Monday, April 25, 2016

100 Word Review: The Huntsman-Winter's War

Blogger's Note: Yesterday I took my wife to see latest "fairy tale" movie to hit the theaters. Here's my 100 word review.

The Huntsman: Winter's War
This is both a prequel and a sequel to the 2012 Huntsman film. It stars Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain. Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron are queen sisters with magical powers and a tragic past. 
In addition, a magic mirror, and a quartet of dwarfs figure into the plot as well. Theron steals this movie but she's not on screen nearly enough. 
 There is nothing new here. It's all been done before. My wife says this film is "good but not great."If you are a fan of fairy tale movies you'll probably enjoy it. But I'd wait for the video.

Feedback Welcome: Did you see this movie too? What did you think of it? Let me know. I may share what you say on a future "feedback" post. 
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Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince and "Ron On The Radio"

Yesterday, along with the rest of the world, I learned about the death of Pop Music Icon, Prince.  

As I scanned social media and cable TV news stations there were plenty of tributes and remembrances shared by his peers in the music business and his fans. 

Anyone who has ever bought any of his albums, attended his concerts, or ever heard any of his songs has been touched by his talent to some degree. 

Although I am not a fan and can only count myself in the latter of those 3 connections, a Prince song is a musical reminder of one of my favorite times of my life. Here's my Prince story.    

In April 1984 I was in my early 20s and still living at my parents house in Phillipsburg, New Jersey. One of my life ambitions was to work as an on-the-air radio DJ.

A friend of mine, John Katinis, was working overnights on the weekends at a local FM station, Q100. I used to go and hang out with him every once in a while. He would let me use the station's production studio to tape my own music programs to play in my car. This really whet my appetite for getting into radio. 

Early in 1984, John moved from 3rd shift at Q100 to working Saturday afternoons at a small AM station in nearby Washington, NJ. When he found out that management was looking for someone to work weekend mornings he suggested I go apply for the job. 

A cassette tape with small samples of my in-studio recordings was my audition, I went to the WCRV offices. I don't really remember who I talked to or what was said, but I got the job. In hindsight I think just being a warm body willing to come into work on weekend mornings and  not looking like a serial killer was all I needed to get the job. But it didn't matter. I was totally excited. I had my first job in radio. I was going to be doing something I'd dreamt of ever since I was 10 years old. 

The station's facilities were in a converted residential home on the outskirts of town. The main studio was in a room at the front of the house with a picture window that looked out on to Route 31.   

I don't know what the exact power of the transmitter was but I do know that the signal barely reached my house just 12 miles away. My parents had to set their portable radio in a specific place in their living room in order to hear me on the air. 

It was on a Saturday morning in April 1984 that the "Ron on the Radio" program debuted. It would be on the air most weekend mornings for the next 3 years. 

I have so many stories about my time there. They include: having a blind program director who worked on the air, being scared by a stand up cut out of the group Naked Eyes and a dog doing his "business" in the middle of the sales office about 10 feet away from the studio door while I was on the air. Perhaps one day I will share the details of all of those incidents with you.  

Now let's get to the Prince connection. To do so, I have to take you into the on-air studio itself. I have found a picture to use as an example. Now this isn't exactly what WCRV's studio was like but it gives you an idea.

Even back in 1984 this was an "old school" studio. It had an antiquated sound board, a couple of tape machines that played self-rewinding tapes, and a couple of turntables The tape were officially called a "Fidelipac"  but to me it looked like a fancy 8 track tape. They were played in a front-loading machine. Here's a couple of pictures that show you what I'm talking about. 

This was in the days before computers, CDs and digital music. So the music I played on the air was on vinyl records. The format the station used was "45s". If you don't know what that is google it. 

WCRV's music format was a mixture of  contemporary pop and golden oldies.  We played most of the songs that were on the pop music charts. Some of the more popular songs were played more often in what is known in radio as the "hot rotation." 

In April 1984 the song sitting at #1 in that rotation was Prince's "When Doves Cry". This is what the 45 single on the Warner Brothers record label looked like. 

I have to admit that the song is not one of my favorites but it is mentally and emotionally connected to my early days as a radio DJ. So whenever I hear it now, I can't help but think of my time at WCRV 1480 AM, which later changed to it's call letters to WSRR.

Other songs that have that same connection for me are: "Take On Me" by AHA, Tina Turner's :What's Love Got To Do With It" and "Oh Sherrie" by Journey lead singer, Steve Perry. 

However, without a doubt my all-time favorite musical memory from my days at WCRV is discovering a Christmas time novelty song. It was a popular sound of the season back then and continues to be a holiday favorite, especially among Star Wars fans. "What Can You Get A Wookie For Christmas" is among the songs at the top of my favorite all-time Christmas novelty song list.

It's been 30 years since I first started working at that small station but in addition to the musical memories I still have a connection to some of the people I worked with there as well.

I'm still in contact with my friend, John, through Facebook. Occasionally, I hear Scott Wetzel, who was the sports guy at the station, when he hosts his own sports talk show on the Mad Dog Radio channel on Sirius satellite radio. That's a pretty good gig for a guy who came from such humble beginnings. 

So there you have the story of my personal connection to Prince. The world is sad at his passing but his memory will live on as does my personal memory of playing his 1984 #1 hit at my first radio job at a station in  Washington, NJ. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

100 Word Movie Review: The Jungle Book

This is Jon Favreau's “Jungle Book”, not Walt Disney’s. Some of the characters and the premise are the same. Other than that it's a totally different film. 
No doubt the stars of this movie are Neel Sethi (Mowgli),and the CGI India jungle. The environment is totally immersive and beautifully animated.
Shere Kahn is a menacing enemy. The supporting cast of characters are very strong too.

There is plenty of action and adventure. At times it is dark and scary; especially for younger children. It’s not the perfect film but it is enjoyable. I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

Monday, April 11, 2016

100 Word Movie Review: Hello, My Name Is Doris

Blogger's Note: Chances are you have never heard of the "inde" film, Hello, My Name Is Doris. I only know about it because of a Sirius radio interview I heard with it's star, Sally Field. With limiting my review to 100 words, I have no room to explain the setting or plot. If what I have written peaks your interest, check out your favorite movie review sites (may I suggest: IMDB, Rotten Tomatos, or to find out more. 

Hello, My Name Is Doris

As Doris Miller, a hoarder who has recently lost the mother she's cared for over the years, Sally Field, displays a range of emotion reminiscent of the many roles she's played before. She makes Doris vulnerable, funny, and lovable. The male lead, Max Greenfield, is necessary "eye candy" but like most characters, one dimensional and forgettable. As "Roz", Tyne Dailey is the only other character that's, real and likable. The story is not edgy but it is entertaining. Doris says and does things you'd never expect. Some even made me laugh out loud. If you really like Sally Field, go. 


Sunday, April 10, 2016

100 Word Movie Review: Disney's Zootopia

After bringing in over $800 million at the box office after just over 4 weeks in theaters, Disney's Zootopia is a bonifide box office hit. Yesterday, I finally got the chance to see it. Here's what I thought. 

Once again Disney has managed to create an entirely new and fascinating world full of adventure and whimsy. The duo of Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde are the best pair since Wreck-it Ralph and Vanellope Von Sweets. The supporting characters are predictable but some are hilarious and very entertaining. The story, especially the 2nd act, should only be thought of as a vehicle that brings the characters together and propels them into the animation stratosphere. Younger children could be a bit frightened at times. Pay attention, there are “Easter Eggs”.  Overall, I highly recommend Zootopia. Take the family and enjoy. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

An "On Stage" Caberet Performance

Back on Friday night, April 1st I made my to return to performing on stage. It was also a "first time" thing for me. I was part of the First Friday Cabaret Night in the BG On Stage Gaslight Theater.   

As stated on their website: BG On Stage nurtures the artistic and personal development of children, young adults, and adult community members through drama and music education, performing opportunities and live theater experiences. 

The Gaslight Theater is located behind the organization's offices on Chestnut Street in Bowling Green. It is a relatively small venue, with a simple stage set up and room for only about 200 people. 

At the start of 2016, BG On Stage started the "First Friday Cabaret" shows as a means of giving local performers an "open mic" forum to showcase their talents. 

I first heard about it on a local news program in February. I couldn't be a part of the March show, but I managed to get a spot on the program in April. I was one of about 10 performers for the evening. 

However, I didn't perform ventriloquism. For the first time, I played the ukulele in public. I played one of my favorite songs. It was written by Tom Paxton and best known as it was recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary. 

I was really nervous when I went on stage. I was facing an audience  full of people I had never met and didn't know me. I had to find a unique way to introduce myself; not only for just this first performance but any future ones as well. I did what I'm most comfortable doing on stage. I started with a few jokes.

Two of them I'd written myself and the other was an oldie but a goodie my dad used to tell. They all got laughs and set me up for being funny again in the future. 

I did rather well and had a lot of fun performing a song in public that I've been playing since I started learning the ukulele. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of video of my performance. I forgot to start my recorder on my phone. Duh!!!

I also enjoyed several of the other performance during the night as well. In keeping with the "Wild Card" theme of the night (a performer;s choice) there was quite a variety. Among them were: Two sisters who sang a duet from the movie "Tangled", another duo performed "The Time Of My Life" from Dirty Dancing complete with choreography, and a woman who had her 4 year old son "free-style" dancing on stage as she sang. The young man who acted as the MC was quite entertaining as well. 

I have already requested a spot in the First Friday lineup for May. The theme will be "Broadway." I'm not sure exactly which song I will be doing. But I know that this time I will be on stage with one of my ventriloquist partners. 

While it's only a small venue and intended mainly for younger performers, the First Friday Cabaret shows help me to do what I know I need to do more often. That's get out and be seen by as many people as possible. You can't be an entertainer if no one every sees you entertain. You never know where opportunities will come from. Like my stand-up comedy buddy, Rik Roberts, says on his podcast; in this day and age, networking is the key. 

When I do make my 2nd Gaslight Theater appearance, I'll do my best to remember to hit "record" so I can share it with you on my You Tube channel .