Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of film reviews and celebrity interviews for a wide variety of online and print outlets. He has covered red carpet premieres and Comic-Con events for major films and independent releases.
Drawing a record-setting 80,000 attendees, the 37th annual Natural Products Expo West & Engredea has grown to become the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products event.
Over 3,100 exhibiting companies, including more than 500 first-time exhibitors showcased their products during the five-day show from March 9-13 at the Anaheim Convention Center. The event not only filled two and a half floors of the Convention Center, but also spilled over into the Anaheim Marriott Hotel for the first time.
First released in theaters over 33 years ago, TheNever-Ending Story still has a huge following. Directed by Wolfgang Peterson, the film catapulted its child star Tami Stronach to stardom and became a global hit, earning over $100 million worldwide. Today, Tami’s Paper Canoe Company produces ‘family friendly’ work similar to Never-Ending Story. In this one-on-one interview, Tami fondly recalls her role as the Child-like Empress in her breakout role, and she reveals the many new creative outlets she continues to explore as a talented entertainer.
How did you get the role of the Child Empress in Never Ending Story?
Tami Stronach: I was doing a lot of acting and dancing in local community theaters. I attended an acting school in San Francisco. We were doing various plays in different schools and Anna Gross, the casting agent for Never Ending Story, was in town looking for an actress for the role. Coincidentally, Anna just happened to be friends with my acting teacher at the time. She came into our acting class and asked me if I wanted to audition for the role in this new film. I treated it as any local school audition and had no idea I’d be participating in a major project of this scope.
It sounds like you were already busy doing lots of performance art.
Tami: I loved acting and dancing from very early on. I was always happy in that context. I kind of drowned myself in those activities.
The film has delighted millions of children and parents over the years. Do you still get feedback from your fans?
Tami: I do. I’ll be honest with you, for the longest time, I wasn’t really focusing on the letters and emails. I came to New York as a young person to pursue a career as a dancer. At that time, I didn’t feel that Never Ending Story was something that would give me a leg up in the field I was trying to enter. So I kind of distanced myself from it and focused more on live performance art and dancing. I read the letters back then, but I was a starving artist working 12-hour days, so I didn’t really have time to sit down and write people back. But recently with the birth of my daughter, everything shifted and I founded Paper Canoe Company to create family-oriented content. It brought me back to my roots of family entertainment, which is really what the Never Ending Story was.
Why do you think audiences around the world have responded and continue to respond to Never Ending Story?
Tami: I think it’s the theme of the story. It’s a fun movie and visually beautiful. It has so much whimsy. But beyond that, it’s also kind of a deep film with an urgent message. It shows that through imagination and trusting your heart, there’s the possibility of building better worlds. I think that reality can beat us into submission. We need to trust our imagination, to believe that something new can be created, something that opens a door to new vistas.
So you’re also doing a lot of dancing. What made you segue into that realm of creative expression?
Tami: After Never Ending Story became far more successful than we imagined, being a celebrity at that age was really overwhelming. I never wanted to walk away from performing. It’s in my DNA. But at the time, I didn’t want to choose celebrity as a lifestyle. For me, dance was a way of staying creative without the pitfalls of being a child celebrity. But now as an adult, I see that celebrity can be a wonderfully powerful way to build connections with people. So viewed through that lens, I really have a very different perspective.
So what inspired you to create the Paper Canoe Company? And what can you tell us about the dark comedy, Light?
Tami: With Paper Canoe, I’m putting all the things I’m passionate about under a single umbrella. I had this diverse life that included acting, dancing and singing—even doing a POP album when I was a little older. Now I want to create family content that connects with kids, families and people who loved Never Ending Story, so that parents will have something magical to enrich their kids’ childhood. Last year, we created two theater shows and an album. Among these were the dark comedy called Light, and the folk rock opera, Beanstalk Jack. The joy is that little kids are still at the age where reality and fantasy are still kind of blurred for them.
Can you tell us more about the folk rock opera, Beanstalk Jack?
Tami: It’s the third project created by Paper Canoe and we’ll be developing it into a full theater show. It’s a concert because it tells the story all through music. We’ll be adding some costumes and theatrical elements, so it becomes kind of a concert play. We wanted to take a story that’s so iconic and make it relevant to kids and families today. So we put a bit of spin on the original story. I use my daughter and her friends as sort of a mini focus group to test out if something works or not. Ultimately, I came up with the idea of having Jack defeat the Giant a different way. Our message is that being happy and doing what you love is the ultimate triumph over anything dark.
Will Beanstalk Jack ever be produced as a video for kids and parents to watch at home?
Tami: We’re developing these projects in a variety of ways. Beanstalk Jack is on sale right now on Bandcamp, iTunes, Spotify and others, so you can by the CD. We also want to do some live streaming of upcoming concerts, which we’ll have on our website and available for download. I’m making some music videos for the shows, which will bring my dance background into it.
And what are your plans for Light?
Tami: We’re going to turn it into a graphic novel. I know it will come alive in that medium because the particular world we’ve created lends itself to pictures. We’re thinking about moving ourselves into TV and film, and I think Light would make a great film.
I understand you’re now a big Comic-con fan.
Tami: Attending Comic-con made me realize how really special Never Ending Story was, to have all these people who care so much about this film. So this year, I’m making a point of returning to Comic-con, hugging people, shaking their hands and enjoying this special connection with those who share my love for the film. I now make it a point to answer all my fan mail. I’m connecting with people on Twitter and other social media. It’s kind of a whole new chapter for me and I’m really enjoying it.
Will you be showcasing any of these projects at Comic-con?
Tami: I’ll do interviews. I’m a huge fan of Stranger Things. At the last Comic-con, I got to interview Millie Bobby Brown about being a young actress and we talked about my Paper Canoe projects. So at our booth, we’d like to have the graphic novel, Light and other Paper Canoe projects. I’ve started reading scripts again and I’m looking at coming back into TV. I’m also getting letters of support, urging me to do another movie. It’s not only surprising but humbling.
An enlightening and poignant coming of age documentary, Do You Dream In Color? captures the inspired journeys of four courageous blind teens as they face the challenges and frustrations of living in a sighted world. There’s, Connor 14, who uses echo-location to improve his skateboarding skills so he can join a skateboarding team. Sixteen-year-old Sarah dreams of studying in Portugal, where her mother was born. Read more
Known for Krampus: The Reckoning and Blind People, in The Covenant, Monica Engesser is Sarah Doyle, a troubled woman who returns to her childhood home with her estranged brother Richard (Owen Conway) after the tragic deaths of her husband and daughter. When Sarah begins to experience violent and hostile supernatural phenomena, Richard enlists the aid of a paranormal investigator who confirms that Sarah has become possessed by a powerful demon. Together, the three men fight to save Sarah’s soul. In this one-on-one interview, Engesser reveals what attracted her to the role and the challenges she faced in making this chilling film. Read more
Known for ZK: Elephant’s Graveyard, Speak No Evil and Cut!, Gabrielle Stone is an accomplished actress with an impressive resume of work. In Stray, Stone is Jennifer, a troubled young woman with a disturbing past and a penchant for killing. Penned and helmed by award-winning writer-director Nena Eskridge, Stray follows Jennifer as she struggles to break free from a cycle of violence and seek love and redemption in a small town. In this one-on-one interview, Stone reveals the challenges she faced in bringing a flawed and exceedingly complex character to life. Read more
A skilled filmmaker who focuses on character and emotionally driven stories, Jai Jamison has directed, written and edited a number of captivating films. These include Speak Now, Wheeler, Anthony Samuels and most recently, Tri, which Jamison directed and co-wrote. Read more
Growing up in Australia, Hannah Levien worked extensively in theatre before making her feature debut playing a teenage-runaway in the award-winning Australian film The Horseman. A recipient of the Arts Queensland Professional Development Award, Levien also starred in SyFy’s The Magicians and appeared in the popular TV series, Supernatural (as Calliope). Read more
Narrated by a deep-space captain we all know—Patrick Stewart—Journey To Space reveals in stunning, 4K realism how NASA and other space adventurers are boldly taking on the challenges of interplanetary space travel. Highlighted by extensive interviews with astronauts Chris Ferguson (Commander of the final shuttle mission) and Serena Aunon (a new astronaut chosen for future flights), Journey To Space delivers a breathtaking overview of past space achievements, current projects and future plans, including a number of Mars missions.
Journey To Space underscores how the Space Shuttle program led the way in moving us into the space station era, a critically important step in preparing astronauts for journeys to Mars and beyond. We see astronauts at work and play in the confines of this tubular home circling the globe every 90 minutes. Perhaps not since the film, Gravity, have viewers been treated to some of the most spectacular space footage—including stunning views of Earth and work on the Hubble Space Telescope.
Watching the International Space Station (ISS) being assembled is an awesome visual treat. We see how astronauts learn to live, build and conduct science in space, laying the foundation for the next giant leaps to explore the planets.
Among the major highlights of the film are the many parallel efforts to place humans on Mars. The film explores in fascinating and realistic detail how astronauts will travel, land and live on the Red Planet. We learn the many ways our early Mars pioneers will survive on a lifeless world, the habitats they will build, and the many physical and psychological challenges they will face after years of isolation from Earth.
Also documented in stunning visual detail is Orion, a spacecraft designed to carry humans on long-duration deep space missions throughout the solar system. We learn about Olympus, an inflatable transportation habitat that’s 50-feet in diameter and provides astronauts the work area and living space necessary for long-duration missions. And finally, the Space Launch System (SLS) is presented in detail, showing how its huge rocket will carry spacecraft, Mars landers and ascent vehicles to place astronauts on the surface of Mars.
Journey to Space should inspire a new generation of astronauts to explore space, while reminding us of the accomplishments of the Space Shuttle Program, the ISS and the many unmanned Mars missions.
The increased risks of heart disease and diabetes are among the more common dangers of obesity. Nutritionists, dietitians and have been warning us about being dangerously overweight for decades now. But too many people are still unaware of the other ways obesity can damage their health. Read more
A giant screen experience that re-ignites the magic of Canada’s historic steam age, Rocky Mountain Express centers on the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The film shot in IMAX highlights the nation’s emerging steam technology and the humanity of this enormous project.
To establish a true sense of realism, the documentary was filmed using a helicopter and gyro-stabilized camera. To give viewers a truly intimate experience of steam power, IMAX cameras were also mounted throughout the train. Employing these extraordinary efforts helped capture the journey of Empress (CPR 2816), a steam locomotive built in 1930 and recently restored by the Canadian Pacific Railway.
The film explores the heroic journey in mapping routes through impossibly difficult terrain, then goes on to document the construction of the railroad track. Viewers are treated to the stunning and diverse Canadian landscape via breathtaking views of mountains, valleys and hills, through 5-mile long tunnels and soaring bridges and trestles.
The film also explores the personal pain and struggles of railroad workers, their sacrifices and lost lives as they inched their way through mountains of rock and snow. Animated 3D maps and carefully restored archival images provide insights into the building of this massive 3,000-mile transcontinental railway through some of roughest terrain on Earth.
Filmed with full 15/70 negative, Rocky Mountain Express employs the world’s largest film format. Every bit of this technology is visible on the screen. Breathing life into the steam engines of yesteryear, the film’s sound has been faithfully captured and rendered in six-channel sound. The original musical score by celebrated composer Michel Cusson adds to the emotional ambiance of this era and to the film’s more poignant moments.
You are what you eat. How many times have we heard that from nutritionists and doctors? Research conducted by Loma Linda University notes that there may be a link between what we eat and the prevention of disease. Read more
A surprisingly enjoyable action flick, In Order of Disappearance unites Fargoesque elements with Dirty Harry street justice, piling up bodies faster than snow off a road plow. Hans Petter Moland’s gritty thriller draws on an everyman protagonist to work his way up the crime tree of dirt-bag criminals and sequentially dispense justice with Old Testament ferocity.
After some bottom-of-food chain bad guys rig the death of his son, Ingvar, to look like an overdose, mild mannered Nils Dickman (Stellan Skarsgard) initially takes the blame and nearly offs himself with a rifle. But most viewers know better than to expect a protagonist to die so quickly, which is why it’s no surprise when we learn that Ingvar was murdered. And why the ostensibly docile Nils embarks on “digging two graves” for his son’s murder, uprooting the heretofore-cerebral crime paradigm of Scandinavian cinema. Among the mob soldiers Nils dispenses (with the help of his huge snowplow) is the likeable Strike (Game of Thrones Kristofer Hivju). It’s a bit more than a cameo, and there’s a good-guy-bad-guy camaraderie moment that gives the scene a bit of moral balance.
Nils clearing the Norwegian backwater with a giant yellow snowplow becomes an arresting metaphor for his life, removing obstructions in a physically cold, cruel world. And what better obstruction to remove than a crime family bent on expansion? With tongue-in-cheek tombstone solemnity, Nils’ enemies are dispatched and recorded on black screen—a nice, subtle comedic touch. During a visit to Nils’ estranged brother, Egil (Peter Andersson)—his former “wingman”—we learn that in his misspent youth, Nils picked up a few street survival “talents.” It’s a History of Violence moment that underscores Nils’ ability to dispatch goons with such lean efficiency.
Nils’ nemesis is a young ponytailed crime boss known simply as “the Count” (Pal Sverre Hagen). The second-generation mobster inherited the business from papa, but his hot temper and impatience eventually cause him to underestimate Nils. The Count seems to have his hands full in areas that extend beyond running the family business. A B-story that underscores his “husband/father of the year” persona is the Count’s ongoing fight with his ex-wife (Birgitte Hjort Sorensen) over custody of their son.
Square pegged into crime boss status, the Count is repeatedly outwitted by Nils’ blue-collar tactics. Outmatched by a rival gang of Serbians, he unwittingly responds to “an insult” with the wrong “message.” Doing an admirable job as the Serbian’s avuncular capo di tutt’i capi is “Papa” (Bruno Ganz), a likeable sort and heavy counter weight to the impulsive Count. The final, shell-casing-littered standoff dovetails the Good, the Bad and the Ugly and is as satisfying as a gulp of ice-cold soda after a bucket of salty popcorn.
At the roundtable with writer Beau Smith and Tim Rozon talking about Wynonna Earp. Beau Smith has written for every major comic book publisher, including DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics, Eclipse Comics, Dreamwave Studios and Dark Horse Comics. Tim Rozon, who plays the enigmatic Doc Holliday has appeared in Schitt’s Creek, Crossfire and Being Human. Read more
At the roundtable with Shamier Anderson talking about his role as agent Xavier Dolls in the popular sci-fi series Wynonna Earp. A member of the US Marshals’ Black Badge division, Dolls comes to Purgatory to investigate the Revenant problem, reaching out to Wynonna Earp and offering her a place in the division. Read more