Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the month “November, 2013”

Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Movie PosterUnlike its ho-hum predecessor, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a gripping film that tells a realistic and compelling story that kept me thoroughly entertained from start to finish. Directed by Francis Lawrence, best known for I Am Legend and Water for Elephants, the movie moves along at a brisk pace. By the time I got up to leave I didn’t realize 146 minutes had passed since the opening credits.

As with the first installment in the franchise, Jennifer Lawrence, Woody Harrelson and Stanley Tucci are excellent in their roles. I’m  glad that Donald Sutherland, who is deliciously evil as President Snow, has more screen time this go around – he’s terrific!

Also worth noting is the score by James Newton Howard, which is fantastic. As usual, Howard’s emotionally-charged musical compositions elevate the visuals to another level and provide gravitas when appropriate. Below is my favorite track from the album:

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a strong film everyone should see. It has romance, action and suspense, as well as dramatic visuals. The acting is top-notch and the dialogue is believable. By the end of the last scene, I was ready for the next sequel. Unfortunately, that novel is being broken into two parts because Hollywood never passes up an opportunity to milk a cash cow for all it’s worth. With Francis Lawrence back at the helm, I’m sure those two films will be equally satisfying. Make sure to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – it’s a great film that’s worth the price of admission.

Official Movie Trailer

Kindle Fire HDX vs. iPad Air

Kindle Fire HDXAmazon just released a new commercial for the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ comparing it to the iPad Air. I think it’s a stroke of genius. Check it out for yourself below:

Betas: A Killer New Comedy

BetasJust a couple days ago I discovered a new comedy created by Amazon Studios: Betas. Similar to the significantly less funny Alpha House, Betas is exclusive to Prime Instant Video. The good news is anyone can watch the first three episodes for free, so hop to it. This is an excellent show featuring quirky and endearing characters that have a wonderful chemistry together. And the clever jokes, sharp dialogue and well-paced character development will keep you coming back for more. Take my advice – watch all three episodes, then decide whether or not you like it. Each episode gets progressively better, so you should be in love with it by the end of episode three.

Below is the show’s trailer, and you can check out the free episodes here. Enjoy!

 

Author Interview: Steven James

Steven James

I met Steven James at ThrillerFest VIII. In addition to seeing him moderate several panels, I attended his workshop on organic writing and was very impressed. Following the conference, I read Placebo, his first book in the Jevin Banks series, and I’m currently reading his newest novel, Singularity, the follow-up to the aforementioned title. Below is my interview with Steven James; I hope you enjoy it. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Singularity – it’s a great read.

Your newest novel, Singularity, is receiving even better reviews than the first book in the Jevin Banks series, Placebo. For those that have yet to read it, what’s the premise of Singularity and what inspired it?

Jevin Banks, one of the world’s greatest illusionists and escape artists, ends up stumbling onto a sweeping conspiracy while looking into the suspicious death of one of his friends. As far as what inspired the story, I’d say a growing interest that I have in emerging technology and the uncharted waters it’s taking us into.

Do you write a specific amount of words every day, and how do you keep stay motivated to stick to your timeline?

That’s a good question. I find that when I go by word count I get easily discouraged since I might fly and write several thousand words one day and then the next day delete everything I worked so hard on. Typically, I go by time. I set a certain number of actual manuscript hours that I would like to work in a given day and then as I write I keep a timer and take scheduled breaks, but keep track of the time down to the second (I know, it’s a bit fanatical, but it keeps me on track).

Some writers have said they barely edit their work while others put their drafts through several revisions. How do you handle the editing process?

There are very few people who can pull off writing great stories with very little editing and revising. I’ve read some of the work of people who say they barely edit their work and, honestly, you can tell. Personally, I go through a lot of drafts (with Placebo, I went through the prologue at least fifty times tweaking it until I was happy with it).

Steven James - Opening Moves

For fans that haven’t read your work, how does the Jevin Banks series differ from your bestselling Bowers Files books, and do you prefer one over the other?

Ah, so you’re going to make me choose between my children, are you? Well, the Bowers books are more police procedurals, darker, more suspense than anything else. The Banks books are a little more light-hearted and conspiracy/science thrillers.

Speaking of Patrick Bowers, what’s next for the FBI Special Agent?

I’m currently working on Checkmate, the eighth and final book in the chess series. After that, we’ll see what happens. I’m nowhere near running out of ideas for Patrick’s storylines.

One of the characters from your Jevin Banks novels is Charlene Antioch. Did you choose her last name, Antioch, because it means the “cradle of Christianity”? Additionally, what inspires other character names in your Bowers and Banks books?

Huh, I had no idea about that meaning. I don’t choose names that have hidden messages in them because because I don’t want anything to get between my readers and my stories. Decoding what different names might mean would be a distraction for readers. Instead, I just choose names that sound cool to me. Now my secret is out. But I shouldn’t admit that, should I? Yes, there is a master plan at work. I just don’t know what it is yet.

Do you use any tools like Scrivener or Scapple while writing? What are your thoughts on software designed for authors?

It’s funny you should ask that. I do use both of them—mainly Scrivener. I don’t think I could write a novel without it. I’ve abandoned Word and Pages, they’re just too slow and the features don’t help me with a big, complex project like a novel. 

Singularity by Steven JamesKurt Vonnegut once shared the following piece of writing advice:

“First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

Some writers, like Vonnegut, despise semicolons while others think they’re perfectly acceptable. What are your thoughts on this never-ending debate?

I avoid them, but you will find a few in my books if the pace, flow and context call for them. My editor seems to like them and it’s a back and forth thing of me deleting all the ones she adds. I have a friend who says before you write you need to perform a semicolonoscopy on your writing.

Your stories are filled with characters and multiple plots. Since you’re an organic writer that doesn’t plot everything out ahead of time, how do you keep track of what’s going on while writing a story?

I find myself reviewing the story from the beginning—not necessarily reading through it all, but at least trying to keep the context in my mind as I write. I’m a big believer in context determining content and it boggles my mind that people can write a book without that constant scrutiny of what is happening in the story and what that means for the direction of the narrative.

Your Jevin Banks novels feature a considerable amount of scientific information. Do you gather this information prior to writing? When it comes to this information, how do you know when you’ve struck a healthy balance of showing and telling?

I had to do a ton of research for this novel on transhumanism, the hypothetical singularity, robotics and cybernetics, consciousness and nanotechnology. As you mention, it’s always a balance. As I edited the book if I found myself getting bored, I knew that readers would as well. When I was working on Placebo I needed to research quantum mechanics. Talk about confusing. I finally realized I knew as much as I needed to about physics to write my book. I think I included maybe one page of explanation in the final draft. So, you can over-research stuff. Most of the time the best bet is just sitting your butt down and writing.

Steven James PlaceboIn May 2014 you have an instructive book for writers coming out called Story Trumps Structure. Can you give us a preview of what’s inside?

Too many writers straightjacket their novels by trying to follow a certain structure—three acts or plot outlines and so on. That stuff can so easily get in the way of telling a great story. I couldn’t find any books that talked through how to break the rules to tell unforgettable fiction, so I decided to write one.

What made you decide to pursue an M.A. in storytelling and would you recommend other aspiring writers do the same?

At the time, I was doing a lot of speaking and working as a family entertainer. It was helpful to learn stage presence, how to come up with stories and tell them orally. Looking back would I do it again? I’m not sure. I think getting an M.A. in any creative writing field can be a big waste of time and money. We learn best by writing. I’d tell aspiring writers to read the books on writing craft that are out there, check out Writer’s Digest magazine, and write. That’s where the education happens. That’s how you become a writer.

At ThrillerFest VIII you moderated numerous panels and gave a presentation on organic writing. What did you enjoy most about the conference?

I’d say the organic storytelling workshop. It’s just so different from so many of the other seminars on plotting out your novels and following a certain structure and template that it was fun to get the word out there on how to write organically. It rocked the boat a little bit and that’s always a good thing.

Steven James leading a workshop about organic writing at ThrillerFest VIII.

Steven James leading a workshop about organic writing at ThrillerFest VIII.

When you’re not writing, what genres and authors do you enjoy reading?

I tend to go against the common advice that’s out there in which published authors tell aspiring writers to write in the genre they read. I read some thrillers, but for the most part I avoid them so that my writing doesn’t subconsciously mirror the writing or plot lines of other authors. I read books on the craft of writing as well as poetry and philosophy. When I have time I might pick up a literary novel. I wish I had more time to read recreationally, but I’m pretty consumed in my own projects and don’t get out of my writing corner in my basement much—either mentally or physically.

Did you have any mentors that helped you cut your teeth in the writing industry? If so, what were the most important lessons they taught you?

I had an editor fifteen years ago who called me a writer. I’d had a few things published, but no books. When he said that to me I told him, “No I’m not.” But he looked me in the eye and said, “Yes. You are.” That encouraged me and kept me going. Advice? Well, he once told me not to fall in love with my first draft and I’ve found that to be some of the most advice for my fiction.

The Best Tablet Money Can Buy: Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″

Kindle_Fire_HDX_The_Mayday_ButtonThe Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″ is not only the best tablet ever produced by Amazon, it’s the best tablet money can buy. Below is my review of the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, as well as seven additional videos highlighting the device’s various features. If you’d like to buy the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″, you can do so right here: http://tinyurl.com/lpc7znq.

Review

Mayday Button

Video Games 

Fire HDX 8.9″ vs. Fire HD 7″ (2012 Model) Speed Test

Origami Case

Origami Case

High-Resolution Display

Music

Reading

Book Review – Angry Birds: Hatching A Universe

Angry Birds - Hatching A UniverseBelow is my video review of Angry Birds: Hatching A Universe. You can buy the book here: http://tinyurl.com/lfx76wj.

KISS Kruise III – A Wild Time

Meeting KISS on KISS Kruise III.

Meeting KISS on KISS Kruise III.

I’m now home from KISS Kruise III, my first cruise and, of course, my first vacation with KISS. Simply stated, it was an excellent trip that exceeded my expectations. Below is a day-by-day run down of all the crazy fun that took place during my vacation – including a plethora of photos and videos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

KISS Kruise III: The Pre-Party 

Meeting Sophie Tweed Simmons at The Pre-Party.

Meeting Sophie Tweed Simmons at The Pre-Party.

Meeting the exceptionally talented KISS studio musician, Bob Kulick, at The Pre-Party.

Meeting the exceptionally talented KISS studio musician, Bob Kulick, at The Pre-Party.

I got to Miami on Sunday, October 27, a day before setting sail with KISS to get the festivities going at a pre-party hosted by the KISS Kruise fan group, KISS Kruise Maniacs. It was an awesome all-day affair filled with food, drink, music, and a handful of celebrities, including Gene Simmons’ daughter, Sophie Tweed Simmons – who I got my photo with (see above). While all the musical acts at The Pre-Party were entertaining, as evidenced by the videos below, the best was the KISS tribute band Mr. Speed:

KISS Kruise III: Day One

Photo by Will Byington.

Photo by Will Byington.

Day one of KISS Kruise III was kicked off with an acoustic, unmasked concert by KISS. As you’ll see in the clips below, KISS sounded awesome and was in great spirits. Below is a photo of the planned set list but the fans were yelling out additional songs, and KISS wasn’t afraid to shake things up, which made for an intimate and unpredictable show.

IMG_0255KISS fans love merchandise, so I headed straight for the store on ship after KISS’ concert. At first, I bought one t-shirt but then I quickly succumbed to the urge to buy two more. I think all three (see below) look great. Aside from t-shirts, there were beach towels, autographed photos, drumsticks, etc. for fans to buy – and buy they did. By the end of the cruise several of the items were sold out.

photo 1

In addition to KISS, there were multiple concerts happening the first night, including shows by Vintage Trouble, Leogun and a midnight performance by PRISS – the all-female KISS tribute band the fans voted to be included on KISS Kruise III. While I didn’t catch every act on Monday night, I did see these three and I was most impressed by Vintage Trouble, a fantastic new band that’s best described as a fusion of classic rock and R&B. Below are a couple songs from their debut album, The Bomb Shelter Sessions.

 

KISS Kruise III: Day Two

Key West

When I awoke on the second day, the boat was docked at the port in Key West, Florida. Having heard only good things about Key West, I quickly grabbed breakfast and headed for the beach, which, as you can see from the photo above and video below, was gorgeous. In the future, I’d love to come back to Key West so I can spend several days exploring what it has to offer.

Night Ranger's lead guitarist, Brad Gillis, rocking out on KISS Kruise III.

Night Ranger’s lead guitarist, Brad Gillis, rocking out on KISS Kruise III.

When I returned to the ship, I cleaned up, got something to eat and headed to the Night Ranger concert. My cabin mate, Carey, loves Night Ranger, so he was pumped for the show. At the time, the only song I knew by the band was Sister Christian, which I thought was overplayed. Nevertheless, I went with an open mind and hoped for the best. I was delightfully surprised by the guitar-heavy performance and lead singer’s (i.e., Jack Blades) excellent stage presence. In addition to the hits, Night Ranger performed a couple songs by Jack Blades’ former supergroup, Damn Yankees. The band also did Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne since Night Ranger’s lead guitarist, Brad Gillis, used to be in Ozzy’s band prior to joining Night Ranger. My favorite song from the set, which I’ve included below, was “When You Close Your Eyes,” a fantastic, upbeat ballad I kept singing hours after the concert ended.

While checking out the ship after the Night Ranger concert, I came across the body paint artist who was busy at work painting hordes of KISS fans so they looked like their idols. As you can see from the photo below, one woman took body paint to another level by having the name of a KISS song, “Strutter,” painted across her chest.

KISS Kruise III - Body Paint

With a KISS fan who decided to show her support for the band through body paint.

KISS performed the first of its two indoor, in-makeup concerts and Carey was headed to the show. My ticket was for the following night, so I, along with the other fans who were seeing the second show, congregated in the Crystal Atrium to watch a simulcast of the concert on a large digital screen.

Fans in the Crystal Atrium watching a simulcast of the first indoor KISS concert.

Fans in the Crystal Atrium watching a simulcast of the first indoor KISS concert.

After the KISS concert, Carey took part in the drum-off qualifier. The winners of the qualifier would go on to compete against one another to get the chance to have a drum-off with KISS drummer Eric Singer the following day. While Carey didn’t make it to the finals, I was very impressed by his skills. Check out the video below to see him beat the skins:

KISS Kruise III: Day Three

Meeting Doc McGhee.

Meeting Doc McGhee.

Day three was a big day. I met and had my photo taken with KISS and got to see the band perform. I also met the band’s manager, Doc McGhee, an icon in the music industry who’s managed everyone from James Brown to Mötley Crüe. In addition to meeting Doc, I had the chance to ask him a question during his Q&A session on the pool stage (see the video below).

I also decided to attend the Gene Simmons Pick Throwing Contest. Here’s how it worked: Fans with superior guitar pick throwing skills competed against one another to determine who would go up against the guitar-pick-throwing God of Thunder, Gene Simmons. Staff was holding buckets of varying sizes throughout the crowd and each one was worth a certain amount of points. The person with the most points won. Well, when Gene Simmons came on stage something interesting happened. Check out the video below to see what I mean:

Meeting KISS was very cool but, as expected, it was a rushed affair. With thousands of people on the boat that need to get their photo with KISS, the staff needed to keep things moving swiftly. I got a photo with the band 10 years ago when I met them at a meet-and-great for the release of the KISS Symphony: Alive IV album, so I knew what to expect. That said, I think the organizers of the cruise should extend the amount of time people have with the band to make it a more personalized experience. I’m sure many fans would forgo other activities to make this happen. Being fully prepared for a brief encounter with the band, I made sure my hair was perfect and thought long and hard about where to stand when I got to the front. Since I’m tall, I decided not to stand in the middle, where I would, more than likely, block the drummer’s face. Instead, I headed straight for my favorite band member, Paul Stanley, put my arm around him, and gave the cameraman a big smile. Thankfully, the end result was a great photo that I’ll treasure for years to come.

The set list from the indoor, in-makeup KISS concert I attended.

The set list from the indoor, in-makeup KISS concert I attended.

After meeting the band, I headed straight to the Stardust Theater for their concert. The set list was almost identical to the previous night’s concert, no doubt because KISS wanted to treat all the fans to the same great show. While KISS performed some of its mainstays like “Shout It Out Loud” and “Lick It Up,” the band also played several obscure songs fans normally never hear but love, including “Almost Human” and “The Oath.” As always, the hour-and-a-half concert was closed out with a rousing rendition of “Rock and Roll All Nite.”

KISS Kruise III: Day Four

On the last full day of the trip, I woke up in the Bahamas – Great Stirrup Cay to be exact. Despite it being an island owned by the cruise line, it was a beautiful destination with white sand and gorgeous water. Even better, a stage was set up on the beach so everyone could enjoy live music while basking in the sun or floating in the ocean. Both bands, Radiolucent and Big Rock Show – a classic rock cover band – kept the day lively and enjoyable. This may have been the most relaxing part of the entire trip – I loved it.

IMG_0448After getting back on the ship, Carey and I grabbed dinner and headed to the KISS Q&A on the pool deck. Since we got there early, we were very close to the stage, and I was able to record several of the questions asked by fans. Check them out below:

Meeting the hilarious Craig Gass.

Meeting the hilarious Craig Gass.

After the KISS Q&A, Carey and I quickly headed to Craig Gass’ stand-up comedy show, which was hilarious. It being KISS Kruise III, Craig, who performed on the first KISS Kruise, spent the majority of his routine focused on KISS-related jokes, including impersonations of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. For a taste of his excellent sense of humor, check out his roast of Gene Simmons below:

We closed out the night with two concerts: Vintage Trouble and Night Ranger. This time around, Carey and I were against the stage for Vintage Trouble, and they were amazing. As an added surprise, Evan Stanley, the son of KISS lead singer Paul Stanley, joined the band on guitar for a cover of a classic Ike and Tina Turner song; thankfully, I filmed this moment and you can check it out below, along with another great Vintage Trouble song, “Gracefully.”

Night Ranger capped off the trip with a blistering performance, and KISS’ lead guitarist, Tommy Thayer, joined the band for its final number, “(You Can Still) Rock In America.” And since it was Halloween, many of the fans in the crowd were dressed up in a variety of outfits – everything from Smurfs to Freddy Krueger.

Night Ranger performing on the last night of KISS Kruise III.

Night Ranger performing on the last night of KISS Kruise III.

IMG_0621

Comin’ Home.

KISS Kruise III was an excellent vacation that’s best described as an annual music festival on a ship. In addition to celebrating the impressive body of work that KISS has created over the past 40 years, KISS Kruise celebrates the bands of tomorrow. It’s not about nostalgia, it’s about the power and evolution of music, and its ability to unite fans from 33 countries for a week of pure bliss.

Author Interview: Douglas Preston

Douglas Preston (left) and Lincoln Child.

Douglas Preston (left) and Lincoln Child.

Douglas Preston is the best-selling author of 30 books, including the upcoming novel, White Fire, with his longtime collaborator Lincoln Child. I met Preston and Child at ThrillerFest VIII and learned a great deal from both of them. Below is my interview with Preston; I hope you enjoy it. Make sure to pick up a copy of White Fire, coming out November 12.

Many bestselling authors – Lee Child, James Patterson and Steve Berry, just to name a few – weren’t always writers; it was something they pursued later in life. In what field were you working prior to your first book being published, and what inspired you to take a chance at being an author?

My first job out of college was editing the throwaway newsletter published by the American Museum of Natural History. I found that editing other people’s work was not all that much fun. I wanted to write my own stuff. So I started writing for the newsletter, and then I was given a column in Natural History magazine to write about the Museum. Finally, I got a call from an editor at St. Martin’s Press named Lincoln Child, who suggested I write a book about the Museum. That was my first book, Dinosaurs in the Attic. Linc suggested we collaborate on a thriller set in the Museum, which became Relic, and the rest is history…

Many of us have fond memories of books that changed us in some way. Are there any books or authors that have greatly influenced you over the years?

Very much so. The books that profoundly affected me are, in no particular order, The Sirens of Titan, War and Peace, The Woman in White, Asimov’s Foundation series, Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, Charlotte’s Web, A Wrinkle in Time, the “Yes I will yes” chapter of Ulysses, The Andromeda Strain, and Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series of novels.

Relic

In your free time, what kinds of books do you like to read and who are your favorite authors?

These days, I like to read nonfiction, mostly in the areas of science and biography. Right now I’m reading The Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich. I recently read a fascinating biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, called American Prometheus. One of the greatest nonfiction books ever written, in my view, is The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. And on the same subject, another superb book on the Manhattan project is 109 East Palace by Jennet Conant.

In addition to novels, you’ve written non-fiction work as well. Do you prefer one over the other and how does the writing experience for each differ?

They’re so very different. When I’m writing a novel I curse the fact that there’s no structure and I have to pull it all out of thin air and wish I were writing nonfiction. When I’m writing nonfiction, I feel imprisoned by the facts and wish I could just make it all up or bring in a serial killer to spice things up.

Your first book with Lincoln Child, Relic, was critically acclaimed and a New York Times Bestseller. How was it writing the first novel with Lincoln, and how has your collaborative writing process evolved over the years?

A writing partnership is like a marriage, except with Linc the sex is nonexistent… It can be difficult, but Linc and I over the years have learned how to disagree. The important thing is we trust each other implicitly. If Linc says to me, “This thing you wrote stinks,” I may get upset, but I have to believe him. That’s why we have a partnership—to tell each other the hard truths.

White Fire

Your popular protagonist, Aloysius Xingu L. Pendergast, debuted in Relic and he’s going to be in your new novel, White Fire, coming out in November. What’s the premise of the new book, and what do you have in store for your readers?

White Fire opens with an historical event: a real (and fateful) dinner at the Langham hotel in London during which Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle met each other for the first and last time. What they discussed has been lost to history, but it seems Wilde made crucial suggestions to Doyle about his newly invented character of Sherlock Holmes, and Doyle for his part told Wilde all about police procedure, which inspired Wilde to write The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Then our novel moves to the present-day. Pendergast has to rescue Corrie Swanson from jail in an upscale Colorado ski resort, but just after he arrives, a serial arsonist strikes the town, burning down multimillion dollar mansions with the people still inside…

You’ve written trilogies and stand-alone thrillers. Do you find one more satisfying than the other? And when writing a trilogy, how do you keep track of all the details?

They both satisfy in different ways. With a trilogy we can go deep and spin out a vast, complex story with many subplots. It is a daunting task to keep track of everything. A solo novel is shorter and sweeter, and perhaps punchier in some ways. The middle novel in a trilogy is always difficult…

Meeting Douglas Preston at ThrillerFest VIII.

Meeting Douglas Preston at ThrillerFest VIII.

One of the hot topics at ThrillerFest this year was whether or not to outline a book. What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you plot out your novels in advance or do you simply have an idea and start writing?

Linc and I outline. We first create a general, narrative of the novel: how it opens, what happens, where it ends up. Then we outline maybe ten to fifteen chapters ahead, lengthening the outline as we write. I don’t know how writers can just start writing without knowing where they’re going, but some outstanding novelists do work that way. Tony Hillerman, one of my favorite mystery writers, never knew the ending of his books when he started, and yet he pulled off one great novel after another. I think every writer needs to find their own way of doing things. 

According to Goodreads, there’ve been nearly 125 books set in Maine – everything from John Irving’s The Cider House Rules to It by Stephen King. Being a resident of the Pine Tree State, why do you think this is the case?

Maine is dark and cold and beautiful and mysterious, with resolutely independent people. It has everything a writer might ask for in a vivid setting and compelling characters.

If you could offer aspiring writers once piece of advice, what would it be?

Write every day, seven days a week, if only for an hour at a time. And keep that hour sacred. Warn your friends and family to stay away. A writer must write, just as violinists must practice and Olympic athletes must train. That sounds obvious but you would be surprised at how many people want to be writers but don’t write very much.

Review: Hot ‘n Sticky Live by Michael Des Barres

Michael Des Barres - Hot 'n StickyRaspy rocker Michael Des Barres just released Hot ‘n Sticky Live, an album showcasing a blistering performance he gave at the Viper Room in Hollywood, CA. In addition to tracks from Des Barres’ excellent studio recording, Carnaby Street, this live album includes interpretations of classic rock and pop songs, as well as material from the singer’s previous musical endeavors. It’s an all-killer-no-filler affair that’s short, sweet and packs a punch. The band is tight and Des Barres’ soulful vocals bring the infectious melodies to life in a way that’ll have you singing the songs long after they’ve stopped playing. In a day and age where popular music is overproduced and underdeveloped, Hot ‘n Sticky Live is a raw and gritty reminder that rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well.

You can buy the album herehttp://tinyurl.com/kydxfg3.

For your listening pleasure, below are a three of my favorite songs from the album:

 

 

Must-See Movies: Fall 2013

The last three movies I saw were excellent, and I highly recommend you check them out:

About Time

About Time

I just saw About Time and it greatly exceeded my expectations. While the premise of a romantic movie built around time travel sounded absurd, I decided to give in to my girlfriend’s recommendation and see the film. I’m glad I did because it was one of the most emotionally moving films I’ve ever seen. The acting was top-notch across the board, the chemistry between the characters was believable – especially between Domhnall Gleeson and Bill Nighy – and the dialogue was charmingly engaging. While one scene at the end of the film had me in tears, there were many portions of the movie that had me laughing hard. It was a nice balance of drama and levity, and the spectacular soundtrack did a terrific job of complimenting and enhancing the scenes. I can’t recommend About Time enough – go see it, now.

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips 

Prior to this movie, I couldn’t remember the last time Tom Hanks had a great dramatic leading role. I’m glad to report that he reclaimed his throne as arguably the best A-list dramatic actor of his generation with Captain Phillips. While watching this film, I kept thinking to myself I can’t believe this happened in real life. The story played out like a tightly-wound thriller and Hanks’ perfect portrayal of the Captain kept my rapt attention from start to finish. What impressed me most was the last scene where Hanks’ character is recovering from the trauma of the incident; the whirlwind of emotions contained within the character shone through Hanks’ superb body language. While good actors can deliver lines to paint a picture, excellent ones like Hanks can say a million words without speaking a single syllable. I was so moved by this scene that I had to fight back tears. This film restored my faith in Tom Hanks’ ability to be an Oscar-worthy leading actor and it’s one of the best movies this year.

Gravity

Gravity

Gravity seems to be a polarizing film. Some people love it, while others hate it. I saw it in 3-D and thought it was one of the most visually impressive movies I’ve ever seen. Going into it, I thought that George Clooney was going to be the star, but I was delightfully surprised by what turned out to be a career-defining role for Sandra Bullock; her excellent acting and Alfonso Cuarón’s deft directing made me feel as if I were her character – struggling to live. This movie was full of tension and suspense and, by the end, I was exhausted…in a good way. Gravity is an emotional tour de force that everyone should experience on the big screen in 3-D. See it now before it’s too late.

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