3 Celebrity Photographers to Follow on Instagram this Year

When the Jolie-Pitt twins, Knox and Vivienne, were born over a decade ago on 12 July 2008, People magazine paid a mind-blowing $15,000,000 for the first set of exclusive photos. Celebrity photographers (never to be confused with the paparazzi) offer the man on the street an unencumbered glimpse into the lives of the world’s most illustrious celebrities. While some of the world’s most renowned celeb photographers, such as Annie Leibotwitz, prefer to not partake in an abundance of social media activity, others make use of the various platforms, and Instagram in particular, to not only showcase their work but interact with fans as well. Here are just three of countless eminent photographers worth following on Instagram this year.

Russell James

Australian-born Russell James dropped out of school at the age of 14 and got his first job working in a factory that manufactured trash cans. Fast-forward to 2019 and James not only has nearly 900k Instagram followers but has also earned the title as one of the best celeb photographers in the world. Although he is best known for his work with Victoria’s Secret that has been featured in Marie Claire, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, and GQ, James has also appeared on both America’s Next Top Model and Australia’s Next Top Model.  

Dan Winters

With nearly 71k followers on Instagram, Dan Winters is considered to be one of the best celebrity photographers of all times. Not only is he known for his exquisite lighting style but also his ability to draw breath-taking raw emotion out of his subjects. According to industry professionals CanvasPop.com, his spectacular imagery is exactly the kind of timeless art that should not only appear in fashion magazines, but should also be immortalized within interior design. During his career, Winter has photographed a long list of the world’s biggest celebs including the likes of Will Ferrell, Ryan Gosling, Zooey Deschanel, Brad Pitt, and Winona Ryder. Upon visiting his Instagram page you will come across photos of these as well as a multitude of other actors, sports stars, musicians, and even presidential figures.

Peggy Sirota

After moving from her hometown in Massachusetts, Peggy Sirota soon found herself taking headshots for her model/actor colleagues at Fred Segal’s in Hollywood. Today, Peggy has over 60k followers on Instagram and is known worldwide for her expressive and somewhat whimsical imagery that reveals a great deal about her subjects. Regarded as one of the most prolific celeb photographers in the world at present, Peggy has photographed a vast selection of international celebs including Madonna, 50 Cent, Kobe Bryant, Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, and even His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama. She has worked on highly-successful ad campaigns for the likes of Nike, Burberry, Revlon, Maybelline, and Volvo and has had her work featured in GQ, Vogue, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and Esquire, among others.

Without the presence of celeb photographers, the Average Joe would be blissfully unaware of a lot of the doings of the world’s most famous celebrities. Thankfully, Instagram has made it easier than ever before to keep abreast of the latest in celebrity photographs by simply ’following’ some of the hottest photographers in the world.

Animals As Leaders Announce “10 Year Anniversary” Tour Line Up

’10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY’ US HEADLINE TOUR FULL BILL ANNOUNCED
The Contortionist Special Guests On All Dates
Buke and Gase, Evan Marien & Dana Hawkins and Moon ToothTo Each Appear At Select Dates

‘Camping With Animals’ Music Masters Camp To Take Place in Big Indian, NY July 16 – 19 2019

Animals As Leaders have announced the full line up for their upcoming ’10 Year Anniversary Tour’ of the USA. The Contortionist will be main support on all dates and Buke and Gase,Evan Marien & Dana Hawkins and Moon Tooth will join as the opening act, each on select dates (full list of dates and supports below). The 18 date tour will kick off on May 1st in Tickets for the 10 Year Anniversary Tour are on sale now from animalsasleaders.org\

For the last decade Animals As Leaders have risen to become celebrated heroes of their respective instruments. Tosin Abasi [guitar], Javier Reyes [guitar], and Matt Garstka [drums] have spent the last decade reimagining and reinventing instrumental prog, experimental metal, modern jazz and alternative creating complex, heavy and emotive musical landscapes to mass acclaim from fans and critics. Along the way, the trio has earned acclaim from the likes of Consequence of SoundRevolver,Ultimate Guitar, and Rolling Stone. 

Consistently delivering a captivating show, they have toured alongside Deftones,Between The Buried And Me and Periphery.
Animals As Leaders are also hosting their ‘Camping With Animals’ Music Masters Camp at Full Moon Resort in Big Indian in New York this July (16th-19th). An all-inclusive summer vacation masterclass program that offers instrument specific intensive masterclasses –  Guitar With Tosin Abasi Drums With Matt Garstka Guitar & Production With Javier Reyes as well as sessions such as ‘How to Use Technology for Self-Improvement, Writing and Recording’, exclusive performances from Animals As Leaders, special guests, group writing sessions and open panel discussions. Full information and tickets can be found at campingwithanimals.org


ANIMALS AS LEADERS ’10TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR’W/ Special Guests The Contortionist

Wed May 01 – San Antonio, TX The Aztec Theater

*Thu May 02 – Dallas, TX Gas Monkey Bar & Grill

*Mon May 06 – Phoenix, AZ Marquee Theater

**Tue May 07 – Los Angeles, CA Mayan

**Wed May 08 – San Francisco, CA Regency Grand

**Fri May 10 – Portland, OR Crystal Ballroom

**Sat May 11 – Seattle, WA El Corazon

**Tue May 14 – Lawrence, KS Granada

*Wed May 15 – Minneapolis, MN Skyway

*Thu May 16 – Chicago, IL House of Blues

*Fri May 17 – Pittsburgh, PA Roxian Theatre

*Sat May 18 – Toronto, ON Opera House

***Sun May 19 – Philadelphia, PA TLA

***Mon May 20 – Boston, MA Paradise

***Tue May 21 – New York, NY Irving Plaza

***Thu May 23 – Atlanta, GA Masquerade

***Fri May 24 – Nashville, TN Cannery Ballroom

***Sat May 25 – Columbus, OH Newport Music Hall

* Buke and Gase ** Evan Marien & Dana Hawkins *** Moon Tooth

Find out which Christmas movie you should watch this year


Get the fire roaring, grab yourself a mince pie (or three) and snuggle up in front of the TV. Because whether you’re home alone with your cat or hanging out with friends, now’s the perfect time to binge watch all your favorite Christmas movies.

You’ll find hundreds on festive flicks to choose from on your Sky, Netflix and Amazon Prime account throughout December. Settle in for classics like It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. Unleash your inner big kid watching The Grinch, Elf and Disney’s The Santa Claus. Or indulge in seasonal chick flicks like The Holiday and Love Actually.

In fact, with so many Christmas movies to choose from, your only problem is going to be deciding what one you should watch first. Lucky for you though, we’ve got just the thing to help.

To celebrate the release of their new Jingle Spin game, we’ve joined forces with the guys from the online casino bgo.com to create a fun quiz. Quickly answer the 10 quiz questions (it should only take a couple of minutes) and we’ll tell you exactly what Christmas film you should be watching.

So, don’t waste any more potential movie-watching time. Take our quiz now.

And if you’re looking for more ways to stay entertained over the festive season, look no further than the huge range of online slots games at bgo.com.

We’d highly recommend the new Jingle Spin game. It’s sees you step inside Santa workshop, where you’ll find the jolly fella himself shooting prizes at the reels using his Christmas Bonus Wheel.

Have fun playing and we wish you a very merry Christmas!

Top Travel Tips for the Ultimate Adventure This Year

Travel is so important, and there are so many wonderful things to think about when it comes to having the perfect travel experience. You need to think about how you can enjoy the best possible journey you can, and this means planning. Any tops vacation experience is one that you have to make sure you get right as best you can. So think about what you can do to get the best travel adventure imaginable.

Consider what has to go into the process of having the perfect travel adventure. You need to think about the factors that matter before you actually do anything else. There are so many things you need to keep in mind when you make the decision to go traveling properly, and these are a few of the key things you must do to ensure you have the perfect trip.

  • Stay Secure

Being safe and secure on vacation is so important, and this is something you need to make sure you take steps to consider. There are a lot of things that can affect this, and you will need to make sure you research where you’re staying thoroughly. Carry out a people search on tour guides, and make sure you travel with friends. These are some of the best things you can do to help you stay safe and secure during travel.

  • Pack Properly

Packing ranks as one of the most important aspects of the world of travel, and it is imperative that you make sure you get your packing sorted out as quickly as you can. There are so many things you have to keep in mind when it comes time to improve and enhance your packing, and coming up with a list is perhaps one of the best things you can do to improve this.

  • Make the Most of the Trip

You have to make sure you do what you can to make the most of your travel adventures. And this means seeing the sites and experiencing everything these places have to offer. There are so many wonderful things to see and do when you embark on your travel adventure, and you have to make the most of this. Research before you travel and make sure you enjoy as much as you can when it comes to your journey abroad.

  • Take Enough Money With You

Taking plenty of money with you is really important for ensuring you get the most of the trip. You’d hate to run out of money halfway through and not be able to enjoy things as much. So try to do a bit of homework and find out what it costs to visit the town or city you’re going to, and try to come up with a daily budget to work with.

As you can see, these are some of the ideal things to keep in mind when you want to have the perfect travel experience. There are so many things you have to think about when it comes to exploring and seeing the world, and the best thing to do is to follow these ideas in order to ensure a better experience.

MEGACON™, Southeast’s Largest Fan Convention, Wraps Another Year of Fun and Fandom at the Orange County Convention Center – May 24-27, 2018

Action-Packed Weekend Delivered Ultimate Fan Experience with Jason Momoa, Jeff Goldblum, Elijah Wood, John Cena and more

Orlando, FL – June 4, 2018 – MEGACON™, the Southeast’s largest comics, sci-fi, horror, anime and gaming event, wrapped up the Orlando convention throughout Memorial Day Weekend at the Orange County Convention Center. The four-day multi-genre convention welcomed more than 100,000 fans and included programming for all ages, a star-studded celebrity lineup and more.

This year’s featured celebrity guests included Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings); Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park); Jason Momoa (DC Justice League); John Cena, Alexa Bliss, Braun Strowman (WWE Superstars); Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman); Billy Dee Williams and Joonas Suotamo (Star Wars); Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor (Xena: Warrior Princess); Jodi Benson and Christopher Daniel Barnes (The Little Mermaid); Rob Liefeld (Deadpool and X-Force) among others.

All Photo Credit: Rachel Parker, MEGACON Orlando

 

MADAME TUSSAUDS PARTNERSHIP

MEGACON Orlando partnered with Madame Tussauds Orlando for an exclusive first-look of the museum’s newest exhibit, Justice League: A Call for Heroes. On Thursday, May 24, fans united at MEGACON Orlando for a sneak peek of the new Wonder Woman™ wax figure. Following this, guests were invited for an after-hours official opening of the exhibit and admission to the ICON 360 Orlando.

MASTER OF COSPLAY SOUTHEAST QUALIFIER

New to the MEGACON Orlando lineup this year was Master of Cosplay Grand Prix, a new cosplay competition created by FAN EXPO HQ in 2018. Guests competed in the Southeast Qualifier at MEGACON Orlando on Saturday, May 26 for a chance to win prizes and advance to compete for the title of FAN EXPO’s very first Master of Cosplay Champion in an international finale to be held in Toronto as part of FAN EXPO Canada on Labor Day weekend.

Winners included:

-Novice Division – Anthony Acosta and Anne Rosato (Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen)

-Journeyman Division – Lindsay Premo (World of Warcraft)

-Masters Division – Bryan Doell (Ronan the Accuser, Marvel Comics)

-Runner-Up – Josh Morris (The Gate, Hex Mortis)

-Best In-Show – Dovah Design (Snow White Knight)

 

STAR WARS GALACTIC NIGHTS

MEGACON Orlando extended the fun after-hours with a special fandom experience, Star Wars: Galactic Nights on Sunday, May 27 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The event brought together the Star Wars saga, a panel discussion with the creators of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (a new land coming to the theme park in 2019), special photo opportunities, event-exclusive merchandise and more.

 

BOOTH HIGHLIGHTS 

Exciting new booths were packed on the show floor this year, including Jurassic Park, which allowed guests to go back 25 years and relive one of the greatest movies of all time through a tour of the iconic fictional theme park. The booth included a virtual reality headset to let guests get up close and personal with dinosaurs in their natural habitat. Additionally, other classic booths, including the Batmobile from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman Film, Star Wars by the 501st Legion and Ghostbusters, were back for another year.

 

PANELS, PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES, SIGNINGS AND MORE 

Many panels and photo opportunities took place this weekend, with highlights including  a signing by Marvel Comics creator Jim Lee, with a sold out presentation from Jurassic Park’s Jeff Goldblum, more than 200 cosplayers in a special Marvel Cosplay Meetup, Geek Speed Dating, Steven Universe Live Shadowcast Performance and Sing-A-Long, Phantasmagoria Performance and more.

MEGACON Orlando 2019 will take place May 16 to May 19, 2019, which is the weekend before Memorial Day Weekend. For more information and tickets, please visit www.megaconorlando.com. Can’t wait until 2019? MEGACON Tampa Bay will take place September 21 to September 23, 2018. Guest announcements are being finalized right now and tickets will be on sale in mid-June at www.megacontampabay.com.

ABOUT FAN EXPO HQ

MEGACON Orlando is owned by FAN EXPO HQ, one of the largest entertainment convention groups in North America. Collectively it hosts over 500,000 fans annually at FAN EXPO CANADA™, Boston Comicon, FAN EXPO VANCOUVER™, FAN EXPO REGINA™, FAN EXPO DALLAS™, Toronto ComiCon, Dallas Fan Days and MEGACON Tampa Bay.

 

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Is “Gears of War 4” the most anticipated game of the year?

“Gears of War” is one of my favorite games in the last decade. When it was first released back in 2006 it ended up being the fastest-selling video game of 2006, in addition it was also the second-most played game over Xbox Live during 2007. Since then there has been an extremely respected and successful franchise built around that first game. The first sequel, Gears of War 2″, was released in 2008, following back “Gears of War 3” in 2011. The last game “Gears of War: Judgment”, which serves as a prequel to the franchise and is also received mixed reviews.

So 10 years have past and we are now looking at the release of “Gears of War 4” and word on the street is that it is aimed to be one of the biggest games of the year! The beta was released back in April and since then the developer has been working hard to fine tune all the fans feedback and requests getting the final version ready for release. This new game also brings back many features from previous games like the return of the dropshot weapon and the Buzzkill that shoots ricocheting sawblades.

“Gears of War” 4 also marks the first game in the franchise that is not developed by Epic Games, instead by the relatively unknown company The Coalition. But the game is in good hands because the new developer also scored big time remastering the first “Gears of War” in the 2015 release of “Gears of War: Ultimate Edition”.

They are also delivering no shortage in terms of options when purchasing this game including various Collector’s Editions with limited edition statues and also if you are looking to upgrade to the Xbox One S, there is a sweet bundle pack planned which includes a 2TB Gears of War 4 Limited Edition Xbox One S. This bundle will include “Gears of War 4: Ultimate Edition”, a custom Xbox One S console, and a Crimson Omen Limited Edition controller. So if you are a collector like myself you might want to snag this while it lasts!

Published by Microsoft Studios for Microsoft Windows and Xbox One, “Gears of War 4” is being pitched as a Xbox Play Anywhere title. If you don’t know what that means, get ready to be excited cause if you are planning on pre-ordering or buying the digital game you will be able to play on both Xbox One and Windows 10 PC. So you get the game for both platforms for the cost of one. Just note that this does not apply for physical disc copies only digital. So in between playing “Gears of Wars 4”  on the PC be sure to also visit betfaircasino.com for fun casino games online. I have a feeling that delivering games in this cross platform option will be very popular moving forward.

This franchise shows no signs of slowing down in the future. In addition to many books and comics that have been released off, there is also a feature film adaptation in development. So be sure not to miss “Gears of War 4”, now if you excuse me, I have to get my campaigning on!

Film Review ” A Most Violent Year”

Starring:  Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain and Albert Brooks
Directed by:  J.C. Chandor
Rated: R
Running time:  2 hrs 5 mins
A24

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

So many things happened in New York City in 1981.  Julia Stiles and Paris Hilton were born there that year.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, over 1,800 people were murdered.  And, on a personal note, I saw my first Broadway musical, “42nd Street,” when I was visiting the city on my way to Germany. It’s also the setting and time period for the new film written and directed by J.C. Chandor, “A Most Violent Year.”

Abel Morales (Isaac) and his wife, Anna (Chastain) have built a good life for themselves.  With much hard work they have grown a small heating oil business into a mini-empire.  Which makes many of the other would be oil magnates angry.  Soon the Morales’ trucks are being hijacked, their drivers beaten. Compared to what is about to come down the pike, losing their inventory could be the best thing to happen to them.

More intense then violent, “A Most Violent Year” is a tightly written story carried along on the shoulders of its actors. Isaac plays Abel as an honorable man.  I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Abel was the brother killed by Cain and that you can’t spell Morales without “moral.”  Having just committed all of his savings as a deposit to the purchase of a new facility (if the deal does not go through he loses his money), Abel learns that the local D.A. is about to file charges against him for fraud – apparently the heating oil business is very shady. Couple that with the fact that one of his drivers, while being hijacked, pulled out an unregistered gun and traded shots with the bad guys.  Not too many banks like to take risks like that and Abel finds himself slowly drawn into a world he doesn’t want to be a part of.  Isaac’s performance brings to mind Al Pacino (both in choices and in appearance) in “The Godfather.”  On the opposite side you have Chastain’s Anna.  The daughter of a former wise guy, Anna is the tough one in the relationship, always staying one step ahead of the next search warrant.  It is as the couple slowly reverse roles that make the film entertaining.

Technically the film also delivers.  The period cars and clothing are spot on as are the shots of a much grittier and dirtier Big Apple.  Named the Best Picture of the Year by the National Board of Review, “A Most Violent Year” somehow avoided being nominated for anything Oscar-wise (I would gladly put Chastain in Laura Dern’s spot in the Supporting Actress race this year).  I don’t know if it’s the best film of the year but it’s certainly one of them.

“Boyhood” The Most Critically-acclaimed Film of the Year Debuts on Blu-ray Combo Pack January 6, 2015

DIRECTOR RICHARD LINKLATER’S 12-YEAR CINEMATIC MASTERPIECE COMES HOME

The Most Critically-acclaimed Film of the Year Debuts on Blu-ray Combo Pack
January 6, 2015

Buy it Four Weeks Early on Digital HD December 9, 2014

 HOLLYWOOD, Calif.  –  Hailed as “a moving 12-year epic that isn’t quite like anything else in the history of cinema” (Andrew O’Hehir, Salon), “a breathtaking achievement” (Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post) and “a profound viewing experience” (Manohla Dargis, The New York Times), writer/director Richard Linklater’s extraordinary  film BOYHOOD debuts on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD January6, 2015 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.  The film arrives four weeks early on Digital HD December 9, 2014.

Filmed over the course of 12 years with the same cast, BOYHOOD is a groundbreaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason.  A box office hit from IFC Films that has garnered universal critical acclaim, BOYHOOD achieved a rare 99% Certified Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, earned an unprecedented score of 100 on Metacritic and is the first film to receive an A+ score from Entertainment Weekly’s Critical Mass.  The film stars Academy Award® nominee* Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater and Ellar Coltrane as Mason.

 The BOYHOOD Blu-ray Combo Pack includes a look at the extraordinary work that went into making the film, as well as an in-depth Q&A with Richard Linklater and the cast.

 

The Blu-ray Combo Pack available for purchase includes a Digital Version of the film that can be accessed through UltraViolet™, a way to collect, access and enjoy movies.  With UltraViolet, consumers can add movies to their digital collection in the cloud, and then stream or download them—reliably and securely—to a variety of devices.

 

The BOYHOOD Blu-ray is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description with English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles.  The combo pack includes access to a Digital HD copy of the film as well as the following:

Blu-ray

  • Feature film in high definition
  • The 12 Year Project
  • Q&A with Richard Linklater and the Cast

DVD

  • Feature film in standard definition

 

The BOYHOOD DVD is presented in widescreen enhanced for 16:9 televisions with English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Audio Description and English and Spanish subtitles.  The DVD includes the feature film in standard definition.

2014: The Year of the Independents

Now that we’ve addressed the big guns, it’s time to talk about what’s really going down in comics. Having owned, worked, and frequented comic shops for the better part of my life, I’ve seen a definite cycle in comics. The big guns get hot, coast for a while, turn to naught, rest on their laurels for a bit and then finally get their heads back outta their comfortable ostrich holes (some of which are in the southern regions of the anatomy) and get hot again. Independent comics, however, seem to remain fairly constant but only seem to get our attention when the big guns are misfiring. Funny enough, most of the times they get back on their hot tracks is when they farm the independents. When I was a kid in high school, I was enthralled with the indies, books like “Alien Legion,” “Badger,” “Violent Messiahs” and such. I’ll never forget the one that truly got me hooked on indies: “The Crow.” I find it to be amazing, intense, breathtaking and probably the best love story ever written.

Today, the same thing is happening. As the big guns wane, the independents are hitting with full force!

I suppose we should give the Vertigo line at least a nod, even though it is technically a DC project. It has always been their ‘indie’ side, propelled by Sandman. Currently they have a couple sweet things available. Coffin Hill is the sweet story of a backwoods family of witches and a daughter’s return to her truly haunted past after being a cop and an FBI agent. The art is stunning and the story is fun. Royals: Masters of War is an intriguing look into the royal families of the world (specifically during WW2) possessing super powers but still demanding the ‘peasants’ still fight their wars. One of them has rejected this idea and is now fighting alongside the ‘peasants’ and none of the super-powered royal families are very happy about that. Read the comic to find out the rest. Perhaps the sweetest of sweet that Vertigo has to offer currently is The Wake. Written by now famous Scott Snyder and brilliantly illustrated by Sean Murphy, one of the sleekest and most original artists out there, The Wake is a killer sci-fi/horror-thriller that grabs you by the gonads and propels you through a water-based monster adventure that makes “Jaws” look like “Spongebob Squarepants.”

Another leader in indies is Dark Horse. While they admittedly have done some fun things with licensed properties, like “Star Wars” and “Serenity,” the only original stuff they’ve come out with that’s really grabbed me are rehashed properties of earlier released titles: Ghost & X. Of the two, X is definitely superior, following the exploits of the underworld enforcer gone anti-hero, X, as he ‘cleans up’ Arcadia in his best Quentin Tarantino over-the-top violence kind of way.

One of my favorite indie companies is Avatar. They’ve collected some of the best writers of our time, including Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Kieron Gillen and Jonathan Hickman, and combined them with some of the most “in your face” brutal macabre artists around to create things of wonderment and beauty. The two that really stand forward above the others are Ennis’ Rover Red Charlie & Gillen’s Uber. Rover Red Charlie is one of the most unique end of the world scenarios I’ve seen, from the perspective of three dogs that pal around & can’t understand what happened to all the ‘feeders’ and why they’ve gone crazy. Their adventures lead them out of the city into a world they never even knew existed. I don’t know how he did it, but Ennis managed to make a most macabre and disturbing story into something also cute and fluffy…can’t get much more original than that. Gillen’s Uber is a killer version of the WW2 arms race using super-powered individuals as the weapons. Started by Nazis, the other countries counter with their own super-powers and what ensues is just what you would think, mass, mass killing and wanton destruction…and what about the casualties?

Join us next time as we finish off with the Kings of the indie comics, Valiant and Image.

Bear Wolf owns and operates the New Game in Town shops in DeKalb and Dixon, Illinois.

Toto’s David Paich talks about live DVD and CD “35 Year Anniversary: Live in Poland”

David Paich is a keyboardist, singer, composer, recording producer, and arranger, best known for his work with the rock band Toto. The band has sold over 30 million records and recently released a live DVD and CD titled “35 Year Anniversary: Live in Poland”. Media Mikes spoke with David recently about the live release, the bands staying power after 35 years and their upcoming studio album.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us a little bit about the bands new live CD/DVD?
David Paich: We are really excited about this release and it has been doing great so far around the world as well as here in the U.S. We shot the concert in Poland as we had played there in the past and our guitarist Steve Lukather had been there more recently in support of his solo record. The fans there are just outstanding and very passionate. With the band celebrating its 35 year anniversary we decided to document the show. We originally were going to shoot in Amsterdam however due to a transportation strike things got pushed back and we decided to go with our original idea of shooting in Poland. We wanted to make this release as much about the fans as it is about the band. We are very lucky to still be able to do what we love.

AL: Were there any reservations about shooting/recording a live album?
DP: We always do. We have never really been a great live video band. We are just a bunch of musicians from the valley. We aren’t rock stars like Aerosmith and Van Halen on stage but we knew it was important that this get documented. When you get to where we are in our career things go from year to year and summer to summer. We had actually done a video the year before this one and it didn’t turn out like we had hoped so it was shelved.

AL: Is the DVD compiled of multi-night footage or is this one show from that tour?
DP: This was a one night shot. When you are shooting over multiple nights it tends to make things harder. Normally you say you are playing three nights at one place and you shoot all three nights and pull the best performances. We got very lucky shooting this one night as the crowd was sensational so things worked out great. We put in a lot of preparation before the show that night to make sure that everything went off without issue.

AL: What do you think has kept Toto relevant 35 years after its initial inception?
DP: I think it’s mainly based on the fact that we can still pull this material off. Our musicianship is at a very high level. That’s us up there playing every note, every night. I don’t think there are a lot of bands still out there like us that have the scope and the range that Toto has. We cover a lot of genres and unless you are listening to a DJ or something like that a lot of bands can’t do what we do during our live shows. The way the music interacts with the crowds is just great and fans get to hear what they hear on the records.

AL: Toto is currently working on a new album. What is it that made you guys want to put out new music when a lot of bands from your era are going out and performing just their greatest hits?
DP: It was a combination of things. We had originally thought that our album from 2004 was going to be our last record. Through a bunch of legal stuff we found out that we had still owed our record label one more album. Instead of throwing just a bunch of stuff on there to fulfill our contract we decided to really put our whole heart in this thing and so far it’s turning out to be one of my favorite Toto records. I think the crowds are going to be pleasantly surprised by how much this new album reverts back to the sounds on the band’s first album. We really had a “go for it” attitude and we definitely pushed ourselves.

AL: Do you think your level of experimentation on the upcoming record is what will separate it from your 2004 release?
DP: One of the biggest changes was we didn’t have our bassist Mike Porcaro there or Jeff Porcaro for that matter. We were short handed and some of that work camaraderie was missing. When you bring in new players that can certainly be a big change. Keith Carlock has been great on drums and we have been playing with a number of different bassist’s who all have been given Mike’s blessing. Brining in those new elements makes it challenging but were uniquely bonded through music and it has been going great.

AL: Can you tell us about the band’s upcoming summer tour?
DP: We are doing a co-headlining tour with Michael McDonald for six weeks here in the U.S. We are going to be playing on a few different songs with one another each night and its going to be a lot of fun. We are packing the night with all of our hits and we also went back and grab some other favorites from the inner albums as well.

AL: You also do a lot of work outside of Toto can you tell us about some of the other projects you are working on?
DP: I just finished working with a 16 year old guitarist by the name of Andreas Varady. He is managed by Quincy Jones and he is just a great jazz guitarists. I just finished mastering his album which I believe will be coming out in early August. It’s going to be a really great contemporary Jazz album.

 

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Last Year in Comics: DC Comics

Last Year in Comics

So, here we are in 2014.  Hopefully, we’ll see more of the awesomeness that we saw in 2013’s comic books, as some seriously cool stuff came out.  However, there is always the other side to things; some companies made some horrible errors and some obvious ‘money grabs’.  Let’s take a gander, shall we?

DC Comics: 

Oh DC…it was going so right, where did it go wrong??  Last year saw the reboot of DC with the New 52, which was pretty damn awesome.  As with most reboots, all the industry’s best writers and artists were invited to the party, including Jim Lee re-envisioning the “Justice League,” which was hands down one of the most fun books to read at the time (and I never really liked the “Justice League”).  All of the Bat-Books that came out were so good that I actually didn’t mind having to read multiple books about the same character (something that started in the 80s & exploded in the 90s and has been a major annoyance for me ever since…at one time I remember there being something like seven or eight “Spider-Man” books and the same number of X-Books, all coming out at the same time…ugh, there’s only so much story people).  I was even getting excited about “Action Comics” and “Supergirl” for a few issues, and I absolutely hate the “Superman” family of books!!

But alas, it all came crashing down.  First, they did the unthinkable.  They turned three or four of their most hidden gems, the Coup-de-Villes at the bottom of the Cracker Jacks box, over to Rob Liefeld.  WHAT???  ARE YOU KIDDING ME??  DON’T YOU REMEMBER WHO THIS GUY IS??  So, what were once gritty, hard-hitting titles, like “Deathstroke,”  “Hawk & Dove,”  “Hawkman” and “Grifter,” which were all fun reads with outstanding art, became Liefeld strokefests and turned to utter crap, just like everything he’s ever done!!  History repeats itself…duh!  Then they pulled some of their better writers and artists off of the minor books, such as “Voodoo,”  “Stormwatch” and “Captain Atom,” all higher-brow reading with compelling stories that actually made you think about life and existence and such, because they were minor books (even though they were becoming majorly awesome because of those creators) to play shuffle around with the bigger books.  Cliché alert…if it ain’t broke…!!!

And then came the “Villain Month” money grab…I’m sorry, I mean crossover…which was the downfall of the New 52.  Half of the books were just horrible re-hashings of origins, some of the villains were in books that they weren’t even the villains of (such as the Ventriloquist in “Dark Knight,” even though they had just revamped the character and introduced her in “Batgirl”).  What could have been amazing fun (all the heroes are gone, let the villains play), became the biggest let down in comics of the time.  Even the best villain ever, The Joker, was just craptastic.  Instead of letting him run rampant, which would have been amazing, they retold an old campy story about his pet gorilla, even though they had just finished one of the darkest “Joker” storylines ever, including a Joker who was running around with his “face” as a flesh mask that barely hung from his head!!  And I won’t even mention the hologram covers and all the supposed shortages that happened…

Then the “Zero Year” debacle happened, forcing all of the Bat-books to tell the story that the editor wanted told.  By this point, there were so many crossovers happening that creators were walking away from the books that they once made incredible because they were being restrained by editorial whims.  Once again…REALLY DC??  REALLY??  HIRE BOB HARRAS, THE GUY WHO SINGLE HANDEDLY WRECKED THE X-UNIVERSE IN THE 90S???  Again, DC…don’t you remember these people and what they did.  Why hire them when you were doing just fine?!?!

It wasn’t all bad though!!  Thankfully, we did see some incredible stuff come out of DC.  Scott Snider’s “Batman” stories continue to enthrall readers.  Batgirl was truly wonderful as she became a renegade running from her own father, Commissioner Gordon.  “Batwoman”  was awe-inspiring with beautiful illustrations by JH Williams III and killer stories about supernatural villains and dark family secrets.  “Swamp Thing,”  “Aquaman” and “Earth 2” continue to be the most consistent and well-written stories with killer art and brilliant subtle humor.

To come full circle, DC did produce perhaps the best comic story I’ve read in years, “Injustice: Gods Among Us.”  Just simply & truly amazing.  Superman goes from a helpless lovesick fool who has no idea how to deal with the Joker (who tricks him into then killing Lois Lane) to a killer and militant totalitarian leader of the world, and Wonder Woman couldn’t be happier.  In her own words, “I was waiting for this.”  Of course, Batman is leading the resistance.  With twists and turns that rock the entire DC universe, including a Harley Quinn who acquires powers, this book is just simply brilliant!!

Next time, the ‘Independents’ and how they are currently ruling the comic industry.

Last Year in Comics

So, here we are in 2014. Hopefully, we’ll see more of the awesomeness that we saw in 2013 in comic books, as some seriously cool stuff came out. However, there is always the other side to things; some companies made some horrible errors and some obvious ‘money grabs’. Let’s take a gander, shall we?

DC Comics:

Oh DC…it was going so right, where did it go wrong?? Last year saw the reboot of DC with the New 52, which was pretty damn awesome. As with most reboots, all the industry’s best writers and artists were invited to the party, including Jim Lee re-envisioning the Justice League, which was hands down one of the most fun books to read at the time (and I never really liked the Justice League). All of the Bat-Books that came out were so good that I actually didn’t mind having to read multiple books about the same character (something that started in the 80s & exploded in the 90s and has been a major annoyance for me ever since…at one time I remember there being something like 7 or 8 Spider-Man books and the same number of X-Books all coming out at the same time…ugh, there’s only so much story people). I was even getting excited about Action Comics and Supergirl for a few issues, and I absolutely hate the Superman family of books!!

But alas, it all came crashing down. First, they did the unthinkable. They turned 3 or 4 of their most hidden gems, the Coup-de-Villes at the bottom of the Cracker Jacks box, over to Rob Liefeld. WHAT??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? DON’T YOU REMEMBER WHO THIS GUY IS?? So, what were once gritty and hard-hitting titles, like “Deathstroke,” “Hawk & Dove,” “Hawkman” and Grifter… all fun reads with outstanding art, became Liefeld strokefests and turned to utter crap, just like everything he’s ever done!! History repeats itself…duh! Then they pulled some of their better writers and artists off of the minor books, such as “Voodoo,” “Stormwatch” and “Captain Atom,” all higher-brow reading with compelling stories that actually made you think about life and existence and such, because they were minor books (even though they were becoming majorly awesome because of those creators) to play shuffle around with the bigger books. Cliché alert…if it ain’t broke…!!!

And then came the villain month money grab…I’m sorry, I mean crossover…which was the downfall of the New 52. Half of the books were just horrible re-hashings of origins, some of the villains were in books that they weren’t even the villains of (such as Ventriloquist in “Dark Knight,” even though they had just revamped the character and introduced her in “Batgirl”). What could have been amazing fun (all the heroes are gone, let the villains play), became the biggest let down in comics of the time. Even the best villain ever, The Joker, was just craptastic. Instead of letting him run rampant, which would have been amazing, they retold an old campy story about his pet gorilla, even though they had just finished one of the darkest Joker storylines ever, including a Joker who was running around with his “face” as a flesh mask that barely hung from his head!! And I won’t even mention the hologram covers and all the supposed shortages that happened…

Then the Zero Year debacle happened, forcing all of the Bat-books to tell the story that the editor wanted told. By this point, there were so many crossovers happening that creators were walking away from the books that they were making incredible because they were being restrained by editorial whims. Once again…REALLY DC?? REALLY?? HIRE BOB HARRAS,THE GUY WHO SINGLE HANDEDLY WRECKED THE X-UNIVERSE IN THE 90S??? Again, DC…don’t you remember these people and what they did. Why hire them when you were doing just fine?!?!

It wasn’t all bad though!! Thankfully, we did see some incredible stuff come out of DC. Scott Snider’s “Batman” stories continue to enthrall readers. “Batgirl” was truly wonderful as she became a renegade running from her own father, Commissioner Gordon. “Batwoman” was awe-inspiring with beautiful illustrations by JH Williams III and killer stories about supernatural villains and dark family secrets. “Swamp Thing,” “Aquaman” and “Earth 2” continue to be the most consistent and well-written stories with killer art and brilliant subtle humor.

To come full circle, DC did produce perhaps the best comic story I’ve read in years, “Injustice: Gods Among Us.” Just simply & truly amazing. Superman goes from a helpless lovesick fool who has no idea how to deal with the Joker (who tricks him into then killing Lois Lane) to a killer and militant totalitarian leader of the world, and Wonder Woman couldn’t be happier. In herown words, “I was waiting for this.” Of course, Batman is leading the resistance. With twists and turns that rock the entire DC universe, including a Harley Quinn who acquires powers, this book is just simply brilliant!!

Next time, the ‘Independents’ and how they are currently ruling the comic industry.

Bear Wolf owns and operates the New Game in Town stores in Kekalb and Dixon, Illinois

2013: The Year in Comics

So, here we are in 2014. Hopefully, we’ll see more of the awesomeness that we saw in 2013 in comic books, as some seriously cool stuff came out. However, there is always the other side to things; some companies made some horrible errors and some obvious ‘money grabs’. Let’s take a gander, shall we?

Marvel Comics

Let’s start with the big boys. Their restart of various comics, like Avengers, Hulk, and various X-Men books was truly entertaining and inspiring. Using some of the top writers and artists in the industry, they made a huge push to revamp their books with a more ‘mature’ audience in mind, while also keeping true to the origins of the characters (unlike DC’s New 52, which attempted to re-write the universe after events in Flashpoint—which we’ll be exploring next time). With such amazing plot lines as the Avengers having to destroy an alternate Earth in order to save this one, Bruce Banner basically blackmailing S.H.E.I.L.D. so he can go back to being a scientist instead of just a green rage monster, and the original X-Men being stuck in the current time period and none too happy about what the current X-Men are up to, especially Scott Summers, I find myself repeatedly saying things like, “Wow, it’s fun to read X-Books again,” (which hasn’t been the case since the 90’s), and “Well, I never read the Avengers before, but it’s pretty awesome now.” Even side books like Thunderbolts & Savage Wolverine have been a bunch of fun. Without a doubt, the single best book Marvel put out the last year was Thor, God of Thunder. Full of consistently epic storytelling by Jason Aaron, spanning plotlines like a serial killer of the gods and the most evil dark elf the realms have ever seen, and exquisitely illustrated by Esad Rubic & Ron Garney, Thor most definitely gets my vote for best Marvel book of 2013.

Which brings us to where they messed up…Wolverine. Can it be that perhaps one of the most amazing characters ever written has become ‘kid friendly.’ NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!! This is not why we fell in love with this character!! That’s not WHAT HE DOES BEST! While Savage Wolverine comes close, his other titles have failed miserably. If you want to read a real Wolverine story, read X-Force: Sex & Violence. Seriously epic & classic, with passages like:

Wolverine: “I’ve been here once before.”
Domino: “Oh yeah, what happened?”
Wolverine: “Had to kill everyone.”
Domino: “Of course.”

That, my friends, is what he does best! Old Man Logan is also pretty awe inspiring, but that’s from a few years ago at this point. Also, while starting out with amazing potential, the Avengers’ big summer crossover, Infinity, took a quick nosedive somewhere in the middle. So much went on that I didn’t even care about the characters or what they were up to anymore, not to mention it went on at least 3-4 issues too long in three different titles! Perhaps the biggest mistake Marvel made in 2013 was the sissification of one of the greatest Marvel villains ever, Thanos. In preparation of the movies Avengers 3 (yup…rumor has it that he doesn’t actually show up until the 3rd one) & Guardians of the Galaxy, we saw a bit more of Thanos in the Marvel universe, and quite frankly it was more than I wanted to see. Not only does he get easily and simply defeated at the end of the (far too long) Infinity storyline by his son turning him into a statue (Really? After 4-6 months of a massive crossover, one of the most powerful entities in the universe gets turned to stone? Really?? Vomit much?), but we get an origin story, which was brilliantly and beautifully illustrated by Simone Bionchi, that pretty much shows us a Thanos growing up & ‘trying to fit in’ with the cool kids, but then turning evil because of mommy issues & falling in love with Death. Once again…NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!! Thanos is simply pure evil; that’s the point. He would never have been a child trying to fit in with the cool kids. Nice attempt to relate to us nerds, Marvel, but…EPIC FAIL.

One final note on Marvel’s good/bad: The “Ultimate” universe was such a fun and refreshing change from established comic book norms. With the longest running consistent books Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men, we got so see such heart-wrenching events as the death of Peter Parker (for realz…the actual death… not the I’m back, but really really gone. Some of the scenes with Gwen Stacey, Aunt May & Mary Jane were enough to make any of us weep) and such mind-blowing events as Colossus crushing a prison guard’s head like a grape after being constantly tortured in a death camp (I was sold immediately after that scene.). But alas, with the good must come the bad: an “Ultimate” universe crossover with Galactus destroying it all. Way to cripple one of your best comic lines in ages.

Well, that’s all for now…next time DC gets theirs!

 

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Blu-ray Review “Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year – Gift Of Friendship Edition”

Narrated by: Michael York
Starring: Jim Cummings, John Fiedler, Ken Sansom, Kath Soucie, Peter Cullen, Nikita Hopkins, Michael Gough, William Green
Directed by: Jamie Mitchell
Rated: G (General Audience)
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: November 5, 2013
Run Time: 64 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3 out of 5 stars

I have always a huge of that silly ole bear and his friends of the 100 acre woods. “Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year” was a direct to video film released in 2002, which consists of the 1991 Christmas TV special “Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too” and the (then) new film, “Happy Pooh Year”. Maybe it is me but you can never go wrong with Pooh and his friends. It is always a win/win! This Blu-ray is Tigger-ific and a great way to get ready for the upcoming holiday season! My 17 month old daughter loves these characters as well, so I have a feeling this is going to get quite a lot of play for many years to come!

Official Premise: Join Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Roo and the whole gang as Rabbit discovers the true spirit of the season after his pals make misguided New Year’s resolutions to change… with hilarious and heartfelt results. Featuring beloved characters and delightful songs, this special “Gift Of Friendship Edition” also includes fun-filled bonus goodies.

This “Gift of Friendship Edition” for “Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year” comes as a combo pack including Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy. You have no idea how happy it makes me that that Disney has started backing Ultraviolet digital streaming copies. The 1080p transfer looks good for the direct-to-video animation of “Happy Pooh Year” and the 1991 Christmas TV special “Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too” looks like it was made yesterday but still with that classic Pooh look and feel.

In terms of special features, first we get one of my favorite new features that Disney has been behind, which is the “Disney Intermission”. When you pause the movie, you and your kids can discover fun family games and activities. It is really a great addition to the film. There is a sing-along option with the film, as well as a song selection. Lastly there is an interactive walk-through of the “Enchanted Environment”. So besides the “Disney Intermission”, nothing really spectacular unlike the recent “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” Blu-ray release.

“I Give It A Year” Arrives on Blu-ray Disc and DVD October 22nd

The Honeymoon Is Over When The Laugh-Out-Loud Romantic Comedy Arrives On Blu-ray Disc And DVD October 22 From Magnolia Home Entertainment
Synopsis
 
Since meeting at a party, ambitious Nat and struggling novelist Josh have been deliriously happy despite their differences. The spark between them is undeniable. Their wedding is a dream come true, but family, friends and even the minister who marries them aren’t convinced that they can last. With their first anniversary approaching, Josh’s ex-girlfriend, Chloe, and Nat’s handsome American client, Guy, could offer attractive alternatives.
Special Features
  • Bloopers
  • Outtakes: The Doves
  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • Making of I Give It A Year: Relationships & Marriages
  • Making of I Give It A Year: Characters
  • Cast and Crew Interviews
  • International Interviews