Friday, April 29, 2011

'Bohemia: The Life of a New York City Poet' Movie Review

'Bohemia: The Life of a New York City Poet' Movie Review

Written by: Karen Benardello

(Originally Posted on Karen's Examiner page)

New York poets often become famous for showcasing the Bohemian lifestyle in their work and interacting with their audiences. Director Richard Ramson, who hails from Queens, New York, wants to remind people of that “unique lifestyle within the poetry community” and prove that poets from the city that never sleeps actually lived what they wrote. Ramson is re-releasing his 2009 documentary ‘Bohemia: The Life of a New York City Poet’ on DVD this month to reach more people who still love hearing poets perform their work.

The R. Media Inc. Film release features some of New York’s best undiscovered poets, who are all from different age groups and races. They share a variety of their poems that show what life is like in the Big Apple. New York was a perfect place to film ‘Bohemia,’ because as Ramson said, “The audiences (here) are wonderful. Also, the greatest performers have graced the stages here, so there is a competition factor and prestige involved.”

Ramson also interviewed the poets, who have a variety of experience, both in life and on stage. He said he felt compelled to tell the poets’ stories because he “saw a lot of people who started at open mic nights. I saw a bohemian lifestyle of writers in pain…and an underground lifestyle that was opposite of what was shown on ‘Def Poetry Jam.’ I saw real people from all lifestyles who had something to say.”

To read the rest of this review, please click here.

'Fast Five' Movie Review

Title: Fast Five

Director: Justin Lin

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Dwayne Johnson

Review Written by: Karen Benardello

Many action sequels today fail to captivate their audiences because the studios care more about capitalizing on their successful predecessors, instead of further developing their characters or creating any new, original stunts. However, the new action film ‘Fast Five’ proves it’s unique in the fact that the cast still cares about, and relate to, their characters and their stories. The series’ returning director, Justin Lin, who helmed the previous two installments, also honored the original ‘The Fast and the Furious’ by truly focusing on how the characters interact with each other.

‘Fast Five’ follows in the immediate aftermath of ‘Fast and Furious,’ and shows Brian O’Conner (played by Paul Walker) and girlfriend Mia Toretto (portrayed by Jordana Brewster) successfully freeing Mia’s brother Dom (played by Vin Diesel). Brian and Mia make their own way to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and wait for Dom. They are reunited with Dom on a job stealing cars, which was set up by their friend Vince (portrayed by Matt Schulze). However, the job goes wrong, and three DEA agents are killed.

The owner of the cars, corrupt business owner Hernan Reyes (played by Joaquim de Almeida) goes after Brian, Dom and Mia to get back the car they stole from him. As the three realize why Reyes wants the car back so much, DSS federal agent Luke Hobbs (portrayed by Dwayne Johnson) arrives in Rio to apprehend them. Brian, Dom and Mia, now all fugitives, call in some of their friends, including Han Lue (played by Sung Kang), Roman Pearce (portrayed by Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (played by Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), to help them pull off one last heist on Reyes.

Bringing back many of the original characters from the first three ‘The Fast and the Furious’ films was a smart move on Lin’s part. Walker and Diesel still have a great chemistry together, and seem as though they truly care about what happens to each other. Their natural bond translates well onto the screen, making it believable that Brian would forgo his career as an FBI agent in order to save Dom from going to prison. Even though the Brian and Dom relationship is still the most believable, even after the original film debuted 10 years ago, Gibson and Bridges also seemed as though they were immediately at ease with their co-stars. Even though Gibson and Bridges only previously starred alongside Walker in the first sequel, ’2 Fast 2 Furious,’ they convincingly showed their characters still wanted to protect Brian, Dom and Mia. Roman and Tej weren’t afraid of any physical danger threatened on them by Reyes or Hobbs, as they wanted to help Brian and Dom on the heist.

To read the rest of this review, please click here.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

'The Last Circus' Movie Review

Title: The Last Circus

Starring: Carlos Areces, Antonio De La Torre, Carolina Bang

Director: Alex De La Iglesia

Review Written by: Karen Benardello (for Shockya)

Finding a director who wants to introduce a personal, political message into a comedy that features strange characters is not common, but Magnet Releasing seemed to do so with Alex De La Iglesia. His childhood and personal life seem to define his upcoming film ‘The Last Circus,’ which he also wrote. While he wanted to incorporate his pain, cruelty and love into the personalities of his characters, Iglesia’s devotion to them unfortunately took away from the overall story.

‘The Last Circus’ follows Javier (played by Carlos Areces as an adult) throughout his life in the circus. As a child in 1937, Javier watches his father, a happy clown, being dragged away by a militia during a performance to help fight in the Spanish Civil War. Affected by the fact that his father subsequently was held as a prisoner, Javier becomes a sad circus clown in 1973. While he befriends many of the other circus acts, Javier must endure the abuse of the happy clown, Sergio (portrayed by Antonio De La Torre).

Javier also must watch Sergio abuse his wife Natalia (played by Carolina Bang), one of the circus’ acrobats. After falling in love with Natalia, Javier tries to rescue her from her violent husband, which only makes Sergio even angrier. Natalia is unsure what to do, as she still cares for Sergio, but also becomes attracted to Javier.

Iglesia has said he wanted to set ‘The Last Circus’ in 1973, as Spanish leader Francisco Franco was giving up his control over the country. Iglesia, who was eight that year, has described the time as a confusing nightmare, and he perfectly brought his childhood struggle to the story. Javier and Sergio are both struggling to survive the terrible lifestyles they have endured, and they balance each other as they deal with their problems. They both seek salvation in entertaining families while performing with the circus and in their love for Natalia. Iglesia, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, brought an interesting take to his two male lead characters, showing that everyone takes on a different personality to redeem their souls.

The director seemed to especially pour himself into Javier; Iglesia has said he made ‘The Last Circus’ to rid the pain from his own soul. He added that he feels hurt from his past, and longs for a happy life. Javier seemed to turn to the sad clown role to redeem himself for not being able to save his father when he was a child. He also wants to connect to Natalia to form a happy relationship, but his anger over his father’s imprisonment held his happiness back.

To read the rest of this review, please click here.

'13 Assassins' Movie Review

Title: 13 Assassins

Director: Takashi Miike

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Goro Inagaki

Review Written by: Karen Benardello (for Shockya)

Combining extreme violence, bloodshed and the sentimentality of career criminals in an effort to push the boundaries of censorship has been Japanese director Takashi Miike’s claim to fame since he started his film career in 1991. Unsurprisingly, his latest action film, the Magnet Releasing movie ’13 Assassins,’ doesn’t fail to live up to his controversial reputation in terms of special effects. But the creative director also proves what a captivating filmmaker he is with his latest release, as he expertly includes a unique story and shocking themes.

Set during the end of Japan’s feudal era, ’13 Assassins’ follows respected samurai Shinzaemon Yakusho (played by Koji Yakusho) as he is secretly hired to assassinate Lord Naritsugu Matsudaira (portrayed by Goro Inagaki). As the Shogun’s younger brother, Naritsugu can’t be politically punished, so he rapes and kills innocent people whenever he chooses. Shinzaemom fears that after Naritsugu is promoted to a higher political position, he will commit even more heinous crimes.

Shinzaemom recruits eleven more samurai, including his nephew, Shinroukuro (played by Takayuki Yamada), to bring with him to kill Naritsugu. The 12 samurai devise a plan to kill Naritsugu as he makes the voyage home to Edo. Along their journey, the samurai take on hunter Kiga Koyata (portrayed by Yusuke Iseya), who they find in a forest, to help them find the village they have chosen to fight Naritsugu in. Once they reach the village, they discover Naritsugu has a much larger army than they anticipated, but the 13 assassins don’t back down from the challenge.

Miike, who is also known for dazzling audiences with his black humor and bold style, has said he tried to respect the original ’13 Assassins’ movie, which was released in 1963 by director Eichi Kudo. Miike achieved his goal by creating stunning visual effects and stunts, particularly during the scenes when Shinzaemom and his fellow samurai are fighting Naritsugu and his men. With the help of screenwriter Daisuke Tengan, the director was able to create a jidaigeki (which means period drama in Japanese, and usually refers to the Edo period) action film that perfectly balanced a well-developed story with justified, and perfectly-executed, action and violence.

To read the rest of this review, please click here.

Interview: Morgan Spurlock talks 'The Greatest Movie Ever SolT'

Read Shockya's interview with Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who directed, produced and stars in the upcoming documentary ‘Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.’ The movie, which is set to be released in select theaters on April 22, 2011, follows Spurlock as he explores product placement, marketing and advertising in such outlets as films and television shows. In the film, he details what goes on in pitch meetings and marketing presentations, and how even the smallest ads affects people’s everyday lives. Spurlock discusses with us, among other things, why he decided to make ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Made,’ and whether he was able to keep final control over the final movie.

Interview written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): Was your outfit (the jacket with the sponsor’s patches on it seen in the movie) the sponsors’ idea?

Morgan Spurlock (MS): Here’s the worst part, it was all my idea. If you watch the film, this whole pitch of the suit was my brainstorm. So now, these are my own chickens going home to roost. It comes with the territory now.

Q: Did you think when you were first starting out that you would even have a film?

MS: We had no clue when we started. We thought it was a great idea. We didn’t know if it was even possible. As every advertising agency said absolutely not, we won’t do this, with the exception of Kirshenbaum. As we call every every product placement company, and every product placement company said “We are not helping you, we want nothing to do with this movie.” Only two would go on camera and do interviews, which were Norm Marshall and Britt Johnson. Then we started calling brands ourselves, we said let’s grab our own destiny, let’s start calling the companies on our own. Me and Abbie Hurewitz, my co-producer for the film, literally started calling brands over and over and over again. “No, no, no, no, absolutely not, we want nothing to do with this, I already saw what you did to that other corporation, no way do we trust you with our brand.” Some of the things they said were some of the most terrible things. At some point, you go, why are we still doing this? Nobody’s saying yes. The thing that kept us going the whole time was for every person at the top that said “I don’t want anything to do with this movie, there’s no way we’re helping you,” all the people that worked underneath them who passed us up to that person would say to us on the phone, “I’ll do anything I can to help you that won’t get me fired.” So the fact that everyone at the bottom wanted this movie to be made but no one at the top did, we said we have to figure out a way to get this film made. What happened at the end is that we called about 600 companies. You say, how did you call 600 companies? We broke it down by category. We try to fulfill every category we can. We go by shoe. So think of every shoe company. First off we called the Nike, the Reebok, the K-Swiss, the Puma, Converse, all the way down the line, until we ended up with Merrell, the greatest shoe you’ll ever wear. We called all the beverage companies. If you’re going to have a beverage company, start at the top. We called Coke, Pepsi, RC Cola, then all the way down the line until we magically ended up calling Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice. After 600 companies, 580 of whom said no, we ended up with 20 companies that said yes, which is incredible. The tenacity isn’t even the right word to begin to explain the amount of work it took to get us started, to get these companies on board, it was pretty phenomenal. That was nine months until the first company said yes. It was January 2009 when we really started to brainstorm and decided to do this. The first company saying yes was August, September (2009). It was eight, nine months until Ban Deodorant said “Yeah, we’re in!” It was $50,000 dropped in the bucket. But what that one step did, Ban coming on board literally gave us the ability to say “Well, Ban Deodorant’s doing it.” No one ever wants to be first. No company ever wants to be first and no body ever wants to be last. Once we pitched Ban and Ban said yes, then we went and met with Pom. We called them on the phone, and Pom said, “Well, Ban’s doing it.” So it was Ban Deodorant, lynch-pin of ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.’

Q: We saw the process of choosing the theme song. What was it about OK GO that led you to believe they would be the right fit?

MS: We tried to get a lot of other people, like Jay Z and P. Diddy, who have real brand association. These people didn’t want to do interviews. There were real big artists, like Beyonce, the people who have real brands and real ties to products who wouldn’t do it. OK GO was a band, who, the minute we started talking to them, they’re already done sponsorships. They did an amazing thing with Range Roover. They’ve already worked with brands, and had a lot of brand experience and with commercials too. Like they said in the film, some of them were a little dirty, not like they should have done it. So when I met with them, I thought, these guys are great. So when I proposed to them to do the theme song, they jumped at the chance.

'Stake Land' Movie Review

Title: Stake Land

Director: Jim Mickle

Starring: Connor Paolo (‘Gossip Girl’), Nick Damici (‘The Black Donnellys’), Kelly McGillis (‘Top Gun’), Danielle Harris (‘Halloween [2007]‘)

Review written by: Karen Benardello

With the over-saturation of vampire films and television shows in America today, it’s getting increasingly harder for screenwriters to create a unique script about the blood-sucking creatures. Fortunately, director Jim Mickle, who helped pen the screenplay for his new movie ‘Stake Land,’ not only included creative twists to the vampire mythos, but also added a religious sub-plot that will surely make many viewers question modern American culture.

‘Stake Land’ follows a young teen, Martin (played by Connor Paolo), as he’s first introduced to the new vampirism epidemic that’s sweeping America. He witnesses his parents and younger sibling being killed by one of the bloodthirsty creatures, and is rescued by a stranger, simply known as Mister (portrayed by Nick Damici). Having no where else to turn, Martin travels across the country with his new mentor, who teaches him how to hunt down the vampires, who have a mix of zombie qualities in them.

While searching for the rural civilization known as New Eden, which has been set up in Canada as the vampires can’t adapt to cold weather, Martin and Mister kill two men trying to kill a nun, Sister Anna (played by Kelly McGillis). One of the men’s fathers turns out to be fundamentalist militia leader Jebedia Loven (portrayed by Michael Cerveris), who believes the new vampirism plague is the Lord’s work. Acting in God’s name, Jebedia and his followers search the country to find Mister to take their revenge on him. Not only do Mister, Martin and Anna have to fight off the vampires while they travel towards New Eden, they must also stay off of Jebedia’s radar.

Mickle, who co-wrote the horror film with Damici, took an interesting, unique look into the world of vampires with the story. Instead of showcasing the world through the eyes of the vampires, who are usually highly intelligible creatures who can easily blend into society, Mickle took the risky venture of questioning what would happen if they brought on the collapse of modern civilization. As many viewers watch Mister, Martin and the other humans they meet on their journey search for a way to survive, they will surely appreciate Mickle’s message that people can’t take what they have for granted.

While Mickle also included the basic characteristics of vampires in ‘Stake Land,’ such as needing to drink blood and not being able to go out in the sun, Mickle made the right decision to also include characteristics of zombies. Viewers will empathize with Martin, Mister and Anna’s plight from the vampires, and their need to kill every one they come into contact with. The vampires are unintelligible creatures who no longer have any sense of humanity or any characteristics of their former human selves; their only goal is to feed on and kill humans.

To read the rest of this interview, please visit:

Monday, April 25, 2011

'The Greatest Movie Ever Sold' Movie Review

Title: POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Director: Morgan Spurlock (‘Super Size Me’)

Starring: Morgan Spurlock

Review Written by: Karen Benardello

Movies have always been an original outlet for filmmakers to tell their stories, but what happens when the lure of money and distribution deals become more tempting than creative control? Director Morgan Spurlock strives to tell the world what really happens in the deals between the entertainment and advertising businesses in his new documentary, ‘POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.’ Not afraid to break down barriers to prove how product placement has become so transparent in movies, Spurlock was successful in showing how consumers make subconscious decisions on what to buy based on what they see in films, even though his documentary was paid for entirely through sponsorships.

‘POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold’ follows Spurlock as he examines the phenomenon of product placement, marketing and advertising in the world, particularly in movies. The documentary focuses solely on Spurlock reaching out to advertising agencies, product placement companies and brands, asking if they would finance the movie through pitch meetings and marketing presentations. The movie’s marketing process features the filmmaker in the center of the advertisements for the brands that ultimately agreed to sponsor the film. While most brand officials refused to be even interviewed on camera, let alone be associated with the movie for fear of how the publicity would harm their companies, there were several that agreed to take part, including Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Jet Blue, and Merrell Shoes. POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice ultimately became the lead sponsor, paying $1 million to have its name before the ‘Greatest Movie Ever Sold’ title.

When first hearing about the concept of ‘POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,’ the plotline, or apparent lack there-of, of the film isn’t very appealing; sitting through an hour-and-a-half of Spurlock just asking companies if they want to sponsor his film about product placement in movies seems redundant. It seems as though it wouldn’t show audiences how product placement affects Americans’ lives. Even Spurlock has said that he and his fellow producers didn’t even know if this type of movie was possible when they first began filming, as they didn’t know if any brands would be interested in working with them.

To read the rest of this review, please visit:

Interview: Keith Hodder Disscusses 'Van Gore' Fake Trailer

Read our exclusive interview with director and writer Keith Hodder, who along with Peter Strauss and Jerrad Pulham, won the ‘Bobo With A Shotgun’ trailer contest for their fake trailer ‘Van Gore.’ The trailer, which is currently playing on, follows the title character, an artist, as he kills people and uses them as part of his artwork. Hodder discusses with us, among other things, how he felt when he found out he won the contest and where he got the inspiration for the trailer. ‘Hobo With A Shotgun’ is currently available via Magnolia On-Demand, and hits select theaters May 6, 2011.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): You won the ‘Hobo With A Shotgun’ fake trailer contest with ‘Van Gore.’ Why did you feel compelled to enter it?

Keith Hodder (KH): When I was growing up, I think it was when I was 17, was Jason Eisener released the original trailer for ‘Hobo With A Shotgun’ through the South by Southwest contest. When I saw that as a teen, I just really wanted to do the same kind of thing. I thought he did a fantastic job with it. It still holds up, even four years later. So when the chance came up, I told myself, no matter what, if something like this comes up, I gotta do it. When we heard about the contest, me and Peter Strauss and Jerrad Pulham, my co-writers, Peter’s my co-director, just hopped on it right away.

SY: Did you think you had any chance of winning the contest?

KH: We were confident in our skills as filmmakers. We were confident in the end what we were going to bring to the table. But we were certainly nervous once we submitted it and once we saw some of the entries. There were a lot of fantastic entries and a lot of talented filmmakers. We were confident in our piece, we were just nervous on how the votes were going to go and what the judges were going to think.

SY: How did you react when you found out you won?

KH: I didn’t know what to think. I was rather speechless. I was with one of my friends, and we were just finishing up a university class. I just didn’t know what to think. Jason called me later when I was at work, and what he told me, he said “You won, you son-of-a-bitch.” That took me right off-guard as a funny thing to say. I called Peter and Jerrad right away, and we were all very ecstatic. The funny thing was we learned on Friday that we won, but we had to keep it under wraps until it was announced on Monday.

SY: Jason directed the ‘Hobo With a Shotgun’ movie. How did it feel knowing that he had a part in picking your trailer?

KH: It was incredibly touching. It seems unreal, especially since him and (‘Hobo With A Shotgun’s) writer John Davies and producer Rob Cotterill (were judges). Then you had guest judges, Joe Dante, who (directed) ‘Piranha (1978)’ and ‘Gremlins’ and all that sort of stuff. They had a hand in it as well. It’s very touching. Sometimes I’m still pretty speechless about it. It’s great.

SY: Where did you get the inspiration for the trailer?

KH: It’s weird. Usually when I sit down and I have to think of film ideas, usually it will come to me that day or the next day. ‘Van Gore’ just literally popped into my head. We had a few elementary ideas, like when originally he was going to wear a mask, and he would have painted the expressions on the mask each time he killed someone. But we decided to leave that behind, because we had Garfield act, Garfield Andrews, who was a really talented actor who I’ve worked with a few times. But we wanted to make sure we saw his emotions. So it’s a fairly original idea that came up out of nowhere.

To read more of this interview, please visit:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Exclusive Interview: Bow Wow Discusses 'Madea's Big Happy Family'

Read our exclusive interview with Bow Wow, who plays Bryon in the upcoming dramedy ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family,’ which is set to be released on April 22, 2011. The movie, which was written and directed by, and also stars, Tyler Perry, follows Madea’s niece Shirley as she faces a health scare. Shirley, who is portrayed by Loretta Devine, wants to break the news to her three adult children, including Bryon, as a family. Since they are all to distracted by their own problems to listen, Madea intervenes to reunite the family. Bow Wow discusses with us, among other things, what attracted him to the role of Bryon, and what it’s like working with Perry.

Written by: Karen Benardello

ShockYa (SY): You portray Bryon in ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family,’ who, after spending two years in jail, feels pressured to deal drugs again. So what attracted you to the role?

Bow Wow (BW): The one thing that attracted me to the role was the story, not really so much of what I’m doing. But the overall story, because if the story’s not good, that means the movie’s not going to be good. At first, I fell in love with the story. Second, I fell in love with my character. It looked like a nice piece of work for myself. Plus I’ve been dying to work with Tyler Perry for a long time. I guess I finally found my roots.

SY: What was it like to work with Tyler, both as a director and an actor?

BW: It was fun working with Tyler. It definitely steps your game up. Your game is definitely elevated. You’re going to learn more stuff. It’s always great to work with people with so much experience. Not only experience, but also has a great brand of what he’s doing. It was really an honor and a privilege to be able to work with him, to help my film career. It was definitely a lesson.

SY: Before ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family,’ you have appeared in several genres, including action and drama. So how did you prepare for the role of Bryon? Do have different methods to prepare for different genres?

BW: Yeah, I never, never prepare.

SY: Have you seen any of the previous Madea movies?

BW: Yeah, I’ve been a big fan for many years. I’m definitely a fan of all of Tyler’s work.

To read the rest of this interview, please visit:

'Bill Cunningham New York' Movie Review

'Bill Cunningham New York' Movie Review

Written by: Karen Benardello

People often think fashion trends only lie within the designers' minds. However, famed fashion New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham proves them wrong in his new documentary 'Bill Cunningham New York.' The photographer, who began his career over 40 years ago, proves that unless a trend is caught on film, the world isn't going to give it much attention.

The documentary follows Cunningham as he relentlessly chases down the latest fashion trends on the streets, and at high society charity events, across Manhattan. He then incorporates his pictures into his two weekly Style section columns, 'On the Street' and 'Evening Hours.' Some of Cunningham's biggest fans, including Vogue editor Anne Wintour, Brooke Astor and David Rockefeller all appear in 'Bill Cunningham New York' to discuss their love for the highly respected, but intensely private, photographer.

Director Richard Press effectively created an amusing, funny and at times, emotional portrait of one of the most famed fashion photographers in the world. Cunningham's fans won't be the only ones who will be intrigued by how he relentlessly and fearlessly goes after the pictures he wants to take; everyone interested in the worlds of fashion, photography and publishing will also be interested in where he gets his column ideas, and how he decides which styles are worthy enough to be featured in his columns.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Madea’s Big Happy Family Movie Review

Title: Madea’s Big Happy Family

Director: Tyler Perry

Starring: Tyler Perry, Loretta Devine, Bow Wow, Cassie Davis (‘Daddy’s Little Girls’), David Mann, Tamela Mann and Philip Anthony-Rodriguez

Review Written by: Karen Benardello

Arguing, hostility, accusations and secrets among families don’t have to be as serious as they sound. Tyler Perry’s latest movie, ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family,’ continues the writer-director’s successful film streak by once again infusing a grim subject with his fun-loving, free-spirited title character. The trademark Madea once again successfully proves that such a serious subject as health issues isn’t as devastating if she approaches it with her unique sense of humor.

‘Madea’s Big Happy Family’ follows Madea Simmons (played by Perry) as she tries to help her niece Shirley (portrayed by Loretta Devine) copes with learning that her cancer has returned. Shirley wants to make peace with the fact that she may not survive this time, and tries to tell her three adult children, Byron (played by Bow Wow), Tammy (portrayed by Natalie Desselle Reid) and Kimberly (played by Shannon Kane) at the same time. But all three are struggling with their own problems, and brush their mother off. Byron is trying to raise his son after being released from jail for dealing drugs; Kimberly is angry all the time and takes it all out on her husband, Calvin (portrayed by Isaiah Mustafa); and Tammy can’t control her two sons or fix her marriage to Harold (played by Rodney Perry). While Aunt Bam (portrayed by Cassi Davis) tries to help Madea fix the broken family, a long lost family secret comes to light.

While ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family’ is like many of Perry’s movies that feature Madea in the fact they focus on the signature character’s take-charge, crazy antics to bring her family together, the writer-director proves once again that he knows what his audience enjoys. While cancer and family fights are serious subjects, Madea continues to be the amusing comic relief by telling the truth and cracking jokes at everyone else’s expense. Even in an ensemble cast, Madea is convincingly able to single-handedly talk sense into Byron, Tammy and Kimberly and convince them to forgive and respect each other.

Since the film does feature the same message as many of Perry’s previous films, such as people revealing their secrets to overcome the strain in their relationships, the actors’ chemistry, believability and reactions to each other carried the real burden of whether or not audiences can relate to the overall movie. But like with most of his films, Perry was once again able to create characters who genuinely seemed to care about each other, even when they were fighting. When Tammy and Kimberly were fighting over how they raise their children, for example, viewers will become so engaged in their animosity towards each other that they’ll wonder what happened between them to cause friction between them.

To read the rest of this review, please visit:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Interview: David and Tamela Mann Discuss 'Madea's Big Happy Family'

Read our exclusive interview with David and Tamela Mann, who reprise their roles of Mr. Brown and Cora in the upcoming Tyler Perry-directed movie ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family.’ The comedy-drama, which is set to hit theaters on April 22, 2011, follows Madea, played by Perry, as she helps her niece Shirley, portrayed by Loretta Devine, copes with a recent medical scare. Madea uses her trademark humor to reunite her family in Shirley’s time of need, even as a hidden secret is revealed. The Manns discuss with us, among other things, why they decided to appear in another Madea movie, and what it’s like working with Perry.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): You are reprising your roles of Brown and Cora from previous Madea movies, including ‘Madea Goes to Jail,’ in ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family.’ Why do you find these characters so appealing, and why did you decide to appear in another Madea movie?

Tamela Mann (TM): Well, we were asked, for one!

David Mann (DM): (laughs) Well, that was the good part!

TM: It’s a good part!

DM: It’s the whole feeling that you can relate (to the characters). Everyone has that uncle, that aunt, that Mr. Brown that doesn’t realize that times have changed. Or that Cora, who is the encourager of the family, or that Madea, who is going to be real with everybody, be honest, sometimes brutally honest, that’s going to bring together the whole family.

SY: What is it like working together on the movie? Do you rehearse together before you started filming?

TM: Yeah, we did, we ran our lines together.

DM: We’ve been doing these characters for a long time. So we kind of feed off of each other’s chemistry.

TM: And with Tyler, who is playing Madea. Most of our scenes are with Madea.

DM: And Joe.

SY: Tyler often focuses on serious issues in his movies, as seen in ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family,’ which focuses on a health scare. Madea is often used as the comic relief in Tyler’s films. What is it about Madea that you find funny?

DM: Well, for one thing, you never know what’s going to come out of her mouth.

TM: Or how she’s going to react.

To read the rest of this interview, please visit:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

'The Conspirator' Movie Review

Title: The Conspirator

Director: Robert Redford

Actors: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Tom Wilkinson, Alexis Bledel, Justin Long

Review Written by: Karen Benardello

Many historical dramas are fueled by their filmmakers’ conspiracies and theories on what happened during the event they’re depicting. But Robert Redford proved what an experienced, fantastic filmmaker he is with his latest directorial effort, ‘The Conspirator,’ which is being released to mark the 146th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s death. Instead of trying to push his own personal ideals onto his audience, Redford instead rightfully focuses on several different angles of President Lincoln’s assassination without taking away the American leader’s dignity.

‘The Conspirator’ follows the wake of President Lincoln’s assassination in Washington, D.C. Seven men and one woman, Mary Surratt (played by Robin Wright), are charged with helping John Wilkes Booth (played by Toby Kebbell) kill the president. The group is also believed to have aided Booth’s attempts to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William H. Seward.

New lawyer Frederick Aiken (portrayed by James McAvoy, a Union war-hero, is persuaded by former Attorney General and current U.S. Senator Reveredy Johnson (played by Tom Wilkinson) to defend Mary in front of a military tribunal. Convinced that Booth didn’t act alone, the military is looking for a group for of people to blame. They believe Mary is a perfect target, as her son John (portrayed by Johnny Simmons) is believed to be Booth’s right-hand man. Frederick isn’t sure whether his client is innocent or guilty, but is determined to find out the answer, even though he is shunned by society for doing so.

Overall, the American Film Company, the studio behind ‘The Conspirator,’ took a risky chance deciding to release the historical drama as its first movie. The topic of whether or not northern states should have showed sympathy towards the southern states after the Civil War ended, and the continuous bitterness and urge to take revenge on the opposing side, are still controversial topics. But Redford rightfully decided not to place blame on either side. He also keeps his viewers intrigued by allowing them to decide on their own whether or not Booth acted alone. His approach to the incident was also unique, as the events in the days leading up to President Lincoln’s death have been told numerous times before. ‘The Conspirator’ recounts how the president’s death continued to keep America divided after the end of the Civil War in such a way that it allows viewers to feel as though they’re right alongside Frederick and Mary.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

'Scream 4' Movie Review

'Scream 4' Movie

Written by: Karen Benardello

Once again trying to show how people would react if the plotlines of horror movies became real, Wes Craven has rebooted his popular 'Scream' franchise, aimed at a new generation. While the premise of the original 'Scream' trilogy helped make the series an instant classic in the late 1990s, the latest installment, 'Scream 4,' falls victim to the horror don'ts debated by its characters. While mixing main characters from the original trilogy with a new cast seemed a sure way to update and improve the already popular series, the new characters unfortunately fall victim to a recycled plotline.

'Scream 4' follows the return of Sidney Prescott (played by Neve Campbell) to her hometown of Woodsboro, California on the 15th anniversary of the murders committed by Billy Loomis and Stu Macher in the original 'Scream.' Sidney is staying with her younger cousin Jill Roberts (portrayed by Emma Roberts) and her Aunt Kate (played by Mary McDonnell), as she promotes her new book about surviving the murders from the first three movies. Several of Jill's friends and classmates, including Olivia Morris (played by Marielle Jaffe), Jenny Randall (portrayed by Aimee Teegarden) and Marnie Cooper (played by Brittany Robertson), are all killed by the series' antagonist, Ghostface, after Sydney returns to Woodsboro.

Dwight Riley (portrayed by David Arquette), who has been promoted to become the Sheriff of Woodsboro, is determined to find the new killer. He is reluctant to involve his wife, former journalist and best-selling author Gale Weathers (played by Courtney Cox), to solve the new cases, since he's now in a higher position. But Gale is determined to help solve the crimes, as she has major writer's block and wants to work again.

Craven, who has directed the entire franchise, and Kevin Williamson, who wrote the screenplay for 'Scream 4,' unfortunately lost focus on what made the original trilogy so intriguing and terrifying. Unlike the first three movies, the focus of the latest installment has shifted from how the killings are directly harming Sidney and instead focuses on Jill's struggle to survive. While Craven and Williamson most likely to some degree hope that 'Scream 4' will kick off a new trilogy in the franchise, and felt that featuring Jill and her friends more prominently than Sidney would help do so, the new characters aren't as relatable as the original cast. They spend most of their time trying to impress each other with horror knowledge and the latest technology than trying to figure out why they're being targeted.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

'Arthur' Movie Review

Title: Arthur

Director: Jason Winer (TV’s ‘Modern Family’)

Starring: Russell Brand, Jennifer Garner, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig (’No Strings Attached’)

Review Written by: Karen Benardello

Mixing a controversial comic and an award-winning television director to remake a classic comedy movie usually paves the way for a successful film. Warner Bros. drew attention to its remake of the hit 1981 comedy film ‘Arthur’ when it announced it cast Russell Brand in the title role, as the actor is possibly more well to American audiences for his personal life than his career. But even the comedian’s eccentric and surprisingly relatable portrayal of Arthur can’t completely save first-time film director Jason Winer’s re-visioning of the hit Dudley Moore movie.

‘Arthur’ follows the title character as he goes through life not taking responsibility seriously. Arthur forgoes getting a real job or taking on his family’s legacy at their foundation, Bach Worldwide, to instead drink and party. When his mother, Vivienne (portrayed by Geraldine James), give Arthur an ultimatum to either marry his ex-girlfriend, corporate executive Susan Johnson (played by Garner), or give up his inheritance, Arthur reluctantly agrees to go ahead with the marriage.

With the help of his life-long nanny Hobson (portrayed by Mirren), Arthur realizes that he truly loves Naomi Quinn (played by Gerwig), a tour guide he meets at Grand Central Station. While Naomi has romantic feelings for Arthur, she doesn’t want to have an affair with someone who’s engaged to someone else. So Arthur does whatever he can to hold onto both Naomi and his inheritance, much to the dismay of his mother and Susan.

While Brand rose to fame in the movie industry with his break-out role of the womanizing rock star Aldous Snow in the hit 2008 comedy and its 2010 spin-off ‘Get Him to the Greek,’ he showed his acting versatility in ‘Arthur.’ While Warner Bros. took a chance on Brand when they hired him to revive Moore’s character, the comic surprisingly proved he can adapt to any comedic role he’s cast in.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Philip Anthony Rodriuez Interview on 'Madea's Big Happy Family'

Read our exclusive interview with actor Philip Anthony Rodriguez, who stars as Dr. Evans in Tyler Perry’s upcoming movie ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family.’ The comedy-drama, which is being released into theaters by Lionsgate on April 22, 2011, is based on Perry’s 2010 musical play of the same name. The movie follows Madea as she helps her niece Shirley overcome a health scare. Rodriguez discusses with us, among other things, what attracted him to the role and what it was like working with Perry.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): You’ll next be appearing as Dr. Evans in ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family.’ What attracted you to the role?

Philip Anthony Rodriguez (PAR): I was attracted to the role because of the awesome Tyler Perry! I’ve worked with Tyler Perry before, on one of his other projects, on his ‘Meet the Browns’ TV show. It’s a sitcom on TBS. I started a very good relationship with Alpha Tyler, who is one of the main casting directors. So when this role came up, people thought I would be perfect for it. It was just one of those things where they said, “Hey, look, would you have some fun with us?” I said “Absolutely.” It is always fun working for him. That was one of the main reasons why I wanted to do this project. The opportunity to work on a Tyler Perry movie, you’re always in store for a lot of fun, and you know you’re going to be working in a really cool place with very cool people. They were very welcoming and all that. That was a main reason, and I was glad I was asked to do it. Sure enough, I wasn’t disappointed. We had a great time shooting it.

SY: How was filming ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family’ different from shooting ‘Meet the Browns?”

PAR: Well, shooting the show is really a lot tougher. When you shoot the show, they basically crank out script after script. So when I do an episode, you basically go in early in the morning, you have a couple of rehearsals and blocking on the set. The show is sometimes shot before a live audience, other times it’s not, depending on what the schedule allows for. You go in there and block and rehearse. You have a little food, and later on, you tape some of the scenes and get some notes. There’s some switches in the script sometimes, and then you shoot it and you’re done. You’ve basically shot a whole episode, rehearsed it, blocked it all in one day. You have to be on your toes. There’s a little bit more pressure involved, but once you get used to it, it becomes second nature. That’s a lot different from working on a (movie) set, where it’s over the same of a few weeks, if not a few months. If you mess up, you get to say cut, or the director gets to say cut, and you get to try it all over again, and do it again. You don’t have the luxury of working on the TV show like that. A sitcom can be pretty, pretty pressured.

SY: The movie is based on the play of the same name. Did you see the play before you began shooting the movie?

PAR: You know, I have not. I only read the script, and saw a portion of the actual live play. It’s pretty much the same. It’s a pretty good transition from play to screen. But what I did get from it is that definitely it’s one of his most popular plays. It’s bound to be one of his most popular movies because of the humor, the storyline and of course, the usual methods and the message that Tyler puts out in some of his movies and stuff. Family, and the importance of it, and it’s all done with humor, affection and genuine love between family members, and how family comes together in very difficult times. It’s got everything. I think that’s why it’s one of his most popular plays. It was a no brainer that it was going to be his next big movie project transferred to the stage.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

'Meet Monica Velour' Movie Review

tle: Meet Monica Velour

Director: Keith Bearden

Starring: Kim Cattrall, Dustin Ingram (’Glee’), Brian Dennehy

Review Written by: Karen Benardello

Sexual comedies with older women in the lead role aren’t the biggest sellers in America today. As seen with the popularity of such hit movies as the ‘American Pie’ series, America is obsessed with sexualized images and plot-lines involving young characters, and fails to appreciate the attractiveness of older actors. But director Keith Bearden’s new romantic comedy, Anchor Bay Films’ ‘Meet Monica Velour,’ surprisingly breaks down all previous thoughts and misconceptions of relationships and love seen in other comedies.

‘Meet Monica Velour’ follows 17-year-old Tobe Hulbert (played by Dustin Ingram) as he graduates from high school and is deciding what he wants to do with the rest of his life. His grandfather, who he calls Pop Pop (portrayed by Brian Dennehy), decides that Tobe needs direction, and pushes him to take over his hot dog truck business. Tobe doesn’t want to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps, so he puts the truck up for sale.

Tobe ultimately decides to sell the truck to a man, Claude (played by Keith David), who lives in Indiana. Tobe is excited to find out that while he’ll be in Indiana, his favorite 1980’s porn star, Monica Velour, will be performing in her only show of the year not far away from where Claude lives. After the show, Tobe befriends Monica, and is shocked to discover that she is really a 49-year-old single mother struggling to make ends meet.

Bearden was surprisingly successful in translating several taboo, rarely discussed messages and topics from the script, which he wrote, to the screen in his feature-length movie directorial debut. These topics include transgenerational love, the painful awkwardness of transitioning into adulthood and sexualizing an older woman in a society that views youthfulness as attractive. Showing that Tobe accepts, and even appreciates, Monica in a romantic way, even though she’s old enough to be his mother, puts a unique spin on the coming-of-age sexual genre.

Cattrall was also a believable and convincing choice for the title role. Having gained mainstream stardom for playing the sexual Samantha Jones in the hit HBO series ‘Sex and the City,’ she could have easily been type-cast as continuously playing characters whose lives are focused on sex. But as Bearden has said about Cattrall, she brought an openness and honesty to the role of Monica that instantly grabs the viewers’ attention. She seemed to really understand Monica’s drive to create a better life for her daughter and herself, but has trouble rising above her past.

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Saturday, April 2, 2011

'Hop' Movie Review

Title: Hop

Director: Tim Hill (’Alvin and the Chipmunks’)

Starring: James Marsden, Russell Brand (voice), Kaley Cuoco (’The Big Bang Theory’), Hugh Laurie (voice), Hank Azaria (voice)

Review Written by: Karen Benardello

While Santa Claus has widely been the king of holiday movies, the Easter Bunny is hoping to jump into people’s hearts in the new live-action/CGI movie ‘Hop.’ While not much about the movie’s plot-line was revealed by its studio Relativity Media during its promotional period and adults may come to think of it as purely a children’s film as a result, ‘Hop’ ultimately proves animated characters and movies can indeed provide important messages; everyone, including the Easter Bunny, strives to do what they love while making other people happy.

‘Hop’ follows teenage rabbit E.B. (voiced by Russell Brand) as he prepares to take over the position of the Easter Bunny from his father, Mr. Bunny (voiced by Hugh Laurie). However, E.B. doesn’t like the pressure that is placed on him, as he fears that he will disappoint his father and the children around the world by not being able to deliver all of the Easter candy on time. So he leaves his home on Easter Island to go to Hollywood to instead pursue his dream of becoming a famous drummer.

During his first night in Hollywood, E.B. is hit by Fred O’Hare (played by James Marsden), who is driving to Beverly Hills to house-sit for the boss of his sister Samantha (portrayed by Kaley Cuoco). E.B. manipulates his way into staying with Fred, but ultimately just causes trouble for him. While Fred is on a job interview, for example, E.B. realizes that his father sent his bodyguards, the Pink Berets, to Hollywood to bring him home. Mr. Bunny wants E.B. to return to Easter Island to not only take over his destined job, but to also help suppress the revolt that’s being led by Easter Chick Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria).

Relativity Media definitely made the right decision in hiring director Tim Hill to helm the movie. Having experience in the live-action/CGI family genre before, including directing ‘Muppets from Space’ and ‘Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties,’ Hill was able to incorporate striking, realistic animation with E.B., Mr. Bunny and the rest of Easter Island into ‘Hop.’ Children and even adults will likely wish they could visit Easter Island, as Hill created vibrant, colorful backgrounds that prove that not all movies need 3D technology for the action and sets to pop out at the audience. Even while watching the scenes unfold in Hollywood, audiences will also surely forget that the rabbits are CGI, as they truly look realistic.

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