Sunday Matinee: Crown and Anchor [Film]

 

“Crown and Anchor follows James Downey, who is living a disciplined and straight edge lifestyle as a result of growing up with an abusive alcoholic father. His estranged cousin Danny is drowning his own trauma with drugs and booze. When their lives are forced to intersect once more, they each begin to unravel as the past returns with violent and tragic consequences.” – October Coast PR

 

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The first word that comes to mind when I reflect on viewing Crown and Anchor…is emotional. Because that is definitely what it is. It is an emotional drama about the bonds of family, the tyranny that lies within so many of our pasts, and how it all can culminate into absolute mental madness. It is a film that reminds us that sometimes you have to deal with the past, and pushing it away and trying to hid the damage done will not have the results you would hope for. The emotional baggage is simply far too heavy. And for James and Danny, the baggage ways a TON. Maybe the weight of an “anchor” one would say. See what I did there. All kidding aside folks, Crown and Anchor is a fantastic film both visually and as a perfectly told story. There is so much to love about this, especially if the crime drama world is one you love to play around in regularly.

 

 

 

Writer/Director Andrew Rowe has an incredible story to share with you all. The script was actually co-written by the films main stars Michael Rowe and Matt Wells, whose performances are so spot on, which makes sense as they most likely wrote the parts themselves. This doesn’t always equal success, but when you have a squad this talented within the creative process, you’re going to get a film as superb as Crown and Anchor. And fucking superb it is! And it behooves to not to forget to mention the spectacular performance given by Natalie Brown, the strongest character of them all, stuck in between the madness of two cousins, both of which she has a confusing relationships with throughout her lifetime. I appreciated her character quite a bit for the simple fact that she isn’t entirely the most sane person, definitely the most sane in the film most likely, but she has flaws and mistakes that may not be as obvious as our main characters, but they do exist. And this adds a delightful human element to the story.  And horror icon Robert Joy steps in from time to time to deliver some incredible dialogue that may be some of the most memorable of the film.

Overall, Crown and Anchor is an absolutely delightful cinematic experience, and should be enjoyed by all. And in a couple of days, you can! And should. Check it out Everyone!

 

 

Crown and Anchor will be available on DVD and Digital on July 2nd!

 

Saturday Special: Blindsided [Film]

 

“Sloan Carter is a young girl who has recently been blinded. Her father leaves for the weekend and her two best friends, returning home from University, keep her company. A protege of her father’s, passing through town, also spends the night. The peaceful weekend is interrupted by a shadowy threat and the safe country getaway turns into a fight for survival.” – October Coast PR

 

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Oh do I love a good old fashion thriller that doesn’t seek to sedate you, but to simply entertain and keep you on edge for a little while. That is exactly what Blindsided will do for you. It has all the stereotypical elements that we all know and love from thrillers, but with a nice little edge sharpened ever so gently around it all. There is a specific reason I say this, but alas, it would be a major “spoiler” and we all know how we shouldn’t do that. But trust me Folks, you will know it when you undoubtedly check out this wonderful film.

The cast of Blindsided is obviously a very superb one indeed, including the lead Bea Santos. But, as it tends to happen, it’s the writing of the film that makes their performances so spectacular. In the case of this film specifically, it is the dialogue between characters in the not so tense situations that is absolutely phenomenal. While it’s probably strange to make the comparison, as they are wildly different films, I couldn’t help but compare Erik Knudsen’s character Toby to that of a Randall Graves in the indie classic film Clerks. Kevin Smith always stated that he originally intended to play Randall, that’s why he had all the good lines. I don’t believe that was likely to be the case for filmmaker Johnny Mitchell in this case, but inevitably he created a wonderful bit of comedic relief with the character of Toby, and it plays out so great! And while Santos and Knudsen are my own personal highlights, it would be remiss of me to not quickly mention that Carlin Burchell who’s, albeit brief, performance was frightening as HELL! I was previously unaware of Burchell’s talent, but I damn sure am now and will be looking out for her work in the future.

Go see Blindsided, Folks. It’s a hell of a film that is sure to entertain, especially for those of you who can’t get enough of psychological thrillers. This is a damn fine one of those, and one of my favorite horror films of 2019 thus far. You’re going to like what you see.

 

Be sure to check out Blindsided on DVD and Digital August 13, 2019.

 

Bob Sáenz [Interview]

 

Hello Folks, and happy Friday to you all! And to get the weekend started correctly, we have an absolutely wonderful interview with a wonderful inspiring man by the name of Bob Sáenz! Bob is an actor and writer, and happens to be the genius who penned the recently released film Extracurricular Activities, which many of our regular reader(s) may remember, we showcased here just five weeks ago in our Sunday Matinee segment. It is an absolutely wonderful film that has so much to offer the world of comedy, as well as the mystery and thriller world. I have since actually gone back and watched the film again, purely for pleasure, which is a rarity in this business as doing anything for yourself is basically “non-productive”. But, I really couldn’t help it. I absolutely adore this film.

And I was very excited that I was able to steal some time from Bob to learn a bit more about him. And fucking learn I did. I don’t want to spoil anything from the words he gives below, but, wow! What a damn story! As an aspiring “actual writer”, the way he kicks off this interview, I feel as though I may actually have the chance to get that novel out, sell that screenplay, what have you. Bob is had the sort of career that truly makes you believe anything is possible. He has done some amazing work, and I am so very excited that he was willing to grace our digital pages today. So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Bob Sáenz!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it an early aspiration you have had since a youth, or did you simply find yourself in this world one day?

From the time I can remember I wanted to be involved in film. Primarily as an actor. So, from the time I was about 16 to the age of 22 I was a professional stage actor, then I met my wife and gave it up. At 40 I decided, with the backing of my wife, to try acting again. Was told it was impossible and that I wouldn’t succeed. I said, “Why not?” and proceeded to get cast in films and on TV, landing a SMALL, as in tiny, recurring part on the CBS series Nash Bridges, with Don Johnson, for all 6 seasons. On that show, I started writing and realized I was a much better writer than actor and started concentrating on that. It’s paid off.

 

What was your very first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that you still use in your career today?

My very first paid gig was a stage show called The Streets of New York, a musical melodrama of sorts where I was the comic relief, at the Manhattan Playhouse in Palo Alto, California. I made 50 dollars a week. I got rave reviews in the local papers, it played to sold out audiences, and I was hooked. I’m still close, after 50 years, to some of the people in that show. No real lessons except it was that show where I learned to really relax and have fun on stage… and that continued to my attitude in front of cameras.

I absolutely LOVED the recently released film Extracurricular Activities, which you penned. It was ridiculously good, and such a delightfully demented story. So with that, where the hell does this story come from? What inspired you to tell this zany and brilliant tale?

Thank you, first of all. I appreciate your kind words. It was a labor of tenacity, hard work, patience, and love. It was my second script. I wanted to write something controversial, funny, different, dark, and twisted. I wrote it to be a sample of my creativity. Deep down, I never really thought it would get made. And… It worked incredibly well as a sample.  It opened every door I went through in Hollywood, was responsible for every job I got and every other script I sold. It was optioned by 8 separate production companies, producers, and one studio over 18 years. Then Jay Lowi, who directed the film, made it his mission over 10 years to get it made. He did, with the help of David Wilson who produced it. A long and winding road for sure, but damn if it didn’t turn out well.

 

 

And what were your thoughts on the final product that was your story? Was this a pretty true to script type of film?

It’s incredibly true to my original story. It’s like a dream, because it’s not supposed to happen this way. It’s the film I saw in my head when I wrote it. A dream cast. I pinched myself everyday on set. And cried a few times from pure joy.

 

If you were handed the opportunity to write the biopic of any historical figure in American history, who would it be?

Not a figure. A place. The Parker House in Boston. The oldest continually running hotel in U.S. History. It’s got an unbelievably storied past that needs to be told. 200 years of astonishing history and in my head, a phenomenally interesting story I’d love to tell.

 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

The future is hopefully getting to write more movies that get made. Extracurricular was number 14 for me. Number 15, a Christmas movie, just shot in Georgia. I’ve been so blessed with a wonderful career as a writer, met and worked with so many amazing people, it’s been better than if I’d scripted it. I’m writing a film now on assignment and if I believe what some people are telling me (and it’s always better not to until you see a contract) have a few others lined up after it. I have nothing to plug except Extracurricular Activities which is still out there on streaming platforms to watch and hopefully, enjoy.

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

This is the easiest question to answer. My 1 1/2 year old grandson, Guy. He’s smart, aware, and incredibly funny. He makes you realize what’s REALLY important in life. That everything else is just stuff. That family is what comes first. I can’t wait to be able to talk to him about movies and music.

 

 

Tom Speight [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! I am so damn excited to share this interview with you all today. We actually haven’t had a musician as an interview subject in quite some time! I don’t believe we have in 2019 at all, but don’t fact check me, I’m an old man and can be forgetful. And ironically enough, we have a man gracing our digital pages today who may very well be the best musician of 2019 in my opinion. It’s Tom Speight! Regular readers out there will probably recognize Tom’s name from last April when we covered his absolutely incredible new album Collide in our New Music Tuesday segment that you all know and love (you do, right? Please?). I stated it then, and the feeling still holds true: Tom has created the best album of 2019. I heard the record back in February, wrote about it in April, and here I am in June to tell you that it is STILL the best album of the year. I’d say “thus far”, but short of Tom Petty being reincarnated and dropping a few bangers, I can’t foresee anyone topping this incredible album.

Tom had an incredible journey to get to Collide getting made that makes the power of the album that much more impressive. After a bout of colitis nearly but the man in his deathbed, which would have all but driven me deep into depression, Tom managed to bounce back by creating one of the best collection of catchy folk-pop melodies I have ever heard. If you haven’t checked Collide yet, you are most definitely not living your best life, no matter what hashtag you are misusing on Instagram. And if you don’t check it out after reading this absolutely wonderful interview that we have for you all today, then you are simply a monster and cannot be trusted. Hell, I am going to put some videos up at the end of it, so you have ZERO excuses!

So Folks, please enjoy these words from the absolutely brilliant singer/songwriter and brilliant melody maker, the great Tom Speight!

 

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When did you first discover your passion for music? Was it an early childhood development? Or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

My first memory of being mesmerised with music was when I was a kid and remember being given 4 cassettes to listen to in my mums car while she went shopping by my sisters boyfriend at the time.. I said I wanted to listen to these albums.. I remember playing Oasis on repeat and just thinking I want to make music aswell… I was obsessed from that moment!

What was your very first paid gig you can remember doing in music? And did you learn anything from one of these early experiences that still sticks with you in your work today?

I think it was the 12 Bar in London which sadly has closed down now.. we sold it out and I remember thinking this is pretty crazy that you get paid for playing music in front of friends.. I think I’ve always tried to keep a personal connection to fans..so maybe that was the start because I try to treat them just like my friends.. I don’t think it’s healthy to have a huge barrier or remove yourself.. I think it’s good to be approachable and show you’re grateful to the people who come to your shows!

I understand the journey towards getting your album Collide out into the world has been a bit of a rough one, filled with numerous medical set backs and other challenges. I know you have probably gone over it a bit, but if you wouldn’t mind sharing some of your story with our readers?

It hasn’t been an easy ride but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.. it made the album what it is! I think from my experiences with bad health etc it has given my music hope & positive vibes that things do get better! Everyone has problems and struggles.. I’m certainly not a victim and I’m never going to let Crohns define me.. my main focus is to make music I love and that’s about it.. Music is my outlet to escape when things do get bad.. So I feel very lucky to have it in my life.

 

 

I have been continously telling our readers and just about anyone around me with a pulse, that Collide is the best album of 2019, and one of the best I have ever heard. With that, I am curious to know about your thoughts on album. Obviously you probably love it alot, but I am more curious to know what it is you believe sets this album apart from your previous work?

I think it’s my best work and I’m very proud of it but i think it’s just the start.. I have a lot more to give and I’ve learnt a lot from making the album! I really put everything into the album and tried my best… if people like it..it’s a bonus!

I am always curious to know about a songwriter’s processes, as it is something I personally couldn’t fathom doing. So with that, when you are working on a song, how do you know when you have completed one. Is there some sort of gut feeling you get (not literally, obviously) when you know you have nailed it? How do you know when you have reached all of your personal requirements for a song to be considered complete?

Definitely the gut feeling is key and just being a fan of music.. you know when it feels right and it doesn’t! I’m usually quite good at putting things to bed and signing it off.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’m playing Glastonbury & touring the world! Come & say hello!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Fleabag the TV show!

 

 

Check out this video below for “Strangers Now”, and be sure to head on over to tomspeightmusic.com to catch Tom on tour!

 

 

Bronwen Hughes [Interview]

 

Hello, Folks! We have an absolutely wonderful interview to share with you all today. Today’s interview subject is an absolute mastermind in the world of the creative arts. The great Bronwen Hughes has put some incredible work out into the world for over 30 years, and continues to do so to this day. As I usually tend to do, I sought out to have Bronwen on the site to ask about one particular project that meant a lot to me over the years. And as it tends to happened, I then learned that this incredible director’s body of work is INSANE! In fact, her work is so incredibly diverse that the aforementioned project was actually a film I loved as a kid, Harriet the Spy, and it turns out that she has worked on two cohesive projects that I loved as adult, and would probably NEVER show to my kids, which would be the legendary series Breaking Bad and the legend in the making, Better Call Saul. I swear on my life, I never thought there would be a connection to my childhood crush Michelle Trachtenberg and the dad from Malcom In the Middle turning to selling meth. But alas, here we are! Hell, to throw in another curveball, I may even get a little respect from my mom because she directed the Sandra Bullock fronted romcom known as Forces of Nature 20 years ago. How you like me now, Mom?

In all seriousness Folks, I am so excited that Bronwen was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us and even considering gracing our digital pages today. Hughes gave some wonderful insight into the world of film and television, and actually presented some very compelling arguments to some questions that we have sort of asked in the past. Much like her body of work, Bronwen is incredible and fascinating. So please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Bronwen Hughes!

 

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When did you first discover your passion for the world of film and television? Was it an early aspiration you had since you were a child, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

In fact, photography was my first passion, and I knew nothing about film.  My intention when it came time to choose a university was to study photojournalism — probably where my love of true stories comes from, and the process of exploring them.  But when I went to visit the country’s best school of journalism, it was a minus-40-degree January day in Ottawa, and I changed my mind.  The back up plan was a fine arts degree in film and photography.  By the end of the first year, film had its hooks in me.  I did the cliché film student thing, going to rep cinemas for double bills at least six times a week, and living on a diet of popcorn and falafel.  Heavenly times.

What was your very first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that you still incorporate into your work today?

Almost straight ouf of film school, I was signed to the largest production company in the country, and was directing by the age of 23.  My first professional directing job was a commercial for the launch of a romance novel. The actress was afraid of heights, and wouldn’t go to the top of the cliff.  The actor was late from an all-night rave, and arrived covered in mystery bruises.  The DP was an ancient fifty years old, and had no intention of doing things my way.  The agency creatives were doing their first spot, and thought we could achieve Doctor Zhivago on a one-day shoot… and the lesson I learned which rings true to this day is that the biggest skill a director requires by far is PEOPLE MANAGEMENT.  Shooting is like the gravy if you get that right.  P.S. it’s exhausting!

 

 

One of your earliest gigs as a director happens to be one of my favorite shows of all time, which would be the brilliant sketch comedy series The Kids in the Hall. I am curious to know how your experience was working on this extremely hilarious program, and what do you believe it is about the show that has earned such a legendary status in the world of comedy?

Kids in the Hall was one of those gigs which you think might just be fun, just because they are awesome, and it turned into my calling card in Hollywood.  Who knew?!  And here I was thinking it would be my deep, serious, ponderous arthouse pieces that would get an agent’s attention.  Ha!

I was lucky enough to come aboard the film parts of the Kids in the Hall show when they already had such a fantastic following.  I figured my job was to shoot each of the sketches as individual short films, whole in themselves, and to stylistically find a film language that suited that particular story.  One size did not fit all.  Scott’s Stairway to Heaven musical needed a different approach than Mark’s Daryl Science Experiment, which was not the same as the dark intrigue of the serial killer of Kevin’s Oom-Pah-Pah band.

I find K.I.T.H. fans all over the world when I travel — connections which have no logic, other than the sense that many of the sketches had a seed of some kind of universal human trauma, for which funny is the salve.  Funny people have been through some shite in life, it seems to me.

As for the ahead-of-the-curve nature of the show, the guys had to compete with each other to get their sketches chosen, which meant a constant state of invention and re-invention.  No resting on laurels.

Because I was such a fan of the film as a young kid, and it has been a film that I have passed down to my own children, I feel compelled to ask about your work on what I would consider to be one of the finest films geared towards kids to ever be made, which would be Harriet the Spy. So, I am curious to know how your experience was working on this film? Was it as much fun to create as it was for 11 year old Ron to watch back then?

I had one guiding philosphy in making Harriet the Spy, which was to take Harriet’s predicament as seriously in the filmmaking as it felt to Harriet herself.  I remember at about that age feeling like the world was weighing down on me hard, and so the tone of the film needed to be through Harriet’s own experience.  No condescending to kids.  No rolling the edges off.  Adults may look at Harriet’s problems as slight and insignificant, but the kids Harriet’s age — me at Harriet’s age — needed to be taken seriously.  And also it was incredibly important to show the way back to self-confidence, which is the point.

I took flack for not making it lighter.  But flack from adults, not kids.  Kids write me letters that prove they connected.  Hope your kids do, too.

 

 

Over the years, you have done a lot of work directing within the world of television, on a plethora of amazing shows. The world of television has evolved immensely over the last couple of decades, and appears to be in a bubble of sorts. With that in mind, I am curious to know what your thoughts are on the current status of television and its new found respect as the place for wonderful writing. With so many options available, is it a good time to work in the world of television, or do you think the business may be getting oversaturated with content, to the point where some projects will be short lived and ultimately ignored?

I just wrapped the Season 5 premiere of Better Call Saul for the same incredible writers and producers I worked with on Breaking Bad.  In that first season of that show, Vince and Peter were paving the way by showing just how addictive and electrifying the long-haul story could be.  Before that moment, I remember hearing from network execs that ‘we don’t do serial,’ and now of course shows like Saul and GOT and so many more are going deep.  I have been lucky to be a part of watching it all blow up, and I still get rabid fan mail for just a single episode of Walter White’s story.

By sheer volume of content — the amount of practice writers and directors get while making stories for television or digital streaming on an episodic schedule — I think the creative flexing results in new visual language for both television and film.  Add the brave TV execs who demand to push the envelope every single week, and the way that a film now needs to be even better than that to hold its own… it all makes for a very exciting time.

Personally, I try to make all my directing decisions based on what a story requires.  Nothing to do with whether it’s going to end up on a big or a little screen.  I try to design an approach based on which visceral response I think we’re aiming for.  It’s all mixed up now in terms of how we watch — a home TV is bigger than an indie playhouse projection screen, and people watch epics on their phones.

 

 

I’ve become format agnostic — cinema, television, episodic, limited, streaming service, interactive, VR, AR…  I mean, you have to be!  The best thing about right now is that it is possible to develop a story for the length and format that suits it best… and that avenue will exist as a viable place to make it.  It used to be that my whole focus was writing and developing for films, which meant that novels, epics, life stories, everything had to be honed within an inch of its life to squash into under two hours.  But now, if it has meat on the bones and can run for 8 or 10 episodes, then you get to mine all of that richness and include it.

Which by the way doesn’t make it automatically easy to get greenlit in the new digital and television formats — the networks and streaming service bosses are inundate with choice, so only the very best, or very most commercially, potentially money-making get the go-ahead.  And also to note there is still rather average televsion out there, alongside the shining brilliance.  But at least there is a world of possibility right now that didn’t exist when film and television were almost antithetical.

Whilst scrolling through your IMDb credits, I noticed that in the world of film specifically, you have a very diverse set of projects that you have brought to the world. Films like Stander and The Journey Is the Destination are independently incredible, but on the surface are very different types of films. With that being said, I am curious to know what may be some sort of common ground you tend to go after when you’re picking a project you would like to work on? What does a project require in order to give you that good “gut feeling” that this should be brought out into the world?

If only I could pick and choose which of my film projects I got to make, and in what order!  If only I was the Goddess of Financing, or had a crystal ball of casting… If I was in charge of that, then you might find a more cohesive body of work.  Well, maybe not totally cohesive — I have a broad range of interests.  Plus I like to explore some new territory with each grand adventure.  I can fall in love with great characters in varying tones and genres.  But the one thing I believe is the ‘glue’ to the stories I am hoping to make — or actively pursuing — is that they tend to be true stories of extraordinary lives.  They also fall into the category of truth is stranger than fiction, ie. you can’t make this stuff up!

I love the process of having my eyes opened by true details you could never have imagined.  It’s like a treasure hunt to find all the players left in the world who can tell you what really happened.  I’ve become a pretty good interviewer.  I learned how to rob a bank from a convict in a Jo’burg prison, and how to kill a man with your bare hands from a Cold War operative.  I know the goings-on in a Dallas motel on a fateful day in 1963.  I also know the recipe for crystal meth because I had to film it.  To have the chance to meet the real-life subjects is like peeling back onion layers.  Like an archaeological dig of emotional experiences.  Best to discard the generic stuff of clichés, and delve into uniquely human kinds of crazy.

 

 

Of the existing films, the can’t make this up is definitely true of STANDER, my film of the bank robber in apartheid-era South Africa who turned out to be the Captain of Police.  It’s true of Dan Eldon, the subject of The Journey is the Destination, who traveled to 40-plus countries, published a book, started a charity, and became the youngest photojournalist for Reuters, all before the age of 22.

I’m working on two films about spies, one in Cuba and another who was a Romeo spy for the KGB.  I’m digging up dirt on Edward Teller in the Atomic Age.  I’m off to Havana on a musical about the last moments of corruption and glamour before the Revolution changed it all.  There is a limited series in the works which involves ten different people’s stories coalescing into the same historical event.

And then there are other projects which I just think are fascinating, and yet fit none of the above, so yeah… diverse.  But so very, very delicious to wake up to and work on every day.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

See above!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I’m obsessed with British comedians from the 1970’s.  I memorize their jokes word for word, usually in a Northern accent.  YouTube has a plethora.  Check out Colin Crompton’s back comb-over.  It’s a masterpiece.

 

Sunday Matinee: Always Amazing [Film]

 

When I was but a young boy growing up in the 90’s, I only had four favorite comedians. And it has only come to my mind in recent years who exactly the main four were. I enjoyed sitcoms and films featuring folks like Sinbad and Tim Allen, but I really didn’t know enough about stand up comedy to know that this is where they came from, thus they are not in my first four. Who were those first four? Well, I will cut the shit and tell you, as I can only imagine if you are reading this at all, you probably know who I am going to dramatically end with, and then throw in a few sentences about other comedians who made me happy as a youth, of which you won’t care, but I will continue to talk about because this is my site and I will do whatever the fuck I want to do. Fight me. I’m sorry. I probably wouldn’t fight. Anyway those comedians were: George Carlin, Andrew Dice Clay, Jeff Foxworthy, and….yeah, you guessed it, The Amazing Johnathan. The first two were simply the products of a 9 year old boy living in the New Mexico desert who was told not to listen to certain CD’s in his Dad’s CD collection, so of course he had to listen to certain CDs in his Dad’s CD collection and would eventually learn about the 7 words you can’t say on TV as well as the idea that Old Mother Hubbard was really just wanting some some serious dog dicking. Foxworthy was a product of my mother being somewhat of a “redneck”, but not really, and his stuff being clean enough to play on road trips with me in the car. And c’mon, I was probably like 10 when he really broke.

The latter though, was more of a product of my own bemusement, and actually came around the early pre-teen years for me. The Amazing Johnathan was an almost spastic psychopath that I feel was put on a loop for so many years on the new founded network that seemed to only come on at my Dad’s house because he had cable in the city known as Comedy Central. Back in the day, when CC still cared about stand up comedy (they’re coming back to it, I know) you could not miss this incredible “magician”. His antics were as animated as they were clever, and I couldn’t get enough of the guy.

Cut to almost two decades later: Carlin remained in my wheelhouse probably because I began to adore the films of Kevin Smith; Dice somehow managed to reach legendary status, a feat that only time will understand; Foxworthy stayed the course and managed to only be the 3rd weakest member of his crew falling short of a dude with a fake name and damn good line of beer bread you seem to only find in the midwest; and The Amazing Johnathan…..I feel like I NEVER heard from him again.

And then one rainy day in 2019, I’m listening to an episode of Doug Loves Movies, and I hear the always wonderful Steve Byrne talking about a documentary he has made about somebody named The Amazing Johnathan, and it’s free on YouTube. So I thought, “Well, I better check this shit out before they decide to charge for it!”. And as soon as I saw that face, that bandana, and that bewilderment, I was immediately sent back in time to a much simpler era of my life. There he was, the one who got away. Now, this is not to say that The Amazing Johnathan wasn’t out there performing and doing amazing (as one would assume, right?) things out there in the world while I was losing and then regaining interest in the world of comedy. No, he was out there killing it in pre-internet, pre-400 streaming services, world of Vegas and beyond and just somehow completely missing my radar. But thanks to the wonderful Steve Byrne and the insane people at All Things Comedy, we have an amazing documentary available for free (so, so, stupid, we’ll get into that) on YouTube entitled Always Amazing. And I’m here to tell you, Folks: it’s absolutely brilliant.

 

 

Always Amazing is, first and foremost, an absolutely brilliantly made documentary. It tells the tale of a true to life screw up who used his wild personality to achieve acclaim and fortune by forming an identity that was completely wrapped around the power of being zany. The Amazing Johnathan clearly had an animated soul, and the comedic sensibilities that combined the appeal of Gallagher with the psychosis of Charles Manson. And it worked! For so many damn years, it worked beautifully. What do you do when you realize you may not be the best “magician” in the world? Well, you first realize that you are also an incredibly funny person, and you make the two work together! I believe that is truly what this film is all about at its core. But beyond this fact, this is also the tale of a man who befriends a young boy and they have a healthy relationship as friends over the years. Now, I know that last line seems a bit strange and out of left field, but save it people. There are jokes to be made, and as we learn throughout the film may be right in Johnathan’s proverbial wheelhouse, but what is truly on display here is a pure bond that is so touching and insanely heartfelt. Nothing more.

The film is also the documentation of a man who lived a life, as the kids would say: hard AF. In the 90’s you were never really an “alcoholic” or a “drug addict”, as long as you were a performer. If you created art in any kind of way, you were an artist, not a drunk. We didn’t seem to combine the two. Tupac Shakur was a straight up pothead and alcoholic, and died at 25 years old. But, he was idolized because of the art he created. Hunter S. Thompson was an absolute madman and was lucky that he was such a wildly bad shot with a pistol that he never killed anyone before killing himself. But, the ART! This is what signified The Amazing Johnathan as a true talent. He was always fucked up. But, guess what? 14 year old Ronnie Trembath didn’t know that watching his Comedy Central specials. I didn’t know the pain behind the eyes. How would I have guessed that 20 years later I would be watching a film about this man on this new “internet” thing and realizing, “oh, he was just fucked up all the time!”. But alas, here we are. And thanks to the likes of folks like Steve Byrne, we are now learning what exactly are the consequences of a life lived so hard and based around the means of enthralling audiences.

I am completely aware that we are in a weird renaissance for comedy. Over the last 5 years or so, I have returned to loving the format, and actually got my ass out to some shows lately. Documentaries about road dog comics and television personalities are becoming rampant as the bubble continues to blow up. The infiltration of comedians into podcasting and YouTube has really made this whole set up flourish. Think about it: podcasts are simply talk radio. YOUNG PEOPLE ARE LISTENING TO TALK RADIO! It’s truly fascinating. So with that thought in mind, I am truly not that surprised to see that The Amazing Johnathan is having his moment back in the sun, all in his time of dying.

 

So, Folks, please see the below link to check out Always Amazing. And if you can find some way to give money to Steve Byrne, All Things Comedy, the film’s crew, whoever it is, please consider doing so as, again, this incredibly well made documentary about an incredible human being is FREE! Enjoy!

 

 

Saturday Special: Clinton Road [Film]

 

“In the film, scripted by Derek Ross Mackay, a widowed fire fighter seeks closure after his wife goes missing on an actual haunted road in rural New Jersey but must unlock the roads secret if he wants to get out alive.” – October Coast PR

 

Let me kick things off by saying this: New Jersey is scary as fuck. I’ve never actually been there, but from what I have heard over the years, possibly just from people who live in Philly, there is a lot of weird shit happening in the Garden State. Growing up as a huge Kevin Smith and Zach Braff fan, I think I assumed it was all just fun, slacker-oriented horseplay happening up there. And now, I see Clinton Road? What the hell is happening?

More on the subject at hand, Clinton Road is an absolute masterpiece in horror cinema. This film has an emotional depth that is comparable to any mainstream horror sensation you are likely to know by name. This film truly has it all. Whether it’s jump scares from creepy ass kids, to oral sex GIVEN to a female at an inopportune time, all of the elements are covered. There is even a great deal of mysticism, and a brilliant amount of Ice-T telling a dumbass group of white kids to not go fucking around in the woods, all the while knowing that they are going to do just that.

 

 

Renowned actor Richard Grieco has dabbled in the off-camera world for many years, mostly has a producer, including the wonderful film The Green Fairy directed by our old friend Dan Frank, as well as another old friend of our’s, Rolfe Kanefsky, Art of the Dead, which also features another dear friend, the great Sarah French. Alright, that’s enough name-dropping for now. But, Grieco has now taken it a step further in the world of horror in which he has already immersed himself within ever so nicely, to sitting in the director’s chair. And I will be damned if Clinton Road isn’t a prime example of a legendary figure who truly GETS the horror genre. He does a bang up job with this film that I know you all are bound to enjoy.

And thanks to a wonderful script, an incredible young cast, and some non-Ice-T cameos from the likes of Vincent Pastore, Fredro Starr of Onyx fame, and Eric Roberts, who is absolutely hilarious by the way, Grieco had a wonderful gathering of great things to work alongside with bonafide writer/director (and Leonardo DiCaprio’s former bodyguard, according to IMDb) Steve Stanulis. Seriously Folks, Clinton Road is not be missed! Check it out as soon as you can, if not sooner!

 

Clinton Road is in select theaters now and will be available on DVD and VOD soon!