I’m in the Podcasting Business

Well, I’ve finally dipped my toe in the pool of podcasting. For this one, I will not be behind the mic. I’m serving as co-producer and writer.  Loren Kling will serve as host. I also didn’t want to be part of a normal interview podcast and after throwing out a million ideas, my co-producer, Loren Kling, came up with this little gem.

Last Wednesday, we recorded our first episode of 5 Things That Changed Your Life with Casey Ruggieri of Young Storytellers in Los Angeles.

ABOUT THE SHOW: Each episode our host, Loren Kling, sits down with a special guest and asks them to share 5 stories, events, or experiences that had an impact on their lives… A person who helped them decide the path to take. A place that completely transformed the way they think. Or perhaps it is a thing, like a family trip or a TV show from their childhood that made them the person they are today.

We’re taping a dozen episodes now and then will start releasing them in the Spring. More details to come as we get closer to the date.

If you have had a unique life experience and would like to talk about your “5 Important Things,” let me know.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

I did not see the original Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightly back in 2005. Mainly because I was not interested in seeing it. Nor have I read the Jane Austin book, because I was not interested in seeing it. Now, throw in a few zombies and I’m in. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a mash-up between 19th-century romance and the Night of the Living Dead.

Release Date: February 5, 2016
Writer: Burr Steers
Director: Burr Steers
Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Charles Dance, Lena Headley, Matt Smith

If you’re familiar with Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, you know it is about the Bennet family. The aging patriarch, Mr. Bennet (Charles Dance) cannot pass his estate on to any of his five his unmarried daughters unless wed. The story becomes the interweaving tale of manners and matrimony of the Bennet sisters.

Jane Bennet (Bella Heathcote) is in love with Mr. Bingley (Douglas Booth), but they cannot marry because Bingley’s childhood friend, Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) does not get along with the Bennet’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth (Lily James). Elizabeth manages to strike Darcy in all the wrong way because she is a strong woman. Darcy in return cannot stand her presence because she does not act like a proper woman. Elizabeth soon begins to fall for Darcy’s estranged adopted brother, Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston). But Elizabeth has also been promised to her cousin, Parson Collins (Matt Smith).

Oh, let us not forget the zombies. A plague has flooded all of England, turning its people into the living-dead, hungry only for the brains of humans. On the edge, Mr. Bennet trained his daughters to not only defend themselves when confronted by a horde of zombies but to attack and permanently kill one without flinching.

The movie begins at a Bridge party. The local constable, Mr. Darcy has arrived because he believes one of the guests is infected with the zombie plagues. Using flies which are attracted to dead flesh, Darcy discovers and dispatches the head of the undead guest.

My one complaint is that the rules of zombies are always rewritten from film-to-film to accommodate the larger story. It tends to weaken, in small ways, the ferociousness of zombies altogether. But then again, you have to tell a story. In this film, infected humans are dead, but their full conversion to brain eaters happen over time. As the flesh decays and wounds go unhealed, they can still act like people, which is often used as a trap to ensure the healthy ones. Eventually, the human mind will ultimately die, and the person becomes mindless brain eaters.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies succeeds because it introduced me to the fascinating world of Jane Austin. The film manages to tell a true Austin story while at the same time mix a horror element. The movie stays true to Austin-era England while weaving in not only the existence of zombies but also the imminent zombie threat.

What makes the movie work is it takes itself seriously. There are comic moments that help ease the tension. At no time do the actors wink at the camera to make sure in on the joke. The actors take their roles seriously and ultimately makes the absurd tale worth watching.

Lily James is memorizing as Elizabeth Bennet. She is beautiful and deadly. She is a woman who stands her ground and not allowing any man change it; not her father and certainly not Mr. Darcy. Sam Riley is equally likable and unlikable as Mr. Darcy and his unflinching view of the world around him. Matt Smith shines as the comedic Parson Collins, in search of a wife that he can rule over and a wife that can protect him from the undead.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a fun, action-filled movie for people who do not know the world of Jane Austin. I have a feeling the Austonians may find the film distasteful, possible because they are against tampering with the source material.

7 out of 10


Ex-Special Forces Agent, Wade Wilson, becomes the smart-mouth mutant mercenary, Deadpool. Deadpool first appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and at that point he becomes a silent villain. Ryan Reynolds proves in Deadpool, that maybe the original creators were right, and you should base the characters on the source material.

Release Date: February 12, 2016
Writer: Rhett Reese, Paul Wenick
Director: Tim Miller
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is an Ex-Special Forces Agent, who earns money today as a hired gun doing favors for the weak and not-so-innocent. On one special job, Wilson runs into the beautiful and equally tough, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and they quickly “hit-it-off.” By “hit-it-off,” I mean they have sex right away, which then leads into a sequence of sex through the holidays.

In the film’s early moments of Wilson breaking the proverbial fourth wall and talks to the audience, he keenly points out that a no movie can end on a minute of happiness. Soon Wilson is diagnosed with cancer in his lungs, brain, and any place cancer can exist. Not wanting to have Vanessa watch his slow and painful deterioration, Wilson enlists the help of Ajax, who has found a way of awakening dormant mutant cells through a series of near lethal injections and torture.

After weeks of torture, Ajax brings Wilson to the point of death, and this is when Deadpool is born. Deadpool’s new power is the ability to heal rapidly and regenerate, but the treatment disfigured Wilson’s normal appearance. He looks like a monster.

Soon, we find out that Ajax is not healing people of diseases, but, in fact, creating an army of mutants who will become the slaves of the highest bidder. After burning down the lab facilities, Wilson goes on the hunt for Ajax, who he believes can heal him. He hides from Vanessa because he can’t let her see him in this state and also serves as his protector.

Simply put, this movie is a Deadpool movie. It is incredible to see how much research the filmmakers put into studying and ultimately realizing the comic book Deadpool on the big screen. The costume is one of the best comic book replications in movies today, and the tone and attitude of Deadpool is dead on (pun intended).

Everything in this movie serves as a showcase of Deadpool. This movie is to show the world, who this Deadpool guy is and why everyone thinks he’s cool. He’s cool because he doesn’t care about anything but himself. He has a small conscience and loves Vanessa dearly. He’s self-aware and says everything everyone is thinking. You can take away the entire plot because it’s unnecessary. This movie is a showcase of everything great about the original Rob Liefeld character.

The film is brutally violent throughout the entire film. The film uses incredibly raunchy language throughout the entire film. The film is hilarious throughout the entire film. There are several great performances. Morena Baccarin as Vanessa is beautiful, sexy and can hold her own against any criminal. Stefan Kapicic is the voice of Colossus, a CGI version of the popular character, but true to the original X-men character. His fight scene with Deadpool is gruesome and hilarious, which leads to an incredibly funny scene with veteran actress Leslie Uggams. Brianna Hildebrand shines as Negasonic Teenage Warhead. She is all hero and all teenager. Let’s not forget T.J. Miller as Weasel, the only friend Deadpool has in the world, even though he has Wilson on his Death Pool.

You are not going to watch Deadpool because it has an awesome story. You are going to see Ryan Reynold’s portray the perfect Wade Wilson/Deadpool and show that a rated-R superhero movie can be successful as a film and successful at the box office.

9 out of 10

Hail Ceasar!

Fans of the Coen brothers are sure to have a good time with their latest offering, Hail Caesar!. The film tells the story of studio head, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) running an entire studio, while leading man, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) of its biggest budget feature has been kidnapped and held for ransom.

Release Date: February 5, 2016
Writer: Ethan & Joel Coen
Director: Ethan & Joel Coen
Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Alden Ehrenreich

Hail Caesar! follows a single day for Capital Pictures head, Eddie Mannix, who must juggle crisis after crisis while keeping the movie making machine rolling. First there is newcomer, Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich). Hobie is a naïve stuntman, who is being touted as the next up-and-coming star. After a series of successful singing cowboy movies, Doyle is being moved to dramatic roles. In the film’s funniest scene, Doyle’s heavy western accent is not working for director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes).

Actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is the studio’s swimming beauty and she finds herself pregnant out wedlock. Mannix must spin the story as to not become a tabloid scandal. He enlists the help of professional “person” Joseph Silverman (Jonah Hill). He also needs to deflect studio rumors from tabloid journalist Thora Thacker (Tilda Swinton) and her competitive identical sister, Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton).

The studio’s biggest problem is the abduction of its biggest star, Baird Whitlock. Whitlock is literally in the middle of filming a scene in Capital Pictures largest budget movie, “Hail Caesar!” He is kidnapped by two extras and being held ransom for $100,000. Mannix figures out who kidnapped his star, how to get him back and keep the news out of the tabloids.

The Coen brothers have managed to create an amusing film that is more or less a throwback to the movie studios of old. They produce a stunning water ballet scene featuring Scarlett Johansson, a whimsical song and dance routine with an amazing Channing Tatum and an old school Biblical epic with George Clooney.

The main problem with Hail Caesar! is that it’s being sold as a studio thriller. In actuality, the movie serves as a slice of life. That’s not to say that being a slife-of-life movie is bad. The movie is fun to watch, but the subplots are low stakes and the kipnapping story is not an exciting story. The Coen brothers have captured the whimsical world of the early studio days and that about it.

As the studio head, Josh Brolin is clearly the lead of the movie. He’s a likable studio head and his struggle to balances the craziness of the studio with his personal life is quite charming. There are a lot of big stars in this movie, but the real shining moment of the film is Alden Ehrenrich as Hobie Doyle. His portrayal as the young naïve actor, who wants to be a team player, is sweet and endearing. Where did this guy come from and can we see him in more movies?

If you are a fan of the Coen brothers, Hail Caesar is distinctly the work of the Coen Brothers in terms of tone and humor. But compared to their other film it’s definitely a light movie, missing a dark edge and violence.

6 out of 10

Zoolander 2

Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) are back as former supermodels self-exiled into the wintery tundra of New Jersey and the desert wasteland of Malibu. Now aging supermodels, Derek and Hansel must find out who they are and discover why famous celebrities are being murdered.

Release Date:  February 12, 2016
Writer: Ben Stiller, Justin Theroux
Director: Ben Stiller
Cast: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Penelope Cruz

For Derek Zoolander, his dreams died 12 years ago when his school for Children-Who-Don’t-Read-Good, collapsed and killed his wife, Matilda. Soon, his soon Derek Jr. Is taken away from him because he was caught on video not knowing how to make spaghetti soft. After being scared from the collapse of the school, Hansel also goes into seclusion with his orgy, lead by Kiefer Sutherland (Kiefer Sutherland). The orgy wants to make a family, but Hansel doesn’t know if he’s ready to be a father to his orgy’s babies.

A distant figure Billy Zane (Billy Zane) visits Derek and Hansel with a message. They have been invited to model once again for up-and-coming designer Don Atari (Kyle Mooney) and his mentor Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig). What follows is a series of wacky and unlikely events ultimately unveiling a more sinister plot. Agent Valentina (Penelope Cruz) who is part of the fashion division of Interpol, enlist Derek and Hansel to uncover the sinister plot involves Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold).

What makes Zoolander 2 work as a comedy is the world in which the movie exists, created by writers Ben Stiller and Justin Theroux. They’ve created a wacky world within the real world. The key is the rules to this world must be religiously followed. The story’s solid, but strange, plotline makes enough sense to be passable to the film’s audience. Zoolander 2 amazingly stands on a pretty solid foundation.

Whether you like the film or not, now depends on whether or not you like the Zoolander world and the silliness of Zoolander and company. The movie is peppered with fashion world inside jokes. Like any good movie, Zoolander 2 asks and simple question. What if the fashion industry secretly ruled the world? Liking the movie hinges on whether you want to know the answer.

Surprisingly, Zoolander 2 is filled with dozens of cameos and these cameos work. In most cases, celebrities don’t just appear, just to appear. Celebrities have a role in this world. For example, Keifer Sutherland plays the spokesperson for Hansel’s orgy and uses his dramatic skills for laughs. Benedict Cumberbatch is mystifying as the asexual model All, who models for no gender.

When it’s all said and done, you will like or not like Zoolander because you found it funny or not funny. Ben Stiller did everything right to make a well thought out sequel for a silly movie. I laughed through the majority of the movie and laughed out loud and some really stupid jokes. If you liked the original Zoolander, you will like Zoolander 2.

8 out of 10