Monday, February 10, 2014

Bruce Springsteen coming to Charlotte in April

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band will make a tour stop at Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena on April 19.

Tickets are scheduled to go on sale at 10 a.m. Feb. 21 at the Time Warner Cable Arena box office, online at or or by phone at 800-745-3000.

Springsteen's latest studio album, "High Hopes," was released last month.

Knights introduce partial season ticket plans

Beginning at noon Monday, the Charlotte Knights will make partial season ticket plans available for fans interested in purchasing multiple tickets to the inaugural season.
For  $288, or $16 per game, fans can choose from four 18-game partial ticket plans. Each plan features a field box seat to one premium game, as well as a balance of weekday/weekend games, and promotional nights.
In addition, fans interested in purchasing full season tickets for the 2014 season can still do so. Single-game ticket sales have not yet been launched.
The Knights will open BB&T Ballpark on Friday, April 11, at 7:05 p.m. against the Norfolk Tides. Details:; 704-357-8071; or email
Here's how the partial season ticket plans have been broken down:
-          Pink Knights Pack – featuring the Charlotte Knights 9th Annual Pink Knights game, presented by Belk and Charlotte Radiology, on Saturday, May 10.
-          Team USA Pack – featuring the Team USA vs. Chinese Taipei game on July 3 at BB&T Ballpark.
-          4th of July Pack – featuring the first 4th of July game at BB&T Ballpark with the annual WBT Skyshow – the area’s largest fireworks show!
-          Championship Pack – featuring the Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game on Tuesday, September 16.

Pink Knights Plan
Sunday, April 13
Friday, April 18
Friday, April 25
Thursday, May 8
Saturday, May 10
Thursday, June 5
Monday, June 9
Sunday, June 22
Wednesday, June 25
Tuesday, July 1
Saturday, July 5
Saturday, July 12
Friday, July 18
Tuesday, July 29
Wednesday, August 6
Sunday, August 10
Monday, August 25
(1) Undated Voucher

Team USA Plan
Saturday, April 12
Tuesday, April 15
Monday, May 5
Sunday, May 11
Wednesday, May 21
Friday, May 23
Friday, June 6
Sunday, June 8
Saturday, June 21
Tuesday, June 24
Thursday, July 3
Friday, July 11
Thursday, July 17
Wednesday, July 30
Thursday, August 7
Tuesday, August 19        
Friday, August 22
Monday, September 1

July 4th Plan
Monday, April 14
Thursday, April 17
Tuesday, April 22
Friday, May 9
Tuesday, May 20
Saturday, May 24
Tuesday, June 10
Thursday, June 26
Monday, June 30
Friday, July 4
Sunday, July 13
Sunday, July 20
Thursday, July 31
Friday, August 8
Monday, August 18        
Saturday, August 23
Sunday, August 31

Triple-A Championship Plan
Wednesday, April 16
Thursday, April 24
Tuesday, May 6
Monday, May 12
Thursday, May 22
Sunday, May 25
Tuesday, June 3
Saturday, June 7
Friday, June 20
Monday, June 23
Friday, June 27
Thursday, July 10
Saturday, July 19
Friday, August 1
Tuesday, August 5
Saturday, August 9         
Sunday, August 24
Tuesday, September 16

Friday, January 10, 2014

For superfans, 'Banshee' premiere event is a scream

Fans of Cinemax's "Banshee" assembled inside uptown's McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square got what they came to see at Thursday night's event to launch the second season: a testosterone-fueled new episode of the North Carolina-produced series, and an in-the-flesh glimpse of sexy stars Antony Starr and Ivana Milicevic, who waved and smiled from the stage pre-screening.

For regular viewers, the experience must have been gleeful -- an opportunity to watch it as if watching a movie, with the darkly humorous moments enveloping them in a roomful of laughs and action-scene punchlines producing rousing cheers.

But due to its high quotient of brutal violence and graphic sex, one wondered how it was being received by those simply on hand to celebrate the fact that the show is shot in the Charlotte area, and who had never seen "Banshee" before. "I've not seen the show," Mayor Patrick Cannon said beforehand. "But I've heard a lot about it, gotten great feedback." (His faves? "Scandal" and "Homeland.")

Cannon walked the red carpet in the nearby Duke Energy Theater before the screening, one of many in a line of other distinguished guests and actors who have minor roles in Season 2. The main draws, however, were Starr and Milicevic.

Both had arrived in Charlotte fresh off a press blitz in L.A. the previous day.

Starr -- sporting a softer appearance than his character, with slightly longer hair and a clean shave -- shook hands with greeters despite a brace on his right that he was wearing as a result of a recent surgery. "I've had it about a month," he said. "I wish I had a really good story for you, but unfortunately it's just something that I've been meaning to get done and I finally had the time in between seasons."

And Milicevic shook hands and posed for photos despite a warning that she had taken a red-eye that got her into Charlotte at 6:30 a.m.: "I did (sleep). But not enough. Yeah, don't get too close," she joked.

Both had predictably nice things to say about Charlotte and its hospitality, though Starr -- who plays a tough guy's tough guy on the series -- did say something surprising about our area.

"You know what scares me about Charlotte? Snakes, in a nutshell," he said. "All the disgusting animals that you have here, that I'm not used to because I'm from New Zealand, where we have nothing that hurts you. ... The worst bite you're gonna get there is a mosquito bite; it's great. You can go and sleep out in the bush or out in the forest and not worry about it.

"I'd show you, but it'd take me too long to go through my phone -- I've got a collection of snake shots, because I'm fascinated by them. Most of them are rat snakes and black snakes, so they're harmless, but ... we had someone clearing water moccasins (for a scene near Lake Norman) in Season 1. It's quite surreal for me. Not in the best way."

Milicevic, meanwhile, sounded like she couldn't wait for Thursday night's event to be over.

OK, we're kidding, but the 39-year-old former Bond girl did say this:

"I think tonight if they said, 'Oh, the premiere is off, something happened,' I'd go to Mellow Mushroom for pizza, I'd go to Tony's Ice Cream (in Gastonia -- her favorite flavor is Cowboy Crunch) ... and I would absolutely end up at Soul (Gastrolounge in Plaza Midwood) later. I may end up at Soul later tonight."

Friday, December 20, 2013

10 of my favorite celebrity interviews from 2013

While Charlotte isn’t exactly L.A. or New York, we do attract a fair amount of famous folks for one reason or another. And sometimes, they actually take time out of their busy schedules to talk with reporters like me.

Here’s a look back at 10 memorable celebrity interviews I landed in 2013, along with the quotes that stood out most to me.

10. Nick Jonas, who was in the Charlotte area last spring filming the upcoming thriller “Careful What You Wish For.” Quotable: “It’s been tough to venture out too much, just because it gets a little crazy around here. But I have my security guy with me, and he helps me navigate around pretty easily. It’s one of those things. You just have to play it by ear and make sure that everyone’s safe.”

9. Nicholas Sparks, N.C.-based author of “Safe Haven,” which was released in film version in February. Quotable: “I cried at ‘Old Yeller.’ Man, I was so sad when he had to shoot his dog. Still gets me. And ‘Toy Story 3,’ that moved me. … My son was heading off to college, Andy’s heading off to college – can’t help but get a little choked up at that.”

8. N.C. native Kellie Pickler, promoting her new CD “The Woman I Am,” which dropped in November. Quotable: “I haven’t had a chance to go home to Albemarle and do anything musically there – that would be great. Not many places to perform in Albemarle, though. We’ll have to find a field or something and set up a truck bed there. I don’t know. Get some hay bales ...”

Photo by David T. Foster/The Charlotte Observer

7. Kevin James, who did stand-up at Belk Theater in May. Quotable: “Believe me, my movies aren’t (my kids’) favorites. It’s Despicable Me,’ it’s all these other animated movies. They haven’t locked into one of mine. Right now Steve Carell’s winning in my house.”

6. Ke$ha, who performed in concert at Uptown Amphitheatre in August. Quotable: “I in the past have been known to jump off stage and kiss people on the mouth if they’re yawning. ... I feel like it’s an environment where everybody’s there for the same common goal, which is to completely go crazy, sans judgment. And hopefully in the end leave covered with glitter.”

Read more here:

5. Michael Bublé, who performed in concert at Time Warner Cable Arena in October. Quotable: “It’s not just about what I wear, it’s the whole presentation. I’m playing places where there was a hockey game the night before. I want this place to be transformed, and for everything to be dressed up to where it looks like you’re walking into a beautiful place, about to have a beautiful night, and not some cold, stinky hockey arena.”

4. NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, during a break from shooting a GoDaddy ad at a south Charlotte fitness club: “This workout isn’t completely dissimilar to what I do. It’s just about intensity and keeping that heart rate up, and moving, moving, moving – which is what’s going to make us all skinny like we want to be.”

3. Tracy Morgan, who did stand-up at The Fillmore in June. Quotable: “Critics don’t get my show because they are looking for Tracy Jordan. I don’t listen to critics. After every show, I’m getting standing ovations. That’s what matters to me. Not somebody that comes to my show with intent. I don’t care about that. Critics, they ain’t nothing. Let me see you get up and do standup for an hour and a half. If I wasn’t funny, I wouldn’t be invited to Charlotte.”

2. Claire Danes, while walking the red carpet at a “Homeland” premiere event in Washington, D.C., in September. Quotable: “Coming from New York City, (Charlotte’s) got a much more gentle, forgiving pace. People are incredibly kind and welcoming.”

Photo by Théoden Janes/The Charlotte Observer

1. Tom Hanks, during a press event to promote “Captain Phillips” in Atlanta. Quotable: “I had to go full-bore for 12 straight hours. It was uncontrollable. It never stopped. If I didn't put 110 percent of my effort into every single moment we ran the camera, the movie would not have been as good – and that movie was Turner & Hooch. I swear to God. Working with that dog... almost killed me.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

2 more movies shooting in Charlotte, and they are...

Hollywood's invasion of Charlotte continues this week -- and into November -- with two film projects currently being produced within the city limits.

The first is "Captive," starring David Oyelowo ("Jack Reacher") and Kate Mara ("House of Cards"). Based on events that occurred in Atlanta in 2005, the thriller centers around an escaped prisoner (Oyelowo) who takes a young woman (Mara) hostage while trying to exact revenge on those who got him locked up.

Casting directors have been regularly posting pleas for extras here.

The other project is "Tusk," a horror movie from "Clerks" writer-director Kevin Smith. The inspiration for his latest story? An online ad Smith stumbled upon that offered free rent to anyone willing to dress up as a walrus for two hours a day. It is said to be a "Human Centipede"-style horror movie, with Quentin Tarantino and Justin Long among the cast.

The same casting agency is handling extras for "Tusk."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Director talks 'Bad Grandpa' -- and That Penguin Scene

Charlotte was the proving ground for some of the funniest and most outrageous scenes in the new comedy "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa." You can read about two of them by clicking HERE. Or, you can read on for director Jeff Tremaine's explanation of how two of the most notorious scenes in the trailer were born.

These are excerpts from an interview with Tremaine conducted Monday:

On developing the concept for "Bad Grandpa": "We started loosely talking about this idea ... in 2006. But really, about two years ago we got serious about really figuring out how to crack making a movie just about Irving. And we threw around story ideas, but even before we were committed to story, (Johnny) Knoxville and I started throwing around funny scenarios, like how we do the 'Jackass' stuff, where we just think of funny scenes with Irving, not really worrying about the story. But once we started writing the story, it took the front seat. It really took over the movie. And then we started thinking about pranks. How to tell the story through pranks and stunts, really. Where they weren't just a series of pranks that are strung together with a loose narrative. When you watch it, you'll see. It's a real story. It feels almost like a normal, scripted movie, except for 90 percent of the actors are real people that don't know they're starring in a movie."

Director Jeff Tremaine with Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

On the challenges of making the film: "This movie is, from a production standpoint, a terrible idea. Because one, your star has to go through four hours of makeup before you even start shooting. Or let's say three hours. They got it down to three. But it really is three and a half to four. Two, you have an 8-year-old boy with you that comes with a lot of restrictions on what you can shoot and your time and everything else. And three, all the cameras have to be hidden. We weren't able to come up with a device that let us have a camera out for 99 percent of the movie. So everything had to be hidden. And then you're hoping for reactions. And then you're hoping, on top of that, that after you get those reactions that you were hoping for, that the people will be cool and sign the release. So it's a terrible idea. Most of 'Jackass' was just a bunch of us sitting around kicking each other in the nuts and laughing about it. It was pretty easy to shoot most of that. I mean, there's a danger element for sure, but from a production standpoint, it's pretty easy. We don't do that much stuff out in public anymore. ("Bad Grandpa") was all out in public, and that's just such a wild card. It's stressful."

Johnny Knoxville with director Jeff Tremaine. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

On comparisons to "Borat": "I think 'Borat' was more of a very loose narrative. It was more his character doing a series of vignettes that had a very loose narrative. This is much more narrative than I think 'Borat' is. And 'Borat' was smarter than we were. They had a device that allowed them to have a camera out the whole time. ... But we're fans. We like 'Borat.' We're fans of what Sacha (Baron Cohen) does, for sure."

On the funeral scene: "Right at the beginning of the movie, Irving's wife dies, and we have a funeral for her. And she never existed, so we had to figure out how to populate a funeral with people willing to sit through a funeral for someone they didn't know. And what they don't know is that she's not even real. ... We shot that scene really early, and that scene has the whole plot of the movie in it. These people have to sit through not just a funeral that goes crazy, but it's where Irving -- who is excited to start the last part of his life free of his wife that he was miserable with -- is handed his grandson that he barely knew. And there's a lot of plot that these people have to sit through, and they don't know what's going on. So when we successfully pulled that off, I knew we could do anything, because that one seemed far-fetched at the time of writing it."

On the corpse used throughout the movie: "It's a mold of Catherine Keener. We shot with Catherine Keener and ended up cutting her out. We shot with Keener and (co-writer) Spike Jonze both in old makeup. Spike was an old lady, and Keener played (Irving's) wife. We were gonna show her through flashbacks. And Spike was the one that got away, his long-lost love interest, the one before he got married. We got really funny stuff, but as we were cutting the movie together, we realized that the thing that was working the most in the movie and the thing that needed more time to develop was Irving and Billy's relationship, and putting stuff in between that muddied it up. So we ended up cutting them out. We'll put it out on DVD later."

On the above scene, shot outside The Penguin Drive-In: "What was funny is WE put the penguin there. We found the restaurant The Penguin that was cool with us shooting, and we just put this big penguin in front of it... The owner of the restaurant was in on it, but none of the employees were, so they thought that this was the new big icon in front of The Penguin... We were just going around shooting a bunch of stuff of Irving being a bad driver. That was one of the sub-themes: Irving can't drive for s---. So we set up a bunch of these scenarios where he was just gonna run over stuff in front of people, and hopefully get reactions. But when we hit the penguin, there was this angry New Yorker there for some reason. (He wasn't an employee.) The guy is like full-on Brooklyn or something -- I mean, he sounds like an actor. And he just got so offended, and (Johnny Knoxville) sensed that. Knoxville's so good at that. When someone does give him a hint that they're on the hook, he will take them for a ride. And he just made this guy really angry, then brought him down. Made him even more angry, brought him down... That ended up being a crazy scene."

On the above scene, shot outside -- and inside -- Value Village: "That's one of probably the most complicated shoots that I've ever been a part of, and it's only about 30 seconds of screen time. But the idea was Irving sits on a little coin-operated ride in front of a shopping center, and it goes haywire and launches him. Originally thought it would be funny to do it at a grocery store or a big store that he sails into. But that seemed too complicated. So we started looking at empty storefronts where we could put this thing and dress the store like it was open, but not have people on the inside, so he could just shoot in there. But then we started scouting, and we found Value Village that had the perfect setup to where he could launch inside. We cordoned it off to where he landed in the bedroom area of Value Village. When we naturally scouted that store, they had it to where there were some beds and things that would block people from being right in front of the window. So it ended up being, Alright, we can actually do this dangerous stunt. The stunt is dangerous for Knoxville, because if he sits up at all, he gets his head taken off. So he had to just keep his head low and hold on tight. And that's what he's best at. That's about the skill level he has. It was a dangerous stunt if he popped up at all ... and then you never know what the landing's gonna be. But we were more concerned -- well, at least on my end -- with other people being close enough to see it, but not being in harm's way. So that was a tricky logistical thing, and we ended up pulling it off."

On putting Knoxville at risk of being punched by someone: "I think his secret goal is TO get beat up. This is what he's really, really good at, and that is walking the line and getting people to a heightened state, without crossing the line. Although I think secretly he'd be very happy if he got punched in the face once in awhile."