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Category: Entertainment

Canadian imports, especially ‘Rookie Blue,’ are keeping summers free of repeat TV


By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a fan of good television. And you’re more than aware that for years, TV series stopped in the summer months — and were always marked by the shows you saw all winter long in repeats.

But thanks to several Canadian imports — most notably, “Rookie Blue,” – the summer months on network TV are no longer just repeats. In fact, in the case of “Rookie Blue,” the summer months offer some of the best TV of the entire year.

Most don’t even realize just how active the Canadian television show market is. In addition to “Rookie,” Canada also offers us the second-year cop drama “Motive,” which is wildly popular north of the border and here in the U.S. (But we’ll save “Motive” for another review.) Read more »

‘Rectify’ explores life after prison


By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

Imagine what it must be like knowing you’re innocent of a crime.

Then, somehow, you’re charged with the crime, go through a trial, get convicted and then sentenced to death. You’re spared the death penalty for 19 years, and thanks to DNA evidence, your sentence is vacated — and you’re released from prison.

Such is the scenario for fictional character Daniel Holden in the Sundance Channel’s “Rectify,” a series that debuted a year ago and that is currently in its second season.

Daniel Holden’s background 

Holden stood accused, at age 19, of raping and murdering his then-girlfriend, Hanna, 16, in 1994.

When he’s released, it’s 2013 — and just think for a moment how radically different things are now than they were in 1994. For starters, there’s this new thing called the Internet. TVs are flat. Computers are everywhere. Cassette tapes are obsolete. Life as Holden knew it in 1994 is nothing as it is upon his release.

This incredible drama deals with how Holden, now 38, deals with life on the outside. And is it ever a challenge. Now keep in mind this — it’s one thing to be released from prison. It’s a completely different scenario when that release happens in a small town in the rural South — in the fictitious town of Paulie, Ga.

In small-town life, everyone knows everyone’s business. Everyone has a formed opinion. Everyone believes their opinion is the one that matters the most.

Sound familiar?

Such is the life Holden faces back in Paulie. There are countless people — including the sheriff, the prosecutor and a state senator who is the former prosecutor who tried and convicted Holden back in 1994 — who won’t rest until he’s put back into prison.

Aden Young as Daniel Holden in ‘Rectify.’

Aden Young as Daniel Holden in ‘Rectify.’


But then, there’s a faction of people who truly believe — just as they did 19 years ago — that Holden wasn’t responsible for the death of the 16-year-old.

It all takes an already-divided community — and divides it even further — to a point where people truly learn to despise one another.

The writers of the show do a brilliant job of making it all seem so real.

Holden’s character is portrayed brilliantly by actor Aden Young. At times, the man you see in the Holden role is the same 19-year-old who went away for as many years. At times, you find a man who is curious — who wants to learn how to get a driver’s license, what wants to discover what Target is, wants to learn to play games on a Playstation instead of his old, ancient Sega Genesis.

Yet throughout it all, you find in Holden a man who is completely lost — who really doesn’t know what life outside the walls of a prison is supposed to be like … who doesn’t know his place in the world … who can’t seem to figure out whether he even believes in his own innocence … who longs just to be touched by another human being.

What makes “Rectify” a hit is that it’s not like anything else you’ll find anywhere on TV. It tackles a quite taboo subject. It’s not a typical crime drama where the crime is the main focus of the show. It’s not in a hospital. It’s not in a police station. It’s not in a law office.

Instead, it’s in real America. It doesn’t take us to the absurd. And it portrays what this writer would imagine would happen in a nosy little town forced to deal with a man being released from prison for a crime that divided everyone.

As TV Guide said in its review, “Rectify is “one of the most captivating and poignant TV series” currently on the air.

Couldn’t agree more. Season 1 is available now on Netflix and Season 2 is currently underway. New episodes air at 9 p.m. Thursdays on the Sundance Channel.

It’s dinner, music & comedy … and much more, at Whiskey Cafe


By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 


If you’re looking for a New York City-like night out, but don’t want the hassle or prices of Manhattan, you need not look all that far away — as Whiskey Café Restaurant and Night Club, at 1050 Wall St., has plenty for locals to do, every night of the week.

Among the newest events at Whiskey Café is Dinner, Music & Comedy, featuring music by Allan Boles and the comedy of Kelly Shannon & Friends, on Fridays, 6 to 10 p.m.

Normally, Fridays at Whiskey are associated with Happy Hour, but with the summer here and with many people drawn to the Shore for the weekend, owner Frank Morganti says he wanted something enjoyable for those who don’t go away.

“We really wanted something new and something special for Fridays,” Morganti said. “And we think we have that with live music and comedy.”

The Friday dinner menu has items for just $10.95, and includes soup or salad and an entrée. For just $4.95 more, you can add an appetizer or dessert. And best of all — there’s no cover for the shows.

Boles performs from 6 to 9 p.m., and then Shannon hits the stage from 9 to 10 p.m.

There’s so much more than just what happens Friday nights, too. For the next few weeks, Whiskey will show every World Cup Soccer game on its numerous large-screen HDTVs.


Photo courtesy Whiskey Cafe A few of the many cars you’ll find at Whiskey Café Saturday nights between 5 and 10 p.m. as part of the American Cruisers weekly car cruise.

Photo courtesy Whiskey Cafe
A few of the many cars you’ll find at Whiskey Café Saturday nights between 5 and 10 p.m. as part of the American Cruisers weekly car cruise.


On Monday nights, it’s paint night at 7 p.m. — where an artist comes in and shows patrons how to paint while responsibly enjoying some adult beverages. (Advance tickets are required — and can be purchased for $25 from a link at www.WhiskeyCafe.com).

“We stated out with about 10 people, but it’s grown to be really popular now,” Morganti said. “We’ve got about 40 coming on Monday nights — and they really seem to be enjoying it.”

On Wednesdays, it’s country music night starting at 7 p.m. — and a $10 cover gets you access to a full buffet starting at 8 p.m.

On Thursday nights, it’s Salsa Summer — and that includes a 7 p.m. Salsa dance lesson, as well as a great night of Salsa music. That’s only $5.

Perhaps the most noted night of all is Saturdays, when around 500 classic, new and specialty cars make their way to Whiskey from 5 to 10 p.m. as part of American Cruisers’ largest regularly scheduled car cruise. There’s no cost for the car show, but the American Cruisers do accept donations as patrons arrive.

While all that’s happening, there’s always some kind of live entertainment, from dance music to oldies and bands, including Classic 45 Oldies Band on June 28.

Bottom line — if you’re looking for something to do, you’re going to find something enjoyable every night of the week at Whiskey Café.

“We’re really happy with what’s happening here — and we hope more people come out and give us a try,” Morganti said. “They won’t leave disappointed.”

The Whiskey Café Restaurant & Night Club is located at 1050 Wall St., Lyndhurst. Contact them at 201-939-4889 or visit them online at www.WhiskeyCafe.com for more information.

W.H.A.T. is going on in the arts scene in West Hudson? ‘The Fantasticks’ is, for starters


By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent


While West Hudson County hasn’t quite been noted for being a hotbed for the arts over the years, perhaps now it should be — and that’s all thanks to the West Hudson Arts & Theater Company — or W.H.A.T.

Last weekend the company produced “The Fantasticks: A Musical.” (The play can also be seen this weekend.)

And yet so much more has happened and is to come with W.H.A.T.

This season alone, W.H.A.T. has put on “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Cinderella,” “A Christmas Carol,” “Back to the ‘80s,” “The Cat in the Hat,” and “Steel Magnolias” in addition to “The Fantastics.” Read more »

Jack Bauer returns in new version of ‘24’


By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

6-4 24_web

Photos Courtesy of Fox Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) with President James Heller (William Devave)

There’s no question that when “24” went off the air after eight seasons a few years ago, most had some glimmer of hope that Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) would somehow return.

Now that he has, this time in London, he and “24: Live Another Day” have not disappointed one bit.

Without giving too much away, if you were a fan of the show before, you’re going to love the new incarnation. In this season’s 12-episode run, we’re reunited with Jack who was last told by the former president and utter weasel Allison Taylor he would never be able to return to America.

The White House is now occupied by James Heller (William Devane), father of Audrey Raines (Kim Raver), who before this was the Secretary of Defense. The brilliance of having Heller as president is heightened by his past interplay with Jack, who was once his daughter’s sole love — and who was once his special assistant.

The two had such a terse relationship in seasons past, so their connection this season, before anything starts, is already well-defined. There’s no love lost between them — and it shows in their first London encounter (we won’t go beyond saying that … other than you should look carefully for something being quite off about Heller from the get-go that isn’t related to Jack or Audrey at all). Read more »

From Kearny to Hollywood: How Thomas Schnauz made it big on the small screen


By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent

If you’re a fan of “Breaking Bad” — and let’s face it, you really should be — you’ve probably seen his name in the opening credits countless times. He’s a producer and writer for the series that in just a few short seasons, became one of the most popular TV shows in American history — and one of the most watched ever on cable TV.

His name is Thomas Schnauz, and until he was age 10, he called Kearny home. In the time since he lived here — Ann and Drew Taylor are his aunt and uncle and still live in Kearny — he’s gone on to be one of the most prolific TV writers of a generation. And yet, he still fondly recalls, to this day, many great memories of growing up in West Hudson.

“I spent a lot of time in Kearny when I was younger. I was born there and grew up on Highland Ave., and went to school through the fourth grade at Garfield Elementary,” Schnauz told The Observer exclusively. “Even after my mom, dad, sister and I moved to South Jersey when I was 10, I’d come back at Christmas and the summer to visit grandparents and friends. I don’t get back as much as I’d like (now). When my grandmother, Dorothy Yobs, moved down to South Jersey, that’s when my visits started to tail off. When I can take a detour between South Jersey and New York City, I try to get fish and chips on Kearny Ave.” Read more »

‘Law & Order UK’ brings twists that couldn’t work in the USA




By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

If you’re a fan of the “Law and Order” series — and let’s face it, who in America hasn’t at one point or another sat down to watch one or more episodes of the many versions of the show? — you certainly know how intense the show is here stateside.

What many don’t know is that for the last six years, there’s been a British version of “Law and Order” — all episodes are based on the original American version — and it’s by far the best created to date.

As is often the case in the U.K., the seasons of “Law and Order UK” are quite short. There have been eight “series” or seasons and the most there’s ever been in a series is 13 episodes. The current series, the eighth, ended late in April with eight episodes.

There are some major parallels in the show. And some noticeable differences.

The show starts off with the words familiar to American viewers: “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups.” But it changes here. “The police who investigate crime, and the Crown Prosecutors who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”

In the U.K., the Crown Prosecutors handle prosecutions. Read more »

Walker’s potential realized in ‘Brick Mansions’

Stills from the film “Brick Mansions”



By Anthony J. Machcinski 

Observer Correspondent 

Sometimes you just don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Such is the case with the late actor Paul Walker.

During his career, Walker became famous for his role as Brian O’Conner in “The Fast and the Furious” film series, but never could see much success outside the adrenaline-fueled series.

Before his death in a car accident last November, Walker had three films that had been completed but not yet released.

“Brick Mansions,” which came out in April, was one of those final movies. It finally seemed like the film where Walker found his niche as an actor.

In his early movies, Walker was often cast as the blond-haired, blue-eyed California good guy – as exemplified by the first “The Fast and the Furious” movie in 2001. While Walker excelled here in his role as the pretty boy cop, he could not successfully replicate the same type of character in other films.

However, the latest installments of “The Fast and Furious” series rejuvenated his career. While many attributed this to the success of the franchise and not Walker’s acting, “Brick Mansions” proves that to be false.

In “Brick Mansions,” Walker plays Det. Damien Collier, a Detroit cop who teams up with vigilante Lino Dupree (played by David Belle) to stop drug lord Tremaine Alexander (played by rapper RZA).

While films prior to “Brick Mansions” miscast Walker as the pretty boy, this film places Walker in the role he was born to play – the unlikely thrill seeker who takes chances to accomplish the mission.

From the opening seconds of the movie, adrenaline junkies are thrown right into the action, with Walker chasing down criminals by any means possible.

Breakout for Belle? 

While Walker shines throughout the film, Belle could become the next breakout action star with “Brick Mansions” as his foundation. Prior generations of action films had their own breakout stars that brought with them a certain style of action.

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger brought big muscles and bigger guns to create their own action. Jet Li and Jean-Claude Van Damme used speed and martial arts to create their action stardom.

Belle, however, could spawn the next action film revolution with a parkour-infused fighting style.

Parkour, a holistic training regimen developed in France, is the idea of getting from one point to another in the quickest way possible. This involves jumping over walls, climbing fences, jumping down staircases and mainly, getting through obstacles in the quickest way possible.

Belle was one of the primary developers of parkour in France and bringing him in for this film just added value to the film’s already great plot. Throughout the film, Belle can be seen jumping off walls to punch an enemy, sliding through their legs and using his parkour knowledge to run away from the bad guys.

It is this unique style of parkour-infused fight scenes that separates “Brick Mansions” from other action films. Viewers would be hard-pressed to find another action film that showcases a more unique style of fighting.

While the action scenes in the film will amaze viewers throughout the film, the plot will keep them in their seats. Even with many of the film’s actors – Walker as the exception – being lesser names, the acting in the film is superb and filled with an energy that bigger names may not have been able to back up.

As a whole, “Brick Mansions” was worth more than the price of admission. While the movie may not capture much attention in the leadup to the summer movie season, it could still become a big break for many of the lesser known actors, like Belle, as well as a capstone to the career of Paul Walker.

For those points alone, this movie gets an 8.5 out a possible 10.

Jersey Sound plays Whiskey Cafe Saturday

Photos courtesy www.jerseysound.com
Jersey Sound during a performance at Riverside Manor.

By Anthony J. Machcinski 

Observer Correspondent 

Using decades of experience gained in prior bands, Jersey Sound has become one of the area’s top oldies bands. Jersey Sound will draw upon that same experience when they perform at Lyndhurst’s Whiskey Café this Saturday.

Jersey Sound was formed in 2005 by guitarist Phil Bruno, who had broken away from a prior band and was looking for a fresh start.

“We [Jersey Sound members] knew each other throughout the years,” Bruno said. “We had mutual friends and said we wanted to get something new.”

The band is composed of area residents vocalists Jim Cotugno and Michael Delvey, drummer Pete Del Vecchio, keyboardist Dom DiGioia, Bruno on guitar, and bass guitarist Paul Tarlow.

For both Bruno and Del Vecchio, the journey into the music industry began when they were kids.

“My parents sent me for accordion lessons and I didn’t really like it,” Del Vecchio said. “A year or so later, I was playing ball and I kept hearing this guy playing drums. I told my parents and then I went back for drum lessons.”

Bruno got his start listening to fellow Belleville resident Tommy DeVito with The Four Seasons.

“The Four Seasons were a big influence on me,” Bruno said. “(DeVito) grew up in my neighborhood so they were huge for me.”

Despite its members’ different backgrounds, the band has bonded through a common dedication towards their craft.

“It’s more than just a group of musicians,” Bruno said. “This group we have is more like a family. Everyone feels for one another.”

Bruno said that what separates Jersey Sound from other bands is that dedication and the lack of overbearing personalities in the band.

“The one thing about this band – there is no jealousy or egos,” Bruno said. “Everyone is on the same level and I think that’s a big part of having a successful band.”

While the group performs a wide variety of songs from the 1960s and 1970s, the group hopes that it will be more known for its diversity.

“We used to do a lot of ’50s music, then we decided to move on into the ’60s and ’70s, doing the music that most groups aren’t doing,” Bruno explained. “The Turtles, The Buckinghams, The Zombies. When you hear these songs, you say, ‘I remember that song,’ but not many bands are doing it. “What I want to do with this group are things nobody else is doing.”

It appears as if Jersey Sound, and their reputation as one of the best oldies bands in the area, hit the mark with their goal.

In 2012, the band recorded and released its first CD, the 12-track album titled “Sandy Sessions.” While the infamous hurricane of that name battered the East Coast, Jersey Sound remained Jersey Strong and hunkered down – recording all 12 tracks of the album.

“We started recording it the day Sandy hit,” said Del Vecchio. “People loved it.”

The album features a wide variety of hits, including The Turtles’ “Happy Together,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and Elvis Presley’s “The Wonder of You.”

Each song on the “Sandy Sessions” album is a hit, and not just because the original bands made the songs hits years ago. Jersey Sound has its own unique sound.

From the first track, “Hungry Heart,” to the final track, “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers, Jersey Sound provides all the sound anyone can ask for – from perfect harmonies to soulful background music. The band’s dedication to each track can be discerned in every note heard, whether through a set of speakers at a venue or a set of headphones in your home.

While Jersey Sound continues to play gigs throughout the area, their eyes are still set on the future and bigger venues. The band is expected to record their second CD, which includes some original music.

“Our goal is to be as good as we can be,” Bruno said. “We want to be one of New Jersey’s best oldies bands. We do this for the love of the music.”

Killing Horse label marks 4th anniversary

Photos courtesy www.killinghorserecords.com
The bands Cicada Radio (top) and Secret Country (bottom), both of Kearny are just two of the
groups under the Killing Horse Records label.



By Anthony J. Machcinski

Observer Correspondent 

Since 2010, a great deal of things have changed in the area. Among those things, the Pulaski Skyway shutdown in one direction, Kearny got a Wawa and Lyndhurst completed the building of a new football field. Heck, even the Passaic River continues to get cleaned up.

While many of those things have changed, one thing that has remained constant is the Killing Horse Records recording label, a strong independent label out of Kearny that celebrated its fourth anniversary this year.

“We’re psyched to be able to still be doing this thing,” said Killing Horse co-founder Mike Sylvia. “A lot of labels that start from the ground up, like us, have fizzled out. We feel like we are consistently moving forward which is all we can ask for.”

Sylvia and co-founder Ryan Gross founded the label in 2010 out of a Kearny Ave. apartment as a chance to get better publicity for the Kearny band Secret Country.

“During that time, Secret Country was putting out their first full length record,” Sylvia said. “We started the company to take care of all the behind the scenes stuff and from there, we were able to help out other bands.”

Sylvia and Gross also saw an opportunity to aid other bands in the area, not just Secret Country.

“We saw that there was a need to document the music that was coming out of the area,” Sylvia said. “Also, we felt that if a few of us could pool our resources together we would be able to get things done more efficiently. That model still seems to work for us.”

While the label started booking shows at the Kearny Irish- American Club with local bands, its real success was gaining valuable resources throughout the music industry.

“What we found was that we made a ton of contacts,” Sylvia said. “Between bloggers, press people, all the people you need to know to stay afloat. It was really essential for us even though it didn’t translate monetarily.”

Even with Killing Horse’s success, Sylvia said he never looked at the long-term future of the label early in his career.

“We don’t really think in those kinds of terms,” Sylvia said. “We just try to put out records and look to fund the next record.”

Since they started in 2010, Sylvia said the label has accumulated lots of valuable information.

“We’ve had a chance to learn about lots of different parts of the industry, so putting out a record for us is easy now,” Sylvia said. “As long as we have the budget, we plan on putting out lots of records in the future.”

However, the biggest lesson the label founders have learned is to stick to their guns and not be afraid.

“One of the biggest lessons we have learned is that it’s okay to make mistakes,” Sylvia explained. “Keep your ideals, don’t change.”

Even with all the label’s growing pains over the last four years, Sylvia and Gross never wavered from their dream.

“We love doing it,” Sylvia said. “There was a time we thought we couldn’t afford doing what we love, sure, but we do what we can and we are fine with that.”

While the label has continued to grow and gain experience, the number of the bands under the Killing Horse label has increased as well. Those bands include Secret Country, Cicada Radio, Overlake, Wreaths and TV Sound.

As for the future of the label, Sylvia hopes to continue building the label’s reputation as a cornerstone for the independent music scene.

“We just want to continue to grow, to put out records and help make it a little easier for the independent music scene to stay alive,” Sylvia said.

With several new records on the horizons, including a new Life Eaters record and other projects, Killing Horse Records enters its fifth year stronger than ever and with an even brighter future.