Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bully Movie Review

Bully Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Bullying has often been a serious issue that has been pushed into the background because parents and administrators don’t want to admit that their children are doing anything wrong. But the new documentary ‘Bully,’ which was directed, produced and written by Long Island native Lee Hirsh, aims to prove that students who are harassed by their classmates feel as though they have no sense of belonging. With the Weinstein Company, the studio that’s distributing the film, recently deciding to release it unrated, as opposed to keeping the R rating the MPAA gave it, bullied students finally have a movie they can see and relate to that stands up for their rights.

‘Bully’ brings attention to the fact that over 13 million American students are bullied by their peers every year, and is the most common form of violence children experience across the country. The documentary is a character-driven film, which follows students nationwide who suffered from bullying, including 12-year-old Alex Libby from Sioux City, Iowa; 16-year-old Kelby Johnson from Tuttle, Oklahoma; 14-year-old Ja’Meya Jackson from Yazoo County, Mississippi and the families of 17-year-old Tyler Long of Murray County, Georgia and 11-year-old Ty Smalley, who both committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied.

Over the course of the 2009-10 school year, Hirsh chronicled the children’s lives and the persistent torment they experienced from their classmates, and proved bullying transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders. ‘Bully’ also showcases the growing movement among parents and their children to change how bullying is handled in schools, communities and society as a whole.

Hirsh bravely showcased how anyone can be bullied throughout their childhood, just because they’re perceived to be different, in ‘Bully.’ The Emmy-winning director decided to film the devastating epidemic that plagued him as a child, as he was bullied throughout much of his childhood and middle school years. Those experiences shaped his direction as a filmmaker, and his drive to show the country how children are targeted just for being themselves.

To continue reading this review, please visit Examiner.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Interview: Willem DafoeTalks 4:44 Last Day on Earth

The choices people make in the wake of their looming deaths are often indicative of their true personalities and motivations. The insecurities people contend with about their self-worth are also driving factors in how people act. These decisions and anxieties are bravely placed in the forefront of the new Abel Ferrara written-and-directed sci-fi fantasy drama ’4:44 Last Day on Earth,’ which is now playing in select theaters.

’4:44 Last Day on Earth’ follows successful actor Cisco (played by Willem Dafoe) and his younger, apprehensive lover, the naive painter Skye (portrayed by Shanyn Leigh), as they, along with the rest of humanity, struggle with the ending of the world. At 4:44 am the next day, scientists have discovered that the entire world’s population will die, due to irrevocable forces of nature, including excessive global warming. While the two have accepted their pre-determined deaths, Cisco and Skye are still struggling to come to terms with themselves, their relationship and their seemingly broken bonds with their loved ones, including his ex-wife and daughter.

Dafoe generously took the time to speak with us at a roundtable interview at New York City’s Regency Hotel about what attracted him to the role of Cisco, and why he likes working with Ferrara. The actor, who also started his career in the theater and founded the New York City-based experimental company The Wooster Group in the mid-1970s, also discussed his next play.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): What attracted you to the character and story in ’4:44 Last Day on Earth?’

Willem Dafoe (WD): First of all, I think it was Abel. I’m very director-driven, and am attracted to people who have a very specific way of working and have a very specific vision. Once I attach myself to something, my job is to become the doer. I’m the doer that realizes what audiences see. Also in the process of doing that, it becomes what I see.

I like Abel, he came to me and told me the scenario. The scenario didn’t resonate with me immediately, necessarily. But we started working on flushing out some of the sequences in the scenario and started writing back and forth. Then I got sucked in.

It’s interesting in the respect that it’s a movie in which audiences participate. If you don’t get hung up on what the science is, or that the story is about the end of the world, and if you accept the conditions of the story, this is a story about how two people have decided to spend their time in this situation.

I think it’s interesting for me, not only as an actor, but as a person, to keep going back to the question of what is our relationship to each other, how we spend our time and how I’m spending my time. I think the audience keeps going back to that, too.

I was at the opening in Venice, where Abel is quite respected, much more than here-he has a following in Italy and France-and this screening was beautiful. You felt this audience, when the end comes, it was communal, they could have linked arms. (laughs)

I didn’t expect it, I was very moved. Not just by the movie, but by the audience. You felt everybody recognize that everyone struggles, and they recognize the struggles in everybody else. I think that’s important, and one of the biggest functions of telling stories. It’s art and entertainment to find common ground.

Q: Abel has said that fiction serves to refine, or make the truth more concrete. Can you speak about that notion?

WD: My guess is that he’s probably referring to this weird convention of the world’s going to end, and everybody accepts it. The movie only works if you say okay, I’m good, instead of, how did this happen, who’s responsible, is it really scientific, is it global warming? That all gets short-handed in the story. If you accept it, I think you can concentrate on the truth of these people and how they’re dealing with their lives.

The heat is turned up, as a way to intensify the struggle we all have about what’s to do, what gives your life meaning, what’s important? You know that your life’s going to end, and you’ve got 24 hours to scramble for the meaning of your life, it’s pretty interesting. People do what you think they do. They start to say their good-byes, they start to make amends, they try to enjoy the people they’re with, they try to have some pleasure. All of those things are happening in the movie.

To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Interview: Shanyn LeighTalks 4:44 Last Day on Earth

The literal ending of the world seems like such an abstract concept that many people refuse to believe that such harmful events as global warming are contributing to mankind’s destruction. But the idea that humans are indeed heavily contributing to their inevitable deaths can be seen in the new sci-fi drama ’4:44 Last Day on Earth,’ which was directed and written by Abel Ferrara and is now playing in select theaters.

’4:44 Last Day on Earth’ chronicles the turbulent romantic relationship between successful actor Cisco (played by Willem Dafoe) and the younger, insecure painter Skye (portrayed by Shanyn Leigh). Along with the rest of the world, the two are struggling to face their mortality, as the end of the world is coming tomorrow at 4:44 am. The two have accepted their pre-determined deaths, as irrevocable forces of nature, including excessive global warming, can’t be reversed by scientists. However, Cisco and Skye are still struggling with the seemingly broken bond between them and those closest to them.

Leigh generously took the time to sit down at a roundtable interview at the Regency Hotel in New York City to discuss what it was like filming ’4:44 Last Day on Earth.’ Among other things, the actress also spoke about what it was like working with Ferrara and Dafoe on the movie, and what her philosophy on what the causes of the end of the world are.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): What was it like working with Abel on ’4:44 Last Day on Earth?’ You two previously worked together, on such films as ‘Napoli, Napoli, Napoli’ and ‘Go Go Tales.’

Shanyn Leigh (SL): It was much easier, the first one was horrible. (laughs) ‘Go Go Tales’ was a disaster. We were fighting all the time, and got thrown out of like five places. It was all egos, and the first movie was a real rite of passage.

This time was so much easier, because we grew as a couple and as individuals. It was fun and a wonderful experience. On ‘Go Go Tales,’ I almost died, it was really dramatic.

Q: ’4:44 Last Day on Earth’ is your first major leading role. How did you prepare for it-did you do any kind of research?

SL: Yeah, I study and work with acting directors, including Elizabeth Kemp. I go to acting classes, and I love going to the classes and taking on different characters.

I studied Frida Kahlo, because I was just in Mexico. I consider her to be an incredible painter. She was also a strong woman who had a tortured life, physically and with her relationships. I really related to her. (laughs) So I studied with my acting teachers and my research.

Q: Abel seems to be a very philosophical human being who looks deeply into things. Do you find that to be a point of connection, and how does that impact you as a creative person?

SL: It helps me, because I’m a very trusting person. I maybe foolishly and naively just accept truth. He really investigates, and tries to understand where things come from. It helps me understand things, and why I like or don’t like something. He is very philosophical.

Q: What is your philosophy on the end of the world, in this early stage of your life?

SL: Well, I think global warming does exist. For me, at least, that was one of the reasons on wanting to make this movie. Just being in New York City on Thanksgiving and wearing shorts, or having a snowstorm in October, there are so many devastating environmental events, one after the other. It’s so overwhelming, all of these environmental disasters.

It’s devastating that the end of the world is coming, because of us and our abuse of mother nature. There are people out there who don’t believe it, that we can destroy the earth and go too far. Like with the drilling in Alaska, I can go on forever. Seeing the amount that we’ve done to the earth, that was a big thing and inspiring point in making this movie.

To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Interview: Abel Ferrara Talks 4:44 Last Day on Earth

Figuring out how to spend the last hours on Earth before death, and coming to terms with the idea that mortality is something everyone must face in life, puts the value of life high on many people’s priority lists. The concept of struggling to find peace before an inevitable death is at the foreground of the new fantasy sci-fi drama ’4:44 Last Day on Earth,’ which was directed and written by Abel Ferrara and is now playing in select theaters.

’4:44 Last Day on Earth’ follows a seemingly mismatched couple, the successful actor Cisco (played by Willem Dafoe) and the insecure painter Skye (portrayed by Shanyn Leigh), as they’re dealing with their last day on Earth together. Like the rest of the world, the two have come to accept that due to irrevocable circumstances that scientists can’t reverse, including extensive global warming, the world is coming to an end. The entire human race will succumb to death the following morning at 4:44, as Cisco and Skye are still struggling with their relationship and the seemingly broken bonds with those closest to them.

Ferrara took the time to participate in a roundtable interview at New York City’s Regency Hotel. The filmmaker discussed, among other things, why he incorporated modern technology so heavily into the film’s storyline, the casting process and why he thinks the world continuously talks about the end of days.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): ’4:44 Last Day on Earth’ is not only about the end of the world, but also how the Internet has captured our society. How did you incorporate that into the film?

Abel Ferrara (AF): I think it’s a modern way of life. With Skype, I don’t know why it’s taken so long to catch up in movies. It’s just how you communicate. Everybody’s got their technology.

My pictures on my phone are amazing. I had a Blackberry and a T-Mobile, and it was a great phone. The past two years, though, my pictures weren’t great. Now I have an awesome camera, but I can’t make a call. It’s AT&T, and I can’t make a phone call. But I can make a beautiful movie on my camera, and can film on the street.

Q: Have we come to the end of the world in communication?

AF: Maybe the beginning of the world. It’s so changed. I’m 60-years-old, and I remember when I needed to wait home to get a phone call, I’m from before the answering machine. The fact is that you can now live your life and be in constant communication. I can call and see anybody I want in the world and connect.

I have an Internet site, that’s translated into Chinese. It’s funny, our films have become more verbal as our audience becomes more international.

Q: Why do you suppose that is?

AF: I don’t know why. I remember Hitchock saying, you could make a movie, he was talking about ‘Psycho,’ and they scream just as loudly in Australia as they do in Tokyo and Paris. They’re screaming to the language of the cinema. They’re not screaming to the language of what’s being said.

Q: You used Skype for the relationships in the film. Why did you use it so heavily for the characters to communicate?

AF: Why weren’t they face-to-face on their last day on Earth? That makes a good point about their relationships, like Cisco’s relationship with his daughter and ex-wife. Skye’s relationship with her mother, they were in two different cities. In situations like that, it’s the people you don’t see, who define your life, and who you call and don’t call, when you have X amount of hours left in your life.

Q: What process did you use to choose the iconic figures, like with the clips of Al Gore, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama?

AF: You said it, because they’re iconic for a reason. The Dalai Lama, there isn’t a word that doesn’t come out of his mouth that doesn’t make me sit up straight.

To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Interview: Michael Knowles Talks The Trouble with Bliss

People often struggle to find their true purpose with life, and what paths they should be following, as they feel pressure to live up to other’s expectations. This is certainly the case with the title character in the new drama ‘The Trouble with Bliss,’ which is now playing in select theaters. In the Michael Knowles-directed and written film, 35-year-old Morris Bliss (played by Michal C. Hall) struggles to find his identity, as he’s unemployed and lives with his father, Seymour (portrayed by Peter Fonda).

With his father looking at him in disdain, Morris finds himself in a sexual relationship with 18-year-old Stephanie Jouseski (played by Brie Larson), the daughter of his former high school classmate, Steven (portrayed by Brad William Henke). While trying to figure out how to end the relationship before Steven finds out about it, Morris is also pursued by his married neighbor, Andrea (played by Lucy Liu). Morris realizes that despite his dilemmas, he’s finally figuring out what he wants to do with his life.

Knowles generously took the time to discusses what it was like shooting ‘The Trouble with Bliss’ in New York City’s East Village with us over the phone. The filmmaker, who lived in the neighborhood for almost 13 years, also spoke about how he became involved in the movie, and how Hall came to appear as the title character.

Written by: Karen Benardello

ShockYa (SY): You wrote the screenplay for ‘The Trouble with Bliss,’ basing it on Douglas Light’s novel ‘East Street Bliss.’ What was it about the book that convinced you to write and direct the film, and how much knowledge did you have of Douglas’ story before you took on the project?

Michael Knowles (MK): Well, Douglas Light and I actually co-wrote the screenplay, so we adapted his novel together. I had read his novel, because Douglas and I go to the same cigar lounge in the East Village here in New York City. So we kind of know each other, and I knew he wrote this novel. I read it, and I asked him, hey, do you want to make this into a movie, and we’ll write the screenplay together?

So I was really familiar with the material from the very beginning. I loved the story and the characters. I felt that they were funny. I felt there was something quirky and funny about the whole story and the characters. Yet there was something really touching with the father-son relationship. So I felt there was something there, and nice methods to it all. But it was told in a way that it was subtle, so I enjoyed it.

SY: What was Douglas’ reaction when you first told him you wanted to work on the movie with him? Did he immediately embrace the idea?

MK: Yeah, actually he did. Initially, I didn’t immediately say that I would direct it. I just started with the notion that we would write the screenplay first. I was never completely attached to it, and said, okay, I have to direct this. It was more like, if it makes sense at any moment, I would be the director.

But if the script had gotten to a big name director who was going to do something spectacular with it, and I felt really confident, I would have let somebody else direct it. I usually try to make decisions on what’s best for the project, and not just my own ego.

But Doug was super open to the idea right away, and I think me offering to have him write it with me was something that was appealing, because he wanted to learn about the screenwriting process. So I think he was pretty excited about it.

SY: When did you actually decide to direct the film? Was it after you wrote the script, or when you were in the process of writing it?

MK: No, it wasn’t actually until the point when Michael C. Hall got on board. I said, that’s it, I’m directing it. I was really the one who got him attached to the project. I realized, I know this script inside and out. It just made sense for me at that point.

Up until then, we always approached it as, when we let people know about it, we said Michael Knowles isn’t necessarily attached. He can step up at any moment and direct it, if it makes sense.

To continue reading this review, please visit Shockya.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

October Baby Movie Review

'October Baby' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Directors: Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin (‘The Cross and the Towers’)

Starring: Rachel Hendrix (TV’s ‘Alumni’), John Schneider (‘The Dukes of Hazzard’) and Jason Burkey (‘For the Glory’)

People often struggle when trying to figure out where they belong in life, and what their true identities are. This is the main message exemplified in the new drama ‘October Baby,’ the theatrical feature film debuts of actress Rachel Hendrix and directors and writers Andrew and John Erwin. While Hendrix’s main character is supposed to represent everyone’s need for independence and to discover their background, the film unfortunately fails to create its own unique identity with developed characters and detailed relationships.

‘October Baby’ follows college freshman Hannah (played by Hendrix), as she nervously prepares to make her theatrical debut. While on stage, she unexpectedly collapses, and once again suffers from a seizure, like when she was a child. After being taken to the hospital, Hannah is told by her parents that her medical condition is related to her being born prematurely, and that she was adopted after a failed abortion attempt.

Despite the protests of her father, Jacob (portrayed by John Schneider), a doctor who strives to protect her, Hannah embarks on a road trip with one of her childhood friends, Jason (played by Jason Burkey) and some acquaintances. She searches for her birth mother, to find out why she was given up at birth, and in the process, discover who she truly is.

The Erwins aimed to showcase a young woman’s struggle to find her identity in the well-meaning ‘October Baby.’ Hannah is supposed to be the quintessential girl-next-door who refuses to listen to her parents’ reasoning and explanations, and who insists on meeting her birth mother to find her true identity. Unfortunately, the script ultimately failed to capture the essence of why she feels the need to rebel against her parents and search for answers on her own. Also, little information is provided about Hannah’s physical condition or mental mindset, leaving viewers uninterested and unable to emotionally invest in her mission to find information about the mother who abandoned her as a child.

Hendrix also unfortunately fails to spark any sympathy with her portrayal of Hannah. While the character initially starts off as being reserved in the beginning of ‘October Baby,’ as she admits to her parents and doctor that she doesn’t see any value in her life, she unfortunately fails to emotionally maturing throughout the course of the film. The actress seems unsure where she wants to mentally lead her title character, and if she truly wants to engage in a relationship with her birth mother. While Hendrix brings a naive nature to Hannah’s hope that she’ll find what she’s looking for when she meets her mother, the actress plays the role one-dimensionally. She doesn’t seem to base Hannah’s physical and emotional struggle for survival on any of her own experiences, or on a back-story she created for the character.

To continue reading this review, please visit Shockya.

Friday, March 23, 2012

4:44 Last Day on Earth Movie Review

4:44 Last Day on Earth Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Abel Ferrara (‘Chelsea on the Rocks’)

Starring: Willem Dafoe, Shanyn Leigh (‘Public Enemies’) and Natasha Lyonne

People have always wondered how they would act in the wake of the inevitable destruction of the world. While some may naively believe that they can implement a way to stop nature and the destruction of life as humans know it, others choose to accept their fate and make peace with their mortality. This all-important question is the main driving force in the new sci-fi drama ’4:44 Last Day on Earth.’ The main characters in the film have come to terms with their lives coming to an end, and instead focus on making peace with each other.

’4:44 Last Day on Earth’ follows a seemingly mismatched, but in love, couple-the older, successful actor Cisco (played by Willem Dafoe) and the younger, naive painter Skye (portrayed by Shanyn Leigh)-as they come to terms with the looming end of the world. Due to irrevocable circumstances that scientists can’t reverse, including extensive global warming, the entire human race has come to accept that at 4:44 am tomorrow morning, the world’s population will succumb to death. While Cisco and Skye have accepted their pre-determined fate, they are still struggling with their insecurities with themselves, their relationship and their seemingly broken bonds with those closest to them, including Cisco’s ex-wife and daughter.

Abel Ferrara, the writer and director of ’4:44 Last Day on Earth,’ deserves credit for creating an apocalyptic sci-fi film that focuses on the psychology and relationships of the main characters as they approach the end of the world. Instead of heavily relying on special effects to explain the reasoning behind the catastrophic event, the filmmaker uniquely featured Cisco and Skye’s perspective of what’s happening around the world from their apartment. Between watching television news programs about the latest updates and using Skype to say their final goodbyes to their families, the two must come to terms with the ending of their taboo relationship.

The strenuous efforts Cisco and Skye take to support each other while, and control how, they face their mortality perfectly mirrors the human race’s desire to always take charge of their situation. The two characters’ inability to console each other reflects people’s incapability to fully steer the path of the environment and nature. Skye’s feelings of helplessness and inferiority to Cisco’s ex-wife and her take-charge attitude shows that nature doesn’t always have regard for the human race’s emotions and desire to stay alive. While people are aware of the dangers of global warming, like Skye is attentive to Cisco’s ex-wife’s disdain to her, there is little anyone can do to change a course of action that’s already set in motion.

To continue reading this post, please visit Shockya.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Goon Movie Review

Goon Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Michael Dowse (‘Take Me Home Tonight’)

Starring: Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Liev Schreiber, Alison Pill (‘Midnight in Paris,’ ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’) and Eugene Levy

Successful sports films are often backed by major studios and chronicle the success of popular teams and the well-known players and managers who have made them famous, such as last year’s Academy Award-nominated movie ‘Moneyball.’ But the new independent film ‘Goon,’ directed by Michael Dowse, takes a risky chance by focusing on hockey, a sport that isn’t as popular as baseball in America, and is based on the life of a retired Canadian hockey player, Doug Smith. But with a genuinely funny script that focuses on the humanity and the emotions of the players, instead of just the technical aspects of the game, ‘Goon’ rivals other great sports films.

‘Goon’ follows Doug Glatt (played by Seann William Scott), an underachieving club bouncer at a Boston bar who doesn’t live up to his overachieving family of doctors, including his father (portrayed by Eugene Levy). After a chance fist fight with a local thug that’s witnessed by the Halifax Highlanders’ coach, Doug is signed to the minor league hockey team. Despite not knowing how to skate, he is hired as the fighter for the team, who stands up for his fellow players against other teams on the ice.

Doug’s popularity rises with the encouragement of his hockey obsessed best friend, Ryan (played by the film’s co-writer, Jay Baruchel). He eventually has the chance to square off against Ross “The Boss” Rhea (portrayed by Liev Schreiber), a famous hockey fighter on the verge of retirement. While balancing his family’s resentment of his career choice and Ross’ insistence that they’re not really hockey players, and they’re just on their teams to fight, Doug’s interest is also sparked by Eva (played by Alison Pill), who already has a boyfriend.

While Doug is portrayed as not being the smartest one on the Highlanders or in his family, he amusingly and accurately portrays the real fighters on hockey teams. The sports comedy was based on the book ‘Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into a Minor Hockey League,’ which tells the story of Smith, who didn’t start playing hockey until he was 19. But he approached the game with the unlikely skill of an amateur boxer, which Baruchel, who is Canadian, and co-writer Evan Goldberg adapted into the script. Combined with the actor’s knowledge of Canadian hockey, as his father was an avid fan, the writers created the perfect underdog hero with Doug.

To continue reading this review, please visit Shockya.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Seeking Justice Movie Review

Seeking Justice Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Roger Donaldson (‘The Recruit,’ ‘The Bank Job’)

Starring: Nicolas Cage, January Jones and Guy Pearce

Grief is a powerful, motivating factor in how people react to heinous, senseless crimes. People feel the need to take justice into their own hands, as they don’t trust the police to apprehend those who have wronged them. The new action thriller ‘Seeking Justice’ is an intriguing example of the extreme actions people take immediately after a loved one is wrongfully attacked. In the moment, they’re intrigued by vigilante justice, but as their initial shock begins to fade, they realize that their well-meaning actions can actually make matters worse.

‘Seeking Justice’ follows happily married New Orleans high school English teacher Will Gerard (played by Nicolas Cage), whose wife, Laura (portrayed by January Jones), is brutally attacked one night after leaving rehearsal for the orchestra she works for. While waiting at the hospital to hear more about her condition, Will is approached by Simon (played by Guy Pearce), who makes him an intriguing offer. Simon, who is a leader of a secret organization, will have someone kill Laura’s attackers, if exchange for a favor from Will in the near future.

Grief-stricken, Will agrees to become part of the dangerous underground vigilante operation. While trying to protect Laura from the truth, he soon realizes that his quest for justice is leading to deadly consequences he never could have imagined.

‘Seeking Justice’ intriguingly reflects many people’s desires to take matters into their own hands when they’ve been wronged by society, and the actions they take when the legal system fails them. Director Roger Donaldson, who is known for helming such crime thrillers as ‘The Recruit’ and ‘The Bank Job,’ created a memorable, character-driven action drama that allowed Cage to fully connect with his well-meaning character. Forgoing his recent big-budget flops that too heavily relied on special effects, the Academy Award-winning actor proved that Will is an ordinary American struggling to do what’s right, as he protects his wife. He knows that Simon asking him to kill a man, in return for carrying out vengeance on his wife’s attacker, is morally and legally wrong, and will do anything to stop the organization’s dangerous cycle from continuing.

To continue reading this review, please visit Shockya.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Casa de mi Padre Movie Review

Casa de mi Padre Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Matt Piedmont (‘Funny or Die Presents…’)

Starring: Will Ferrell, Diego Luna (‘Y Tu Mama Tambien’), Gael Garcia Bernal (‘Zorro Reborn’) and Genesis Rodriguez (‘Man on a Ledge’)

Shooting a film based on the current sociocultural differences between America and Mexico can be a taunting task for any filmmaker. But deciding to film the movie as a comedy in an entirely foreign language, Spanish, and casting a main actor who also doesn’t know the language can pose extreme technical and social issues. But director Matt Piedmont, writer Andrew Steele and Will Ferrell, who previously worked together on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and ‘Funny or Die Presents…,’ successfully captured the telenovela dramatics plaguing the American-Mexican drug war in the new comedy ‘Casa de mi Padre.’

‘Casa de mi Padre’ follows Armando Alvarez (played by Ferrell), who has lived a simple life working on his father’s ranch in Mexico. As his father begins experiencing financial difficulties, Armando’s younger brother, Raul (portrayed by Diego Luna), arrives with his new fiancee, Sonia (portrayed by Genesis Rodriguez), to help save the ranch. While Armando admires his brother for being a successful businessman who plans on settling all debts their father has incurred, he is shocked to discover Raul is really a drug dealer. As Armando contends with Raul’s illegal business, and the war that starts with Mexico’s most feared drug lord, Onza (portrayed by Gael Garcia Bernal), he unexpectedly falls for Sonia.

Piedmont and Steele took a risky move when deciding to film the comedy in Spanish, as neither speaks the language. But the two still created a story with an entertaining homage to a variety of genres, including telenovelas and Spaghetti Westerns, that also reflects the contemporary sociocultural conflicts between the U.S. and Mexico. Working with translators, the filmmakers amusingly satirized the overly dramatic, romantic theme seen in the popular Spanish format through the love triangle between Armando, Raul and Sonia.

In the same relationship between the brothers, ‘Casa de mi Padre’ showcases Armando’s disappointment over his younger brother’s choice of work. Armando feels it’s immoral for Raul to be trafficking drugs into America and harming innocent people. But Raul, a slick and suave international businessman, shows no guilt over anyone becoming addicted to his products. He points out that Americans choose to do drugs, and they’re the ones settling the ranch’s debts.

To continue reading this review, please visit

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Interview: Gael Garcia Bernal and Genesis Rodriguez Talk About Their Roles in Casa de mi Padre

Interview: Gael Garcia Bernal and Genesis Rodriguez Talk About Their Roles in Casa de mi Padre, Written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): Both of you have backgrounds in soap operas in Mexico, and in independent films, and this is more mainstream. Was it difficult to work with Will, a Hollywood actor, since he is so over-the-top and crazy?

Gael Garcia Bernal (GGB)
: You called this mainstream comedy, and this isn’t mainstream. Films are films. It’s a lot of objectives to pigeonhole films. I think it’s a film first, and then you can add the other objectives to it. If it’s good, it doesn’t matter how much money it has, or the language it’s in.

Working with Will is no different than working with any other great actor from anywhere else in the world, in any language. He’s a great, fantastic, intelligent person.

For me, English is my second language, so I have problems improvising in English. Will had a few little problems, but he had to go for it. He had to be in the rhythm of the conversation in Spanish. So it was nice to finally see someone suffering what you go through.

Genesis Rodriguez (GR): That’s a good point, Gael. He was very sneaky, and would ask, why is this feminine, and why is this masculine? He would ask, is this a transitive verb? You would be like, wow, he really wants to learn our language, this is special, he loves us. No. It was all so he could improvise. (laughs)

Q: Did he have that stare that he gives often that gets laughs, even if he’s not saying anything?

: That stare, it was really hard not to laugh at him. Then he’s so frustrated with the language, so it just made it funnier. I think I got the hardest one, because they got to be funny, and I was super-serious.

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Interview: Samaire Armstrong Talks Around June and The Mentalist

People don’t often have the courage to finally express themselves until they meet someone who allows them to follow their dreams. Children can be suppressed by their parents’ well-meaning motivations to protect them from the world. As a result, they don’t realize their full potential until they meet someone their own age who challenges them. This can be seen with the title character in the new independent drama ‘Around June,’ which is now playing in select theaters.

‘Around June’ follows the title character (played by Samaire Armstrong), who leads a quiet life in the shadow of the San Francisco shipyards. June lives under the care of her much adored Uncle Henry (portrayed by Brad William Henke), and Murry, her controlling father (played by Jon Gries). Her life improves when she meets a penniless illegal immigrant, Juan Diego (portrayed by Oscar Guerrero), who encourages her to live her own life.

Armstrong took the time to speak with us over the phone about appearing in ‘Around June,’ and what convinced her to take on the title role. She also discussed, among other things, what it was like working with Gries and the film’s writer-director, James Savoca, and what drew her to her new recurring role on the hit CBS police procedural ‘The Mentalist.’

Written by: Karen Benardello

ShockYa (SY): In ‘Around June,’ you play the title character, June. What was it about the script and the character that convinced you to take on the role?

Samaire Armstrong (SA)
: We get a lot of scripts in our business. The first scene opening up were very descriptive in the colors they were using in the film. I also find that in scripts, that sort of thing is left out. So I was really excited, because it clearly gave an idea to me what sort of imagination the director was working with. So that initially drew me to it. It got me excited about going in on the project.

Then it was really sweet, the director and I talked a lot about art. When he told me I got the part, he handed me an envelope that said yes on it. That was something that Yoko Ono had written in a particular art exhibit where she met John Lennon. So James was such a cool, great character. I was just blown away by his creativity.

SY: Speaking of James, he also wrote the script for the film. Do you feel it’s easier working with a director who has written the script?

: It’s funny, I never actually thought about that. Usually you do have the writer around when you’re shooting, or at least accessible to communicate. In my experience on the film and television projects I’ve worked on, they’ve worked closely, hand-in-hand, the writers and the directors. But it’s their project, and even if the director and the writer are there, working with the producer and director of photography, they’re always giving their input.

SY: Jon Gries plays June’s father, Murry, who is domineering and controlling towards her, in the film. What was your working relationship with Jon like?

: He was so lovely, and couldn’t be a nicer human being. We got to work on specific scenes that we wanted to feel comfortable going in to set, having been prepared about what we were going to say, not necessarily how we were going to say it. But the father-daughter relationship was there, because in family situations, you have a certain way of speaking to one another, in a rhythm. So that’s something we got to work on together.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Interview: Will Ferrell Talks About His Role in Casa de mi Padre

Established actors are known for staying in close range to the genres that have helped make them famous and respected in the film community. But Will Ferrell, who is known for his physical comedy in such hit films as ‘Old School’ and ‘Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,’ decided to try something completely unexpected: a Spanish language romance action adventure film. The movie, ‘Casa de mi Padre,’ which is set to hit select theaters on Friday, pushed the actor outside his comfort zone.

‘Casa de mi Padre’ follows Armando Alvarez (played by Ferrell), who has lived and worked on his father’s ranch in Mexico his entire life. His younger brother Raul (portrayed by Diego Luna), a successful businessman, returns to the ranch when it falls on hard financial times. With his new fiancee, Sonia (played by Genesis Rodriguez), Raul seems poised to settle all the debts his father has incurred. But the arrangement falls through when Armando, who has never been interested in women before, falls for Sonia. At the same time, he learns that his brother’s business dealings aren’t legal, and Mexico’s most feared drug lord, Onza (portrayed by Gael Garcia Bernal), turns up to ruin the wedding.

Ferrell sat down at the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City to discuss why he decided to make ‘Casa de mi Padre’ in Spanish. Among other things, he also spoke about how he prepared for the role of Armando, and what it was like trying to improvise in Spanish.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): You speak Spanish the entire time throughout the movie. Gael said when he was approached with the idea, no one could give him a clear answer if it would be in English or Spanish or both. Why did you decide to make the film in Spanish?

Will Ferrell (WF
): Well, I created the project, so it was my plan all along to speak Spanish. That was the idea, to put myself in a Spanish-speaking comedy, which I thought had never been done. But also commit to speaking as well as I possibly could, which would be something unique, as opposed to speaking Spanish poorly. That was the intent all along, and I had to work really hard with the translator every day.

I wasn’t that much fun on the set, because I was always with my lines, going over and over again. Diego was so excited to work with me, and he said, you’re so boring, sitting in a chair. (laughs) But if we didn’t get the lines right, we would do it again and again. We didn’t want anything to sound like I was dubbed over. So that was always the intent.

Q: How did your cast support you with the Spanish speaking?

: They were just very patient. I once asked Diego, how am I doing? He said, here’s the good news. I can understand what you’re saying, you’re very clear, but you don’t sound Mexican. (laughs) He said, but that’s okay. But that’s why we had the lines, like Pedro saying, you speak so weird. So it would be obvious that we knew that while I was in the ballpark, we knew that I wasn’t speaking perfectly.

Q: When they’re usually casting a movie about Latinos, and they cast Caucasians, you question why. They may be a good actor, but there’s so many Latino actors. But you turned that around.

: I wanted to appear as though you’re watching this bad Mexican Spaghetti Western. I’m just a member of an entire Hispanic ensemble. That was just the idea, and the rest of the cast are Latinos, and I just happen to fit in the middle.

Q: You’re notorious for improvisation. Were you able to work that out with the Spanish, or did you find yourself at times stopping, and saying I have to go based on the script?

: Like I said, every day’s task was to complete the lines as written, and do them well. There wasn’t any, oh, I don’t get to improvise. I knew if I did this all well, I was placing faith in the whole premise, and it would work. So when the cast would improvise around me, I had no idea what was going on. I would just sit and listen.

So I would kind of have to find my moments of improvisation through physical comedy and reactions. Like when I helped Genesis get up on the horse, and it was so awkward and weird, and I just leave her and walk out of the frame. We never rehearsed any of that. That was just one take. Or when I was on the horse, and I say to her, can you just walk? (laughs) I would ask, how do you say, do you want to walk?

Q: When the cop is talking to you, and you just speak in English.

: My accent is terrible.

Q: How funny would it have been if you just kept your American English?

: I think if we had done that, it would have sold out the whole premise, in a way, if I reverted back. It’s just as funny, but it’s a different type of joke, though.

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Interview: The Filmmakers Talk 'My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Part 3'

The working class is often critical towards the wealthy for the excessive extremes they take for their children, but at the same time, are also curious about their affluent lifestyle. The upcoming horror film "My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Part 3," which debuts on MTV on Tuesday, March 13 at 10 p.m., further looks into the stark differences between the rich and working class. The film, which was helmed by returning series director Jacob Gentry, and sees the return of producers Alex Motlagh and Christopher Alender, also examines the traumatizing psychological effects a serial killer has on his daughters and the community.

"My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Part 3" picks up two years after its immediate predecessor leaves off. Skye (played by Lauren McKnight) has moved on from the Rollerdome and Boneyard massacres committed by her serial killer father, Charlie. Skye hitches a ride to college in New York City from fellow art student Sienna (portrayed by Jillian Rose Reed). Along the way, Skye finally receives a call back from her sister, Alex (played by Kirsten Prout), asking her to stop at her house on her way to school.

While Skye is reluctant to visit Alex at first, Sienna convinces her it would be a good idea to see her. But little do they know that horror awaits them at the Sweet 16 party Alex is throwing for herself. Alex's neighbor Nathan (portrayed by Ryan Sypek), who is obsessed with Charlie and his two daughters, guides Skye and Sienna to Alex's house when they get lost. Once there, he unleashes terror as he kills Alex's friends to become closer to the Rotter girls.

Gentry, Motlagh and Alender generously took the time to discuss over the phone whey they decided to reunite on the second sequel, and why they continuously enjoy working together. The filmmakers also spoke about where the idea to make a slasher film trilogy based on a reality show came from, and why they feel the series has been critically and commercially well-received.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): Why did you all decide to return to work on "My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Part 3," after working on the previous two installments? Jacob, why did you decide to direct all three of the films in the trilogy?

Jacob Gentry (JG
): I think the draw was that we got to continue the story about the main character, Skye Rotter. Being that the movies are essentially the saga of her journey to get outside the spectra of her serial killer father, we felt ultimately, that was a a great chance to pay off all of that. We set up in the first two movies these cliffhangers. It's exciting to do a conclusion to the whole deal.

Q: The "My Super Psycho Sweet Sixteen" film series is based on MTV's hit reality series "My Super Sweet 16." Where did the idea to make a horror slasher film series based on the show come from?

: I think what was exciting with the first one was at the time, it almost felt like a revenge fantasy against the carelessness of the rich people who enabled their kids to be terrible. (laughs) There's something in the metaphor of these movies, of who is worse-the father who enables their kid to be a terrible person, or the serial killer father? Obviously, in real life, it would be the serial killer father.

But in the context of the fun horror movie, it's fun to think about these kids getting what they deserve. That's part of the draw, I think, at first. It develops into more of a coming-of-age story, if you will.

Alex Motlagh (AM)
: It was a good property that people knew about. I think when MTV initially approached us about developing, or working on, a horror film based on "My Super Sweet 16," I think anyone would be a little hesitant, on how to make that work and make it interesting.

But the good thing about MTV was that they, and neither did we, just want to stop at the factor of hey, we just made a horror movie based on this show. We were able to develop it with its own story, in its own world with its own characters.

I think the movie is a John Hughes movie fused with a John Carpenter movie. But MTV didn't want to stop at hey, we're taking this property that people know, and throwing it into a horror film. We definitely wanted to develop it beyond the joke, and into a real movie.

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Interview: Reagan Gomez Talks What Goes Around Comes Around

What goes around comes around is a common phrase scorned people bent on revenge use when plotting ways to settle the score with those who wronged them. In the new David E. Talbert play of the same, which the critically acclaimed NAACP award-winning playwright penned, directed and produced, ladies’ man Tyree Jackson (played by Wesley Jonathan) is determined to slyly slip women in and out of his apartment. While his live-in girlfriend, Desirae Baxter (portrayed by Reagan Gomez), is at work, she becomes aware of his philandering ways, and sets out to give Tyree a taste of his own medicine.

Gomez, who has previously appeared in plays, films and sitcoms, spoke with us over the phone about what attracted her to take on the part of Desirae in ‘What Goes Around Comes Around.’ Among other things, she also discussed what it was like working with Talbert and Jonathan, and the hectic four day rehearsal period they had before they began performing the play for the public.

Written by: Karen Benardello

ShockYa (SY): You starred as Desirae Baxter in David E. Talbert’s play, ‘What Goes Around Comes Around.’ What was it about the character and the script that convinced you to take on the role?

Reagan Gomez (RG): I was attracted to Desirae and her whole story because she definitely had a forgiving heart. She wasn’t really a nagging girlfriend. She loved her man, and understood and realized that he was going through some hard times. But like R. Kelly said, when a woman’s fed up, there’s nothing you can do about it. She got to her breaking point, and she was totally done, with everything that he had put her through.

But she knew that she was going to be okay, whether she was with him or not. **SPOILER ALERT** I think that’s why they were able to get back together at the end. He did realize that he loves her, and he made mistakes. He had to win her heart all over again. **END SPOILER ALERT** It was really realistic.

SY: David is an award-winning playwright who has had 13 critically acclaimed plays. How much knowledge did you have of his theater work before you accepted the role of Desirae?

RG: I hadn’t really seen any of his work, but I knew who he was. I know people who have worked with him before, and they said he’s great to work with. My mother-in-law, grandmother, they knew who he was, so they were definitely excited for me to work with him. I had a great time.

SY: David wrote and directed ‘What Goes Around Comes Around.’ Did the fact that he wrote the script help in his directorial duties once you began rehearsing, and performing, the play?

RG: Possibly, because obviously he knew the beats and emotions that he wanted. But we had to learn the script in I think it was four days. We only had four days to rehearse. Some of the cast wasn’t even there the first day, so we really didn’t get into it until the second day. So the schedule was very, very draining. But I had a great time doing it, and I would love to work with David again.

SY: Did the fact that you had such a short rehearsal time hinder your rehearsal and performance?

RG: Well, I started out in theater, but I know for Wesley, this was his first play. No, we were ready to go. We started rehearsal on Monday, and we did two performances on Thursday. We did one where we pre-taped everything, and one we did for an audience. So by Thursday, we were ready.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Interview: Adrien Brody Talks About His Role in Detachment

In a world consumed by connecting through technology, people are becoming more emotionally distant from others, even though they still feel the need to connect. ‘Detachment,’ the long-awaited drama from ‘American History X’ director Tony Kaye, effortlessly shows the contemporary vision of people’s increasingly disconnection from others.

‘Detachment’ follows Henry Barthes, played by Academy Award-winning actor Adrien Brody, a substitute teacher who conveniently avoids any emotional connections. He never stays in any school long enough to form meaningful bonds with his students or colleagues. As Henry deals with his troubled past, he is hired at a public school where the student body is apathetic, and the administration is frustrated and burned-out.

Henry inadvertently becomes a role model to his students. He forms an unlikely bond with a runaway teen, Erica, portrayed by Sami Gayle, who is just as lost as he is. While trying to help give up her life of prostitution, Henry realizes that he can find love in a seemingly vicious world.

Brody sat down at the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City to speak about the filming of ‘Detachment.’ The actor discussed, among other things, what it was like working with Sami, and what he enjoyed about Kaye’s approach to the film’s sensitive subject matter.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): What was it like working with Sami during the filming of ‘Detachment?’

Adrien Brody (AB): Well, it’s rare to meet someone who’s so full of life and enthusiasm. She possesses such a degree of emotional intelligence at such a young age (16), and isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and intimate. It’s a great age, I started acting around that age as well.

I know right before adolescence kicks in, it’s a really crucial time in a young man’s development, and I’m sure for a young girl as well. There’s a large transformation that happens within that. You undergo all kinds of chemical and biological changes. It’s a new stage of development, and with it comes all kinds of insecurities.

I think your early, early teens, you’ve triumphed childhood, and you’re strong. Then you come into the new wave, and you’re figuring things out. That’s a harder time to be free. She gave a lot, and it’s the right age to have a meaningful experience as an actor.

Q: Was there one particular aspect of the film that struck you the most?

AB: Oh, yes. It’s an opportunity for me to teach, spread some insight of my knowledge. My aspirations as an actor has always been to find material that speaks to me, and I can share those experiences with others. Not just entertain people, I’m not just in it to entertain people. I think it’s important that I remain interesting, and the work is entertaining. But the work should also stem from something greater than that, and create this community in the theater. I look to find films that have this kind of relevance.

My father was a public school teacher. I’m a product of public school in New York. So I understand the pitfalls, and how much generosity my father has in dedicating a lifetime to teaching. The profession really isn’t glamorous. He was very kind and patient with his students and myself. A large degree of my success stems from that.

Q: Did you pull from your father to bring this film to life?

AB: Yes, yes. It’s almost an homage to my father in a lot of ways. He’s very different from that character, thank God. (laughs) But my father overcame a great deal of poverty, and put himself through school, and did something very meaningful. I admire him for that, and his patience, which is hard to have, and his thoughtfulness. He was very good to his students.

Q: You’re dealing with a character who’s mentoring someone, but you’re also mentoring off the camera. What did you learn from that experience? Would you be interested in doing other things that involve teaching in some way, like maybe on a faculty or as an adviser?

AB: I don’t like formal arrangements. That’s what I love about acting, it’s a short-lived, kind of peculiar existence. You completely inhabit a character, and get to know some interesting people, and not so interesting people. The luxury is that you don’t have to see them again. You’re not showing up to the same office or boardroom.

I love that freedom. It’s not something I take for granted. It’s also encouraged me to learn a lot, because of it’s unusual nature. It’s a privilege to share anything I learn with anyone who’s enthusiastic about learning. You can have that exchange in a press conference or in a bar or on a film set. It just depends on if the right subject matter comes up, and if someone in that discussion has some insight.

You benefit by being present, and that’s what this film is about. You don’t have to be removed or isolated, and so many people do feel that. It’s about getting young minds at the right age, like Sami’s age, and encouraging creativity and the belief of pursuing your own individuality.

That’s a luxury that I have had, and my friends have not had. It’s unfortunately prevented my friends who I grew up with from a level of success that I’m fortunate to know, and that I attribute to my parents. I came home to a proper home, and didn’t just have the influences of my cool friends, who were tougher, and the street life, which was unfortunately a lot of people’s home.

They would come home to disjointed, broken families, and parents who were dealing with financial strains, marital problems, their own personal problems, drug addictions. This is what this film is really about, the criticism of the education system itself. While it’s critical of it, it’s about we need to be a bit more accountable and try harder. It’s understandable, I’m very aware that life is very challenging for most people.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

John Carter Movie Review

'John Carter' Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Director: Andrew Stanton (‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘WALL-E’)

Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins ‘X-Men: Origins: Wolverine,’ Dominic West and Willem Dafoe

Highly-budgeted action films that are filled with special effects and directed by a respected filmmaker often have high expectations, as with the case with the new Disney live-action movie ‘John Carter.’ The film, which has been in development at Disney since 2007 and is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 11-volume book series, ‘Boomsoom,’ is sure to please fans of the literary action hero. Featuring impressive motion capture and special effects, subtly mixed with reflections on current society issues, ‘John Carter’ is an entertaining sci-fi action film that relies on its message to move its plot forward.

‘John Carter’ follows the title character (played by Taylor Kitsch), a former military captain for Virginia during the American Civil War, who is inexplicably transported to Mars while looking for a fabled cave of gold. Upon landing on the red planet, he is captured by a Jeddak, Tars Tarkas (portrayed by Willem Dafoe in motion capture), a leader of the Tharks, one of the dueling nations on the planet. While trying to get back the medallion from the Tharks that will guarantee this journey back to Earth, John also meets Princess Dejah Thhoris (played by Lynn Collins). Dejah protests her father’s decision for her to marry Sab Than, the Prince of Zodanga (portrayed by Dominic West), in order to save their city of Helium. So she allies with John and Tars’ daughter Sola (played by Samantha Morton in motion capture) to not only help him get back home to Earth, but also to end the battling on her own planet.

‘John Carter’ surprisingly features a reflection of society’s current perils. While the title character was first featured in the first ‘Boomsoom’ story, ‘Under the Moons of Mars,’ in 1912, the sci-fi action movie mirrors the battles humanity is facing today. While John is a newcomer to Mars, he is the main one who has the courage and drive to stop the waring species on the planet. He shows that it takes an external force to prove that fighting over power and purposely destructing natural resources can completely ruin life.

John actually learns from his past mistakes of not being able to protect his family during the Civil War. His desire to protect those he has come to care about on Mars, despite their differences, motivates him to risk his own life to save those around him. After coming to understand and care for Dejah, Tarks and Sola, John moves past his self destructive ways stereotypical of many action protagonists, and would rather do anything he can to save innocent lives.

Director Andrew Stanton included mesmerizing special effects in ‘John Carter,’ which had a reported budget of $250 million. The motion capture of the Tharks and the other species inhabiting Mars is unique and distinct from many current sci-fi films, proving how different life on Mars is from Earth. Each species has its own distinct movements, while the motion capture gave the characters a subtle humane feeling. The Tharks, for example, have looming presence over the rest of the characters, due to their tall stature. But their protectiveness over their own kind is representative of the truly caring nature the Tharks have for each other.

To continue reading this review, please visit Shockya.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Peachcake's Single You Matter Featured on MTV's The Challenge

"You Matter," the latest single from electronic pop-dance band Peachcake, was featured on the March 7 episode of MTV's hit reality series "The Challenge: Battle Of The Exes." Stefan Pruett, the lead singer of Peachcake, said the fact that "You Matter" was featured on the show is "uplifting, rad and nostalgic." He wrote the song, which is now in rotation on several Top 40 stations in California, Vermont, Arkansas, Nevada and the band's home state, Arizona, for his late brother, Alex.

Pruiett added that "You Matter" is about "the two of us growing up in a small town and wanting to make a difference on a large scale in the world." The song, which was released on Peachcake's EP, "This Wasn't Our Plan," has become an anthem for fans to follow their dreams.

The recently-released video for "You Matter" was written and directed by Pruett's high school friend, Bud Bennett, from Los Angeles' Image Armory. The video featured students from their high school, so that people "can recapture that youthful exuberance-how they felt when they were growing up," Pruett said. He added that he also hopes the video will inspire people to go out and do something fun, even when "life feels against them in some way."

Peachcake, who signed with Warner Music Group in 2007, will play at this year's Red Gorilla Music Festival during South by Southwest in Austin. The band will also perform at this year's Slottsfjell festival in Norway. They'll be promoting "This Wasn't Our Plan," which supports their upcoming album "Unbelievable Souls," which will be released later this year.

The Starmind Record Featured at Web Series Festival

"The Starmind Record," the 8 Sided Films groundbreaking sci-fi web series, has been included in the in-competition screening at this year's Los Angeles Web Series Festival. The news comes after the series was chosen as an official selection of the Hollyweb Festival.

Tennyson E. Stead, the creator of "The Starmind Record," described the series as the story of two L.A. documentary filmmakers who investigate the presence of an extra-terrestrial intelligence. He added that "The Starmind Record" "is about stripping everything away but the conflict, because that's what makes a great story."

Stead added that he felt "The Starmind Records," which stars Gerard Marzilli, Charlotte Gallagher and Matthew David McCallum, was perfect as a web series. Showing it online "allowed us to communicate with our audience without apologizing for budget."

Besides airing "The Starmind Records" online, 8 Sided Films and Stead are currently in pre-production on the sci-fi heist film "Quantu Theory." The movie, which will begin production at the end of the year, will star internet celebrity America Young and L.A. theater actress Danielle K. Jones.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Part 3 movie review

My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Part 3 movie review, Written by: Karen Benardello

Adults are often critical of the excesses and entitlement teens from wealthy families feel while growing up, as seen with the critical panning of the MTV reality series ‘My Super Sweet 16.’ The new second sequel to the network’s hit original scripted movie ‘My Super Psycho Sweet 16,’ which New Yorkers can see when it premieres on Tuesday, March 13 at 10pm, proves that teens from unideal backgrounds can be the most successful. Lead character Skye Rotter, who survived the killing sprees committed by her father in the first two films, showed that being a social outcast doesn’t have to stand in anyone’s way of happiness.

‘My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Part 3’ picks up two years after its predecessor leaves off. Skye (played by returning series star Lauren McKnight) has moved on from the Rollerdome and Boneyard massacres committed by her serial killer father, Charlie, in the first two films. Skye has picked up a ride to college in New York City from fellow art student Sienna (portrayed by Jillian Rose Reed). Along the way, Skye finally receives a call back from her sister, Alex (played by fellow returning series actress Kirsten Prout), asking her to stop at her house on her way to school.

While Skye is reluctant to visit her sister at first, Sienna convinces her it would be a good idea to see her. But little do they know that horror awaits them at the impromptu Sweet 16 party Alex is throwing for herself. Alex’s neighbor Nathan (portrayed by Ryan Sypek), who is obsessed with Charlie and his two daughters, brings Skye and Sienna to Alex’s house when they get lost. Once there, he unleashes terror as he kills Alex’s friends to become closer to the Rotter girls.

‘My Super Psycho Sweet 16 Part 3,’ which was once again helmed by series director Jacob Gentry, uniquely pays homage to classic teen slasher films as ‘Prom Night’ with its strong, independent female lead character. Skye is determined not to let her father’s heinous crimes stand in her way of happiness at school in New York and with her boyfriend Brigg (played by fellow series alum Chris Zylka). Having survived the massacres from the first two films, she has learned not to allow anyone else’s opinions about her negatively impact her life.

To continue reading this review, please visit Examiner.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Friends with Kids Movie Review

'Friends with Kids' Examiner Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello

People often say when they start families that nothing’s going to change, and their personalities are going to stay the same. But once the strain of parenthood starts to negatively affect their lives and ruin their happiness, their single friends quickly become daunted by the idea of marriage and having children. This is amusingly showcased in the new comedy ‘Friends with Kids,’ which will debut in select Long Island theaters on Friday. People will be left questioning what happens to the romance in relationships after starting families, and if marriages can truly survive the strains of parenthood.

‘Friends with Kids’ follows two single thirty-something Manhattanites, Jason (played by Adam Scott) and Julie (portrayed by Jennifer Westfeldt), who have been best friends since college. After seeing their best friends, two married couples-Leslie and Alex (played by Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd, respectively) and Ben and Missy (portrayed by Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig, respectively)-completely change after having children, Jason and Julie question if this is what happens after pregnancy. The two best friends ponder if it’s possible to have both romance and children at the same time.

Jason and Julie decide to have a child together, and initially, much to everyone’s surprise, they’re both happy with the arrangement. Jason begins dating Broadway dancer Mary Jane (played by Megan Fox), and Julie starts a relationship with a divorced father, Kurt (portrayed by native New Yorker Edward Burns). Despite both of their romantic relationships beginning to get serious, both Jason and Julie start questioning their feelings for each other.

‘Friends with Kids’ comically and realistically shows what happens when people start to see all of their friends getting married and having children, and they start to question how life has started to change so quickly. Jason and Julie know they want romantic relationships and children of their own, and feel the pressure to speed up the process when Leslie, Alex, Ben and Missy start having families. Jason and Julie seem like an obvious pairing together, as they both know each other extremely well and have the same outlooks on life. Their friends and families question how long their arrangement will last before it starts to disintegrate.

To continue reading this review, please visit Examiner.

Acorn Purchases Controlling Interest in Agatha Christies' Estate

With the purchase of 64 percent of Agatha Christie Limited, Acorn has become the first American company to acquire the controlling interest in Agatha Christie's estate, the media group announced in a press release on February 29. The acquisition of Christie's estate marks the most important deal in the history of the company, which is the leading independent media company and principal distributor of British TV on home video in the U.S.

Christie's family retains its 36 percent holding. Her grandson, Mathew Prichard, remains Chairman of Agatha Christie Limited.

Of the acquisition, Miguel Penella, the CEO of Acorn Media, said "We see this acquisition as a key step in the company's continued evolution into content ownership and television production." He added that Acorn Media looks "forward to working with Mathew and James Prichard and the Agatha Christie family for years to come."

Prichard said "My family and I are delighted to be forming a new partnership with Acorn Media." He added he thinks the partnership "will continue the successful history of the company, and produce much more Agatha Christie material for fans everywhere, particularly in the U.S."

Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time. Her estate includes more than 80 novels, 19 plays, and nearly 40 TV films. With more than two billion books sold, the sales of Christie's works only follow The Bible and William Shakespeare's collection. Her iconic characters include Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Interview: The Cast and Crew Talk About Filming Goon |

Read's roundtable interview with the main actors and director of the new sports comedy ‘Goon,’ which is currently available on VOD, and hits select theaters on March 30, 2012. The movie follows Doug Glatt (played by Seann William Scott), as he dreams of following in the footsteps of retiring minor league hockey goon Ross Rhea (portrayed by Liev Schreiber). After winning a fight, Doug receives the break he’s been looking for when the coach of the Halifax Highlanders hires him. Despite not having any hockey experience, and receiving taunts from the other players, Doug becomes a successful player, with the encouragement of his best friend, Ryan (played by the film’s co-writer, Jay Baruchel).

Scott, Schreiber and Baruchel were joined by director Michael Dowse at New York City’s Le Parker Meridian hotel. They discussed, among other things, why they were all interested in telling the story of a naive character who goes against his parents’ wishes to play a violent game, as he finally feels like he belongs.

Written by: Karen Benardello

Question (Q): Seann, what kind of hockey background did you have, growing up in Minnesota?

Seann William Scott (SWS): Yeah, I had no background. (laughs)

Q: Did you root for anybody, watch any games?

SWS: No. My friends played, but I played baseball, basketball and football. I remember going to the games because all the hot girls from school would go there, they wouldn’t come to the basketball games. Part to see them play, part to see some hot chicks in high school. (laughs) So that was my background, to be honest.

Q: That’s something Stifler would say.

SWS: Yeah, and most other men. (laughs)

Q: Jay, you were a co-writer on the film. Was it your idea to make Seann a member of the tribe?

Jay Baruchel (JB): Yeah. It’s like I’m half-Jewish on my dad’s side, and everything I know about hockey and hockey fighting, in particular, stems from Dad. It’s hard to separate that particular sense of hockey from the first-generation Jewish immigrant experience. Fighting, hockey and being Jewish were defining parts of his identity. So when it was time to take ‘Goon’ from the book (‘Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey Into a Minor Hockey League’ by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith), it was impossible for that not to come through.

Q: Seann, were you surprised that you got the job of Doug?

SWS: Yeah, it was a huge opportunity for me. It was also the first movie that I got to be with actors and a director that I love, that already believed in me before. They already felt that I was right for it in the beginning. That’s totally different for me.

But just the role, it was such an incredible character. It’s hard for me to articulate why I love the movie so much. But was I surprised I got the job? Yeah, but I’m grateful.

Q: When Doug meets Rhea in the diner, it’s a beautiful scene, and there was a lot said and not said. How did you work through that?

Liev Schreiber (LS): I was grateful to Jay for including that. I think it’s a true testament to his passion of the game and the players, that he would include in his story. A guy who’s in the twilight of his career. When you think about a lot of these guys, before they can walk, they’re on ice skates. Hockey is their life.

Then, suddenly, at the relatively tender age of 35, 40-years-old, these guys confront a life without hockey, without a team, without the only thing they’ve existed for for the past 35 years. I love that Jay included that, because to me, that was a particularly impactful element of the movie.

Reading (Canadian NHL forward) Bob Probert’s book (‘Playing With Fire’), I didn’t base the character on him, but he was certainly on my mind and in my heart a lot. One of the things I remembered most about him was that people didn’t think about him as a hockey player. People thought of him as an enforcer and goon. This was a guy, who in my opinion, was constantly evolving as a player. He was a goal scorer.

With Seann’s character, I think this movie is realistic in so many ways, particularly with minor league hockey. One of the poetic licensing elements Jay took, which made it so funny, as that a guy with no skating skills whatsoever (laughs) could make it that far in the minor leagues.

That aside, everything else was so spot on. Particularly at the end, when the guy was saying, we’re not hockey players. Then the younger player says, yeah, but we are. So that’s perfect thing to say to that guy in that moment, at that point of his career. To give him a sense of redemption of his life and his game. To see the passion in a younger player, he was passing the baton on to the right guy. That’s an interesting element, because fight movies don’t work without a story that has to do with fighting.

Q: Jay, how did you get involved with (co-writer) Evan (Goldberg)? Did you know him from ‘Knocked Up,’ or did you know him from before that?

JB: I’ve known Goldberg since I was 18 years old. He’s known (Seth) Rogen since they were like 10. Whenever Even comes to my city, whenever I’m not in the States, I live in Montreal. We became friends, because he went to school in my city. Five years or so ago, he called and I was home. He asked me to write this Canadian hockey flick.

I don’t know s**t about hockey, but Evan had read some of my crazy horror s**t that I wrote. I guess he didn’t think I was too crummy, because he vouched for me. He knew a little about hockey, and said you’re not a terribly s**tty writer, so maybe we can figure something to do together.

I have to say, it was one of the easiest mapping out processes I’ve ever been apart of. He and I kind of hashed out the entire thing in about an hour-and-a-half. Then I just f**ked off to the confines of my bedroom, and knocked it out in two months. Then five years later, the movie died many deaths. But we found a way to keep going, because we dug what this could be. But Evan’s been one of my best friends for 12 years.

To continue reading this interview, please visit: Interview: The Cast and Crew Talk About Filming Goon |

Friday, March 2, 2012

Interview: Kirby Bliss Blanton Talks Project X |

Read's exclusive interview with up-and-coming actress Kirby Bliss Blanton, who can currently be seen in the new comedy ‘Project X.’ The highly anticipated film, which was helmed by first-time director Nima Nourizadeh, follows three high school seniors who decide to throw a house party when their parents go out of town. While the teens are aiming to make a name for themselves before they graduate, the party quickly spirals out of control after word about it quickly spreads on the Internet.

‘Project X’ has garnered hype because it’s one of the first comedies to be shot through the point-of-view of the camera of one of the students filming the the party. Todd Phillips, the director, writer and producer of such hit comedies as ‘The Hangover’ and ‘Old School,’ also served as a producer on ‘Project X,’ marking his first high school party film. He also decided to cast many un- or little-known actors for the main characters, to give up-and-comers the chance to be cast in a movie. Blanton discuses with us, among other things, what it was like working with both Phillips and Nourizadeh, and why casting un-known actors helped bring an authenticity to the characters.

Written by: Karen Benardello

ShockYa (SY): You portray Kirby, the female lead, in the new comedy ‘Project X.’ What was it about the script that convinced you to appear in the film?

Kirby Bliss Blanton (KBB): I really didn’t know too much about the script and the story until I was attached, just because it w so hush-hush. But I did know that Todd Phillips was involved, and I was definitely a fan of his work before. I was a fan of ‘Old School,’ and I knew ‘The Hangover’ really well. They’re both legends.

It was enough that I knew that comedy was definitely something I wanted to do. With Todd attached, that was enough for me. Then there was Joel Silver, who’s a huge producer, he does things on a huge scale, so that was a huge incentive.

SY: Like you said, Todd is known for directing and producing such male bonding/partying movies as ‘The Hangover’ and ‘Old School.’ What was it like working with him, and what is it about his approach to films that makes him so successful?

KBB: I think everything was a little less serious this time around, just because Todd wasn’t actually directing. We had a first-time director, Nima (Nourizadeh). So Todd wasn’t on set all the time, and the same with Joel. They were there, but not always. I think it’s something they both wanted to do, and then they let Nima take it and run with it, which was great. That’s why I think the movie’s so visually stunning.

SY: Like you said, ‘Project X’ is Nima’s feature film directorial debut. What was it like working with him, as a first-time director?

KBB: Once you get used to the fact that you’re not sure where the camera’s going to be all the time, which is also the way that we shot this, there were two different cameras. It was shot like a music video, which is why it looks like a music video. That’s mainly what Nima had done before. But it’s perfect for the whole party scene, because you feel like you’re there.

Once I got used to the fact that the camera was just going to be watching, and it’s just part of what’s happening, it was really great. He definitely knows what he’s doing. Once I saw the finished project, I was just astonished.

SY: ‘Project X’ was filmed through the first-person view of the cameraman observing the party, in an effort to create the effect of the audience being in attendance. Do you think the technique was beneficial in showing how the main characters were experiencing the party?

KBB: Absolutely. It’s interesting, because it’s like if you were at the party, or if you got a little glimpse into someone’s life, you do get to see things that you wouldn’t get to see in other movies. The camera does follow, or hide, to show intimate moments, which is really fun.

It’s great for the actors, because it’s not like the camera is right up in your face. You’re not trying to look in the lens, it’s more organic.

To continue reading this interview, please visit: Interview: Kirby Bliss Blanton Talks Project X |

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Snowtown Murders Movie Review |

'The Snowtown Murders' Movie Review, Written by: karen Benardello

Director: Justin Kurzel

Starring: Daniel Henshall, Lucas Pittaway and Louise Harris

Films based on real-life murders often strive to glorify the brutal violence of the crimes to visually engage and captivate audiences. But the new crime drama thriller ‘The Snowtown Murders,’ which is based on the murders of the same name that occurred in South Australia during the majority of the 1990s, is instead more sensitive to the victims’ stories. Through engagement with the local community before and during shooting, the film gracefully showcases the back-story and psychology of the main characters, and what motivated them to start killing their own neighbors.

‘The Snowtown Murders’ follows a single mother, Elizabeth Harvey (played by Louise Harris), who is struggling to raise her three boys in the poor Adelaide, Australia suburb of Snowtown. She begins dating John Bunting (portrayed by Daniel Henshall), who at first offers stability to her family, as he has appointed himself as the leader of the neighborhood watch meetings. John and his friends cast judgments on those living around them, and they embark in acts of sadistic vigilantism on those they consider deviants. John takes one of Elizabeth’s sons, Jamie (played by Lucas Pittaway), under his wing, offering a stable father-son relationship that he has continuously sought all his life. However, to his horror, Jamie comes to realize that he’s an accomplice to a spree of torture and murder.

While the Snowtown murders is still an extremely sensitive subject to many living in the area, screenwriter Shaun Grant elegantly concentrated more on the psychology of the characters than the actual violence of the murders. By telling the story through Jamie’s point of view, ‘The Snowtown Murders’ presents the debate of why he participated in the crimes. He desperately sought guidance from a father-figure, and John was controlling enough to manipulate Jamie’s need for approval to do what he wanted. Jamie’s innocence was so quickly corrupted by his continued search for love that it was easy to understand why he became so complicit in helping with John’s brutal crimes.

Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel, who made his feature film directorial debut with ‘The Snowtown Murders,’ was able to bring an authenticity and sense of humanity to the crime thriller by engaging with the surrounding communities. Not only did he use real locations and local dialogue for the movie, but Kurzel also hired local, first-time actors for the main cast. As a result, they didn’t have the pressure of emulating their previous acting roles, and instead could focus on telling the true motives of the crimes.

While not much public information about Jamie is available, Pittaway worked closely with Kurzel and off the script to present the character in a naive light. As the plot of ‘The Snowtown Murders’ developed, the actor mirrored the shock and horror Jamie experienced as the murders progressed. While Jamie knew what he was involved with was wrong, he gradually learned to become more accepting of the horrors going on around him, as he finally was given the male attention he so long craved.

Henshall, who also made his feature film acting debut in ‘The Snowtown Murders,’ also came to understand his character’s mind, and convincingly played John’s manipulative nature. The actor was able to use the isolation of being away from his family to relate to John being an outsider in the neighborhood. Since he had no ties to the community, he took it upon himself to take control of the neighborhood watch group to pretend that he cared about his neighbors and gain their trust.

To continue reading this review, please visit: The Snowtown Murders Movie Review |