Rocio Anica

Rocio Anica

“Carpe diem. Seize the days, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” In the late 1980s, this quote helped Tom Schulman seize the day and the 1989 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay with his first feature-length script - Dead Poets Society. A story that became a classic almost instantaneously, Dead Poets Society is set at a private high school, and is about an earnest high school English teacher and the pupils whose lives he affects in their last year at Welton Academy. At the time, Dead Poets Society garnered four Academy nominations and seven BAFTA nominations, of which it won two (for Best Film and Best Original Score). Without a doubt, Robin Williams (Good Will Hunting) gives one of his best performances, ever, as erudite mentor John Keating, and Ethan Hawke (Training Day) gives one of his earliest performances. Fellow cast members include Robert Sean Leonard (House), Josh Charles (The Good Wife) and Gale Hansen.

For anyone who hasn’t had a chance to see Dead Poets Society, the Blu-ray edition, which was finally released this week, would make a great addition to any collection. Now considered one of the 100 Most Inspiring Films of All Time by the American Film Institute, Dead Poets Society is a movie with characters and a message that, twenty-three years later, seem both antiquated and refreshing, dated yet valiant. Indeed, in a culture that re-imagines high school in highly stylized terms and genres (think Glee or Twilight), or soap operas with unbelievable wardrobes (Gossip Girl), the sincerity of the movie’s plea to live a life worth living is kind of invigorating.

I recently had the chance to connect with Tom Schulman and ask him about Dead Poets Society, script writing and the movie industry. Here is what he had to say:

Tuesday, 17 January 2012 09:30

IAR Press Conference Coverage: 'Haywire'

Opening in theaters on January 20th is Haywire, a new espionage film helmed by Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Contagion). The movie centers on a female covert operative that must now unravel the reasons why she has become the target of those who were once part of her team. The result pays homage to classic spy flicks, in every sense of the word, reminiscent of old-school thrillers in visuals, story and music.

It was important to Soderbergh to revisit that genre of cinema, and possibly update its conventions. To that end, he employed his former colleague Lem Dobbs (The Limey) for a script; Ewan McGregor (Beginners), Channing Tatum (The Son of No One), Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class), Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots), Bill Paxton (Aliens), and Oscar-winner Michael Douglas (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) for a supporting cast, and for his muse - Soderbergh turned to MMA champion fighter Gina Carano.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Haywire Press Conference held at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, which was filled with members of the press eager to hear Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum and Gina Carano talk about the action-packed new film.

January 12th - 14th inaugurates the First Annual Wayne Federman International Film Festival, which will showcase Garry Shandling, Margaret Cho, Kevin Pollak and others as curators to their favorite films. The series, which is the first of its kind, will feature two comedians and movies per night for a very reasonable price (shockingly reasonable for L.A., in fact). But, you might be asking, who is Wayne Federman, and why is he hosting a so-called International film series at Cinefamily?

The first thing you should know is that you’ve probably seen him dozens of times. He has had small roles in a wide range of movies and TV projects including Curb Your Enthusiasm, Funny People, Step Brothers, Knocked Up, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Legally Blonde, so Federman has had many opportunities to crack his sharp wit. The second thing about him is that he is a self-admitted film nut who, truly, loves the cinema and watching films on the big screen. That passion motivated him to gather a few of his favorite colleagues and have a reason to see some classics in 35mm with fellow cinephiles.

I recently had the chance to speak with the festival’s creator and namesake, Wayne Federman, who shared with me how his love of cinema and comedy brought this event to fruition.

Roadie, which will be released in theaters on January 6th, opens with a man on his cell phone, undoubtedly using the last of his persuasive energy to keep from betraying his true pathos. Juxtaposed with the glamour of Bolex shots taken of his adventure-studded career as an accessory to rock-star life, the lead character of the film, instantaneously ropes the viewer into his tragic plight.

The man responsible for bringing the character of Jimmy Testagross to life is Ron Eldard, a film and theatre veteran last seen onscreen in J.J. Abrams’ homage to Steven Spielberg, Super 8. Eldard is also known for his roles starring alongside heavyweights such as Oscar-winners Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly in House of Sand and Fog, Ewan McGregor and Josh Hartnett in Black Hawk Down, and Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and Brad Pitt in Sleepers. When he’s not committed to a film or TV project, Eldard practices his craft on Broadway, with roles like Father Flynn in Doubt, and Biff in Death of a SalesmanEldard’s roles often find him in complicated positions, gray areas that demand sympathy or reservation of judgment by the audience. It’s not hard to guess why; because the actor’s droopy-lidded, dimpled visage, and long tough-guy hair make you want to secretly hug him, have a beer with him, and hear him out. Roadie is no different.

The film, stars Jill Hennessy (TV’s Crossing Jordan) as Nikki and Bobby Cannavale (Win Win) as Randy, both of whom participate in Jimmy Testagross’ twenty-four hour adventure immediately upon his return to their hometown. Having been unceremoniously fired from his gig as Blue Oyster Cult’s roadie of over twenty years, Jimmy is a man flung into the ether, forced to quickly gather himself among the ghosts of his childhood and the illusions of adulthood. Written by Michael and Gerald Cuesta and directed by Michael Cuesta, Roadie hits a wide range of notes; from Jimmy’s relationship to his aging mother (True Blood’s Lois Smith) to his relationship with his former high school girlfriend, it all strikes a poignant, honest chord.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Ron Eldard about his work on Roadie. The extremely talented and charmingly modest actor discussed the new film, broken hearts, director Michael Cuesta, his favorite scene in the movie, and getting to work with Blue Oyster Cult.

One thing that makes Jill Hennessy such a joy to watch is the way she speaks her lines. The flow of her words are rich with texture, and deep with a clean timbre. She has spoken those lines through a myriad of characters in film and on television. From Law & Order (1993-1996), Las Vegas (2004-2006), and Crossing Jordan (2001-2007), to characters in feature-length films of various genres, Hennessy has acquired enough solid acting credits to out-talk anyone … or out-sing them. Her performing experience extends beyond the screen. In 2009, Hennessy released an album titled “Ghost In My Head”, which she wrote and recorded herself. Hennessy has been a singer/songwriter for many years, performing shows in between her many acting gigs, and was even invited to perform at the 2010 revival of the illustrious Lilith Fair.

That’s why Roadie, opening in theatres on January 6th, is such a delicate surprise of a film. While it’s about middle-aged, ex-roadie Jimmy Testagross (Ron Eldard), who suddenly finds himself forced to go back to his hometown and deal with his arrested development all in the scope of twenty-four hours, it is often Jill Hennessy who steals the spotlight as Jimmy’s high school sweetheart and small-town amateur singer/songwriter, Nikki Stevens. When Nikki picks up her guitar and her voice transitions into a controlled Natalie Merchant-esque wail, the story picks up on the movie’s theme of music as sanctuary, music as a time capsule of emotion. Indeed, the characters in the movie are propelled by the idea that music is bigger than the sum of its parts, and that music can save them or help save them from themselves.

I recently had a chance to speak with Jill Hennessy about her role as Nikki Stevens in Roadie. Refreshingly laidback and thoughtful, she relayed her feelings about working with Ron Eldard (Super 8), how she got director Michael Cuesta to incorporate one of her songs in the film, and her excitement over her role in HBO’s new series, Luck.

An actor’s most valuable asset, aside from good looks, is their ability to roll with the punches. Natassia Malthe has both. Those two qualities alone have helped Malthe accumulate over forty-five film and television credits in the span of fifteen years, including Elektra, Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber, DOA: Dead or Alive, and as the titular character in the most recent of the BloodRayne series.

Her latest cinematic achievement, In the Name of the King: Two Worlds is the second of the Dungeon Seige-inspired movies and is helmed by German director and camp-enthusiast Uwe Boll. Independently financed to be released straight to DVD and Blu-ray for fans of fantasy-action adventure, In the Name of the King: Two Worlds also features cult-hero Dolph Lundgren (The Expendables) and Lochlyn Munro (White Chicks). The story is classic Boll: a Dungeon Seige movie in concept only, it features time-travel as the propelling narrative device, swamp cannibals, and medieval ninjas. Also … there’s a dragon. For fans of fantasy video games, PG-13 innuendos with Rated R gore, and Uwe Boll … it will not disappoint!

Malthe took some time in between wrapping a film in Malaysia and spending the holidays in Dubai to speak to me via Skype. The actress discussed her thoughts on shooting In the Name of the King: Two Worlds in Canada, meeting Uwe Boll for the first time, rumors of another BloodRayne movie, and her favorite ballet.

Like all New Yorkers, Edward Burns loves his corner of the world. Unlike most New Yorkers, however, Burns gets to share his love of the Empire State with hundreds of thousands of people around the world. His first movie, The Brothers McMullen (1995), which launched his career as actor, writer and director, was shot in Long Island on a minimal budget. Lauded by critics everywhere for his resourceful commitment and lucid take on working-class Irish-American lives, Burns went on to play a number of handsome nice-guys in compelling movies such as Saving Private Ryan (1998), Life or Something Like It (2002) and 27 Dresses (2008).

The filmmaker in Edward Burns, however, is still drawn to explore relationships from the other side of the lens. His latest movie, Newlyweds, will be released everywhere digitally on-demand December 26th, making it the triple-aesthete’s tenth feature-length film. In all ten of his movies, New York is the extra in the background, wordlessly pulling the characters to each other or away from each other. Sometimes, New York’s multi-faceted landscape simply exists seemingly to enchant the audience without them even knowing it. Newlyweds continues Burns’ charming formula of mixing romance and milieu, except for three major details. This time around, and quite unlike most movies in general, its mode of narrative is the mockumentary, it is being distributed digitally on-demand, and it was shot on a $9,000 budget in eighteen days. Those three details alone are enough to get tongues wagging, and for independent filmmakers, at the very least, it’s enough to start asking some bigger-picture questions.

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