Interview with Actor Stuart Fratkin By Jesse Striewski

Stuart Fratkin might not be the most recognized face from the ’80s and ’90s, but he certainly played a huge role to the entertainment world – not to mention my own world – during those eras. Appearing in such staple slapstick comedies as Teen Wolf Too and Ski School, not to mention a host of popular TV shows at the time, he no doubt graced both the big and small screens far too many times for one to even keep count.

I was recently able to pick Fratkin’s brain about his entire career, and found his answers both insightful and fascinating (as I so often do with many of my interviewees). But before I got into his war stories from years in the trenches of the acting field, I asked him to give readers an idea of what he’s been up to more recently. He informed me; “After some smaller parts in the early 2000’s I began to transition to the business world. I became partners in a shaved ice business that I got featured on several shows I guest starred on and eventually sold it. I realized I could not make a living for my family on $1.75 residuals from Divorce Court, so I took a job in the
technology industry and have been successful for the past 10 years or so. I reengaged with my commercial agent a few years ago and have been actively auditioning. My goal was to get back into entertainment after my kids were grown and off the payroll! (Laughs).”

I wondered if he would give me some backstory on just how he got into acting, and he enlightened me; “Classic story of, ‘I had the burning desire to entertain and make people laugh’ ever since I was a kid. I have vivid memories of making 8mm movies, arranging skits at elementary school and being an extra on Camp Grizzly, a pilot with the late, great Carl Ballentine in the late 70’s. My parents were moderately supportive and not until I showed my mom a check from Girls Just Want to Have Fun for $650 did she believe it was possible.”

Regarding his experience in said first film role in 1985’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun, he elaborated; “I got my SAG card on that movie. I was in a cold reading class with a casting director named Gino Havens who brought me in for the lead role. He was impressed enough that I was brought to meet the producers immediately. The role was eventually offered to newcomer Jonathan Silverman, otherwise…who knows?! I accepted the role of Sam and most of the experience was great except for Lee Montgomery. He sucked. After shooting my scene, my manager at the time came to find me and desperately asked if I already shot my part. I said I did, and she said, ‘they didn’t clear you with SAG before and now they have to Taft-Hartley you.’ That’s how I got into the union.”

Another early role that sticks out on his resume was an appearance on The Golden Girls in 1986. I asked Fratkin if he knew at the time what a special show he was a part of, and if he had much time to get to know the show’s stars while on set. He informed me; “Incredible. Had I have known then what I know now, I would have appreciated it more. I watched all of the rehearsals from the bleachers and reveled in their professionalism, candor, work ethic and warmth. I was fan of Maude growing up and working with Bea on our scene was a highlight from my early career. Guest star Polly Holiday yelled at me backstage on tape night because I tried to speak to her
while she was getting into character as the blind sister of Betty White. I responded
with, “Calm down. It’s only a sit-com, Flo.” Just kidding (Laughs).”

Aside from The Golden Girls, Fratkin made a number of guest spots on several other notable shows from that time frame, including The Facts of Life, Silver Spoons, and Sledgehammer!. I asked if he was a fan of any of these shows before appearing on them, and he said; “No. I was not a fan of any of them. Facts… was actually my first network show. I had the pleasure of meeting a dude on my first day of work that I bonded with because it was his first day of work, too. We were both a little uncomfortable, but we became pals and he was a good dude. His name was George Clooney. See what I did there?? I set you up and you were like, ‘who was it??’ and it turned out it was Clooney!! (Laughs). Anyway, I ran into him several times over the next few years, and he really is a good guy. The experiences were meh. Nothing earth shattering on either sets. I will say that after being in theater throughout high school and college, I felt very comfortable in front a live audience. Sledgehammer! was a lot of fun and kitschy. I did a lot of guest starring roles around that time, 1984-1987.”

Of course I had to ask what his experience in Teen Wolf Too was like, and if he had researched Jerry Levine’s portrayal of the Stiles character in the 1985 original or not prior to playing him in the 1987 sequel. He explained; “No. I had not seen the first film prior to auditioning for TWT. I received a script in early 1987 of the sequel and it was very funny, original and quirky. That’s not the movie that was made, which is too bad because it could have been a very good movie on its own rather than a retread of the original. I did not think it was in my best interest to see Jerry’s performance from the first film while auditioning and working on the movie. I thought about it but felt I needed to put my own spin on Stiles. I’ve mentioned this before in other podcasts but while working on TWT, I discovered that the Stiles character has different first names in TW and TWT. He’s called “Rupert” in the first one and “Ridley” in the second one. In my mind, they were related, but not the same. Hence, my interpretation was my own. I ended up seeing the original after the shoot was over. It’s a very different movie than the second one and Jerry was outstanding.”

And as far as what it was like to work with such legendary actors on the set like John Astin, Jason Bateman, Mark Holton, and the late James Hampon, Fratkin says; “I couldn’t believe my life! All of 1987 was a dream. After I booked the job, the fun began. We shot the movie at Montclair College in and around Montclair, Upland and Claremont, California. One of the lasting memories I have is upon meeting Jason, Mark and the rest of the cast, we bonded in Jason’s suite getting high and drunk. It was a great time for a bunch of 20 somethings. Being a fan of films from the 70’s, I was star struck meeting Jim Hampton. He was impressed that when I met him, the first thing I said was, ‘hello Caretaker!’ He was a sweet guy and I hope he rests in peace. I’ve spoken about my overall experience on TWT as not being fantastic due to a vicious prick executive from the studio, Atlantic. Whenever he was on set, no one wanted to go near him for fear of being chastised or criticized. Observing behavior on set, if director Chris Leitch had a tail, it was tucked firmly between his legs a la Buffalo Bill.”

Fratkin has also appeared in a number of non-comedic roles as well, guesting on the likes of Matlock, Freddy’s Nightmares, and the sorely underrated Vietnam series Tour of Duty. I asked him to tell me a little about these experiences as well, and he explained; Matlock is the gift that keeps on giving. I’m referring to the residuals, not the performance (Laughs). Long hair, New York dialect and a stereotype punk is a recipe for a poor and laughable role. Andy (Griffith) was cranky and unapproachable. It seemed he was at the end of his Matlock-ed contract. If you’ve seen that episode; picture Andy’s lines being written out on the pool table, furniture and by the camera. Opie would be ashamed (Laughs).”

He continued; “Absolutely loved Tour of Duty. This episode was directed by the great producer Ron Schwary (Tootsie, Ordinary People, Batteries Not Included). I had a very high opinion of myself at the end of 1988 and went into read for this show, booked it and off to Hawaii to shoot it. It was a fantastic experience and one of the highpoints in my dramatic career. The cast was great led by Terry Knox and Stephen Caffrey. It was a very rewarding experience highlighted by Ron, who was an absolute sweetheart. If you’re a cinephile, watch Tootsie again. Ron plays the agent in the scene with Director Sydney Pollack and Dustin Hoffman in the Russian Tea Room.
Freddy’s Nightmares was a lot of fun, too. This was around the time when I was trying to grow up and play different age groups and be more of a character actor.

Fans may also recall Fratkin had co-starring roles on a handful of short-lived TV series, namely The New Adventures of Beans Baxter, and They Came From Outer Space. I asked if he considered these to be some of his career highlights, and if he had wished they would have perhaps caught on more and lasted longer. He replied; “To address the former and latter questions; hell yes. Beans came first. It was the inaugural Fox season and they were greenlighting everything. Conceived and directed by Savage Steve Holland (Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer), it was way ahead of its time. Quirky, fun, entertaining and a little odd. I was still young in industry years and felt spoiled that I booked this role as it was fairly easy. For most of my career, I’ve been able to improvise on most of my auditions and it served me very well on these two different jobs. Beans was an unfinished script, meaning it was still evolving when we shot a 10-minute pilot presentation in 1987 at Cal Arts in Valencia, California. The rest of the shows were shot in Vancouver, BC (Hollywood, North) when other series were filming at the same time including Wiseguy, 21 Jumpstreet and the movie Stakeout. It was a great time and often a big party. I made a lot of friends on that shoot and was heartbroken when I got the fateful call in my apartment in North Hollywood that Fox had cancelled the show.”

He continued; “Three years later, I worked on a movie called Ski School where I met Dean Cameron. I took that role knowing that I would get a chance to work with Dean and there
would be a good chance that mayhem would ensue. That job led to Dean and I working together and a comedic shorthand was created between the two of us. We had a chance to audition for TCFOS together and aside from having an amazing time, the process was nothing less than magical. It’s not often in an actor’s life that they meet someone and they are just symbiotic. That was Dean and me. I sorely wish that magic would have continued because I firmly believe, given the right vehicle, we would have gone down as being inseparable.”

I asked him to elaborate more on his working relationship with Cameron, as well as how he feels today about the previously-mentioned cult classic Ski School the two did together in 1990. He stated; “The answer above addresses part of the question, but I had been aware of Dean for
several years prior to eventually meeting him at the airport to get on a plane to Canada to shoot Ski School. Dean had a reputation in the biz as the one to beat. If you were auditioning for the offbeat, best pal, comedy relief dork, Dean got all those roles because he was/is incredibly talented and gifted. After a few years of losing roles to him, I wanted to join him, not beat him.
And…love Ski School. Another fun time with the cast, crew and Whistler. No other opportunity I had in my career could I say that the producers came to actors and said, “we’re going to be short on time in the movie, can you guys write some scenes?” All of them are in the final cut. A fun, sexy, stupid cult film that’s fun to get drunk and watch. I fully endorse that!”

And as far as why he didn’t appear in Ski School 2 a few years later? He explained; “Dean told me it was because they didn’t have the money. I secretly think it was because I did not go to the photo shoot for Ski School 1 and I was being an asshole about it. I regret that decision because I think it cost me that job and maybe a Ski School 3: Fitz Marries Paulette (Laughs).”

As the ’90s went on, Fratkin appeared on more staple shows from that era such as Doogie Howser, M.D., Baywatch, and Friends; as far as what those were like, he told me; “Friends was great. I read for the pilot episode when it was called Friends Like Us for Chandler, so the producers remembered me. They were awesome. It was a great little role, and I came back for a second episode later in the season, and that scene was eventually cut (another residual windfall).The other shows kept my wife and I fed for a while, but those kinds of guest starring roles will not buy you a house. I was making the rounds and trying to maintain a foothold while I was growing up and trying to transition to adult roles like Melrose Place, Murder One, Judging Amy (twice), NYPD Blue (twice) and Courthouse.”

Another book mark in Fratkin’s career was his appearance in the 1998 summer blockbuster Godzilla. I was curious how he felt looking back on the film, which performed far better finaically than it did critically. He stated; “I remember quite vividly how incredibly excited I was to be part of it. Being a huge fan of the Godzilla movies from my childhood (hence the “Godzirra” reference I wrote into Ski School). My wife and I went to the premiere at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, and were thrilled to see my scenes were completely intact and received quite well. Overall, I was disappointed with the final cut. I wasn’t a fan but yikes, they play it a lot!”

Fast forward to some of Fratkin’s most recent acting credits were on such memorable shows as Spin City and Malcolm in the Middle in the 2000’s. Regarding these roles he noted; “Not a lot to say about these gigs. I was still trying to figure out where my career was going. Spin City was fun and as fan, loved working with the cast. This was Charlie Sheen’s first season and he was still kind of feeling his way around a sitcom. Since I was familiar with Heather from Melrose Place, it was fun to work with her again. My part was small, and I remember really needing a job, any job. After working as an actor for almost 15 years, I was reaching a point where I needed to make some decisions. With a mortgage, two young kids and a decent stream of residuals, it was almost time for a break. Malcolm was the last job that I remember thinking, if I wanted to make a good living, three lines on a sitcom was not going to cut it.”

Before our conversation was finished, I asked if we’ll be seeing him in anything in the near future. He assured me; “I hope so! I feel the need to express myself and hope to get some opportunities. That was the plan all along!”

Film Review: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Paramount Pictures)


By: Jesse Striewski

Very few times can I recall actually sitting in a movie theater and thinking “This was a mistake,” but the thought did indeed cross my mind a time or two during Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (though to be completely fair, it may have had something to do with the screaming toddlers running amok through the theater the entire time).

I only saw the first film based off of the popular Sega character once, and while I don’t remember much standing out about it at all, it was harmless and even like-able enough. But for some reason, this second entry just seemed so tired and tedious, even with the addition of the Tails (Colleen O’Shaghnessey) and Knuckles (Idris Elba) characters this time around.

In a nutshell, Dr. Robotnik/Eggman (Jim Carrey) has enlisted the help of Knuckles to seek out his revenge on Sonic (Ben Schwartz), and Tails more or less comes from out of nowhere to come to Sonic’s aid. The “adventure” that ensues is anything but captivating, and the majority of the jokes fall flat (though the one Carrey manages to squeak out on Limp Bizkit was rather amusing).

To the flimmakers behind this; put more effort into the next installment’s story line. And to the parents who had to bring their brats to the theater the same night I was there; please spare the rest of us, and wait until they’re old enough to have attention spans that actually last a bit more than just a few seconds.

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Film Review: Metal Lords (Netflix)

By: Jesse Striewski

I really wanted to like Netflix’s attempt at appealing to the metal community with this new teen comedy/drama. But while the film is harmless enough, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling there was just something missing from it the whole time.

The plot follows high school outcasts Kevin (Jaeden Martell) and Hunter (Adrian Greensmith) as they navigate through bullies, parents, and trying to find a bass player for their would-be metal band in order to play their school’s “battle of the bands” contest. They eventually find some camaraderie via an equally awkward social misfit (Isis Hainsworth), but not before some predictable “but she’s a girl!” arguments first.

While the music is spot on and the metal references are heavy, nearly everything feels driven by cliche and predictably. Not even some cameos (and some fairly bad acting) from metal greats Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Scott Ian (Anthrax), Kirk Hammett (Metallica) and, um, Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) can save things in the end.

Is Metal Gods a bad movie? No. But is it really anything we haven’t already seen before? Not really. In the end, it really is “just there,” and the world would not miss a beat with or without its existence.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Berlin at Epcot’s Garden Rocks on 4/30/22 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

I really didn’t have intentions of going to yet another Garden Rocks concert at Epcot this past Saturday, April 30. But my wife/photographer Brooke insisted we each meet there after our schedules aligned, and I’m glad we did (ironically, I ended up seeing the whole show while she missed a good portion of it!). And truth be told, I didn’t even know much of Berlin’s material until I first met said lovely wife of mine roughly a decade ago.

The band took the stage right at 8:00pm (for the sixth and final time of the weekend according to singer Terri Nunn) opening their short set with “Masquerade.” More fan favorites like “No More Words,” “The Metro,” and the newer “Animal” continued the show before Nunn slowed things down a bit to tell a brief but teary-eyed story about meeting Walt Disney in person when she was a child.

This tender moment segued into the group’s most well-known hit, the synth-pop ballad “Take My Breath Away” from the 1986 Tom Cruise blockbuster Top Gun, which of course the crowd ate up with more than just a little bit of delight (and on a side note, I often point to said film as the movie that really “awakened” me to rock music with its soundtrack, so on a personal level it was great seeing another band that performed on it live, with Cheap Trick and Loverboy being the other two).

But it didn’t end there; a high octane cover of The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” gave Nunn an excuse to run from the stage into the audience and continue singing among a stunned, ecstatic crowd. For the finale, bassist John Crawford put down his four-string to duet with Nunn on a PG-rated version of “Sex (I’m A…),” which if I’m not mistaken, contained some alternate, Disney-inspired lyrics to better suite the atmosphere.

After this, all of the band members gathered arm-in-arm on stage to take a gracious bow. It was a fitting, classy goodbye to an already appreciative audience, and a night few in attendance are likely to forget anytime soon. The only downfall of the entire evening? The lone young lady thrashing herself next to us and hitting us with her hair the entire time. A word of advice in the off-chance she’s reading this; when at a concert, have some courtesy for those near you, because you never know if those people next to are actually there to get coverage (like this) of the show for you.

Berlin taking a bow after their final set at Epcot’s Garden Rocks on Saturday, April 30, 2022 (Photo by Brooke Striewski).

Film Review: Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off (HBO)

By: Jesse Striewski

Tony Hawk was the stuff of absolute legend growing up in the ’80s, and literally everyone and anyone with a board wanted to be him (I have vivid memories of my older brother and his friends putting on full shows of tricks, jumping ramps and whatnot for the entire neighborhood). This documentary details nearly every moment of his life with total transparency and grace.

From his fast and steady rise to stardom, to his sudden fall in the ’90s during skateboarding’s decline, to his eventual comeback and peak as a pop culture phenomenon, no stone is left un-turned (except, that is, his appearances in such ’80s films as Gleaming the Cube and Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol, which Hawk has since addressed more or less on his socials). Fellow contemporary pro skaters such as Lance Mountain and Duane Peters also appear to help the story along.

The drama of his experiences are very much real, and at times completely relatable (his relationship with his father and eldest child are a couple that strike some definite nerves on a personal note), making him actually seem human. Even if you’re not a huge skateboarding fan, it’s hard to not see some sort of reflection of yourself in a story as compelling as this one. Definitely worth investing the time in this rollercoaster ride.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas at Epcot’s Garden Rocks on 4/23/22 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke and Jacob Striewski

There was never a shortage of pop hits from various different groups that I was exposed to as a kid growing up in the ’80s. And while I largely ignored much of that music once I hit adolescence and punk rock and heavy metal took over, I’ve since opened my mind more again in my older age (if you couldn’t already tell!), my musical pallet effectively coming full circle.

Last month, I caught ’70s prog rockers The Orchestra Starring Former Members of ELO at Epcot’s annual Garden Rocks festival; this past weekend, I made it back out there with the family, this time to catch Starship Featuring Mickey Thomas, who surprised us with a an out-of-this-world performance this past Saturday, April 23.

Those keen on their music trivia know that the roots of Starship go all the way back to ’60s rock outfit Jefferson Airplane, who evolved into Jefferson Starship in the ’70s, before finally settling upon just Starship in the ’80s (the “Featuring Mickey Thomas” part was added in the early ’90s, to avoid any confusion with the current incarnation of Jefferson Starship that’s also still active). And although original singer Grace Slick will always remain a favorite among fans, she’s been long-since retired for a good three decades now.

But Thomas – who originally joined during the ’70s Jefferson Starship era – has kept the name going nicely, with newcomer Cian Coey stepping into Slick’s shoes with ease, and adding a youthful sex appeal to the band. Also notable in the lineup these days is guitarist John Roth, who has also been with ’80s rockers Winger on and off since the early ’90s.

This past Saturday evening’s performances featured tracks from every era in the band’s history, as they opened their first set with “Jane” before going into one of their first number-one hits, “Sara.” They followed this up with the massive hit “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us,” famously known for its use in the 1987 film Mannequin. After that, the band dug even deeper with “White Rabbit,” “Miracles,” “Count on Me,” and “Somebody to Love,” before ending things on an epic high note with the criminally underrated anthem, “We Built This City.”

During the band’s second set, my son Jacob and I sneaked off in the park to try the new Test Track ride, but were back in time to catch the third set of the evening after sunset, which was somewhat changed up from their first. This time around, the guys (and girl) surprisingly started out with “We Built This City,” but again followed with the one-two power ballad punch of “Sara” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us.”

They wasted no time again to run through the Jefferson Airplane staples “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love,” before closing with “Rock Music,” which found Thomas belting out a line from Led Zepplin’s “Whole Lotta Love” during its climax. It was a great ending to an already great evening filled with timeless classics. I pity the closed-minded who look down on bands like Starship, they truly don’t know the good time they’re missing out on.

Starpship during their first performance of the day on 4/23/22 (photo by Jacob Striewski).

Album Review: Skull Fist -Paid in Full (Atomic Fire Records)

By: Jesse Striewski

Four long years since their last album, the mighty Skull Fist are back with their fourth full-length record. This time around, the thrashers are out to prove their rightful place among the upper echelon of modern metal, and they more or less prove it here.

I wasn’t even initially that impressed by the first single, “Long Live the Fist,” but Paid in Full contains eight tracks of intense top-notch metal that’s hard to ignore. Starting off appropriately enough with the title track, there’s very few moments where things let up here, with brilliant Maiden-inspired guitar riffs that lead the charge all the way (even though the presence of now-former guitarist Jonny Nesta is slightly missed).

Things reach their peak in the form of “Blackout” and “Madman,” two epic anthems worth turning up to eleven. All in all, Paid in Full is a relentless assault on the senses that never fully lets up, and a worthy effort that should not be overlooked.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Special Edition: Kmart – And then there were Three By Jesse Striewski

This past Saturday, April 16, yet another Kmart met it’s demise as the Avenel, NJ location shuttered its doors for good. Being a New Jersey native originally myself, the news struck a nerve for me personally, causing me to reflect on my own childhood memories of the once giant corporation, as well as its history.

The roots of Kmart can be traced as far back as 1899, when Pennsylvania-born business man Sebastian Spering Kresge founded the S.S. Kresge Corporation, which would ultimately evolve into Kmart in 1962 (four years before Kresge’s death in 1966), opening it’s first location in Grand City, Michigan. During the ’60s and ’70s, the Kmart brand became one of the dominant retail forces in the United States and Canada, with the phrase “Attention Kmart shoppers” etching its place in pop culture history after the Blue Light Special was first introduced in 1965.

By 1977 the S.S. Kresge Corporation had officially become the Kmart Corporation, and the company continued to thrive throughout the 1980’s. Many store locations already had cafeterias inside them, but by 1985 Kmart began co-branding with major fast food companies, beginning with adding a Wendy’s to their Canton, Michigan location that same year. These would continue to expand with other big-name restaurants, Little Caesars being one of the more prominent ones used.

Daytona Beach, FL Kmart location on 1/26/16 during its final store closing days (photo by Brooke Striewski).


During this time frame of the mid-to-late ’80s, Kmart became one of the places to be. As a kid myself during the ’80s, there were few places I looked forward to stopping at more (other than maybe MacDonald’s) than Kmart. Our specific location in Clementon, NJ had a cafeteria that sold Churros, soft pretzels, and Icee’s, and there seemed to always be kids just “hanging out.” And for a moment, the toy aisle, lined from top to bottom with G.I. Joe’s, Transformers, and Ninja Turtles, seemed like the most magical place on Earth to me. And in my teens, Kmart (along with Blockbuster) was one of the first places I ever drove to on my own after first getting a driver’s license.

Kmart thrived throughout the ’90s, reaching its peak by 1994 with 2,486 store locations open worldwide. But seemingly overnight things began to wane, with competitors like Wal Mart, Target, and eventually Amazon, dominating the retail world. Kmart filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2002, and only continued to decline from there on out.

A lone Kmart shopping cart sits outside of what used to be a Kmart (now an Ollie’s) in Orange City, FL on 4/18/22 (Photo by Jesse Striewski).

In late 2004, Kmart began the process of purchasing Sears, and by 2005, both Sears and Kmart stores would be operated under the new Sears Holdings Corporation. Over the years, more and more stores began liquidating assets and closing their doors, even with later CEO Eddie Lampert promising to bring these stores back to their prime, something that indeed still yet to come to fruition.

At the start of 2022, Kmart still had ten locations operating in the U.S. But with this past weekend’s most recent closure, there is merely three stores left in New York, New Jersey, and Florida. The last time I was in a Kmart myself was over six years ago when the Daytona Beach, FL location was in the process of closing. It was a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and a clear reminder of what once was. Hopefully one day I can again walk through the doors of a Kmart store and hear the words “Attention Kmart shoppers” uttered again. Until then, I think I’ll go order something off of Kmart’s site, just to keep them around a little bit longer.

Avenel, NJ Kmart location closed its doors for good this past Saturday, April 16, leaving just three stores in the U.S. (AP Photo/Seth Weing).

Album Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Unlimited Love (Warner)

By: Jesse Striewski

Like many, I got into the Red Hot Chili Peppers “back in the day” at the peak of their mainstream success in the early ’90s. But when their sound started changing and becoming more mellow by 1999’s Californication album, I began losing interest…at least until I finally saw the band live in 2017 that is, and my faith in them was more or less restored.

Unlimited Love is not only the band’s twelfth studio album, but their first with former guitarist John Frusciante since 2006’s Stadium Arcadium, and having his energy back in the fold is a definite asset to the band’s sound. With Frusciante back in tow, the guys offer up seventeen new tracks and some of their best work in years here.

We were first introduced to the album via the single “Black Summer” in early February, and said track also kicks off the collection of songs here. Along the way there’s plenty of funky numbers (“She’s a Lover,” “Whatchu Thinkin'”) and just straight cool tracks (“Here Ever After,” “The Heavy Wing,” “Tangelo”), with really only a couple of duds (“It’s Only Natural,” “Veronica”) thrown in. Also worth checking out is the new video for latest single “These Are the Ways,” which finds frontman Anthony Kiedis fleeing from cops in a wild, fast-paced chase through various suburban settings.

This is the album that this band has needed to record and release for some time now; not perfect, but just strong enough to bring a waning fan such as myself back into a category that finds me caring about their music again.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Film Review: The Batman (Warner Bros. Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I am not a big comic book/superhero flick kind of guy. I could honestly care less about the majority of these self-indulgent, overly-complicated films and their confusing, numerous “multi-verses.” But like Spider-Man, Batman is one superhero that I’ve tried to follow since my childhood, though I gave up on the character after Ben Affleck’s portrayal of him in 2016’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (apparently he even reprised his role in a couple more crossover films, which just goes to show how little I keep up with the over-saturated superhero film market).

And I didn’t hold out much hope for The Batman, either (adding a “The” to the title before “Batman” really didn’t seem all that original to me). But early on in the film, I suddenly understood what the hype was all about. This new interpretation of Batman (this time played by Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame) creates a world of pure neo noir escapist entertainment with the ability to take one away into another reality, for better or worse.

It’s definitely a commitment to sit through the entire film (which reaches nearly three hours in running time), which finds our hero (or anti-hero?) teaming up with the Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) to tackle the seedy corruption of Gotham’s underbelly, as well as play along to the sick games of The Riddler (Paul Dano), who is more sadistic than ever portrayed on screen before (and even reminiscent of Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor) this time around.

And for the majority of the film, they actually had me invested. That is, until Kravitz’s character had to utter a disgusting line about “white privileged men.” In an instant I felt both deeply alienated, and personally attacked, as these know-it-all Hollywood elitists (in this case, lead by a white man surely more “privileged” than myself, director Matt Reeves) once again managed to insult a good portion of its own audience all at once, just in order to get their own ignorant opinions across in a film.

What people like Reeves who incorporate these types of sentiments don’t seem to understand is, they’re actually doing nothing for “equality,” but causing further division and harm among our society as a whole. Hatred towards anyone (yes, even white men) should never be accepted, yet it’s becomes more normalized now than ever before in Hollywood thanks to this type of subtle brainwashing being injected into media, and is doing nothing more than taking us all backwards. Had it not been for these underlined racist tones in The Batman, I would have definitely rated it a higher score than I did.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars