This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Interview with Chris Wyse

My next interview for TheCelebrityCafe.com was conducted with musician Chris Wyse in March of this year. Chris is known for playing with the band Owl.

RK: Chris, you are originally from New York but moved to Los Angeles to pursue your music career. Do you consider L.A. your official home now or are you still a New Yorker at heart?
CW: I’m definitely an L.A. person. It’s been 18 years here in Hollywood. I was born in Queens and later moved upstate to Saratoga where I met (Owl bandmate) Dan (Dismore). We both played in a high school band.

RK: You played for Ozzy Osbourne from 2003-2005. What are your favorite moments of working with him?
CW: It was a great experience. The work I did was released on the Prince of Darkness box set. Ozzy asked me back for five more songs that were added to the record and released as "Under Cover." When I was a young kid, I told my parents I was going to go out to Hollywood and play bass for Ozzy Osbourne someday. So it was totally wild to later phone them from the studio to tell them I was doing exactly that.

RK: Do you have a favorite song from over the span of your career?
CW: “She’s So High” is one that sticks out, since that was the first time meeting Bob Rock. There’s also the Owl career and what I contributed over the years. That’s really a complex question, but I’d say "The Right Thing" and
"Pusher" are my favorites right now.

RK: What would you say the differences between the two groups are?
CW: The Cult’s a classic band, so that undeniable right there. They became like a big brother to me. But it’s a different balance than with Owl. I’d say lead singer roles are the biggest difference. Owl is going progressive, and The Cult’s good classic rock & roll. So much has changed since 1984 with the Cult and 2013 with the release of "The Right Thing."

RK: Owl has been working on its upcoming album, The Right Thing, since 2011. How would you say it differs from the group’s previous work?
CW: I think we got better. Our songs are pretty focused and my sense of melody has grown. There are some new things I did on bass and we did some interesting layers. For example we have bagpipes on the song "Rover."

RK: A love of music aside, what else would you say you have in common with your Owl bandmates Dan Dismore and Jason Achilles Mezilis?
CW: We share the same kind of enjoyment for summer activities, like having barbecues and having a beer. We also have a love of traveling. We’ve really enjoyed our road trips together.

RK: You began your music career with local bands such Xodus, East Wall and Mr. Strange. How would you credit those with helping shape your career?
CW: My original bands document my sound and style. Each of my previous bands was a great learning ground for everything I’m doing now. My life's work is all in my playing and recordings.

RK: Of the places you’ve toured, do you have a favorite? Is there somewhere specific you hope to go?
CW: I like going to South America. I’ve been there a few times with The Cult since 1999 and the crowds there are amazing. I am hoping to return there with Owl. It’d be a lot of fun.

RK: You currently do both bass and vocals? Was this by accident or did you intend to perform both?
CW: Maybe to some degree it was an accident. Friends in New York wanted me to play bass. But singing came naturally to me. I was in the choir, so I always enjoyed singing.

RK: Any hints on what we can expect from Owl in the future?
CW: We’re hoping for really good shows in New York & L.A. and some new videos. We’ll be spreading the word via the Internet. We’re also going to be doing acoustic performances.

Interview with Alicia Minshew

Before I began writing for Examiner.com, I wrote for TheCelebrityCafe.com. My first interview for them was conducted in Jan. 2012, when I had the pleasure of chatting with actress Alicia Minshew, whom many know as Kendall Hart in All My Children.


TheCelebrityCafe.com: Alicia, first of all, let me start by saying that my sister is a big fan of All My Children.

Alicia Minshew: Thank you. That’s really cool. How did she react to hearing that it was cancelled?

TCC: She was down about it although we both heard a while back that it would be online now. I’ve heard, though, that plans to revive the series are currently suspended.

AM: Yeah, I thought that might happen. I just wasn’t sure how it would work. Right now, we’ve been doing fan events to show the fans we appreciate them, so be on the lookout for future projects.

TCC: Would you be willing to be part of the online series if you were asked?

AM: I don’t know, maybe as a recurring character. But, after being on the series for 10 years playing Kendall (Hart), I’m looking to do other things. I don’t think I’d do it full-time again, though.

TCC: Kendall was previously played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. Was it intimidating to play a role that was already established by another actress?

AM: It was very intimidating (laughing). I heard how great Sarah was so I thought ‘I’d better kick ass in this.’ But she played the role seven years before I did, so I thought there was long enough period of time for me to establish myself in it. But, yeah, I was scared out of my mind for the first few weeks and felt I really had to prove myself.

TCC: Did you ever meet her?

AM: I actually met Sarah a year after I started playing the role. She and Eva LaRue are friends and she came to the set to see her. We just gave each other a big hug and she said I was doing a great job. Sarah had actually sent me a basket of flowers, cakes and cookies with a note saying that Kendall was a great role and for me to have fun playing her. That was really gracious.

TCC: You’ve also made appearances as the character on One Life to Live. What was that like?

AM: That was during a period of time when there was a baby-swap storyline between those shows. Characters from OLTL crossed over onto AMC so Kendall was pissed and went to their town to raise hell. It was kind of fun to play the same character on a different set with a different group of people. But everyone was really supportive and it was fun.

TCC: How was the work routine affected when AMC relocated from New York to Los Angeles?

AM: I actually moved out a few months later because I was on maternity leave for eight or nine months. That was a tricky time because I was taking my daughter across the country to a place where I was now working. It took a while to get back into the swing of it. The workload became harder and we were trying to save money so the show wouldn’t go off the air. It was a tough schedule with a lot of hours and a lot of memorizing scripts. But I wouldn’t trade it because I was working with the same great people, so it was like working with family.

TCC: Are you still in L.A?

AM: Yes, I’m still in L.A. I’m doing pilot season right now, going on auditions. I’ve lived in New York for 16 years and I’m originally from Florida, but it’s different in L.A. because of my child, Willow. With the gorgeous weather they have here, I can take her out by the pool in January. I’m also in Hollywood, and there’s a lot going on there. So, this is a nice place to be for my career.

TCC: You have appearances planned in a show on Oxygen and an independent film. Can you tell us anything about those?

AM: I’m actually meeting with a dialect coach. I’m going to be playing a southern girl for a film that will start shooting in March. Apparently, the producers offered me the role after seeing me on the show and the role is different from Kendall. It’s been fun working with the dialect coach. It’s great how the show has opened doors for me. I also have a guest appearance on a reality show that will air this month or next month. So it’s nice that I’ve been keeping busy.

TCC: Do you have any actors or actresses that have inspired you?

AM: There are so many people. Like many actresses, I just love Meryl Streep. She can just transform herself into anybody. She’s so brilliant. I also like Sandra Bullock because she comes off as a girl next door. She can either may you laugh or break your heart. Even if I may not like a film she’s in, I always enjoy watching her. I’m hoping to see her new film with Tom Hanks soon.

TCC: Yeah, I’d like to see that film also. Are there any non-actors who are an inspiration to you?

AM: Two people outside the business who have inspired me are my mother and grandmother. My grandmother just turned 100 recently and she was dancing at her party. She is someone who loves life and is positive. They are both great examples for me and I am trying to be the same with my daughter.

TCC: Any favorite TV series or movies?

AM: My husband and I love Modern Family. It is so hilarious, so funny. I actually don’t watch a lot of TV right now, though, because I’m raising my daughter. One show I would love be appear on, though, is Grey’s Anatomy. The show isn’t always upbeat but the actresses are so brilliant on it. That would be awesome.

TCC: You’ve done a lot of stage work. How is that different from working on television?

AM: It’s night and day. I did a lot of musicals, with parts where I did a lot of singing and dancing. There’s nothing like the feeling of an audience reacting to you. In the theater, you can be big, whereas on TV, you simplify what you do. You bring it down. I love them both because they are very different. I’m very happy I can do both. On TV, you memorize 30 pages, but you feel pride when the finished product is done to music and shown. The last theater I did was 12 years ago in an off-Broadway production. Last weekend, I was onstage with other AMC cast members at a fan event. I was speaking live on stage and loved it. It was so fun just to have that live, big audience of fans. We shared behind the scenes stories and we were laughing and the audience was laughing.

TCC: Many actors/actresses say they don’t wish their children to follow in their footsteps? Do you feel the same?

AM: This business can be grating, exhausting, upsetting and difficult. Right now, Willow is standing on her head (laughing) so I won’t be surprised if she wants to be an entertainer. If she wants to pursue it, I won’t stop her. I’ve wanted to be an actress from a young age and my parents supported me. Willow will be tough like me. She’ll have good times and difficult times. It’ll be a hoot, actually. But I won’t push her, though. She’s still standing on her head (laughing).

Romero (1989)

"I'd like to make an appeal in a special way to the men in the army. Brothers, each one of you is one of us. We are the same People. The farmers and peasants that you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear the words of a man telling you to kill, think instead in the words of God, 'Thou shalt not kill!' No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the Law of God. In His name and in the name of our tormented people who have suffered so much, and whose laments cry out to heaven: I IMPLORE YOU! I BEG YOU! I ORDER YOU! STOP THE REPRESSIONS!"
-Archbishop Oscar Romero.



The recent decision to make Popes John XXIII and John Paul II saints prompted me to review this film, which depicts the heroism of another figure who many say should be made a saint-Oscar Romero, who peacefully protested the violent military regime in El Salvador until his assassination in 1980.

The late, great Raul Julia was probably best known for playing Gomez Addams in The Addams Family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993). His posthumous Emmy win for playing real-life rainforest activist Chico Mendes in The Burning Season (1994) was a fitting farewell to him.

He is equally excellent here as Romero, and the film, which was funded Paulist Pictures (which was run by Paulist Fathers, priests from the Roman Catholic Church), doesn't spare any dramatic punches in its depiction of the horrific events that Romero witnesses each day and attempts to stop.

The film begins with Romero arriving in El Salvador in 1977 to begin his new duties as the country's Archbishop. Some believe that he is unfit for the positions and, initially, Romero attempts to placate the people who speak out against the country's totalitarian government.

But Romero begins speaking out himself when he realizes that the government rigs elections and tortures and kills innocent people, including his friend Fr. Grande (Richard Jordan).

Romero's efforts bring him international attention, as does his assassination while giving Mass on March 24, 1980.

The cast is terrific, but it's Julia who makes the movie work, perfectly expressing anguish at what he is experiencing but never backing down on his efforts to stop the madness around him, even when he is offered protection by the government.

While nobody was ever held accountable for Romero's death and he was not the last victim of such violence in the country, Romero's efforts left a lasting legacy.

Thirteen years after Romero's death, an official apology was issued by El Salvador's president Mauricio Funes to Romero's family and Church officials.

Follow-up thanks!

Just a quick addendum to my interview with Kirsten Vangsness.
I am happy to report that, earlier this month, the film's campaign on Kickstarter successfully raised enough money, and then some, to finish filming.
Thanks to everybody who contributed and helped insure that this film will be seen!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Diary of Anne Frank (1980)

"For the past two years, we lived in fear. Now we can live in hope!"
-Otto Frank.



Of all the literature written about the Holocaust (and this is not even mentioning the global conflict that surrounded it), the most famous is probably The Diary of Anne Frank, published in 1947 by the title character's father, Otto. This may be the most famous of all stories related to the Holocaust because many (myself included) first read it in grade school.

The Frank family and four others, because they were Jewish, hid in the attic of an office building in their native Holland to evade Nazi capture from 1942 until they were discovered in 1944. Sadly, seven of the eight died in concentration camps. Otto was the only survivor and, after the war, he came across his daughter's diary, which he published in her honor, as she had dreams of being a writer.

The diary itself, like many diaries, tells of the author's hopes and dreams. Anne even mentions D-Day at one point.

The story was adapted for the stage and the screen numerous times. Perhaps the most famous film version is the 1959 movie directed by George Stevens and for which Shelley Winters won an Oscar for her performance as Mrs. Van Daan.

One of my favorite versions of the story, though, is this one, which aired on NBC and stars Melissa Gilbert (in the midst of her run as Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie) as Anne.

The film begins in 1945 Amsterdam, where Otto (Maximilian Schell) returns to the attic he and his family hid in and tells his friends to get rid of everything. But when he discovers Anne's diary, he sits down to read it.

The flashback then begins with him, Anne, his wife (Joan Plowright), and his other daughter Margot (Melora Marshall) go into the office building with the Van Daans (James Coco and Doris Roberts) and their son Peter (Scott Jacoby). They are later joined by Mr. Dussel (Clive Revill).

Appropriately, the film then never goes outside the attic the eight on in, which adds to the feeling of isolation they occasionally display frustration at.

But the magic of this film lies in its wonderful cast. There isn't a single false note in the characterization here, which makes the ending especially poignant.