Kansas Band-Speaking with New Lead Vocalist Ronnie Platt

DSC_0961-2 photo credit Mark Schierholz


(left to right.Rich Williams, Billy Greer, David Ragsdale, Ronnie Platt, Phil Ehart, Dave Manion)

Kansas Band- Speaking with New Lead Vocalist Ronnie Platt

Kansas is a progressive rock band that’s recently had it’s 40th anniversary in 2013. Songs like “Carry on My Wayward Son” “Dust in the Wind” and “Point of No Return” are a few of their most influential songs. They have produced “8 gold albums, 3 sextuple-platinum albums , 1 platinum live album and a million-selling single.” A documentary came out in early 2015 (Miracles Out of Nowhere), chronicling Kansas from its origins in Topeka, Kansas.

In the fall of 2014, Ronnie Platt replaced lead singer Steve Walsh. Ronnie Platt grew up in Bellwood and still lives in the suburbs of Chicago today. We sat down with Ronnie to talk about how he came to be a part of the legendary band “Kansas”. (Kansas performed on July 7, 2015 in  Elk Grove, IL)

How long have you been a musician and what was an early influence?

RP: My sister brought home a guitar; I was about 10 or 11. I can remember singing and being part of a musical family. Both of my grandmothers were gifted musicians, grandfather played professionally, and most of my family was musically inclined. When I was young that’s what everybody did, music. In grade school, they asked who wanted to be the band. This is when I started playing the trombone, guitar, bass guitar and more singing. In high school, I was in a rock band and totally consumed; focusing on listening to music and vocals. I felt most comfortable playing the keyboard-accompaniment with filling in the parts. I still play a lot of bass guitar. When I’m having a bad day, I’ll pick it up and play.

Who inspired you as a musician growing up in the Chicago suburbs?

RP: I was always into progressive rock especially in the 70’s, Kansas, Genesis, Styx, Rush. On the radio, there was a different variety of music, Jackson 5, Led Zepplin, Rare Earth..etc. I was a freshman in high school ‘76, ’77. I’d always been a huge fan of Kansas: LeftOverture…”Carry On My Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind”. I had a turntable. There was a great feel and depth to the music in which I connected and gravitated towards. In the 80’s the hair got even bigger, and rock changed (Motley Crue and Poison)What did you do before singing in “Kansas”?

RP: I played in the bands, ARRA and Shooting Star. My musical ambition was just to get better. I did a wide variety of singing, performing over the years. I did drive a truck for 25 years..it helped to pay the bills. But I never deviated from what I wanted…my progressive style of music and playing. One day while performing with Shooting Star, I had the chance to meet Kansas, Cheryl Crow, and Journey. We opened for them. Steve Walsh was planning to retire as the Lead Singer. Rich Williams and Phil Ehart were watching Shooting Star. I friended Rich on FB. Ironically I heard about the retirement of Steve about this time. I set up a meeting and flew to Atlanta. After few meetings and deliberations, I became the new lead singer for Kansas! It seemed like a good fit and the guys welcomed me in. Dave Manion came in around the same time as I did.

What were you thinking your first time on stage with Kansas? What was running through your mind?

RP: My very first show was Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in Fall 2014. I remember thinking “Where’s my heater?” It was cold and windy, not what I had expected. It made me preoccupied with warming up and keeping my fingers moving. It was exhilarating! My first show in Chicago was Nov. 1 of 2014. My sister, mother, and other family members were able to come. The rehearsals were intense and we practiced like every day long hours. I had been practicing for something like this my whole life. I was ready when the opportunity came. This year has flown by quickly….we’ve done Brazil 3 times, Chile and Mexico and many other cities.

What are some differences between groups from the “60’s to the 90’s” and “millennium bands”?

RP: The marketing structure has changed drastically. From LP’s to Itunes, Spotify, Sound Hound, etc. Professional acts (touring) are more refined and precise. Every move and note is calculated/choreographed. Back in the day, there was more room for improvisation. Now everything is pre-recorded, this restricts the artist from venturing into the unknown. I miss bands having room to breathe on stage….more of a live feel when no 2 shows are exactly the same. It enabled artists to hone their craft more by discovery. It was more authentic and more organic.

Who are you in the group?

RP:One day…this big dude came up and wanted autographs from the group. Unexpectedly, he called me a “Beast” after the concert the next day. After that, the guys joked about this. It felt great to be part of a group of guys that knows what is important. Great friends, good times, and laughter. We are cut from the same cloth. We are family. No one is above the other.

What can the fans expect from the next album from Kansas? The last record was 2000!

RP: This is so surreal for me! We started back in the studio within the last couple of weeks. Performing new material will be an awesome experience for all of us. It’s mind blowing. I never would have conceived of this. I can’t compare this to anything in my life!

Any last comments?

RP: I feel like I won the “Rock and Roll Lottery.” I’m blessed and honored for this great opportunity to be a part of a legendary band called “Kansas”. You have to be worthy and really have a passion for what you do. Recently, I watched America’s got Talent. There was a little girl that played beautifully, but she got nervous and stopped. Howie Mandel encouraged her to continue because she was gifted. My point is that if you love something so much, you can’t stop. Desire to get better. I’ve had this mindset my entire life. Sing better, hit the next highest note. Play guitar better. Never stop. Not picking up where you left off..because you’re actually going backwards  and losing ground. Be productive and never stop moving forward. Be persistent and Don’t be complacent. If you love what you do, hone your craft and do it to the best of your ability.


Hollywood’s Best kept Secret, Screenwriter Jeff Schimmel

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 9.19.50 PM

by Okema “Seven” Gunn

Jeff Schimmel is one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets. The fact that he’s an expert at research makes him a remarkable writer. He’s written and developed many projects over the years, but he started out in comedy. Let’s take a look at what he has to say about his peculiar path to Hollywood!

1.When did you discover that you wanted to be a screenwriter?

JS: The truth is, I didn’t. My case is very unique, and probably one of the strangest you’ll ever hear about when it comes to screenwriting. I pretty much fell into the business after writing two screenplays – while I was supposed to be studying for the bar exam. I was hired to write the first script, with absolutely no experience whatsoever, and I sold the second one based on a studio’s reaction to the first one. It’s unlikely that it will happen to anyone else, and I have Rodney Dangerfield and Harold Ramis to thank for introducing me to screenwriting and working with me at the kitchen table every day. In a way, I’m envious of the people who know they want to be writers. Knowing the ropes is key, and I learned most of it the very hard way.

2.Who inspired you to become a writer with your first manuscript?

JS: Let me back up from the last question. I’m the biggest movie fan around, but especially those films from the 1930’s through the 1980’s. I love movies to the point of nausea – in other people. When I was a kid, I got caught sneaking into a theater in New York. I wanted to see “Marooned,” but my father wouldn’t give me fifty cents for the ticket. When the usher asked me why I snuck in, I told him that my favorite thing in the world was movies. He smiled and said, “Me, too. That’s why I work here.” He let me in. The funny this is, “Marooned” wasn’t all that fantastic. Oh, yeah. The question. Who inspired me? It wasn’t a who, it was a what. One night, while I was in law school, I dreamed a spy movie. I woke up, wrote down as much as I could remember, and when I was bored in class, I would daydream and fill in the blanks in the story. Through a series of ridiculous events, I ended up selling that idea to Jerry Abrams and Jerry Eisenberg. The first Jerry is J.J. Abrams’ father. When I got the check for my story, I thought to myself, “Hey, this is easy! Why do people always say it’s hard to get a break in Hollywood?”

3. What 3 things did you learn about writing that shocked you?

JS: When I was just starting out in the 80’s, nothing shocked me. Working in the entertainment industry was all so new to me, I never knew what to expect. For that reason, I just took it as it came. But now that I’ve been writing and producing for several years – nothing shocks me! Of course, that’s because I’ve come to understand that this business has to be the toughest around. So, if I hear about something happening with a project, good or bad, I’m not surprised. Hollywood is a place where great things happen to good people, good things happen to horrible people, bad things happen to awesome people, well, you understand. Just when you think you have it figured out, you’re immediately, and perhaps cosmically, reminded that you don’t. Still, working in TV and film is so exciting, so rewarding, I get excited every time I set foot on a studio lot or inside a soundstage. I’m like a child, and I think that’s a good thing. The longer you can stay young at heart, the longer you’ll last.

4. Why is comedy difficult to write and how is it different from other genres?

JS: Yes, comedy is hard. However, in my experience, everything is equally hard. I always marvel at someone like Burt Bacharach, a man who wrote literally hundreds of songs. I can’t even imagine how he does it. It must be amazing to hear music in your head and be able to arrange the notes and put them down on paper. Then, someone like Burt Bacharach walks on the set, meets a screenwriter and says, “How the hell do you come up with stories and the words people say?” It’s all work, but when I’m writing, and I’m in my zone, it’s no longer a chore. I get lost in it, and before I know it, hours have passed – and hopefully, I’m not still on the same page! Comedy isn’t easier or harder than anything else. What scares me is when people who just aren’t funny are convinced they should be writing the next Seth Rogan movie.

5: What projects have you written/produced that turned out different than expected?

JS: Wow. I feel like every one of my answers is off target. I’m not trying to be evasive, or come at this from a weird angle, but I look at things as being all kinds of grey, and not so much black and white. The rules in screenwriting might be set in stone, but the experience is fluid, almost alive and ever changing. I’m too smart to mention anything by name, so let’s just say I’ve written some TV shows that were funny at the first draft stage, but were downright tragic by the time they were taped. It’s usually a symptom of too many rewrites, which you can’t control. Then again, I produced some stuff I thought was so awful, I opened a bottle of Chinaco tequila at the taping and had a few shots during audience warm-up. That project, a comedy special, went on to get high ratings and make the network $20 million in DVD sales. As a rule, it’s the scripts you think are the best that turn out receiving the most notes, and it’s the work you did while stopped at a red light, on the way to a meeting, that is often accepted as nearly flawless. It’s essential for writers to have a sense of humor.

6.How did you get the nickname the “Doc”?

JS: When I was a kid, I used to think I wanted to be a doctor. I saw myself on that big, white medical ship, Project Hope, traveling the world to help those less fortunate. Okay, first of all, I get seasick watching “Love Boat” reruns. I’m not kidding. I’m so sensitive, I can’t watch anything that’s shot on anything other than a locked down camera or Steadicam. So, in school, my friends started calling me Dr. Schimmel. Later, when I was a pre-teen, and a huge Steve McQueen fan, I preferred that “Doc” be associated with Doc McCoy, the ultra-cool bank robber in “The Getaway.” Years later, when I earned a Doctorate in Law, the “Doc” thing resurfaced. But enough about me. If we ever meet, be sure to ask me about my devotion to Steve McQueen, and why remaking his movies is a sin.

7: How is your military duty, CIA interest, and martial arts all connected? How have they helped your writing?

JS: The military stuff is kind of an obsession with me. When I have a few months off, I like to volunteer with the Israel Defense Force, but not in a combat role. I provide logistical support. Hmm. Whatever that is. But there’s nothing quite like living on base, in crappy barracks, with really bad food, no TV, no computer or internet, no phone, no nothing, and just a few dozen paratroopers to keep you company. As for the CIA, they offered me a job when I graduated from law school, but I was too paranoid to take it. When I asked if they would ever send a fellow agent to assassinate me if I screwed up, their response was, “You watch too many movies.” They’re right, I do. The martial arts era in my early life was just catching lightning in a bottle. I persisted until I was accepted into one of the most sought after schools in the world, and I’ll always be grateful. The way all of this has helped my writing is the way anyone’s life experiences, good or bad, happy or sad, find their way onto their pages. You write what you know, and the more you experience, the more you can relate to – and the more your characters can live through you. I look at it this way. If I never got kicked in the groin by a girl I liked in junior high, I wouldn’t really be able to describe it accurately. Then again, if I had my way, I’d go back in time and skip the part where I learn how to write about being in the worst pain ever. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re writing about something you’ve never actually seen, heard, tasted, felt, or experienced, there’s an easy fix for that. It’s called research. You can never do enough.

8: How have you been able to maintain your career as a writer? Does your brother (comedian) help with some of your writing/jokes?

JS: Writing careers are like the proverbial rollercoaster. You’re up, then down, then up. If you’re lucky, you can have more ups than downs. Sadly, the longevity of a writer’s career isn’t up to the writer. No matter how hard you work, or how prolific you are, someone has to hire you or buy your work. It isn’t a 9 to 5 job, it isn’t a salaried position. Aside from talent and energy, the most important thing a writer can have is a means of dealing with the hurt of rejection. Some people laugh it off, but others, like a good friend of mine, quit. One of the best writers I’ve ever known is living in Alabama and no longer writing because he was tired of having his heart broken. If you think I’m being negative, I’m not. Just keeping it real. But you should be encouraged by this. If you’re tough and your work has merit, and you don’t give up, it can happen for you. Trust me, if a guy with no education in writing movies can have a nearly 30 year career, you can definitely do it. As for my brother, Robert, he passed away in 2010. He was a very well known comedian, and a brilliant joke writer. His talent was to come up with jokes in an instant, organically, based on what he was going through at that moment. But when it came down to sitting at a desk and working on a script, that’s where he fell off. We worked together on a few projects, but they always resulted in fights. I’m extremely OCD when it comes to my work, and he was the opposite.

9: Where is your “secret” writing place?

JS: I’ve written in libraries, I’ve had many production offices, I’ve tried it in the local Starbucks, etc. Like everyone else. Lately, I’ve been working almost exclusively in my home office. It’s a loft near the laundry room, so I know that when I put in a load of dark, I have at least 45 minutes to type. Then, when the washer stops, and I transfer the clothes to the dryer, I know I have another 45. For every load I do, I get 90 minutes of work done. It’s not the ideal system, but my wife loves it. My advice to anyone trying to focus on writing a script is to give yourself every advantage. Sitting in a loud coffee shop with fifty other people isn’t going to help with your concentration. Blasting music in my earbuds while I write isn’t something I can do, and I don’t know how others do it. Music in the room is awesome, but I need a certain amount of distance from it. Another way to get more work done is to log off Facebook, email, and have someone hide your phone. If you’re smiling at any of this, it means you know you aren’t being as productive as you could be.

10.What advice would you give an aspiring screenwriter?
JS: The best advice I could give an aspiring screenwriter, especially in Chicago, is to come to my two day seminar on July 25th and 26th. I’m not kidding. I put together a unique, completely original curriculum that will teach writers all the crucial stuff they won’t find in books, and expose them to the inside information they won’t hear from other writers or producers. People who want to be successful screenwriters need to ask themselves if their career is worth the investment of two days. I wish this class would’ve existed when I was starting out. I would’ve cried a lot less!

For more info about Jeff Schimmel and Maximum Screenwriting

Go to http://www.maximumscreenwriting.com

Jurassic World: Evolution


Our adventure story begins as Claire Dearing, a meticulous Operations Manager, (Bryce Dallas Howard from the Help) is tirelessly working to gain sponsors (like Samsung or Verizon) for the next big Super Dinosaur (Indominous Rex) instead of spending time with her nephews. This will eventually cause a huge problem.  On the other hand Owen Grady, (Chris Pratt from Guardians of the Galaxy) has been hired to bond and train Velociraptors. He will be dubbed in this film the “Bad Ass Boyfriend…”Riding with the Raptors”.

Humans are at it again. Trying to make an amusement park into Dinosaur City. Innocent civilians.. men, women, and children are unaware that they are in grave danger.  Claire summons Grady to try to figure out a way to contain the problem on the island of Isla Nublar. Everything goes awry because of one slight miscalculation. You WILL see humungous, razor, sharp teeth, blood and guts, flying babysitter, strange water animals, sophisticated technology and above all else you will learn the importance of Alpha males in the story….This action-packed film is a crowd pleaser for all ages 5 and beyond. 3D makes the Dinosaurs come alive even more. This movie is funny, sad, and packed with gore. Throw in a love affair..between a sexy hero and a damsel in distress… and now you got yourself a humdinger; an ultimate treat! You’ll see.

An amusement park with Dinosaurs. What a thing to behold! Humans think that dinosaurs can be used however they wish. Prehistoric creatures are animals, too; a lesson that is very basic to nature. Allowing dinosaurs to evolve once again causes a major issue and may be unethical according to some practices. Would you go see a Dinosaur at the zoo? Of course you would. But what if it got out? Hmm….

Dinosaurs have always been a thing of curiosity. They are prehistoric animals of mystery. It’s not up to man to play God, history has proven that  arrogance with science can be costly. Somehow creation and evolution co-exist simultaneously in the strange and fascinating world of Paleontology. Jurassic World provides some unique perspectives on training Dinosaurs like Raptors and Tyrannosaurus Rex. Although the last film and the first are slightly different. The theme is still all encompassing. Playing God is a dangerous idea…especially when it comes to animals. Amusement is all fun and games until somebody gets hurt or killed. Experimentation can be rewarding, but what’s the cost? You will see…

The technology created in this film is remarkable! The scientist lab contains all kinds of exotic creatures used to make the Indominous Rex, like camouflage, etc. Technical elements like thermal imaging, Holograms, and the Gyrosphere certainly enhance the potential and capability of the evolving Jurassic World.

After this film, a flood of memories came back; I recalled a time in my childhood. My brother played with Dinosaur figures and…. later…my high school teacher, Mr. Abbott played the audiobook “Jurassic Park” while students worked on our art projects. This was my first real novel on tape. Who knew it would turn into one of the highest grossing film franchises of all time! After only 2 weeks in the box office, Jurassic World has garnered $1 billion in ticket sales.

Jurassic World is the fourth installment of the original novel by Michael Creighton called “Jurassic Park”. Michael Creighton was born in the great Windy City and this talented scholar was well versed in the particulars of many fields of science. Colin Trevarrow directed this science fiction, action-adventure film. Screenwriters include Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Colin Trevorrow.

Actors include but are not limited to:  Chris PrattBryce Dallas HowardVincent D’Onofrio,Ty SimpkinsNick RobinsonOmar SyB.D. Wong, and Irrfan Khan.

Pitch Perfect (2015) Review


Pitch Perfect (2015) Review: Could’ve been Aca-Better

By Okema Gunn

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015) is a musical comedy released by Universal Pictures. The original film, Pitch Perfect was loosely based on Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate Acapella Glory by Mickey Rapkin. The sequel begins where the Barden Bellas (an all-female a capella group) perform at a national competition at the Kennedy Center, Washington D.C, in front of an audience, the President, and the Obama family. The girls gyrate and sing to Ke$ha’s “Timber”, while Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) comes out singin’ and swingin’ on “Wreckingball”. Fat Amy tears her costume in the crotch, while suspended in mid-air, and exposes her vagina to the world and the first family. This scandal embarrasses Barden University, the Bellas, and the federation. This debacle becomes known as “Muffgate”, which goes viral through all media outlets. The Bellas are banned from singing on the national competition level. They somehow are able to finagle their way to an agreement of re-instatement, which could bring recognition and finally redemption through “The international Competition”.  However, no American team has ever won a “World Title”.

The ending is predictable, but demonstrates a positive, bonding experience for the characters in the finale with Beyonce’s song “Run the World (Girls)”. This film focuses on Beca Mitchell (Anna Kendrick) finding her way in the world, transitioning into producing music for the first time; Fat Amy and her new relationship; and new-comer, Hailee Steinfeld (Emily Junk, Bella legacy), who develops as an aspiring songwriter.

I think sometimes writers think more is better. More is just more. There was an attempt for the characters to “find their sound” by bonding at a retreat. I wanted to be more involved in the characters’ lives. I don’t know how this could’ve been achieved, but “PP2” was lacking in this area.

The first film, Pitch Perfect, made slight comedic references to being overweight, immigration, and lesbianism. In the sequel, these issues were exaggerated to the nth degree.  Again, anytime there is a sequel, there is bound to be an overabundance of clichés.  Satire can be a tricky device to embellish upon.

This was definitely a “chick flick” and I believe audiences were expecting more of a dose of Pitch Perfect. What came out of this, was more stereotypical language. I think the writer, Kay Cannon, was trying to go for more girl power fantastic again. It’s difficult to do anything good twice. However, I did find the film entertaining with its 90’s Battle Royale and special appearance by Green Bay Packers. Still, it was lacking in development. This was Elisabeth Bank’s first time directing. She is an actress, producer, the director for Pitch Perfect 2.  Pitch Perfect 2 opened to a $70.3 million dollar weekend beating out Mad Max (opening week) and Age of Ultron (third week). My rating for this film is 2 ½ stars out of 5.

**Just a reminder, popular does not always mean great. It just means a lot of people spent a ton of cash to see this film.

Insurgent (2015) Review


Insurgent is sci-fi dystopian action adventure movie; screenplay written by Akiva Goldman, Brian Duffield, Mark Bomback and directed by Robert Schwentke.  Insurgent is the second book in the Divergent trilogy, written by Veronica Roth. It is also the second installment and sequel to the The Divergent Series, released by Summit Entertainment and Lionsgate (time 119 min).

Roth wrote Divergent while she was a student at Northwestern University and eventually became published by Harper Collins.  Divergent was filmed in Chicago, Illinois and Insurgent was filmed in Atlanta, Georgia.

In this post-apocalyptic society that Roth has created, there are 5 factions: Abnegation, the selfless; Amity, the peaceful; Candor, the honest; Dauntless, for the brave; and Erudite, the intellectual. In this Chicago dystopian, each individual is forced to choose a faction. Those that are forced out of their group are called factionless.

Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley), Caleb Prior (Ansel Elgort), Peter (Miles Teller), Tobias “Four” Eaton (Theo James) and his father Marcus (Ray Stevenson) have taken refuge with Amity after escaping a terrible battle with government soldiers controlled by Jeanine Matthews. Johanna Reyes (Octavia Spencer), the leader of Amity, warns them of the danger that insurgents bring to their peaceful faction. These band of rebels are hunted because Tris is a divergent and because they have crossed Jeanine (Kate Winslet), who has taken over the government council with Erudite. The hunted divergent and any supporters are decreed as a threat to society.

Tris must face her fears as she goes up against Jeanine and “The Dream Machine”. Tris is the only one who can take down the regime. Janine searches for the key to a box with a message that contains information that the ancestors have left. Janine will stop at nothing to find all divergent and destroy them, but not before she finds the key. The factionless join the rank of the rebels which include Tris and Four’s chosen faction, the Dauntless. Caleb Prior, Tris’s brother unexpectedly leaves them and goes off on his own returning to the Erudite. In the end, he is faced with the poor decisions that he has made. In this installment, Tris becomes more confident and tenacious. She is steadfast in her decisions to survive and save all of society. Now, that her parents are gone; she wants to take down Janine at any cost. Nothing will get in her way. Apparently, one thing that Tris has in common with Janine: domination.

There are many twists and turns in this film, which make it an excellent action film. I understood the movie better than I did the book because of the explicit details of her dreams. I loved the film Divergent and Insurgent was also a good source of entertainment. The special effects meshed well with the plot and sequencing, which demonstrated not only actions in the dreams, but also Tris’ emotions. This film felt very similar to the dream sequences in Inception (2010) with Christopher Nolen and Leonardo DiCaprio. Overall, I’d give this film 3 ½ stars out of 5.

Other notable Actors include: Ashley Judd, Naomi Watts, Mekhi Phifer, Maggie Q, Jai Courtney, Zoë Kravitz





Chicago International Movies and Music Festival (CIMMfest) 2015

Musician Josh Chicoine and Filmmaker Ilko Davidov decided to create a new festival that was a fusion of Movies and Music, thus CIMMfest (Chicago International Movies and Music Festival) was born. It is now in it’s 7th year. Every year filmmakers, musicians, avid moviegoers and music lovers descend upon the Chicago scene to take part in the events of the CIMMfest. This year venues include over 99+ Films and bands from around the world. It takes place around the city in places like Wicker Park and Logan Square. The CIMMfest provides filmmakers and musicians the opportunity not only to collaborate, but to showcase and share their amazing talent. Chicago is the perfect city for this festival emphasizing a different perspective of joint ventures of movies and music. CIMMfest will take place April 16-19th, 2015. Co-Founder Josh Chicoine was gracious enough to share thoughts about his collaborative venture and involvement in the festival.

1.  How do you go about planning for CIMM (Chicago International Movies and Music Festival)?

JC: Complicated question. There is planning, but with no solid protocol.  The festival has evolved every year, so having a vision for success is probably the first step.  We have been working on the Milwaukee Ave footprint concept for a few years. We started with the dates then secured venue partnerships and holds afterwards.   We then launch our call for entries in the fall and start raising monies.  Fundraising and sales is much like programming.  We cast a big net and through many filters, fits, and starts, we end up with what the festival will look like.  It’s somewhat messy and we try to limit that, but a fest like ours has numerous musical genres from all over, finding audiences and partners takes us down many avenues.  Some opportunities bear fruit and others fall away.  We have a core festival that we then add on for as long as we can – until the print deadline.  Marketing keeps up with general messaging and becomes more program-specific the closer we get to the opening.

2. When CIMM first started what was the vision?

JC: The vision is very elementary. We show music-based films, connect as much live music to the films as possible, find intersections of film and live music wherever we could and let the chips fall where they may.  The vision wasn’t very far out past that particular year.  Maybe in year 3 when things were growing and we were still alive, the vision began to grow into something akin to what it actually is today.

3. How many movies and bands originally performed at the first CIMM compared to now?

JC: Approximately 20 films and 9 bands.  It was small.  Now, there’s over 100 films, shorts, and music videos.  Over 100 bands as well as some great of panels and presentations.  Lots and lots of entertainment!

4. Why highlight Movies and Music together?

JC: My co-founder, Ilko, is in the film industry and I am a musician.  I played in bands (M’s, Sabers, Cloudbirds) over the years and Ilko is a filmmaker with a big music focus. It’s just a part of who we are.  We collaborated with projects for years before CIMMfest and he came to me with the idea.  The idea is more prevalent in Europe, but we were both surprised that there wasn’t anything like this in the US.  At least not the focus on the interconnection.  So, we did this first because no one was doing it and then the bigger ideas followed – music as the great connector of people type thing.  Those bigger ideas are the ones that continue to drive the mission and spirit of everyone involved with CIMMfest.  The market has changed such that there’s a lot of innovation happening in that shared space, especially live.  3D Video mapping and live scoring to film is exciting to bands and we are a big platform for that stuff.  It’s a way of differentiating the festival and giving some focus programatically.  There are many opportunities and festivals in Chicago, but nothing like CIMMfest.

5.How can young people get involved in the CIMM?

JC: volunteer!  we have student passes and special priced tickets at http://cimmfest.org available as well.

Run All Night (2015) Review

Run All Night

The lessons of “Run All Night” remain quite poignant. A single moment in time can change a person’s life. Our lives can be fulfilled or empty and full of regret, all according to the choices and decisions that we have made. “The Grave Digger”, Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson), is all too familiar with dangerous predicaments, but this time his actions have finally caught up with him.  Within 16 hours, the characters in this story experience a range of emotions; ranging from laughter to tears. Our story begins in a flashback sequence, Jimmy Conlon narrating, remembering his regrets. He states that “sins of the father shall be visited by the son. No sin goes unpunished.”  How one lives will determine the ultimate consequences of the future. These universal truths are transcended into the lives of the characters purveying a gritty experience of realism.

Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) and Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) grew up together on the streets of Brooklyn in New York City. They both were heavily involved in criminal activities for several years and supposedly formed an unbreakable bond. Shawn says “We’ll cross the line together,” which means “We came in together, we’ll go out together.” As Shawn existed as an unscrupulous, conniving Irish Mob Boss, Jimmy acquired the role as his hired hit man.  Jimmy laments about his unforgettable nightmares, which only reflect his prior barbarous killings. He subdues his woes by becoming a drunkard. Over the years, he and his son, Michael (Joel Kinneman of RoboCop  2014), became estranged due to Jimmy’s poor choice of lifestyle. He tries to make amends with Michael before it is too late.

An arrogant and impetuous, Daniel Maguire (Boyd Holbrook) makes a deal with the Albanians for Heroin storage and accepts a substantial amount of money. To his dismay, his father rejects the deal, causing Danny to make hard-fast decisions on his own. Michael happens to be on scene when the Albanians come to retrieve their stash. Danny opts to eradicate all involved, even witnesses. Shawn Maguire convinces his son not to do anything rash, but Danny is stubbornly determined to finish what he started. Danny foolishly tries to kill Michael. Jimmy uses his seasoned, killer-instincts to protect his son. Weary and frustrated, Jimmy calls his long-time friend, Shawn to tell him that he has killed Danny.

As a vengeful father, Shawn, vows to exterminate Jimmy, his son Michael, and anyone who gets in the way. “An Eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” so to speak. Shawn states “I want you to suffer as I have. You have taken my son, now I will take yours… and then, you can you come back and die.”

Michael tells the police about the murder and is entrapped by them. As events unfold, everything is turned upside down, leaving both Michael and Jimmy Conlon as fugitives from the police, while simultaneously trying to avoid Shawn Maguire’s wrath. They encounter NYPD police as well as Maguire’s henchmen, who Jimmy knows entirely too well. Jimmy knows what he must do to save his son. Whatever it takes to stay alive. This forces them into a game of cat and mouse, leaving no choice but to “Run All Night”. Michael is confused about what he sees with his own eyes and what truths his father is trying to show and tell. All the while, Jimmy promises to make things right asking his son not to repeat his mistakes.

In addition, to the recent developments of mayhem, Shawn hires an assassin named Mr. Price (Common) to tie up any loose strings.  Price is a worthy, formidable and more than willing opponent for Jimmy- the “No holds barred killer”. This hellish eradicator proves to be relentless and will stop at nothing to execute both Michael and Shawn.

Liam Neeson’s character, Jimmy is ashamed and regrets the decisions that he has made, vowing to try to make things right again. Throughout, he trusts that son, Michael remains a trustworthy and honest man.  A man once loyalty to Shawn Maguire, Jimmy is clever and adroit, while interjecting witticisms in the face of danger. Neeson conveys a coolness and unsuspecting confidence, leaving one perplexed about the true nature of the character. At times he is sincere; at others he depicts a cold calculating murderer. Death surrounds him. Conlon teeters on the edge between visceral and deliberate. But his revelations finally come at his finest moments. He makes a genuine attempt to bond with son, Michael and protect the ones he loves, but there is a cost for his murderous life, an ultimate penalty he’s willing to pay.

“Run All Night” delivers an action-packed graphic account of the possibilities and consequences of criminal behavior. Certainly, if I were backed into a corner, found myself in a quandary with the authorities or barricaded (gunfight at the OK corral); Liam Neeson’s character might very-well be at the top of my list for 1st line of defense. Director Jaume Collet-Serra teams up with Neeson once again, following their collaborations of the psychological thriller “Unknown” and  the mystery action thriller “Non-Stop. Writer Brad Ingslby jumps right in after writing “Out of the Furnace” starring Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Forest Whitaker, Willem Defoe, Sam Shepard, and Zoe Saldana. Cinematic close-up shots by Martin Rue, add to Jimmy’s character as he transitions back and forth between a stone-cold killer to loving father.  An aerial view of Danny Maguire’s pursuit of Michael Conlon gives the audience a wider perspective of insight and sense of dire urgency. Music by Junkie XL and sound effects enhances the tone; sustaining suspense throughout the film.

New York City was the perfect backdrop for this movie. “Run All Night” gives reverence to “Bullitt” (1968), the granddaddy of car chases by Steve McQueen and the “French Connection” (1971) chase with Gene Hackman.

One thing rings true….You can “Run All Night”, but alas when the morning comes….In the end it all comes down to what one would be willing to do.

Although this is similar to many action films and a bit lengthy; it held my attention and I liked the development of characters. I’d give this film 3 out of 5 stars.

Reviewed at AMC Cicero, March 13, 2015. Running time: 114 MIN.


Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, Screenplay by Brad Ingelsby.

Warner Bros. release in association with Ratpac-Dune Entertainment of  Vertigo Entertainment production. Produced by Roy Lee, Brooklyn Weaver, Michael Tadross. Executive producers, Steven Mnuchin, Jaume Collet-Serra, John Powers Middleton.


Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Boyd Holbrook, Bruce McGill, Genesis Rodriguez, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lois Smith, Common, Beau Knapp, Patricia Kalember, Daniel Stewart Sherman, James Martinez, Rasha Bukvic, Tony Naumovski, Lisa Branch, Holt McCallany, Aubrey Omari Joseph, Giulia Cicciari, Carrington Meyer.