Friday, December 30, 2011

Roadie Movie Review |

'Roadie' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Michael Cuesta (‘L.I.E.’)

Starring: Ron Eldard (‘Super 8′), Bobby Cannavale, Jill Hennessy and Lois Smith (‘True Blood’)

Rarely does a screenwriter-director have the courage to create an authentic main character who longs for, and struggles to let go of, the past. But Michael Cuesta, who penned the new drama ‘Roadie’ with his brother Gerald, and served as the film’s director, created a believable protagonist in Jimmy Testagross, who’s afraid to admit his professional failures and be himself. ‘Roadie’ is the ultimate testament to people who want to do what makes them happy, but succumb to the pressure of pleasing their families and friends.

‘Roadie’ chronicles the immediate 24 hours after Jimmy (played by Ron Eldard) is fired from being the roadie for his childhood heroes, Blue Oyster Cult. Since he spent the past 20 years touring with the band, he has no where to go, with no other job prospects. So he returns to his childhood home in Forest Hills, New York, to visit his mother (portrayed by Lois Smith). Afraid to admit that he lost his job, and not wanting anyone thinking he’s a failure, Jimmy tells his mother and his neighbors that he’s actually Blue Oyster Cult’s manager, and has written several songs for them.

While deciding to look around the old neighborhood, he visits a local bar and crosses paths with his old high school nemesis, Randy Stevens (played by Bobby Cannavale), who he hasn’t seen since they graduated. Jimmy discovers that Randy is married to his high school girlfriend, Nikki (portrayed by Jill Hennessy). The three spend the night reconnecting over their high school memories and love of music. Jimmy comes to realize there’s more to life than living in the past, and only being concerned with what other people think of him.

While Cuesta didn’t include much of an external conflict between Jimmy and the rest of the characters, he created a true-to-life protagonist trying to deal with the struggles of everyday life. Jimmy lives in the past, as he longs to recreate his glory days of high school and when he was an appreciated member of Blue Oyster Cult’s crew. While touring with the band was what made him happy, to some degree he feels his profession isn’t admirable enough to the outside world. He believes the only way people will accept him is if they think he was the only in control of the band’s tour, and is a real leader to the group.

Even though Jimmy strives to better himself in his career to make himself happier and to garner more respect from everyone he knew from his childhood, Eldard effectively portrayed him as being afraid to try to achieve his dream. Jimmy’s perfectly willing to blame his father for smashing his dreams of becoming a musician when he was a child. As the actor has said, before Jimmy’s father died, he made the mistake of smashing his son’s guitar, which led Jimmy to leave their family home and never return.

To continue reading this review, please visit: Roadie Movie Review |

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Interview: Ron Morales Talks Santa Mesa |

Read's exclusive interview with screenwriter and director Ron Morales, who’s making his feature film debut with the drama ‘Santa Mesa,’ which is set to be released on January 21, 2011. The movie follows 12-year-old Hector, played by Jacob Kiron Shalov, as he moves to Manila from the U.S. to live with his grandmother Lita, portrayed by Angie Ferro, after his mother dies. Unsure how to handle his new life, Hector joins a street gang, led by Miguel, played by Pierro Rodriguez.

Jose, portrayed by Jaime Tirelli, a photographer, sees the trouble Hector is getting into, and takes him off the street to teach him important life lessons. Hector also slowly eases into his new life by photographing Rosa, played by Lynn Sherman, who helps adjust to his new life in the Philippines. Morales discussed with us, among other things, how people’s tendency to try to categorize other people was the inspiration for the film, and what the casting process for the main characters was like.

Written by: Karen Benardello

ShockYa (SY): You both wrote and directed the upcoming family drama ‘Santa Mesa.’ How did you come up with the story?

Ron Morales (RM): Originally, I started with a province boy moving to the city, with the same story line. But after several drafts, I looked at it, and said to myself, I really don’t know much, from my memory of being a province boy, going to the city. So I just imagined myself as a child, having to move to the Philippines. Which I almost ended up doing as a child, but it was only for a shorter span of time. So I kind of used a lot of those memories, living in Manila and going back and forth to my mom’s home province. That’s how I came up with the initial seeds of the story.

SY: What type of research did you do into the daily lives of Manila residents before you began writing the script, and during pre-production as the director?

RM: Actually, I was visiting the area of Santa Mesa quite a bit, talking to the neighbors and the neighborhood kids. That’s most of my research, talking with them, in that one particular area. That’s a relatively safer neighborhood to shoot in. It was so interesting to me.

SY: Since you wrote the script for ‘Santa Mesa,’ do you feel that helped you when you were directing the film?

RM: It did help me a lot, because I knew the characters and the situations they would be in. Since I had researched most of it, I kept going back and forth for about a year, in terms of photographing the areas. Not just Santa Mesa, but other Shanty town areas in metro Manila. So I definitely felt it was a much easier story for me to tell. I have directed shorts of other people’s work, and ‘Santa Mesa’ felt a little more like home to me.

SY: Since ‘Santa Mesa’ is your screenwriting and directorial debut of a feature film, did you face any challenges while shooting the movie?

RM: The biggest challenge I had was with casting, casting the kids and a lot of non-actors. That was the biggest challenge for me. I think I spent two-and-a-half months over there, trying to cast all the kid roles, all the teenagers. Then I think we spent about six months looking for, and trying to cast, an American to come over to the Philippines. To me, that was the biggest challenge.

Not to mention, being on a lower budget, that always limits you in terms of what we could do and the areas we were shooting in. There weren’t too many nightmares, in terms of shooting the film. But I would say casting was the biggest challenge.

To continue reading this interview, please visit: Interview: Ron Morales Talks Santa Mesa |

Interview: Adam Sakellarides and Lisa Rucker Talk My Water's On Fire Tonight (The Fracking Song)

The latest video to become a viral sensation, the environmentally-charged My Water's On Fire Tonight (The Fracking Song), has been making a critical and commercial name for itself online, as it explains the controversial new natural drilling technique, fracking. The gas drilling practice is said to contaminate drinking water and air.

Adam Sakellarides and Lisa Rucker, a graphic designer and editor at the Los Angeles-based production company Pictures in a Row, animated, designed and edited the video for The Fracking Song. The video, which has already garnered over 212,000 views on YouTube, has been rated as Time Magazine's Number Two Most Creative Video of 2011. It was runner-up to a video created by Director Spike Jonze.

Sakellarides and Rucker decided to work on The Fracking Song video to help their friend, David Holmes, a graduate student in NYU's Studio 20, who was working on the project. Motivated by Holmes' lyrics, Sakellarides and Rucker used animation to create a Schoolhouse Rock-inspired video describing fracking in less than two-and-a-half weeks.

The graphic designer and editor graciously spoke about what inspired them to work on The Fracking Song over the phone from Los Angeles. Sakellarides and Rucker also spoke about what their reaction was after finding out their video placed so highly on Time Magazine's Most Creative Video list, and what they hope viewers will take away from The Fracking Song.

Written by: Karen Benaradello

Question (Q): Your video, My Water's On Fire Tonight (The Fracking Song), has been rated as Time Magazine's Number Two Most Creative Video of 2011. What was your reaction when you found out that the video has placed so high on the list?

Lisa Rucker (LR): I was pretty surprised.

Adam Sakellarides (AS): I was kind of amazed. I was like, wow, I finally did something that was worthy of attention on the Internet, besides all my tweeting, which really isn't all that worthy.

LR: (laughs) I don't think anyone was really expecting it. It was pretty cool.

Q: The Fracking Song placed behind a video created by Spike Jonze. What was the feeling like, knowing that your video is being compared to Spike's work?

AS: Personally, I think it's better than Spike Jonze's work. No, I'm only kidding. (laughs) I'm pretty amazed that we were able to get a couple of hundred thousand hits on YouTube. It's really difficult if you've ever actually tried to do it.

LR: Yeah, just to be on the list at all was pretty amazing. Just to be so close to a video that was so good, it was pretty awesome.

To continue reading this interview, please visit Yahoo! Voices.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Apollo 18 DVD Review

'Apollo 18' Examiner DVD Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

The mockumentary has become a popular sub-genre in the horror film category in recent years, as the films in the genre often scare people into believing the horrifying events depicted in the plot can come true. But the Dimension Films sci-fi horror thriller ‘Apollo 18,’ which is now available to rent at select Long Island Redbox locations, regrettably deviates from what makes mockumentarys so enjoyable-an interesting reasoning on why the events are being filmed, and relatable characters who can make it out of any situation.

Viewers interested in seeing the making of ‘Apollo 18,’ which garnered a disappointing $25.5 million worldwide at the box office during its theatrical run, will likely be the only ones satisfied with the DVD. The bonus features include an audio commentary with Lopez-Gallego, Owen and Christie, as well as a making of ‘Apollo 18’ that features cast interviews. The DVD extras also include deleted and extended scenes, as well as the movie’s theatrical trailer.

To continue reading this review, please visit Examiner.

Game of Thrones Helmer Alan Taylor Will Now Direct Thor 2 |

Collider is reporting. The news that the helmer, who is remembered for directing episodes of such series as ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Mad Men’ and ‘The Sopranos,’ has been hired comes after previous director Patty Jenkins stepped down from the sequel. Jenkins decided to leave the follow-up to last spring’s hit superhero film over creative differences.

After Jenkins left ‘Thor 2,’ Marvel was deciding between Taylor and fellow television director Daniel Minahan to take her place.

To continue reading this post, please visit: Game of Thrones Helmer Alan Taylor Will Now Direct Thor 2 |

Maria Shriver Having Second Thoughts About Divorce from Arnold Schwarzenegger |

Maria Shriver is having second thoughts about moving forward with her divorce from her husband of 25 years, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Fox News is reporting. The former NBC news anchor has been telling her friends that she’s unsure about the divorce because of her strong religious beliefs.

The former California governor has also been trying to win Shriver back. Schwarzenegger has been buying her presents and making other nice gestures in an effort to reunite with his estranged wife.

To continue reading this post, please visit: Maria Shriver Having Second Thoughts About Divorce from Arnold Schwarzenegger |

Friday, December 23, 2011

We Bought a Zoo Movie Review 2 |

'We Bought a Zoo' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Cameron Crowe

Starring: Matt Damon, Scarlett Johannson and Colin Ford (TV’s ‘Supernatural’)

Raising a teenage son and an elementary school-age daughter can be tough for anyone, but when their mother dies from a long-term illness, caring for them can be even harder. Former newspaper columnist and widower Benjamin Mee, who is always looking for an adventure, struggled with his venture of caring for his two children after losing his wife. After deciding to open a zoo to reunite his family, and writing a book on the journey, ‘We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals that Changed Their Lives Forever,’ screenwriter-director Cameron Crowe skillfully adapted Mee’s story into a feature film.

‘We Bought z Zoo’ follows Benjamin (played by Matt Damon), who’s struggling to raise his two children-his 14-year-old son Dylan (portrayed by Colin Ford) and his seven-year-old daughter Rosie (played by Maggie Elizabeth Jones). He is left to care for them on his own after his wife, Katherine (portrayed by stephanie Szostak) becomes ill and dies. After deciding to quit his writing job at the local newspaper, as he doesn’t fell fulfilled there anymore, Benjamin decides to make a fresh start for his family by buying the Rosemoor Animal Park. With the help of head zookeeper Kelly Foster (played by Scarlett Johansson), Benjamin not only fixes the deteriorating zoo, he also works at mending his broken family.

Crowe ultimately captured Benjamin’s determination not to give up on his dream, and continued willpower not to fail his family or the animals. Throughout the course ‘We Bought a Zoo,’ whether he’s fighting with Dylan about moving back to their old suburban neighborhood and their “normal” life, or disagreeing with Kelly about how to properly take care of the animals, Benjamin remains a central figurehead for the entire zoo family. The comedy-drama shows that no matter what obstacles people may face, if they believe they can succeed, they’ll be able to find a way to make any situation better.

Casting the part of Benjamin was the most important aspect of making ‘We Bought a Zoo’ believable, and Damon was the perfect choice for the role. A father himself, the Academy Award-winning actor understood his character’s need to never give up on his commitments and responsibilities, whether helping rebuild the zoo or his family. While Benjamin’s open to hearing Kelly’s suggestions on how to improve the animal’s care or the reasons why Dylan is hesitant to start a new life at the zoo, Damon also makes it clear that his character will ultimately do what he feels is the right thing.

While Damon is believable as an adventure-seeking, humorous father throughout the course of ‘We Bought a Zoo,’ his most memorable scenes are when he’s emotionally connecting with Ford. The young actor, who’s remembered for his recurring role as the young Sam Winchester on ‘Supernatural,’ is also well cast in his role as Benjamin’s son. Dylan represents many teenagers who feel their parents don’t understand, or want to listen to, their needs and wants. Ford perfectly captures Dylan’s desire to rebel against his father and anyone else who tries to become close to him. The tension building between the two throughout the course of the film accurately reflects the hostility many parents and their teenage children feel towards each other.

To continue reading this review, please visit: We Bought a Zoo Movie Review 2 |

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Terra Nova Moving to Pick Up Actors and Writers While Waiting Renewal Decision |

‘Terra Nova’s producers are moving to secure the lead actors and more writers as they’re waiting to hear back from Fox on its decision to renew the show for a second season, Deadline is reporting. The options on the sci-fi drama expire on December 31, and the pickups for lead actors Jason O’Mara and Stephen Lang are pending.

Fox was originally expected to make a decision on picking up ‘Terra Nova’ for a second season earlier in December, with the cast options expiration date forthcoming. The decision was believed to come after 20th Century Fox, which produces the show, met with Fox on December 16.

To continue reading this post, please visit: Terra Nova Moving to Pick Up Actors and Writers While Waiting Renewal Decision |

Adam Lambert Arrested After Fight With Boyfriend in Finland |

dam Lambert spent several hours in a Finnish jail after being arrested for fighting with his boyfriend Sauli Koskinen outside a Helsinki gay bar, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Petri Juvonen, who is in charge of the police investigation, said the former ‘American Idol’ runner-up and the winner of the 2007 Finnish version of ‘Big Brother’ were arrested on charges of assault around 4 am on December 22, outside DTM (Don’t Tell Mama).

Both Lambert and Koskinen were brought in for question as police look into four possible assaults. The dispute that led to their arrests started in one of DTM’s back rooms, and the two were kicked out as a result. But the two continued fighting in the street outside.

To continue reading this post, please visit: Adam Lambert Arrested After Fight With Boyfriend in Finland |

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Star Trek 2 Will Shoot in 2D and Possibly IMAX |

J.J. Abrams announced that he’ll be shooting the ‘Star Trek’ sequel in 2D and possibly IMAX, and will be converting the follow-up to his hit 2009 sci-fi film to 3D in post-production, Collider is reporting. The director said he’ll “do a good high-end conversion like the ‘Harry Potter’ movie. Luckily with our release date now we have the months needed to do it right, because if you rush it, it never looks good.” Abrams added he’s thinking about shooting in IMAX because “I would love to do it. (It) is my favorite format; I’m a huge fan.”

To continue reading this article, please visit: Star Trek 2 Will Shoot in 2D and Possibly IMAX |

Albert Nobbs Movie Review |

'Albert Nobbs' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Rodrigo Garcia (‘Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her,’ TV’s ‘In Treatment’)

Starring: Glenn Close, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Johnson (‘Kick-Ass,’ ‘Nowhere Boy’) and Janet McTeer (‘Tumbleweeds’)

An actress remaining connected to a character she portrayed 30 years ago in a play that features a simplistic story is a rarity in Hollywood. But Glenn Close has done just that with her title role in her new film, ‘Albert Nobbs.’ Despite garnering mainstream attention in such films as ‘Fatal Attraction’ and ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ since she played Albert on stage, the Academy Award-nominated actress convincingly reentered the character’s mindset in the new drama. Viewers can also relate to the character’s inner struggles, as they deal with finding one’s identity and sense of purpose.

‘Albert Nobbs’s follows the life of the title character, a woman who has secretly been posing as a man in 19th century Britain for the past 30 years. She has been working as a male butler in the reputable Morrison’s Hotel in order to make a living, and avoid being the latest victim to succumb to Dublin’s severe poverty. Albert serves as a leader to the rest of the staff of the hotel, which is run by Mrs. Baker (portrayed by Pauline Collins). While respected by her co-workers, Albert craves a more intimate relationship with one of the maids, Helen Dawes (played by Mia Wasikowska).

While Helen respects Albert, she has no desire to start a serious relationship with the person she believes to be an older man looking for company. Helen falls in love with the Morrison Hotel’s handyman, Joe Macken (portrayed by Aaron Johnson), instead. Sensing Helen’s reluctance to settle down with her, Albert seeks comfort in the hotel’s painter, Hubert Page (played by Janet McTeer), who is also a woman pretending to be a man, in order to keep her job.

Close brilliantly connected with Albert on screen, as she won the 1982 Best Actress in a Play Obie Award for her portrayal of the character in ‘The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs.’ The actress, who also co-wrote and produced the film, campaigned to bring the play to the screen since she played the character on stage. In the movie, the actress proved that she understands Albert’s desire to stay off the poverty-stricken street, and would willingly lie to those closest to her in order to keep her job.

While ‘Albert Nobbs’ doesn’t explicitly explain Albert’s background, Close sympathized with, and matured, her character, who is an illegitimate child who never had a family. She began working as a waiter when she was a teen in order to take care of herself. As an adult, Close kept Albert in a world of loneliness as a way to survive and protect herself. She lived and worked in hotels for most of her life just keep her isolated and invisible from the dangers of the outside world. But as the film progresses, she strives to build close relationships, as she wants to find someone who truly loves her.

To continue reading this review, please visit: Albert Nobbs Movie Review |

Britney Spears' First Ex-Husband Claims Engagement Fake |

Britney Spears’ first ex-husband, Jason Alexander, is claiming the singer’s new engagement to Jason Trawick is fake, the Huffington Post is reporting. Alexander reportedly blames Spears’ management team for the annulment of their marriage, and is looking to cast doubt on her engagement.

The childhood friend to Spears said “if you look at all the pictures between (Spears and Trawick) there is no connection. They look like they are going through the motions. It seems like an answer to the court thing.” Alexander, who married Spears in 2004 in Las Vegas and received an annulment 55 hours later, was referring to the conservatorship Spears’ father, Jamie, assumed over her in 2008. If the singer marries, the conservatorship will likely end.

To continue reading this post, please visit: Britney Spears' First Ex-Husband Claims Engagement Fake |

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Betty White's 90th Birthday to be Honored by NBC |

In honor of Betty White’s 90th birthday on January 17, 2012, NBC has scheduled a two-hour comedy block the night before the milestone celebration, Deadline is reporting. The line-up will air a 90-minute special titled ‘Betty White’s 90th Birthday: A Tribute to America’s Golden Girl,’ scheduled for 8 pm. The birthday celebration will air live from Los Angeles’ Biltmore Hotel.

To continue reading this article, please visit: Betty White's 90th Birthday to be Honored by NBC |

Screenwriter Steven Zaillian May Direct Timecrimes Remake |

‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ screenwriter Steven Zaillian is considering directing an American remake of the sci-fi mystery ‘Timecrimes,’ Collider is reporting. The scribe has said he owns the rights to the remake of the 2007 Spanish film. He added he plans on moving the action to the United States, but would retain the film’s original idea.

The original ‘Timecrimes,’ which was written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, follows a man who relives half an hour of his life three times. Zaillian said “The brilliance of that story is in the idea…It is such a big idea and a great idea that I’m not going to change that.” He added that he will co-write the remake, and “in terms of the big picture and big idea, it is going to be the same.”

To continue reading this post, please visit: Screenwriter Steven Zaillian May Direct Timecrimes Remake |

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Fracking Song Included on Time Magazine's Top 10 Creative Videos of 2011

The Fracking Song Included on Time Magazine's Top 10 Creative Videos of 2011

Written by: Karen Benardello

My Water's On Fire Tonight (The Fracking Song), the environmentally-charged video that has become a viral sensation, has been rated as the Number Two Most Creative Video of 2011 by Time Magazine. The video, which was animated, designed and edited by the Los Angeles-based production company Pictures in a Row, was runner-up to one of the latest videos by director Spike Jonze.

Adam Sakellarides and Lisa Rucker, a graphic designer and editor at Pictures in a Row, created My Water's On Fire Tonight (The Fracking Song), which can now be viewed on YouTube.

To continue reading this article, please visit Yahoo! Voices.

Interview: Josh Hammond Talks American Girls |

Read's exclusive interview with actor Josh Hammond, who’s preparing for his role of Scott Salazus in the upcoming horror film ‘American Girls.’ The movie, which is currently in pre-production under the direction of Eric Pereira, is based on the true events of the abduction, rape and murder of two high school girls. The story also chronicles the fallout that nearly destroys their small Midwestern town, as long-buried secrets are being brought to light as the police begin investigating the crime. ‘American Girl’ is told through multiple character points of view, as it presents several psychological looks on the tragic crimes. Hammond, who has made a name for himself in guest-starring television roles on such shows as ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ and ‘Scrubs,’ discusses with us what attracted him to ‘American Girls,’ and why he likes reuniting with directors he’s previously worked with.

Written by: Karen Benardello

ShockYa (SY): You play Scott Salazus in the upcoming horror film ‘American Girls.’ What attracted you to the character, and convinced you to take the role?

Josh Hammond (JH): Well, I really enjoy playing twisted and sick individuals in film roles, because it’s fun. You get to step out of being a family-man and dad between action and cut. That’s kind of exciting, because there’s no consequences while you’re shooting. That’s what attracted me to the role.

I was also approached by (screenwriter and actress) Devanny Pinn and (actor) Brandon Slagle about working on the project. They’re friends of mine, and I said yes, that sounds like a delightful adventure to take with you guys. I guess it’s pretty much that I like to step out of my norm, and play somebody who can fly off the handle a little, and creep people out.

SY: ‘American Girls’ is based on true events. How much knowledge did you have of the true story before you began filming, and what kind of research did you do to help you prepare for your role?

JH: I actually didn’t have that much prior knowledge of the actual story. I was sent a few news clips and YouTube footage of what happened. So that was interesting, because our characters were based on real people. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. To prepare for the role, I pretty much went into the woods near my house, and hunted down some squirrels and dissected some insects.

SY: The film uses multiple character points of view to offer viewers a psychological look at the crime. Do you think this technique helped benefit the telling of the story?

JH: Yeah, I do. I kind of like that style of film where a bunch of characters’ stories weave together. I think having a lot of different sources and mediums telling the story keeps the viewer interested, as they can see it through a bunch of different eyes.

With how flashy culture is now, when you watch commercials or MTV, it’s always fast, colorful and bright. It’s moving rapidly to keep your attention. I think it’s an interesting concept to tell it through that kind of storyline, because then you get to feel the different feelings of each character. It gives it a little more variety.

To continue reading this interview, please visit: Interview: Josh Hammond Talks American Girls |

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Michelle Williams to Be Honored at Seventh Annual Oscar Wilde: Honoring the Irish in Film Event

Michelle Williams to Be Honored at Seventh Annual Oscar Wilde: Honoring the Irish in Film Event, Written by: Karen Benardello

After receiving rave reviews and Golden Globe and SAG nominations for her title role in the new biopic My Week with Marilyn , Michelle Williams will receive an Oscar Wilde award for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe. The actress will be honored on February 23, 2012, at the seventh annual Oscar Wilde: Honoring the Irish in Film event. The ceremony will be held at the offices of the production company Bad Robot in Santa Monica.

The Oscar Wilde event was created by the non-profit US-Ireland Alliance, to recognize the contributions of the Irish in film. It also allows the Irish and American film industries to meet every year. Williams will be the first honorary Irishwoman to receive an Oscar Wilde award, after honorary Irishmen Paul Rudd, JJ Abrams and James L. Brooks were awarded.

Ton continue reading this article, please visit Yahoo! Voices.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

'The Adventures of Tintin' Interview

Here's the link to my interview with Steven Spielberg, Jamie Bell and Nick Frost on 'The Adventures of Tintin':

Karen's Top 10 Movies of 2011 |

From political drama thrillers to biographies to action films, 2011 offered memorable and fascinating entries in numerous movie genres. In Shockya’s new mini-series, your favorite writers will countdown their Top 10 favorite films of the past year. With award season quickly approaching and the nominees for several ceremonies already announced, including the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards and the 18th Annual SAG Awards, listed below are some of the best movies of 2011. Whether the films feature believable acting, realistic storytelling, perfectly guided direction or a combination of all three, the following ten movies will definitely stand out as the best of the best in the years to come.

1. The Ides of March

Directed by: George Clooney

Starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood

Theatrical Release Date: Friday, October 7; Blu-ray/DVD Release Date: Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Director George Clooney skillfully showcased the secret deals and manipulations that occur behind the scenes of major American political campaigns. While the actor’s supporting character holds no regrets over the unethical decisions he makes to achieve his presidential dream, lead actor Ryan Gosling was perfectly able to show that some politicians are affected by the cynical aspect of the business. ‘The Ides of March’ aimed to show Clooney character’s Mike’s tireless effect to win over his target voters, but ultimately proved that some politicians realize that unethical campaigning isn’t the best way to run the country.

To continue reading this list, please visit: Karen's Top 10 Movies of 2011 |

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Piece of the Pie Movie Review |

'My Piece of the Pie' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Cedric Klapisch

Starring: Karin Viard and Gilles Lellouche

Shooting a film about the problems currently plaguing the world isn’t always an easy process, as people have conflicting ideas on how to solve them. The process is even more difficult when marketing the movie to a foreign country. But in his new comedy-drama ‘My Piece of the Pie,’ French screenwriter-director Cedric Klapisch effortlessly showcased the differing difficulties the working and high-collar classes face in today’s society.

‘My Piece of the Pie’ follows single mother France (played by Karin Viard), a blue-collar worker who was just laid off from the factory she’s had since she was a teenager. Depressed over having to support three daughters and having no job prospects, she tries to commit suicide by taking pills. Her luck seems to change when she enrolls in a housekeeper training program, and is hired for a position cleaning the Paris apartment of arrogant power broker Steve (portrayed by Gilles Lellouche). France’s luck also seemingly improves when Steve pays her more to watch his young son for a few weeks when his mother is out of town. But she comes to realize that being part of the millionaire lifestyle isn’t as luxurious as she believes, as Steve continuously dismisses her and exhibits a brash demeanor towards her.

Viard, who previously worked with Klapisch on such films as ‘Riens Du Tout’ and ‘Paris,’ was believably cast as the working class France. Having met with residents from Dunkirk, where France lives with her children, the actress came to understand her character’s fighting spirit to overcome her economic hardship. While France initially feels sorry for herself and the hard circumstances she’s facing, she never gives up hope that she can improve herself and help her children. Vivard’s realistic portrayal of France allows the character to elicit empathy throughout the course of the movie, as she has reached a difficult crossroads in her life.

However, there are many instances throughout ‘My Piece of the Pie’ where France makes questionable decisions, particularly as the film’s protagonist. While she naively makes choices that she feels will improve her life and the lives of those around her, there are many moments where she’s not making the decisions she should. For example, audiences will feel France’s pain when she takes the pills, as she feels there’s no possible way of improving her work situation. However, if she succeeded in ending her life, her daughters would be left without anyone to take care of them.

Viard’s ease at working with Lellouche is clearly evident throughout the course of ‘My Piece of the Pie.’ While Steve is self-centered and doesn’t take anyone else’s feelings into consideration, the actress has described her co-star as being humorous, light-hearted and has a sense of humanity. Like Viard, Lellouche convincingly understood the motives pushing his character; Steve lives in a virtual, dehumanized world so that he can succeed in his financial career.

To continue reading this review, please visit: My Piece of the Pie Movie Review |

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Interview: Ron Eldard Talks Roadie |

Read's exclusive interview with Ron Eldard, who plays the title character in the new drama ‘Roadie.’ While in New York City promoting the film, which was directed by Michael Cuesta, who co-wrote the script with his brother, Gerald, the actor discussed with us why he decided to play the main character, Jimmy Testagross. The movie follows Jimmy as he returns to his mother’s home in Forest Hills, New York, after he was fired as the roadie for the rock band Blue Oyster Cult. Embarrassed to admit to anyone that he was only the roadie and was let go from his job, he tells everyone he’s really the band’s manager, and even wrote several songs for the group.

While home, Jimmy see his old high school nemesis, Randy, portrayed by Bobby Cannavale, who he hasn’t seen in the 25 years since they graduated. Randy is married to Nikki, played by Jill Hennessey, who dated Jimmy when they were teenagers. Eldard also discussed what it was like working with Cannavale and Hennessey, and how the process of working on an independent film is different than shooting a major studio movie.

Written by: Karen Benardello

ShockYa (SY): You play main character Jimmy Testagross in ‘Roadie.’ What was it about the script that you found appealing, and convinced you to take on the role?

Ron Eldard (RE): This movie was without question. Fifteen or 20 pages into the script, I called my agent and said “I’m in, I want to do it.” This is just a really well written script. There are so many movies that are about this working class, the New York working class. I’ve done some. Some of them are really good, but many of them, many movies about working class people, in general, I find offensive. I find that they talk down to them, they treat them like cartoon character, they lack dignity. They’re filled with lots of cliches.

Even though I thought the script was great, and I thought oh now I get it, now it’s this movie, now it’s back to a romance movie. It would change. Michael and Gerald don’t write that way. This I thought was just one of the very best scripts, it was a no-brainer.

Mostly when I read scripts, and I don’t think I’m alone, you think two or three more re-writes, and they’d have a really great script. You go, I can’t believe they’re making it at this point, they’re so close to having a great script. Why not just finish it, do the rest. Most things to me feel like a million other things, very derivative, or they feel like auditions for a big film. Many independent films feel like they’re an audition for a big commercial film.

This is just very personal. I loved all the characters. I related to all of them. It’s funny and sad and difficult. It was a no-brainer.

SY: With ‘Roadie’ being an independent film, how did you find the shoot to be different than bigger budget films, like ‘Super 8?’

RE: Well, I’ve done lots of films that are smaller films. This is definitely a small film. There was no dressing room, there was no fanciness here. These are all professional actors, they’re not people who haven’t worked, trying to get into the business. These are all working people who all understand about work. When this kind of thing works, I think it’s the best.

Movies usually take too long to make, I think. Lots of wasted money, lots of wasted time. There’s something nice when you have movies that have great catering, but you spend lots of time sitting around. Here, I think we shot this in 17 or 18 days, somewhere in there. You’re just getting to work. It’s work, and you move and get momentum.

Like I said, most of our dressing rooms were churches. Sometimes we didn’t even have that. You have the house that you’re in, and you lay on the lawn or in the basement. Everyone, even on the crew, was in for the right reason. It was a joy, it really was great. (laughs) It was fun, it moved fast.

SY: Michael and Gerald have said they’re fans of finding actual locations, and not doing much set production. Do you agree with that?

RE: I could not believe my house. If you’ve spoken to them, you know there’s barely anything done to my house. There’s a bowl of candies on the table that were in the house.

To continue reading this interview, please visit: Interview: Ron Eldard Talks Roadie |

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Interview: Michael and Gerald Cuesta Talk Roadie |

Read's exclusive interview with director Michael Cuesta and his brother, Gerald, with whom he co-wrote the new drama ‘Roadie.’ The film, which is now available on VOD and is scheduled to hit theaters on January 6, 2012, follows the title character, Jimmy Testagross, played by Ron Eldard, as his childhood dream and career of being a roadie for Blue Oyster Cult is cut short when he’s fired. With no other job skills, friends outside of the group he toured with or place to go, Jimmy shamefully returns to his mother’s house in Forest Hills, New York.

Embarrassed to admit his fate to his mother, portrayed by Lois Smith, Jimmy claims he is working as the group’s manager and songwriter. Jimmy continues his lies when he sees his old high school nemesis, Randy, played by Bobby Cannavale, and his wife, Nikki, portrayed by Jill Hennessey, whom he used to date when they were teens. Jimmy undergoes an emotional transformation throughout ‘Roadie,’ despite the events taking place over a period of 24 hours.

While promoting their film in New York City, the Cuestas sat down with us to discuss the process of making the film. Among other things, the two spoke about how ‘Roadie’ features the ever-important message that the ghosts of our past shape our present. They also explained what it was like working together, and how they knew Eldard was the perfect actor to play Jimmy.

Written by: Karen Benardello

ShockYa (SY): The main message in ‘Roadie’ is that some people spend their adulthood living out their childhood dream, and don’t know what to do when the dream ends. Why do you feel this is an important life question many people ask themselves as they near middle age?

Michael Cuesta (MC): Well, I don’t think we ever set out to include a message, or to say any one thing. I think the film talks about a lot of things. I do think that theme you’re talking about is a universal theme that a lot of people can relate to it. Usually, when you write a script, then make the film, you hope that it makes a connection with people, and they can empathize with the main character, as in Jimmy, or the other characters.

It’s like when you read a great book, and you read a passage, you love it, because there’s something in it that you feel you have a one-on-one connection with. It’s only you and those words or you and that film. That’s what we hoped to do. I never, and I think Gerald can speak to this as well, I never go into any movie or script with a very specific message in mind, or the movie’s about this. It starts out with a feeling, it starts out with a character that grows. I know I didn’t answer the question.

Gerald Cuesta (GC): No, I think you did. When originally writing the character, there are pieces of both of us in that character. Also, I think this is something people can relate to. Sometimes, you get stuck. Sometimes you find yourself going back and relying on what gave you that jolt when you were a kid, to give you a jolt again, and it just doesn’t work that way anymore. It’s time to move on. I think it’s a human truth.

Like Michael said, we didn’t say we wanted to sell this specific message. It was just like, this is a character, this is his situation. It comes out of that.

SY: Where did you get the idea to write ‘Roadie,’ and what kind of research did you do before you began working on the script?

MC: Well, Gerald, you can start speaking of the knowledge of the roadie and Forest Hills.

GC: I lived in Forest Hills at the time, when I was writing it originally, when I wrote the original first draft. I was there for seven years, I got to know the neighborhood, the feel of the streets and everything.

In terms of the roadie thing, I just read, we both read stories about rock ‘n’ roll roadies, the arena rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. As far as the knowledge of the band, that really wasn’t research, that was because I grew up with the band. That was the band we loved to listen to. Also, our friends did too, through our junior high years. That knowledge was just there.

SY: Did you have any disagreements while you were writing the script, or did you have the same vision for it?

GC: We had a lot of disagreements.

MC: Yes, we did.

GC: All the projects we’ve worked on together, there are times where we disagree. I had originally written the script as a much broader comedy. Michael read it, and said you really have a good character here, you have a really good situation in the beginning. I want to take that, and get rid of everything else, and get to the truth. Through it all, Michael really pushed, let’s get to the truth, cut away all the fat.

Through it all, there were times where we may have disagreed, and said, let’s keep this, or maybe go this way or go that way. But that’s part of the process.

MC: Part of the disagreement too was that it was so hard to articulate what we wanted. Sometimes you can only do it by doing it yourself. You’re trying to collaborate, and you’re saying I want this, I want this, you know, just let me do it. So a lot of it’s that.

But I would say the main argument, and I was never articulating it, but now I see what it was, to always be inside Jimmy, the main character. See the film completely through his eyes. That’s a lot harder than it sounds, because my nature, the story is objective. You’re not in a first person, like a book. The camera’s not set inside his head.

I would say that’s the thing we argued about. It’s not that I was right and he was wrong, it’s just getting to that place. He had an interpretation of it, and I had an interpretation of it.

To continue reading this interview, please visit: Interview: Michael and Gerald Cuesta Talk Roadie |

Young Adult Director Jason Reitman Hits New York Red Carpet Premiere |

'Young Adult' Director Jason Reitman Hits New York Red Carpet Premiere, Written by: Karen Benardello

Not many movie directors have the courage or talent to bring an unconventional, passive aggressive protagonist who audiences can ultimately relate to without judging them to the screen. But filmmaker Jason Reitman did just that with his new comedy drama ‘Young Adult,’ which is now in limited theatrical release and is set to expand wide on Friday, December 16, 2011. While on the red carpet of the New York premiere of the film on December 8 at the Ziegelfd Theatre, the helmer and producer took the time to discuss with us the process of shooting the movie.

‘Young Adult’ follows Mavis Gary (played by Charlize Theron), an emotionally immature 37-year-old ghostwriter of a once popular teen literature series that has been canceled. While writing the last book in the series, she learns that her high school sweetheart, Buddy Slade (portrayed by Patrick Wilson), just had a daughter with his wife, Beth (played by Elizabeth Reaser). Believing that she’s destined to be with Buddy, and he still longs to be with her as well, she travels from her condo in Minneapolis to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota to win him back.

Once she arrives in Mercury, Mavis feels that she has a chance with Buddy, as he doesn’t do anything to persuade her to stop. Almost everyone else in her hometown still treats Mavis as though she’s still the popular It girl that she was in high school. No one allows her to move on, including her parents, Hedda (portrayed by Jill Eikenberry) and David (played by Richard Bekins). The only person who challenges Mavis to better herself is her former classmate, Matt Freehauf (portrayed by Patton Oswalt), who idolized her in high school, but who she barely remembers.

Reitman said he was happy to reunite with ‘Young Adult’s screenwriter, Diablo Cody, whose Academy Award-winning script for 2007′s ‘Juno’ he adapted in 2007. The director said he feels Cody is a courageous writer, and is “great at creating characters who have mixed intentions.” He added that he “assumed Diablo knew girls like Mavis in high school,” which is where she came up with the inspiration for the character and story. But Reitman “wasn’t able to relate to Mavis’ intentions and dark agenda because I went to a tough (academic) school in L.A., Beverly Hills actually, and I wasn’t popular.”

Adding that he believes Mavis is a character audiences haven’t seen on screen before, as there have been very few female characters viewers could love to hate, Reitman said he didn’t want to sign onto the film unless he was able to cast Theron in the role. Believing that the Academy Award-winning actress knew how to walk the character’s tonal balance, he felt that she was “wonderful, smart and funny as Mavis.” He also said he thought it was interesting that at times, Theron “wouldn’t create ways to let people on set know that she’s not like her character,” in an effort to truly connect with Mavis.

To continue reading this article, please visit: Young Adult Director Jason Reitman Hits New York Red Carpet Premiere |

Monday, December 12, 2011

Young Adult Cast Hits New York Premiere Red Carpet |

Young Adult Cast Hits New York Premiere, Written by: Karen Benardello

It’s not often an actress can convincingly play a passive aggressive protagonist, who is used to always being given what she wants, but can also elicit empathy and understanding from the audience. But Charlize Theron does exactly that in the new comedy-drama ‘Young Adult,’ which is now playing in select theaters and opens wide on December 16, 2011. At the film’s New York City red carpet premiere on December 8 at the Ziegfeld Theater, several of the Academy Award-winning actress’ co-stars from the film readily praised her ease at playing such an emotionally immature character.

‘Young Adult,’ which was directed and produced by Jason Reitman, follows Theron’s Mavis Gary as she quickly travels home to her small town of Mercury, Minnesota, after hearing her ex-boyfriend recently had a baby with his wife. Having emotionally peaked in high school, when she was the ultimate popular girl who everyone admired and felt could do no wrong, Mavis feels unfulfilled as a ghostwriter of a formerly popular teen series. She feels she can win back her high school sweetheart, Buddy Slade (played by Patrick Wilson), even though he’s happily married to Beth (portrayed by Elizabeth Reaser) with their new daughter.

While back in Mercury, Mavis surprisingly reconnects with another former classmate, Matt Freehauf (played by Patton Oswalt). Even though he admired her in high school, and she barely remembers him, Matt is the only person in Mercury who has the courage to call Mavis out on the immoral acts she engages in.

Even though Mavis is presented as an unhappy, emotionally immature woman who’s suffering a mid-life crisis, Theron’s co-stars adamantly denied Theron was anything like her passive aggressive mean character. Actor Brian McElhaney, who was one of the first to arrive on the red carpet, fondly recalled his time filming with Theron.

“I play the book associate Mavis meets in Mercury, and is rude to when he says her series is going to be sent back to the publisher because the books aren’t selling,” McElhaney said. The actor shot his scene on location in Upstate New York, and recalled Theron was very comfortable and approachable on the set. He added that they found it amusing how the books were created. “The books were actually fake, the entire series. We laughed that these fake covers were put on other books, and when we opened them up, they were something completely different.”

Another cast member who attended the red carpet premiere was actress Louisa Krause, who portrayed the front desk girl at the hotel Mavis checked into when she arrived back in Mercury. While her character was just as condescending and aloof as Mavis, Krause graciously took the time to describe the memorable experience she had on the set with Theron.

“I only spent one day on the set, in Upstate New York, but I had fun. I’ve watched Charlize since I was a kid, and it was an honor to work with her,” Krause said. While she didn’t have time to spend with her idol while filming, she smiled when she recalled how they had lunch on set together. “Our lunch was catered that day, and we all grabbed the sandwiches off the tray as they were brought in.”

To continue reading this article, please visit: Young Adult Cast Hits New York Premiere Red Carpet |

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Help DVD review

'The Help' DVD review, Written by: Karen Benardello

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 comedy-drama ‘The Help,’ which is now available to rent on DVD at select Long Island Redbox locations, 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.

‘The Help’ is also memorable in the fact that all of the characters were surprisingly well-developed, even though it featured a large ensemble cast. While the audience is connecting to Skeeter while she persistently pursues her dreams of becoming a writer, they’ll likely also be applauding her determinedness to tell the maids’ stories and see to them obtaining equal rights. Aibileen and Minny are also unique, distinctive characters in their own rights, and perfectly complement Skeeter’s strong, take-charge attitude.

To continue reading this review, please click here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

New Year's Eve Movie Review |

'New Year’s Eve' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Garry Marshall

Starring: Jessica Biel, Jon Bon Jovi, Abigail Breslin, Josh Duhamel, Zac Efron, Katherine Heigel, Seth Meyers and Michelle Pfeiffer

People often think their lives are going in one direction, and don’t realize the impact someone they don’t know, or haven’t recently connected with in a long time, can have on them. But once they do make that connection with a stranger, they start to question their choices and what they can do to improve themselves. The new ensemble comedy ‘New Year’s Eve’ is an amusing reminder of the potential everyone has when they start to reflect on their choices.

The multiple story-lines featured in ‘New Year’s Eve’ include a single mother, Kim (played by Sarah Jessica Parker), who’s struggling to reconnect with her teen daughter Hailey (portrayed by Abigail Breslin), who’s determined to have fun with her friends. There’s also the race between Tess and Griffin Byrnes (played by Jessica Biel and Seth Meyers) to deliver their son before Grace and James Schwabs (portrayed by Sarah Paulson and Til Schweiger) have their daughter, in order to win the hospital money for the first born child of the new year.

Meanwhile, bike messenger and Kim’s brother, Paul (portrayed by Zac Efron), helps an unappreciated music secretary, Ingrid (played by Michelle Pfeiffer), fulfill her new year’s resolutions, in exchange for tickets to the hottest gala in New York. The party is catered by Laura (portrayed by Katherine Heigel), who’s torn over whether she should reconcile with her ex-boyfriend, famed singer Jensen (played by Jon Bon Jovi). The gala is hosted by Sam (portrayed by Josh Duhamel), who’s realizing that as he grows older, he needs to mature and find real love.

Director Garry Marshall included some intriguing plot stories and ideas in ‘New Year’s Eve,’ but ultimately failed to develop any true back-stories or developments for the characters. Like many large ensemble films, the comedy-drama featured quick, unsatisfied resolutions to the main conflicts that the characters experience, just to be able to wrap up the main story arcs.

To continue reading this review, please visit: New Year's Eve Movie Review |

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Interview: Titus Makin, Jr. Talks A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song |

Read's exclusive interview with Titus Makin, Jr., who recently appeared as Mickey O’Malley in the second direct-to-video sequel in the ‘Cinderella Story’ series, ‘Once Upon a Song.’ The actor and musician also landed his first leading role, as Zach Taylor, in the latest NBC Walmart/P&G family film ‘Game of Your Life.’ Makin, Jr. is also playing the recurring part of David, a friend of Darren Criss’ character Blaine and a Warbler member of the Dalton Acad, on ‘Glee,’ for the second concurrent season. He discusses with us, among other things, what attracted him to the roles, and how working in films differs than working on television.

Written by: Karen Benardello

ShockYa (SY): You play Mickey O’Malley in the new comedy ‘A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song.’ What was it about Mickey that convinced you to take the role?

Titus Makin, Jr. (TM): So many things, actually. I’ve never actually been able to play a role so close to myself, and this definitely was that role. Like the personality, Mickey’s so outgoing, and he likes to dance. There are just so many things about Mickey O’Malley that are like me and my personal comfort zone, which was great to switch it up. In the past, I’ve played a nerd, a gang member, there’s been so many different things, and he definitely fit right in with me, which was cool. Plus, it’s about music, which I love. I love doing things involved with music.

SY: As you said, ‘Once Upon a Song’ features a musical aspect; it follows the vocally gifted Katie, who’s played by Lucy Hale, as she’s forced to sing tracks so her untalented stepsister, Bev Van Ravensway, played by Megan Park, can win a recording contract. Having played David on ‘Glee’ for the past two seasons, did the film’s musical element appeal to you?

TM: Oh yes, absolutely. Plus, Lucy is phenomenally talented. I was hoping the director (Damon Santostefano) would write something in it so that I could sing with her, but it wasn’t appropriate for my character. Yeah, it definitely attracted me to the role, knowing that it was about dancing and singing, and it was at a performing arts high school. It’s definitely something I’ve been comfortable with for the past year.

SY: ‘Once Upon a Song’ is the third movie in the ‘Cinderella Story’ series. Were you familiar with the previous two installments, 2004’s ‘A Cinderella Story,’ starring Hilary Duff, and 2008’s ‘Another Cinderella Story,’ featuring Selena Gomez, before you began shooting?

TM: Yeah. It was actually cool how that worked out. I had happened to watch the one with Hilary Duff, the original one, a long time ago, and I liked it a lot. I thought, that was cool, that was a nice little twist to the Cinderella story. Then upon booking this one, I went back and watched the Selena Gomez one, and I just wanted to catch myself up. They’ve all been very good, and I’m happy to be a part of this one.

To continue reading this interview, please visit: Interview: Titus Makin, Jr. Talks A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song |

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Interview: David Spaltro Talks Things I Don't Understand

Yahoo! Voices Interview: David Spaltro Talks Things I Don't Understand

New York screenwriter-director David Spaltro is once again showing his intimate relationship with the City that Never Sleeps in his second drama, Things I Don't Understand. A follow-up to his 2010 film ...Around, the film-maker once again touches on personal issues, this time being the questioning of faith and whether the after-life truly exists.Things I Don't Understand follows Violet Kubelick, played by Molly Ryman, a graduate student who's studying near-death experiences, as she's obsessed with dying and the possibility of an after-life.

While promoting Things I Don't Understand, Spaltro was generous enough to discuss the process of filming the movie, including what kind of research he did into the subject of near-death experiences. He also talks about reuniting with Ryman, whom he directed in ...Around. He also touches on why he returned to the project after first starting the script when he was in college, and deciding that he didn't have enough experience at the time to move forward with such a serious topic.

How much knowledge did you have of near-death experiences, and what kind of research did you do into the subject, before you began writing and shooting Things I Don't Understand?

To me, the film always was more about life and living then death and dying. Like most people, I was fascinated by the process of dying, the unknown of what follows and all the different ideas, scientific concepts and religious answers to what happens when you die.

I'd read a bit about near-death-experiences and studies on patients that showed an odd similarity in certain details despite difference in age, gender, race or geographical landscape that intrigued me a bit. Most of the film is a hodgepodge of my own feelings and thoughts from what I've read, experienced and learned. I'd worked in hospice care and have seen people pass on, so it was a chance to work out different feelings and ideas I had on life, death and more important, faith.

Like Violet, viewers are left questioning what happens to our spirits after we die. Was it your intention to leave your audiences questioning their mortality and spirituality, or would you prefer to have them interpret the film's message their own way?

The film is about faith to me, and it was always more important not to try and point the audience in any one direction. Beliefs and spirituality are something that is very personal and private to each individual, and I try to honor and respect all of them in this film.

My own personal take is a little less spiritual and a lot more atheist and humanist that we are given one life to live for whatever reason we make of it. While we come in this world and leave it alone, we're alive now and can share that and good with those around us.

At the end of it, I try to present that there is no right or solid answer and it would be irrelevant anyway. You go with what feels right to you based on your own experiences and knowledge and live your life the best you can, regardless of what happens next. That to me represents faith, not knowing and being okay with it, and finding peace.

To continue reading this interview, please click here.

Interview: Michael and Barbara Foster Discuss a Dangerous Woman Book

Yahoo! Voices Interview: Michael and Barbara Foster Discuss a Dangerous Woman Book

Long before the world began admiring Marilyn Monroe, whose legacy is currently being chronicled in the new critically acclaimed drama My Week with Marilyn, America produced the first international celebrity, Adah Menken. The pin-up girl, who had a flair for scandal and supporting unpopular causes, is reportedly the first actress to embrace theatrical and film nudity. During her reign as the most famous, highly paid actress in the world throughout the mid-nineteenth century, Menken also became the darling of American Civil War soldiers.

Historian, novelist and biographer Michael Foster has professionally reunited with his wife, Barbara, an associate professor of women's studies at the City University of New York, for their third book together, chronicling Menken's life. Since many Americans are fascinated by the celebrity lifestyle, but few know of the first true celebrity, Michael and Barbara kindly took the time to discuss Menke and their work, A Dangerous Woman: The Life, Loves and Scandals of Adah Isaacs Menke.

Not only did the Fosters talk about what inspiration they had for writing the book, they also spoke about how Menke drew attention for her personal and professional scandals.Many may question how Menke became an international superstar without the countless tabloids and television entertainment shows and websites that many people routinely look at today. The biographers answer that question, and spread their knowledge of Menke's life, detailing how she performed in plays and became friends with numerous poets to garner fame.

Your new biography, A Dangerous Woman, chronicles the life of the first controversial actress and pin-up girl, Adah Menken. What was your inspiration in writing the book?

Michael Foster (MF): Well, we had decided, the two of us, that we wanted to do some biographies of heroic women. But really heroic, in the sense that they risked their lives. The first one we did was of Alexandra David-Neel, who made an incredible journey over in Tibet and the Himalayas. It's on the Huffington Post right now. So that book came out. David-Neel lived to be 100 years old, and then we wanted someone who didn't live quite as long (laughs), because it took a long time to do the book.

Then we found out about Adah Menken, who literally risked her life every single time she performed. That impressed us. Then her popularity was immense at the time.

Barbara Foster (BF): She was also the first superstar, which is amazing. It interested us, because there's so much fuss these days about superstars. When you come to think about it, she was the first one to use the media, she used photography to put herself front and center. That's a very exciting thing.

MF: She was also very involved with the Civil War. Not only that, but also with the invention of what we now call media. It simply didn't exist before then. The reason Menken could become popular across the United States, across the Atlantic, was the new media that came in and was revolutionary, the telegraph; the cheap, popular newspaper; and the photography. All of this came in at once, in an age that is similar to ours, where the media has had a tremendous revolution

Speaking of the Civil War, Adah reached out to both sides during the war, as she entertained wounded Union troops and admired the Confederate generals by posting photos of them on her dressing room walls. Do you feel this added to her controversy?

MF: Yeah, sure. I don't think she did it as a publicity stunt, though she did a lot of publicity stunts. She had some people behind her, some of the men, who were the first PR types. They didn't exist, press agents, until then, because they didn't have the press and photography until then.

But she herself was torn. She was born in New Orleans, part Jewish, part black, part Irish, and who knows what else. If you read about the Civil War, you begin to understand that not only was it families who were torn apart in the south, but also individuals were torn apart. It just wasn't that untypical at the time.

To continue reading this interview, please click here.

Abarat: Absolute Midnight Book Review |

'Abarat: Absolute Midnight' Book Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Author: Clive Barker

It’s not often that an acclaimed director, screenwriter and producer can captivate audiences with highly detailed, intriguing imagery in an anticipated sequel in a book series. But that’s exactly what horror-fantasy mastermind Clive Barker did with his latest novel, ‘Abarat: Absolute Midnight’ the follow-up to 2002′s ‘Abarat’ and 2004′s ‘Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War.’ The book once again details the admirable actions taken by heroine Candy Quakenbush, who feels destined to protect and guard the innocent.

‘Abarat: Absolute Midnight’ follows the 16-year-old Candy as she leaves her home and ordinary live in Chickentown, Minnesota, to travel to, and protect, the mythical, title archipelago. Every island represents a different hour of the day, and the Old Mother of darkness, Mater Motley, is once again scheming to conquer the archipelago. Abarat is in danger of being destroyed forever, as Mater Motley is determined to unleash her war, tyranny and evil on the residents. She threatens to obliterate the sky over the islands as absolute darkness.

Candy proves what a loyal, brave protagonist she is by willingly becoming like a martyr to save the Abarat from total destruction. She is an inspiration for young readers, showing that even with the possibility of uniting with her first love, she instead chooses to sacrifice her life to save the people of the Abarat. While Candy deals with contemporary issues, including protecting the innocent, sacrificing her own happiness and safety and coping with an abusive, drunken father, Barker still effortlessly brings her into a highly detailed, imaginative world.

The outlandish residents and locations of the Abarat are visually characterized in detailed, creative oil paintings that fill the pages of the fantasy-adventure novel, next to the text. Such characters as Nyritta Maku, one of Candy’s accusers at the Abarat Council Chambers, are greatly described in the story’s text. But seeing the characters, including the councilwoman’s blue-skinned skull that’s bound to soft-boned sub-skulls, will surely make readers feels as though they’re experiencing Candy’s plight and struggle to overcome her enemies.

To continue reading this review, please visit: Abarat: Absolute Midnight Book Review |

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Knuckle Movie Review |

'Knuckle' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Ian Palmer

Starring: James Quinn-McDonagh, Michael Quinn-McDonagh and Ian Palmer

The violent world of bare-knuckle boxing has long been a secret one, as the community who largely embarks in the sport, the nomadic Travellers, remain silent about certain aspects of their lifestyle. But two rival Irish Traveller families, the Quinn-McDonaghs and the Joyces, allow filmmaker Ian Palmer into their elusive world, to show their long-standing hatred of each other. The first-time director surprisingly shows the families’ pressure to fight for the honor of their name and the need for revenge.

‘Knuckle’ chronicles the fight between the Quinn-McDonagh and Joyce families, who are distant relatives but are separated by a feud that has lasted generations. The heads of the rivaling families, James and Paddy, train their traveling clans in the long-standing Irish tradition, bare-knuckle boxing. Palmer takes on double duty by narrating the film, which explores the Quinn-McDonagh and Joyces’ feelings of loyalty and their pressure to fight each other.

Palmer took an interesting filming approach while shooting ‘Knuckle,’ as he didn’t initially develop a clear slant and direction of what exactly he wanted to document. When he was asked by James and his brothers, Michael and Paddy, to showcase the life of the Quinn-McDonaghs, Palmer knew little of the hidden lifestyle of Travelling families. After occasionally shooting fights between the two families, between 1997 and 2009, the director captured the true bond between the close-knit Quinn-McDonaghs, and their desire to defend one another.

One of the more astonishing aspects of ‘Knuckle’ and the Travelling lifestyle is the fact that they believe in Fair Fights, despite their competitiveness and rivalries amongst each other. For each fight, both sides choose a neutral referee from a non-dueling family, in an effort to fairly choose the winner and protect the fighters. The families also aren’t allowed to attend the actual fight, in an effort to keep the fighters focused. With the Travellers’ sense of loyalty and pride, it’s surprising the families don’t want to watch the fights to support each other.

To continue reading this review, please visit: Knuckle Movie Review |

Friday, December 2, 2011

Comic Book Writer Sues Cowboys and Aliens Producers |

While one person can’t legally own the exclusive rights to produce a cowboy or alien film, comic book writer Steven Busti is claiming he owns the rights to the combination of the two, TMZ is reporting. As a result, the ‘Bizarre Fantasy’ comic writer is suing the producers of ‘Cowboys & Aliens,’ saying he created the concept in 1994, 17 years before the sci-fi western film was released last summer.

Busti alleges the producers stole many elements from his comic, including the fact that aliens land on Earth and invade the Old West, for ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ and the graphic novel they published in 2006.

To continue reading this article, please visit: Comic Book Writer Sues Cowboys and Aliens Producers |