Saturday, July 30, 2011

'Crazy, Stupid, Love' Movie Review

'Crazy, Stupid, Love' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (‘I Love You Phillip Morris’)

Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon

Sometimes the people we thought we knew can turn around and surprise us. That can be said about both Steve Carell and his character, Cal Weaver, in the new Warner Bros. romantic comedy-drama ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love;’ not only does Cal completely change his lifestyle and personality after he found out his wife cheated on him and wants to end their relationship, but the former ‘Office’ star proved what a diverse actor he can be with the role. Both Cal and Carell were thrown into unfamiliar territory, but ultimately thrived in their new atmospheres.

‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ follows Cal (played by Carell), who seems to be leading the perfect life with a strong marriage and family, good job and nice house. That is, until his wife of 25 years, Emily (portrayed by Julianne Moore), unexpectedly tells him that she slept with one of her co-workers, David Lindhagen (played by Kevin Bacon), and she wants a divorce.

After moving out and trying to start a new life, Cal attempts to integrate back into the dating world by going to a bar. There he meets player Jacob Palmer (portrayed by Ryan Gosling), who tries to help Cal become more attractive to women. At the same time, Jacob starts to learn more about himself as he becomes more emotionally attracted to Hannah (played by Emma Stone), who at first resists the ladies’ man.

Throughout the course of ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love,’ it seemed as though co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa wanted to showcase the tremendous change people go through immediately after finding out their spouse cheated on them and wants a divorce. In the beginning of the film, Cal was reclusive, not expressing any originality or possessing any positive attributes that would keep Emily romantically interested in him after a quarter of a century of marriage. But throughout the course of the script, which was written by Dan Fogelman, Carell used his natural, subtle humor to fully develop Cal’s personality, making him a more attractive, entertaining person to spend time with.

While it’s a respectable, smart decision to have Cal grow as a person and learn how stand up for himself and survive on his own, to some degree Cal’s personality change was implausible. Before Emily brought up the idea of getting a divorce, she was the only woman Cal had ever dated, and therefore he was distraught about the separation. But when he met Jacob almost immediately after he moved out of his family’s home, there was only a short period of time before he began approaching, and flirting with, other women. If Cal truly loved Emily, who he began dating when he was only 15 years old, it seems likely that he would need more time to move on from their relationship, no matter how much pressure he received from Jacob to change.

To continue reading this review, please click here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

'Arthur' DVD Review

'Arthur' DVD 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 popular tabloid target Russell Brand in the title role that was made famous in the original by Dudley Moore. First-time film director Jason Winer, who has risen to fame directing such comedy television series as 'Modern Family' and 'Samantha Who?, ' seemed like the perfect choice to complement the outrageous comedian in the new 'Arthur, ' which is now available to rent at Long Island Blockbuster locations; while the helmer was able to bring out the comedic side of the actor, the remake ultimately fails to diversify itself from the original film.

'Arthur' follows the title character as he goes through life partying throughout New York City, not taking his responsibilities 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.

To continue reading this review, please visit Examiner.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

'Good Neighbors' Movie Review

'Good Neighbors' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

The question of who our neighbors really are and what we would do if we discovered their deepest criminal secrets has always provided fascinating material for film noir thrillers. Writer-director Jacob Tierney provides a unique twist on the genre with his new movie ‘Good Neighbors,’ which is based on Chrystine Brouillet’s first novel, 1982’s Chere voisine. After unveiling three diverse characters in the film, their immoral actions make not only each other, but the viewers, question what they should do in such a terrifying situation.

Set against the referendum-era Montreal of 1995, ‘Good Neighbors,’ which will be released at New York's Quad Cinemas on July 29, 2011, follows Spencer (played by Scott Speedman), a recent widower who was left wheelchair-bound after the death of his wife several months earlier. He bonds with Louise (portrayed by Emily Hampshire), who lives on the floor above him in their apartment complex and works as a waitress at a Chinese restaurant. She becomes fascinated with the recent string of murders of young women after one of her co-workers died at the hands of the serial killer.

Victor (played by Jay Baruchel), who just returned to Montreal after teaching in China, moves into Spencer and Louise’s apartment building. He eventually forgoes his initial interest in the poll to make Quebec independent, to instead build a friendship with Spencer and a romantic relationship with Louise. But as the film progresses, the three begin to suspect someone in their apartment building is the one committing the murders.

‘Good Neighbors,’ which is also available in New York via Time Warner Cable On Demand, is unique from other thrillers in the fact that Tierney forgoed the mystery of who the killer is; he instead focused on what the main characters are going to do once they figure out the killer's identity. The filmmaker was able to maintain the mystery of how the characters are going to continue tricking and manipulating each other by placing the story-line in 1995. Technology and DNA research weren’t as fully developed in the mid-1990s as they are now, so the killer is able to trick his neighbors and the police for a considerable amount of time.

The three main actors all have intriguing, believable relationships with one another, as they realistically relate to their respective characters. Tierney specifically wrote the parts for the three actors, and as a result, they develop a unique bond as their characters question why the killer's targeting seemingly innocent women.

To continue reading this review, please visit Examiner or Associated Content.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

'Friends with Benefits' Movie Review

'Friends with Benefits' Shockya Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Will Gluck (‘Easy A’)

Starring: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Woody Harrelson

People don’t always see the best and worst in themselves until they hit bottom and need other people to help them up. Such is the case in the new Screen Gems romantic comedy ‘Friends with Benefits,’ starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. Their respective characters, Dylan and Jamie, not only try to help each other re-nativigate into the dating world after they’re both broken up with, but also come to realize what it feels like to be accepted, no matter what their personality is like.

‘Friends with Benefits’ follows Dylan as he travels to New York to interview for the job of art director at GQ. Jamie is the headhunter who helps Dylan land the position, and convinces him to take the job. While at first he’s hesitant to leave his blog and family in Los Angeles, he ultimately decides to take a chance and sign the two-year contract. Not knowing anyone else in New York, Dylan quickly becomes friends with Jamie, and the two decide to have a casual psychical relationship, as they are both still upset over their respective break-ups. The two keep insisting to everyone, including Dylan’s co-worker, GQ’s sports editor Tommy (played by Woody Harrelson); Dylan’s sister Annie(portrayed by Jenna Elfman) and their father (played by Richard Jenkins); and Jamie’s mother Lorna (portrayed by Patricia Clarkson), that they’re not romantically interested in each other. But the more time they spend together, the more Dylan and Jamie realize that they really do care about each other.

Director Will Gluck made the right decision in hiring Timberlake and Kunis to portray the two title characters. Having both come off two dramatic, Academy Award-winning films last fall, ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Black Swan,’ respectively, the two equally seem at ease delivering jokes, particularly at each other. Timberlake and Kunis make Dylan and Jamie truly seem like they want to be with each other, but their insecurities, predominantly with their past failed relationships, prevent them from being able to commit to each other.

‘Friends with Benefits’ works better than it’s similarly-themed romantic comedy, January’s ‘No Strings Attached,’ which featured Kunis’ ‘Black Swan’ co-star Natalie Portman and ‘That ’70s Show’ co-star Ashton Kutcher. Gluck was able to make Dylan and Jamie relatable and realistic by explaining their insecurities over whether or not the other likes them. The romantic comedy delves into Dylan and Jamie’s personal and family lives, explaining they were both dealing with their significant others breaking up with them over their personalities and the fact they both have strained relationships with their parents. However, ‘No Strings Attached’ director Ivan Reitman unfortunately didn’t explain why Portman’s character Emma didn’t want to become emotionally involved with Kutcher’s character Adam.

To continue reading this review, please click here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

'Limitless' DVD Review

'Limitless' DVD Review, Written by: Karen Benardellp

People often succeed in their careers because of their unparalleled knowledge of their chosen field and determination to thrive in what they do. Bradley Cooper is one such actor, who has shot to fame with his quirky humor and natural charm. But unlike his character Eddie Morra in the Relativity Media thriller 'Limitless,' which was shot in New York City, the comedic actor didn’t need a drug to make him smarter or motivate him to perform better.

'Limitless' follows New York City writer Eddie (played by Cooper), an author who is hit with a severe case of writer's block and has no idea how to fix it. While he is unable to formulate any ideas for his new novel and virtually has no other job prospects, Eddie's girlfriend, Lindy (portrayed by Abbie Cornish), breaks up with him. Eddie then runs into his ex-brother-in-law, who convinces him to take NZT, a top-secret, experimental drug that allows people to use all of their brain power.

After he begins taking NZT every day, Eddie becomes extremely successful in the financial world, using his new-found math skills to make money on Wall Street. Business mogul Carl Van Loon (played by New York City native Robert De Niro) becomes impressed with Eddie, and makes him his protégé. But Eddie not only tries to hide his dependency on NZT from Carl, but also the fact that hit men are trying to kill him unless he gives them more of the mind-altering drug.

Director Neil Burger had the potential to create an exciting action thriller with 'Limitless,' but unfortunately, failed to live up to expectations. The movie, which is based on the 2001 techno thriller novel The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn, has an interesting premise, showcasing what positive effects a street drug can have on a person's mind. Eddie, who should have been a likable character who proves that anyone can achieve anything they put their mind to, regrettably fails to grow or mature after taking the NZT.

To continue reading this review, please visit Examiner.

'The Myth of the American Sleepover' Movie Review

'The Myth of the American Sleepover' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Teenagers often develop a reputation of being lazy during their summer vacations, particularly when they’re with their friends. But the young cast of the new Sundance Selects comedy-drama ‘The Myth of the American Sleepover,’ which features many high school and college teenagers in their feature-film debut, is definitely an exception. Taking about five weeks out of their summer to film the movie, which opens at New York City’s Angelika Film Center on July 22, 2011, the cast perfectly proved how dedicated teens can be when they put their minds to something.

‘The Myth of the American Sleepover’ follows four carefree teenagers, including Rob Salvati (played by Marlon Morton), Claudia (portrayed by Amanda Bauer), Maggie (played by Claire Sloma) and Scott Holland (portrayed by Brett Jacobsen), as they explore their suburban Michigan town during their last weekend of summer. Determined to find love and adventure before the new school year begins, the four teens spend the night with their friends and come to realize that these moments will later resonate as the best in their lives.

The film, which first-time director David Robert Mitchell began writing as he was finishing his MFA in Motion Picture, Television & Recording Arts at Florida State University in 2002, is light on true internal and external conflict. Mitchell seemed unconcerned with presenting difficult obstacles for the care-free characters to overcome; he has said that while plot is important, what makes movies exciting is the way they allow directors to examine and intensify the feelings everyone experiences in their lives.

But the lack of plot truly propelled the unique personalities of the four characters, allowing the audience to truly connect with them. With Rob, viewers will remember their attraction to fellow classmates as they’re set to enter high school, and their uneasiness as they contemplate how to approach them. The audience will effortlessly relate to Claudia, the new girl who questions why everyone is compelled to be friends with the conceited popular girl. Maggie represents every teen’s determination to rebel and do whatever they want to do, no matter what other people will think of them. Scott embodies everyone’s desire to look back on their life and question if the decisions they made were the right ones.

To continue reading this review, please visit Examiner or Associated Content.

'The Ward' Movie Review

'The Ward' Shockya Movie Review

Director: John Carpenter

Starring: Amber Heard, Danielle Panabaker (‘Friday the 13th [2009],’ ‘The Crazies [2010]‘), Jared Harris (TV’s ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Fringe’)

Review Written by: Karen Benardello

Trying to find a way back to where you came from is a recurring theme in the new Echo Lake Entertainment horror-thriller ‘The Ward.’ The film, which is horror legend John Carpenter’s first directorial effort in a decade, follows a troubled young woman who’s trying to remember what happened to her that lead to her being checked into a psychiatric hospital. ‘The Ward’ also disappointingly fails to live up to the director’s famous use of distinctive scare tactics, relatable characters and an interesting storyline.

‘The Ward’ follows Kirsten (played by Amber Heard) as she sets fire to an abandoned farmhouse in 1966. Bruised and confused on why she’s burning the house, she is then taken to the North Bend Psychiatric Hospital, where a patient named Tammy was killed the night before. Kirsten is given Tammy’s old room after being checked. However, no one, including the other patients in the ward, Sarah (played by Danielle Panabaker), Iris (portrayed by Lyndsy Fonseca), Emily (portrayed by Mamie Gummer ) and Zoey (played by Laura Leigh), will tell Kirsten what happened to Tammy.

The following morning, Kirsten meets Dr. Stringer (portrayed by Jared Harris), who tries to help her remember what happened during the fire. She insists she can’t recall what happened. Later that night, she tries to escape, but is caught by one of the orderlies. Kirsten tries to get the other girls to help her escape again, especially after a horribly disfigured ghost attacks her.

‘The Ward’ had the potential to be another fantastic directorial effort from Carpenter. The filmmaker is most remembered for helming and writing some of the best horror and thriller movies since the 1970s, including ‘Halloween (1978),’ ‘The Fog (1980)’ and ‘Halloween II (1981).’ But ‘The Ward,’ which is the first film Carpenter directed since 2001′s ‘Ghosts of Mars,’ disappointingly fails to introduce any of the elements that make his previous movies frightening, including an unpredictable, unique story; developed, interesting characters; and distinctive visual and emotional scares.

Screenwriters Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, who have only previously written the ill-received 2005 horror-thriller film ‘Long Distance,’ included over-used horror elements to explain why Kirsten burned down the farmhouse. The two should have more fully developed her backstory to explain what happened that motivated her to set the fire. While often times audiences want to see the film’s protagonist gain their freedom, the writers present nothing to convince viewers that Kirsten should be released from the North Bend Psychiatric Hospital.

Heard performed the best she could with the material she was given. However, the script should have included more interesting plot-points than Kirsten saying she isn’t sick and trying to break out of the hospital. Besides further explaining what really happened to Kirsten before she set the fire, Carpenter should have also included more interaction between Kirsten and the ghost. The ghost element seemed to be included as an afterthought, just to include scares in the plot.

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Interview: David Robert Mitchell and Adele Romanski Discuss The Myth of the American Sleepover

Read Shockya's interview with writer/director David Robert Mitchell and producer Adele Romanski, who are making their feature film debut with the upcoming comedy-drama ‘The Myth of the American Sleepover.’ The movie, which is scheduled to be released in New York City on Friday, July 22, 2011, and in Los Angeles the following week on Friday, July 29, follows four teenagers on the last night of summer. During their final night of freedom before the new school year starts, they spend the night with friends, exploring their suburban Michigan town for love and adventure. Mitchell and Romanski, who attended the coming-of-age drama’s New York premiere at the Museum of Modern Art on Monday, July 18, discuss, among other things, how they cast the largely undiscovered cast, and why they didn’t set the film in one particular year.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): The performances are so natural and so easy. Where the actors friends and acquaintances, or did you put out a call? Can you talk a bit about the casting process, and where you found the actors?

David Robert Mitchell (DRM): Yeah, sure. A couple of the people were friends, but the majority of the cast were just kids we found in Michigan, high school and college kids from the area. Adele and I had a big, open casting call, which was advertised through community papers and word-of-mouth. We held them ourselves, basically, Adele and I and a camcorder. (laughs)

Adele Romanski (AD): We decided to tape the auditions.

DRM: My mom was at the table, greeting people (laughs), so that’s what it was. But we found these kids who were excited about the idea of being in a movie. But the truth is most of them had never acted before. Some of them have never been in front of a camera before or had done anything. They thought it would be a fun thing to do over the summer. It was, for sure.

Q: Did it take you all summer to make the film?

DRM: Yeah, we shot for four or five weeks. We were in Michigan for three months, finding locations, finishing the casting and just trying to finish the linguistics. It was a lot of locations and a lot of actors. So it was a lot of work.

Q: Did the actors get together and have sessions before you began filming, so that they could get to know each other?

DRM: Yeah, we had some rehearsals. It wasn’t a ton, but we had a few.

Q: What year was the movie set in?

DRM: I don’t know. (laughs) I don’t know, it’s a blur of a lot of years. We didn’t want to set it in any specific time period. Jeanine (Nicholas), our production designer, she did a great job. She brought a lot of elements from different decades into the movie. There’s things from the (19)50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, and some current things, too, to kind of make people wonder, when is this happening? The idea being that it’s something universal, so people of different ages who grew up in different decades can see a little bit of themselves in it.

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

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions Book Review

Title: Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions

Writer: Guy Kawasaki

Review Written by: Karen Benardello

Persuasion, while important when trying to influence potential clients and consumers to change brands or companies, isn’t always an easy task. Instead of using the difficult assignment of persuasion, author Guy Kawasaki suggests enchanting people in his new book “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions”. The entrepreneur offers some helpful tips on how to overcome other people’s established habits and encourage them to support your cause.

In “Enchantment”, Kawasaki draws on his experience from his time serving as the chief evangelist of Apple, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist to not only explain what enchantment is, but to also explain how to obtain likability and trustworthiness, overcome resistance and make enchantment endure. The author states that enchantment is not merely getting what you want; it also brings a voluntary and lasting change in other people. By being likable, trustworthy and presenting a cause that others can embrace, enchanters can change other people’s opinions and actions. But enchanting people doesn’t mean manipulating them; it entails changing skeptics and cynics into believers and the undecided into the loyal. Kawasaki also claims that enchantment can happen during any relationship and activity, ranging from informal Facebook messages to high-level corporate negotiations.

Kawasaki’s suggestions are geared towards, and beneficial to, both organizations trying to enchant potential clients and customers and individuals trying to enchant possible employers and supporters of their cause. For example, the author advises his readers to immediately and completely disclose their interests, and be completely knowledgeable about their causes, so that they can fully obtain the trust of those they’re trying to enchant. Trust is an important aspect of all relationships, business or personal; relationships aren’t beneficial if both parties can’t trust each other.

To continue reading this review, please click here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Interview: Drew Powell Talks Straw Dogs

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with actor Drew Powell, who plays Big in the upcoming thriller film ‘Straw Dogs,’ which is set to be released on September 16, 2011. The movie is based on the 1971 thriller of the same name, which starred Dustin Hoffman and stirred up controversy when it was released for its violent sequences. Powell discusses with us, among other things, how he feels about violence in films, and how he prepared for the role of Bic.

Written by: Karen Benardello

ShockYa (SY): You portray Bic in the upcoming remake of the thriller ‘Straw Dogs.’ The movie follows L.A. screenwriter David Sumner, played by James Marsden, as he moves with his wife Amy, portrayed by Kate Bosworth, to her hometown in the South. Once settled, the couple experiences trouble with some of the locals. How does Bic factor into the Sumners’ conflict?

Drew Powell (DP): Bic is one of the proverbial “Straw Dogs.” Along with Charlie (Alexander Skarsgard), Chris (Billy Lush), and Norm (Rhys Coiro), Bic is hired to fix the Sumner’s damaged barn. These guys are the typical small town jocks whose life peaked as seniors in high school. They were the football hero’s in a town where football is a religion and their former coach (played by James Woods) has fallen from grace just as they have. Bic is the laziest and goofiest of the group. I think it’s fair to say that Bic is the comic relief in an otherwise pretty intense film.

SY: ‘Straw Dogs’ is a remake of Sam Peckingpah’s 1971 film of the same name. Did you watch the original film while you were preparing for your role? If so, what was your reaction to Sam’s version after you finished watching it?

DP: I saw the original for the first time in my hotel room the first night I got to location. It made an impact on me as it has anyone who has seen it. It was such an interesting film in it’s moments of pure intensity and it’s moments of frenetic energy. I heard somewhere that Peckinpah wanted to make this movie as a commentary on the violence of the Vietnam/post Kent State America. If that is true, I think he achieved his goal.

SY: The original film is known for some of its violent sequences, and critics feel it’s an example of Hollywood’s degradation of women. Has your film received any criticism for its use of violence, and how do you feel about the increased use of violence in films in general?

DP: Well, as far as I know, no one outside of Sony has seen our film yet so I don’t think it’s received any criticism yet. Rod Lurie definitely did not back down from the violence in the film but it is by no means gratuitous. I’m not a fan of the horror-porn type of movie, but if violence has an organic place in a film, then I’m all for it.

SY: Do you think filmmakers’ increased use of violence in movies have desensitized audiences?

DP: Hard to say really. I think the impact of the original ‘Straw Dogs’ was just as strong when I saw it in 2009 as it was in 1971, but I certainly wouldn’t be able to speak for someone else who might feel like nothing fazes them anymore.

To continue reading this interview, please click here.

Interview: Taylor Spreitler Talks Melissa & Joey

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with actress Taylor Spreitler, who is currently starring on the hit ABC Family sitcom ‘Melissa & Joey.’ Spreitler stars as Lennox Scanlon on the show, which follows her Aunt Mel, played by Melissa Joan Hart, an Ohio councilwoman who takes in her niece and nephew Ryder, played by Nick Robinson, after their parents become involved in a Ponzi scheme. Joey Lawrence plays Mel’s live-in nanny Joe, who moves in to help care for Lennox and Ryder after he lost his job, due to Lennox and Ryder’s parent’s financial scheme. Taylor discusses with us, among other things, what attracted her to the role of Lennox, and what it’s like working with two of America’s biggest sitcom stars.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): What initially attracted you to the role of Lennox before the show premiered last summer?

Taylor Spreitler (TS): Well, I liked the break-down for it. I immediately fell in love with it. She (Lennox) was really free-spirited. She seemed like she would be a lot of fun to play. She reminded me a lot of myself.

SY: What are some of Lennox’s attributes that you find most appealing, and which of her characteristics do you wish she would change?

TS: I mean, I really like everything about her. She’s fun and she’d dedicated and she believes what she believes in. You can’t really tell her no. She’s cool because she’s kind of got an edge to her, so I really liked that about her.

SY: The title characters are played by Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence. The two are mainly remembered for their 1990s sitcoms. Do they give you comedic acting advice, since this is your first sitcom?

TS: Yeah, they have definitely helped me a lot. Coming from a soap opera (‘Days of our Lives’), and then going on a sitcom, it was really hard to make that transition. So luckily I had both of them there to really help me out.

SY: So what was the transition like from playing Mia McCormick on ‘Days of Our Lives’ (which she appeared on between January 2009 and June 2010) to playing Lennox on ‘Melissa & Joey?’

TS: It was really hard, going from a job where you basically cry everyday to then going to a sitcom where you’re laughing everyday. Just going from drama to comedy that fast was hard, it took a little bit to get used to. I love it now.

SY: What is the working dynamic like with the rest of the cast on ‘Melissa & Joey?’

TS: I mean, we’re all really close. We’re our own little family. We have a lot of fun, but when it comes down to it, we get the job done.

To continue reading this interview, please click here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

'Insidious' DVD Review

'Insidious' DVD Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

The supernatural haunted house film has rightfully become one of horror’s most popular subgenres in recent years, with such hits as ‘The Amityville Horror (2005)’ and ‘Paranormal Activity.’ But the latest entry, ‘Insidious,' is one of the most unique in the genre. Not only does the film’s demon surprisingly target a child, but it also includes terrifying shots of the entity, which causes a realistic strain on the lead characters’ relationship.

‘Insidious’ follows Renai and Josh Lambert (played by Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson, respectively), as they movie with their three children into a new house. Their son Dalton (portrayed by Ty Simpkins) tells Renai that he’s scared of his new room, but she is initially able to calm him down. Sometime later, as the family is seemingly settled in the new house, Dalton sneaks into the attic after hearing voices. He then falls off an old ladder he steps on to turn on the light.

The following morning, Josh is unable to wake Dalton, and he and Renai rush him to the hospital. They’re told by doctors their son is in an unexplainable coma. After staying in the comatose state for three months, Josh and Renai decide to bring Datlon home. After several mysterious and frightening occurrences, including finding a bloody sheet in Dalton’s room, Renai convinces her husband the house is haunted, and they move yet again.

When Renai begins experiencing increasingly violent and supernatural events in the new house, Josh’s mother Lorraine (played by Barbara Hershey) calls in her friend Elise Reiner (portrayed by Lin Shaye). With the help of her team, Lorraine discovers why the Lamberts are continuously being haunted.

‘Insidious,’ which was produced by horror thriller veteran Oren Peli, who wrote and directed 2009’s ‘Paranormal Activity,’ this year’s most profitable film surprisingly created more frightening scares than its supernatural predecessor. While ‘Paranormal Activity’ generated shocks by not showing the entity plaguing the main characters, forcing the audience to use its imagination, ‘Insidious’ effectively worked better by subliminally and quickly showing the demon haunting Dalton. Not only does director James Wan successfully make viewers jump by sneaking the demon in both of Dalton’s rooms and throughout the two Lambert houses, he also skillfully includes a detailed backstory explaining why the demon is attacking the family.

To continue reading this review, please visit Examiner or Associated Content.

Monday, July 11, 2011

'Horrible Bosses' Movie Review

'Horrible Bosses' Movie Review

Written by: Karen Benardello

Many people have had such terrible bosses that they often fantasy about quitting their jobs if they could afford to do so. Some workers even dream about what it would be like if their bosses were to suddenly die. The new New Lines Cinema comedy ‘Horrible Bosses,’ which is playing at local Long Island theaters, provides everyone who ever had that fantasy to vicariously live that dream in a surprisingly hysterical manner.

‘Horrible Bosses’ follows friends Nick Hendricks (played by New York native Jason Bateman), Dale Arbus (portrayed by fellow New York native Charlie Day) and Kurt Buckman (played by Jason Sudeikis), whose professional lives are suffering at the hands of their terrible superiors. Nick works at a financial company, where his boss Dave Harken (portrayed by Kevin Spacey) abuses him, including promising him a non-existent job promotion if he logs in excessive hours. Dale works as a dental assistant to Dr. Julia Harris (played by Jennifer Aniston), who continuously sexually harasses him and the patients.

Kurt meanwhile has a fantastic relationship with his boss Jack Pellitt (portrayed by Donald Sutherland), until one day he unexpectantly dies of a heart attack. Jack’s cocaine-addicted son Bobby (played by Colin Farrell) then takes over the industrial company and vows to run it into the ground, making Kurt’s lie miserable.

One night while they’re out for drinks, Kurt tells Nick and Dale that their lives would be much happier if they kill their bosses. While Dale initially says they can’t go through with the plan, he quickly changes his mind when Julia threatens to tell his fiancée Stacy (portrayed by Lindsay Sloane) that they had sex together if he doesn’t actually sleep with her. The three take the advice of paroled ex-con Dean Jones (played by Jamie Foxx) to kill each other’s bosses and make them look like accidents, so they won’t get caught.

To continue reading this review, please visit Examiner or Associated Content.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Best and Worst Films of 2011…So Far

Continuing with Shockya’s new mini-series The Best and Worst Films of 2011…So Far, this installment ironically includes historical dramas and car action movies on both the greatest and poorest lists. Some of these films successfully integrated historical facts with a captivating storyline and big-budget stunts with a natural bond between the cast, respectfully; unfortunately, the other movies disappointingly failed to incorporate accurate backstories or exciting chase scenes.

The Best and Worst Films of 2011…So Far also features some of the most anticipated movies of the second half of the year. The summer seems to want to step away from the historical dramas and action films to instead focus on the many ways audiences can be frightened with the horror genre. But whatever genre you’re interested in, the second half of 2011 promises to deliver as many interesting movies as the first half…but with the guaranteed few bad choices as well.

The Best So Far:

‘The Conspirator’

Director: Robert Redford

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

Theatrical Release Date: April 15; Blu-ray/DVD release date: August 16

‘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. 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.

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 keeps his viewers intrigued by allowing them to decide on their own whether or not Booth acted alone.

Redford also made the right decision in hiring McAvoy to portray Frederick. He has a natural compassion towards other people that effortlessly translates onto the screen. While Frederick bravely fought for the Union throughout the entire war, McAvoy convincingly made it seem as though Frederick truly wanted to protect Mary.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Interview: Brea Grant Talks Dexter

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with actress Brea Grant, who portrays lab intern Ryan Chambers in the upcoming sixth season of Showtime’s hit drama series ‘Dexter’ co-starring Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter. Grant, who was excited to audition for the role because she’s a fan of the serial killer-based show and is a horror enthusiast, has also appeared in ‘Halloween II’ and TV’s ‘Heroes.’ The actress discusses with us, among other things, how she prepared for the role of Ryan, and why she decided to write a zombie series called “We Will Bury You” with her brother Zane.

Written by: Karen Benardello

ShockYa (SY): You’ll be appearing as Ryan Chambers in three episodes of the upcoming sixth season of ‘Dexter,’ which is set to debut in Fall 2011. How does Ryan fit into the season’s storyline?

Brea Grant (BG): I’ll be playing a new lab intern at the Miami Police Department who is a perfect match for Masuka…in many ways.

SY: What attracted you to Ryan? Were you a fan of the series before you were cast?

BG: I was a fan of the show (who isn’t??) because it’s so smartly written and pushes so many boundaries. When I got the opportunity to audition for the show, I jumped at it. Ryan’s a completely different character for me. I’m generally the smart but kind of dorky girl who marches to the beat of her own drum. There are elements of that here, but Ryan is definitely written as “sexy” as well as smart and a little dark. So, it’s interesting for me to be the hot girl on set as opposed to the girl with the glasses.

SY: How did you prepare for not only your role of Ryan, but also for appearing on a hit cable drama series about a serial killer? Did you do any research into the minds of killers?

BG: Ryan has an interest in the dark side, particularly in murderers and serial killers so because of that, I had a great excuse to read a bit of serial killer history, as well as re-watch earlier seasons of Dexter due to her obsession with Miami serial killers. But in as is the way with television, I think I knew I was going to be on the show about 4 days before I started shooting, so my prep time is always limited.

To continue reading this interview, please click here.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

'Sucker Punch' DVD Review

'Sucker Punch' Examiner DVD Review

Many people often resort to imagining they’re living in a fantasy world when they’re living through a terrible situation. This is unfortunately the case for screenwriter and director Zach Snyder, whose latest movie ‘Sucker Punch’ is now available on DVD at select Long Island Blockbuster locations. Snyder took bold, daring choices while creating the storyline and filming the ambitious stunts for the thriller, but much like main character Babydoll, audiences will be anxious to get away from her life.

‘Sucker Punch’ follows Babydoll (played by Emily Browning) as she’s institutionalized at the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane by her abusive stepfather (portrayed by Gerard Plunkett). He not only wants to cover up the fact that she’s trying to inform the police he’s responsible for her sister’s death, but also prevent her from reclaiming her recently deceased mother's fortune. Her stepfather bribes one of orderlies, Blue Jones (played by Oscar Isaac), into forging the signature of the asylum’s psychiatrists, Dr. Vera Gorski (portrayed by Carla Gugino), so that Babydoll can be lobotomized.

To adjust to her new life in the asylum, Babydoll retreats into several fantasy worlds. The first follows her into a brother owned by Blue, who is now a mobster. Babydoll meets four other girls, including Amber (played by Jamie Chung), Blondie (portrayed by Vanessa Hudgens), Rocket (played by Jena Malone) and Rocket’s older sister, Sweet Pea (portrayed by Abbie Cornish). Dr. Gorski, who is now the girls’ dance instructor, informs Babydoll that she’s being sold to The High Roller (played by John Hamm), who’s also the surgeon who will perform her lobotomy in the real world.

Babydoll ultimately convinces Amber, Blondie, Rocket and Sweet Pea to help plan an escape from the brothel. While they’re preparing their escape, Babydoll recedes into her second fantasy world, feudal Japan. The five girls not only find ways to defeat the demonic samurai in Japan in Babydoll’s second fantasy, but also carry out their escape plan from the brothel in her first invented world.

To continue reading this review, please click here.

'Monte Carlo' Movie Review

'Monte Carlo' Shockya Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Thomas Bezucha

Starring: Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy

Some people wait their entire lives to take their dream vacation. Grace, the main character in 20th Century Fox’s new adventure romantic comedy ‘Monte Carlo,’ is one of those people; she’s grows even more excited and anxious to get away from her Texas town to go to Paris as the trip grows near. While the trip doesn’t ultimately go as she expected, Grace proves people can discover a lot about themselves when they learn to make do with the situations that are presented to them.

‘Monte Carlo,’ which is based on the novel Headhunters by Jules Bass, follows Grace (played by Selena Gomez), recent high school graduate, as she and her best friend Emma (portrayed by Katie Cassidy) prepare for their dream vacation to Paris. Grace’s mother (played by Andie MacDowell) persuades Grace to bring her older, uptight stepsister Meg (portrayed by Leighton Meester) to make sure they don’t get into any trouble. However, all three girls are disappointed by the way their vacation turns out until Grace is mistaken for English heiress Cordelia Winthrop Scott (also played by Gomez). Since Cordelia wants to take a few days off from her charity duties, Grace and Emma convince Meg to go along with them to Monte Carlo to fill in for the socialite, so they can all get the vacation they want.

Director Thomas Bezucha made the decision in hiring Gomez for the dual roles of Grace and Cordelia. The former Disney star, whose most well-known acting role is of ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’ main character Alex Russo, was able to prove her relatability for her targeted audience, younger girls and teens. Grace wanted to have the most exciting trip possible while in Paris, but soon realizes and isn’t afraid to admit that the tour she picked isn’t the most adventurous. Gomez also shows that Grace is quick to give into her temptation to disguise herself as Cordelia and travel to Monte Carlo.

Even though the romantic comedy is only Gomez’s second main role in a theatrical film, she also charmingly gives Grace a sense of right and wrong. For example, she knows that she can’t continue lying to Theo (portrayed by Pierre Boulanger), who believes he’s working with the real Cordelia in Monte Carlo on building schools across the world. Seeing how devoted he is to helping impoverished children, Grace doesn’t want to keep lying to him about who she really is. Gomez really connects to Grace, and her true charisma shines through.

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