Alex Kecskes

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.

At the roundtable with “Messengers” stars Shantel VanSanten and Craig Frank

Messengers' stars Shantel VanSanten and Craig Frank
Messengers’ stars Shantel VanSanten and Craig Frank

Messengers’ stars Shantel VanSanten and Craig Frank talk about the compelling  new series, which begins when a mysterious object crashes on earth and a group of unconnected strangers die from an energy pulse it emits.  The selected Messengers re-awaken to find out that they must work together and unite their various new powers to prevent the impending Apocalypse. Messengers premieres on Friday, April 17 at 9pm on the CW channel. Click Messengers for brief video.

 

Interview with STARRY EYES’ Alex Essoe

Alex Essoe
Alex Essoe

Born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, actress/writer Alex Essoe’s diverse body of work includes such films and TV series as Free to Go, Passion Play, House of Lies and Reaper. In Starry Eyes, Esso plays Sarah Walker, a young woman determined to make it as an actress in Hollywood. Stuck in a dead-end day job as a waitress, enduring petty friendships, and going on endless casting calls, Sarah submits to a series of strange auditions. When she finally lands the role in a new film from a mysterious production company, she undergoes a bizarre transformation that changes her into something beautiful…and altogether terrifying. In this one-on-one interview, Esso talks about her role and the challenges she faced in bringing Sarah’s character to life.

What attracted you to the role of Sarah?

Alex Essoe: I totally fell in love with Sarah’s vulnerability and fragility. And how pure her intentions are. She’s so unbelievably hard on herself, which comes from a place of truly loving what she does. The tragic flaw of Sarah is that looks for a sense of identity outside of herself, which ultimately leads to her downfall. It broke my heart when I read the script.

Alex Essoe
Alex Essoe

Did you audition for the role? What was that like?

AE: It was me and about 30 other girls. After an audition, I try to forget about it or you can drive yourself crazy. I didn’t hear anything for nearly four months, then I got a callback. They sent me the script, and after I read it, I told myself, I need to do everything I can do get this part. I totally fell in love with the story. So I did the callback, and after another four months, I got a call to have coffee with director Dennis (Widmyer) and we talked for about an hour about film trivia and Zulawski’s Possession, which is one of my favorite all-time horror movies. And lucky for me, my reference to Possession prompted Dennis to exclaim, “that’s actually what this film is influenced by.”

Alex Essoe
Alex Essoe

You’ve been on a few casting calls. Were there things you drew from them for this role?

AE: One thing I loved about Sarah’s experience early on in the film is how universal it is. Every actor has to deal with rejection and self-doubts. I don’t know a single actor, who after an audition, hasn’t said, “I didn’t do that right. I should have done this and made that choice.” You drive yourself crazy doing that. So, yeah, the years of casting calls, rejections and picking yourself back up—they reflect Sarah’s inner monologue, as she lives and dies by whether she’s accepted by the industry.

What was the most challenging part of bringing Sarah’s complex character to life?

AE: I would say finding what her boundaries were. Like most people, I have very definite boundaries. There are certain lines that I’m simply not interested in crossing. Sarah had to find a way to justify certain choices she made. Were I this person and had I lived this kind of life, I’d have to find all the things that surmount my personal boundaries. You have to find a way to justify everything and not judge. You can’t ever judge any character you play, otherwise, you really can’t honor them.

Poster--Starry Eyes
Poster–Starry Eyes

Do you have a favorite scene?

AE: The ending was a delight to shoot. The climax at the house was really fun. And the actors I worked with were great. Fabianne (Therese) especially, because I kill her like three times. And the kitchen was just a massacre.

How did you prepare for the physical brutality of the role? Your killing scenes were pretty intense.

AE: When you’re the antagonist and doling out punishment, you can’t really think of it as punishment or something that would horrify you. You have to regard it as work. A great example is Marathon Man where Laurence Olivier is torturing Dustin Hoffman. Olivier said that during that scene, he imagined himself pruning his roses at home. So that’s what I used during some of those violent scenes. Obviously the choices for Sarah were different, since she’s in a different headspace and completely broken down at that point.

What went through your mind when you read the script—with Sarah covered in mud and blood, and her face all bruised.

AE: Oh, bring it on. I couldn’t wait to get started. And the more crazy stuff they added, I said, “yes, more.” The priority is honoring the story.

Starry Eyes
Starry Eyes

Did you really shave your head for the final scene?

AE: No, no, no. I don’t know if I’m at that point in my career where I can pull a Natalie Portman and get away with it. We had the best effects team headed by this talented man named Hugo. He was a genius. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Once he put that bald cap on, it was the creepiest thing ever. Maybe in the future, I’ll shave my head. It’s not such a bad look for me.

What message do you think the film sends to aspiring young actresses?

AE: I hope that it sends the message that there are no real rules when it comes to making your way in this industry. Don’t ever let anyone else try and tell you who you really are. You have to know who you are or other people are going to tell you who you are.

 

 

Maleficent Unites Live Action with Animation in a Classic Tale

Angelina Jolie in Maleficent
Angelina Jolie is Maleficent

Based on the story of “Sleeping Beauty,” Maleficent begins with the backstory of a young fairy (Isobelle Molloy), who is charged with guarding some very beautiful and pristine enchanted woods. When young Maleficent falls for farmhand Stefan (Michael Higgins), their innocent love is yanked apart by her duty to protect her woods and by Stefan’s political ambitions.

Angelina Jolie casts a spell in Maleficent
Angelina Jolie casts a spell in Maleficent

When Stefan betrays Maleficent and strips her of a key power to ensure his rise to King, hell hath no fury like a broken hearted, vengeful sorceress now deliciously played by Angelina Jolie. An older Stefan (Sharlto Copley) and Maleficent wage a battle that ends in a stalemate. When the dust settles, Maleficent crashes the christening of Stefan’s daughter, Aurora and casts an evil spell on her: she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and drift into a near-death slumber until awakened by true love’s kiss. Determined to save his daughter, Stefan destroys all spinning wheels in the kingdom and sequesters her in a wooded cabin to be raised by three little fairies.

Three fairies
Three fairies

Maleficent’s heart softens as she begins to bond with Aurora (Elle Fanning). And we’re led to believe that this relationship might stop the war that seems inevitable between humans and the creatures in Maleficent’s mystical moors. When Maleficent fails to undo Aurora’s deep-sleep spell, the three fairies drag in a young prince to kiss her. But this fails as well. Maleficent tries again, this time entering the King’s heavily guarded castle, only to be surrounded by the King’s men who trap her and nearly destroy her. But all is not lost and Aurora comes to her rescue, giving Maleficent what she needs to prevail.

Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie

Helmed by first timer and multi-Oscar-winning visual effects and production designer Robert Stromberg (Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Oz the Great and Powerful, Life of Pi), Maleficent hits all the right notes in a film of this genre. Adding life to flying fairies, magical plants, and imposing tree warriors calls for lots of CGI to convey a world dominated by the mystical and Medieval.

Aurora with flying moors creature
Aurora with flying moors creature

Created for a mixed adult/teen/child audience, Maleficent walks a fine line to appease a large segment of moviegoers. The messaging is simple: forests and nature’s creature are good, betrayal and worldly ambition are bad, and true love’s kiss need no longer be defined as prince and princess.

Aurora and her prince
Aurora and her prince

The Blu-Ray DVD set comes with an “extras” DVD, which features deleted scenes, some behind the scenes clips, and interviews with some of the actors and crew. These extras are short but interesting, especially if you haven’t seen them in the movie promos.

 

SOA Heads Full Throttle into Season 7

SOA Wikipedia
SOA (Wikipedia)

Sons of Anarchy’s Season 6 delivered what it had to, putting the Men of Mayhem in constant jeopardy with unpredictable plot twists, satisfying paybacks, and the violent demise of two major characters.

While we expected Tara (Maggie Siff) and Gemma (Katey Sagal) to eventually settle their scores, the brutal rage that Gemma dispensed in Tara’s demise was a surprise. Tara had been igniting that fuse repeatedly since the season began, then burning all her bridges along the way. While slowly morphing into another Gemma, the transition was too little, too late to give Tara the foresight she needed to stay clear of her executioner. Clearly, Gemma’s actions will be hard to forgive, pushing her into the unsympathetic character column. It will be interesting to see the mea culpas the writers put her through to gain some semblance of contrition for her tragically misguided final act in Season 6.

We’ll miss the tug of war between Tara and Jax, although we knew their relationship was doomed from the start. While Tara gave Jax the center he needed to at least try to “fly right,” Tara’s demise on the heels of Opie’s brutal death will surely take Jax in the “Clay” direction as Season 7 unfolds.

The Shakespearean feud between Clay (Ron Perlman) Jax (Charlie Hunnam) came to a head with predictably somber overtones as Jax executed his “father,” underscoring the episode’s suggestively icy Aon Rud Persanta title.Jax’s offing of Gaalan (Timothy V. Murphy) and his stateside lackeys was also expected, as the two clearly despised each other.

Jax (Charlie Hunnam)  & Gemma (Katey Sagal)
Jax (Charlie Hunnam) & Gemma (Katey Sagal)

Gaining increasing sympathy and likeability is Nero (Jimmy Smits). Teaming up with SAMCRO was good news-bad news for Nero, nose-diving his once lucrative semi-legit enterprise while providing an emotional uplift in a relationship he needed with Gemma. Will he go to the dark side with the MAYANS? Or will Gemma and the love for his son continue to pull him toward redemption?

One of the more interesting and troubled characters is Juice (Theo Rossi). Having snuffed out the life of a woman with a pillow, then killing Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) to save Gemma for Tara’s murder, Juice will have some serious issues to work through.

Guest stars lit up SOA, adding ferocity, tension and smart confrontations that were a delight to watch. Donal Logue’s loose canon lawman Lee Toric pulled out all the stops in avenging his sister’s murder. CCH Pounder’s DA Patterson was calculating and cool, punctuated by a mano a mano sit down with Jax to hash out a deal that would eventually fall apart. And then there’s Walton Goggins, whose Venus Van Dam rivaled the best performance we’ve seen since To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar.

What will Season 7 reveal? Will Gemma escape Jax’s wrath? Will SAMCRO get out of the gun running business and go “legit”? Will Jax survive prison? Will SAMCRO survive? The Season 7 premier is just days away.

 

 

Interview with LEPRECHAUN: ORIGINS Director Zach Lipovsky

Zach Lipovsky
Director Zach Lipovsky
Director Zach Lipovsky

The film franchise that’s delighted a growing fan base over the years—Leprechaun—was rebooted to Leprechaun: Origins. Backpacking through the lush Irish countryside, two unsuspecting young couples discover a town’s chilling secret. Ben (Andrew Dunbar), Sophie (Stephanie Bennett), David (Brendan Fletcher) and Jeni (Melissa Roxburgh) quickly discover the idyllic land is not what it appears to be when the town’s residents offer the hikers an old cabin at the edge of the woods. Soon, the friends find that one of Ireland’s most famous legends is a terrifying reality. In this roundtable interview, director Zach Lipovsky reveals how he approached this rendition of the classic horror tale to make it fresh, current and unique. Read more

Interview with TV writer/producer Jane Espenson

Jane Espenson
Jane Espenson
Jane Espenson (photo by Alex A. Kecskes)

A prolific and highly creative writer, Jane Espenson has worked on both situation comedies and serial dramas. She was writer/producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and shared a Hugo Award for penning the episode “Conversations with Dead People.” She served as co-executive/executive producer for the series Caprica, wrote an unforgettable episode of Game of Thrones, and joined the writing staff of Torchwood. She is currently consulting producer and writer on Once Upon a Time, and has co-written and produced her first independent original web series with co-creator Brad Bell, entitled Husbands. I recently sat down with Jane to discuss her past and present involvement in the shows we love to watch.

You are an absolute wizard with words. How do you develop a scene or sequence?

Jane Espenson: First off, you want a really detailed outline. When Brad and I write together, we both have very similar instincts, but Brad really forces me to think about what each character wants in a scene. It’s weird because while I have more writing experience, I’ll sometimes fall in love with a funny line and Brad will say, “no this has to be on scene and on point.” I think the trick is to know that there’s always another joke. You almost have to write the line not funny first, and make sure it’s saying exactly what you want it to say. You can always find a funny way to say that thing. It’s so easy to fall in love with the funny, but you can be subtle and still have it be a joke. So don’t write the joke first, write the scene first.

When you were writing for Buffy, there was teen angst, humor, and horror—how did you balance all those things and still make it work?

JE: I didn’t always do that balancing act so perfectly. My second script was called Gingerbread, which had a lot of horror elements in it. I wrote it as if it were a flat-out comedy and Joss (Whedon) pointed out that you have to balance them. So I learned how to do that. To a certain extent, the director does a lot of that work for you. You can write a scene with a lot of funny lines and have it be terrifying. As long as it’s directed with a certain look, feel and pace, the horror will come through. The comedy will do the job of making you realize these characters are joking, that they’re not really scared. Like, when do you make a joke like that to raise your spirits? When you’re really scared. So there are many different ways to use humor. You can find a good balance without having to throw any jokes out the window.

One of my favorite Buffy episodes was Hush. Were you involved in that episode?

JE: I was there when it was written, and I remember Joss saying, I’ve always wanted to do this gag where someone’s looking out the window at something really far away, and you’re leaning in trying to see what they’re seeing and IT’S RIGHT HERE! He had so much fun writing that episode. It was the same thing with the musical, Once More, with Feeling.

Ok, so you’re now involved with Game of Thrones. What can you tell us about that?

JE: I just wrote one episode of Game of Thrones in season 1. It was an amazing experience. They needed a freelancer. They hadn’t hired a staff yet—now they have a staff of writers. So I came in to write one. It was a great scene where Daenerys eats the horse’s heart and her brother is killed by molten gold. They gave me the best chapters of the book. I was thrilled.

Were you always a fan of shows like Game of Thrones?

JE: Absolutely. I really like sci-fi and historical dramas. I’ve never been a huge fan of things like Lord of the Rings’ sword and sorcery. To me, Game of Thrones feels more like historical fiction, like reading about ancient England—and I love that.

So you’re permanently on staff for Once Upon a Time. Can you talk about that a little bit?

JE: I can’t talk about what’s going to happen, but I can tell you that it’s a great job. We’re doing Frozen this season. Everyone at every level wants to do Frozen right, including the people at the very top. There will be no effort spared to make sure that we’re doing justice to Frozen.

The Miller’s Daughter episode, where Rumple teaches young Cora to spin straw into gold was sensual and mesmerizing. How did you approach that?

JE: I loved writing that episode! It was a little bit of a wink at the movie, Ghost.

When a director says, I want you to write this scene or this sequence, how do you approach that?

JE: InTV, we have a different director every week so we’re sort of their bosses. We write the episode, then we’re introduced to the director and we tell the director how we see the scene playing out. The director may or may not employ storyboards— often they’re just used for action sequences. In TV, you have to do everything very quickly. The person who first gives me instructions is the head writer—usually the person that created the show. On Husbands, it’s Brad. He’ll say, “I want this scene to have a certain feeling.” So I’ll write it, tailor made to have that feeling. Then we’ll meet with the director and tell him to shoot it to incorporate that feeling. So it all comes down to the writer.

So what’s going on with Husbands?

JE: My friend, Brad approached me with this idea to do an online sitcom. We started playing around with the concept and we ended up with the idea of same sex newlyweds. They don’t want to get a divorce, since it’s bad for the cause. They got married too soon and it’s about how they’re going to make it work. It’s so clearly a throwback to shows like I Love Lucy and Ned and Stacey—that sort of accidental marriage—which is a staple of romantic comedies. To employ that into an entirely new world of gay marriage seemed natural and a no-brainer. So we made it. And by making it, we were able to demonstrate that there was an audience for it.

Are you a dialog writer or an action writer?

JE: I can do both. What I don’t do great is structure. Dialog is probably where Brad and I both do best. Our strengths and weaknesses are about the same. I don’t like thinking about, should we play this reveal so the audience is ahead of us? Or is this a better act break than that one?” I don’t care; I just want the lines to be good.

 

Interview with the Cast of The Last Ship

Last Ship cast
The Last Ship Cast
The Last Ship Cast

Based on the novel of the same name by William Brinkley, TNT’s The Last Ship stars Eric Dane (Tom Chandler) as commander of the USS Nathan James, a guided missile destroyer forced to deal with a pandemic virus that has killed most of the earth’s population. Other cast members include Rhona Mitra (Dr. Rachel Scott), a paleomicrobiologist frantically searching for a cure; Adam Baldwin (CDR Mike Slattery, the ship’s confrontational XO); Charles Parnell (as CMC Hugh Jeter); Travis Van Winkle (as Lt. Danny Green) and Marissa Neitling (Lt. Kara Foster, Lt. Green’s love interest). In this roundtable interview, I posed the following questions to cast members who revealed their likes and challenges in working on this exciting new series.

What’s it like being the commander of a guided missile destroyer?

Eric Dane: I love being saluted. You haven’t lived till you’ve been saluted, man. Long hours, heavy workload, but I enjoy it.

Eric Dane
Eric Dane

How did you prepare for the role?

Dane: I put the uniform on—very literally. You put that uniform on and 90 percent of the work is done. You walk a little taller, you stand a little straighter. We have great writers. I found that if I just keep in mind the things that I have to keep in mind, follow the process that I have as an actor and say the lines, things work out. I haven’t modeled this character after anybody. I haven’t found any inspiration from any other characters; I just try to play the moment and keep it as truthful as possible.

Will the show go into more of Tom Chandler’s backstory?

Dane: My family’s in the woods with my father in his cabin, isolated from the virus, or so I think. We come in contact with them later on in the season. Chandler has to make sure that the choices he makes are not colored by the fact that all he wants to do is get back to his family. He has to make decisions based on the greater good of the mission.

Rhona Mitra
Rhona Mitra

You have this long title—paleomicrobiologist—did you research the technical aspects of this role? Doctor Scott certainly sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.

Rhona Mitra: For my own personal reasons, I’ve been involved in the study of the world’s neurotoxins. For the past two years, I’ve been learning how the human race has been impacted by the pandemics that seem to be appearing everywhere. Everything from the problems with water and fracking to GMOs. I’m interested in the remediation to these problems. When this project came along, I had been doing a lot of physical action roles, so it was a lovely opportunity to explore a more cerebral character. It allowed me to talk to virologists and paleomicrobiologists.

 Adam-Baldwin

Adam-Baldwin

Your ship is involved in some highly technical stuff. Did you have to bring yourself up to speed on Navy jargon and tech details?
Adam Baldwin:
Yes, to a certain degree, but we have to speed it up a bit. We have to rely on our writers and technical advisors to give us things that are technically accurate and not too much of a mouthful to recite for the storyline. We’ve taken some tours of the ship, but these guys train for years on these things. It’s very humbling to be among these professionals.

Charles-Parnell
Charles-Parnell

You’re the perfect CMC. How did you prepare for the role?

Charles Parnell: We got prepped by going into the Navy dining hall on the first day. As we were seated, in walked all of our real life counterparts. We talked for a while over lunch and they then took us aboard and walked us through the ship with “their eyes,” so I know what I’m looking at, what I’m concerned with and where things are.

Travis-Van-Winkle
Travis-Van-Winkle

In portraying the leader of a Naval Mountain Warfare Unit, did you undergo any special training in weapons and tactics?

Travis Van Winkle: We did have a couple of days of weapons training. I have Navy Seals watching everything I do. They help align me with what I’m doing mentally. It’s beautiful to have. They tell me how to hold my gun, how to navigate with my gun, how to load it, shoot it, even how to look through the scope. And then they’ll watch the takes and go, “okay, I loved it, but don’t do that, do this.” As much as it’s uncomfortable sometimes and I mess up, they steer me on the right path. As we got into the season, I’d get it right more often and they’d say, alright! These guys have such mental, emotional and physical endurance through training; they can handle anything and kill you 15 different ways, yet they’re the gentlest human beings.

So what’s going to happen with your character?

Van Winkle: My leadership ability is really challenged. And I let things get in the way of my service and my responsibility. What happens the rest of the season, as much as I’ve lost touch with what my duty is, I also feel I’ve lost the respect of some of my crew members who don’t know what I’ve done. Inside, I know I’ve been jeopardizing their lives. I regain my trust, and it’s that climb throughout the season to once again become the leader I know that I am, and that I’ve lost touch with. So you’ll see that slowly develop. You’ll also see the push-pull of trying to have a relationship that’s forbidden on the ship.

 

Wired Café Offers Relaxing Respite from Comic-con for Press, Guests and VIPs

Pedro Pascal (Prince Oberyn).

 

Pedro Pascal (Prince Oberyn).
Pedro Pascal (Prince Oberyn) at WIRED Cafe

WIRED hosted its 7th Annual WIRED Café at Comic-Con from July 24-26th, 11am – 5pm daily at the Omni Hotel terrace, just steps from the convention center. The invite-only oasis was the preferred hot spot where VIPs, press and top talent went to relax and escape the Comic-Con rush.

The day party kept the “Game of Thrones” beer flowing. By the second day, “Game of Thrones” star Isaac Hempstead-Wright proclaimed his love for the party and all that is Comic-Con. “I love it here,” Wright said on Friday. “I want to live here.” Also doing selfies with guests and VIPs was Pedro Pascal (Prince Oberyn).

Other celebs who hung out at the party included Nathan Fillion (“Castle,” “Firefly”), Sir Benjamin Kingsley (“Ender’s Game), Lucas Till (“X-Men: First Class”), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (“Mortal Kombat”) and “Sharknado” director Anthony C. Ferrante. Cocktails, Wi-Fi, interviews, business transactions, and cool gadgets were on the menu this year. HBO, American Airlines, and Ben & Jerry’s sponsored the café, which featured Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for GOT beer floats, a DJ and interesting interactive booths and artists.

Last Ship Party on USS Midway Draws Celebs and Comic-Con Fans

CraveOnline Presents: Crave Conquers The Con
CraveOnline Presents: Crave Conquers The Con
CraveOnline Presents: Crave Conquers The Con
Getty Images for CraveOnline

Evolve Media’s CraveOnline Media (http://www.craveonline.com) conquered the Con with TNT’s The Last Ship party.  On Friday, July 25, guests boarded the USS Midway, which was decked out for the huge event for partygoers to enjoy cocktails, games, and most notably, performances by MGMT and Grimes, as well as an aerial show and fireworks.

Nina Dobrev
Nina Dobrev
Getty Images for CraveOnline

Guests immersed themselves into the world of The Last Ship—TNT’s hit new post-apocalyptic series about the crew of a Navy destroyer searching for the cure to a global pandemic. Guests ventured through the similarly themed Science Lab, where footage from the show was viewed, practiced their laser-tag skills in the Laser Maze targeting intruders who threaten the cure. For a select group, refuge was taken in the TNT-hosted VIP Hangar Bay Lounge. If you covered the event as press, you were granted quick access to the party. Others had to wait in a long line.

Celebrities in attendance included Nina Dobrev (Vampire Diaries), Paul Wesley (Vampire Diaries), Shane West (Salem), Nathan Fillion (Castle), Skrillex (musician), Travis Van Winkle (The Last Ship), Julie Benz (Defiance), Grant Bowler (Defiance), Lucas Till (X-Men), Charles Michael David (The Originals), Jason Mewes (Jay and Silent Bob), Luke Barnett (The Amityville Haunting),, Phoebe Tonkin (The Originals), Keahu Kahuaniui (Teen Wolf), Maitland Ward (Girl Meets World), Genesis Rodriguez (Man on a Ledge), and many more

Getty Images for CraveOnline
Genesis Rodriguez
Getty Images for CraveOnline

Nina Dobrev rushing into the CraveOnline party said she couldn’t wait to see MGMT perform; but not before stopping for selfies with some fans on her way in.

Vampire Diaries recently divorced star Paul Wesley sneaking in and out of the CraveOnline and Comic-Con party on the USS Midway hand-in-hand with new girlfriend, The Original’s star, Phoebe Tonkin. The new couple was joined by Phoebe’s The Originals co-star Charles Michael Davis who affectionately planted a kiss on his model girlfriend Katrina Amato on the red carpet. Salem’s Shane West arrived among a sea of fans—the first star to arrive to the CraveOnline party.  As he made his way through the hangar, Skrillex posed with giddy fans for one big group photo.

Last Ship Party line Getty Images for CraveOnline
Last Ship Party line
Getty Images for CraveOnline

 

Sabotage. Arnie is Back with a Team to Back him Up

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sabotage DEA crew
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sabotage DEA crew
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sabotage DEA crew

Helmed and co-written by David Ayer, Sabotage is a testosterone filled, high-body-count romp of an action flick that seeks to remind us what we liked about the undisputed badass of biceps. While not taking center stage, Arnold Schwarzenegger dishes out what we expect of him, plus a bit of nastiness we haven’t seen since Terminator. A little grey around the temples and a wider girth that comes from too much gemütlichkeit, Arnie plays cigar-chomping DEA agent John “Breacher” Wharton.

Mileaged by hard drinking and years of unappreciated police work, Breacher’s still got the chops and cojones to head up a team of neo misfits with colorful names like “Monster” (Sam Worthington), “Grinder” (Joe Manganiello), “Sugar” (Terrence Howard), “Neck” (Josh Holloway), “Tripod” (Max Martini), “Smoke” (Mark Schlegel) and “Lizzy” (Mirelle Enos). Their mission: raid a cartel safe house to rip off $10 million in drug stash. Trouble is, the cash disappears and the top DEA brass smell a rat, but they have no proof so they re-instate the entire team.

Turning on a dime, the plot kicks into high gear as Arnie’s compadres get snuffed out in ways that remind us of the Hostel flicks. Is it the cartel? A mole in the team? When we discover who it is, we also learn a dark secret that prompted them to steal the cash. If you can follow the pretzel storyline and forgive the thin narrative and occasional “Jumping the Shark’ action scenes, this popcorn flick is what it is—an E-ticket ride.

While the script won’t win an academy award, it does dole out some drinking-buddy barroom one-liners that have proven indispensible in Arnie action flicks. And even though his motely crew are a tad on the cardboard side, burying themselves in their respective roles, Sabotage does “square peg” everyone where they should be as cast. One thing to keep in mind is that the blood and gore flow pretty freely in this film.

 

An Interview with Falling Skies’ Scarlett Byrne (Lexi)

Interview with Falling Skies’ Scarlett Byrne
Interview with Falling Skies’ Scarlett Byrne
Interview with Falling Skies’ Scarlett Byrne

Best known as Pansy Parkinson in the final three Harry Potter films, Scarlett Byrne joins TNT’s increasingly popular sci-fi series Falling Skies. In season 4, Byrne plays an older Alexis Glass-Mason (Lexi), a mysterious young woman with special powers and an unusual connection to the alien invaders. As a new series regular, Byrne’s Lexi is a pivotal role that underscores the entirely different look and feel of the show’s fourth season. In this one-on-one interview, Byrne provides some interesting clues as to what Falling Skies fans can expect in season 4.

So you went from a witch in Harry Potter to a half alien in Falling Skies. What attracted you to the role of the older Lexi?

Scarlett Byrne: It’s been quite a mix of characters for me. First off, Lexi is very cool. There’s really so much to her. She’s definitely not one-dimensional. She has a lot of layers. At the very beginning, she’s very complex. There’s a lot to know and understand about her. As an actress, it was fun and interesting getting to know more about her. Her character has developed so much. She’s supposed to be this child, but she’s grown very rapidly and she has these powers. All this really attracted me to the role, far more so than just playing an average, normal character.

 

Falling Skies Team
Falling Skies Team

Were you a follower of Falling Skies?

Scarlett: It’s interesting because when the show was first being advertised in London, I remember recording the first couple of episodes. I watched them but then I stopped. It wasn’t until this all came about that I remembered watching the show. Then I totally binged watched season one through three in the first two weeks before we started shooting, and I was totally hooked.

The whole white hair blowing in the wind and Lexi’s mysterious demeanor suggests she’s got some terrible alien secret. Can you give us a clue as to what that might be?

Scarlett Byrne--Lexi
Scarlett Byrne–Lexi

Scarlett: That verges on spoiler territory, sorry.

So how much of Lexi is human and how much is alien?

Scarlett: I can’t really break it down into what percentage Lexi is human and alien. Throughout the season, she really struggles to become more human. I think it’s not until she hangs out and spends time with the 2nd mass and her friends and family that she becomes more in touch with her human side. The alien side does take over at times. Throughout the season, she’ll have this message of peace and unity, and she really wants everyone to believe and understand her message. But at the same time, she’s just as confused as everyone else in terms of trying to get people to understand where she’s coming from. There’s this two-sided thing where she has her dad, her mom and her brother saying, “what’s going on, what are you all about?” All she wants to do is impart this message that if you follow her, everything will be okay.

Scarlett Byrne --Lexi
Scarlett Byrne–Lexi

Does Lexi know what’s going on with her?

Scarlett: She does. But it’s definitely a learning curve. She’s really innocent and naïve about what she has. She’s like a child. She has this ethereal feel to her. She doesn’t speak like everyone else. At the same time, she’s trying to fully understand what she’s capable of and what she’s meant to do.

Do you get to read the scripts two or three episodes out?

Scarlett: We get the script for the upcoming episode a couple of days before the read through. When I flew to Vancouver, we talked about my character and where she was going. I found out where she would end up, but I had no idea what was going to happen to her in the middle of the season. There are some big surprises and I hope the fans enjoy her character because it will definitely be fun.

Does Lexi have any connection to the Volm? To the Espheni?

Scarlett: She does have a relationship with the Espheni, but not too long. In the second episode, we see her meeting with an Overlord. If you watch the second episode, I’m sure you’ll be thoroughly surprised and pleased, I hope.

Seychelle Gabriel (Lourdes) Falling Skies
Seychelle Gabriel (Lourdes) Falling Skies

Can you give us a hint about what happens between Lexi and Lourdes?

Scarlett: I can tell you about the relationship, but not what happens between them. Lexi and Lourdes have a very special relationship. More than any other character, Lourdes has definitely changed the most. She’s now back in touch with her more spiritual side, but not how she was in the previous season. A lot of this has to do with Lexi, her cause and her message. Lourdes is definitely her number one follower, her right-hand woman, and she feels she has to protect Lexi. She birthed her and was there for Lexi from the very beginning. And, of course, Lexi saved Lourdes from those alien eye worms. So they have this special connection and they love each other. Lourdes is the only character throughout last season who never questioned Lexi about who she is and what she was doing.

Will Lexi have a love interest?

Scarlett: No. The way I see Lexi is that she’s like this child and there’s nothing sexual about her. That’s not what she’s about. She’s more about the message and where she’s coming from.

Season 4 of FallingSkies premieres Sunday, June 22 at 10/9c

 

Words and Pictures plays Scrabble with a palette of emotions

Words and Pictures
Clive-Owen & Juliette-Binoche (photo by Doane Gregory)
Clive-Owen & Juliette-Binoche (photo by Doane Gregory)

Clive Owen’s Jack Marcus is a published poet long on laurels and currently short on inspiration. He’s settled for cocooning his creativity in teaching English at Croydon, at an elite New England prep school. Helping to further douse his creative juices is his penchant for imbibing and becoming an embarrassing drunk. Yet we see his creative inner child bubble to the surface in word games he plays with his fellow teachers.

Juliette-Binoche (photo by Doane Gregory)
Juliette-Binoche (photo by Doane Gregory)

Helping to shift Jack’s creative life out of idle is Dina Delsanto (Juliette Binoche). Strong willed, opinionated and independent, she makes an unconventional entrance as an Italian-born figurative abstract painter and Croyden’s newest faculty member. Suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, “the Icicle,” as she is known by her past colleagues, initially lives up to her name as she chides her students and Jack with the same standoffish wit.

The intellectual sparing between Jack and Dina is fun to watch as they battle over the supremacy of words vs. pictures. The battle takes on mega proportions as the two teachers enlist their respective students to take part in a school competition for the winning medium. When Jack’s boozing threatens to cost him his job, and he damages Dina’s abstract painting in a drunken stupor, the movie’s big downer has us wondering if Jack is truly finished.

Clive-Owen & Juliette-Binoche (photo by Doane Gregory)
Clive-Owen & Juliette-Binoche (photo by Doane Gregory)

There is one moment where Words and Pictures takes on the familiar Dead Poet’s Society mantra of molding students—but it’s not one of Jack’s students, but Dina’s. Through a bit of tough-love guidance, Dina forces her protégé (Valerie Tian) to elevate her talent to a new level.

Words and Pictures succeeds in drawing us in with its lead performers, but the story could have more fully exploited their talents by delving deeper into the lives of these two flawed characters.

 

An Interview with Stage Fright’s Allie MacDonald

Allie MacDonald in Stage Fright
Allie MacDonald in Stage Fright
Allie MacDonald in Stage Fright

Written and directed by Jerome Sable, Stage Fright features an ensemble cast led by Allie MacDonald (as Camilla Swanson), a teen eager to follow in her mother’s (Minnie Driver) footsteps and become a Broadway star. Stuck working in the kitchen of a “Glee-like” performing arts camp, Camilla manages an audition for the summer musical showcase and lands the lead role. The dead bodies begin to pile up in rehearsals—and during Camilla’s climactic scene—as a masked killer exacts revenge for the murder of Camilla’s mother. Known for House at the End of the StreetandThe Barrens, MacDonald displays exceptional range and talent in Stage Fright. In this one-on-one interview, she reveals the challenges she faced in playing the lead role in this surprisingly unconventional musical.

What drew you to the role of Camilla?

Allie MacDonald:  I did a lot of musicals. I liked the director and I thought the script was hilarious, so I auditioned for the role.

What was your audition like?

AM: I did a few scenes and performed a couple of songs. I met with the director and got the part.

Some have called Stage Fright, Glee with knives. How would you characterize this mixed genre film?

AM: Yeah, I would say that it’s like Glee meets Scream. I think it’s kind of hard to define this film because it is so different—and strange. There haven’t been a lot of movies that have combined so many different genres.

Allie MacDonald and Douglas Smith in Stage Fright
Allie MacDonald and Douglas Smith in Stage Fright

You have a nice singing voice. I understand you grew up around musicals. How did that help you in Stage Fright?

AM: Just being able to sing and being familiar with musical theater. I did a little bit of dance training when I was younger, so that helped with some of the choreography. My dancing would have been a lot worse if it weren’t for that choreography training.

How would you contrast your performance in Score: A Hockey Musical with Stage Fright?

AM: Score was different because it was my first movie and I had no idea what I was doing. And because Noah (Reid) was the lead in Score and I was a supporting actor, so I approached it in a different way. When I did Stage Fright, I had a better idea of what I wanted to do to prepare for the role. It was my first leading role, so there was a lot of pressure, but then I realized that as long as I showed up, prepared and read the lines, I’d be okay.

What drives Camilla to take the lead in the “The Haunting of the Opera,” the same play her mother would have starred in?

AM: I think it was Camilla’s fate. She’s lived this very sheltered life. I think she believes it’s her destiny to take over and become this musical star—like her mother. But she has no idea how, because she’s stuck working in this kitchen. So when they announced she got the lead in the play, it’s fate.

What was it like playing with a huge ensemble cast of singers?

AM: It was fun because all of the other cast members are so talented.Jerome (Sable) is really good at spotting new talent.He picked a bunch of kids—musical theater people—who didn’t have a lot of film experience but totally nailed it.John (Buchan) and Jason (Knight) did a great job in casting the film. I always felt like a bit of an outsider because my character is not part of the camp’s initial show ensemble. I liked it that way because it fit my character.

 

Allie & Meat Loaf
Allie & Meat Loaf

The film walks a fine line between musical, horror and comedy. How did you approach your character?

AM: It’s not hard because my character is who she is and the movie spans all these different genres. For Camilla, it’s the world she’s living in. It wasn’t hard to portray Camilla because I like all these genres. I prefer genre films to mainstream films. I’ve done indies, comedies, horror and musicals. That’s kind of where I’m getting my work and it’s what I enjoy doing. So it just comes naturally to me.

What’s your favorite genre?

AM: I really like comedies. And films from the Cohen Brothers. Have you ever seen Raising Arizona? I really love that movie. I also like shooting horror, which is strange because you have to do a lot of screaming and it’s kind of traumatic, but I like it. It’s kind of a release.

What did you think when you saw all the slasher parts in the script?

AM: I thought it was great. And when I saw it filmed, I thought they did a great job– like when a main character gets his foot cut in half.

What’s next for you?

AM: I’m doing some auditions in LA. But as far as upcoming films, I can’t really talk about that at this point. In my downtime, I write and record my own music. I play the guitar and sing.