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May 2014 Archives

Disney's Million Dollar Arm

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English: Jon Hamm

(Photo credit: Rachel Sylar via Wikipedia)

Million Dollar Arm is a movie based on the true story of J.B. Bernstein and how he developed two major league baseball pitchers after holding a contest in India called "The Million Dollar Arm" contest.

Brilliantly directed by Craig Gillespie it has both humor and a moving story about two young men from India who are trying to learn the game of baseball.  They are very fast pitchers but can they get the ball under control?  Suraj Sharma plays Rinku the pitcher witn an unusual warmup and Madhur Mittal is Dinesh a son that must leave his father and family to pursue a dream.  Pitobash is their interpreter who loves the game of baseball and wants very much to be a manager.

Jon Hamm is sports agent J.B. Bernstein with Seven Figures Managerment who has to come up with something new because the company he and his partner(Aasif Mandvi as Aash) started is in dire straights after missing an opportunity to sign  Popo (Rey Maualuga) to a football contract.  

Alan Arkin does a great job as the sleepy headed baseball scout that is paying more attention to things that one would suspect.  Bill Paxton as the pitching coach Tom House, and Lake Bell brings it all together as Brenda, J.B.'s tenant and newly discovered confidant. 

With breathtaking scenes of India and a soundtrack that pushes and accentuates the action.  It is a film that will stir your emotions and reach right down into your soul.  As usual with Disney this is a film the whole family can enjoy.  

John Cullum & William Sadler.jpgWriters are often told to write what you know.  Miles Doleac takes it a couple of steps further.  He writes, directs, and acts what he knows in The Historian.

Miles is an assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi. His specialty is in the Classics Department. I recently had a conversation with Miles and Tamarah Murley about the movie and here is what I found.  The story was influenced by his witnessing of the dumbing down of education because of administrative constraints and the Common Core Standards Initiative  that has been in the news so much lately.

This is his directorial debut but being an accomplished theatre and film actor he knew what he was getting into.  He had help with his long time friend and theatre director Mackenzie Westmoreland who helped him produce the movie but also had never worked in film before.  

"This script is a gift to actors."- Glynnis O'Connor, on The Historian

To make the movie the best it could be he brought on board some of the finest actors he could get. 
Casting William Sadler as the university history department head Valerian Hadley,  along with Tamarah Murley as his secretary Jill who wants to keep the office running smoothly and without turmoil.  John Cullum plays Valerian's aging father in the movie.  You may remember John from the TV series Northern Exposure.  A theatre veteran as well as film, he has won 2 Tony Awards for his acting performances.

In this movie Miles plays history professor Ben Rhodes, who has just moved to a  university where he doesn't exactly get along with his boss, Valerian Hadley, the head of the department.  Valerian does not make it easy for Ben, though I think he see's something of himself in the young professor.  They are also at odds over Anna (Jillian Taylor), who is one of Valerian's favorite grad students and a love interest of Ben.

Colin Cunningham & Glynnis O'Connor.jpg
Also appearing is an actor I've admired for many years ever since I saw her in a TV production of the play Our Town is Glynnis O'Connor.  I'm glad to find her in this movie.   As Dean Jan Messer she must weigh the arguments of all involved. To do what's best for the school in spite of Ben's conflict with Valerian, and his ideas about teaching and how the school should be run.

As I mentioned earlier Miles is an actor in the theatre.  He just finished a very successful run of Les Misérables at the Saenger Theatre in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  The musical got held over an extra day for an encore performance.  That's what you like to hear.

This movie has everything you might expect to encounter in a college setting: drama, relationships, happy, sad, and funny.  Sure to be a hit you'll not want to miss.

Miles Doleac as Ben Rhodes .JPG
Check out the trailer below and read the conversation with Miles and Tamarah.

Sometimes a person is compelled to do what is instinctive to them.  That is the case with Lilly Nelson.  She has been acting as far back as she can remember as a little girl, kindergarten or even before.  Even as a kid she was making up plays and doing little films with her friends and family.  Apparently her father, who is an art director, helped influence her  creativity.

At home on both stage and screen, it doesn't matter as long as she's acting.  No prima donna she likes to be involved whether it's in front of the camera or behind the scenes.  She will help with a production any way she can.  One specialty she has is helping actors with different dialects as well as teaching acting.

Lilly Nelson - Tracy Page/Babycakes Studios
Lillly Nelson  Photo credit: Tracy Page/Babycakes Studios

"Lilly has breathed life into Betty and given her more depth than we even imagined. She is a true artist."  - Christine Parker Director of Fix It In Post

Currently she is starring in Closer Patrick Marber that she has been wanting to do for many years.   Lilly is producing the play along with the Burning Coal Theatre Company.  Directed by Paul Sapp it stars Lilly along with  Miles Dwight Snow, Laurel Ullman, and Brian Fisher  It will be playing through this weekend in Raleigh, North Carolina.  

Lilly recently finished a part in the film Fix It In Post which is a campy, over the top story about what a film crew does to survive after an electromagnetic pulse knocks out the power around the world.  She plays Betty the slate girl who has eyes for the director.  A movie about people making a movie, trying to use their filmmaking skills to survive a disaster.

Not afraid to get her hands dirty she relishes playing the villain and taking parts that others might not want to consider such as the lonely woman in Kami that has lost her lover.

Lilly has several other things coming up including a part as Lieutenant Victoria Xen in  Sciencstars, a TV series for kids about science.  In Deadroom she is a German mercenary/assassin named Helga, adding to her list of villainous and antagonistic roles.  She plays a drugged out mother  In 12 Dog Days of Christmas that is about a troubled teen boy that learns a lesson about the spirit of Christmas.

A Carolina girl, she works most frequently in area between Charlotte and Raleigh, and prefers to live in North Carolina  because it is home, but is ready to go anywhere she is called to for a new production.

See Lilly in the short film Kami below by William K. Gerard and read the conversation we had about her acting career.

English: Claudia McNeil in A Raisin in the Sun...

Claudia McNeil in A Raisin in the Sun - trailer (cropped screenshot) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Raisin in the Sun is one of the great American plays and was written by Lorraine Hansberry  when she was in her late 20s. 

Comprised of an ensemble cast where every actor contributes significantly to outcome of the performance. All of the main characters are well developed and each has a story to tell from their own perspective. It is amazing how Lorraine had the experience, much less the wisdom, to craft such an inspiring story of the human condition at such a young age.  Sadly she died in 1965 at the age of 34.

If you've never seen this play I urge you to try to whether it be at a community theatre, college, or even on film.  There are frequent productions of it running in every part of the  country.  It is currently playing on Broadway in a new revival at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre where it was first performed in 1959.  

This  production stars Denzel Washington, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Anika Noni Rose, and Sophie Okenedo.  In their conversation with Charlie Rose below they discuss what it's like to perform the play and what each character means to them.

Nowhere Premiere

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Last night was the night for the cast and crew of Nowhere to shine, along with their guests. And shine they did!

Everyone enjoyed the thought provoking movie which shows just how good an independent film can be. Watch out Hollywood!

Ryen W Thomas.jpg
I'm looking forward to seeing my first film by the director Ryen W. Thomas in a few days at a private screening he's invited me to.  It's called Nowhere and from looking at the trailer I can't quite tell what this story is going to be but I like the looks of it.  

I'm sure he planned it that way because what fun is it to watch a mystery if you know what's going to happen?   the first thing I noticed is the cinematography and how well it is  done.  This is accomplished with Anil Dhokai as the director of photography and all the attention to detail that he is known for.  

The screenplay was written by Ryen along with Richard Clark, Jr., David Payne, and Will T. Vernon.  Billed as a psychological thriller it is about a con man named Drake that is in need of money and looking for a way to get it.

The setup: Drake (James Molinari) learns about an old Inn in the middle of nowhere that may be the key to getting the money he needs.  Bonnie Johnson, as the innkeeper, appears to be a controlling mother that has some secrets. What is she hiding?  Her son played by Jordan Alexander, what does he know?  Who is the girl (Alexandra Faith) and how does she fit it?

My Toxic Backyard Poster.jpg

If you've wanted to see My Toxic Backyard and can make it to Asheville, North Carolina you're in luck.  The documentary by Katie Damien will be screening there every evening from May 8th through the 15th at the Fine Arts Theater.

Today is your last chance to help fund this great movie that was filmed in Gastonia, North Carolina at THE iNDEE studios.  THE iNDEE is redefining this area west of Charlotte as well as the southeast to become the place for independent filmmakers to work on their projects.

Curfew is an exciting thriller of a movie starring Candace Blanchard and  is produced by Macabre Picture House. The movie is complete. They need your help in order to help fund the marketing and distribution.  For your help you can enjoy the perks which range from special thanks with your name in the credits, to a walk on role in their next movie or being credited as an executive producer of Curfew.

English: Kevin Spacey at the San Diego Comic-C...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NOW is a documentary that gives a behind the scenes of a touring theatrical play.  From putting the play together to the performance it shows what is going on behind the curtain.

Below is an interesting coversation that Charlie Rose had with Kevin about the documentary.

Partners - A New Media Police Drama

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Partners is a new police series from someone who knows police drama.  Darren Conrad has been a North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper for nearly twenty five years.  He understands what it's like and it's reflected in the story he tells and portrays.

Filmed mostly in the Cramerton, Lincolnton, and Charlotte areas of North Carolina Partners has the feeling of a small town community.  In this New Media series Darren wants you to see not only the things that go on behind the scenes in an officer's workday but also the personal side of his character and that of his fellow officers.

"Darren's a great guy and highly motivated.  He is developing a strong technique and professionalism and while he learns his craft, he is entertaining and moving, folks. And learning it he is, every step he takes, every movie he works on, and now with his new media series project, he is seamlessly developing into an artist before our eyes.  With Darren it's not so much the goal he aspires to, and I do think he will end up making fully professional full length features, but the journey he is on, because every project he undertakes he gives it his usual one thousand percent and treats all those who work with him in the same way.  He has real humility and not pretentiousness and I think genuine talent that will only become fuller and get better.  All the best to you Darren, my friend."  Marco St. John - Actor

Darren, in addition to writing and producing the series plays officer John Walker.  His on-screen partner, Mandy Kain,  is played by Candace Blanchard who does a fine job of displaying the dignity of the job.  "Female police officers are  wives, moms, daughters, etc...just like all of us. The difference is when they clock in to work their lives are on the line. The nature of the job causes daily stress that most of us will never experience."