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 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. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ke$ha’s lawsuit: money, power, fame, sexual assault

by Melissa Scott

                         From Flickr - Becky Sullivan
It’s never easy to read about sexual assault cases in daily news—especially when the accusations include date rape or long term sexual abuse. Naturally, siding with the accuser and hating the accused is reflex. Somehow, the unfamiliarity of the names of individuals involved, and a generic societal intolerance, automatically curbs our sympathy. But when the matter deals with headline celebrities and the all-powerful entertainment industry—lines blur.

Kesha officially filed a lawsuit Tuesday, October 14, against music producer and label owner Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald. The suit accused Gottwald of “sexual assault, gender violence, harassment, unfair business practices and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”  Gottwald retaliated quickly by filing a countersuit against Kesha, and her mother, for breach of contract and defamation.

A deeper dig into the allegations uncovers ugliness on both sides. Kesha specifically described an incident in which Gottwald took her “virginity,” without her consent, when she was 18. The lawsuit accused Gottwald of drugging her with GHB, after they both attended a party, and then raping her while she was unconscious. Since then, Kesha complained, Gottwald tormented her both verbally and physically, over the course of ten years. Gottwald’s abuse, according to Pebe Sebert (Kesha’s mother) included growing jibes about her weight. Sebert insisted it was this behavior that drove Kesha to bulimia, and resulted in her checking into rehab for the eating disorder in January 2014. “We are prepared to fight until he agrees to get out of her life once and for all,” her lawyer Mark Geragos told People. “The lawsuit is a wholehearted effort by Kesha to regain control of her music career and her personal freedom after suffering for 10 years as a victim of mental manipulation, emotional abuse and sexual assault at the hands of Dr. Luke.”

Of course, Gottwald—music producer and coworker for standout musicians Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Pink, Avril Lavigne, and Kelly Clarkson—chose to fight fire with fire, rather than allow damage to his reputation. He attacked Kesha’s lawsuit as functioning in a larger scheme to sneak out from under her recording contract with him. Accusing Kesha and her mother of attempting to extort him, Gottwald produced a draft of an email sent by Pebe Sebert to Gottwald’s lawyer last year. Viciously, the email threatened to ruin the producer’s reputation unless her daughter was freed from her contract. “Kesha’s lawsuit is a spectacular and outrageous fiction that will go down in flames,” Christine Lepera, Gottwald’s attorney, argued in a statement to the New York Daily News.  “As the truth emerges, this sad and misguided smear campaign will only hurt Kesha. Extortion is not going to win here.”

Who’s the victim? The answer may never be satisfactory. It’s not easy here to defend anyone, yet it feels uncomfortable being unable to do so.  But what’s blurring the boundaries of right and wrong here?

Power, corruption, and control: a recurring theme in celebrity and big money business. It’s naive to ignore the history of power-hungry businessmen, studio heads, and producers who use every possible means of manipulation to glean as much profit as possible from entertainment industry stars. News about the struggles of young stars, fresh out of the Disney and Nickelodeon factories, battling with substance abuse or eating disorders, is incessant. I could make a strong case that pressure from powerful behind-the-scenes figures in Hollywood contributed, at least in part, to these downward spirals.

Was Kesha cruelly victimized by a predatory Gottwald? Possibly. Only Kesha and Gottwald truly know the whole story. But I do think a struggle for control, and a thirst for greater wealth and fame triggered whatever this was. This corrupt reach for power caused severe and lasting consequences—not only for Kesha and Gottwald, but those around them as well.

The music industry certainly seems glamorous. We buy the albums. We marvel at their talent and lifestyles. Often, we’re completely blinded by the limelight. Then, something like this surfaces and forces us to see beneath the facade, and accept the reality of the business. The music industry is a billion dollar business, notwithstanding, and due to, all of those damaged lives. Suddenly, the headlining celebrities and faceless victims in the paper don’t seem that different. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

NBC's: "Marry Me"

by Kelsey Barritt, Writing Intern

Like any relationship (or television show), Marry Me will require time, care, and effort to reach anything near perfection. Show-runners, writers, and directors should eventually work the kinks out. The new NBC sitcom has potential to be among the most charismatic shows of the year. Created by David Caspe, it chronicles the life of the happy, high-strung couple, Jake and Annie (Casey Wilson and Ken Marino). The clever comedy satisfies with its contemporary style, and sparks interest through irresistible charm.

NBC
A show that appears to be quirky and fresh begins the pilot in the most cliche way possible: a proposal. Viewers likely let out a sigh of early surrender when Annie hysterically nags her boyfriend, of six years, about not popping the question. Little does she know, he is behind her on one knee. Annie continues to embarrass herself, which appears to be a preview of her usual antics. The kickoff to the pilot is all too conventional and just a tad too stereotypical. Many silly women with their minds on marriage constantly consume character depth on television. The show should give viewers more credit in that respect; an outdated setup like that no longer does the trick. But after that horrifying moment of a proposal gone wrong, the show salvages itself.

Similar to Caspe’s other creation, Happy Endings, the true comedy is embedded throughout the entire experience, rather than the scripted predicaments. Caspe wedges the best jokes into a quick, witty conversation. The actors capture hilarious moments in just a few sparkling inserts. Genius reveals itself in the pure randomness of it all. The offbeat humor shines, especially through Wilson, who masters vivacious yet odd characters like Annie. The premises of episodes won’t likely matter much. Or at least they won’t for a while. Annie and Jake’s banter is more than satisfactory for thirty minutes. 

The supporting characters are a part of those kinks mentioned earlier. Dennah and Gill (Sarah Wright and John Gemberling) are already irritating. Currently, they fill space, and with little personality. Gill makes jokes that real world people would never make. It adds a level of inauthenticity to the show. Wright also fails to shine, probably because of her too common high maintenance best friend character. Been there, done that; it’s time to let that character go.

The possibility of repetition is especially worrisome. The dust of the engagement will settle. The road ahead does not offer many options because of the show’s narrow premise.  A couple gets engaged. They plan a wedding. They get married. Watching all of the obstacles of an engagement becomes mundane. But it’s much better than giving more attention to those awful supporting characters.

Pilots are always difficult; Marry Me deserves some slack. After all, Caspe began his last sitcom in the second most cliché way possible: a bride leaving her groom at the alter. Clearly Caspe struggles with beginnings, but his endings are happy. (editor’s note: HAHAHAHAHAHAAHA! I see what you did there) This pilot oozes potential. Viewers love Jake and Annie. They represent so many real life thoughts, guilty pleasures, and unfortunate moments that feel so real. Caspe displays characters’ inner monologues and relates them to our own. This show will either have an amazing run or be a quick blip in comedy history. It will be interesting to see which side wins in this episodic tug-o-war between limitless charm and wit, and a very limited structure. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Indie Music: Watkins Music "One Life One Love"

by Germar Derron

The written description of Watkins Music spells d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r.  The duo is compared to Prince and Olivia Newton John and Louie Vega. Their unique style of music can be called soul, pop, dance, and a number of other things.  Their press materials always include terms like “art,” “feelings,” “spirits,” and “rhythms.” One of the few things that I remember from music industry courses at Georgia State University was that you never ever do this.  No one wants mixed genres, and abstract feelings in their music – right?

Once, I introduced my friends’ band at a gig. I called them a jazzy funk punk art rock band with hints of R&B, hip-hop, and soul. The description fit. The drummer immediately yelled out, “thanks Germar, they already hate us.”  Recently, I recalled that moment, during Elise Micheals' guest spot on the podcast. I asked about her style of music. She responded, jazzy old-school dance pop, but updated . . . or something.  “One Life One Love” is all of these awful things, but somehow it works.

I do tend to love music that makes me feel good.  When I play this track, I’m forced to smile, notwithstanding the course of my day to that point in time.  I don’t want to write about the track technically, sonically, or musicality wise because it’s not nearly as important as how I feel about it.  It’s something like an “art” with “spirit” and “rhythm.” It sounds soulful.  And I can’t stop bouncing. 

 
For some reason, the song feels much deeper than it is. The lyrics are “One life, one love. Two hearts that beat as one.” When I did produce and manage artists, and they brought me lyrics like this, I’d smile, leave the studio, punch a wall then come back and say through tight teeth “another hit!”  But here, it works.  It’s not deep or novel and it doesn't need to be.

The track is fairly complex, but it doesn't feel like it. Instruments, notes, lines, and harmonies swim, jump, and pop all over the place. It works; it flows. But they are a brother-sister duo, and I have a belief that family-made music is the best music. See e.g., the Jacksons, the DeBarges, the Marsalises, etc.  

The track is hot, and it’s not a fluke.  I checked out their video for “Metronome,” and my review of it would echo these thoughts. Out of five stars, I’ll call this a four.

Monday, October 13, 2014

"This is Where I Leave You" is what they titled this movie

by Kelsey Barritt (with Germar Derron)      

Often a movie with an open ending ends well, but This is Where I Leave You leaves audiences with more questions than answers. The "dramedy" starring Jason Bateman and directed by Shawn Levy is more of a guessing game than it is a movie. The film throws the audience amidst a family facing the death of a cherished father. Together, they sit Shiva for seven days as a way of mourning. A family reunited for one week, in the same house, leads to issues and discoveries. The tragedy hits Judd Altman (Bateman) the hardest, because he was already plagued by emotional mayhem. He is separated from a wife, who cheated on him with his egotistical boss. Then, he’s forced to wrap his head around his father’s passing. Further, countless side stories get lost in the mess that is this movie.

The sibling dynamic here, is the classic one. There is the oldest, uptight brother Paul (Stoll), levelheaded and compassionate Wendy (Fey), and the youngest, free-spirited Phillip (Driver). These characters are instantly and easily relatable. Their modern mother Hillary (Fonda) ordered them to stick together under the same roof. There, the siblings learn about life and each other. They reveal jaw-dropping secrets and trust their long lost family with them. These “adult” siblings bicker, revert back to childhood habits together, and fearfully obey their strong-willed mother. Somehow, this arouses a sense of reluctant empathy in viewers. The never-ending support of a family is a constant yet refreshing theme. 

Some supporting characters bring charm to the table, especially the beautifully strange Penny (Byrne), a love interest whose arbitrary attitude could make anyone smile. She is a breath of fresh air in a movie that is dank with negativity. Others, like Paul, just occupy time that should be spent elsewhere; it was a turn off. Paul worries–a lot—and he’s abrasive.

The family moans and complains for the duration of the movie; it’s tough on the ears. Sure, they deal with death, divorce, loveless marriages, and general angst, but . . . . Moviegoers know this is a somewhat sad movie. But, the amount of whining and immature bellyaching surprised me. These characters enter their childhood home and become babies again.

This is Where I Leave You shaves just deep enough to remove the very first outer layer of each character. Viewers crave more insight into their compelling lives, but get nothing. Wendy’s complicated, heart-wrenching tidbit of a story gives audiences goose bumps, but not satisfaction; it feels incomplete. The filmmakers fail to follow up or give the story the true attention it deserves. The audience constantly longs for more, but more never comes. Almost too much is left to interpretation, which is aggravating. The movie does not have the guts to delve into difficult topics, so it just barely grazes the surface.

Here, the opportunities to connect and contemplate are few. The movie is scattered; there’s no place to focus. Endless opportunities for greatness fall short. This could-be witty, lovable, fresh film ends up being a reason to visit Redbox . . . or not.

The movie is not un-watchable. It provides a few laughs and maybe a tear or two. However, if mediocrity disappoints you, and potential alone isn't worth the price of admission, save the money.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Doctor Who: “Mummy on the Orient Express” recap and review

by Melissa Parkin

The repercussions from last week’s “Kill the Moon” still linger under the surface as the Doctor ushers Clara off the TARDIS for another adventure. Donned in full-fledged flapper apparel, Clara is clearly in higher spirits since the duo’s previous encounter. Needing several weeks to cool her heels after their little Moon misadventure, she’s come to the conclusion that she doesn't hate the Doctor. However, Clara decides that this will be their last “hurrah” together. If embarking on a ride aboard the Orient Express wasn’t exciting enough, this particular locomotive isn’t on its regular earthly route. It’s in fact a replica of the famed train - in space. Soaring through the solar system, without so much as railways to guide them, this beauty is indeed a breathless wonder.

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Unfortunately, something (or someone) very unwelcome is aboard the Express, and this entity is plucking off each of its passengers one by one. Similar to the British Isles’ folklore of the Black Dog, this mummified corpse raiding the train appears only to the intended victims to whose life is just about spent. During a precise 66 seconds, this raggedy, cloth-bound creature haunts its prey. Within the train’s confined space, and the mummy’s transportation ability, there is no escaping death’s clutches. The moment the clock reaches zero, the creature rests its hands on the head of the victim, draining said person of all energy until their heart gives out.

Authorities on the train assure the other passengers that the victims suffered from nothing more than hallucinations before their demises, but the Doctor acknowledges the very real danger aboard. When Clara finds herself trapped inside a luggage car, the Doctor struggles on his own to convince the passengers of the immediate threat.

Despite its elegant setting, imagination, and intriguing concept, “Mummy on the Orient Express” still doesn’t quite manage to deliver in terms of execution. Its claustrophobic surroundings, sinister creature-makeup, and superb energy from Peter Capaldi couldn’t redeem the redundant killings and therefore the episode’s dwindling suspense factor. Initially starting off with a thrilling opening death, the plot soon becomes derivative as the body count rises. With the show’s allotted runtime and each victim being knocked off in identical fashion to the previous ones, the suspense in wondering if the next target will survive is completely lost. It’s not until the last ten minutes that any actual suspense is built. Then the climax, which results in the train’s obliteration, leaves the audience on tenterhooks (editor’s note: taut, edge of the seat) as they speculate as to the safety of the remaining passengers. Unfortunately, the escape from the Express is glossed over upon the return from the commercial break.

Credit is due to the effects makeup for the mummy, because it truly is a classically horrifying creature. The revealing of the mummy’s true motives behind the killings was lackluster in comparison to the buildup. One of the high notes is most definitely Capaldi’s performance. His vigor matched perfectly with the scripted quips, particularly with his poor bedside manner and the use of his psychic paper. It’s a fun adventure, but the overall execution prevents this from being one of the series’ bests.

Doctor Who - “Mummy on the Orient Express” Review: B