December 13, 2014

TRAILER: San Andreas

LA traffic is bad on a good day. Here's what it looks like on a really bad one.
While the Negative Nancy contingent at the USGS continues to sound alarm bells of impending seismic doom for the West Coast, the good folks at Warner Bros. aren’t waiting around for Mother Nature to unleash The Big One. The 2015 Summer blockbuster blitz kicks into high gear on May 29th with the release of SAN ANDREAS, a disaster film that makes the wildly overrated EARTHQUAKE (1974) look quaint by comparison.
Dwayne Johnson stars in SAN ANDREAS.
The cast is an oddball mix that feels like a thinly veiled attempt to hit key demo hotspots. Guys and action fans get genre fave Dwayne Johnson as the heroic lead. The geek contingent can nibble on  pop-culture treats like Colton Haynes (ARROW), Art Parkinson (GAME OF THRONES) and  Will Yun Lee (THE WOLVERINE). Talented thesps Carla Gugino and Paul Giamatti are there to  class up the joint and Kylie Minogue (yes, Kylie Minogue) means you won’t have to bribe your gay besties to tag along. It’s quirky casting, to be sure, but that’s where the fun ends. If the first-full length trailer for SAN ANDREAS is any indication, this film means business.
Earlier this month, I dinged the JURASSIC WORLD trailer for showing off way too much. Though chock-a-block with special effects shots, the dinosaurs have a “been there, done that” quality and the whole presentation felt like overcompensation on a grand scale. It managed to do what no promo ever should: suck all the anticipation out of the room. Much to my surprise, SAN ANDREAS is not a repeat offender.
Los Angeles bears the brunt of The Big One.
Before you dive in, play this quick word association game: what adjectives pop into your noggin when you think about a big-budget summer disaster film starring a guy who still moonlights with the WWE as The Rock? Nothing I came up with was brutally negative but “must-see” was nowhere on my list. What a difference two minutes of very effective marketing can make.
The trailer is dead-serious from the start. A spare, downbeat piano score accompanies an opening montage that intercuts shots of iconic California locations with increasingly ominous on-screen titles. It’s an effective set-up that pays off with a sobering visual coda. Then, all hell breaks loose when a massive seismic wave rolls across the city of Los Angeles. It’s a jaw-dropping display of digital wizardry that demands attention. Extra points for the super-creepy a cappella cover of “California Dreaming” that accompanies the carnage.
Even if the plot sucks, it’s a safe bet that SAN ANDREAS will set a new standard for big screen special effects. The quick cuts of epic-scale destruction that round out the promo are impressive and frighteningly photo-realistic. Plus, it doesn’t feel like we’ve already seen the whole movie. As trailers go, this one pushes all the right buttons. So far, I’m in.

December 6, 2014

How A Black Stormtrooper Woke Up the Dark Side

In the week since the release of the first teaser for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, the 88 second clip has been viewed more than 58 million times. That breaks the record for any trailer posted on YouTube in 2014. If you’ve been living under a rock somewhere on Tatooine and haven’t seen it (or want to watch it again) it’s included at the end of this post.
The original plan was to do this write-up day and date with the promo launch. That didn’t happen. Rather than joining everyone on the instant-reaction bandwagon, I chose to hang back. Why? Because the trailer opens with a shot of a BLACK GUY dressed in Stormtrooper armor. Now, if that doesn’t seem like a big deal, then you’re a typical STAR WARS fan. If, however, the mere sight of a BLACK GUY on screen is the thing you fixate on, you’re probably a racist bastard. I had a gut feeling the hate contingent was going to have something nasty to say so I hit pause and waited for the fallout. Sadly, I didn’t have to wait long.
Apparently, high levels of melanin cause a disturbance in whatever twisted version of The Force surrounds the ignorant and xenophobic. The target of their venom is actor John Boyega, best known for his breakout role in the indie hit ATTACK THE BLOCK. While the rest of us were buzzing about lightsabers, X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon, the idiot underbelly went online to vent and let their prejudice do the talking.
In addition to the usual insults, bigotry and red neck ramblings, some folks played the “I’m not racist, but…” shell game by deploying revisionist STAR WARS history. A Stormtrooper can’t be black, they declared, because all were cloned from Jango Fett. Except they weren’t. Jango was indeed the genetic source for the cannon fodder that populated the first Clone Army but by the time Stormtroopers were on the front lines, that was no longer the case. Never mind that we have no idea what role Boyega is playing because it hasn’t been officially announced. Sure, he might be a Stormtrooper or he could just be in disguise, you know, like Luke and Han in the 1977 original. Of course, it doesn’t matter which facts get mangled here. At the end of the day, these are still race-based attacks lurking behind some pretty flimsy window dressing.
boyega slam
To his credit, Boyega isn’t letting the haters get in the way of his happiness. Why the hell should he? He’s in a STAR WARS film and they’re not. His response to the nastiness was a brief “get used to it” tucked neatly into the footer of an otherwise cheerful and charming Instagram post. He couldn’t have handled the drama any better. What still upsets me is that he had to deal with this BS in the first place. 
I don’t accept that cruelty of this nature is a necessary evil or something that we should pretend isn’t a pox upon the whole of civilized society. Just because the victim happens to be black doesn’t make it a “black thing” that the rest of us can or should ignore. It is absolutely disgraceful and dead wrong that a talented young actor can’t celebrate a major career milestone without being slimed by blowback from bigots. If this is the kind of crap that surfaces in response to a casting decision in a sci-fi film, imagine the horrors people are dealing with in the real world where the stakes are much higher.
Be a good Jedi and do one thing the next time you’re about to ignore the hate speech in a social media post, sit silently while others laugh at a racist joke or pretend someone “doesn’t really mean it” when they use a racial slur: don’t act on that impulse. It’s a trap! Respond. Speak up. Engage. In these situations, your silence is not golden.

Ok, enough of the Dark Side. It’s time to fire up the Falcon! Scroll down to check out the trailer and read my take on the mother of all teasers.

You probably felt cheated if you were expecting a first trailer for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS that was brimming with fan-favorite characters and major plot revelations. Sorry, that’s not what this 88 seconds is all about. It is, in every sense of the word, a teaser. On first pass, it plays like a random assortment of clips, strung together with little rhyme or reason. Watch a few more times and you start to see some method to the madness. Still, there are no familiar faces, no jaw dropping surprises or anything really big that we didn’t already know. With all that seemingly not going for it, here’s the shocker: the thing kinda kicks ass.
When George Lucas was dislodged from the process, the prospect of a really good STAR WARS movie suddenly seemed possible. Bringing JJ Abrams in kicked even the best expectations into overdrive. After all, he managed to re-boot the STAR TREK franchise with a movie that fans and non-fans loved then he topped that with an even better sequel. Putting Abrams in charge of re-birthing the STAR WARS universe was a dream come true. You’ll never have to worry about him casting the next Jake Lloyd, killing off the best new bad guy way too early or being the only one who thinks fans can’t get enough of long, horribly written scenes of chemistry-free romance by that lake on Naboo. Now that the first trailer is out, it’s also safe to assume that Abrams must be confident in his vision. There’s no other way to parse how he is able to do so much by choosing to show so little.
The trailer had to make it clear that there was a new sheriff in town; one who respects the material but isn’t afraid to toss out the  bantha poodoo. That’s what makes the opening shot so brilliant. Seeing Boyega in Stormtrooper armor (on what looks like Tatooine) gives us the old and the new in one bold stroke. It’s also a long overdue shift for the franchise. Other than Billy Dee Williams and Samuel L. Jackson, Lucas didn’t exactly embrace diversity when it came to casting most of the human roles.  Putting a fresh, exciting young actor front and center is smart. That he also happens to be black is a welcome break from the sins of the past. This isn’t your grand daddy’s STAR WARS and that’s a good thing.
The trailer might be stingy with narrative details but, the first minute is given over to a rapid-fire succession of clips that mercy kill all lingering memories of cute Ewoks, jabbering Jar Jar and those horrid squeals of delight from little Anakin. It’s shot after shot of tension, fear, looming conflict and lots of running and flying away from (or toward) something unseen but probably unpleasant. Even the one kinda cute droid is not having a good day. It’s a whole lot of angst that culminates with the one-two rush of X-Wings in flight over open water and the lightsaber to end all lightsabers. This thing looks like a weapon that’s built for killing. It’s down and dirty and makes Darth Maul’s double beam model look like a kiddie toy
Though it’s hard to make a sweeping assessment with so little to go on but, it does look like the George Lucas digital EFX freak show has been shuttered. Amen! This STAR WARS is gritty and organic, at once familiar but also more grown up and worldly. The Force might be waking up but the majority of the promo is all about The Dark Side. That is, until the grand finale. A near perfect crescendo that pairs the STAR WARS theme with a mind blowing shot of the Millennium Falcon soaring through dizzying aerial acrobatics while under attack by TIE Fighters. I haven’t smiled so big and wide in a long time. Yes, I’m a STAR WARS geek and, finally, I can be damn proud of it once again. December 2015 can’t get here fast enough.

October 31, 2014

Scary TV: Big Screams On the Small Screen

This Zuni fetish doll has a major attitude problem.
Last Halloween, we unearthed a special three part series that revealed our picks for the “Scariest Movie Moments.” If you’re still looking for the perfect fright film to watch during the witching hour, it’s a can’t miss guide. From well-known classics to gore obscure, there’s something for horror fans of every stripe.
While big screen titles are still the lifeblood of the genre, TV series and made for television movies have a long tradition of bringing tales of terror into our living rooms. To that end, we’ve narrowed down hours of network programming into a short list that includes some of our all-time favorite television specials and series episodes. Each of these thirteen selections is also a stand-out example of small screen scary. Turn the lights on and enjoy.
NOTE: Titles available for streaming on Netflix, Hulu Plus and/or Amazon Instant Video are noted as such. Clicking on any image below will take you to the Amazon product page for the DVD and/or Blu-ray release of that title.
CLICK to buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon.

“Hush” (S4, E10) is one of the best episodes of the series. It’s also the scariest, thanks to a quartet of truly evil baddies known as “The Gentleman.” They steal the voices of their victims to prevent them from screaming. Adding to the creep factor, The bulk of the episode has no spoken dialogue. Stream: Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant.

CLICK to buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon.

“Sanctuary” and “Death and All His Friends” (S6, E23 & E24). The sixth season of the sudsy ABC drama wrapped with a dark and shocking finale. A shooter turns Seattle Grace into a bloodbath over two excruciatingly tense hours. It’s a dead-serious outing that trades the usual melodrama for uncompromising brutality. Stream: Amazon Instant.
CLICK to buy on DVD from Amazon.

This CBS summer series is a gory whodunit. At least one character is offed in every episode, often in brutally creative ways. Adding to the tension, the identity of the killer isn’t revealed until the finale. Though the entire run is grim and scary, a harrowing battle to the death makes “Gasp” (E12) the episode that sticks with you. Stream: Netflix and Amazon Instant.

CLICK to buy on DVD from Amazon.

This creepy, well crafted ABC series (cancelled after one season) is equal parts family drama, sci-fi thriller and gothic horror. It’s a slow burn storyline draws you in and keeps you guessing. Things get full-tilt disturbing in “Round Up” (E21), a series highlight. You can pick up the complete series on DVD for under $10 on Amazon. Stream: Amazon Instant.
CLICK to buy on DVD from Amazon.

Darren McGavin is spot-on as Carl Kolchak, a tabloid reporter with a knack for working a crime beat populated by vampires, ghosts, demons and ghouls. Two stand-alone movies and the first batch of weekly episodes are standouts. The series aired for a single season. “The Zombie” (E2) gets the nod for scariest installment. Stream: Netflix and Amazon Instant.
CLICK to buy on DVD from Amazon.

“Sylvia” (S7, E17 & E18) was a jarring departure from the norm for this long-running hit. This heavy two-parter had it all: body image crisis, gender politics, the rape of a young girl, her subsequent pregnancy and the fallout from all of that. You want more? The attacker stalks his victim wearing a freaky porcelain mask. Yikes! Stream: Amazon Instant.
CLICK to buy on DVD from Amazon.

This 1979 mini-series is still one of the best adaptations of a Stephen King novel. It’s an atmospheric and genuinely chilling tale of a small town on the verge of being taken over by a nasty looking vampire. James Mason, oozing sinister evil, heads a first rate cast. Be sure to get your hands on the full-length cut. A heavily edited version was also released but it’s a mess.
CLICK to buy on DVD from Amazon.

This 1975 ABC horror anthology would have faded into obscurity were it not for “Amelia,” the third and final segment of an otherwise forgettable movie. 70’s B-movie queen Karen Black is trapped with a Zuni fetish doll that has suddenly come to life. The little bastard is pissed and he’s out for blood. It’s a balls-to-the wall battle royale that ends with a nifty little twist.
CLICK to buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon.

“Living Doll” (S5, E6). There are dozens of episodes from this classic series that make your blood run cold. What separates our scary pick from all the rest?  Meet Talky Tina, the toy from hell. In reality, this is a rather sad story about a family in crisis. The addition of an increasingly hostile doll adds a delightfully freaky twist. Stream: Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant.
CLICK to buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon.

“Lonely Souls” (S2, E7). This was the episode that finally revealed “who killed Laura Palmer” while also treating us to some of the most frightening images ever seen in primetime. Take, for example, that handsome guy to the left. He’s Killer Bob, an unforgettable villain and the stuff of nightmares. Stream: Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant.
CLICK to buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon.

“Days Gone Bye” (S1, E1) kicked off the exceptional first season of this AMC hit. It’s a bone-chilling exercise in visceral horror that offers us a front row seat to a world gone mad. When a show zombifies a little kid, you know it’s not going to pull any punches. Full of iconic, unforgettable moments. One of the best drama pilots in TV history. Stream: Netflix and Amazon Instant.

CLICK to buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon.

“Squeeze” (S1, E3) introduced us to genetic mutant Eugene Victor Tooms, a frightening fellow with a taste for fresh human livers and the ability to squeeze into the narrowest of spaces. Doug Hutchison plays Tooms to terrifying perfection. He makes a return visit later in the season (EP 21, “Tooms”) but this first outing is vintage X-FILES. Stream: Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant.
CLICK to buy on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon.

“Home” (S4, E2) is easily the most disturbing and controversial episode of the entire series. It’s also scary as hell. Though the plot is heavy on perversion and inbreeding, snappy dialogue and flourishes of gallows humor elevate the proceedings. Extra points for turning a Johnny Mathis song into a harbinger of death. Stream: Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant.
So, what do you think? Did we hit most of the highlights or is one of your scary TV favorites missing from the list? Let us know. If you’re reading this on the post page, you should see the new Facebook comments area below. If not, CLICK HERE to go to the actual post page and scroll to the bottom of the article.

October 24, 2014

THE ARCHIVE: A Trilogy Of Halloween Terror!

Welcome to the new RONTHINK.

While we put the final touches on our redesign, we thought it would be the perfect time to launch a new feature: The Archive. Well, technically, it’s the concept that’s new. As the name implies, at least some of the content will indeed come from deep in our back pages. That doesn’t mean we’re going spray digital Febreze on a parade of old clunkers and send them back out to whore for more clicks.

The Archive will re-imagine content in creative, compelling and entertaining ways. That could mean themed packages, “what were we thinking?” moments, follow-up pieces inspired by fan favorites or curated collections of reviews and opinion pieces enhanced with new material and fresh perspective. Rather than generating content that lives and dies in an online moment, we’re hoping to build something that keeps good conversations alive, celebrates those “best of” moments and, frankly, holds our feet to the fire when we screw up.

As part of our re-design, you can also expect to see a major infusion of new reader services, multi-media integrations, presentation enhancements and consumer-focused content that could save you time and money. In fact, this debut run of The Archive also features our first-ever interactive photoplay. Fear not! We hate annoying online slide shows and click-bait stunts as much as you do. We’ll leave shameless content rehashing and cheap PPC ploys to BuzzFeed and Upworthy.

Now, take a break from real world horrors and dust off your Halloween spirit. Click on any image in the preview slide show below to jump to that full installment of “Scariest Movie Moments” or use the scare-cons at the bottom of the post. Don't know what you are looking at? Just click on the i in the navigation bar to pull up more information about each image.

June 11, 2014


It’s Wednesday and we’ve got something for everyone tonight. Unscripted competition series? Check! Goofy sitcom? Check! Moody police drama? Check! Viva Hump Day!

In addition to this trio of Wednesday “best bets,” you can also check out new episodes of the hit ABC Family sitcoms MELISSA & JOEY and BABY DADDY. Both are holdovers from my 2013 “Summer TV Guilty Pleasures” list and make for a perfect hour of mindless fluff (add a glass or two of pinot to “enhance” the comedic experience).

WHY IT'S A BEST BET: Because in a sea of crappy, carbon copy reality shows, SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE is one of the few that consistently delivers the goods. The talent on display is off the charts and Cat Deeley remains one of the best hosts in the business. This is a show that celebrates dance, choreography and true artistic vision. It’s never a shoo-in for renewal year to year and, honestly, that’s a real shame.

WHO SHOULD WATCH: Anyone who loves a television experience that mixes heart-tugging personal stories, engaging competition and eye-popping dance moves. SYTYCD crosses all disciplines and is the perfect way to jump the midweek hump. Tonight is only audition week three so it’s still early enough to jump on the “Hot Tamale Train.”

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE airs Wednesdays at 8PM E/P on Fox.

WHY IT'S A BEST BET: Because the show is damn funny and Betty White continues to amaze with her razor sharp comic timing. This is that rare sitcom where you know everyone is having the time of their lives. Five seasons in, HOT IN CLEVELAND is still firing on all cylinders and rarely misses an opportunity to engage in some truly loopy fun.

WHO SHOULD WATCH: Anyone who likes the laugh out loud experience of a sitcom classic peppered with big dollops of wholly inappropriate dirty jokes. Each episodes spins a lot of simultaneous plates but somehow manages to bring home the comic bacon. If you’re a comedy snob or total tight ass, this won’t be your cup of yuk yuks.

HOT IN CLEVELAND airs Wednesdays at 10PM E/P on TV Land.

WHY IT'S A BEST BET: Because MOTIVE completes the trio of exceptional summer crime dramas that kicks off on Mondays with MAJOR CRIMES and new hit MURDER IN THE FIRST. The fun twist here is the structure of each episode. Within the first few minutes, the “killer” and “victim” are ID’d (with dramatic on=screen graphics, no less) and the rest of the hour is spent trying to figure out why the crime was committed. It’s a gimmick that works quite well because the conclusion is typically not telegraphed early on. Extra fun: trying to figure out where supporting player Lauren Holly ends and her plastic surgery begins.

WHO SHOULD WATCH: Anyone who likes their crime drama dark, twisty and morally ambiguous. Things are usually wrapped up nicely at the end but, you rarely feel sunshine and roses at the tragic outcome. This Canadian import is beautifully produced and well acted. Leads Kristin Lehman and Louis Ferreria look the part and do fantastic work every week. It’s also refreshing to watch a police drama that never plays the “woman in peril” card.
This is A-list, must-see stuff.

MOTIVE airs Wednesdays at 10PM on ABC

June 10, 2014


After a strong start to the week with a quartet of tune-in worthy dramas on Monday, it looks like the TV Gods have declared Tuesday their day of rest. There’s a boat load of unscripted crap to sift through, including two hours of Duggar hell on TLC (home of some of the worst programming this side of WE and MTV). While some people think FARGO is the bee’s knees, I think it’s as insufferable and overrated as the movie that inspired it. That means my “best bets” list for tonight is a bit skinny, with one new drama making the cut.

WHY IT'S A BEST BET: Because when you think “summer TV” and “ABC Family” I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind is “cancer show.” OK, that’s a gross oversimplification of this surprisingly well done and engaging series. Credit some above-par writing and an appealing cast, including a nice turn by lead Italia Ricci. Extra points for the presence of one of my favorite character actors, Vondie Curtis Hall. CHASING LIFE is life affirming, often gut wrenching and has more than a few surprises up it’s sleeve.

WHO SHOULD WATCH: “Too cool for the room” haters can take a powder. This isn’t a show for the tragically hip. Should your appetite for serious, medical issue dramas lean more towards THE BIG C-lite, sidle up to the DVR. If you’re looking to add a little serious stuff to your plate of fluffy summer TV fun, you could do a lot worse than this promising ABC Family original.

CHASING LIFE airs Tuesdays at 9PM E/P on ABC Family.

June 9, 2014


Start your week off on a high note with four scripted dramas that will add some sex, humor and intelligent crime drama to your Monday nights. These quick hit reviews will give you the highlights you need to know and enough of a tease to match the right show with the right viewer. Fire up those DVRs and enjoy!

WHY IT'S A BEST BET: Not only is this spin-off from THE CLOSER a thousand times better than the show that birthed it, a first rate cast and smart writing keep the drama crackling. MAJOR CRIMES manages to mix hard-hitting police action with well-placed flourishes of humor and emotional drama. Veterans Mary McDonnell, Tony Denison, Michael Paul Chan and G.W. Baily anchor an exceptional cast that also includes fine work from Raymond Cruz, Phillip P Keene, Kearran Giovanni and Graham Patrick Martin (one of the best young actors on series television).

WHO SHOULD WATCH: Anyone who enjoys a crime drama that mixes the best elements of police procedurals with serialized storylines. Extra points if you don’t need a neat and tidy resolution at the end of every hour. Like a moral quandary? MAJOR CRIMES has you covered.

MAJOR CRIMES airs Mondays at 9PM E/P on TNT.

WHY IT'S A BEST BET: Two big reasons: Taye Diggs stars and Steven Bochco is one of the creators. The supporting players include James Cromwell, Steven Webber and Richard Schiff. Unlike typical police procedurals, newcomer MURDER IN THE FIRST will follow a single case across the entire season. Sound familiar? TV trivia points for you! This is the same format used in the 1995/96 first season of MURDER ONE, also from Bochco.

WHO SHOULD WATCH: Fans of Diggs who have their fingers crossed that he’ll finally take the lead in a series that lasts more than one season (and showcases his talent a bit better than the tepid PRIVATE PRACTICE). Also, if you are looking for a return to gritty form by Bochco, this could be just the fix you’ve been longing for.

MURDER IN THE FIRST airs Mondays at 10PM E/P on TNT.

WHY IT'S A BEST BET: I hate westerns. Seriously, can’t stand them. Maybe that’s why it took Netflix to expose me to this excellent A&E original. Robert Taylor plays Walt Longmire, a weather-beaten Wyoming sheriff who is as moody as he earnest. The cast that also includes Lou Diamond Phillips and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA vet Katee Sackhoff, both doing some of the best work of their careers. LONGMIRE is first-class stuff.

WHO SHOULD WATCH: Anyone who makes public proclamations that they hate western-themed things as well as those who feel the exact opposite. Be warned: LONGMIRE has a unique pace and “feel” that might not work for those who require non-stop, in-your-face action. If you’re looking for intriguing police mystery with a side of thoughtful introspection, aim your long gun at LONGMIRE and tune in.

LONGMIRE airs Mondays at 10PM E/P on A&E.

WHY IT'S A BEST BET: After three hours of crime time, check your brain at the door and fire up your libido! It’s time for the slutty antics of MISTRESSES. The catch here is an interesting yin/yang of tawdry soap opera storylines being interpreted by a genuinely talented quartet of lead actors. Alyssa Milano (who has never looked better), LOST alum Yunjin Kim (as the worst therapist…ever), Rochelle Aytes (who is so insanely beautiful you’ll get lost in her eyes) and Jes Macallan (a genuine find). This stateside re-make of a UK series made my “Summer Guilty Pleasures” list last year. Thus far, season two has not disappointed.

WHO SHOULD WATCH: Well, no one really but you shouldn’t suck down potato chips and hot fudge sundaes either. Yes, girls and gays are the core viewers here but I know more than a few straight guys who are rarely disappointed by the often eye-popping sexual escapades. Speaking of eye-popping, Justin Hartley drops in this season as does newcomer Ricky Whittle. Ricky who? See below and thank me later.

MISTRESSES airs Mondays at 10PM E/P on ABC.

March 27, 2014


CLICK to get Unreal.



SPRING CLEANING WEEK aside, I will admit to having a bit of a sweet tooth. I’m not a pastry guy and I don’t like complex, fussy desserts but, oh boy, do my eyes sparkle in a candy store.

It all started when I was a kid in the tiny town of Norton, MA. I used to parlay my paper route money and make a weekly trip to Hadley’s, a front porch converted into a candy counter. It was run by a kind old lady, Mrs. Hadley, and I’m sure it wasn’t a licensed retail establishment but I didn’t care. I’d buy my baseball cards, Bazooka gum, Marathon bars and M&Ms. Life was sweet…literally.

I still love my candy but, let’s be honest, most of the ingredients are deadly or sound like they came from a science fiction movie. When I heard about UNREAL BRANDS and their supposedly less heinous re-formulations of classic favorites like Snickers and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I assumed the worst. Who could blame me? Have you ever eaten a “lite” or “low-sugar” candy bar that didn’t taste like paste? Don’t even get me started on the evil that is carob. Seriously, it tastes like old wax.

Imagine my surprise when I finally sampled “candy unjunked” from UNREAL BRANDS and fell in love with the entire line. Not only are they better for you, they taste so much better than their big brand counterparts. No more grainy chocolate, mossy tasting peanuts or the odd film that remains on the roof of your mouth after eating a fist full of M&Ms. Candy unjunked is candy Nirvana.

In fact, I love that you can actually taste each of the ingredients in their own right. The peanuts are fresh and full of flavor. Chocolate is rich, complex and creamy like it was meant to be and, if covered with a candy coating, there’s just enough for a pleasant crunch that compliments the overall experience without overpowering it. Take a look at how they do it (with some help from Gisele, Matt Damon, Tom Brady and John Legend) and why UNREAL BRANDS is a company worth supporting:


No one is claiming these products are health foods but, what I love about the UNREAL BRANDS philosophy is a passion for taking the ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary simply by making it better for you. Why shouldn’t a candy bar me made from real stuff? Sure, it takes more effort and creativity but the end result is a product you can believe in.

You can buy the UNREAL BRANDS line at CVS, Target and many grocery stores. If you can’t find the products locally, click on any of the images below to order from Amazon. You can also follow the company on Facebook or Twitter and check out their main site.

CLICK to order UNREAL candy coated chocolates from Amazon.

CLICK to order UNREAL candy coated chocolates with peanuts from Amazon.

CLICK to order UNREAL chocolate peanut butter cups from Amazon.

CLICK to order UNREAL chocolate caramel nougat bars with peanuts from Amazon.

CLICK to order UNREAL chocolate caramel nougat bars from Amazon.

Click on any image above to order that product from Amazon. The UNREAL BRANDS line includes “unjunked” re-imaginings of plain M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers and Milky Way bars. Each of those is a registered trademark of their respective corporate parent and none are affiliated with UNREAL BRANDS in any way. You’re welcome, legal folks. Now, go out and Get Unreal!

March 24, 2014


“The Toolbox” is our weekly drill down of celebrities, politicians and other news makers who are trending for all the wrong reasons. From questionable thinking and general stupidity to ham-handed decision making and a death long in coming, these five individuals are among the biggest losers of the past seven days.

Anna Wintour

Sure, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour can make or break a designer with a snap of her bony fingers but, even she can become a fashion victim. Witness the outcry from all quarters regarding the April issue of Conde Naste’s flagship glossy. What’s all the bitching about? The cover “models” are Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, two mind-numbing idiots who somehow captured Wintour’s clearly questionable imagination. Critics were even more peeved by her editor’s letter, a hooty bit of prose made even more laugh-out-loud hilarious because every word was meant to be taken seriously. When Buffy wants to put a stake in the heart of your publication, you know you’ve gone epic fail. On the up side, Seth Rogan and James Franco had a Photoshop field day at Vogue’s expense.

Scott Greenberg

Speaking of failures, the movers and shakers at GOP High Command apparently figured out that the likes of Victoria Jackson, Mary Lou Retton and Tony Danza aren’t exactly catnip for young voters. What’s a party dominated by white geezers and bunker dwellers to do when attracting elusive millennials is key to long term viability? Enter Scott Greenberg, a douchey 30-something with slicked back hair and hipster glasses. He’s the star of a new ad campaign that’s designed to let the young’uns know it’s OK to vote Republican…at least that’s what it was supposed to do. The social media reaction was brutally vicious and online media outlets had a field day. Greenberg has already become a punching bag for comedians and we’ve barely known him a week. Without even trying, the Right has a “pajama boy” of its very own. Way to win one for The Gipper!

Bobby Jindal

Let’s keep it in the Republican family and give Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal his moment in the spotlight. Despite the fact that Jindal says something asinine almost every time he opens his mouth, it’s his questionable actions of late that earned him a spot on our list. You see, the liberal organization decided to roll out a media campaign critical of Jindal’s refusal to embrace the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. The ads are a parody of the state’s tourism motto and logo. Apparently, the truth hurt the thin-skinned governor enough that the state of Louisiana has filed a lawsuit against on the grounds that they are unlawfully using a protected service mark. Never mind that the legal action is a huge waste of money for a cash-strapped state. It’s also given Jindal’s critics a ton of free publicity and made the ad campaign even more effective. Smooth move, Gov.

Richard Quest

Richard Quest is very British, very brash and very annoying. He’s a talking head on CNN with a gaping grin that would give The Joker nightmares. You might remember him from his arrest for meth possession back in 2008. Though Quest is primarily a business reporter, the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 has apparently awoken his inner aviation expert. Yes folks, only at CNN could helming a monthly show on business travel suddenly make you a go-to guy for commentary on one of the most baffling mysteries in the history of air travel. It doesn’t help matters that Quest punctuates every word of the bullshit he spews with invisible exclamation points. HE’S! THAT! CONVINCED! EVERY! WORD! HE! SPEAKS! IS! A! PEARL! OF! WISDOM! In reality he’s just another cable network gas bag who earns a living passing off rampant speculation as real news.

Fred Phelps

Fred Phelps is the founder of a cult of inbred wackos known as the Westboro Baptist Church. You might know these folks better as the “God hates fags” contingent. Last week, for the first time in his life, Phelps finally did something good. He died.

Look for another edition of “The Toolbox” next week. CLICK HERE to see all the tools we’ve profiled.