Monday, August 29, 2011

'The Family Tree' Movie Review

'The Family Tree' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Vivi Friedman (TV’s ‘Team Suomi’)

Starring: Dermot Muloney, Hope Davis, Max Thieriot (‘My Soul to Take’), Brittany Robertson (TV’s ‘Life Unexpected’)

People often wish they can re-set their lives to not only become happier, but to also get along better with their loved ones from whom they’ve become disconnected. This is one of the important life lessons presented in the new comedy-drama ‘The Family Tree,’ which presents a satirical view on a seemingly happy suburban American family, the Burnetts. While the Burnetts have what appears to be the perfect lifestyle, they’re really dealing with such serious issues as intolerance, infidelity, drugs and stereotypes, issues that seem to be plaguing more Americans every day.

‘The Family Tree’ follows the dysfunctional Burnett family-father, Jack (played by Dermot Mulroney), mother, Bunnie (portrayed by Hope Davis) and 17-year-old twins, Kelly (played by Britt Robertson) and Eric (portrayed by Max Thieriot). While Jack and Bunnie are heading towards a divorce, as they have lost their passion for each other, she suffers from a freak accident and loses her short-term memory. Not remembering that she and Jack are having problems, that she’s cheating on him with their next-door neighbor Simon (played by Chi McBride) or even that she has children, Bunnie is determined to fix her marriage. As the Burnetts also deal with such problems as past relationships, misinterpreted advances, corporate down-sizing and Reverend Diggs (portrayed by Keith Carradine), who’s encouraging Eric to use guns, the family learns how to love each other and get along once again.

First time feature director Vivi Friedman brilliantly succeeded in combining such sensitive subjects as intolerance, religion and gun control with comedy. Unlike many comedies, whose plots focus mainly on continuous gags, ‘The Family Tree’ diversifies itself by subtly infusing jokes into serious situations. For example, there’s one scene where Eric points one of his guns at his bedroom door. Jack walks in to talk to him at that moment, and immediately jumps to the conclusion that his son’s pointing the gun at him, so he takes it away. While Jack thinks his son learned a lesson, Eric just takes out another gun from his drawer. While the scene reiterates the important lesson that no one should point a gun at anyone else, it’s also amusing that Jack knows so little about Eric’s hobby and intentions.

With such diverse characters, even within the Burnett family, the comedy-drama proves that no matter what stage people are in their life, they’re still searching for their identity. With Jack caring solely about advancing in his career, Bunnie only caring about appearances before her accident, Kelly lashing out at everyone around her and Eric seeking acceptance among people who claim to be religious but seek solace in drugs and guns, the characters’ morals are constantly being questioned. But even amongst such diversity and conflicting ethical values, the audience comes to realize that everyone should embrace others for their differences.

To finish reading this review, please visit Shockya.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

'The Caller' Movie Review

'The Caller' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Matthew Parkhill (‘Dot the I,’ TV’s ‘The Afternoon Play’)

Starring: Rachelle Lefevre (‘Twilight,’ ‘New Moon’), Stephen Moyer

Building believable and exciting suspense and anticipation between a protagonist and antagonist in a thriller is usually the most important part of the plot. But rarely showing the enemy as she battles the hero, as seen in the new Samuel Goldwyn Films feature ‘The Caller,’ is a risky move that surprisingly paid off. Director Matthew Parkhill forgoed a continuous stream of intense stunts to instead focus on building the characters’ backstories and personalities, which helped draw in and engage viewers.

‘The Caller’ follows the recently divorced Mary Kee (played by Rachelle Lefevre), who is eager to start a new life in a different apartment, away from her abusive ex-husband Steven (portrayed by Ed Quinn). Mary begins to receive strange phone calls from a mysterious woman, Rose (played by Lorna Raver), who’s asking for someone who she believes still lives in the apartment. Mary initially connects with Rose, as the two discuss their abusive relationships.

But when Rose reveals she’s calling from the past, Mary is anxious to stop contact, as she doesn’t want to believe she’s being contacted by someone from 25 years earlier. Mary begins to ignore Rose, and starts to build a relationship with Professor John Guidi (portrayed by Stephen Moyer) instead. Annoyed that she’s being disregarded, Rose starts taking revenge on Mary.

‘The Caller’ is unique in the fact that it doesn’t solely rely on physical scare tactics to engage its audience. As Lefevre has said of Parkhill, he wanted to focus on the actors’ portrayals of the characters, as well as the characters’ backgrounds. The actress expertly connected with Mary, and was flawlessly able to play her as wanting to move forward with her life and form new relationships after the end of her marriage. In the beginning of the film, she was so willing to talk to Rose, as they bonded over their abusive relationships. Viewers will also believe Mary is willing to start a romantic relationship with John, as he’s the complete opposite of her ex-husband; he wants to protect her from both Rose’s revenge and Steven’s continued pursuit of her.

To continue reading this review, please visit Shockya.

Interview: Stephen Moyer Talks The Caller

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with Stephen Moyer, who portrays John Guidi, the new boyfriend of Rachelle Lefevre’s character Mary Kee, in the upcoming supernatural thriller ‘The Caller.’ The film, which was directed by Matthew Parkhill and is set to be released in select theaters on August 26, 2011, follows Mary, who recently divorced her abusive husband Steven, played by Ed Quinn, as she moves into a new apartment. She begins receiving phone calls from a stranger, Rose, played by Lorna Raver, and the two bond over their failed relationships. When Rose reveals that she’s calling from the past, Mary doesn’t believe her, and wants nothing more to do with her. Rose begins to take revenge on Mary for ignoring her and choosing John over her. Moyer discusses with us, among other things, what attracted him to the role of John, and what his working relationship with Lefevre was like.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): You were originally interested in playing Mary’s ex-husband Steven in ‘The Caller,’ but you ultimately decided that the role of her new boyfriend, John, would be a better fit for you. Given that the characters are completely different, as Steven is abusive towards Mary and John is protective of her, what ultimately attracted you to the role of John?

Stephen Moyer (SM): I felt like the ex-husband was a little dark. I had just come out of a season (of ‘True Blood’) with Bill being dark, and I felt I should to do something a little bit more nice, a little bit more ordinary. I really liked the fact he’s the one central figure in Mary’s life in the movie that’s a warm one. It takes her awhile for her to trust him, but ultimately, she does trust him. I really liked the kind of dynamic of that.

SY: How did you prepare for the role of John?

SM: Well, I sat down with Matthew (the director), and we talked about what John would have done, where he was from, what his life was like, and possibly that there had been some heartache for him, that he probably split up from a relationship, and that he was single. He was hurting from that relationship. This is all off-screen, of course, we don’t see any of this. You kind of prep, with a thought in mind that you try to make the character as real as possible. Sometimes you’ll sit down and write down who those relationships were, and what happened in them. I think what Matthew had managed to do very well is convey (that) Rachelle’s character Mary is in a very difficult place, a very dark spot in her life, with her divorce and what’s going on in the new apartment. So it’s important to sort of put somebody in there who isn’t malevolent or trying to take something from her, and I think that relationship grows very nicely.

SY: When Mary first tells John that Rose is claiming to be calling from the past, why do you think it’s important that he doesn’t believe her?

SM: Well, if somebody I had just met turned around and said to me that she’s having a phone conversation with somebody from 25 years ago, I think I’d find that quite hard to believe. I think for us to make the audience feel the same way, we just can’t burden them with a crazy truth without questioning it first. As the story unfolds before him, he starts to realize there is something in it, and then he starts talking to her. He can see for himself that this person is real. So in a way, what the audience is going through, is they’re viewing (the movie) through John’s eyes. He represents that character that the audience is watching this story unfold through.

To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Interview: Vivi Friedman Talks The Family Tree

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with filmmaker Vivi Friedman, who’s making her feature directorial debut with the comedy-drama ‘The Family Tree,’ which is now in select theaters. The film follows the dysfunctional Burnett family in suburban Serenity, Ohio, as wife and mother Bunnie, played by Hope Davis, develops short-term amnesia following an accident. She gets a second chance at happiness with her husband, Jack, portrayed by Dermot Mulroney, from who she was planning on divorcing before she was injured. Bunnie is also given a second chance to improve her relationships with her children, 17-year-old twins Kelly, played by Britt Robertson, and Eric, portrayed by Max Theriot. Friedman discusses with us, among other things, what the casting process was like for the lead characters, and why she was compelled to discuss such controversial, serious topics as gun control and the definition of marriage, in the movie.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): When you began working on ‘The Family Tree’ seven years ago, there were issues, such as the definition of marriage and gun control, that were emerging throughout the U.S. that made you worried and politically aware. Why did you feel it was important to discuss these topics in the film?

Vivi Friedman (VF): Well, I think I’m always interested in things that are happening around us. I think that equality is important, and it’s important to live and let live and be good to each other. I think a movie with these things may open our eyes, and make us think a little bit more, and be a little bit more aware of what’s going on in our own lives, and be better people.

SY: You grew up in Finland with a background in general tolerance and open-mindedness. Why do you feel it’s important to bring these ideals to the U.S., and do you think the movie will help make people more open-minded?

VF: It’s kind of an interesting question, because I think when people see the movie, I think it’s sort of a polarizing film, overall. I think there will be people who will love it, and there will be people who strongly object. I think it depends on what their mindset is when they watch the movie. Someone who is more open-minded and tolerant, perhaps, will be more open to the movie and its message. Some others may find it more offensive. So I don’t know if it can convert those. But I think entertainment is a wonderful tool to make people think and be aware. Hopefully there will be a few people who will leave the theater, and next time there’s a controversial question, they’ll be more open-minded, I hope.

SY: What was the casting process like for the main characters, particularly Jack and Bunnie, since their marriage was the main relationship in the movie?

VF: All the producers, (including) Allan Jones and J. Todd Harris, and the writer, Mark Lisson, and myself, were working on casting and who would be ideal for these roles. I always admired Hope Davis, I think she’s an amazingly talented actress. I was trying to think for the role of Bunnie, who would sort of pull off the complexities of Bunnie’s character, someone who would be plasticy Barbie Doll, and an evil person in some ways on the one hand, and a good person on the other. Also, who would be sexy and beautiful. I’ve always thought of Hope Davis as such, and she hasn’t really played such roles. I thought it would be an interesting challenge for her in that way. I’m incredibly, incredibly lucky and fortunate and blessed to be working with her. On the other hand, I was hoping for the role of Jack to find an actor who would portraye him in one way or a certain way, but who would have the acting chops to sort of do something else as well. I thought Dermot Mulroney was so talented. He could do any spectrum of the role. He could do it so broad, and the way he could do this small comedy and play the role of Jack was delightful.

To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Interview: Josh Keaton Talks Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Spider Man: Edge of Time

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with actor, voice actor, singer and music producer Josh Keaton, whose career has spanned the mediums of television, video games and film. Keaton will next be heard voicing Hal Jordan in Comedy Central’s ‘Green Lantern: The Animated Series,’ which premieres on September 5, 2011. He will then be heard as The Amazing Spider-Man in the video game Spider Man: Edge of Time, which is set to hit stores in October 2011. Keaton discusses with us, among other things, how the television series and video game differ from their respective big screen adaptations, and how acting in life action series is different than voicing video games and animated series.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): You will be voicing Hal Jordan in Comedy Central’s upcoming ‘Green Lantern: The Animated Series.’ It has been reported that the show won’t be an origins story to this summer’s DC Entertainment film ‘Green Lantern.’ What will the series focus on?

Josh Keaton (JK): The series focuses on Hal and Kilowog as they patrol Frontier Space. Although stuff happens on Earth, it’s not an Earth-based show – it takes place all over the cosmos.

SY: While the DC comic series The Green Lantern has been a fan favorite and has won awards since its debut in the 1940s, the Ryan Reynolds film opened to poor reviews and has had a lackluster box office gross. Why should devoted Green Lantern fans who were disappointed with the film watch the animated series?

JK: Comic based movies are tough to knock out of the park because a big part of the audience the filmmakers are intending to capture is not going to be familiar with the source material so a lot of stuff gets truncated and otherwise changed up; whereas with a show, there’s a lot more time to explore the characters and more opportunity to tell more than one story. Fans that watch our show will get to see more stories, and many more characters than the film was able to use.

SY: In the video game universe, you are next set to voice The Amazing Spider-Man in Spider Man: Edge of Time, which will feature a new “cause-and-effect” gameplay system where the super hero’s actions affect each other. How is Edge of Time different from, and similar to, the other Spider-Man video games you’ve lent your voice to, including last year’s Shattered Dimensions?

JP: I haven’t actually played it so I can’t really give any input as to the controls or gameplay. But the biggest difference I can see between Shattered Dimensions and Edge of Time is that while Shattered Dimensions was more episodic, the story-lines in Edge of Time are occurring simultaneously, and something done in one affects the other. MvC3 is totally different because it’s a fighting game. All the same because they’re about Spider-Man.

To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Interview: Kristen aldridge Talks OMG! NOW on Yahoo!

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with television host-entertainment journalist Kristen Aldridge, who’s currently hosting the daily pop culture series ‘omg! NOW on Yahoo!’ Aldridge, who’s interviewed such celebrities as Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt, recently branched out into the world of fashion by turning her passion of clothing into a line called Positively Celebrity. The entrepreneur discusses with us, among other things, how she became interested in reporting on entertainment and celebrity news, and who some of her favorite fashion icons are.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): You’re currently serving as the host for ‘omg! NOW on Yahoo!,’ during which you talk about the latest entertainment and celebrity news. How did you become interested in becoming an entertainment journalist?

Kristen Aldridge (KA): I’ve wanted to be an entertainment reporter since I was 12 years old after I caught “Entertainment Tonight” on TV. Apparently I was hooked! When other kids were playing Barbies, I was using my hairbrush as a microphone to practice asking questions to pretend celebrities on a mock red carpet in my living room. I think it’s safe to say I haven’t stopped asking questions since!

SY: For the last 3 months, ‘omg! NOW’ has been the most watched show on the Internet, and even doubled the views of both and Why do you think the public enjoys your broadcast so much, and how did you react when you found out you beat TMZ and E! Online?

KA: I wish I knew the secret formula! It’s really an honor to be part of the Yahoo! family and I’m having such a blast. I’m so grateful to be doing something that I love, and the fact that people are enjoying it is just the icing on the cake. I’m a huge fan of TMZ and E! Online, and they’re both obviously such big, amazing brands, so I was pretty pumped when we got our numbers back. But Yahoo! and the incredibly talented team I work with every day totally rock, so I shouldn’t be surprised!

SY: Among the A-listers who you’ve interviewed are Anthony Hopkins, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, Anne Hathaway, Ben Affleck and Emily Blunt. Who has been your favorite to interview, and why?

KA: That’s a tough one… It’s a tie between Anthony Hopkins and Emily Blunt. Interviewing Hopkins is so absolutely intimidating and utterly exhilarating all at the same time. He is such a phenomenal, powerful actor so just being in his presence is an honor. You’re really forced to be on your A-Game with him at all times and I live for that kind of challenge!

I’ve adored Emily Blunt since I first saw her in “The Devil Wears Prada,” so it’s always fun to interview actors that you’re also a huge fan of. She has such a lovely, vivacious personality that brings a smile to my face every time, and her down-to-earth nature is refreshing. It’s been really fun to follow her success along with her after all these years.

To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Interview: Travis Winfrey talks Single Ladies

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with actor Travis Winfrey, who’s presently playing Omar on VH1′s first scripted series ‘Single Ladies.’ The comedy follows three women, including Val, April and Keisha, and their romantic relationships. Omar is the one constant male presence in the women’s lives, as he works at Val’s boutique. ‘Single Ladies’ has been renewed for a second season, after its first season drew a consistent 1.8 to 1.9 million viewers every week since it premiered in May 2011. Winfrey, who has appeared on a variety of different television series, including ‘Dexter’ and ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager,’ discuses with us, among other things, what Omar’s relationship is like with the women, and why he felt compelled to join a show that heavily focuses on its female characters.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): You’re currently portraying Omar on ‘Single Ladies,’ which chronicles the lives of the three main characters, Val, April and Keisha. How would you describe Omar’s relationship with the three women?

Travis Winfrey (TW): I think Omar’s relationship with April, Val and Keisha is just like any other brother-sister relationship. He gets in their business, tells them when they’re wrong and cares for them all the same he would his family. I think Omar is the guy you would want to hang out with.

SY: Stacey Dash, who is most remembered for appearing in the ‘Clueless’ movie and television series, stars as Val on ‘Single Ladies.’ What is it like working with her, and how has she grown as an actress since appearing in ‘Clueless?’

TW: I like working with Stacy. Hell, I just like working. As far as how she’s grown as an actress..? Really, you’re asking me? Let me make a few million dollars and last as long as she has in the industry, before I answer that question. I’ll get right back to you on that.

SY: ‘Single Ladies’ initially premiered as a movie on VH1, and it received such great fan response that the network decided to develop it into a series. The show’s first episode debuted to 2.8 million viewers. How did you react when you first heard the movie and series were embraced by the public?

TW: I am extremely grateful. It was an amazing feeling. So many pilots get made, but very few ever see the light of day. It still really hasn’t hit me yet.

To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Interview: Kim Bubbs Talks The Thing

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with actress Kim Bubbs, who plays geologist Juliette in the upcoming sci-fi horror movie ‘The Thing,’ which is set to hit theaters on October 14, 2011. The film follows an investigative team as it discovers and studies an alien craft that lands at its research site in Antarctica. The film, which was directed by Matthijs van Heijningen, Jr., serves as the prequel to helmer John Carpenter’s 1982 movie of the same name. The actress, who has made a name for herself appearing on such television movies as ‘A Near Death Experience’ and ‘Her Only Child,’ discusses with us, among other things, why she was attracted to the role of Juliette, and how the prequel is different than the original film.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): You portray Juliette in the upcoming horror film ‘The Thing.’ What part does Juliette play in the study of the alien craft?

Kim Bubbs (KB): Juliette is a geologist at Thule Station, the Norwegian base in Antarctica. She, along with her colleagues, takes part in the initial study and retrieval of the alien craft and its specimen. This is new territory for all involved, and she gathers scientific data to better understand this new discovery.

SY: What was it about the script that convinced you to take the role of Juliette?

KB: I thought the idea for the prequel was an excellent opportunity to explain what had happened at the Norwegian base. In (John) Carpenter’s film, we witness the horrific aftermath and can only imagine what could have occurred. Our film delves into uncovering what took place and explains the mystery. I also loved the fact that there are two women this time around, and that both of them are intelligent and strong.

SY: The film serves as a prequel to the classic 1982 movie of the same name, which was directed by Carpenter and starred Kurt Russell. The premise of the two films is virtually the same, except the original featured a dog having the ability to take over other bodies, as opposed to the alien in the prequel. What other characteristics makes your film unique from the original?

KB: The great thing about this film is that it not only serves as a prequel to Carpenter’s movie but, it also has its own true identity as a film. It’s viewed from a different perspective and it solves pieces of the puzzle created in the 1982 film. Of course, since it has to make sense as a prequel, there are many similar elements to Carpenter’s version, but it is very much its own film.

SY: While preparing to portray Juliette, what type of research did you do?

KB: I read several books written by scientists working in Antarctica, such as: Mountains of Madness: A Scientist’s Odyssey in Antarctica by John Long. It gave me insight into his work on the continent and the challenges scientists face there due to the weather and the isolation. I also watched films, and Werner Herzog’s documentary ‘Encounters at the End of the World’ is a great film that really gives you a sense of the landscape and what life is like for scientists living in Antarctica.

To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Interview: Rachelle Lefevre Talks 'The Caller'

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with actress Rachelle Lefevre ('Twilight,' 'New Moon'), who plays troubled divorcee Mary Kee in the upcoming mystery thriller ‘The Caller.’ The film, which was directed by Matthew Parkhill and hits theaters on August 26, 2011, follows Mary as she receives a series of threatening phone calls from a mysterious woman named Rose, played by Lorna Raver, after she moves into a new apartment. Mary learns the hard way that Rose doesn’t like to be ignored, and she seeks her revenge in a terrifying way. Lefevre discusses with us, among other things, what attracted her to the role of Mary, and what her real-life relationship with Lorna was like.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): ‘The Caller’ tells the story of your character, Mary Kee, who is tormented by a series of phone calls from a stranger, Rose, who reveals she’s calling from the past. Why does Mary almost readily accept the fact that Rose really is calling from 25 years ago?

Rachelle Lefevre (RL): She doesn’t readily accept it, she doesn’t actually accept it at all, and that’s when the problems start. Mary is being harassed by the phone calls. In the beginning, it doesn’t really start out that way. She thinks it’s a wrong number. Then Rose says something that catches her attention, about Mary’s own problems. They sort of start to bond over life and their own difficulties. They have these conversations with a complete stranger, and start this bizarre relationship, based on Mary’s need to connect with someone after her abusive relationship (with her ex-husband Steven, played by Ed Quinn). It’s only when Rose says that she’s calling from the past that Mary really, really wants her to stop calling, and that’s when the harassment begins, because Mary doesn’t believe her.

SY: What was it about Mary’s personality and background that attracted you to the role?

RL: Everyone has something in their life that is a difficulty or has something from their past that is haunting. It certainly is for Mary. I think everyone has something in their life that gets inside their head that’s disturbing. We all have something that when we’re left alone, we think about it, and it gives us a hard time. In Mary’s case, it’s extreme, and it’s an abusive relationship. It keeps coming back to haunt her. That’s what I really love about Mary, and that’s what I love about the film, that it plays on something that I think is very real. It plays on the possibility that something can be happening inside your head, and maybe not in reality, and it sort of plays with that. There are parts where Mary thinks she’s going crazy, because obviously she’s not going to believe that someone can be calling her from the past. She thinks that she’s going insane, and that starts to torture her. Obviously, we don’t all have those extremes. But certainly I think everyone has something in their life that gets inside your head and starts to play with your head, if you’re left alone with it. I think it’s a psychological thriller that plays on tricks of the mind that we all have.

SY: What kind of research did you do before you began filming ‘The Caller?’ Did you do any kind of research into the possibility of time travel?

RL: No, no I didn’t do that, I just accepted the premise for what it was. The real work for me was just finding out who Mary was, and why she would handle it the way she did. Everyone handles the situation differently, so for me, it was just the way she handled it, and finally getting the courage to tell someone. She tells Stephen Moyer’s character (John Guidi). She finally gets the courage to tell someone and asks for help. She basically tries to take care of herself. She doesn’t get protection from her abusive husband, she just hopes it’s going to go away. All the choices she made, those were the things that I tried to dig deep and figure out why she would be the way she was. As far as the time travel goes, I just believed that the film works on the premise that there are certain things that we don’t understand in the universe, which is true. Sometimes wires get crossed, and I just took that as a possibility.

To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

'Priest' DVD review

'Priest' DVD review, Written by: Karen Benardello

A 3D, post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller with vampires is the perfect set-up for an entertaining, intriguing plot. Add in director Scott Stewart, who helmed last year's similarly-themed film Legion, and the Screen Gems film Priest, seemed destined to become successful. But unfortunately, the story-line of the action-horror film fell under the pressure, proven by the dismal box office return it received when it was released into theaters in May.

Priest takes place in an alternate world, as Paul Bettany's title character, a veteran warrior, tries to live in obscurity after the last Vampire War. Priest tries to assimilate with the other humans in one of the Church's walled cities after the centuries-old war between vampires and humans ended. Church leaders are trying to make everyone believe that most of the vampires are dying in seclusion, but are still a danger to their society. But Priest is informed that his niece, Lucy Pace (played by Lily Collins), is kidnapped by the vampire leader Black Hat (portrayed by Karl Urban).

Priest defies Monsignor Orelas (played by Christopher Plummer) by breaking his sacred vows to leave the city to search for Lucy. Priest is accompanied by Lucy's wasteland sheriff boyfriend Hicks (portrayed by Gigandet). While the two are searching for Lucy, Warrior Priestess (played by Maggie Q), is sent by the Monsignor to capture Priest and bring him back to the city, dead or alive.

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'The Conspirator' DVD Review

'The Conspirator' DVD Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Providing an intriguing, entertaining historical drama that doesn’t make its viewers feel as though they’re sitting in history class is a difficult task for many directors. Instead of trying to push his own conspiracies and theories about what happened immediately before and after President Abraham Lincoln's assassination in 'The Conspirator,' which is now available to rent on DVD at Long Island Redbox locations, Robert Redford instead rightfully focuses on several different angles of without taking away the American leader's dignity. Paired with lead actor James McAvoy’s engaging portrayal of Union war-hero turned new lawyer Frederick Aiken, the drama is surprisingly fascinating.

'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.

Frederick 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.

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

Interview: Stephen Bishop Talks Moneyball

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with Stephen Bishop, who plays former Major League Baseball outfielder David Justice in the upcoming biographical comedy-drama ‘Moneyball,’ which is based on the true story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics. The film, which is based on the novel “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” by Michael Lewis and is set to be released on September 23, 2011, also stars Brad Pitt as Beane. Bishop discusses with us, among other things, how being friends with Justice prepared him for his portrayal, and how well his working relationship with Pitt was.

Shockya (SY): You portray former Major League Baseball outfielder David Justice in the upcoming film ‘Moneyball,’ Did being a player in the Pioneer Minor Baseball League yourself in the 1990s influence your decision to portray David, who played for the Athletics in 2002, in the film?

Stephen Bishop (SB): No, it didn’t influence the decision, but it definitely helped give me a bit of perspective. Having an idea, at least on some level, of what professional baseball players go through and the emotions they experience was a huge advantage when attempting to accurately portray David.

SY: What was your audition process like for the movie? Did you have to go through any try-out periods to prove your playing skills for director Bennett Miller and the producers?

SB: I had four auditions. One was a tryout where I had to show my skills, but the other three were strictly acting auditions.

SY: How did you prepare for the role? Did you meet David and/or do research into his life and career before you began filming?

SB: I actually already knew David from my playing days with the Braves. He and I are friends, and have been since then, so it wasn’t too hard to prepare. I idolized him as a kid and so I knew his mannerisms, etc., so that made it quite easy to transform physically. I called him and asked him some questions about his mindset during that time in his career and his relationship with Billy Beane. He was very helpful and generous with his insights.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

'The Help' Movie Review

'The Help' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Directed by: Tate Taylor

Starring: Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer (TV’s ‘Ugly Betty’), Allison Janney, Jessica Chastain (‘The Tree of Life’)

Making a memorable movie that primarily focuses on controversial issues, is based on a successful novel or is directed and written by a newer filmmaker is often hard to accomplish. But making a film that features all three, much like the new comedy-drama ‘The Help,’ is very unusual. The movie, which primarily focuses on the struggles African-Americans faced in the south during the 1960s, is a rare exception. Helmed and scripted by relative newcomer Tate Taylor, who adapted Kathryn Stockett’s hit 2009 novel of the same name, ‘The Help’ certainly leaves viewers wanting to stand up for what’s right.

‘The Help’ chronicles the unlikely interaction between two African-American maids, Aibileen Clark (played by Viola Davis) and Minny Jackson (portrayed by Octavia Spencer), and a young, upper-class white woman, Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (played by Emma Stone), in early-1960s Mississippi. Skeeter returns to her hometown of Jackson after graduating from the University of Mississippi, determined to make a name for herself in the literary world. Upset by how her peers, including Hilly Holbrook (portrayed by Bruce Dallas Howard) and Elizabeth Leefolt (played by Ahna O’Reilly), treat Minny, Aibileen and the rest of the maids, Skeeter secretly writes a book about life from the prospective of “the help.”

DreamWorks Pictures made a wise decision in hiring Taylor to write and direct the film. Taylor was able to effectively capture Stockett’s important theme that Skeeter stood for her beliefs; she didn’t give in to Hilly, Elizabeth and even her mother Charlotte’s (portrayed by Allison Janney) insistence that their maids weren’t worthy of the same rights they received. ‘The Help’ also proves that people don’t have to come from the same background to stand up for what’s right. Skeeter was perfectly happy to give up her place in white society, if it meant she could expose the injustices the African-American community was experiencing.

Stone, who has become known for her comedic roles in such films as ‘Easy A,’ ‘Zombieland’ and ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love,’ gave a memorable performance as Skeeter in ‘The Help.’ She proved her versatility as an actress in the film’s dramatic scenes, showing she was truly sympathetic to the maids’ struggle for equality. Stone didn’t just use the material Taylor provided for her in the script; she drew on her own willpower to prove Skeeter wanted to stand up for what’s right.

To continue reading this review, please click here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

'Mars Needs Moms' DVD Review

'Mars Needs Moms' DVD Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

A children's story paired with computer animated sci-fi action in 3D seemed like it would be a perfect combination for Walt Disney Pictures when it first announced its movie 'Mars Needs Moms,' which is now available to rent at select Long Island Red Box locations. However, with its lack of creative graphics and a likeable protagonist, 'Mars Needs Moms' proves that even animated action movies need unique effects and relatable characters to be enjoyable.

'Mars Needs Moms' follows nine-year-old Milo (voiced by Seth Dusky), who claims his life would be better if his mom (voiced by New York native Joan Cusack) wasn't around to make him do chores anymore. That night, Martians kidnap his mom in order to take her maternal instinct and plant it in the robots that are used to raise their children. Realizing that he would really miss his mom if she was no longer around, Milo follows her onto the spaceship that takes her to Mars.

While on Mars, Milo must avoid capture from the Martians and their leader, the Supervisor (voiced by Mindy Sterling). in order to rescue his mom. However, a fellow human, Gribble (voiced by fellow New York native Dan Fogler), is determined to keep Milo on Mars so that he can have a friend. But a rebellious Martian girl, Ki (voiced by Elisabeth Harnois), is determined to help Milo and his mom, and bring love back to the Red Planet.

While director Simon Wells is trying to recapture the box office success he achieved with his last directorial effort, the 2002 Academy Award-nominated sci-fi movie 'The Time Machine,' with 'Mars Needs Moms,' he ultimately failed to incorporate any effective action effects and elements into his latest effort. The most disappointing aspect of 'Mars Needs Moms' is the computer animation; while the genre has spawned numerous hits over the past 15 years, including 'Cars' and 'Finding Nemo,' the graphics in 'Mars Needs Moms' don't have the same allure as the films that have made those films popular.

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

Saturday, August 6, 2011

'The Change Up' Movie Review

'The Change Up' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: David Dobkin

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde

People often envy their friends’ lifestyles, naively believing that whatever job and family relationships other people have are better than their own. Despite all their wishing, no once can change their life with their friends, and don’t always realize that what they have may be the best option for them. But in the new comedy ‘The Change Up,’ best friends Mitch Planko and Dave Lockwood, who lead completely different lifestyles, accidentally switch places, and realize that they shouldn’t take what they have for granted.

‘The Change Up’ follows Mitch (played by Ryan Reynolds) and Dave (portrayed by Jason Bateman), who have been life-long friends, despite their drastically different lifestyles; Mitch is a single, under-employed actor who doesn’t like the responsibility of family, while Dave is a workaholic lawyer, who’s determined to provide for his wife Jamie (played by Leslie Mann) and their three kids. One night while they’re at a fountain, the two wish for each other’s lives. When they wake up the next morning, they discover that they’ve switched bodies, and that the other’s life isn’t as fulfilling as they expected.

Reynolds and Bateman have an exhilarating relationship together as they portray the unlikeliest of friends who envy each other’s personalities and lifestyles. The two seem as though they truly have been friends for most of their lives, and they would do anything to protect each other. While the two both had the taunting challenge of taking on Mitch’s carefree lifestyle and Dave’s stressful, chaotic schedule, they always made the characters seem loyal to each other, despite not always understanding the other’s choices.

Of the two actors’ portrayals of both characters, Reynolds definitely pushed out of his comfort zone when the two characters switched bodies, and he began playing Dave. Known for playing such eccentric characters in such comedies as ‘Waiting…’ and ‘Just Friends,’ the actor effortlessly took on the role of a devoted family man who was also highly committed to his work.

To continue reading this review, please click here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Interview: Mem Ferda Talks The Devil's Double

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with British actor Mem Ferda, who portrays Kamel Hannah in the new biographical drama ‘The Devil’s Double,’ which is now playing in a limited theatrical release. The film follows Latif Yahia, played by Dominic Cooper, an Iraqi who’s forced to become a body double for Saddam Hussein’s oldest son Uday. Latif searches for a way to escape the new dangerous lifestyle he’s been forced into, after he discovers how sadistic and power-hungry Uday really is. Ferda discusses with us, among other things, what attracted him to the role of Kamel, and how he prepared for the movie.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): You portray Kamel Hannah, Saddam Hussein’s body guard and food taster, in ‘The Devil’s Double.’ What attracted you to the role?

Mem Ferda (MF): What attracted me to the role was the actual story of Latif Yahia. He’s written three books, one’s called I Was Saddam’s Son. The other one was The Devil’s Double, and the sequel to that is The Black Hole. I read all three, and I really liked the actual story. I thought it was really well told. When the opportunity came up, the screenplay was sent to my agent. The actual role of Kamel Hannah, in the book The Devil’s Double, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to his death, because he was such an important person to Saddam Hussein. He was his body guard and his food taster. He was also his confidante, he would rely on him and ask him for advice about things. The actual death of him, where he gets attacked by Uday, in reality, in the real story, it was an electric kitchen knife that he used. It was very, very gory and frightening. In the film, we didn’t actually use an electric kitchen knife, we used a machete. But it was frightening. I wanted to do the role because I liked the idea of playing Kamel Hannah. Also, Lee Tamahori was directing. I was a fan of his film ‘Once Were Warriors.’ He also directed the Bond movie, ‘Die Another Day.’

SY: Did you have any reservations about playing Kamel in the film?

MF: Well, not really. I know Latif Yahia personally, and he always speaks about Kamel Hannah in a very good light. He was a good friend of his. Physically, I was not right for the role. Kamel Hannah was very tiny, a very small person with a high-pitched voice. (laughs) Very much unlike me, a big guy. But I had no reservations about playing the role.

SY: How much did you know about Kamel before you began filming the movie, and how much research did you do into his life before the shoot?

MF: Yeah, the research I did, I read the books that he (Yahia) wrote, and I read the screenplay. When I read the screenplay, I thought it would be a very interesting role to do. It was a challenge, really. I had to have a prosthetic stomach made up, with all the internal organs. I was carrying this big, heavy thing on my body, and basically they shipped you overseas. They took a body cast of my body, and they made three bellies, which they put in an iron chest. We had problems going through customs. We flew over with the special effects team with the bellies. They (custom workers) came up to us, asking what was in the bellies. They wanted to open them, but they couldn’t do that because there’s internal organs in there. But I knew it would be challenging psychically, doing that death scene. But I wanted to challenge myself, both psychically and mentally.

SY: Dominic Cooper played Uday in the film. What was your working relationship like with him?

MF: It was fine. Dominic actually graduated from LAMDA (the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) as well. We went to the same drama school. He finished his three-year course degree in 2000, I believe. I was doing my post-graduate degree in acting there. So we kind of crossed paths there. There was another film that I could have possibly worked with him on, ‘Momma Mia.’ I got the audition and the role, but I couldn’t do it because I had a commitment. I met him, and he was a great guy to work with, friendly. We practiced out the scene, which reassured me that we’d be fine. We did a couple of takes.

To continue reading this interview, please click here.

Interview: Madison Dylan Talks Femme fatales

Read Shockya's exclusive interview with Madison Dylan, who portrays Alexis on the two-part ‘Femme Fatales’ season finale, titled ‘Visions,’ which will premiere on July 29 and August 5, 2011 at 11pm on Cinemax. The late-night, film noir-inspired 13-part anthology series follows powerful, sexy and dangerous women who find extraordinary ways of coping with their problems. Dylan discusses with us, among other things, what inspired her to audition for the role of Alexis, and how the role challenged her beliefs.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Shockya (SY): You’re set to portray Alexis on Cinemax’s ‘Femme Fatale’s two-part season finale, ‘Visions.’ What was it about the show that you found most appealing that convinced you to audition for the role of Alexis?

Madison Dylan (MD): First of all, the name, ‘Femme Fatales’ sounded just so awesome! I was definitely intrigued from the beginning. Then I read the breakdown, which mentioned it was a ‘film-noir’-type of show for Cinemax. I had never really done something along those lines with such a great script! The first episode I did took place in a sorority house; that was cool because I actually went to a sorority myself…for the semester I went to college! Plus, I knew my representation would never steer me in the wrong direction! And I have to say….BEST decision of my life!!

SY: What was your auditioning process like for the role of Alexis? How did you hear about the show?

MD: I heard about the show through my manager. He mentioned that this was going to be a great show, and definitely worth going out for! From the creators of the show (Mark Altman and Steve Kriozere), casting, script…everything seemed to be perfect! It’s funny, because originally I went out for the role of Tiffany, played by Catherine Annett. I believe all the girls did. Then they would cast the other roles accordingly via personality, looks, etc. In the casting session, they made sure that I wasn’t afraid to be topless. I believe my response was, “Not at all! I love being topless!” Though I’ve never been topless on screen before this, I thought the show was definitely good enough to be my first time! I mean, there is a first time for everything! Sometimes I speak too freely, but it’s always the truth!

SY: Alexis lures men into irresistible desires that often lead them into dangerous and deadly situations. How did you prepare for the role?

MD: When I got the call saying I was cast as Alexis instead of the role of Tiffany, I re-read the script, and absolutely fell in love with Alexis! She, out of all the Femme Fatales, is closest to me, to be quite honest! Preparing for ‘Alexis’ was fun. Writing her backstory, finding out why she does the things she does, and what secrets she’s hiding, were extremely fun to figure out. It gave me a lot to work with as in mannerisms, personality, and spunk…all while being able to put on the charming and ditzy act. And one of the best parts was that in the end, ‘Alexis’ has a big turn. You find out that she is actually not ditzy and dumb at all; she was in fact the brains behind the entire operation. I have to say, if I could invent a Femme Fatale of my own, Alexis would be a dead-ringer! She is my ultimate Femme Fatale, and I love her so much! I feel so blessed that Mark and Steve wrote this character, and that I get to play her…what a privilege!

To continue reading this interview, please click here.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

'Stake Land' DVD review

'Stake Land' DVD review, Written by: Karen Benardello

With the romanticism plaguing many vampire films and television shows today, including ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Vampire Diaries,’ interweaving a unique story with diverse characters and intriguing, unapologetic killings is often difficult to obtain. But the Belladonna Productions post-apocalyptic horror film ‘Stake Land,’ which is now available on DVD, defies all the current misconceptions about vampire movies; not only does it feature varied, sympathetic protagonists, but it also expertly through-provoking messages of freedom and family bonding.

‘Stake Land’ follows a young teen, Martin (played by New York native 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 nowhere 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.

Director Jim Mickle, who co-wrote 'Stake Land' 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.

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