Good Kill, Attacking with Drones

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The very tense drama Good Kill based on actual events puts the audience inside the Middle East dealing with drone attacks. The high pressured men who control the payloads delivered by the unmanned air ships are at the center of the film and by all accounts convey a very realistic view of the ‘new’ warfare. Now on Blu-ray and DVD the movie stars 4 time Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke in a poignant role that’s made for him to play.

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Curse of Downers Grove, a Horror Thriller

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For those that like a good gruesome movie, a lot of gore and some brutal deaths there’s The Curse of Downers Grove now on DVD. The interesting low budget thriller puts you in touch with your high school years, but not in a good way. The story plays out with deaths occurring similar to a Final Destination flick by unexpected means and from out of nowhere. It’s a cool little film that shows you can make a small production look big. Read more

D Train, a Wacky Reunion

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Here’s a very quirky comedy that turns on the charm with some twists that you won’t see coming. The D Train now on Blu-ray and DVD does have its moments showing a lot of off color humor with Black kicking up his character old style much like days of his movies past. However directors Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul depend on James Marsden to carry the heavy role to make the film work and there’s no doubt that his performance saves the day. Read more

The Surface, Trapped at Sea

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An inspirational drama The Surface comes to Home Video with very good acting and a different kind of story. The movie takes a look at the lives of two men and how they have to come to terms with their past. Directed by Gil Cates Jr. with script written by Jeff Gendelman the central theme is about despair and overcoming difficult odds at sea. The DVD has special extras that are well worth the watch. Read more

Interview with Rebound’s Ashley James

Actress and producer Ashley James is known for her role as Lauren in the TV series Hustle. She also starred in White Elephants and appeared in Life Inside Out.

In Rebound, Ashley is Claire, a psychologically broken woman who has just been cheated by the love of her life. While travelling across the country, she encounters hostile strangers and develops debilitating anxiety along the way.  In this one-on-one interview, Ashley goes into the challenges she faced in portraying a woman on the verge of collapse.

Mark Scheibmeir & Ashley James
Mark Scheibmeir & Ashley James

What attracted you to the role of Claire?

Ashley: I recently did a lot of short films, so I thought I could do a lot with the lead in a full-length feature. It’s interesting how Claire keeps making so many choices that seem weak or wrong to the audience, but she fights so hard. All these bad things and crazy people keep happening to her. And she never really gives up, which I think is very cool.

Ashley James
Ashley James

What did you find most challenging about the role?

Ashley: I felt that much of what Claire did, starting with her choice to leave Los Angeles, was very different from how I would react to these situations. I had to find a way to relate and to feel those same feelings. The fall shooting schedule was fast, and we were shooting a lot every night with not a lot of time off.

Ashley James
Ashley James

Are there any aspects of your persona that you imparted to Claire?

Ashley: Yes, definitely. Every role I play, I have to find something in me that may not be what I would do, but maybe in this situation, would work. I like to think of myself as a fighter, as someone who doesn’t give up. I think that really helped me, especially when she decided to leave Los Angeles and give up her acting career. I’ve been in that place, I understand that feeling, but I haven’t given up; but I could understand how she would react, and how that would be an important choice for her to make.

Ashley James
Ashley James

The cascade of negative events in Claire’s life seemed to underscore a world closing in on her. Do you ultimately see her as a survivor or victim?

Ashley: That’s a really interesting question. As an actress playing the part, I had to see her as a survivor. Because to see her as a victim meant that the story was over before it started. As an outsider looking in, it feels different to watch the movie now. I also think that one of the interesting things I noticed after I saw the completed film is that I wonder how reliable the story is, because it’s told entirely from Claire’s point of view. There’s nothing that happens that isn’t what she’s observing. The story is told from a very single and specific perspective. So is what we’re seeing as a victim really what happened to her?

Mark Scheibmeir & Ashley James
Mark Scheibmeir & Ashley James

That town you were in seemed like the world’s unfriendliest town? It was almost a character unto itself.

Ashley: Yeah. Like, was the bartender in on it?

Kevin Bulla as the Bartender
Kevin Bulla as the Bartender

Rebound is a very emotionally draining film? Was it for you?

Ashley: It was. But it was exciting to be in it. I’ve had a fairly happy life. Nothing crazy or tragic. I love playing damaged characters. I like to let myself wallow in emotions that aren’t part of my real life. As an actress, I find it really interesting to be in that place for a little while.

Ashley James & Director Megan Freels Johnston on set of Rebound
Ashley James & Director Megan Freels Johnston on set of Rebound

Do you prefer these psychological dramas that explore the inner workings of a character, their struggle to survive emotionally?

Ashley: Yes, I really do. I love comedy. I’d love to be in a sit-com, but it’s not what I get cast in. I’m working on those skills, but what comes naturally to me is anything that gives me a chance to do a character study, to explore all those emotions and actions that are different from me.

Ashley James
Ashley James

Without revealing the ending, which was a bit of a surprise, do you feel that some women could be driven so far over the edge as to do what Claire did?

Ashley: It’s hard to answer in terms of other women, but I definitely felt like when I was finding that action for myself in the role, it wasn’t completely unbelievable to me considering what she goes through and how she feels about herself. Who knows what happened in her life before this that set her up to lose confidence in herself and feel worthless. All this would allow Claire to be manipulated. So I think, it’s possible, definitely.

What’s next for you? Any TV or film projects in the works?

Ashley: Well, I have a 15-month old baby, so that has put a lot of things on hold for me. And I was travelling a lot. I’m sort of trying to figure out how to do this acting thing and mom thing together.

 

Diary of a Teenage Girl, Innocence Lost

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Sex, drugs and 1970’s San Francisco, what more do you need to tell a story about a coming of age teenager? Fortunately there’s enough to make the movie The Diary of a Teenage Girl, a wild and wacky film that leaves nothing to the imagination. Easy to burst testosterone levels of male teens, this feature should sell a lot of tickets to any PG-13 rated film so they can pull off an auditorium shuffle.

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Interview with “Person of Interest” Star Michael Emerson

Michael Emerson has appeared on Broadway in The Iceman Cometh with Kevin Spacey and Hedda Gabler opposite Kate Burton. Off-Broadway and regional work includes plays by Shakespeare, Moliere, Friel and LaGarce at The Roundabout, Arena Stage, McCarter, Huntington and many other theaters. His film credits include The Imposters, Playing by Heart, Straight Jacket, Saw and The Legend of Zorro.

Emerson also played a number of damaged or sinister characters on programs like The X-Files, Law and Order, Without a Trace, and The Inside. In 2006, Emerson became a regular on the ABC series LOST, playing Benjamin Linus, a role for which he won an Emmy.

Currently, Emerson plays Harold Finch on Person of Interest. Last season ended with a cliffhanger that saw Harold, John, Fusco, and Root in a desperate firefight with Samaritan’s thugs. In this one-on-one interview Emerson reveals his thoughts on Person of Interest and what viewers can expect from this riveting series now in its fifth season.

Michael Emerson
Michael Emerson

What attracted you to the role of Harold Finch?

Michael Emerson: I liked the atmosphere of the pilot episode. It was dark and desperate and urban. I liked its noir quality. I also liked that it was a Jonathan Nolan script, and that J.J. (Abrams) and a strong company was behind it—guys that were going to get something done. And the fact that it was being shot in New York, because I was hoping to be home.

Jim Caviezel & Michael Emerson
Jim Caviezel & Michael Emerson

Are there aspects of the character that you imposed on Finch that go beyond what’s in the script?

Emerson: It’s possible that I made him more disabled than he absolutely had to be. It’s also possible that I made him funnier than he had to be. But I take all my cues from the script. So I don’t think I’ve imposed much. I think the writers watch their performers, day in and day out, and they see what their strong suits are, and then they write at it a little bit more.

Michael Emerson, Amy Acker & Sarah Shahi
Michael Emerson, Amy Acker & Sarah Shahi

Finch and his team have thus far been protected by the all-seeing eye of the Machine. How vulnerable will they be now?

Emerson: They’re very vulnerable with the Machine offline and with Samaritan in effect taking things over. There’s nothing to stop Samaritan now. Life goes on seemingly normally, but that’s because Samaritan hasn’t fully figured out what its own agenda is. If it ever does go on a mission, it will be dangerous beyond our wildest dreams.

Michael Emerson
Michael Emerson

Finch seems to be struggling with rehabilitating the Machine – its “genie out of bottle” potential for destruction. What powers will Finch give it in its rebirth?

Emerson: That’s what the first part of Season Five is all about: How to revive the Machine. To make it again what it used to be, and whether that’s even possible. And if it is possible, what should be changed? Maybe the limitations and boundaries he put on the Machine were ill advised in a world where it has to do battle with a totally unencumbered super intelligence. So that will be a source of philosophical conversation and conflict between Root (Amy Acker) and Finch.

Do you think the show’s construct of Samaritan portends a dystopian future where privacy and even one’s personal safety are in jeopardy?

Emerson: Yeah, that is the suggestion. I wish it weren’t so plausible and real. But it appears to be.

Season 4 had 22 episodes, Season 5 has been cut down to just 13. Will Season 5 be the last season?

Emerson: It might be the last season with CBS. I don’t think it will ever shoot that long a season again. I think whatever the future holds, it will be 12 or 13 episodes.

So things will be tightly compressed?

Emerson: Yeah, I think, in a way, it’s a plus for the writers who won’t have to spin such long narratives. Or indulge in so many digressions. There will be a greater sense of compression and momentum and I look forward to it. And on a personal note, I’m grateful I won’t be shooting out in the snow in January, February and March.

I had the opportunity to interview your wife two years ago and she said she was the computer expert in the Emerson house.

Michael Emerson & Carrie Preston
Michael Emerson & Carrie Preston

 

Emerson: (laughs) That is so true. I must ask her a question or two every day about the simplest kinds of things. Like, “Honey, if I press this button, is that bad?”

Michael Emerson & Amy Acker
Michael Emerson & Amy Acker

So do you have computer consultants that work on the show to keep you up to speed on all the latest technology?

Emerson: I think the writers are voracious readers of cutting edge technology. And each of the writers has someone in their world that they call. We also have an in-house IT staff that handles all the computers you see on the show—the different ways they work and the different things that appear on the screens. There are a lot of smart computer people working together on this.

You were a magazine illustrator in New York for many years. Do you still practice that art?

Emerson: No, I don’t really draw any more. Whatever it was that was satisfying by doing that is now being fulfilled by acting. Or maybe better to say that acting is just another variety of illustration.

Where do you hope the Finch character will go in this new season?

Michael Emerson
Michael Emerson

Emerson: That’s a good question. I don’t want to see him destroyed. But at the same time, I can’t really envision the happy ending where he walks away from all of this. I don’t know where he’ll land.

Switching gears a bit, how did you develop the character of Benjamin Linus in Lost? And was the character preordained by the script or did you alter it in some way?

Michael Emerson as Benjamin Linus
Michael Emerson as Benjamin Linus

Emerson: I kind of showed up and played what was written. It started with a guest spot on a couple of episodes. I hadn’t any kind of long-range strategy at all when I started it. In hindsight, I think it was a kind of working audition, where they were seeing what might happen if they put a face and voice to the threat of the island. But I guess they decided my face and voice were about right, so they kept me around. I’m more of a reactive actor. I’m not a guy that goes to the writers and says here’s a cool idea I think we should explore. I like my cool ideas to be kind of micro ideas—more like lifting an eyebrow or placing the emphasis on a particular word.

So what’s next for you? Any film or TV projects down the line?

Emerson: In a world where I don’t have Person of Interest on my plate, I would be happy to do some more stage work and remind myself what a joy that was. I haven’t been on stage for 10 years.

 

WGN America will be the exclusive cable home for Person of Interest 

No Escape, a Relentless Test of Survival

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Relentlessly brutal the movie No Escape takes the audience into a different kind of survival. Just as violent and all-consuming as the tsunami film The Impossible, the only difference comes with humans killing humans instead of nature. The momentum builds so quickly that you’ll find yourself glued to the electrifying run for your life story on the screen. Your hands are grasping the arm rests and that drink you have in the cup holder is getting watered down by the ice melting. You have become a witness to an emotional bond between a family that will not give up and with no end in sight and you just turn away from them until the final curtain.

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Big Game a Teen Adventure

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Aimed at male teens the action film Big Game sets up a fun adventure that involves saving the President of the United States. To that audience, it pretty darn good showing how even the youngest of teens can achieve if they try. Even though the story gets a little farfetched, the sincerity and strong will acted out in the film make up for the highly fictional script. Now on DVD your more mature youngsters should enjoy this fast moving adventure. Read more

The Runner a Political Drama

 

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Using the backdrop of the BP oil spill for this political drama, the film The Runner works more as an open forum about legislator inappropriateness than a sincere interest in the devastation the spill caused. Although well-acted, the film drags in parts, gets a little repetitive and easily predictable. Now on Blu-ray it’s a challenging film that opens old wounds.

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American Ultra a Cool Action Comedy

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And now for something different. You may have seen a lot of action comedies, but I venture to say there’s nothing more wild and crazy than American Ultra. Filled with sight gags, surprises, laughs a plenty and a whole lot of thrills, this stoner film equals classics like Up in Smoke, 30 Minutes or Less, Pineapple Express and even Ted. Starring two of the screen’s finest dead pan actors Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, the off-beat film provides an excitement jammed rollercoaster ride that never stops until you exit the theater. Read more

Marshland, Murders in the Swamp

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One of the better foreign films I’ve seen this year Marshland (La isla minima) paints a very morbid picture of a serial killing. Well-acted the film grips you from the very beginning never letting you go till the credits roll. Although it may give you a feeling of déjà vu from the myriad of both screen and TV films that feature the same subject, this film puts a different twist on the sordid crime. If you are not tired of the worn out theme and would like to see what Spain has to offer, check out Marshland opening in theaters this weekend. The film took 10 statuettes at the Goya Awards (Spain’s Oscars). Read more

Strangerland, Captivating and Stunning

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Taking on a daring role and giving a very good performance, Nicole Kidman works her magic in Strangerland. Taking her back to her Australian roots, Kidman looks like she’s right at home in the vast openness of the unbridled territory. The captivating film has a fine cast and incredibly stunning cinematography that uplifts the good, but somewhat challenging storyline. Now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Read more