Archive for January, 2014


Crown Center

Fayetteville, NC

March 22, 2014

Joan Rivers is a force of nature, one of the hardest working celebrities in the world. She has enjoyed an illustrious career spanning more than four decades in the entertainment industry and beyond, and as her recent accomplishments reveal, she’s as robust and hardworking as ever.

An entertainment legend of unparalleled accomplishment and talent, Joan is an internationally renowned comedienne, Emmy-award-winning television talk-show host, Tony-award-nominated actress, bestselling author, playwright, screenwriter, film director, columnist, lecturer, syndicated radio host, jewelry designer, cosmetic-company entrepreneur, and red-carpet fashion laureate. Her continued relevance is made clear by her growing group of more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter. Above all things, however, Joan is a proud mother and grandmother.

Joan Rivers is a true pioneer: She created her own brand of irreverent, unconventional comedy and forged her own remarkable rise to stardom in the entertainment world. Enduring tawdry clubs, Borscht Belt showrooms, and grimy Greenwich Village cabarets, her career skyrocketed in 1968 when she appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Within three years she was hosting That Show with Joan Rivers, one of the first syndicated daytime talk shows. She soon made television history as the permanent guest host of The Tonight Show and helped launch the nascent Fox Network in 1986 with The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. In 1989, Joan triumphantly returned to daytime TV with The Joan Rivers Show, winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host. Joan continues to dazzle live concert audiences in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and across the entire country.


Tickets: HERE



Gary Owen is a fast rising star in comedy today. He has appeared in movies Think Like a Man, Ride Along and will reprise his role as Bennett in this summer’s Think Like a Man Too. He has appeared as a regular on Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. His comedy special Gary Owen: True Story is one of the most popular on Netflix. He has been a part of some of the best comedy tours going today and now he is coming to Raleigh.

Gary Owen is coming to Raleigh, along with the rest of the Top Shelf Comedy Tour, to the Duke Energy Center on January 31st.

MAS – For your show that is coming up, what kind of new material do you have in store for us?

Gary Owen – It is all new material, nothing that is on the internet. I just finished some of my new hour special back in November. Once you do an hour special you try to put that material to bed and you start working on a new album.  The thing about it is nobody in Raleigh has seen it because the album isn’t out yet. So, it will be all new material that’s for sure.

MAS – How has the tour been for you? I know with all your work on TV and in film being on a tour like this has to be different, how is it going for you?

Gary Owen – The tour is actually a little easier than doing comedy clubs. It’s just one a night, you’re in and out. Usually we are doing two cities a week, it’s like you leave home Friday and you are back home Sunday. It gives you all week if you want to film something, if you are on a TV show or you’re filming a movie. It easier to work around your schedule; the tour is the easiest to me.

MAS – Putting the paycheck aside, what would you prefer to do the most; Movies, TV, Touring, Clubs?

Gary Owen – The comedy club is like your gym. That is where you work out all your new stuff, get your timing down, move a joke from the beginning to the end of your set to see where it goes. The big theater shows, like when I come to Raleigh; that’s our game day, like if you were an athlete. That’s when people are getting their hair done and they got their clothes in the cleaners; you know you gotta look good. You gotta give them a good performance because the probably paid a little more than they would in the comedy club. But you are also getting four headliners, instead of one. I think it all works hand-in-hand. One hand feeds the other. It is not like you like one better than the other it is just… With movies and TV, it builds your fan base a lot faster than hitting the road. That is really what, in the end, dictates how many people pay to see you.

MAS – I saw Think Like a Man and loved you in it, you were hilarious. When I saw that all you guys were back together to make Think Like a Man Too, I was like “cool”.

Gary Owen – The sequel, we filmed it all last summer in Vegas. I think it is coming out June 20, that’s the tentative release date. In the sequel, you get to meet my wife, finally. A lot of people have been asking about that. My wife is Wendi McLendon-Covey who is from Bridesmaids; she is on The Goldbergs right now. She also used to be on Reno! 911; that is who my wife is. Our chemistry, on set, is crazy; as a couple. You know, Bennett is kind of like the homebody and you wonder where he gets that from. It’s just funny to see… You are always curious to see what his home life is like, because he is always going home to his wife.  You don’t really know what to expect. I don’t want to give too much away, but we are just a very funny couple.

MAS – In doing some looking at it on IMDB, I was scrolling through the cast list and it looks like this has quite the cast assembled. This could be one of those “sleeper” movies of the year.

Gary Owen – The thing about it is, if you get a summer release as a comedy the studio is thinking two things. Either they are very unhappy with it or they have huge expectations. For them to give us a summer release; that’s when all the blockbusters come out; they are expecting big things from the movie. I’m excited, I can’t wait. Every day we came on set you had no idea who was going to be there. There are some cast members that are not announced that I’m not allowed to say, they are under wraps.

MAS – I get that feeling, Ndamukong Suh, lineman from the Detroit Lions and running back Steven Jackson makes an appearance. That is a little interesting.

Gary Owen – There is a lot more of that, and not just in football. There is some huge entertainers, let me put it that way.

MAS – You have another movie out, Ride Along. Tell me about that one.

Gary Owen – Kevin is gonna get engaged to Ice Cube’s sister. Ice Cube goes, “You wanna be a cop, I’m gonna take you on a ride along”. It’s like a play on Training Day, with Denzel and Ethan Hawke. It’s like a comedic version of it. So he takes him on a ride along and shows him all these scenarios during the day. Basically, what happens is I have a grocery store held hostage and Ice Cube tells Kevin, “You need to go arrest this guy. This guy doesn’t have a gun, you can handle this one.” Kevin doesn’t handle me very well. To anybody that doesn’t like Kevin Hart, you are going to enjoy my character; I beat the shit out of him.

MAS – You know, comedy seems to go in cycles. Ten years ago, Chappelle was the thing, before that you had Jeff Foxworthy as the thing. Today, guys like Kevin Hart are becoming the thing. That cycle seems to keep comedy getting better and better and more dynamic. Do you think you would be as successful as you are now, 10-15 years ago?

Gary Owen – Here’s the thing about this business, you never know when your number gets called. Just have to be ready. That is what I tell comics, be ready. What I always tell up and coming comics, the best way to make it in this business as an up and coming comic is be on time for the show and do your time while you are that show. Which means, if you are scheduled to do 15 minutes, do 15. Don’t do 25 or 30, do 15. Then the other comics will be like, “Oh ok, you know, I wanna work with him. He does what he’s told.”

You had the Kings of Comedy there for a minute. It went from them to Mike Epps. You know Mike Epps has really sustained for the last 10 years. It kinda went Chappelle and then Katt for a second and then now it is Kevin, probably. You just never know. I’m being funny of course, but it’s like an email goes out to the country saying “this is who we’re going to go see now.” Some unknown email gets sent to everyone in the country, “Alright, this is the comic right now, this is who we are all going to go see.”

MAS – In your touring history, you have obviously been through North Carolina before. Where all have you been?

Gary Owen – I’ve been to Charlotte, to the BoJangles Arena. I’ve done that a few times. Me and Mike Epps were on tour last year, so we hit every major market. Raleigh, obviously I have done Charlie Goodnight’s numerous times. I’ve done all the colleges in Raleigh, every single one. I think I’ve done the two-year school; I’ve done some many schools in Raleigh. The Shaq tour came there a year and a half ago. I like Raleigh; I like it a lot. It’s a clean city.

MAS – As far as the crowds go from city to city how do your audiences change or are they pretty consistent everywhere you go.

Gary Owen – Well I make the joke that I have to be the only comic in the history of comedy that has to crossover into my own race. Black people know me; it’s the white people that are finally getting to know me now. It’s funny, at the airport or malls when black people see me and they ask for a picture, you see the white people going, “well who is it?”

MAS – That’s something else too about you that I think is truly funny. Watching your standup, I’m watching the audience go nuts laughing. Then they will do the camera shots of the one or two white guys in the audience that are afraid to laugh. They are like, “He can get away with, but can I get away with that?”

Gary Owen – I don’t think that it is they are afraid to laugh, I think they are in shock that the crowd is in such hysterics over a white dude. They are like, “I never thought I’d see this.” A lot of the time, if you look at the crowd, the white guys or white girls are looking at the audience members. They are like “Whoa!” It’s almost like seeing a Johnny Manziel play or seeing a white guy win a 100 meter dash at the Olympics. You are not expecting it, so when you see it you are like, “Whoa, did I just see that?”

It is changing, especially over the last year. A lot of it can be attributed to Think Like a Man and me being on Netflix. Now they are getting familiar with me. Now you are getting lots of people paying to see me and they don’t care who else is out there. In the past the black people were paying to see me and the white people might be coming just to see a comedy show just to go to get a night out.

MAS – Every comedian is good for a stinker or two during their careers, you haven’t had one yet. How have you kept you material at such a high quality?

Gary Owen – It’s odd; I don’t have a lot of joke jokes like with setups, middles and punchlines. A lot of them have just been stories about my life. Honestly, my act is my life on HGH and steroids. It is really my life; I am just adding stuff into it to be funnier.

That’s why it is always important to hit the comedy clubs because that’s where you really work out your material. There’s jokes like my Black and White Church joke, when I first wrote that joke it was a one-liner that I used on a Sunday night where I said, “Glad you guys made it out of church because I barely made it here.” The crowd went into hysterics and I was like ‘whoa, there is something here’. I took down a note that just said, “Black Church.” Let me keep working on this.

Something else about that joke in particular. People would want me to do that joke and I don’t really do it anymore. So what I did was, in my newest hour special, which we filmed back in November in Atlanta, I’m gonna open that special with the church skit. Like I really turned the joke into a skit now, it’s going to be me going into the black church; you see me reacting. I did it at a real black church and I hired real church members; I didn’t hire actors and actresses. It came out so funny; I can’t wait for everybody to see it.

MAS – I know it is a really old joke too, but your “Boy Bands” routine… It has the funny words, but then the physicality that you put into it just put it over the top. You would do very well in an improv type thing.

Gary Owen – A lot of times I do that. A lot of times when I am at The Improv or Funny Bones I will close my show and just say, “What do you guys want to talk about?” I’ll get jokes out of that as folks yell stuff out. It’ not me attacking the audience, it’s me having fun with them.

MAS – One of my buddies sent me a YouTube clip of you handling some heckler named “Dusty”…

Gary Owen – Aww crap, yeah!

There’s some backstory to that. I was getting ready to do the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. I live in Cincinnati, so I drove up to the Dayton Funny Bone because I wanted to work on my 5 minute set. It was open-mic night, so they were going to have me close the show.

So this guy, named Dusty, had heckled all the open-micers and they were getting ready to kick him out. I said, “Don’t kick him out, put me up next. Don’t kick him out, I’ll handle him.” So I was standing up for the young guys that couldn’t. So they put me up about half-way through the show instead of closing it and that’s when I just attacked the dude; he ended up leaving. They only showed about 5 minutes on YouTube, I went at him for about 45. He was done.

It’s funny, there was only about 100 people in Dayton Funny Bone that night but you would think there was thousands. I get it all the time, “Dude, I saw you handle Dusty” and I’m like, “No you didn’t there was like 100 people in the room that night.”

MAS – I admit, it was on YouTube for me because I don’t live anywhere near there… When you broke out “The Whistle” joke on him…

Gary Owen – <Laughing Hard> I don’t know where that came from. I hadn’t told that joke before and I haven’t old it since.

MAS – You were in the Navy and decided to pursue comedy afterwards. You won Funniest Black Comedian in San Diego. I think that is hilarious on its own. You were the one and only white guy to ever host BET’s Comic View. What do you attribute that crossover success to? It can’t just be because of being in an inter-racial relationship; I’ve done that and got nowhere near the level of acceptance you have.

Gary Owen – Dave Chappelle said it a long time ago that most comics start comedy because they have always wanted to do it, and they want to try it. Before you start thinking about it as a business or money. Another reason comics go into comedy is to pick up girls, you find out girls like you.

For some reason, I don’t know what it is, I always liked black girls. I don’t know why. I always say it was like being gay. Gay guys know they are gay but they don’t want to come out the closet because they are scared of the backlash they will get. It was the same way with me growing up. I was like, “I really find black girls attractive” but I don’t want to say anything because it wasn’t always cool.

The reason that I am accepted, and white, is because I am the same guy onstage and off. I’m not a character onstage; my pants aren’t sagging I’m not using black lingo to get the jokes across. When I first got on scene some black comics were kind of standoffish because they were like, “Let me see what he’s about.” Since then, I’ve been accepted in the black community, especially with black comics, because, “Ok, he’s being genuine with this stuff. He’s really married to a black girl; he really does have mixed kids.”

I think a lot of times when the only black comedy you know is the Apollo or Def Jam you don’t give black audiences enough credit. With me, I’m just myself and that’s all they have wanted. They don’t want you to be a character, just be yourself.

I think a lot of white comics don’t take that chance with black audiences; they don’t market themselves toward it. Just because of that fact, “I don’t want to get booed.”

"Think Like a Man" Los Angeles Premiere - Arrivals

Coming Soon: Movies In Theatres This Week

Posted: January 20, 2014 by MichaelSmithNC in All, Movies, Trailers
Tags: ,

I, Frankenstein


His show is one long verbally articulated stream of comedic consciousness.


There are several different ways that you can approach comedy and be successful. We have all see performers that do hilarious impressions like Frank Caliendo. We have truly successful ventriloquists like Jeff Dunham. There is also the tried and true method of finding a societal subject or stereotype to focus in on like Jeff Foxworthy and so many others have done to create a routine.

One of the less often used methods to find a laugh is the style that is used by Myq Kaplan. When you listen to Myq perform, it is almost better if you are able to NOT laugh at his jokes. He delivers one-liner after one-liner in such fast succession; you will often miss a follow-up joke because you are still laughing a previous joke. I would describe his style as automatic rifle comedy; once the trigger is pulled you no longer have control of the number jokes you are going to get.

During our conversation, I tried to pin Myq down to learn how he developed his routine. What I got was very enlightening; from Myq, “Stylistically, in the beginning it was just a joke then another joke, a joke, see if it works, another joke see if it works. A few years later I had chunks of jokes that were still one line things. But now here were all the lines I had about being a vegetarian. Here are all the lines I have about certain movies, TV shows, books, relationships, sex, religion, or whatever; so, little topic chunks started forming.”

Every comedian has jokes that don’t always work, when Myq talked about his experience with dud jokes, he showed me how is used it to get better. “It is possible that it was out of insecurity, initially, that I wasn’t comfortable with the silence. It would often accompany a joke not working so, ‘Oh there is silence there; move on to the next joke, move on to the next one. When the jokes started working a lot I still had that ‘Oh that jokes over, move on to the next one’. I was packing more punch lines in the setups.”

As we continued to talk about his development Myq let me in on some not-so -secret, secrets of comedy as it relates to joke writing and connecting with the audience,“When most people start out doing comedy, if you know anything at all, you know that, probably, you are not good at it or are not going to be any good at it for a while… I never wanted to just write something that an audience would like, I wanted to write something that I enjoy and see what the audience likes.” He continued, “In the beginning it was more passive like ‘is this funny’ and then see if they said yes. Now it’s more, ‘this IS funny’. Over the course of time, I gained more confidence in some of the jokes by sheer volume. Some of them started working more than others.”

As Myq continues to talk, I learned that he really is machine-like with his comedy, “I don’t necessarily use that information to craft new things, but I get more confidence in myself and in those jokes in general and become a better performer. I can then go back and those jokes that didn’t work in the past, I do actually like them and now I am a better comedian and can use them better.”

Myq succinctly sums up his style in saying, “What I have done is not necessarily actively to pursue anything specific other than to talk about what I think is funny.”

This weekend, we have the opportunity to see this unique comedy style in person at Goodnight’s Comedy Club in Raleigh. Myq Kaplan will be performing a series of 4 shows on Friday and Saturday night. Be sure you take this chance to see a truly unique comedian.


Paramore and Lily Allen Visit FUSE's "The Sauce" - June 13, 2007 


Walnut Creek Amphitheatre

Raleigh, NC

July 22, 2014

Paramore and Fall Out Boy
w/ Special Guests


New Politics

Tickets: HERE




Corey Smith Cover

In doing what I do for this website, I get to talk to people from all types of backgrounds. I have talked to drug dealers, gang bangers, self-proclaimed company men and a good number of people that should probably be checked by a doctor. When I get to talk to someone that is honest, genuine and truly authentic I really take notice of how lucky I am.

In my recent conversation with Corey Smith, I got reminded of that luck/blessing in a large way. The time I spent talking with him felt like I was having a conversation with an old friend from back home that I hadn’t seen in a while . He is an example of what a true southern man should sound like.

Corey is about to start a tour with Darius Rucker and the Eli Young Band. That tour is going to be stopping for a show at the Crown Center in Fayetteville on April 18th.


MAS – In reading your bio, you have an interesting backstory. You decided to “go pro” with music a little later in life. Before deciding to make your way through music, on a full time basis, you were a high school Social Studies teacher right? Tell me about the decision to leave a “sure thing” job and paycheck to take on the world of music.

Corey Smith – I wouldn’t have done it if the numbers didn’t match up, I guess. I’m not a big risk taker; I’m not a big gambler. It took me a few years to make that decision. Looking back on it, I could have made it a little earlier. I had to look at the finances; I was married, had a mortgage and we had already had our first kid, so it was a scary thought.

Corey Smith – By the time I could make that decision the crowds at the shows had grown so much, it really wasn’t that risky. I had it figured out… I knew I had to play a certain number of shows each month and gross a certain amount and I would be doing better than I was teaching and those numbers added up very quickly. I was just blessed that the fan base was already there, I owe it to them.

MAS – Even before you left teaching to pursue music full time, you were releasing good music. You are now on your 8th album since the early 2000s. Tell me a little bit about your creative process. What are your influences in your musical writing style?

Corey Smith – I think that since I had decided to become a teacher I didn’t think about music in terms as a way to make a living. It wasn’t a means to an end. I wasn’t writing songs because I thought they would be hit songs or anything like that. I was writing because I thought they were cool, it was what I liked to do with my spare time. It was fun. It was nice when my friends got together, break out some songs and get feedback. It is just what it was.

Corey Smith – I’ve tried to maintain that approach through all of this. I write from heart and not look at the art as a means to an end. The making of the art is what it is all about. From the writing standpoint, I hope that nothing has changed. I am really trying to stay focused on that same method.

Corey Smith – Making the albums has certainly changed.  Early on with the albums, I was very pragmatic. I only had so much money and I only had so much time I could spend in the studio. To me, what was the most important was getting the song down; getting decent guitar and vocals. If I could get decent guitar and vocals and people could understand the song. It was about the fundamentals.

Corey Smith – So my first few records, that is mostly what it was. It was mostly acoustic and vocals. If I had time, and money left over, I would bring in the other instrumentation. Depending on how much extra time or extra money I had in the studio. That is why the records sounded the way they do. There was no pre-production, none whatsoever, it was all living within my means.

Corey Smith – Now, I have been blessed. I look at it like I have the responsibility to the fans to reinvest the money they give to me in record sales and tickets sales to make better and better records that they can be happy with as well.  So that is where I am with this 9th record. Now I am in a place where I actually have the type of budget a major release would have.

Corey Smith – It is a lot more pressure, because there is so much more on the line. There are a lot more factors now.  What I am getting at, I hope that the writing hasn’t changed but the production process of making the records is what has changed.

MAS – I know for the 9th album you actually brought in a producer for the first time. The first few, you did yourself and now you have brought in Keith Stegall, to help you out. How is that process working out, actually using a producer?

Corey Smith – In the past, I have worked with co-producers. All the decisions were up to me and I was still involved in the process. Working with Keith has taken a lot of the pressure off of me. I can focus on writing and performances and getting in and recording the best performances. I am turning over the reins to people who have a whole lot more experience and credibility than I do in the studio when it comes to the editing and the mixing. The final product has been a whole lot easier on me.

MAS – With the album that you and Keith are working on, where are you at in the process?

Corey Smith – Everything is tracked, I believe. I have already got more than enough stuff recorded. I am in the later stages of whittling it all down. Which songs do I think will make the final cut? Doing the final mixes and figuring out how to get it out. If I want I do it on my own, like I have for most of my other records, or if I want to find a partner. Now that the budget is so much bigger, there is a lot more at stake. Sometimes I miss the simplicity of the way I used to do things.

MAS – I recently spoke with an up and coming hip-hop artist that is taking the same route that you have in doing things on his own, his way. Not relying on major label distribution and going the direct digital route. That actually has potential to be “the way” going forward.

Corey Smith – A lot of that depends on … economy of scale I guess. Once you spend a certain amount on a record you are not going to recoup the money unless you are going to have the types of records on a national level. All of my other records, except for the very last one, I have been able to turn a profit on very quickly because I made them at such a low cost. My fans bought it and I didn’t have to spend a lot of money promoting it on a radio campaign or anything like that.

Corey Smith – Whereas the records are more and more expensive now, all the sudden, you need that promotional push. Sadly, that process can really water down the product. Then the whole record becomes about the promotion. It becomes about getting it on the radio to be advertised. Therefore it all starts sounding like a commercial.

Corey Smith – Unfortunately, I think that is what a lot of popular Country has turned into. It is a bunch of commercials to advertise the artist. There is not a lot of artistic integrity there. I hate to generalize too much, but I have been wary of crossing that line. I feel like I am well short of that line. It goes back to what I was saying before, continuing to write from the same place that I have always written from. That is, sort of, my guiding light.

MAS – In the bio that your publicist sent over, it mentions that you strive to represent what it is to really live the rural lifestyle. There is a quote from you, “Country music is all those things that art is supposed to be. It’s populist, it’s infectious and, most importantly, it’s about people.” “So country music should be about artists holding a mirror back to themselves to reflect what they’re experiencing in their own little towns.” In music today, authenticity like that is pretty hard to come by. With Country music today all about promoting the artist, why did you choose to pursue music in that way?

Corey Smith – I feel like I owe it to my fans, first of all. I think that the reason that I have fans is that see me as an alternative to the stuff that is out there.  I owe it to my family and my community to be honest. I am not going to give in to the temptation of sacrificing art to get popularity.

Corey Smith – Maybe it is the social studies teacher in me, but part of me is disturbed by the image that popular country music perpetuates about people who live in small towns. I don’t live in that. I am still in the same little town that I grew up in. I can tell you right now, we don’t ride around in trucks every weekend and drink moonshine with girls out in the country. There maybe a few people that do that, but I don’t.

Corey Smith – There is a lot more to our lives than that. We are people that are working to survive and raise our families and trying to teach them the values that made us who we are.  As the city sprawls out, things change so rapidly we really lose touch with the heritage that makes us who we are. My grandfather, who just passed away, was my link to what this place used to be like. He grew up a barefoot farmer. These are the things that we deal with. This is what it is like in these small towns.

Corey Smith – I don’t like the fact that the music that is supposed to represent us only perpetuates the negative stereotypes of who we are. We are not stupid. We are not ignorant. There is a lot more to us than back roads, trucks and drinking moonshine.

MAS – The single that you have out now “Ain’t Going Out Tonight” is off of that new album and it has a very grown-up theme to it. Does the theme of that song play into your life as it is now? Are you at the point in your life where you are ready to shun the party life and just curl up at home with the wife?

Corey Smith – Not all together, making music is certainly a party, it is certainly fun to get out there. I think I was just capturing a certain mood.  I think that is what songs really are, taking a snapshot of a certain mental state. That day I was sitting on the front porch, it was a Friday night and we had decided not to go out because I had been out on the road and was tired. It made me think of that time period when you first start settling down, when you have to make that choice for the first time. The idea of the song just hit me and I ran with it.

Corey Smith – When I look back on it, there are a lot of different meanings to me. On one hand, I was thinking about how… When we focus on what is the most important to us and sacrifice things that are getting in the way of what is most important to us, even though they may be fun. That’s when we grow, that’s what growing is. I was even thinking of my own career. I have been through so many changes in the last year. You have to make tough choices and that is what it is all about. Short term sacrifices lead to long term gain.  I think that is what this song is really about.

MAS – You are going to be at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville, NC on April 18th With Darius Rucker and the Eli Young Band. Are we going to be hearing any additional tracks from the new album?

Corey Smith – I’m not sure yet; not a lot from the new album because it probably won’t be released by that point. Probably some of my older songs. I am really excited for the dates with Darrius and Eli Young. I haven’t really done a lot of shows like that. We are going to have to play it by ear.


Crown Center

Fayetteville, NC

February 16, 2014

Even before the question is posed, Fantasia makes clear the essence of her sound. “I’m a soul singer,” she says, with much pride and little hesitation. That’s who she is, at her core, and no matter the song she sings, her spirit seems to resonate from the speakers along with her voice. That’s the magic that Fantasia brings, every time. The North Carolina native has sold nearly three million records and 1.5 million digital tracks, domestically.

Tickets: HERE

Ride Along – Review

Posted: January 15, 2014 by MichaelSmithNC in All, Movie Review, Movies
Tags: , , , ,


Ride Along

Rated PG-13

for sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language

A high school security guard, who is addicted to video games, in Atlanta, GA has two goals in life; marry the woman of his dreams and become a cop. There is one obstacle that stands in the way of both goals coming to pass; his lady’s imposing cop brother. Ride Along is an action comedy starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube that is equal parts Training Day and Kevin Hart stand-up.

Right from the start you realize that this movie is all about being entertaining with little regard placed on being award worthy in any category. The two main characters, loner badass cop, James Payton (Ice Cube) and wise-cracking school security guard, Ben Barber (Kevin Hart), are total opposites and over-the-top in their own unique ways. They remind me of the characters from the old 48 Hours movies played by Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte.

James decides to take his soon to be brother –in-law out for a ride along that will also serve as Ben’s “training day.” Ben has to prove his worthiness of being a cop and marrying James’s sister Angela. The movie unfolds as a series of “126 in Progress” calls that Ben is tasked with handing to see if he can make the cut. The circumstances that he is placed in and the consequences of their actions are hilarious almost to the point of being totally ridiculous.

The potential comedic chemistry between Ice Cube and Kevin Hart was a point of concern for me going in. After seeing the first on-screen interaction between the two, those concerns were quickly put to rest as they “clicked” right away. Ice Cube and Hart were a truly dynamic pairing when it comes to gaining a laugh. Kevin Hart played up his short stature and addiction to video games for several good laughs. Ice Cube worked as the straight-man for most of the movie, but also got to interject some of his own comedic and note-worthy lines. I even had a Gangsta Rap geek-out moment when Ice Cube delivered his famous lyric “Today Was a Good Day” after a particularly funny scene.

The movie is funny, but don’t go into this looking for any type of dynamic story or surprise twists to go along with the funny; it is VERY predictable. When the director, writers and producers of the movie were creating the story I’m sure the creative process went a little like this:

Producer: “I haven’t seen a funny buddy cop movie in a while.”

Writer: “Me either, wanna make one?”

Director: “I really liked training day and LOVE that short little black man… What’s his name, Kevin Hart?”

Writer: “Make Training Day funny? Use Kevin Hart to do it?  PSSHHT!! That’s easy!!!”

Producer: “Let me write you a check…”

Despite the simplistic story, I do recommend seeing the movie if you are in the mood for a few good laughs AND are a fan of Kevin Hart. If you find Kevin Hart even a little annoying, he is in full force in this one. Consider yourself warned.

Similar Viewing:

Training Day, 48 Hours, Another 48 Hours


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Rated R

for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language

Back in 1990 the movie world was introduced to novelist Tom Clancy’s character John Patrick “Jack” Ryan in the hit The Hunt for Red October. The movie was the first of Clancy’s novels to be adapted to film. Alec Baldwin is the first actor to get the opportunity to play the role on the big screen. Jack had to convince the Navy that Russian Submarine Captain Marko Ramius, played by Sean Connery, was trying to defect to prevent a war from breaking out. The movie was such a success in the box office, a sequel was ordered.

Now it is 1992 and Jack Ryan is back, this time Harrison Ford is the guy tabbed to play the role of a now retired Ryan. Patriot Games is the novel that was selected to be adapted. Jack is on vacation in London when he happens to be in the right place at the right time to intervene in an assassination attempt on a British Government Minister. Afterwards, he and has to deal with the revenge of the assassins for foiling their plot. Yet again, we have a box office success and another sequel ordered.

In an effort to keep milking this cash cow, Harrison Ford is brought back to play Ryan in the 1994 Clear and Present Danger. Now, Jack Ryan is the Deputy Director of the CIA tasked with stopping a Columbian drug cartel. As no surprise, the movie is another box office success for the character but this time no sequel is put in motion.

It is eight years before we are to be given another Jack Ryan movie. In 2002 Ben Affleck is given the role as Ryan in The Sum of All Fears. This time the movie steps out of the continuity that was in place with the previous three movies with Ryan back to being a lowly analyst in the CIA. He must stop a nuclear showdown with the Russians while simultaneously trying to stop a terrorist from blowing up a major US city. The movie was released a little after the attacks of September 11, 2001. This time, we do not have the major box office success or the acclaim of the previous installments.

That little history lesson was to set the tone for my expectations for this new installment in the Jack Ryan franchise. I enjoyed The Hunt for Red October, because of Connery, Baldwin was okay at best. I liked Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger because of Harrison Ford. I HATED The Sum of All Fears because of what Affleck did to the character that I loved. All that being said, I went into the screening of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit thinking, “How bad is Chris Pine going to mess Jack Ryan up?”

Shadow Recruit is a reboot of the franchise, chronologically speaking. We are taken back to September 11, 2001 in London, England where a young John P Ryan is working on his PhD. After the horrific events of that day, Jack joins the Marines and volunteers for combat duty in Afghanistan. While serving he is severely wounded and forced out of the Marines. During his recovery from his injuries he is recruited by the CIA, sent back to school to finish his PhD and put in play as an undercover analyst tracking the financials of threats to the United States.

As for the villain and threat that Jack is trying to stop, it is something very real, very up-to-date and something that is possible at any given time in the real world. Not to give up any details, but it is not your run of the mill terrorist bomb plot. The individual villain, Viktor Cherevin, is played by Kenneth Branagh. He is a credible villain but not your typical “bad guy”, you get the impression that he is really just a misguided patriot.

Chris Pine as Jack Ryan… Not bad at all.  My fears were unfounded as Pine and the filmmakers did not turn the character into another James Bond or Jason Bourne. He was the scared, over his head, yet supremely intelligent guy that Jack Ryan is supposed to be. In one scene; the look of shock, awe and horror that are on Pine’s face say more about the mindset of the character than 30 minutes of dialogue by Affleck in The Sum of All Fears. Pine does a wonderful job getting the point across that Ryan has absolutely ZERO desire to be on the operational side of things with the CIA.

As with any movie in this genre, there are going to be aspects of the story that are a little too much. The scenes with Keira Knightley playing Cathy Muller, she hasn’t married Jack yet, are just too sappy. I just rolled my eyes at the way the two were portrayed as a couple. Also, the American accent that Keira was attempting was just so awkward, thankfully, her dialogue was limited

Do I recommend it? Yes. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit has a good plot, unique story, decent acting and minimal annoyances. It is worth your time and money to go check it out.

Similar Viewing:

The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears


Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC)

Durham, NC

March 28, 2014

One of the country’s premier comedians, Jay Leno has performed hundreds of comedy shows around the United States for the past 20-plus years.  Experience America’s favorite TV personality when he comes to DPAC March 28, 2014 for an unforgettable night of stand-up.

Jay Leno – named America’s Favorite TV Personality in the 2009 Harris Poll – had been America’s late night leader for almost two decades before moving from late night to primetime in September 2009 and then returning to host “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in March 2010.

Jay served as the host of the Emmy®Award-winning and top-rated “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” since 1992.  His engaging manner enabled “The Tonight Show” to capture its time slot for a remarkable 15 consecutive years, while making the show one of the most valuable properties not just for NBC but in all of television.

Indeed, Jay’s “everyman” style and personality have helped him earn millions of fans worldwide, people who relate to his personable style and work ethic.  He has been touted as one of the nicest people in show business and the hardest-working — a winning tandem for the man who says “Anyone can have a life – careers are hard to come by!”

Tickets: HERE