Friday, January 20, 2017

Watch: Charleston contestants compete on 'Hunted' this Sunday at 10 p.m.

Hunt or be hunted

Posted by Kathryn Noviello on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 at 11:20 AM

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Modern television may have struck gold with Hunted, a new series that combines the thrill of popular cop-dramas with the raw, and always ridiculous, emotions of reality television hopefuls. The premise is basically an anxiety-riddled, adult version of hide-and-go-seek. And this Sun. Jan. 22 at 10 p.m. you can watch as Charleston residents Christina Zapolski and Matt Sundberg are hunted.

The show follows nine groups of two "fugitives" as they attempt to stay off the grid and escape skilled investigators who are pursuing them with top-notch tracking technology. Fugitives must remain in a 100,000-square-mile area of the southeastern United States and evade Command Center investigators and "Hunters" in the field for 28 days. If teams can remain calm in this (unnecessarily, we think) stressful and self-imposed manhunt, they will walk away with $250,000. It’s a mission fit for a mastermind, attempted by reality TV contestants. Cue the insanity.

Zapolski, the former Miss South Carolina USA, and her real estate agent fiancé believe they have what it takes to elude the country’s most extensive tracking technology and techniques. On paper, their chances don’t look good; CBS’s website lists “relies on her parents for help” and “mama’s boy” as the couple's respective character traits.

“Being on the run with Christina was unbelievable. We really had to rely on each other and work as a team — it was us against the world,” says Sundberg. The couple decided that there was no better way to test their relationship than by leaving everything behind and living as fugitives on the run. Totally normal.

The production crew was very hands-off, which led to authentic emotions. Christina and Matt admitted that they became incredibly paranoid, fearing that there was a hidden or disguised Hunter around every corner. “We really were in the mind of a fugitive,” says Zapolski.

But Hunted’s agenda is about more than simply scaring contestants. By abandoning their cellphones and personal belongings, the fugitives on the show will discover how reliant they are on technology. Even scarier, Zapolski and Sundberg realized that investigators knew their habits, possible hiding spots, and strategic moves just from dissecting their social media accounts. Zapolski says, “It makes you think about your own security and safety, and how easily anyone can access your personal information.”

Surely, Hunted flexes U.S. investigatory muscles in order to show viewers how easily professionals can find them. We can’t help but wonder whether this is meant to make us feel safe from criminals, or feel like criminals ourselves.

Questioning aside, it will be interesting to see what it takes to elude Hunters for 28 days. Zapolski added, “As a millennial, I knew I was dependent on social media, but I think seeing this on TV will open a lot of eyes. Viewers will ask themselves, ‘Would I be able to do this?’”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Watch: Local Chris McNally competes in 'Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge' this weekend

"Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass"

Posted by Connelly Hardaway on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 1:30 PM

You can watch Chris McNally compete this Saturday night. - PROVIDED
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  • You can watch Chris McNally compete this Saturday night.
It feels like we can't escape the WWE these days — from a holiday tour in North Charleston to Trump's new Small Business Administration leader, Linda McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. may be having a moment. And one of its most popular stars — Stone Cold Steve Austin — is getting in on the action with his CMT reality show, Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge. Stone cold indeed.

The show pits eight "athletic contenders" (think MMA fighters, CrossFit fanatics, and professional athletes) against one another in a series of intense challenges. The winner advances to the "skullbuster challenge," where he or she must beat the course's current time record. And then, only then, can they walk home with $10,000.

This Sat. Dec. 10 at 10 p.m. local IT analyst, co-owner of North Charleston's Stryke Fitness, and father of four, Chris McNally, will compete on the Broken Skull Challenge. A Boeing employee by day, and a gym owner 24/7 (McNally owns Stryke with his wife, where they offer dance fitness workouts), McNally has always been athletic, from his All-American wrestling days in college to his stint as an MMA fighter, which ended in 2012.

And by athletic we do mean athletic: McNally says that in his video submission (filmed by his 11-year-old daughter) he had to show himself, well, showing his stuff, which included flipping 500 pound tires, carrying a 70 pound log on his back, and walking on his hands. You know, athlete stuff.

After filling out an application in January, hearing back in July, and going through two interviews before waiting to hear back from CMT, McNally finally got the news that he would be flying to California for one final interview before he would be featured on the show. Needless to say, it ain't easy getting on this reality TV show.

"It was one of the greatest experiences of my life," says McNally. His episode was filmed over the course of three days, where McNally and the rest of the competitors were presented with physical challenges — stuff called "Drag Race," "Pile Up," "Trench Warfare," etc. — just minutes before they had to complete them. "You can mentally and physically prepare but at the end of the day, you don't know specifically what you'll be doing," says McNally.

In addition to competing in some pretty grueling physical activities, McNally also got a pep talk from Stone Cold himself. "He pulled all of us aside and said, 'I truly respect all of you for making it to this point — you are one of the best athletes in this country because you made it on this show.'"

While we don't yet know how McNally did, we can say for sure that he learned a thing or two from the frighteningly named Broken Skull Challenge. He says, "I felt like a very different person when I came back. It opened my eyes — I have a lot more in me than what I'm giving."

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Check out the documentary 'I Voted?' at the Simons Center tonight

Maybe you did

Posted by Heath Ellison on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 at 2:51 PM

Jason Grant Smith’s directorial debut I Voted?, which looks at American elections and their voting system, could not have found a better year to be released. The film sees its South Carolina debut tonight at the Simons Center for the Arts at 6:30 p.m. Reserve your ticket here.

The film begins with a pretty familiar story — a massive political upset. Senatorial candidate Alvin Greene defeated Charleston County Council member Vic Rawl in the 2010 Democratic senate primary, despite little to no campaigning and even less political experience. It left so many people scratching their heads and opened up so many debates about the final tally that the CCP’s former editor Chris Haire claimed aircraft sabotaging imps had to be the true culprit.

And, while Smith’s film does not try to expose the very real terror of gremlins, it does bring to light important issues in the American elector process. Members of Congress, election integrity professionals, and computer science experts all put their two cents into I Voted? and many show concern that the process of casting a ballot is marred by enough technical difficulties to warrant action. A Q&A with Smith, members of the cast, and local election integrity advocates will follow the screening of the film.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Drawing inspiration from the WWE Live Holiday Tour's stop in Charleston

Squared-circle affirmations

Posted by Dustin Waters on Mon, Nov 28, 2016 at 12:20 PM

So now is as good a time as any to talk about professional wrestling. But before we get started, let me qualify a few things: It has been more than 13 years since I actually watched a wrestling program — be it live or televised.

A lot of this has to do with learning that cable TV is very expensive. This is a sad fact that dawned on me as I entered into the adult world, which is something I strongly advise against. If at all possible, take up smoking and drinking caffeine at an early age. This will hopefully stunt your growth enough that you can catch a ride on the nearest school bus and pass as child well into your thirties. I attempted this, but my facial hair and crushing cynicism kept giving me away. But before all that happened, I was an avid wrestling fan.

Growing up, I lived next door to a professional wrestler, which seems odd. It is. But for a time, it was very exciting.

Pursuing a career with the now defunct World Championship Wrestling, Chip Minton was also an Olympic bobsledder and my neighbor. I’m not sure how he ranks those life achievements, but telling people you were my neighbor will get you out of a speeding ticket and earn you a free small popcorn at your nearest Regal Cinemas. As a former prison guard, bodybuilder, and world-class athlete, Minton seemed like a natural for the squared circle. When he’d return from training, Minton would hand over whatever souvenirs he had brought home and tell me when I might be able to catch him on television. This was the usual routine for a while, a pleasant one, living next door to someone with legitimate reasons to own tights. Then things fell apart.

According to Minton, he became wrapped up in drugs and alcohol. Earlier this month, he told the News Herald in Morganton, N.C., “I lost my wife, my family, my cars, my house, and I ended up in an $18-dollar-a-night hotel room.”

Now touring as a motivational speaker, Minton talks to others about how he turned his life around, which is great to hear. In the meantime, I’ve started to turn my attention back to wrestling after a recommendation from our readers.

Those of you who pay attention to bylines may remember that I am also responsible for a recent series of episode recaps for the reality show Southern Charm. After this past season concluded, we offered up a small Twitter poll to ask readers what I should write about next. While this was mostly just a midday distraction, WWE Raw was the clear winner, and this proved to be just enough motivation to dip my toes back into the world of sports entertainment. Monitoring the steady stream of wrestling recaps on YouTube and keeping my eyes to the horizon, I noticed that the biggest names in professional wrestling were coming to the North Charleston Coliseum for their live holiday tour. And finally, after months of biding my time and writing thousands of words that have nothing to do with wrestling, it was time.

The holiday spirit of competition

On Sun. Nov. 27, joined by my City Paper colleague Connelly Hardaway, I took my seat at the Coliseum amongst my fellow plebeians and prepared for violence. With a comically large, yet insufficient beer in one hand and a pen and notepad in the other, I was ready to have my bloodlust sated and stomach turned. What I got to begin with was a hidden-camera show.

Our eyes directed toward the TitanTron, the crowd watched as a child was asked to insult wrestlers as they lurked behind a curtain and listened on. As this small boy launched into a full-on verbal assault of wrestlers Randy Orton and Seth Rollins, they emerged one after the other and startled the boy. Thinking back to my own childhood memories of wrestling, during what is now called the “Attitude Era” when blood and sex and obscenities were commonplace, I expected these men to pummel the small child for his insolence and pour beer onto his frail, unconscious body. Instead, from out of nowhere, the boy switched from saying how much these two men “sucked” — a common phrase for children at wrestling events — and he began hugging them. Apparently, the pure love and adoration of a child is the only way to counter an RKO.

Moving on, we finally arrived at the first match of the evening: A fatal four-way involving the tag-team champions, the New Day. For reasons that I am still unable to discern, the New Day approached the ring with fake unicorn horns strapped to their heads. I guess I could have just written “unicorn horns” and left the “fake” part out of the last sentence, but I don’t want you to think that the New Day are portrayed as some gang of cryptozoological poachers. That said, one of them carries a trombone, occasionally climbing the turnbuckles before sounding off with a farty little riff that really seemed to resonate with the crowd. I was captivated.

Unicorn horns and trombones were present, but few answers were offered Sunday - MIGUEL DISCART FLICKR
Next came Enzo and Cass — a smaller man with an interesting combination of facial and cranial hair partnered with an impossibly tall man, who is so tall, I turned to Connelly and say, “He is so tall.” She agreed.

Grabbing the microphone, Enzo began talking, his every word matched by the crowd. This was not some simple call and response. He was delivering some beat-poet riot act to his opponents, whom he had deemed “Sawft,” and the crowd knew every word.

According to my notes, “the Irish guy and man who looks like the rapper Pitbull” were the next team to take to the ring. I would soon realize that this was Sheamus and Cesaro. We were later informed that autographed shirts reading “Cesaro Section” were available for purchase, the true meaning of which is better left un-dissected.

The match was rounded out by two men named Gallows and Anderson, who were as equally muscled and impressive as their six opponents, but the evening’s match would belong to the New Day.

Later in the night, I’d see a familiar face from my youth — Goldust. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Goldust character, he was brought on in the mid-’90s as a provocative heel aimed at playing upon some gay panic present in the audience. With his facepaint and skintight golden bodysuit, he’d writhe and grope in hopes of molesting his male opponents into submission. Now, Goldust has formed a duo with a man named R-Truth. Known as the “Golden Truth,” they dance their way to the ring as R-Truth raps the tag team’s theme song, the lyrics of which scroll across the TitanTron so the crowd can follow along: “We’re two talented son of a guns. We dancing, rapping, joking, having fun.” The man behind the gold paint stuck with the Goldust character long enough to endear himself to fans. Looking to my right, I noticed a young boy wearing what looked to be a Goldust mask. I don’t know if this is progress.

  • Wikimedia Commons
  • Goldust
The Golden Truth was joined in their match by Darren Young, whom I later learned is WWE’s first openly gay wrestler. This wasn’t mentioned during his introduction or at any point in the match. I wouldn’t have even known this particular detail if I hadn’t Googled his name to make sure it was spelled correctly. Having not been paying attention for the past decade, I think this is progress.

As the lights dimmed once more to greet another round of performers, the name Lana flashed across every screen in the arena. Dressed in a silver jacket and miniskirt, she made her way to the ring. The crowd began to chant “U.S.A,” which told me that Lana is the traditional “evil foreigner” character that has long been a hallmark of professional wrestling. With what sounded like a Russian accent, she called Charleston a “small, pathetic village,” adding that “The only thing worse than being a failure is being American.” There is a very lucrative market for those wanting to be insulted by scantily clad women, and the WWE has tapped into that while maintaining a family-friendly facade. Lana also began the running joke of the evening, which is confusing South Carolina with North Carolina.

Chris Jericho, who is great, also ran with the North Carolina bit, before his match with Seth Rollins. Rollins — who seems like he should be the heel because he looks like a wet, unkempt Snidely Whiplash — played the babyface. Referring to my notes, I made sure to jot down that Rollins has “back dimples” because he is an attractive man. My notes at this point seem to drift off into the appropriate amount of chest hair needed to really define someone’s abs and statements like “I wonder what his shirt smells like.” Admittedly, these mirror my notes after any regular city council meeting.

After a brief intermission, it was time for the final matches of the night, but my attention began to drift. On my way back to my seat, I had passed an elderly woman, probably in her seventies, wearing a Roman Reigns shirt. Reigns was one of the night’s headliners, but that woman was the true star of the show.

Seated in front of me throughout the evening was a young boy, probably 11, and his mother. She had taken pictures of the wrestlers during each match, occasionally sneaking a photo of her son as he looked on. By the end of the night, he had shifted from the edge of his seat to lean back into his mother’s arm.

As a kid — and especially as an adult — I was never very interested in sports. Unless you consider wrestling a sport. I tended to avoid anything that could possibly put me in a position to lose or force me to confront others.

Looking back, maybe I should have kept my attention on wrestling or something equally as combative. It’s easy to be dismissive of sports for whatever negative reasons you choose to associate with them, but they do offer one clear lesson — the ever-constant threat of competition. John Hodgman — who you may know as an author, actor, or the PC from those Mac commercials — was the first person to really elucidate the benefit of competition to me, as well as the dangers of avoiding it.

“I think a lot of the nerdsmanship of the left wing has been the self-destructive impulse that comes from the trauma of having not competed in sports, which is, ‘I would rather refuse to play a barbaric game on principle then compromise myself and win.’ I think that’s where our contempt — and indeed my contempt for sports at times — has been a disservice to the things that we care about,” Hodgman told the A.V. Club in 2012. “I think it’s horrible to think of politics and governing a nation as a sporting event, and I think there are a ton of problems with the media covering it as a horse race or another kind of sport. But that said, we have a competitive system where people are competing for votes, and competition is a valuable thing. To be able to face someone and collect yourself and not be scared off of a position and to fight for it and to win, that’s a valuable thing. And you do learn it from sports.”

That said, I started my WWE live holiday experience watching an 11-year-old threaten a 250-pound professional wrestler. I grew up next door to an Olympic athlete who has apparently managed to pull his life back together after falling prey to addiction and despair. It doesn’t have to be violent, but maybe a little competition can teach us all a valuable lesson — even if all the matches seem fixed.

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

4 films to make your family seem a little more tolerable this Thanksgiving

You’re no prize pig yourself

Posted by Kevin Young on Sat, Nov 26, 2016 at 8:59 AM

Is your family more Griswolds or the crew in Home for the Holidays? - PROVIDED
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  • Is your family more Griswolds or the crew in Home for the Holidays?

This year more than any other year, Thanksgiving has attained a certain ominous tone to it — albeit a humorous. Thanks in no small part to the exhausting political climate, there has been many an article devoted to surviving the family during the holiday get together. No longer is it just about whether your cousin Whats-her-butt will scarf the majority of the mac 'n’ cheese before you even get a chance to the bowl or if Uncle Whats-his-nuts will cut one during dinner.

Nowadays Granddad Goofus may quote the latest article about how the libs are wiping their mouths with the Constitution while your cousin Morticia may go on a rant to prove how many Noam Chomsky books she’s read. Your family is unhinged. You’re no prize pig yourself in the Mental Stability Sweepstakes either. It may be sad to compare your familial sanity to fiction but this is where we are now. As messed up as our families may be, we hope we’re closer to the wacky, well-meaning idiocy of the Griswolds than the megalomaniacal semi-incesty pathos of the Skywalkers. From awkward to psychotic, here are some movies can give you a little reminder of how sane your fam may actually be.

Home For The Holidays

So your only daughter has just announced to you she intends to have sex with her boyfriend over the T-day holidays while you, a single mother, have to jet off to Chicago for the usual Larson family dinner. Needless to say, the family is not going to provide for any relief from the tension already brewing within. You got a conservative sis with a banker hubs and two walking boat anchors, a newly-married gay brother that looks, sounds, and acts alot like Robert Downey Jr., and an eccentric aunt who's had a crush on your Dad since the first time she met him. And, like most family get-togethers, you, like Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter), can only sit in resigned silence as the awkward meter breaks down from exhaustion.

The Royal Tenenbaums

What hath Wes Anderson wrought? He is known for bringing lush visuals, forgotten ’60s musical gems, and the family dynamics of rich privilege. While the Larsons have their fair share of middle class discomfiture and clumsiness, the Tenenbaums have bouts of explosive looniness albeit from a far more beautiful place. When the patriarch shacks up in a hotel for over two decades while the three children live with mother in a sweet pad, it’s bound to create a little bit anxiety within the family. As a son in the family, it never helps that you and your two other siblings have seen your most successful days vanish once you left puberty. It also never helps when your dad has long consistent history of being a bullshit artist with a penchant for stealing money from one of his own kids. Family. Who needs ‘em?

The Tenenbaums only wish they were as fucked up as Todd Solondz’s Jordan clan. Disturbing is the best adjective to describe their tale and “Ewwwww” is the sound you’ll make while watching it. Lenny has lost all form of feeling and wants to divorce after 40 years of a not-so-blissful marriage. His wife Mona languishes in the depression of being newly single. The real damage rests in the lives of the daughters Joy, Helen, and Trish. The youngest, Joy, is a quiet bleeding heart single who is slowly turning to stone as her kindness is used against her. Helen is a successful, self-important author fantasizing about a relationship with an obscene phone caller. The oldest, Trish, is, at face value, the married sister with all the knowledge but her fragile, delusional house of cards is undercut when you realize her psychiatrist husband is a pedophile. What a bunch of dark, miserable mofos family can be.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

The Jordans may be walking bags of mental atrophy, they can’t touch the psychotic Sawyer family. Drayton Sawyer may be make some kick-ass Texas chili but that one pro is terribly outweighed by that one cannibalism con of his. His other family members don’t help matters much. There’s the sadistic Chop Top, the son who giddily murders while constantly scratching the metal plate in his head with a coat hanger. There’s Grandpa, the elder who stays alive by sipping on human blood when he’s not trying to hit his latest prey with a mallet. There is the rotting dancing (with Chop Top’s help) corpse of Drayton’s other son, known only as The Hitchhiker. There’s the mummified corpse of Grandma resting on a shrine. Drayton’s most popular family member has always been his human skin wearing, chainsaw wielding son, Leatherface. Needless to say, I’d take Uncle Whats-his-nuts and Granddad Goofus as family members over hyper-violent assholes like these any day.

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