter and left me alone. We had to deliver it by this date and we had this much to do it with. It is certainly not a lot of money but if you are smart with it, it can work out well and worth it.

Interview with Whitney Able

Whitney Able is starring in this fall’s sci-fi drama “Monsters”. She is co-starring in the film with her husband Scoot McNairy. Whitney really shines in this film and she is going to have a fantastic career in this business.  Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Whitney about working on the film and her adventures in Mexico during the shoot.

Click here to watch “Monsters” right now on Video on Demand

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about how you got involved with the film “Monsters”?
Whitney Able: Scoot told me about it, he got an email from Vertigo. They said that they have a script and they want a real couple to go down to Mexico and shoot this film. We were looking at the treatment and they told us that they wanted us for the film. It was really exciting.

MG: What was the most difficult part of working on the film?
WA: Initially the hardest part was how we were going to film it. We basically had a treatment and everyday we will show up and try and figure everything out. We didn’t know how to approach it. Neither of us have ever done anything like this. We have done improv before but with this we just had free range. We just developed a back-story for our characters and worked on that for two months before we left. We did some exercises together. Pretty much we just had to be exactly who we were and understand our story arc, try and hit those points in order to keep the story moving. With the exception of Emelie Jeffries everyone in the movie was locals. So they were just people we sort of found and approached in the film. Emelie played the homeless woman at the end. Emelie flew down to help us work on our back-stories for the characters. She is my mentor. I grew up watching her in the theater in Houston, TX. I was so excited to be working with her.

MG: How was it working with your husband Scoot McNairy?
WA: Even though we were a couple, we had a fear of what kind of strain this would put on our relationship. We were just newly dating at the time, about five months or so. We wanted to be sure this wasn’t going to be the kiss of death by working with each other in this strenuous environment. Scoot said if we can do this and get through it and still love each other, we should get married. So we did. It was great working with Scoot. He has a wonderful charisma about him. I am not sure if I would have been able to do it anybody else. I think so much had to do with me knowing Scoot and knowing his abilities. He is just a great improv actor. He is very outward and I am very inward, it really helped create these dynamic characters.

MG: What was it like shooting in Mexico?
WA: I have been to Mexico many times before the shoot but I loved seeing it during the shoot. We weren’t going to touristy places. We were going to small towns that nobody goes to. It was really inspiring.

MG: You worked in a few other genre films “Unearthed” & “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane”, are you a fan of the genre?

WA: I am new fan of the genre. I was movie-goer as kid. My dad loved the classics like “Jaws”. I remember watching “Nightmare on Elm Street”. I didn’t really know how to identify a genre when I was younger. Later I realized I like intense dark films. I am not really a comedy person. I realized after working on this I am a big sci-fi fan. I started watching more sci-fi films. I am actually even writing a sci-fi script right now which won’t be done for like five years probably [laughs]. I am not a blood and guns girls. I like also like action films with guns and fast cars.

MG: Tell us about some of your recent TV projects?
WA: I just wrapped an episode of “Criminal Minds”. That is pretty dark stuff. I worked on an episode of “Nikita” that just aired recently. That was really cool. I got to shoot guns and be a bad guy. I even had a Ukrainian accent. I really love accents and doing deep character studies. The problem with TV is that it is so fast. I like to build a library. I take a tape recorder wherever I go in different countries. I am slowly building library of accents and dialects.

MG: I guess that came in handy for you shooting in Mexico for “Monsters”?
WA: Yeah, I lived in Spain for a year, when I was younger. I learned to speak Spanish there. When I came back to Texas which is where I am from, nearly half the population speaks Spanish. I got to speak Spanish throughout my teens and into my twenties, especially living in LA.

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