R.I.P. Actors Who Meant a Lot to PCS

Between March 30th and April 7th, 2015 the world saw three major character actors of pop-culture and also cult fame leave their mortal coil.  As a child of the 80’s and 90’s these men left an impression of my mind.

Robert Z’dar, he of the huge chin because of his birth defect aka cherubism was part of some of my favorite films, and played a cop, gangster, and more over the years.  Z’dar actually had a pivotal role in my second favorite film TANGO & CASH in which his appearance was very important to the character and made him even more menacing.  Tom Towles, a man who also played killers, cops and more, got his name out to the world in HENRY: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but made the most impact on me in the sci-fi horror THE BORROWER.  Towles also became known better in later years as the cop in Rob Zombie’s horror films.  Finally, James Best who became best known as Roscoe P. Coltrane, one of two antagonists on THE DUKES OF HAZZARD.  Throughout the 50’s and 60s, Best was a regular guest star on many a western and crime drama ranging from The Lone Ranger to Perry Mason.

After Towles passing I envisioned he and Z’Dar meeting up in whatever afterlife may or may not exist for a comedy horror about two bungling cops who shoot first and never ask questions.  I couldn’t get myself to draw it though.  Then Best died and I felt he’d easily work in the fictional film/show and I knew I had to do something as a tribute.  PCS does LOTS of art (most of it wrestling inspired) but rarely posts it here.  I feel in honor of these three men I must share this tribute which is incomplete, but says everything I want it to say.

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The PCS look at Amazon Pilots 2015

Many big sites have looked at the 2015 Amazon Pilot season, but they will either focus on one set of genres, or review ONE particular program OR if they did an article on all the offering they were written from different voices instead of a singular eye so that you get a real judge of the series because you can tell what the writer liked or didn’t like instead of individuals snippets from varying viewpoints.  Which can be good in some cases, but in something where Amazon is asking or at sort of asking what people think, I’d like to hear the opinion of each person on EACH show.

So here is that exactly.  I sat through every offering (including the stuff for the toddler set, but I have nothing to say on those) from the Amazon pilots of 2015 (even the ones for the kiddies, not that I lasted long) and came up with a concise overview of each program, even delving a little further if the show I felt had merit for that

cocked  maddogs   table58logo

Mad Dogs: Definitely a keeper . Although it seems that it’s actually a remake of a UK series, I have to assume Shawn Ryan has some intriguing twists for it to make its own thing. Also Steve Zahn, Michael Imperiloli and Romany Malco bounding off each other with Ben Chapin in the more straightman role could be awesome stuff.  The last 15 minutes set up what could be a really amped up show and very different that the original UK version from what I can recall.

COCKED:  Another Brilliant production. It’s got that HBO/Showtime Dramedy feel to it and Jason Lee delivers but Sam Trammel really shines here. This is definitely without even seeing the other pilots a top contender. Co-created by Sam Shaw (creator of Manhattan) and Samuel Baum (creator of Lie To Me), with direction by Jordan Vogt-Roberts (The Kings of Summer). I hope these Amazon pilots have a first look pass thing cause if this one doesn’t get picked up for a run I think HBO, Showtime or Netflix would want it.

NIKO and the Sword of Light: OMG! This is amazing. Based off an app available for iPad, Android Tablets, etc (I always wanted it but I only have an iPhone). It was adapted by the original team and some major animation players as well as Titmouse, Stellar, Legendary well known voice cast too with Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh), Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad’s Klaus), Steve Blum, Kevin Michael Richardson, Corey Burton and Tom Kenny.

Table 58: This one is definitely for the younger set, but it’s premise seems like it’d fit great on Nick or DisneyXD, but on Amazon maybe they can go special places with it. The adult actors really help as there’s a Groundling, a former cast member of MadTV and two character actors who you’ve seen in something in J.P. Manoux and Sean O’Ryan. It’s over the top humor and the six outcasts kids are great. It was also directed by Gil Under, best known for 10 Things I hate About You and written by May Chan, a staff writer on Phineas & Ferb.

The NEW YORKER Presents: Worth seeing for intriguing segments. Most especially Jonathan Demme bring this article to life and the sketch with Alan Cumming written by Simon Rich (Humorist, former SNL writer, Screenwriter) . It basically really is like the magazine come to life. So if a series, probably hit or miss. I always thought like this is cool though. VICE has a series like it. McSweeney’s curated WHOLPIN was much like it. Worth a view.

Salem Rogers, Model of the Yeat 1998: This show is no good, but at the 25 minute mark you get a bare assed Leslie Bibb in color and in motion and for that? YAY. Rachel Dratch is fun too, but not enough to make this a keeper.

Just Add Magic:  I’m not familiar with the book this was based on but after looking the book up they basically only used the premise to come up with what sounds like an “Eastwick” for the tween set. The highlight for the adult viewer is Amy Hill ( a face and voice almost anyone would recognize if not her name) as what appears would be the series “villain”. If it’s between this and Table 58, Table 58 is the front runner though.

The Man in the High Castle: I’m on the fence on my feelings about this. It’s quite a Loose adaptation of the novel indeed, basically using the characters, concept and some of the plotlines but then throwing away pretty much everything else to create its own series which would now be unpredictable as it adds elements never in the original book. Development hell on this too since Scott has been trying to get it made through first BBC, then SyFy before this. Against COCKED and MAD DOGS I’d choose either of them over this, but as long as Amazon (and people) doesn’t approve that horrendous Point of Honor, that was utter drek.

NIKO!

Niko vs. Mugwump

On the Music of TOO MANY COOKS & more

TooManyCooks

I was granted the opportunity to “speak” (via email) with the men behind the music of the very popular and highly praised (visual proof later) viral comedy sketch TOO MANY COOKS, Shawn Coleman and Michael Kohler. Shawn provided the majority of the information, but Kohler provided one tidbit. I came up with the best questions I could and Shawn took them and went flying providing some awesome tidbits and further insight into what and how this monumental project came together.

THE INTERVIEW

What was the composing process? Did Casper have a full sketch for you to work off of in creating the song or was it a collaborative process where you’d come up with musical cues that fit and then got added? How many versions of the song exist?

Shawn Coleman: Casper gave me the first 4 minutes or so and I did 2 or 3 demos for the main sitcom theme. I think Michael did the same. Michael’s ended up working best, so I took that and re-recorded it and started arranging it against picture.

Then we just kind of inched along with all of the genre shifts, I’d go from main theme into cop show, is this good? OK, little change here, change there… cop show into GI Joe, how’s this? We lurched along like that for a while, then we took a break so he could go off and shoot Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell and when we got back together he and Paul Painter had completely re-edited the whole thing and changed the timings, length of sections, everything. Usually when you write music to picture, the picture is “locked” and doesn’t change. I wrote them a long email about how much I liked it better before, but I learned I was beholden to the music and not to the overall quality of the thing as a whole. Once I ditched that mentality (and much of the stuff I’d already done) I was a lot happier.

Some sections actually worked perfect the first time, like the Snarf crawl.

Michael Kohler: When Chris (ed note: Chris is Casper’s real name) first approached me about doing this track, he said he wanted an 80s sitcom style piece, and his reference was the theme from the show Facts Of Life. He gave me a basic description of what the visuals were going to be, part of a rough edit he and Paul Painter started to put together, and some lyrics that he wanted to incorporate. I think the first time I read the line ‘Too Many Cooks”, I sang it the way it is now. It was just one of those things that happens once in a blue moon, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. The verse melody ideas literally, and I’m not kidding about this, popped in my head while in the shower, and I sang them into my iPhone so I would’t forget them. They are still in there.

After we played with that initial demo, Shawn morphed it into the different versions you hear throughout the short.

Is it ONE full composition or various bits edited together?

It is absolutely various bits edited together. I think it was 9 different Pro Tools sessions for the different sections that I bounced down to assemble in a master session. Keeping organized was a pretty major element.

How far in advance did you know you’d be credited via a G.I. Joe sequence?

SC: I found out about a week before it aired! I was initially the Cobra guy but Paul Painter wanted to be bad and he’s in charge of pictures, so he’s bad and I’m good.

How much research was involved and how much did you know off the top of your head how to recreate the feel of a sound? The Falcon’s Crest, Law & Order and Wonder Woman cues were just perfect so I’d love more about working those up were like.

SC: When I do parody stuff I try to work off of my memory of things without going back to the source and copping exact elements of it. That way I’m already sort of one generation removed from the real thing. I can also sort of mash two memories together– you liked Bell Biv Devoe “Poison” and you liked “Baby Got Back”, what if I stole a feeling from both of those? Puts you right back in Zubaz pants.

Praise for Too Many Cooks from top comedians, actors and artists
Praise for Too Many Cooks from top comedians, actors and artists

This goes into the development process above but I know the lyrics were written by Casper but did he actually state how many times to repeat Too Many Cooks and when the transitions needed to take place or was that a lot of back and forth to get the timing just right? He said in the reddit he worked intuitively, but was that process for the entire thing?

SC: It was pretty intuitive. He had the main verses in mind, and he knew we wanted to go for that repetitive-annoying transitioning to repetitive-funny thing. Initially he pitched it to me as the same song repeating throughout the whole thing, but we decided that couldn’t keep the viewer engaged– plus some of the genres just didn’t jibe with the original sitcom theme.

A ton of the actors happen to actually be really good singers as well, was there ever a thought of using them on the track (maybe they are, I have no clue who the girl voices are) or or are working with any of them in your studio now since most are locals?

SC: I got a great composer/singer named Cheryl Rogers to sing the female part. She used to have an office at Doppler Studios where I work. I sang the male part, not because I’m this awesome singer but because it’s a lot easier to revise and experiment when all I have to do is stand up and sing a new line. I played all the instruments (except the sax during the Roseanne round-the-table bit). Michael Magno and Patty Mack are credited on there too; they sang on Kohler’s original demo, which is what you hear over the closing credits.

We recorded a few other crazy ideas that didn’t make it in– one was to have the singers sound scared, like the killer was in the vocal booth with them! Unfortunately it didn’t quite read.

I also had Cheryl sing the main “Too Many Cooks” line, flipped it backwards, had her learn to sing it backwards, then flipped it back forwards. You can hear one of those buried in the “mixed-up” section before the characters and their chyrons* swap.

Did you work the sound effects as well in terms of the footsteps and sword strikes?

SC: Yep, I did all that stuff. I do all of the sound design for [Adult Swim]’s Squidbillies and I’ve done a good amount of advert work so that world is pretty familiar to me. This was made on a shoestring budget between actual “paying” jobs. I actually got an advertising producer I was in session with to hop in the booth and breath/run along to the Katie Adkins escape scene while we were waiting for approval on our TV spot.

*Chyron – Any predominantly text-based video graphic as used mainly by television news broadcasts

Shawn Coleman operates out of Doppler Studios and is the main sound and music guy on Squidbillies as well as much more.

Michael Kohler runs his work out of Bluetube and has done music and sound for Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, Archer and many more.

 

This is a tribute I made to the excellent music, choosing another concept of Too Many Cooks.

 

C.O.O.K.S. must save the universe from B.R.o.t.H.

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Too Many Cooks blew up all over the internet. If you missed it… well…just relax your brain and sit back for 11 minutes.

I literally became obsessed after. The brainchild of Casper Kelly, co-creator of “Your Pretty Face is Going To Hell!” as well as other great stuff it’s just a creation of insanity. Taking information from their reddit today after this thing literally was “selling like flapjacks”, it was a “shower idea” which only became something when the joke reached Mike Lazzo who even said that not even Andy Kaufman would try to turn this into an 11 minute sketch. The work by editor Paul Painter is just as impressive… taking all that footage and turning it into a cohesive piece of such expert humor which everytime you think my lag or feel too long finds just that right beat to make you stick along for the whole bit is amazing.

The awesome music was by Shawn Coleman and Michael Kohler, and seriously how they were able to create an earworm that just won’t go away is mindblowing. It was meant to be a parody and instead in their spare time they designed something that is UNDENIABLE. I’ve listened to this as much as I’ve watched it… maybe even more and that’s saying something. (It’s saying I’m crazy).

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My addiction went much further though. I wanted to know more about the actors. I’m not going to reference all of them, just a select few who had a cool internet presence.

Katie Adkins’ webseries DORMS (she was creator and director)

Katelyn Nacon plays ukele and sings and acts. I’d keep an eye on her. Also if the show becomes a series, she’d be the breakout maybe. I felt she was the breakout in the skit even.

One of the office workers, Marc Farley does his fair share of acting, but this bit from STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW is hilarious.

The female office worker, Karen Cassady is a great stand up and improv and she also like various others in Too many Cooks appeared in Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell.

The girl who doesn’t mind being topless, Victoria Sun has a model mayhem, unsurprisingly. Actually shocked she doesn’t have more of a portfolio, she’s beautiful.

The “nerd” who spies on her and is also a superhero, Will Dove, has a VIMEO channel with some great stuff.

Jennifer Giles, the gun slinging lone female star of C.O.O.K.S., also has her own Youtube with an acting reel and really nice singing clips.

The “cool kid”, Gwydion Lashlee-Walton, has a Youtube as well with various different kinds of videos full of quality comedy/

Interesting enough, the serial killer played by William Tokarsky (who also was in Your Pretty Face) and the cop, Ali Froid (who has a demo reel on IMDB) both appeared in Swamp Murders, but albeit different episodes.

Also, two of the young girls, Morgan Burch and Jayla James appear in the currently in post production, Santa’s Boot Camp, as elves.

There’s SO much more I found in my addiction of discovering who the amazing people who were involved in this project are, but at some point, one must stop because they are getting murdered. I’ll just press this button here though.

TooManyCooksBird

On Lee Daniel’s The Butler after screening…

I had the opportunity to go to an early Sag Awards/Weinstein Company sponsored screening of Lee Daniel’s The Butler earlier this week. As the film doesn’t open for a few weeks and I rarely put movie reviews here I didn’t think I’d end up doing on, but as I started writing on Facebook I realized I had more to say than planned so I decided to try and stretch it a bit and say even more than that. So here’s a review.

Lee Daniel’s The Butler has some really interesting and quality performances, especially from Cuba Gooding Jr. and David Oyelowo, Vanessa Redgrave was her always fabulous self in a small role that didn’t need her but suited her and Liev Schreiber IMHO stole the show; Didn’t recognize him at all. Yet if you go for the story about a Butler who served over 30 years in The White House, you’re better off reading the original article from Washington Post about Eugene Allen, the actual white house staff butler of 30 years that inspired the film. That article has NOTHING about a son who marched with MLK, the Black Panthers, Free Mandela and later became a Congressman that Hollyweird forced into the film to give an excuse to follow another path of history. While this first paragraph actually just caused OMGSPOILERS for the film, they are not he kind that anyone should truly get angry about.

Unlike Lee Daniel’s sophomore effort The Paperboy, an adaption of the same named Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Lee Dexter which the author adapted himself or even Lee’s Oscar award winning first effort Precious, The Butler is very by the numbers. There are what could be thought the occasional “shocking” moments, but I’m not robbing you of those if you truly want to see the film. There’s also plenty reasons to. Even with the complete stunt castings of Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan or Robin Williams as Eisenhowser, there’s something very special about John Cusack’s Nixon. I don’t think his dialogue would’ve been as funny or clever in just a capable actor who did an awesome Nixon. They needed the candor of Cusack. Folks like Mariah Carey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, and even Lenny Kravitz was much less stunt casting more about Lee Daniels I believe trying to develop his own troupe to work with for any future productions. That includes David Oyelowo who was amazing and was just as equally amazing in Paperboy.

One of the more interesting/intriguing parts of the screenwriter Danny Strong and I assume producers The Weinstein Company to make what seem like arbitrary changes to Eugene Allen’s life is the amount of facts from the article they chose to keep in the film as well. From dealing with LBJ’s harsh racial epithets to Nancy Reagan’s invite to dinner, all parts of his life that were fascinating, that adding or changing facts like where he used to work or how he got the job just seem like pointless changes that didn’t add or take away from the story being told.

Although that story is just that, a story about a Butler in the White House while TRYING to say something about the Civil Rights movement in America over the last 70 and even more so years, without saying anything new or making a particular stance or than the kind of stance a film with a black director and a black cast could make. That is not a slight to the Civil rights movement, it’s to the film itself. It’s just a film that is kind of just there. Not bad, not grand, but a movie that stands on its own strengths and that is a definite early contender for Oscar nomination simply on what it tries to accomplish even if it is a forgettable movie as well.

Before closing out I do want to commend one very important factor of the film and one that is pulled off amazingly. The make up and prosthetic work is amazing. They made Forrest Whitaker pass for 30 years old as well as his actual age and a man in his late 80’s. This awesome makeup work follows through on what they did with the actor’s portraying president’s (it’s pretty impossible to hide such recognizable faces, but they did add aspects that conveyed the role through features such as Nixon’s nose) as well as with every other actor from Oprah to Lenny Kravitz, it deserves the Oscar more than anything else even.

A Second Helping of PURE EVIL

It’s no secret that I am a Canadaphile, it’s been a major part of who I am going back to childhood. We’re not just talking shows most people know or like, I’ve gotten into the shows we never got here at least as they aired in Canada or without a DVD. Shows like Murdoch Mysteries, Blue Murder, Grand Star, and even Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town. Although the one I plan to speak of for this article did air in America on the lesser known FearNet, but that is an extra premium channel at least on my cable service, so the only way I ever saw the show was through the luck of eOne Entertainment’s DVDs.

I got the first season of TODD and THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL when the cover first caught my eye, mostly the title and a very healthy dose of young Canadian talent who’d starred in some awesome Canadian shows including the stars show Alex House from Dark Oracle, it had longtime Canadian TV talent Chris Leavins dressed as what appeared a nerdy teacher, and top of that Jason Mewes was on the cover as a janitor. I grabbed it off the shelf right away, took it home, spun those episodes and loved it and then it was over. I searched the internet for where it would air if there was more to see. That was when I discovered it was either move to Canada (I want to, but that’s another story) or pay more on my cable bill to watch it on FearNet and I was like “Nooooooooooo!” and I just let the show go to the back of my mind and be happy I had that first season DVD full of funny, supernatural, gory, musical, awesome, weird action.

Then I heard word that Season two would be coming to DVD so I got excited and started looking into it. That was when I also discovered that the show would not be returning for a third season and not all plot lines got completed. Unfortunately I did NOT hear or discover the successful campaign for the animated film, but that didn’t stop my desire to see the second season, especially since I didn’t get FearNet.

In this second season they amped (sic) up everything. That’s usually the case of course with a show like this, the characters get older, so everything can get more mature. The evil is out there so it can only do what evil does and get more powerful, ambition gets more desperate, sexiness gets sexier and blood and gore well that has to get even crazier.

As in the the first season DVD, eOne made sure to stock this thing with enough extras that you’d have reason own this physical item more than just getting the episodes alone. Commentary tracks, deleted sequences, making of footage, the full versions of the music sequences. Oh, did I forget to mention the musical part of the show? Yeah, it’s a balls to walls heavy metal rock musical on top of everything else. Now you might be thinking that sounds weird, but if you’re anything like me, and I KNOW there are amazingly people with my pop-culture sensibilities, they’ll be your favorite segments.

TODD and THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL – The Complete Season 2 dropped on June 25th at a SRP of $19.98 and is available from your regular outlets (Best Buy, Target, Amazon, that local place) and I suggest you go and grab it and also season one if you haven’t. You’ll be getting many half hours of music, comedy, blood, sex, gore, silly, fun and awesome extras as well, what could be wrong about that? Nothing… absolutely nothing.

(disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of Season 2, but only at request and was already a huge fan of the program)

The Super Show! of AQUABATS set to Return This June (2013)

In my mind and to others I describe The Aquabats Super Show as Power Rangers on Acid, while Jason DeVilers and Ian Fowles would probably disagree I stand by that description. I’m not sure if they would also agree with my assessment of sister show Yo Gabba Gabba being for stoners and toddlers alike, but I think its more with how they want the show to be viewed as well as how the network sees it. In the fact of the Aqubats that network is the soon to be renamed The Hub Network. The same channel that gives us My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Transformers Prime, G.I. Joe Renegades, Dan Vs. and more cartoons that have a definite large demographic (at least from my viewpoint and from whom I know watches the programs).

On June 1st, the show returns with the episode “The Return of the Aquabats” at 1 P.M. In the first episode we get privy to aliens, an amazing fight, a press conference featuring a performance from Tony Hawk, a cartoon designed by Thom Nicolette and animated by Too Many Legs, a new Parker Jacobs little bats toon and more insanity.

One of the intriguing differences in the new season is the direction the cartoons will be taking, confirmed to me in my interview with Jason and Ian. In the first season the cartoons were a serilized adventure done in a anime/mangaesque style created by Eriko “PEY” Uruma and usually animated by Cartoon Saloon. This time around each episode will have cartoon done in a different style, conveying each member of The Aquabats view on the origin of the Aquabats and how they joined the team. In the first episode we Eaglebones’ sci-fi western tale which is so wacky and funny I really am excited to see what they came up with for the other four.

One of the more exciting developments for the show as a whole is their daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Children’s Series. Yet, I must once again state that this show might be developed, produced and sold as a children’s show it is so many ways for adults and yet kids can watch it. Everything in it is just so over the top, and some references just like “Woah”, yet it was delivered to e that kids watching now can return 20 years later to the show and be “OH, so THAT’S what I didn’t get” and so it’s more Kid’s in mind and adults can watch it from that stand point. I’m not sold on that, especially with things like the VANS “Yo Gabba Gabba” or that Aquabats fans are definitely not generally children, but hey, let them have their fun.

As long as they keep bringing that fun. One of the things I really hope to see in the future is an Aquabats Super Show soundtrack album, but from my interview it sounded like they’d rather rewrite/re-record the songs done on the show as more full length productions before doing that.

Before closing I should point out that the first season of Aquabats Super Show is also now available on DVD from the awesome as usual SHOUT! FACTORY.

Oh also, The Aquabats Super Show! is now an AWESOME FORCES! production.  I mention that because their company graphic is is an AWESOME FORCE!

 

You’re Nicked (A review of The Sweeney)

When I first heard about THE SWEENEY the only thing I knew was that it starred Ray Winstone and he’d be a tough as nails, grizzled, rough & tumble cop. That sold me on wanting to see it. I knew nothing about the fact that it was an extremely popular television series in the 1970s. Nor that it was based upon an actual elite police squad that was taken down for truly working on the gray side of the law, using corruption and illegal tactics to take down bigger bad guys, but in the end being thrown in jail themselves.

In 2012’s THE SWEENEY, the elite police squad is just as gray. They’re the law, but they work outside the law and this isn’t sitting pretty with IID or Internal Affairs as we know them here. In many ways because of the fact that the story itself in over 30 years old and is just adapted for modern audiences with current technology, film style and such it can at times come off as cliché. I personally have NO issues with this, the best crime stories are not about the plot points, but the way they are delivered. THE SWEENEY delivers with bombastic, exhilarating action and intense, very natural acting.

The film as a whole had only one flaw. For the American audience or at least my own ears, I had to actually put the subtitles on. These are some of the thickest, most roughest United Kingdom accents I have ever heard in my life. Ray being the harshest of all, pulling in all his cockney to be a right bastard. That’s isn’t a detriment though, since I’m reviewing a Blu-Ray so subtitles? Just put them up there. Sure for someone who’s blind or can’t read this will be a problem, but do blind people watch action films? And do people without enough education to know how to read bother with films that have complicated plots with twists and turns and tons of character development? Maybe they do… but they can still enjoy this film, because well, if they can do that, then this film will have something for them.

The gun fights are crazy, the car chases are awesome, the cinematography is brilliant. Hell, just for the robbery, shooting and foot chase through Trafalgar Square which is covered extensively on the extras makes this film a must see.

Yet that isn’t the only greatness. There are two co-stars that bring a lot of notable excitement to the film on top of Winstone’s insanity. Hayley Battle, whom American audiences learned to love in Captain America is almost more dangerous and obviously way sexier than Ray (unless you’re thing is old, grizzled, beat up men) and turned in amazing performance. Between Falcon and this she’s quickly becoming a favorite of mine. This was also the first true star turn for musician Plan B also known as Ben Drew. His George Carter is just as important if not more important than Winstone’s Regan and he delivers a fantastic performance that really carries the film for at least 1/3rd.

THE SWEENEY is available on DVD ($20) and Blu-Ray/DVD Combo ($25) and dropped on April 2nd, 2013 (so you can go buy it now!)

A Look at BUILDING HOPE

Recently I had the pleasure to view Turk Pipkin’s latest documentary  “Building Hope” at a special screening at Tribeca Theater. I had responded to the invitation as it had come at a very opportune and double sided time. I had recently met the ladies behind a wonderful non-profit called BeSomeoneNYC whose sole purpose is fundrasing and knowledge awareness of assisting a community in Tanzania. Additionally I’d been studying card tricks and magic which meant lots of Harry Anderson whom for years Turk worked alongside with. Combine those two fascinations and I couldn’t turn this opportunity down and I am very glad I did not.

The film as it stands strong without any of the background of Turk’s celebrity or the enormous success his non-profit The Nobelity Project. Although it is that celebrity that of course brings a major element of excitement to the film. Many will enjoy the snippets of a charity dinner & performance that feature Lyle Lovett and Kenny Rogers, it’s amazing footage that would work wonderfully out of context. Although that is not what I enjoyed the most. The actual story of the community featured in the film, the trials and tribulations of these young people’s every day lives, the saga and drama of constructing a building in a small African town from scratch, all of this combined. I was glued to the screen as this very true story unfolded in front of me over months and years of planning, development, failure and eventually success.

After the screening, Turk was joined by representatives of organizations heavily involved in developing education in these communities of Africa. It was a frank and very educational Q & A with more Answers than questions as each question asked would open up to MANY answers. I have uploaded what I was able to capture of that onto youtube for all to hear and watch:

The mini afterparty was a nice affair in which I got to speak to Turk further getting a bit of insight more into Nobelity and such. Unfortunately he told he’d forgot more about card tricks then he ever actually knew. That didn’t damage the event or the amazing documentary at all, but it was heartbreaking. I admire Turk for his amazing efforts in buidling schools and sustainable water in Africa, it’s really amazing.

The week after was BeSomeoneNYC’s amazing Mardi Gras event which featured amazing music and just a lot of fun and I felt priviliged that I was doing my small part with an organization dedicated to helping out those way less fortunate than I.

Freedom: A Duo Review of LINCOLN & DJANGO UNCHAINED

America during the time of pre-Civil War and Civil War itself was tumultuous, violent, full of bravery, regime, and the building of a nation that has evolved technologically and lawfully if not spiritually or mentally. The prejudices of the time are still rampant. The attitudes and personalities of the time a constant. The only thing that has changed is how society as a whole looks at these attitudes. From who are president is, to the type of entertainment audiences divulge and live off of.

It is quite fascinating to me that in 2012 two of the most lauded film makers of my generation and what I predict generations to come would approach a time period around the same time although very different, and yet extremely similar.

Over the winter I had the opportunity to see Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s LINCOLN and Quentin Tarantino’s DJANGO UNLEASHED. Clocking in at a combined 5 hours and 30 minutes they are both truly epic films filled with violence, stellar casts, amazing dialogues and what seem like lost opportunities in which even such expansive running times were not enough to deliver all the story and awesome that exists, especially in Tarantino’s DJANGO. There’s so much awesomeness in DJANGO that a comic book adapted from the original script being published by DC Comics.

I saw LINCOLN at the prestigious ZIGFIELD theater with a friend. It was a joint early Academy and SAG screening and Mr. Spielberg presented the film beforehand. A playbill/book was handed out which basically gave out some historical background that didn’t actually make it into the final film. In my opinion Tommy Lee Jones truly steals the film. His performance while still very “him” has a panache and delivery of conviction. His character a true hero of the times, at least as depicted here. History is very unclear and a bit possibly misguided in their presentation of Thaddeus Stevens and film has never been kind to him, probably because of the fact that he was actually a man who truly believed in equality, a rarity in those times and sadly even up till the 70’s. The cast was used in spectacular fashion here, everyone truly got a moment to shine, even the very short appearance by the rarely seen but always enjoyable Lukas Haas. It was an all together wonderful experience as well as an educational one and at least for me showed that Spielberg might still have it, either that or we’ll be able to say “Well at least did a couple good movies” in the future.

I saw Django Unchained at the IFC Center and got lucky enough to meet someone cool on line. The IFC room they used had really weird seats that went way too far back, making it a bit uncomfortable for a three hour film, but I think any theater has that problem, there’s no real answer. This is what I said about the film on Facebook directly after viewing it.

Django is a 3 hour spaghetti Western with some awesome Tarantino dialogue, amazing cinematography and severe waste of some of the talent used. It is not as good as Inglourious Basterds, but it is a very strong movie and for a guy who always says that a movie would be better if it had more nudity, the film delivered there for all genders.

Retrospectively it may have actually been better than Basterds, although with Basterds I never felt like any character was shortchanged, but I still really feel that Zoe Bell was completely unused. I felt her role and her inclusion in the film could’ve led to something quite amazing. We never get the one thing Spaghetti Westerns or any Western really offer. Even the Western comics that Quentin loved. He never get a real one on one battle between the hero and that one tough enemy who we don’t know if he can beat. Not a single villain is a bad ass. They’re all pushovers. Mentally strong and that is shown, but I would’ve loved just one battle where Django had to really fight one on one, mano y mano with a ne’er do well that was more than him and Django had to use HIS wits to defeat. Saying that, the film really paints an intriguing picture of pre-Civil War South, the South that Lincoln would soon have to contend with, the degenerate,m backwards thinking, bigoted racist South. I have to think Django got drafted during emancipation and died in the war or went into hiding and died an old man with not much to speak for but his freedom, yet sometimes… Freedom is all anyone asks for.

Both these films state that, freedom, equality be it by the land of the law or the societal measures, freedom is a thing one should be grateful for, always.