2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Video Game Haiku Review – “LEGO The Hobbit”

    Wed, April 30, 2014 by Terry Terrones with no comments

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    Title: LEGO The Hobbit
    Format: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PS Vita PC, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS
    Price: $29.99-$59.99
    Publisher: TT Games
    Developer: 
    
Warner Bros.
    ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
    The Grade: B –

    LEGO The Hobbit Haiku Review

    Explore Middle Earth

     Play through the last two movies

     Bilbo chills with dwarves

    Summary: “LEGO The Hobbit” is inspired by the first two films in The Hobbit trilogy: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug.” If you’re a fan of those two films you’ll have a good idea of what kind of action you’ll see in this game, but “LEGO The Hobbit” also extends the experience. Gamers will be able to play along with their favorite scenes from the films including Bag End, Rivendell, Goblin Town and Mirkwood. Gamers will also get to play as their favorite characters including Gandalf, Bilbo and what seems like 100 different elves. As you would expect from a LEGO game, there is quick and easy drop-in/drop-out gameplay and plenty of puzzles to solve and items to collect. There’s a ton of exploring and fighting to do as well. “LEGO The Hobbit” will certainly give you your money’s worth, providing plenty of hours of gameplay. A new craft making system gives the game a Minecraft-lite feel, a very welcome addition.

    While “LEGO The Hobbit” is a fun title, it does have some flaws. Most of the puzzles are very simple and easy to solve, which can lead to some monotony. The game is also likely only to be of interest to fans of The Hobbit. Unlike some other LEGO titles, if you’re not familiar with The Hobbit films, chances are you’ll be confused as to what’s going on. The Hobbit canon can be pretty complex. These issues aside, I found “LEGO The Hobbit” to be yet another solid entry into an already reliable franchise.

    Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamePro, GamesBeat, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.

  • Zombie expert Max Brooks coming to Denver Comic Con

    Tue, April 29, 2014 by Terry Terrones with no comments

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    Denver Comic Con announced yesterday that Max Brooks will appear at the convention on Saturday, June 14, 2014 to host a premium meet-and-greet and one limited-seating Q&A for DCC ticket-holders.

    Tickets to a special “Max Brooks Meet-and-Greet” on Saturday June 14, 2014, are available for purchase by only 75 lucky con attendees with a valid, paid admission, so hopefuls are advised to purchase immediately. The $150 Meet-and-Greet tickets can be purchased online at www.DenverComicCon.com under the Tickets tab. For fans unable to purchase the special reception tickets, Brooks will also appear on a Q&A panel that Saturday in DCC’s Main Events Hall, and will sign an extremely limited number of autographs in Celebrity Summit on Saturday.  The Q&A panel is open to all Con attendees with a paid admission, but seating is limited. Fans having purchased the limited Meet-and-Greet passes will also gain Speed Pass first-entry access to the Q&A.

    “The Zombie Survival Guide,” Brooks’ first book release, is the result of Brooks’ search for both the living dead and the ways to eradicate them, which has taken him to over 30 countries and territories in Europe, Russia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Arctic, and Sub-Saharan Africa. Brooks’ “The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks,” reveals how other eras and cultures have dealt with—and survived—the ancient viral plague. Brooks’ New York Times best-seller, “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War,” has been made into a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt. Brooks’ most recent release, the graphic novel “The Harlem Hellfighters,” was released on April 1, 2014.

    The son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, Max Brooks is completely dedicated to the cause of raising awareness on the issue of Zombie survival. Born in New York City in 1972, Brooks’ introduction to the living dead began with a traumatic childhood incident, an incident he still refuses to discuss. Since that time, he has devoted much of his life to the study and development of anti-ghoul security. He is, at present, the leading Western student in the Afro-Caribbean martial art of Mkunga- Lalem, the world’s oldest and most effective anti-ghoul fighting skill.

     

  • Q&A: “24: Live Another Day” showrunners Evan Catz and Manny Coto

    Mon, April 28, 2014 by Terry Terrones with no comments

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    I recently sat in on a Fox conference call with Evan Catz and Manny Coto, the executive producers and show runners of “24: Live Another Day.” The drama, starring Kiefer Sutherland reprising his role as Jack Bauer, returns to Fox with a two hour premiere on Monday, May 5. Below is a transcript of the conversation.

    Q: Obviously not too many shows get a second chance like this. I’m wondering, especially for Kiefer and for Mary Lynn, but also for Kim and for William, how did the actors approach “24” the second time around?
    Evan: I think that Kiefer wanted to make sure that he understood where the character had been and had somewhere interesting to go with the character when we sat with him. And for Bill Devane the same was true; we’re doing something interesting with his character we don’t want to reveal. He’s president, but there’s another big issue he’s wrestling with.

    And the same for Kim Raver and Mary Lynn. Mary Lynn’s character has had quite a radical journey, which over the first three episodes becomes clear.  For Kim Raver, the last time we saw her, she was catatonic.  So, of course, she came in and we chatted with her about what she had been through. So everyone, kind of before they shipped off to London, we were all on the same page.

    Q: The fans couldn’t be happier that the show is coming back, the critics are excited that the show is coming back. What excited you guys about bringing the show back?
    Manny: A lot of things excited us. I think there was a feeling amongst all of us – even though when season 8 finished, and we were tired and we were kind of ready to move on – I think all of us felt that there was more to this story and that Jack Bauer’s character was not quite ready to shuffle off the stage. Of course, there was talk of a movie, so it was generally agreed that there would be more.

    So when this came around, I think a lot of our thoughts that we had been kind of percolating over the years kind of bubbled forth. I think both of us experienced people coming up to us saying I wish that show were still on the air; I miss the show; I miss Jack Bauer. And I think, you know, when the opportunity appeared, we had kind of a reservoir of ideas and thoughts about this character and where he would be now that we were able to draw on.

    Particularly exciting is because he is a fugitive – he was a fugitive – and on the run from his own government. A man who had saved the United States multiple times, that same country has turned its back on him. So that is a fantastic dynamic to start a series and something that we seized on and really energized us.

    At the same time, the idea of Chloe O’Brian also being, kind of, a fugitive, almost as much a fugitive as Jack, having turned her back against the government, as well. You take these two characters and you say to yourself, you know, there is an event that requires the two of them to work together to come back together and work against the very – and at the same time, try to help the government. Save Americans, but at the same time fighting the very government that gave them this opportunity. It’s a great dynamic we’ve decided to explore.

    Q: With the success you see on shows like “True Detective,” other event shows over on FX with “Fargo,” what advantages do you see that something like a short run event series has today on TV.
    Evan: I think that in terms of an ability to platform something special – I think in “24’s” case, where people’s viewing habits have changed, asking people to devote 24 consecutive weeks to a highly serialized show, you know, maybe is a bigger ask than it was 10 years ago. So I think one advantage in this case is I think it’s more inviting.

    I also think it is more special. It’s not going to happen all the time; it’s not taking place over a year. This is a chunk of time. And it gives the network the opportunity to put more oomph behind its launch.

    Q: Your show has always been very vested in what’s been going on in the political sphere. I was wondering what kind of shifts in the political world you were interested in the last couple years since it’s gone off the air and how they informed crafting the new season.
    Manny: There were a number of political developments over the years that we seized upon when we started conceiving the season. Things that were in the zeitgeist, things that were talked about, that we felt could lead us to a really interesting, possible villain and character for the season. That is the whole idea of government spying on its citizens and the technology and consequently individuals who appear who are trying to fight that and to counter that level.

    So it led us to a fascinating character in the season who is doing just that. And it also gave us an idea for what to do with Chloe O’Brian. See, she is someone, like Jack, who has turned against the government. Jack is a man of action, so when he turns against the government, he goes, you know, in a different direction. Chloe, someone who lives behind the keyboard, how does she get “revenge?” Well, she goes the Edward Snowden route. So it opened up some interesting possibilities for the Chloe character.

    And also the idea of drones, which have become larger in the military landscape since the show was on. I think we featured a drone on one season in the first eight years. But, at that time, the drones were kind of smaller and flimsier and didn’t look particularly menacing.  Now, the drones that are in reality and are in operation now and some that are on the drawing board are large, menacing things from the sky that can blow up entire buildings. We wanted the show to have a flavor of its old self, but also to take into account the changes that have gone on.

    Q: This season starts in London. Can you talk a little bit about your decision to take the show there and what it was like to bring the action to London?
    Evan: You know, Jack is put into exile at the end of season eight, so I think that initially gave us the idea that, you know, sure, we could start him back here, but wouldn’t it be great for him to still be in exile? And I think it was also an opportunity – we’d been in L.A. for the show’s run, even though we sometimes set in other cities, to sort of truly take it international.

    A couple of cities were mentioned, but London is A) full of this great iconography, and B) part of the story line is, is the Anglo-American alliance, which is also really interesting in the potential strings, not only that it’s actually come under because of the Iraq war, but that it’s going to come under because of Jack Bauer.

    Q: I’m sure that you have heard many times and laughed at the comments that people make over the years about why Jack Bauer never goes to the bathroom. I know Kiefer’s even commented about that before. And this format with 12 hours, not only does it make it possible that you all can, you know, that’s not an issue anymore, but also more important dramatically, it allows you to just focus on the really good parts of the story and not have as much risk of a slower subplot. I was wondering if you would comment about that.
    Manny: The 12 hours allows us to really condense the story telling. In a 24-hour season, we kind of knew how many episodes we had to fill and where we had to go. And very often, during a season, we’d find ourselves trying to stretch out plots as much as they could go to fill up the vast material. 

    Here, we find ourselves really compressing the action. We’re finding ourselves, very often, a little short of the runway as far as finishing off plots and coming up to the end of the season, and it’s very challenging. So it is definitely an accelerated form of storytelling that we’re working with this year. And if I can just address the old when does Jack go to the bathroom? I’ve got to confess, I’ve always found that the strangest comment.

    Jack is off-screen for huge amounts of time on this show. I mean, he is. So why couldn’t he be going to the bathroom then? It’s not like the camera is following him around and he’s on-screen the entire season. So people constantly quote that as if it’s the most –

    Evan: Pithy.

    Manny: – pithy revelation.  And I always look at them and say well Jack’s going to the bathroom when we’re on the president, which sometimes takes an entire act.

    David: There you go.

    Manny: But you know what I’m saying?  He actually does go to the bathroom; we just don’t see it.

    Q: I was just wondering, any real fan of the show knows how important Chloe O’Brian is to the show and how important she is to Jack. I was wondering, you know, we’ve never seen her quite like this before, and her introduction into the series is radically different. I was wondering how did you guys come to that idea, and why?
    Manny: When we left season eight – this is Manny speaking. When we approached this season, this 12-episode event, we wanted it to be something special, something different, something that will surprise, that fans will like, but will also surprise them. And we also had to take into account that four years have passed and the characters have changed radically.

    At the end of season eight, the last time we saw them, Jack was sent into exile for crimes he had committed against the state and against the Russians. But the person who helped Jack go into exile was Chloe O’Brian. The very last scene of the series is Chloe turning off the satellite so Jack can get away.

    Well, we have to go with that; we can’t just ignore that. So the obvious place to go is that Chloe O’Brian herself came under scrutiny, herself was charged, and herself became a fugitive. Jack became a fugitive in his way; he’s a man of action. He went where he went. And Chloe, who is somebody who lives her life behind a keyboard, took “arms against the government” in her way, and became embittered and suffered her own personal tragedy. I don’t know how far you were into the series, but things will be revealed as far as what she went through.

    So it gives the characters a place to go to.  A) It’s surprising, we haven’t seen them this way before. But we also get the dramatic reward of seeing them, possibly, come together again.  And possibly reawaken their old selves.

    Q: Yvonne Strahovski is amazing in this, and Kate Morgan strikes me as having the potential to be a kind of female equivalent of a young Jack Bauer. I was wondering how that character developed?
    Evan: We really liked the idea of very, very early on bringing in a female point of view character.  I’d say the first, at least, month or so of talking about the new season was largely focused on who this woman would be, what her backstory would be, and there was a lot of trial and error, but we wanted to make sure she had a wound, some kind of wound that pursuing Jack Bauer might potentially heal.  We also wanted to make sure that there was the potential for her to be able to relate to Jack in terms of personal tragedies they had experienced.

    Q: I wanted to see if you guys could explain the decision to condense the show from 24 hours into 12 episodes as opposed to, you know, maybe doing something like “24: Redemption” did, where it was 2 hours of real time. Is there a reason why you guys opted to condense the 24 hours as opposed to just doing 12 real time hour episodes?
    Manny: Well, first of all, the 12 hours are like “24: Redemption.” This is a real time series and it remains a real time series. There’s no difference in the way we are treating the show itself.  All we are doing is presenting 12 hours out of a 24-hour period. But the episodes themselves are real time, as “Redemption” was and as the original series was. 

    The idea for this, to do a 12-hour season, I think has a lot to do with the success of 12-hour, limited series. I think “Under the Dome” was something that probably sparked the network and/or the studio’s curiosity about doing something like this. It makes it a special event; it makes it something to catch.

    We’re not restarting the series, we are presenting the next day in Jack Bauer’s life, and in the 12-hour format, it becomes a, hopefully, a must watch event because it’s a one-time thing. So I think the 12-hour format was attractive in that respect.

    It also allows us to, you know, for us, as writers, it’s been fun to condense the storytelling into this 12 hours. I mean, we find ourselves, when we look down the runway of the season, we don’t have 24 hours to fill, whereas in the old series, very often we might try to stretch things out because we knew we had so much time. Now we’re finding ourselves with the end in sight and really working to resolve all of our story lines. So it’s becomes more compressed and more exciting, we think.

    Q: When you spoke earlier about spying and technology – I was wondering how has Jack remained underground in today’s environment?
    Evan: You know, living off the grid is something that I think is really interesting to us. Most of what happened over the last four years at least begins as a mystery, which we unpeel a little bit over the course of the 12 episodes. We just simply assume that someone with Jack Bauer’s tremendous skill set and knowledge – since he was a hunter, he knows how to avoid hunters.

    Q: Could you talk a little bit about how he fits into the world now that he has to go back into Action Jack Mode?
    Manny: One of the fun things about this season is that, actually, Jack doesn’t fit into the world. It’s a challenge for him to find his place back into the world, and that’s actually part of what this season is about. Can Jack return to what he was? And the question is definitely up in the air. 

    This is a man who wasn’t just exiled, but something has happened to him over these four years where he has been in exile and he has been running. There is a mystery as to what he was up to, there. Did Jack go through a period where he was not a hero? Where he turned, for lack of a better phrase, to turn to the Dark Side? We don’t know. But it’s an interesting mystery. I’m saying we know, but you don’t know, yet. It’s an interesting mystery that’s part of the season. You hit upon – one of the themes that we’re working with is that Jack possibly return to this world?

    Q: I’m wondering why do people who have never watched an episode of “24” have to watch this series?
    Evan: I think that we’re delivering something that’s not on TV right now. I think it’s just as intense a thriller as it ever was. I think, if anything, it’s on a larger scope, and the scale is extremely impressive.  It’s a much more international show. 

    You don’t need to have, certainly, watched “24” before – we’re very careful to make sure people are brought up to speed. But we just feel that Jack Bauer’s become part of the cultural iconography out there and this is a good, 12-week – actually 11-week, because the first two are airing in one night – way to have a great roller coaster ride. If you haven’t seen it, see what all the fuss was about.

    Q: Could there be another season – or if you want to call it another event – if this does as well as we hope it does?
    Manny: Nothing is impossible, but we are treating this season as a one-time miniseries. A one-time series event. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and the ending could be the end of “24” for good, if you look at it that way. It depends on how you look at it. 

    I guess my answer is: it’s possible, certainly. Obviously, it’ll depend on eyeballs, if people tune in. But one thing to keep in mind is we all came back to tell this one last story, one last day in Jack Bauer’s life. If there’s more beyond, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

     

  • Local radio, TV stations earn Edward R. Murrow honors

    Tue, April 22, 2014 by Terry Terrones with no comments

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    Today the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) announced the 2014 regional winners of the Edward R. Murrow Awards. The awards recognize the best journalism produced by radio, television and online news organizations. Among the recipients named were one local radio station and two local TV stations – KRCC (91.5 FM), KXRM-TV and KKTV-TV were recognized for their achievements in news.

    “We’ve witnessed some very significant events over the past couple years – fires, floods, you name it,” said KKTV general manager Nick Matesi of his station’s Overall Excellence Award. “I’m just proud of how our staff gives it 110% each day to keep people informed.”

    Radio station KRCC won the Regional Breaking News Edward R. Murrow Award for its coverage of last summer’s Manitou Springs flood. Fox affiliate KXRM won the Continuing Coverage Award for its broadcast of the Black Forest fire.

    “Receiving this award for the second straight year is extremely humbling for our newsroom,” said KXRM news director/anchor Joe Cole. “When we ramp up coverage for natural disasters like fires or flooding we do so out of necessity in getting information to viewers and the public. The recognition by fellow journalists is rewarding but we’d give up any award in a heartbeat if we could avoid our community having to go through these types of tragic events.”

    Regional winners automatically advance to the national Edward R. Murrow Awards competition, which will be judged in May. National awards, including those for network news organizations, will be presented at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City on October 6.

    A full list of the winners for Region 3, which includes Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, can be viewed at the RTDNA website.

    Click on these links to see the coverage that earned each station their award – KRCC, KXRM, KKTV.

  • TV Review: ABC’s “Black Box”

    Tue, April 22, 2014 by Terry Terrones with no comments

    DITCH DAVEY, KELLY REILLY, DAVID AJALA

    “Black Box

    Cast: Kelly Reilly (“Sherlock Holmes”), Ditch Davey (“Spartacus”), Laura Fraser (“A Knight’s Tale”), Terry Kinney (“Oz”) and Vanessa Redgrave (“Howards End”)

    Air-date, time: The pilot episode airs at 9 p.m. Thursday April 24 on ABC

    The premise: Dr. Catherine Black, world famous neurologist, is at the top of her game. Each week, this beautiful and brilliant doctor will attempt to unravel the mysteries of the brain while hiding her own secret: she’s bipolar. There’s only one person who knows everything – her psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hartramph (Redgrave). Hartramph is intuitive, deeply insightful, and strong, an imposing mentor and mother figure.

    The focus of this series is the brain. The brain is the source of everything – from whom we love to how we act and feel. It is the ultimate mystery, which is why doctors call it, the “black box.” Catherine and the staff of “The Cube,” a state-of-the-art neurological center, will constantly be challenged by cases never seen before. The patients being studied have rare, highly visual, often hallucinogenic and startling conditions, which we will see through their eyes as Catherine diagnoses and treats them.

    Highs: The show is only an hour long.

    Lows: I tortured myself through three episodes of “Black Box,” each one worst than the next. I’ve never seen a series try so hard to make a character look like a tortured genius yet fail so miserably. No matter how hard the show tried to heap fictitious honors on Catherine Black, or make her seem intelligent by jamming multi-syllabic words in her mouth, every time she’s onscreen her character is unbelievable and unlikable. I don’t blame Kelly Reilly, who was enjoyable enough in the “Sherlock Holmes” films. The problem is how over the top ridiculous Dr. Black is made out to be. When your main character thinks she’s flying over San Francisco after sleeping with her limo driver because she’s celebrating giving a brilliant talk at prestigious neurological conference, that character is severely flawed.

    As for the patients Dr. Black studies? They come out of the mental illness cliché handbook. There’s the guy who hears voices in his head. The woman who sees what looks like a cross between a leprechaun and a Keebler elf that doesn’t really exist. There’s another woman who can only see the right side of the world. It’s all a bit too silly. Dr. Black is also put in a bunch of awkward scenarios: An absolutely ridiculous physical encounter with her boyfriend AND a doctor she works with when she’s “off her meds” (they happened consecutively, not at the same time). Dr. Black has a daughter she has her brother and sister-in-law raise that’s now a teenager. The daughter doesn’t know that Catherine’s her real mother. Then there’s the saint of a boyfriend, who repeatedly gets treated like garbage by Catherine yet still wants to marry her and have kids. Add it all together and you have one of the dumbest “smart” shows on TV, with the most cringe inducing character you’ll ever see.

    Grade: (F): I’m stunned this show made it on air after ABC execs saw the pilot. “Black Box” is dreadful and is probably the worst pilot I’ve seen in my three years as The Gazette’s media columnist. The show gets slightly less loopy as the series goes on but if “Black Box” isn’t cancelled after two episodes I’ll be surprised.

  • TV Review: CBS’s “Bad Teacher”

    Mon, April 21, 2014 by Terry Terrones with no comments

    BAD TEACHER

    “Bad Teacher

    Cast: Ari Graynor (“The Guilt Trip”), Kristin Davis (“Sex and the City”), David Alan Grier (“In Living Color”), Sara Gilbert (“Roseanne”) and Ryan Hansen (“Veronica Mars,” “Party Down”)

    Air-date, time: The pilot episode airs at 8:30 p.m. Thursday April 24 on ABC

    The premise: “Bad Teacher” is a comedy based on the feature film of the same name about an inappropriate former trophy wife who masquerades as a teacher in order to find a new man after her wealthy husband leaves her penniless. Dumped, divorced and broke due to a bad pre-nup, Meredith Davis (Graynor) is inspired by her friend’s smart, awkward stepdaughter, Lily (Sara Rodier), to devise the perfect three-step plan: 1) Pose as a teacher at Lily’s middle school; 2) Meet and marry a rich single dad; 3) Return to a lavish lifestyle. Using a phony resume Meredith effortlessly charms Principal Carl Gaines (Grier), who is easily duped and oblivious to her agenda. The faculty includes Joel (Hansen), her handsome former high school classmate-turned-gym teacher, who sees right through her but is amused by her antics; Irene (Gilbert), a shy, introverted teacher who’s overly excited at the possibility of making a best friend; and Ginny (Davis), the up-tight faculty president and busybody who resents Meredith and suspects something’s fishy.

    Highs: The cast is solid, with plenty of awkward characters portrayed by actors with excellent comedic timing. Sara Gilbert’s nerdy teacher is constantly seeking approval and is fun to watch as she struggles with her lack of social skills. Kristen Davis plays a by-the-book rule follower with ease, giving Graynor a nice foil. I’ve never been that big a fan of David Alan Grier but he’s certainly one of the highlights of the show. Grier’s Principal Gaines is divorced and his life is in shambles, he provides plenty of laughs when he overshares about his troublesome home life.

    Ari Graynor is also well cast. I’d never seen any of her previous work but she balances her character, who is both completely inappropriate around kids yet also looks out for them and is an oddly positive influence, with humor and skill. In the two episodes I watched she was full of solid one-liners.

    Lows: There’s a good chance this show will offend some viewers. Much of the offensive language, almost all of it said around child actors, could be viewed as being in poor taste. It didn’t bother me personally but there were some moments that made me cringe (most of the time in a good way) and I could understand if certain people found “Bad Teacher” offensive. On an unrelated note, the presentation of this show needs some attention. It’s unclear if producers were sure viewers would pick up on some of “Bad Teacher’s” humor because the episodes I watched had overly loud music to try and set the mood of every scene. It was unnecessary and distracting.

    Grade: (B): I found “Bad Teacher” to be a pleasant surprise. I had seen the 2011 film starring Cameron Diaz (she’s a producer of this series) and didn’t find it particularly funny but this show hits the comedic marks that the movie misses. The TV version of “Bad Teacher” makes for a much solid blend of crude humor and heart. 

  • Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) to appear at Denver Comic Con

    Thu, April 17, 2014 by Terry Terrones with no comments

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    Denver Comic Con announced today that actor Stephen Amell will appear at the convention on Saturday, June 14, 2014. Amell stars in CW’s hit television show “Arrow” as Green Arrow/Oliver Queen.

    “Amell’s Green Arrow is a shining example of how well DC comics is bringing its characters to television,” said Dr. Christina Angel, DCC convention director. “’Arrow’ is a hugely popular show; we’re honored to have Stephen in Denver.”

    The premiere of “Arrow” in 2012 drew more than four million viewers, making it the CW’s most watched program in more than three years. The show is a critical success and continues to be one of the most watched shows on the network. Prior to “Arrow,” Amell appeared in “The Vampire Diaries,” as a series regular, on the third season of HBO’s “Hung,” had recurring roles on Fox’s comedy “New Girl” opposite Zooey Deschanel, as well as a romantic arc with Amy Brenneman as EMT “Scottie” on ABC’s “Private Practice.”

    Amell joins other DCC celebrity guests such as Bruce Campbell, Adam West, Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, Karl Urban, Michael Rooker, Chandler Riggs and Jennifer Hale.

  • Q&A: Kitchen Nightmares EP Arthur Smith talks about Gordon Ramsay’s temper and the show’s visit to Colorado

    Wed, April 16, 2014 by Terry Terrones with no comments

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    I recently had a chance to sit in on a Fox conference call with Arthur Smith, executive producer “Kitchen Nightmares.” The show started a new season last Friday and makes stops at three Colorado restaurants this season. Here’s a transcript of the conversation.

    Q: I had a chance to see the episode where Gordon revisits Amy’s Baking Company. It is very engaging, very explosive, in some ways. Can you take us back to when Ms. Garcia shows up at the restaurant and they look a little bit surprised, but are they really surprised? Did they know she was coming? Were they aware that they were going to be thrust into this episode again? What was the dynamic? What was going on there?
    A. Smith: No, they weren’t aware. I mean, we had – there was communication, as we have with all the restaurants. We talk to them and check up on them and everything else like that, so there had been conversations with them about what was going on, but you know, she really did just show up, but naturally we had to be allowed in, which they did. So it – the way you saw it was the way it was. There was no, like, “We’re coming at such-and-such a time” type of thing.

    Q: They seemed as if at one point Sammy was asking for money. He wanted to be paid for it. We never saw the resolve of that. I guess he didn’t get paid, but they did seem pretty upset when she showed up, and why did she show up? Why not Gordon?
    A. Smith: Well, I mean, you know, listen, the reason for – I’m just going to back up for a second.  The reason for us doing this special, you know, as you know, in seasons past we’ve done revisit specials and we’ve gone back to places and there’s actually going to be a revisit special in this season. This show caused so much attention for a variety of reasons and we decided to, you know, devote more time than just putting it in a revisit show of which we do usually three or four restaurants.

    So you know, considering it was the only episode in the almost 100 episodes that we’ve done that Gordon walked out of, you know, like I said, that was another reason why we did it. The way things were left, with Gordon walking out and it being a very heated departure, we decided that it was best that, Gordon didn’t go nor did he want to go back because, you know, it didn’t end well. You know, most of our “Kitchen Nightmares” episodes end – as you know, they end very happy.  We’re there to help and that’s what Gordon was trying to do the entire time he was there.

    So, we preferred to do it this way. You know, send a reporter in to, you know, and have her check up on them and see what they’re doing and see how they were feeling and everything else, and as you know, in the show, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, I mean, Gordon’s hosting the show. He is providing commentary on what he went through, what he was feeling at the time. He’s also, you know, introducing pieces about the media firestorm that happened, you know, following the airing. He’s also introducing and setting up bonus material that didn’t fit into the show. It was a tough show to edit down to 42 minutes, so we had a lot of extra material that we thought would be interesting for people to see.

    So I mean, it’s a jam-packed show with a lot of information and stuff like that and I think, I think people are going to be very interested. We know people are very interested in Sammy and Amy and the restaurant, so you know, this is a way to continue the story and provide some more information.

    Q: I don’t watch a lot of reality shows but one of the things I always wonder when I watch them, and I did in this case, too, is you know, just how much of it is “real,” so I was wondering about Amy and Sammy. Are they just, like, looking for attention so they sort of play up a lot for the camera or are they just kind of really dysfunctional, to put it nicely? What do you think it is?
    A. Smith: I can’t answer for them. That’s something I can’t answer for them. “Kitchen Nightmares” is real. I mean, it’s a documentary. It’s a documentary. This notion of reality shows that are scripted, you know, it’s not “Kitchen Nightmares.”  “Kitchen Nightmares” documents what happens each week when Gordon Ramsay shows up at a restaurant and tries to turn it around.

    You know, the thing about most of these restaurants for a lot of people – and I’ll get back to Sammy and Amy in a second – but for a lot of people, opening a restaurant is fulfillment of a dream and they’ve had an idea in their mind probably years before about what they wanted to do, and it’s always hard to listen to somebody come in and say, “You’re not doing right.” You know, it’s interesting because they ask for Gordon’s help, but as soon as they hear some of his critiques it’s like they don’t want to hear it because people want to confirm what they were doing was right. Unfortunately, if it was right, then the business would be doing better.

    As for Sammy and Amy, like I said, it’s the same thing I would, you know, not just say for Sammy and Amy; I would say for any of the people who’ve appeared in our show. You’re always better off talking to them then for me trying to figure out their actions.

    Q: Gordon has quite a reputation from the shows of being kind of abrasive and foul-mouthed. Is he more like that in real life or nicer or what would you say?
    A. Smith: You know, Gordon Ramsay is a complete gentleman. I’ve known him for a long time now and you know, we also do “Hell’s Kitchen” with him. You know, he is on a mission. Actually, the thing about if you watch “Kitchen Nightmares” and you watch the breadth of the shows that we’ve done over the last six years, I think he is always on point, he’s always fair, he’s always open and you know, kitchens are – there’s a lot of, there are tense situations and things do escalate, but you know, especially on “Kitchen Nightmares.” You know, there’s a lot of nurturing moments on “Kitchen Nightmares.”  I mean, there’s a lot of things that, you know, he does.

    It’s interesting – the episode that follows Amy’s baking company this Friday, there’s, you know, “The Return to Amy’s Baking Company” is at 8:00 and then there’s an episode at a restaurant called Pantaleone’s in Colorado. Gordon and the owner of the restaurant, who’s probably the most, maybe the most stubborn owner Gordon has ever met with, they really built a phenomenal relationship and I don’t want to give it away what happens, but they have such a great connection. Such a great connection, and you could see how Gordon really cares about him, as he does about all these places. He really does take this very, very, very seriously. He really is there to help, and quite frankly, even as far as Amy’s Baking Company, it was very disappointing that he didn’t get to finish his plan. He showed up on the next day to complete a plan. He just never got to do it, and he did have a plan.

    So you know, the policy is always for Gordon as well as everybody who works on “Kitchen Nightmares” is to make, you know, to do the best we can at making these restaurants better than when we first arrived, and that’s our goal. You know, we’re going to businesses that are in trouble, so it’s always difficult to turn them around, but our goal is, you know, we just have to try to make them better. Hopefully that will work? Sorry, a very long answer to your question.

    Q: I’m calling in reference to Bella Luna, which I believe is the series finale. They’ve since had liquor code violations and have closed. I’m just wondering – clearly, they’ve had their share of problems, but I was curious what the most glaring problem was when you were there.
    A. Smith: Well, I think, you know, you know, the episode – I’ll back it up.  They had lost their way. It’s a mother and, you know, a couple of sons and I think they, they had a vision of what they wanted it to be and I think that without telling you about what’s in the episode, it’s that, their standards weren’t quite what they needed to be to serve Easton. I think that they made some bad assumptions and the problem with most of these restaurants is the food, right? So they had a lot of, a lot of frozen food and Rosaria, who’s a wonderful person and this great Italian family, but you know, it wasn’t as authentic as it needed to be and it wasn’t as fresh as it needed to be.

    So like I said, I don’t want to get into too much detail and of course, I can’t comment on any issues that they’re having, outside of what happened when we were there, but they were lovely people and the sons were awesome. You know, one of the things about Gianfranco, who was – you’re really testing my memory here – one of the things about Gianfranco, the son who was working in the restaurant, was, you know, he became a head chef. Basically, his mother installed him as the head chef with very, very little experience, so Gordon gave him like a phenomenal crash course – a phenomenal crash course.

    I mean, the other interesting thing about “Kitchen Nightmares” is what people don’t see because it’s not that interesting for television, is the amount of training that happens behind the scenes or that’s not covered on camera. There’s actually training going on. The restaurant does open. The public really does come, so there’s a great deal of training that goes on. We actually leave them with a manual and a guidebook and there’s a lot of care that goes into not only changing it but training them and then trying to give them the roadmap to follow. You know, like I said, we take this very, very seriously.

    Q: What’s the track record for the show of the number of restaurants that have succeeded versus those that have closed after you’ve been there?
    A. Smith: You know, I don’t keep the stats. I really don’t. The restaurant business is a tough business as it is. Most restaurants close within their first year of operating. There’s some horrific stats in that regard and you know, so I’m not quite sure.

    Like I said, we go to restaurants that are already in trouble. The fact that we’re able to save a number of them I think is quite an achievement and you know, they also have to follow the plan, too. So you know, some of them want to go back to their old ways, so there’s a lot of variables that, you know, that we can’t control. We know that when we leave them we’ve left them better and hopefully, hopefully they follow the path and they’ll have great success. That’s why it’s important that we do – that we always like to do a revisit special each year. We, along with Fox, talk about, you know, as we’re planning the show, it’s like people are very curious to what’s happened.  It’s exactly what you’re saying. So that’s why we always have a revisit special and this year we are doing a revisit and we’re going back to at least three restaurants so you’ll get an indication on how they’re doing.

    Q: I was curious, what was one of the biggest surprises of the season or largest transformations?  Is there anything that you were really blown away with?
    A. Smith: Okay, this coming season we have a lot of, like, a lot of – as I said, there were some strange things that happened. There was a restaurant in New York in Queens, and it was called Kati Allo. We probably had the biggest reaction I’ve ever seen to a makeover. As you know, we always makeover the restaurants or makeover the restaurants that need it, which is most of the time. The owner, Christine, I have never seen a reaction to a makeover like that. I thought she was going to pass out. I mean, it was like so huge and we always get good reactions because we do – there are some dramatic changes. It was wild.

    We also – you know, there was a restaurant this year called Old Neighborhood which was in Colorado, near Denver. You know, we’ve had bad kitchens before, but this dining room was a disaster. I don’t think we’ve ever had that combo of dining room and kitchen in bad shape, but we had both of it. Gordon goes on this mission and some of the stuff that he finds is going to be – is quite shocking. So that was, you know, memorable.

    The interesting thing about this year is that we really focused on family businesses this year.  Every restaurant in this season I think for the first time is a family-operated business. So we have husband and wife, we have mother and son, we have father, mother and son, we have father and daughter, we have mother and daughter, we have aunts and niece, which is an interesting combination. So you know, so yes, that’s another unique quality. It’s our first time in Colorado.  We’ve never been to that part of the country. We always try to go to new places every year. It’s probably the most emotional season we’ve ever done when I think back on it. I can’t – I mean, every one of them, as I’m like thinking back, every one of them, you know, just so emotional.  It’s yes, I mean, great stories. Really, really great stories.

    Q: I haven’t seen the new episode yet, “Return to Amy’s Baking Company,” but I’m wondering if you can kind of talk about why you think it resonated so much with viewers and why it became such a, you know, such a crazy hit online.
    A. Smith: Well, I think it was, you know, I mean it was very, very intense, also. So if you can recall, it was extremely intense and I think people – you know, Gordon walked out, and Gordon never walks out. So the intensity of it, the drama of it, I think was compelling and I think people were very, very curious about what was the restaurant that Gordon just had to walk out on and why he walked out. I think people were – you hear about Gordon Ramsay, the man who’s, you know, done almost 100 “Kitchen Nightmares” and has never walked out and what could have happened that made him walk out? Believe me, as you know, as you may know if you’ve watched a number of episodes, there are harder ones and more challenging ones and times when Gordon almost walked out or close to walking out or ones where he even regretted going to, but never before has there been one where he felt that he needed to because he felt he couldn’t help them because they weren’t interested in what he was saying no matter how he said it or when he said it or what he said. So I think that yes, I think that’s why it was so, people were so curious because yes, you’re right, millions watched it on the Internet.

     

  • Video Game Haiku Review – Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate Deluxe Edition

    Mon, April 14, 2014 by Terry Terrones with no comments

    Batman-Arkham-Origins-Blackgate-011-fix-600x250

    Title: Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition
    Format: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii U
    Price: $19.99
    Publisher: Armature Studios
    Developer: 
    
Warner Bros.
    ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
    The Grade: B

    Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate – Deluxe Edition Haiku Review

    Port of handheld game

     Batman in 2.5D

    Different but fun

    Summary: “Blackgate” is a port of the PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS game of the same name. The handheld version of “Blackgate,” set in the infamous Gotham prison in events that take place after “Batman: Arkham Origins,” sports tepid review scores (61/100 for the Vita and 68/100 for the 3DS version on Metacritic) and at first glance this port makes it easy to see why. The map is cumbersome, Batman has to do a lot of back tracking and players are forced to use Batman’s scanning abilities much more than they usually have to in a typical Arkham title. All that said, I thoroughly enjoyed “Blackgate Deluxe Edition.” Yes, some of the same nagging issues still exist in this console version but I found that the game’s new features (new maps, Batsuits, enhances visuals, different enemy encounters) made a big difference. I’ve played both the handheld and console versions of “Blackgate” and the console version is superior. Getting around the prison can be a chore but I still got a kick out of searching for clues, hunting for Wayne tech boxes to upgrade my gear and going after big time Batman canon villains. It also took some getting used to but the 2.5D environment is a clever way to add some challenge to the game, and combat, even though simplified, was still satisfying. If you have the patience to get used to this new style of Arkham game and are a big fan of the Dark Knight, there’s plenty of fun to be had in “Blackgate.”

    Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamePro, GamesBeat, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.

  • Photo Gallery: Spring 2014 Colorado Springs Comic and Toy Con

    Sun, April 13, 2014 by Terry Terrones with no comments

    Storm Trooper and Chewbacca

    The Colorado Springs Comic and Toy Con wraps up today. See what you’re missing out on with this photo gallery from this weekend’s event.