Ali Spagnola

In Episode 147, Germar welcomes Ali Spagnola - yep that Ali Spagnola with the 8 billion Twitter followers, and the trademark, and the drinking and the dancing, and the touring and guitaring . . . .

Zaena Morisho

International recording superstar celebrity Zaena stopped by for an interview.

Michael Jackson

Posthumous Hits

Game of Thrones

Reviews

Big Movies

Reviewed

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Oscar Eligible Actor Chris Davis

In Episode 160, we are live in the studio again with another future superstar, actor, Chris Davis. Chris talks about the life of a homeless actor, moving to Hollywood, his projects. and love life. And he performs Shakespeare. This one's funny.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tomás Doncker Band "Big Apple Blues" reviewed

by Germar Derron

In some ways, I’m down on this project. Before I ever played track one, I knew what I’d hear. The blues gon’ be the blues. This is the blues.  And it’s not just the rhythms, instrumentation, melodies, or unpolished raspy and dry vocal. The recording and mix sounds like every blues record ever, even though I know it doesn’t. It’s somewhat updated—a modern sound. But the sound defines today’s blues. I mixed one blues track in my life, years ago, in surround. It sounds exactly like this—the blues.


One thing that characterizes the recorded blues sound is liveness. Liveness is a studio produced sound that sounds nothing like a studio. It’s professional—clean, but somehow still dirty. The reverb here sounds like the natural reverberation of an old bar with lots of wooden chairs and cigarette butts. When I listen, I can smell years of sticky beer remnants in dark corners. Like the best blues, even when it brings you down, it somehow lifts you up.  But I feel that I might write this about every blues band’s best.

That said, I realize the previous two paragraphs are ridiculous.  That every song sound defines any genre. Without those instruments--that vocal, and that liveness--it’s not the blues.  Every rock song features guitars.  Every R&B song begins with adlibs or spoken words. And every song that I've ever written is in C. Honestly, there’s not a bad song in the bunch.  And the album doesn’t remain typical throughout.

A choir warms the background and horns transform a track (almost funk-like). By far, my favorite track is “Coney Island.”  I can imagine this song being covered by a number of artists in many different styles. It’s sweet like cotton candy.  It feels good – breezy and just the right amount of bright.  In my world, this song sets the bar for what blues should be today.

I’m obviously not a fan of the genre. But I believe any fan of this style would be a fan of this album. Plus, here, the band collaborates with Pulitzer prize-winning poet Professor Yusef Komunyakaa.  +2 

I’ll give this a three out of five stars. 

Nashville: “Road Happy” recap and review

by Kayla Kenney, Writing Intern

In Nashville’s latest episode, “Road Happy,” the line between predictable soap opera and a show of sincere shock blurs. Few moments lack an utterly unimaginative storyline. Others remind viewers why they tune in every Wednesday night for the never-ending drama of these country music stars.

Juliette’s baby crisis: In the previous episode, Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) finally revealed her pregnancy to a select few. Now, she spills her secret to the father, her recent ex-boyfriend, Avery (Jonathan Jackson). In classic, ruthless, drama-queen, Juliette style, she texts it to him. The look on Avery’s face when he receives the blunt message, “I’m pregnant. It’s yours,” resonates shock. Though big, and destructive, the moment is comedic because of Juliette’s brutal, spontaneous delivery.

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images
Juliette, then, refuses to see or speak to Avery. He bursts onto her movie set asking if her pregnancy is real or not. Co-star, Noah West (Derek Hough), overhears the outburst. As they film a sexually intimate scene, West promises Juliette that he won’t tell a soul.

West appears to be an attractive, nice guy. The spark between the two came as no surprise. However, it’s way too soon for Juliette to be contemplating a new love interest. The breakup with Avery destroyed her. She’s pregnant. She shouldn’t even consider a new man at this point. Yet, her character constantly falls back on guys for support. She’ll be with West, or back in Avery’s arms, soon enough.

Rayna and Teddy, an ongoing war: Rayna (Connie Britton) is booked to the brim with tour dates, promotion, and wedding plans. Her latest endeavor involves filming a commercial with her fiancé—fellow mega-country star--Luke Wheeler (Will Chase). The limelight begins to take a toll on her girls. They join her, and Luke, for a one-day visit on the commercial set. Both voice how unhappy they are with her.

Teddy (Eric Close) befriends Rayna’s enemy, Jeff Fordham (Oliver Hudson). After going to a party with Fordham, he finds a new love-interest. Upon the girls’ home arrival, he says they can spend the day doing anything they want.

One girl pierces her ears; the other dyes her hair. Rayna calls. She’s obviously upset about missing out on these crucial moments in her daughters’ lives. Teddy reminds her that being away all the time means missing out on many moments. It’s time Teddy’s character had some fun. He’s remained too stagnant since his second wife’s death. This battle, in the divorced couple’s war for their daughters’ affection, goes to him.

The Newlyweds: Will’s (Chris Carmack), and Layla’s (Audrey Peeples), newlywed smiles disappeared when Will revealed that he’s gay-ish—super gay-ish. Now, he just needs to admit the truth to everyone else. Instead, he takes strolls in the park, looking for random hook-ups. His trainer--who thought they were boyfriends--states that Will wants the pleasure, but not the life, after discovering that Will won’t go out in public with him. Most of the time, Will’s park walks turn into random escapades. However, this time, when Will finds a man and leans in for a kiss, he’s beaten, mugged, and called a fa**ot.

This scene shocked—sincerely. What’s thought to be merely another secret sinful romp quickly escalates to extreme hate and violence. Carmack portrays Will’s self-loathing wonderfully. He cringes in pain, on the ground in the park; the viewer feels the fear buried deep within him.

Meanwhile, his wife remains in Nashville. She’s neglected by everyone. She married a gay man and can’t divorce him amid a constant media frenzy. The poor girl can’t even bribe her way into stardom with Fordham. He tells her she can’t write her own songs because she has no feelings. After all of this, she results to drastic measures. She hopes for a pill high and ends up injuring herself in the process. The bubbly and superficial Layla’s is now buried in newfound layers of depth. It’s a refreshing and needed change of pace for her character.

The Nashville remainders: Gunnar (Sam Palladio) and Scarlet (Clare Bowen) reside at home, in Nashville, while pretty much everyone else is away, reveling in their glory. Gunnar spends time with an ex-girlfriend only to discover she has a kid. The boy is his—of course. The writers attempt to fool viewers because the ex says, “Don’t worry. He’s not yours.” But the kid loves the exact weird food combination Gunnar does. He’s the requisite age. Gunnar notices this. He forces her to tell him the truth. Yet, his face still registers shock when she admits it. The shock diminishes: 1) the credibility of the show, and 2) Palladio’s acting. Why would he be shocked when he announces that the kid is his?

Scarlet gets back into songwriting. Her voice works wonders on the ears, as usual.  She’s stuck on a song and finds inspiration in the most unexpected place. A homeless man, screaming on the street below, continuously interrupts her work. Against expectations, Scarlet brings him a sandwich. He says he must give her something in return. Bowen portrays the timid, kind heart, beautifully. He fills in the lines for the rest of the song she’s struggled with. The scene—the lightest and warmest of the episode—reminds us that inspiration can come from the unlikeliest of places. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" don't have any meaning

by Melissa Scott

Nicki Minaj spoke with GQ Magazine’s Taffy Brodesser-Akner, during New York Fashion Week, in an interview this past month. The interview will be featured in the November issue, discussing Minaj’s own thoughts on her controversial “Anaconda” music video.  Since its debut, August 19, the provocative nature of the video attracted almost 300 million views, and stirred nearly as many reactions. Just 24 hours after the clip premiered, Minaj charted 19.6 million hits on Vevo, breaking the one-day record previously assumed by Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.” While Minaj doesn't swing around on heavy machinery in her birthday suit, naked portions do fly unrestricted across the screen.

Not exactly known for a conservative approach, Minaj’s videos, lyrics, and songs generally lead to raised eyebrows and grins. Rather than offend, however, her overly sexualized lyrics usually bring on a humorous and easy-going atmosphere. Apart from doubling my normal one-eyebrow raise to two, I admit the video didn't quite leave me dumbfounded. I saw it as Minaj being Minaj—spicy, amatory, and placing a few toes over the line.

The Guardian seemed to agree that expecting anything less from Minaj would be naïve. “It was never going to offer a delicate, ethological insight into the non-venomous snake found in tropical South America,” Guardian writer Rachel Sonis acknowledged. “The artwork for Nicki Minaj’s new single Anaconda had already been deemed not safe for work…but the video is as confrontational and twerk-based as was alluded to in her various Instagram trailers.”

According to Minaj herself, however, the video simply represented “normal.” Seeing no issue with the nature of the clip, she acknowledged: “I don’t know what there is to really talk about. I’m being serious. I just see the video as being a normal video.”



Okay, maybe it was normal for a Minaj video. But with all the twerking-packed music videos I’ve seen recently (unfortunately I’ve seen a lot), I can’t say six sizeable pairs of avidly bouncing cheeks is customary. To me, some arguable examples of “normal” music videos include Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” and even Kanye West’s “Stronger.” At least they’re predictable. Being polite, the only relevant thing I saw in the video was the jungle setting. 

When asked about the various characters she plays and sings about in “Anaconda,” Minaj shrugged and replied, “She’s just talking about two guys that she dated in the past and what they’re good at and what they bought her and what they said to her. It’s just cheeky, like a funny story.”

In fact, Minaj believes the waywardness in the video would be the standard at a sleepover. “I think the video is about what girls do. Girls love being with other girls, and when you go back to us being younger, we would have slumber parties and we’d be dancing with our friends.” I’m not sure what sleepovers Minaj attended, but I personally never joined in a twerking party in the living room of my friends’ houses.

In the GQ interview, Minaj also revealed a “deep” underlying message about her actions with the banana in the video. Although appearing as a sexually subjective object, the banana is in fact symbol for female empowerment--at least according to Minaj. “I’m chopping up the banana. Did you realize that? At first I'm being sexual with the banana, and then it’s like, haha, no.”

The banana part of the video took place in a kitchen scene, where Minaj twerked all over the kitchen cutting board. Cutting two another scene, Minaj also provides Drake with a sensual lap dance—probably the raciest of the video—while the two appear alone in a dark room. The lap dance bawdiness builds until Drake reaches out to touch Minaj’s behind; at that point she stalks off in anger. When asked about the kitchen scene mingling with the Drake scene, Minaj comments, “Yeah, that was important for us to show… because it’s always about the female taking back the power, and if you want to be flirty and funny that’s fine, but always keeping the power and the control in everything.”

Sophie Kleeman, writing for Mic, thought Minaj squandered the opportunity for a feminist approach in the video. “This is exactly why the Anaconda video is so frustrating: Instead of using her position to bring something new to the table and expand the conversation, Minaj simply reverts to the hypersexualization of women and their bodies -- in other words, she gives us more of the same.” She further noted: “The video, though, completely fails to follow through on the song’s potential for a powerful feminist message, instead relying on the tired trope of hypersexualizing women’s bodies.”

I do think Minaj emphasized the control of male gaze and a female sense of sexuality in her video. She raises questions on the matter—but I have to agree with Kleeman. Her reputation for a playfully provocative attitude, and a joking performance, prevents any serious attention to the feminist position.

Dear White People

In Episode 159, Germar gives spoiler-free thoughts on the buzziest flick of the year.  Additionally, he of course weaves in personal tales of an awkward educated black life, like being called an Uncle Tom recently.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

NBC's "A to Z"

by Kelsey Barritt, Writing Intern

Most people, in their right mind, would not willingly enter a relationship that is destined to end. That is exactly what Ben Queen challenges viewers to do with his new hit. A to Z carefully examines the romantic relationship of Andrew (Ben Feldmen) and Zelda (Cristin Milloti), who will date for exactly eight months, three weeks, five days, and one hour. This novel premise is oddly intriguing, even if it is an overt setup for failure.

The romantic comedy begins with Andrew and Zelda’s first encounter, or at least what they believed to be their first encounter. They later learn that they once attended the same concert. Wide-eyed optimistic Andrew hopelessly clings to that meeting as fate. He works at an online dating site and earnestly yearns for true love. He often sacrifices his pride to achieve it. Zelda, a lawyer, does not share those sentiments. Level headed and logical, she clings to the more tangible things in life. They balance each other out perfectly . . . so far . . . .

Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Between How I Met Your Mother and A to Z, Milloti can do no wrong. Zelda offers the perfect alternative to the small yet typical and iconic role of the mother. She delivers the same amount of charm, but with a less whimsical and still affectionate personality. Almost automatically, she becomes the dream girl simply because of her lovable and genuine demeanor. But if she dies again, I am officially quitting television (editor’s note: HIMYM reference).

Mad Men’s Feldmen warms hearts with his enthusiastic, almost childish, views about love. He is a fragile little bird, and we don’t want to see him fall. His utter faith in humanity and romance, while naïve, is inspirational.  He is more than willing to embarrass himself, or appear obsessive, in order to find his soul mate. Likely, he’s seen as romantic and charming. I wonder how they would be perceived if the roles of Zelda and Andrew were reversed.

Supporting characters are slowly starting to have a positive impact on the show. Zelda’s best friend Stephanie (Lenora Crichlow) brings a more no nonsense attitude than even Zelda. She often calls Zelda out for participating in the pointless games of new relationships. Andrew’s best friend Stu (Henry Zebrowski) counters this through his encouragement of mind games and power plays.

Unfortunately, other small roles flop. Andrew’s boss Lydia (Christina Kirk) gives off wacky vibes with every conversation. It’s disappointing to see a female in power once again portrayed as a crazy, power hungry dictator.

With that small exception, this comprehensive account of a romance delivers a solid level of satisfaction throughout the entire duration of an episode. How will Andrew and Zelda end? Viewers cross their fingers for an engagement or marriage, but a breakup is a worrisome possibility. Either way, Queen meticulously delves into each and every stage of finding love. Silly games and authentic anxiety overwhelm Zelda and Andrew. Minute issues become heavy strains and love slowly breaks down walls one at a time.  A to Z is a pleasant spectacle that simply makes audiences feel good.


Annabelle

by Alyssa Couball, Writing Intern (with Germar Derron)

John and his expectant wife, Mia, live the dream in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, while John attends medical school. John buys Mia a gift - a beautiful and rare vintage doll.  But, Mia’s delight ends soon when their home is invaded. Then, the couple is violently attacked by two members of a Satanic cult. Splattered blood and total fear are not the only things the couple leave behind. The cultists have conjured a malevolent entity that will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

To get Annabelle what she wants, James Wan produces a mediocre film with minor bumps and impractical acting. The actors here are unknown; it’s quite obvious why. Oddly, one of the main characters’ real name is Annabelle Wallis. She plays Mia. Horror isn’t horrifying unless actors go completely over the top. When an actor is crying, I expect to see real tears. Unfortunately, Mia maintains mediocrity throughout the film. Her husband (Ward Horton) is nice to look at, but relatively irrelevant. He only appears in the film before something bad happens.  These obvious cues dropped the scary factor a notch or two.

SPOILER ALERT: There isn’t one. For this film, there is no spoiler alert because the 30 second trailer includes about ninety percent of the fright. In one scene, where Mia is looking under her door at her baby, the preview shows Annabelle falling to the floor and suddenly looking back at Mia. That scene should be saved for the movie, so that a theater audience might actually be surprised and frightened.

Notwithstanding the film’s shortcomings, it’s ripe for the Halloween season or an uneventful Saturday night. At approximately 98 minutes long, you get your money’s worth. Additionally, it’s based on the
movie, The Conjuring, which is based on a true story. If you really want a scare, Google the real doll. The movie’s 1960’s setting, in the suburbs of California, is unique among the current field of horror films.
John Leonetti does use a combination of special effects and simple scenes, with a menacing silence, to keep the audience on their toes. But it’s not enough to warrant a second watching.

Overall, I cannot recommend this movie. The only thing I feared during the entire experience was the bad acting and the occasional scream of a young teen. It’s a good concept, with potential for greatness, but it comes up a bit short.




Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Actor/Director - Gary W. Hoffman

In Episode 158, we are live from the studio in Hollywood with renaissance man Gary W. "Hollywood" Hoffman. He's an actor/ writer/ director/producer/musician/creative and artistic director. He's appeared in all of your favorite TV shows and movies, including Lie to Me, True Blood, Jobs, Cold Case, Community, and every sitcom ever.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dracula Untold

In Episode 157, Germar reviews Dracula Untold - that's it.  Well, he also talks about a podcast pilot that never was and how Elise Micheals made "Dracula" an amazing experience.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Supernatural: “Black” recap and review

by Kayla Kenney, Writing Intern

CW's Supernatural redeemed itself in season ten’s premiere. Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki still portray the brooding, evil-hunting Winchester brothers after nine years. Sam (Padalecki) flipped to the dark side plenty of times, but now, Dean’s (Ackles) turn arrives. Will demon Dean fight for his baby brother?

Season nine left viewers hanging from a massive cliff. Dean awoke with pitch-black, demon eyes, and the credits rolled. The premiere kicks off with a demon strung up and tortured. She mumbles on about how the rumors are true — a Winchester is “one of us.” You suspect Dean tortured her. Then, the camera pulls out to reveal Sam. An icy-blue “Supernatural” shatters--the newest title sequence. 

Four weeks later, Sam continuously hunts for Dean. The usual amount of book flipping and internet searches only leave him with a note from Dean saying, “SAMMY LET ME GO.”  Then, he stumbles upon an article. He calls up Castiel (Misha Collins). Cas reaps the benefits of his stolen angel grace. And the two determine that Dean might not be “Dean” anymore.

Cue Dean drunkenly singing “I’m Too Sexy” karaoke in a dive bar.  There, he and Crowley (Mark Sheppard) pass time.  As usual, Dean beds the local waitresses. Unusually, he expresses his anger more often through bar brawls.
Photo by Chris Frawley/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. via Getty Images
After Dean’s inner, carefree wild side springs to life, the episode shifts back to Castiel. A fellow angel, Hannah (Erica Carroll), visits him. Of course, she wants a favor. She convinces Cas to track down rogue angels with her.

Meanwhile, Sam’s article finally brings him useful information. Using a classic, false identity and fake badge, he recovers videotape coverage of a gas station murder. The murderer happened to be Dean.  Naturally, he browsed the porn aisle. Then, a demon attacks him out of nowhere. The act appears as self-defense.  But Dean takes the defense to a brutal extreme. Sam slows the video down frame by frame and sees Dean’s demon eyes for the first time.

Simultaneously, another demon hurls himself at Dean. Dean suspects Abaddon (Alaina Huffman) followers are after him, because he killed her last season. However, Crowley is the man behind the deed. He wants to rule Hell with Dean as his right-hand man; Dean refuses. 

Castiel and Hannah search for their rogue angels. Along the way, Hannah notices Castiel’s failing grace. To live, he needs to kill an angel. However, he despises the thought of gaining any more angel blood on his hands. He plays mediator between Hannah and one of the rogues they find. Cas sees the lure in humanity. Hannah only sees the rules of Heaven. Cas forces the three of them to sit down and talk it out. Just as the conversation gets somewhere, another rogue comes in and mucks it all up. She and Hannah fight with their angel blades. In the end, Castiel kills one to protect Hannah. Castiel tears himself in two. He understands how the rogues yearn for humanity, yet he knows the importance of Heaven’s rules. This seems to be an infinite struggle for his character.

Sam finally contacts Crowley and tracks the call. This call directs him to his brother at long last. But, along the way, he hits a roadblock.

Season ten introduces an intriguing new party to the cast. We know he’s fought his way through some big battles. We don’t know why he’s hunting Dean. He goes to great lengths to capture Sam, just as he is on the road toward Dean. This new guy phones Dean. He threatens to kill Sam, if Dean doesn’t show up. An extremely out of character Dean doesn't run to save his little brother. He simply states that he will find and kill this guy someday.

The season opening gives Dean a new arc and new direction. Ackles’ character needed something. The change goes directly against his typical brooding-hunter style. The stagnant guy who saved people, hunted things, and always protected Sammy got boring. Now, his inner demon is brought to the surface. It’s bad. Drunken, heartless, and full of rage, Dean no longer comes to Sam’s rescue. Bogged down with predictability before this, Dean’s lack of savior-mentality is anything but sad. Now, Sam needs another change. His scrunched-up face of frustration shows up much too frequently to be taken seriously. 

The show manages to keep you hooked with new aspects, and ideas, each and every season.  Who is this guy that’s hunting Dean now, and why is he doing it? With this new character in play and Dean’s not-so-Dean attitude, the premiere is a great example of why the show’s lasted for ten seasons.