It’s happening

Snip20141229_9I’ll be writing more extensively about the 2015 Now Playing Podcast calendar in the coming days, but I wanted to get a little bit online right away.

That’s because it’s finally official: Now Playing is reviewing the Fast & Furious franchise.

I’ve known about it for some time now, but didn’t want to write about it until the schedule was posted at the (all new) Now Playing Podcast website. The series starts February 24 and will lead into the release of Furious 7 in April.

I’m thinking back to the first conversation I ever had with host Arnie Carvalho, back when I interviewed him for a story for FOX5. I figured he was constantly bombarded by questions about which films would be reviewed, but I had to ask him about Fast & Furious.

“We’ll get there,” he said.

Finally.

Holiday heist

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As mentioned on Tuesday, the Now Playing Podcast schedule has been updated through the end of the year, and the highlight (for me at least) is the Ocean’s Eleven Retrospective Series.

I talked with the hosts — Arnie, Jakob and Stuart — covering the series, below is a bit from the story posted on the Venganza Media website:

Q: These movies were hard to miss, what are your Ocean’s memories?

Stuart: I have only seen the first George Clooney movie, and my memory of it is vague but pleasant. I tend to like series’ with a long history to them.

Jakob: I’ve actually seen that first one a handful of times and I remember almost nothing of [Ocean’s] Twelve. I can only hope the sequels have that party vibe of Ocean’s Eleven. That’s why we decided to transition from 2014 to 2015 with these films. Everyone wants to ring in the New Year with a great party.

Stuart: I look forward to seeing the Rat Pack define the Vegas of 1960, before the town and the franchise become more of a theme park attraction with the contemporary films.

Q: Arnie, did your recent trip to Las Vegas stir Ocean’s memories?

Arnie: I actually stayed at the Bellagio, and while I didn’t encounter Terry Benedict, I did get to watch the fountain show — with Ocean’s well on my mind. I was itching to re-watch the series after that trip.

Strangely the best Vegas connection I had wasn’t from the Ocean’s series, but from The Stand. The crucifixion scene was filmed on Fremont Street in Vegas and some of the signage was very familiar!

Read the full story here and check out the Ocean’s Eleven retrospective, starting Dec. 16 at NowPlayingPodcast.com.

A new look

Snip20141104_43It’s been several months in the making, and today the new Now Playing Podcast website went live with a redesigned look and new features that will greatly improve the user experience.

For starters, the archive system has been revamped, and the new dropdown menu will make it much easier to search through the list of films and retrospective series’ that have been covered in the show’s history — closing in on 8 years now.

One of my favorite new features is the addition of news articles on the home page and the “articles” tab. This will give the user access to content from the Venganza Media Gazette — including all those Children of the Corn-related pieces I wrote over the summer.

Another great feature is the show calendar, something host Arnie Carvalho has called “the single most-requested feature from listeners.” Instead of having to look for information about upcoming shows in the old forums, it’s now right on the home page.

“Now everyone can plan their Netflix queues accordingly!” Arnie wrote in an email this week. He’s right. It’s a better listening experience when a person has seen a film being reviewed on NPP, and that calendar will give them the chance to plan ahead.

Here’s a copy of the press release I drafted to mark the launch of the new site.

After ‘Corn’ lows, ‘Now Playing’ turns to Nolan

An edited version of this post first appeared on the Venganza Media Gazette

Now Playing Podcast host Arnie Carvalho once read an email from a listener urging him to review only bad movies because it leads to funnier conversations.

“He said we should just be a comedy show,” the film critic said from his Manhattan hotel room on Saturday, while on a break from covering New York Comic Con.

Did that listener have a point?

“None of us wants that,” Carvalho answered. “We enjoy covering all types of movies, but if we only watched low-rent trash I think our souls would die.”

It’s a marvel he and his Now Playing co-hosts — Stuart Atkinson and Jakob Brewster – even have any life left in them after enduring nine films based on Stephen King’s Children of the Corn.

This week’s review of Children of the Corn: Genesis not only marks the climax of the Corn saga, but also an exhausting exploration of King’s Night Shift collection; more than two dozen reviews of mostly forgettable film adaptations like The ManglerGraveyard Shift and Trucks.

Few films in the Night Shift series have been worthy of a recommend, but that hasn’t kept hardcore Now Playing listeners from making the show one of the highest rated on iTunes throughout 2014, with seven of the nine Corn reviews appearing in the Top 10 rankings for TV/Film podcasts.

“I really expected listenership to drop off as we got deep in those fields,” Carvalho said. “But our listeners are awesome.”

“I only half-jokingly say more people downloaded our review of Children of the Corn 7 than actually saw Children of the Corn 7.”

With Night Shift in the rear view, Now Playing Podcast launches its next retrospective on Tuesday: A five-episode study of director Christopher Nolan’s filmography, leading up to next month’s Interstellar.

After considering other horror properties to follow Corn — including Hellraiser and The Amityville Horror — Carvalho shifted gears and lobbied hard for a director-focused retrospective, targeting Nolan after Now Playing previously covered his Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception.

“The hosts needed some meatier films to chew on, and I also think listeners want to hear about movies they’ve actually seen,” he joked. “With the good movies we usually can have deeper conversations about filmmaking, themes, and intent.”

“The problem with the Corn series was that by the 9th film there was nothing left to say, it’s like the old joke about the definition of insanity.”

Now Playing Podcast hasn’t released its 2015 schedule, but Carvalho is already teasing a return to King in the New Year, along with some familiar franchises with big sequels in the works.

“It’s a huge year for blockbusters and there’s no way we can get them all in; we’re still discussing which ones we will review,” he said. “And there will be some actually good King movies, like The Dead Zone and Creepshow, to fill the gaps in between.”

Catching up as summer winds down

While I’m averaging one post per month on this site since moving to Seattle, that doesn’t mean I don’t have anything going on. Quite the opposite, and so I thought I’d take a few minutes tonight to update some of my current and future projects heading into the fall.

The Corn Connection

I’m delighted to write that over the past couple of months I’ve been doing some great work with the team at Venganza Media, creating content and promotions for Now Playing Podcast.

Having just wrapped up assisting host Arnie Carvalho on his The 40-Year-Old Critic series, I’m focusing on a series of articles to tie into the show’s current Children of the Corn Retrospective Series. The articles, titled The Corn Connection, identify actors and actresses from the horror franchise and show listeners where they can be found in the Now Playing Podcast archives. It’s not easy, as most of those direct-to-video Corn sequels lack, to put it politely, stars.

As of this writing, the series has covered the first Corn film and three of its sequels. I’m looking forward to this week’s entry: Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror.

Boulder is that way, so let’s go

One of the most exciting events on my calendar is next month’s CMG Innovation Summit in Boulder, Colorado. This is an annual conference organized by my employer, Cox Media Group. Each year, a handful of employees from around the company are brought together to discuss and generate ideas for the future of media. I’m thrilled to be selected, and I’ll be updating everything that happens during the conference here, and on Twitter and Facebook.

Halloween is coming

This afternoon, while driving around the University District, I noticed the leaves were changing color. I haven’t seen that in more than a decade. I’m am so looking forward to experiencing fall again; and with fall comes Halloween.

I started a new Tumblr project in October 2012 called 31 Days Til Halloween, where I would post a single Halloween-themed item every day for the entire month. I repeated this last year, and plan to launch the project again when October 1 rolls around. I just need to narrow the idea; the first year it was anything Halloween-related, last year it was scary songs. When I figure out what I’m doing this year I’ll post the link on this site.

Now Playing bridges bonus series gap with ’40-Year-Old Critic’ series

Now Playing Podcast capped its 2014 Spring Donation Drive with a surprise announcement on Thursday – the first-ever written retrospective series from host Arnie Carvalho.

And I here I thought the most interesting thing I’d see on my Twitter feed would be headlines from Major League Baseball’s trade deadline.

Instead, it’s the news that Now Playing Podcast listeners are getting a rare opportunity to read something personal from one of the show’s hosts. For the most part, the podcast has stuck to a winning formula throughout its seven-year run: The hosts focus on film analysis and don’t fight, and listeners get only slight glimpses into their private lives (sometimes through hilarious outtakes).

I was fortunate enough to see a small preview of Carvalho’s first article for 1974’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and I asked him how this series will stand out from the weekly shows.

“This is not a movie review like we’ve done on Now Playing,” he said. “While my opinion of the film will come through, my goal is not to provide a plot dissection and movie walk-through as we do on the show. Instead I’m going to be discussing films that had a huge impact on me — be that impact positive or negative — and had a ripple effect that became larger than the movie itself.”

So there you have it. It’s nice to see them taking Now Playing to a new level. More importantly, it gives listeners some bonus content between this year’s donation drives. Not sure when Carvalho and crew will publicly announce the next series (donors already know), but for now fans can enjoy this…

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