Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Interview: Pia Zadora Talks Las Vegas Comeback Show

Many people search for their passion and what makes them happy for years before truly finding a job that truly suits them. But singer-actress Pia Zadora, who's set to make her musical comeback this summer at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in her hometown of Las Vegas, grew up with a passion for music. Zadora found early success as a child star on Broadway in the 1960s, and later received accolades for her solo music career and albums Zadora recently took the time to speak over the phone about why she decided to launch her comeback at the Smith Center. The singer-actress also spoke about why she enjoys performing live for audiences so much and her working relationships with such legendary singers as Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Question (Q): You're launching your comeback with a set of shows in Las Vegas this summer at the new Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Why did you decide to start performing again, particularly at the Smith Center? Pia Zadora (PZ): Well, I actually moved to Las Vegas because I married a detective from Las Vegas. We moved here, and he's working here on the force. My youngest kid just turned 15, and I just felt like it was time for me to have some fun. Living in Las Vegas inspired me, because we moved here about a year ago. I would drive up the strip every day, driving my kid to school in carpools, and see the names of all my friends on the marquees. I would go see their shows, and sometimes they would ask me to come up on stage and do a number with them. I started thinking; maybe I should get up there and start doing this again. This is kind of where I started, and there's that old adage-it's not where you started, it's where you finished. I just felt like it was time for me to do it. Q: You'll be singing such songs as "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Come Rain or Shine," "All of Me," "Young at Heart" and "The Man That Got Away." How did you decide which songs to include in your performance? PZ: Well, my manager put together a team, and we worked together. There was Walter Painter, a director, choreographer and multiple Emmy winner. A lot of the songs that were incorporated were ones that I had done with Frank Sinatra, and felt very close to. They were part of my story that I wanted to tell. Q: The show will be accompanied by legendary Frank Sinatra pianist and musical conductor Vinnie Falcone and his orchestra. What has it been like working with Vinnie as you prepare for the show? PZ: Well, I've worked with Vinnie when I toured with Frank Sinatra, and he did all my albums with the London Philharmonic in the 1980s. So I've worked with him forever, and it's like family, getting back and doing it with him. Only this time, we're at different places in our lives Before, when I sang the standards, I was really young. I was the young kid on the block, singing with Sinatra and those great seasoned performers. I really didn't have a great understanding of what the songs meant. Vocally, I sang them and gave them my best. They suited me vocally, but now the songs have more meaning. These songs are timeless, and now all the pop stars are singing them. They're songs that everybody can relate to. We're both, Vinnie and I, in a place musically where we can get down to the bottom of things, in terms of understanding musically and lyrically. Of course, I had the best teacher of them all, Frank, because he took me on the road with him. He became my mentor and taught me how to sing these songs. Every night before I went on stage, he would call me over, take my hands in his, look me straight in the eye and give me a three-word pep talk. He'd say, "Don't screw up." Boy, I couldn't, I didn't (laugh). So you learn work ethic, you learn perfection from the greats and you learn to apply it. Cabarets, basically what I love, I'm doing now. It's getting to know a person in an intimate setting through performance art and music. For me, that is so much fun. It's like doing my own little story show, with these songs enhancing my story, and having fun, that I never had the guts to do. It's a really fun, fulfilling process, being able to perform in my own backyard. That's the great part; Las Vegas is like a little wonderland. The Smith Center is a beautiful enhancement of the cultural community. Now there are concerts and ballets and philharmonics and Broadway shows and jazz cabarets in this beautiful little jewel box. So it's a wonderful place to launch my show. To continue reading this interview, please click here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

96 Minutes DVD Review

'96 Minutes' Examiner.com DVD Review, Written by: Karen Benardello People are often so wrapped up in their own existence that it often takes a tragedy to make them recognize the pain others are going through. Their lives, which can inadvertently change at any moment, can ultimately be determined by the choices that other people make. This important lesson is emotionally and clearly evident in the new thriller ‘96 Minutes,’ which New Yorkers can now buy on DVD through Amazon. ‘96 Minutes’ follows four young people who inadvertently become involved in a carjacking, which leads to horrifying, irreversible results. The thriller intercuts between the carjacking and the beginning of each of the four character’s day, showing who they are, where they came from and how they ended up in the car together. The characters include Carley (played by Brittany Snow), a 21-year-old smart college student who’s determined to please her absentee parents. Dre (portrayed by Evan Ross) is a bright 17-year-old high school student who grew up in a crime-infested neighborhood, but strives to do whatever it takes to survive and create a better life for himself. Lena (played by Christian Serratos) is a young college senior struggling to find her place in the world as she transitions into adulthood. Kevin (portrayed by L. Michael Trautmann) is a neglected 15-year-old living in the same neighborhood as Dre, and is looking to find a place in the neighborhood that has forgotten him. Filmmaker Aimee Lagos, who is making her feature directorial and writing debut with ‘96 Minutes,’ deserves credit for wanting to create a movie that showcases the strong divide among class lines. The thriller effectively showcases that people from all classes and races at times feel pain and isolation, no matter what background they come from. To continue reading this review, please click here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Chernobyl Diaries Movie Review

'Chernobyl Diaries' Examiner.com Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello Horror films that are based on shocking true events are often the most terrifying and intriguing for the genre’s fans. The new horror movie ‘Chernobyl Diaries,’ which is now playing at area Long Island theaters and is set in the deserted Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, unfortunately fails to bring any frightening scares to a seemingly unique story. While the chilling location surprisingly hasn’t over-saturated the genre, the movie ultimately relies on clichéd characters to tell its story, which takes away from its effectiveness. ‘Chernobyl Diaries’ follows three young vacationers, including (New York native Jesse McCartney), his girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Dudley) and their friend Amanda (Devin Kelley), as they travel through Europe. As they enter the Ukraine, they meet Chris’s adventurous older brother Paul (Jonathan Sadowski), who convinces the group to make an unscheduled stop into Chernobyl. Chris is reluctant to enter the abandoned city of Pripyat, where the works of the Chernobyl facility lived before the radiation disaster in 1986. Advertisement Led by tour guide Uri (Dimitri Diatchenko) and accompanied by two other tourists, Michael (Nathan Phillips) and Zoe (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), the group heads into the abandoned city. After entering an unmanned checkpoint unbeknownst to the guards who surround the city, the group begins exploring. But once the group tries to leave, they discover Uri’s van wires have been cut. They’re forced to find a way to the closest military checkpoint, which is 18 kilometers away, without getting attacked by the animals and the human victims who have been mutated by the radiation. ‘Chernobyl Diaries’ had the potential to be a truly terrifying film, as it was written and produced by Oren Peli. Known for directing, producing and/or writing every entry in the hit ‘Paranormal Activity’ series, the filmmaker has proven he knows how to truly frighten audiences with limited blood and gore; he regularly relies on psychological trauma to scare viewers. The film was also based on the after effects of a real-life horrific event that is still affecting the area, 26 years after its occurrence. To continue reading this review, please click here.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Men in Black III Movie Review

'Men in Black III' Shockya.com Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello Director: Barry Sonnenfeld (‘Men in Black,’ ‘Men in Black II,’ ‘Get Shorty’) Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin Creating a visually stunning alien film with a unique story has become increasingly difficult for filmmakers, as sci-fi movies have infiltrated the film market since the beginning of cinema. Creating an alien sequel, whose immediate predecessor was released 10 years earlier, can be even more taunting, as it not only has to please older fans, but attract new fans as well. But the new ‘Men in Black’ installment, the third film in the popular alien action sci-fi comedy series, immediately stands out for its creative effects and distinct character relationships. ‘Men in Black III’ follows Agent K (played by Tommy Lee Jones) as he realizes Boris the Animal, the intergalactic criminal he put in prison over 40 years ago, has escaped during a spaceship crash in New York City. As K regrets not killing Boris when he had the chance, his partner, Agent J (portrayed by Will Smith), is the only one who notices he has vanished. Agent O (played by Emma Thompson), the Chief in charge of the Men in Black, realizes there has been a fracture in the space-time continuum, and sends J back to 1969 to save K’s life. J makes contact with the younger version of K (portrayed by Josh Brolin), and convinces him that they must work together in order to stop Boris from harming Earth. Working together, the two agents meet prescient alien Griffin (played by Michael Stuhlbarg), who tells them to set up the ArcNet shield, which will protect Earth from an invasion by Boris’ species and rendered them extinct. While Smith and Jones have proved their compatibility in the first two installments of the ‘Men in Black’ series, the former also had an amusing working relationship with Brolin as well. Brolin infused the younger version of Agent K with unexpected but welcomed humor, and balanced J’s feelings of self-importance and righteousness with naivety and innocence. Sending J back in time to see K in his early years with the Men in Black helped him realize that there’s more to his life than just fighting aliens; understanding his partner’s emotions and motivations is also important in helping him survive. Stuhlbarg was also another entertaining, witty addition to the cast of ‘Men in Black 3,’ as he often brought physical and unintended humor to the story as Griffin. While Griffin serves as a secondary protagonist to J and the younger K, he often brings much-needed comic relief to the more serious and sentimental interactions between the two agents. Despite being an alien, he also wasn’t afraid to remind the two of the most important aspects of humanity, including being honest and doing the morally correct thing in order to achieve their goals. To continue reading this review, please click here.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Woman in Black DVD Review

'The Woman in Black' Examiner DVD Review, Written by: Karen Benardello Creating an effective horror movie that features an in-depth plot-line and detailed character backgrounds, frightening physical and emotional scares and visually stunning sets can be a monumental challenge for many directors, as they may not have the time and/or resources to include all of these important elements. ‘The Woman in Black,’ which is now available to rent on DVD at select Long Island Redbox locations, unfortunately fails to embody these important aspects. While the film does feature captivating sets and some frightening scares, it doesn’t provide a developed back-story to make it truly memorable. ‘The Woman in Black’ follows young London lawyer Arthur Kipps (played by Daniel Radcliffe), who leaves his sickly son Joseph (portrayed by Misha Handley) to travel to the countryside to settle the legal affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drablow (played by Alisa Khazanova). Upon his arrival in her small village, Arthur discovers that following a series of inexplicable accidents and suicides, parents have began locking their children inside to protect them. While the village’s residents, including Mr. Jerome (portrayed by Tim McMullan), the local agent of Arthur’s firm, have asked him not to go to Alice’s home, Eel Marsh House, he travels there anyway. Arthur is determined to finish going through her paperwork, in an effort to protect his job. He receives help from local landowner Sam Daily (played by Ciaran Hinds), whose young son drowned years before. While at Eel Marsh House, Arthur discovers that Alice’s sister, Jennet Hmfrye (portrayed by Liz White), has returned to the house and village after her death as the menacing title spectre. After seeing her figure, Arthur learns that whenever she makes her presence known, a child is killed, in an effort to avenge the death of her own son, Nathaniel (played by Ashley Foster). Arthur must do whatever it takes to not only save Joseph, but the local children as well, from the woman in black. The bonus features included on the ‘Woman in Black’ DVD offer extensive insight into the making of the horror thriller. The extras include a making-of feature, a short about Radcliffe’s role in the film and an audio commentary by director James Watkins and screenwriter Jane Goldman. To continue reading this review, please click here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Interview: Danny Trejo Talks Ranchero

Some lower-budget films accurately portray the struggles people must over-come in order to succeed in life, as they not only reflect the limitations the characters face, but also the restrictions the filmmakers face. This is certainly true in the drama ‘Ranchero,’ which is now available on DVD. Not only does the lead character, Jesse Torres, must contend with the obstacles he encounters in the crime-ridden streets of his new life, but the production successfully adapted to its smaller budget. ‘Ranchero,’ which was directed by Richard Kaponas, follows Jesse, played by Roger Gutierrez, after the death of his parents. He leaves his childhood cattle ranch for the big city, where he reconnects with his friend Tom McCoy, portrayed by Brian Eric Johnson. Jesse soon finds himself in a neighborhood of drugs and gangs-Tom has become addicted to drugs and is in debt to the local gangs. Jesse finds solace with a local girl, Lil Bit, played by Christina Woods, but as their romance grows, he’s confronted by mobster Capone, portrayed by Danny Trejo, who owns her. Jesse now must make hard choices as he deals with a drug addicted best friend, an angry mobster and gaining his girlfriend’s freedom. Trejo generously took the time to discuss with us over the phone recently why he decided to appear in ‘Ranchero.’ He also spoke about the restrictions the film’s limited budget had on shooting, as compared to his bigger budget movies, including ‘Machete’ and its upcoming sequel ‘Machete Kills.’ The actor also revealed why he decided to reprise his role of Goldberg in the upcoming third installment in the ‘Death Race’ series, ‘Inferno.’ ShockYa (SY): You play the neighborhood mobster, Capone, who owns Jesse’s girlfriend, Lil’ Bit, in ‘Ranchero.’ What was it about the character and the script that convinced you to take on the role? Danny Trejo (DT): Well, I didn’t even know the character. I did this as a favor to a friend of mine, the director-producer’s brother. He asked me if I would do a favor for his younger brother, and I said, of course. So that’s how I got involved in the project. Then I saw the character, and I said, okay, I can do this. I can do this as an act of love for a friend of mine. SY: Speaking of Richard Kaponas, the director, ‘Ranchero’ is his feature film directorial debut. What was your working relationship with Richard like, particularly since this was his first time directing a film? DT: I’ve worked with a lot of first-time directors, in a lot of student films. As long as you nurse them along, they seem to get it right. He knows what he’s doing. He was a little unsure of himself, but he put it together. SY: What were your working relationships with your co-stars like, particularly Roger Gutierrez, who played Jesse, and Christina Woods, who played Lil’ Bit? DT: I make it my job to get along with people. (laughs) It makes the world a lot simpler. SY: ‘Ranchero’ had a limited budget of $900,000. Did that place any kind of limitations on what you could shoot for the film? DT: Well, the limitations were on the production, but they could ask me to do whatever they wanted to in the time they had available. To continue reading this interview, please click here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Warhouse Movie Review

'Warhouse' Shockya Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello Director: Luke Massey (’500 Miles North’) Starring: Joseph Morgan (TV’s ‘The Vampire Diaries’), Matt Ryan (TV’s ‘Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior’) and William Troughton With the increase in popularity of the torture-porn sub-genre and continuous horror remakes over the past decade, few new films in the genre have provided original ideas or have left a lasting emotional effect on viewers. But the new horror thriller ‘Warhouse,’ which premiered at the Cannes Market on Sunday, finally provides a much-needed psychological take on the genre. The film questions a man’s humanity and sanity after being imprisoned and forced to kill in order to survive. ‘Warhouse’ follows Royal Marine A.J. Budd (played by Joseph Morgan), as he awakens in a mysterious house and is forced to fight for his life every day against inhuman opponents. In order to stay alive, A.J. must kill his opponents inside his unchanging prison, from which he is unable to escape. As days turn into years, the isolation and violence threaten his soul. The only hope A.J. has to stay alive lies in the journals of a former prisoner of the warhouse, World War I officer Lieutenant Edward Sterling (portrayed by Matt Ryan). Behind a secret wall, A.J. discovers the journals, which serve as a mentor to the young marine and help keep him alive. A.J. wonders what happened to Edward, as the endless killing leads him into taking terrible measures. Morgan was well-cast in the role of A.J., as he convincingly showcased the character’s deteriorating emotional and mental state over the course of the film. While A.J. spends most of ‘Warhouse’ alone, and there is minimal dialogue, Morgan initially presents his character as strong and determined to find a way to win back his freedom. But as the years pass without any hope or chance of escape, A.J.’s only solace is in the journals left behind by Edward. Morgan perfectly balanced the question of what happened to Edward and the slight hope that he was able to escape with the realization that there’s little chance that he’ll be freed from his prison. To continue reading this review, please visit Shockya.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Movie Review

'What to Expect When You’re Expecting' Shockya.com Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello Director: Kirk Jones (‘Everybody’s Fine’) Starring: Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chace Crawford (TV’s ‘Gossip Girl’), Brooklyn Decker (‘Just Go With It’), Anna Kendrick (‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1’), Matthew Morrison (TV’s ‘Glee’), Dennis Quaid, Chris Rock and Joe Manganiello (TV’s ‘True Blood’) Popular and successful books are often known for making uninspired, terrible film adaptations. The latest book to receive an inferior movie adaptation is the pregnancy guide ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting.’ While the book is known for providing countless expectant mothers with helpful advice over the last 25 years, the new romantic comedy features far too many stereotypical characters and underdeveloped storylines. ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ follows several couples preparing for the difficulties of pending parenthood. TV fitness guru Jules (Cameron Diaz) and reality television dance show star Evan (Matthew Morrison) are happy to be starting a family, but soon realize that having a child doesn’t complement their celebrity lifestyle. Author and advocate Wendy (Elizabeth Banks) gets a dose of her militant mothering advice when pregnancy hormones overtake her body. Her husband, Gary (Ben Falcone), struggles with his competitive father, (Dennis Quaid), and his much younger wife, Skyler (Brooklyn Decker), who’s pregnant with twins. Photographer Holly (Jennifer Lopez) is ready to travel around the world to adopt a child, but her husband, Alex (Rodrigo Santoro), isn’t as prepared. He attends a dude’s support group with other new fathers in order to get ready. Meanwhile, rival food truck chefs Rosie (Anna Kendrick) and Marco (Chace Crawford) surprisingly hook-up, resulting in an unexpected pregnancy before their first date. Director Kirk Jones’ romantic comedy, like many ensemble films, unfortunately features so many story-lines in an effort to showcase the difficulties of pending and new parenthood that none of the characters are fully developed. Based on the novel of the same name by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ also set out to provide an insight into the various ways people deal with pregnancy, but the characters ultimately come off as being selfish and only concerned with how their lives will be affected by their children. Jules and Wendy, for example, have been so defined by their careers that when they become pregnant with their respective first child, both appear as only being concerned with the changes in their bodies. They also both have take-charge attitudes, and refuse to truly be open to ideas by their partners. To continue reading this review, please click here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Crooked Arrows Movie Review

'Crooked Arrows' Shockya.com Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello Director: Steve Rash Starring: Brandon Routh (‘Superman Returns’), Gil Birmingham (‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1′) and Crystal Allen (‘Anacondas III’) Football, baseball and basketball are all popular sports in the United States that unite players and fans alike, but one sport that has been played across America for thousands of years that hasn’t received as much recognition is lacrosse. The new drama ‘Crooked Arrows’ aims to bring lacrosse and Native Americans, neither of which have received tremendous attention in films, to the attention of sports fans and people looking for diversity in movies alike. Despite some common sports film cliches, the movie proves that Native Americans deserve more attention in the sports and film industries. ‘Crooked Arrows’ follows mixed-blood Native American Joe Logan (played by Brandon Routh), who is looking to modernize his reservation’s casino by expanding on the land of his ancestors. In order to be given the land from the tribal council, Joe must prove himself to his traditionalist father Ben (portrayed by Gil Birmingham), who is also the Tribal Chairman. He will only grant his son’s request on the condition that he coaches the high school’s struggling high school lacrosse team, which competes against the better trained players of the Prep School league. Joe reluctantly accepts his father’s condition in order to save his job. But he soon realizes the challenge will require him to become a true leader, much like he was when he was a star lacrosse player himself in high school. With the help of his sister, Nadie (played by Chelsea Ricketts), who is on the team; his high school girlfriend, Julie Gifford (portrayed by Crystal Allen), who is now a teacher at the school; and his grandmother, Joe helps restore pride to the team. ‘Crooked Arrows’ deserves credit for focusing on the teamwork and plays needed to succeed in lacrosse, as opposed to more mainstream American sports. Unfortunately, despite the good intentions of screenwriters Brad Riddell and Todd Baird, the two created a cliched coach who doesn’t initially care about the team, and only sees training the athletes as a means to get what he wants. Joe was a respected player himself in high school, but no longer appreciates the game; he is resentful that his father ordered him to work with the team, just to be given the land for the casino. To continue reading this review, please click here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Dictator Movie Review

'The Dictator' Shockya.com Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello Director: Larry Charles Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Farris and Ben Kingsley Actors who have found fame and controversy with a film filled with comedic shock value and offensive stereotypes can have difficulty finding other movies that truly showcase their talent. In the case of Sacha Baron Cohen, who plays the title character in the new comedy ‘The Dictator,’ the actor created another character who regularly finds himself in outrageous scandals, due to his beliefs. While Baron Cohen couldn’t fully recapture Borat’s offensive behavior, ‘The Dictator’ still features his signature, confrontational stereotypes. ‘The Dictator’ follows Admiral General Aladeen (played by Cohen), who rules the anti-democratic country of the North African Republic of Wadiya. Aladeen intends to develop nuclear weapons to use on his enemies. After the United Nations Security Council announces its intentions to intervene in the country with military force, Aladeen travels to the UN Headquaraters in New York City to address its concerns. During his time in New York, he’s kidnapped by a hitman (portrayed by John C. Reilly), who was hired by his traitorous uncle Tamir (played by Ben Kingsley). Tamir plans on replacing Aladeen with a political decoy, who he can manipulate into publicly democratizing Wadiya and open the country’s oil reserves for business. With the help of activist Zoe (portrayed by Anna Farris), who offers Aladeen a job in her grocery store, he’s able to gain access into the UN headquarters, as she’s catering the televised event of the signing of the democracy papers. In the process, Aladeen starts to genuinely love Zoe, who starts to influence his ideas on politics. Baron Cohen, who co-wrote ‘The Dictator,’ his first fully scripted film, succeeded in once again creating a character whose ignorance brought comedic shock value to several sensitive subjects. Some of the jokes were extremely repetitive of ‘Borat,’ including objectifying women as prostitutes and criticizing minorities for their looks and beliefs; however, the actor-writer wasn’t afraid to once again amusingly feature attacks on all races and their biggest stereotypes. To continue reading this review, please click here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Virginia Movie Review

'Virginia' Shockya Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello Director: Dustin Lance Black Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris and Emma Roberts Creating an emotional main character that is also complex and challenging, and who isn’t afraid to go after what they want while also protecting the ones they love, isn’t the easiest task for a filmmaker. When that character is also coping with a mental illness, the task is even harder. But writer Dustin Lance Black successfully did just that with the lead title character in his directorial debut, the new drama ‘Virginia.’ While Virginia heavily relies on her son to take care of her, she also realizes that she needs to give him a better life, away from the small town they’ve lived in their whole lives. ‘Virginia’ follows the title character (played by Jennifer Connelly), a single mother suffering from schizophrenia, who’s struggling to raise her teenage son, Emmett (portrayed by Harrison Gilbertson). While she’s determined to leave her small southern town to move to San Fransisco to be with her sister, Virginia is still carrying on a long time affair with Mormon Sheriff Richard Tipton (played by Ed Harris). Their relationship and future are questioned when Richard decides to run for public office. Due his lasting feelings for Virginia, Richard tries to stop his daughter, Jessie (portrayed by Emma Roberts), from starting a relationship with Emmett. Everyone in the town tries to keep their lives together while keeping their secrets hidden. Black created an emotionally complex character in Virginia, whose mental and psychological shortcomings hinder her independence, but still allow her to strive to achieve her goals and dreams. Through the filmmaker and Connelly’s extensive research into mental illness before they began shooting ‘Virginia,’ they created a captivating woman who knows what she wants in life, including building a financially secure and loving life for her son. While she’s unsure how, and emotionally and financially unable, to make the move to California, she’s determined to make a promising life for him, including finding someone who could love him the way he’s loved her his entire life. To continue reading this review, please click here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Road Movie Review

'The Road' Shockya.com Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello Director: Yam Laranas (‘The Echo,’ ‘Patient X’) Starring: TJ Trinidad, Barbie Forteza, Derrick Monasterio, Lexi Fernandez, Rhian Ramos and Louise delos Reyes Foreign language films with subtitles often turn prospective viewers away, as many people don’t have the patience to read what’s going on throughout the entire movie. But some foreign movies not only feature intriguing locations and sets, but enough emotional back-stories to captivate audiences worldwide. The new Filipino horror crime drama ‘The Road’ is one such film, as it entertainingly balances the unique motivations of a ruthless killer, the futile attempts by his victims to escape and an interesting abandoned road and house that largely influence the murders. ‘The Road’ follows police officer Luis (played by TJ Trinidad) as he hopes to impress his superiors after winning a medal. After three teenagers, including Ella (portrayed by Barbie Forteza), her brother Brian (played by Derrick Monasterio) and their friend Janine (portrayed by Lexi Fernandez), vanish while driving on an infamous abandoned road, Luis begins looking into their disappearance. The road the three teens were driving on is the same road where two sisters, Laura (played by Rhian Ramos) and Joy (portrayed by Louise delos Reyes), vanished from 12 years ago. Luis and his fellow investigators are drawn into the road’s gruesome past, which includes abduction and murders that have spanned over the past 20 years. The horror crime drama, which is considered to be the first Filipino film to be commercially distributed in the United States in 50 mainstream theaters nationwide, features an intriguing premise by co-writer and director Yam Laranas. ‘The Road’ elaborately and intriguingly connects and interweaves two different murder cases, the first of which has almost been forgotten by the police department since it occurred 12 years ago. Laranas focuses heavily on the actions of the teen victims, and their clever attempts to escape their elusive pursuer, to little avail. While the filmmaker includes interesting murders in the movie, including the killer’s seeming obsession with strangling his victims, he perfectly balances the killings with the psychological trauma the teens are experiencing as they’re being tormented. To continue reading this review, please visit Shockya.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Interview: Jason Winn Talks The Fat Boy Chronicles

People who are constantly struggling to lose weight can face cruel ridicule by their peers, particularly younger teens who are still learning to adjust to middle school and high school. The negative emotional effects bullying has on younger teens can be psychologically damaging, but the film industry has been teaching them recently that they’re not alone, and there are people who care about them. First time feature film director Jason Winn’s new drama ‘The Fat Boy Chronicles,’ which is based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Diane Lang and Michael Buchanan, follows 14-year-old Jimmy Winterpock, played by Christopher Rivera. Jimmy, who weighs 187 pounds, is often bullied by his classmates. Life for him outside the comfort of his home and church is difficult, as the taunts of his classmates while in school and during sports make him feel humiliated. But he remains positive by focusing on his goals of losing weight and wining the girl of his dreams. Winn generously took the time to chat over the phone what motivated him to adapt Jimmy’s story for the screen. The director also discussed, among other things, what the casting process for Jimmy was like, and how the character reflects the constant struggles bullied teens live with every day. Written by: Karen Benardello ShockYa (SY): You directed the new drama ‘The Fat Boy Chronicles,’ which is based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Diane Lang and Michael Buchanan. What was your motivation in adapting the story of the main character, Jimmy Winterpock, into a film? How much knowledge did you have of the book before you began shooting? Jason Win (JW): Well, I was able to read the manuscript before the book was actually published. So I was always drawn to the character of Jimmy Winterpock, and the things that he was doing. Having been a teenager once myself, I could relate to the situations that he was in. As far as my motivations in making the film, it was important to me to make a film that would resonate with parents and kids, and wouldn’t talk down to kids. It would talk to them on their level. We wanted to show what it was really like to go to high school, and how it can be mean and wonderful, but we didn’t want to do it in a caricature way; we wanted to make it real. Hopefully that came across. SY: Diane and Michael also wrote the screenplay for the film. What was your working relationship with them like as you were shooting ‘The Fat Boy Chronicles?’ JW: It was great. Mike and Diane wrote an amazing script, and they turned it over to me whole-heartedly. They allowed me to take the script and all of its wonderful aspects, and add all the things that needed to be added, in order to make it a great film. They were very collaborative. I would say, we don’t have time to shoot this, so we’ve got to get this emotion across in a short period of time. You’ve got to write a scene that kind of looks like this, and they would go off on set and write it. It was done very quickly. It was a constant, well-oiled machine, basically, when we were in production. To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Interview: Travis Wall Talks All The Right Moves and Step Up: Revolution

Two of the world’s most famous choreographers and directors, Rob Marshall and Bob Fosse, have garnered widespread attention for their contributions to dance and films. Travis Wall, an up-and-coming choreographer, is following in their footsteps, and showcasing his talents with several upcoming television and film projects. Wall is set to appear in the upcoming summer Oxygen docu-series ‘All The Right Moves,’ alongside his three friends and roommates, including Teddy Forance, a choreographer with Cirque du Soleil; Nic Lazzarini, the first season winner of the hit FOX reality competition ‘So You Think You Can Dance;’ and Kyle Robinson. The show chronicles the four as they launch a dance company, Shaping Sound. Experienced in jazz, lyrical and contemporary dance, Wall also choreographed all of the contemporary dance numbers in this summer’s ‘Step Up: Revolution.’ Wall, who also appeared as a contestant on the second season of ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ will be returning for the show’s upcoming ninth season, as a resident choreographer. Wall, who has also choreographed for the 82nd Academy Awards and the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), took the time recently to talk with us over the phone about his upcoming projects. The choreographer discussed, among other things, why he decided to chronicle the launch of Shaping Sound on ‘All The Right Moves,’ what it was like working with the cast of ‘Step Up: Revolution’ and why he decided to return to ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ as a choreographer. Written by: Karen Benardello ShockYa (SY): You’re set to appear in Oxygen’s new docu-series ‘All The Right Moves,’ which follows you as launch your dance company, Shaping Sound. What was your motivation in chronicling the start of Shaping Sound on a television series? Travis Wall (TW): It pretty much chronicles the lives of the four guys who live in the house. It’s me and my best friends, and we started a dance company together. It’s really about what it takes to put on a show, and what it takes to be a choreographer in the industry, especially since we’re young choreographers. I’m more established as a choreographer, but my friends are dancers who are branching out to become choreographers. It also exposes our personal careers and our persona lives. It’s interesting, I didn’t know how much it was going to take to actually put into starting a dance company. I just wanted to dance with my best friends, but there was a lot of business stuff that I wasn’t prepared for. It’s been a huge journey. SY: Why did you and your roommates decide to launch Shaping Sound? Did you all always have a desire to be a part of a dance company? TW: Well, I always wanted a dance company, I just didn’t know know when it was actually going to happen. It kind of made sense, we were all kind of working together. I was getting hired for a lot of jobs, and because of all these things, we said, we should really start a dance company. We wanted to create opportunities for our friends to dance. There aren’t many opportunities to dance in what we do, which is contemporary. We wanted to make it as commercial as possible, and open up the opportunity to perform in theaters and on stage and television. SY: How did ‘All The Right Moves’ get started-did you approach Oxygen with the idea, or did the network approach you with the idea for the show? TW: I had a producer come up to me and ask me if I wanted my own reality show. I thought it would be really cool to chronicle my life on ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’ But I said, I don’t know how entertaining I would be by myself, but you should definitely meet me and my best friends. I said, we have an idea to start a dance company, and they said, that’s awesome. So we were picked up by a production company, and met with a bunch of networks. Oxygen was the network we finally chose to go with. To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Interview: Domiziano Arcangeli Talks Waiting for Dracula and Career

Not many contemporary actors have the privilege of saying they were screen tested by Academy Award-winning director Federico Fellini in Rome’s Cinecitta Studios. But Italian actor-producer-writer-director Domiziano Arcangeli, whose career was launched in the 1980s, was not only screen tested by the famed filmmaker, but also appeared in his Oscar-winning movie ‘Intervisa.’ Since his experiences with Fellini, Arcangeli has appeared in countless Italian and American films, television series and plays. Recently, he’s become noted for working in cult and genre horror films, particularly after founding his own production company in 2008, Empire Films. Arcangeli’s upcoming projects include Lionsgate’s upcoming film ‘The Ghostmaker,’ which was directed by Mauro Borelli and is set to be released theatrically in the fall. Arcangeli will also appear in a movie he’s producing, ‘Frankenstein Rising,’ which was directed by Eric Swelstad. Arcangeli recently took the time to discus with us, among other things, why he enjoys acting in horror films. He also spoke about what it’s like producing and directing movies he appears in, including the upcoming ‘Waiting for Dracula.’ Written by: Karen Benardello ShockYa (SY): You have made a name for yourself acting in the horror genre, in such films as ‘Daughter of Fear’ and ‘Frankenstein Rising.’ What it is about the genre that you enjoy so much? Domiziano Arcangeli (DA): I have always really loved cult films and art films; I’m not sure why, I guess it’s just personal taste. I love to be truly surprised or challenged, and when you see things that you could only ‘experience’ in a nightmare. I’m very fond of psychological twists. As a viewer, my favorite experience is when a very celebrated director, like Roman Polanski, Stanley Kubrick or Lars von Trier makes a horror film-then I’m really ecstatic. In fact, I love ‘Rosemary’s baby’ and ‘The Tenant,’ for example. When I started acting in Europe in 1980, at about 11, the genre was strong. I had started making more of that type of art film, or more personal motion pictures. (Federico Fellini called me when he saw me on the cover of a magazine, in a portrait by Helmut Newton in Berlin, and directed my first screen test at the legendary Cinecitta studios! I eventually even got to work with him as well, in the film ‘Intervista,’ with people like Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg and Nastassja Kinski.) Back then, the giallos the horrors, the zombies, and all other clones, were huge. They’d make so many of them, one could not survive without making horror! Even against my agents’ opinion, who were fearing type casting, I did start accepting offer after offer. I just wanted to work, wanted to be independent. Back then, the industry was golden: great pay checks, and five or six weeks all paid up in first class, in places like Rio de Janeiro, the Philippines, Thailand, Morocco, you name it. I travelled the world with some of those movies back then, and loved most of those crazy shoots. Once you start making them, then you keep on making them over and over. Even when I decided to settle in L.A. (I have a U.S. and an Italian passport, and traveled all my life until then), back in 2000, I was immediately hired for a couple of years, for a TV drama series, the edgy ‘Zalman King’s Chromium Blue’ for Showtime networks (between 2001 and 2003), and then for some more TV, at first. But, at some point, obviously, people knew I had been in horror and had actually worked with quite a few of those euro masters of B exploitation flicks that had just became so hot, being rediscovered by Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth and many others. All of a sudden, so many films, I thought I would never see anymore, were getting instead a new life, re-mastered and re-presented uncut and in glorious widescreen on DVD. So many horror directors here in L.A. noticed, and they started calling me again. Before I even knew it, I had done over a dozen already. SY: You have served as a producer on several of the films that you have starred in, including ‘The Brides of Sodom’ and ‘The Ghostmaker.’ Why do you regularly produce films that you also act in? DA: Producing gives you a lot of stress, especially these days, with the markets being so iffy. However, producing gives also great freedom. I think it’s almost a natural process. Someone who’s been raised making pictures, after so many years, cannot just keep waiting on your agents calling for a job. Sometimes, even when you book a good role as an actor, you feel so marginal in a way. I know, it may sound strange to people, but, it is true. We go in for a read with the director/producers, if we book the job, we get a script, we do fittings, before we even know it, we are on set working over a few 14 hours a day, and then, they tell you you’re done. Everything has got to happen all over again. At some point, I just wanted more control, especially over the type of material, and even over the role i was going to play. I wanted to be involved in the creation of a movie from the get go, since, at this point, after so many years, i consider myself a filmmaker of sort, and not just an actor. I believe that there’s so much time you can put up with only acting in films. At one point, especially if you are so fond, and passionate of the job, as i have always been, you want more. I’ve executive produced 12 films with my company empire Films, Inc. in about four years. At times, I couldn’t even sleep at night. But now, I am very happy to know that, for example, ‘The Ghostmaker’ will come out in September through Lionsgate and theatrically all over Europe. ‘The Brides of Sodom’ should open in July, and be distributed by Media-Blasters. Despite all the efforts, and hyperventilations, I must say that these are personal achievement that I am really proud of. To continue reading this interview, please visit Shockya.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Perfect Family Movie Review

The Perfect Family Shockya.com Movie Review, Written by: Karen Benardello Director: Anne Renton (‘Love Is Short’) Starring: Kathleen Turner (‘Peggy Sue Got Married,’ TV’s ‘Friends’), Emily Deschanel and Jason Ritter People at times can become so caught up in appearing successful in their personal and professional lives to the outside world that they often neglect to strongly evaluate the differences and imperfections plaguing their families. It can take even the most seemingly perfect event that their families’ opinions greatly differ on to force them to truly acknowledge and embrace their relatives’ true personalities. Such is the case with the main character, Eileen Cleary, in first-time feature film director Anne Renton’s new comedy-drama ‘The Perfect Family.’ Eileen begins to change her opinions on all areas of life after learning her family’s modern beliefs don’t always match her more conservative ideals. ‘The Perfect Family’ follows Eileen (played by Kathleen Turner), the ultimate Catholic suburban supermom, as her life becomes even more noteworthy when she’s nominated for the coveted Catholic Woman of the Year Award at her local parish. While Eileen feels like she finally has everything she’s ever wanted, the last test she must pass in order to receive the award is introducing her dysfunctional family to the church board. Eileen must contend with the misgivings about her family that are about to come to light after years of being kept secret. Eileen must learn to cope with her gay daughter, Shannon (portrayed by Emily Deschanel), preparing to marry her partner and have a child. Her unhappily married son, Frank Jr. (played by Jason Ritter), is having an affair with the local manicurist. Eileen’s husband, Frank (portrayed by Michael McGrady), is a recovering alcoholic, and their marriage is falling apart. When Eileen decides to take action to make her family appear perfect, she begins to question what truly makes a family impeccable-how it looks on the outside, or how it feels on the inside. The Academy Award-nominated Turner gave another a notable performance as Eileen, providing a great depth and relatability to her character who strived to embody the roles of the ideal mother, wife and community leader. Turner initially portrayed the character as being devoted to her church and taking whatever means necessary to fulfill her obligations as the quintessential woman dedicated to her familial duties. At first, she’s initially hesitant to fully embrace, let alone acknowledge, the life paths her children and husband have decided to embark on. To continue reading this review, please visit Shockya.