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ART & SIN: The ART OF THE DEAD Interviews by Kent Hill

Well it’s that time of year folks – when kids in costumes and horror movies walk hand in hand – and while it’s not a staple for folks at the end of October around these parts (it’s more the ropes and the reins, and the joy and the pain, and they call the thing rodeo time), doesn’t mean we can’t sit down together and watch us an awesome little horror gem…that’s quickly turning into my new beer and pizza night movie selection . . . . ART OF THE DEAD.

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Imagine if you will, being an artist . . . being a struggling artist. You just want to put yourself out there – be lauded by as many people as possible, carve you name on the tree of immortality as it were. Now . . . you’re this artist and in order to get what you want you make a Faustian deal, so that your name and the power of your work shall be enticing art lovers long after you have slapped on the wooden coat and bought the farm. Trouble is, it’s not really fame that you’ll receive at your end of this deal. No, the ancient evil that has served as your patron has a different kind of eternal damnation in mind…

That’s when we meet the Wilson’s. Boy brings his girlfriend home to meet Dad, Step-Mom and Co. Dad does really well, the house is amazing . . . plus he’s decided to collect some art . . . OH NO! The paintings are shamanistic depictions of the SEVEN DEADLY SINS. Y’all know them…? Anyways the maniacal painter responsible achieved a life beyond death by taking the power he sought and evilly won by inducing, in those who gaze for too long at the paintings, whichever sin is in.

What results is a funky good time at the movies…and I encourage you all to make ART OF THE DEAD part of your Halloween movie banquet. Come watch as the Wilson family, a supportive girlfriend, the sister’s nemesis, an unfortunate hooker and a bold and committed priest do battle against art, black magic and original sin!

I had a stellar time watching this…but…I have equal joy now in presenting the phenomenal cast and the genius writer/director of my new, favorite little B movie treat for All Hallows’ Eve . . .

AND NOW . . . MY FIVE DEADLY GUESTS . . .

ROLFE KANEFSKY (writer/director)

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Rolfe Kanefsky grew up in the suburbs of New York and attended Hampshire college where he studied Film. He began writing stories at a young age after his childhood dream of becoming a clown took the backseat to his interest in film. He has thus far written and directed 27 feature films and authored another 38 produced screenplays over the last 30 years. The cult flick “There’s Nothing Out There” was his debut at the age of twenty. Since then, Rolfe has continued to work in the horror genre with “The Black Room” starring Natasha Henstridge and Lin Shaye, “Party Bus To Hell” with Tara Reid, “The Hazing” starring Brad Dourif and Tiffany Shepis, “Jacqueline Hyde”, “Corpses”, and “Nightmare Man”. He was the winner of two Best Director awards for his horror flick, “Nightmare Man” at the Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy and The Supernatural Film Festival in Las Vegas & at the I.F.F.Y.N.T.X. Festival in Texas before the film went on to be picked up by After Dark and Lions Gate as one of the “8 Films To Die For: Horrorfest 2007.

Branching out into other genres, Rolfe wrote “Blonde & Blonder”, a comedy with Pamela Anderson and Denise Richards, “A Dog & Pony Show” with Mira Sorvino and Ralph Macchio, the western “Doc Holliday’s Revenge” starring Tom Berenger, thrillers such as “Tomorrow By Midnight” starring Carol Kane and Alexis Arquette and “1 In The Gun” with Steven Bauer and Robert Davi. Recent family fare include the animated “Space Dogs: Adventures To The Moon” with the voice of Alicia Silverstone “A Tiger’s Tail”, “Timber; The Treasure Dog”, “Puppy Swap” with Margo Kidder, “Jimmy’s Jungle”, the period crime story “Bonnie & Clyde: Justified”, and the musical “Adventures Into The Woods”.

Rolfe has also been making a name for himself in the Lifetime thriller world and has authored seven female-driven thrillers including “Killer Photo” aka “Watch Your Back” starring Annalynne McCord. “Deadly Sorority” with Greer Grammer and Moira Kelly, “The Wrong Babysitter” starring Daphe Zuniga, “Deadly Vows”, “Intensive Care” and “The Wrong Vacation”.

With 65 produced credits, Rolfe is a very active filmmaker/writer who continues to work in almost every genre in the business

JESSICA MORRIS (as Gina Wilson)

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Known for her portrayal of series regular Jennifer Rappaport on ABC’s “One Life to Live”, Jessica has cultivated her career as the leading lady in various television shows and independent films. Also making a memorable appearance in Universal’s theatrical success “Role Models”. Jessica has recently been the star of Lifetime TV’s hit movie “The Wrong Teacher” and has also had strong guest starring roles on popular Prime-time shows, including Fox’s “Rosewood” and TNT’s “Perception”. In addition, she leads the cast in Tom Six’s highly anticipated new feature film. Jessica stands out as an actress who conveys honesty and depth through all of the characters she plays and has also discovered her passion for screenwriting.

LUKAS HASSEL (as Dylan Wilson)

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Born and raised in Denmark, Lukas Hassel trained and graduated from the Samuel Beckett Theater School, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

As a screenwriter, Lukas won the CineStory Fellowship for his top 30 Nicholl’s Fellowship script, “The Mechanic”. This has been optioned by director/producer Charlie Stratton and is in pre-production.

Lukas wrote and directed the sci-fi short film “Into the Dark” which went on the win multiple awards for acting, writing and directing and played in over 70 film festivals world wide. His latest award winning horror short film, “The Son, the Father…”, has screened in 50+ festivals and counting, and got made after winning the Hollyshorts Film Festival competition for best screenplay. Mighty Tripod and Evil Slave LLC produced.

He has appeared on TV in shows such as Blue Bloods, Limitless, The Blacklist, Elementary and more. Currently, he’s shooting “Art of the Dead” opposite Tara Reid in Las Vegas.

DANNY TESLA (as Dorian Wilde)

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Danny Tesla has starred in over 3000 live stage show performances around the world. 1000 of those shows has been his own one-man variety show that he created called “The Danny Tesla Show” He has been working in the entertainment industry for over 30 years.

Danny Tesla started performing at the age of 7 as the youngest member of “The Sunshine Singers” performing in shopping centers and theme parks like Dream World. He also worked in Productions with the Australian Ballet Company such as Onegin, Romeo & Juliet, Don Quixote, and Swan Lake. Throughout his school years he produced, directed and performed every month for 2000 of his fellow schoolmates. He studied with the best teachers in New York, London and Sydney in all aspects of performing from singing, acting, and dancing. One of his dancing teachers was award-winning choreographer Dein Perry who created “Tap Dogs” which lead to Dan being one of the Tap dancers in the Fox Searchlight movie “Bootmen” starring Sam Worthington and Adam Garcia. Which meant he was invited to perform with Adam as one of the lead tappers at the Opening Ceremonies of 2000 Olympic Games live in front of an audience of 100,000 people and telecast to 4 billion people worldwide.

He also performed in Productions on the finest cruises ships in the world. Whichever ship he was on its showcast always was voted number 1 in the fleet. He worked on Royal Viking Queen, Star Odyssey, Silver Cloud, P&O Fair Princess, P&O’s Artemis, Oriana.

A career highlight for Danny was when he was cast as Eugene in “Grease The Arena Spectacular” Which broke all box office records and still holds the record to this day. He worked alongside Australia’s biggest stars like Danni Minogue and Anthony Warlow and John Farnham. Because of his creative contribution to that production he was asked back into two other productions by the same company to reprise his role. Danny has now performed Grease over 300 times to over a million people around Australia and New Zealand.

Danny Tesla was invited to perform at some corporate events in Singapore in 2003 and since then has performed at over 750 events in Singapore. He decided in 2009 to make Singapore his home and became the Creative Director and founder of “Broadway Production Company Pte Ltd” which not only produced more shows for corporate events but also TV commercials and a Musical call “City Gym The Musical” which was staged at Jubilee Hall in January 2013. Danny wrote the script, music and lyrics to City Gym. He also directed and produced the production as well as starred in it. In 2014 Danny moved to Los Angeles and acted in many productions like HBO’s “All the way” starring Brian Cranston and ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy. That same year he was asked to sing for the soundtrack for a new musical “Tesla The Electrical Spectacle” Inspired by Nikola Tesla’s story Dan Thompson made his stage name Danny Tesla and continues to work under that name winning awards like Best Actor in the film “Birthday in a Dark room” portraying Professor Ansel Adams and starring in other films such as “Surface Wounds”

Moving back to his roots in live entertainment Danny Tesla moved to Las Vegas and performed in Evil Dead the Musical for 6 months on the famous Las Vegas Strip and as a regular actor in the No. 1 escape room in the Country (the Basement) for 8 months. In 2017 he continued to pass on his experience by teaching Acting classes regularly for LA casting Showcase in Las Vegas and lending his acting skills to readings of “Shark Attack the Musical” at the Space and regularly singing at the Venetian. In 2018 he is set to play a lead role as Dorian Wilde in the Feature Film “Art of the Dead” starring Tara Reid.

Danny Tesla is an accomplished Actor, Singer and Dancer.

ROBERT DONAVAN (as Father Gregory Mendale)

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Robert Donavan dabbled with acting for some time before getting serious about the art. He began studying with Robert F. Lyons when he was 42 years old, and within two years started making films.

He continues to study acting to this day, having admittedly neglected his training as a young man. He has worked with such teachers as Lurene Tuttle, Harvey Lembeck, and James Best. Currently he is studying under Kimberly Jentzen.

He has worked with directors Wayne Kramer, Fred Olen Ray, Jim Wynorski, David DeCoteau, Rolfe Kanefsky, Thomas Callaway, and Elliot Feld.

The number of films Robert Donavan has appeared in is close to 60. They cross genres from comedy, to drama, to science fiction, the supernatural, and to horror. He has portrayed scientists, secret agents, border patrol officers, military officers, FBI agents, drug dealers, psychiatrists, morticians, cowboys, and disgraced priests.

The voice over industry has been a good fit for him, having voiced quite a few commercials, and was until this year, the voice of Yahoo Fantasy Football, and the Toyota Fantasy Football Hall of Fame.

Retirement is not in Robert Donavan’s vocabulary, and he has said he fully expects to work through lunch on the day of his funeral.

GET IT HERE (click on image):

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31st Santa Barbara International Film Festival: Leonard Maltin Modern Master – Johnny Depp

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Everyone was waiting.  Leonard Maltin was waiting, Roger Durling was waiting, Scott Cooper was waiting, the press was waiting, and the giant mob of screaming fans were waiting.  Johnny Depp was running late, and nobody cared.  Depp arrived thirty minutes late.  He was set to receive the Leonard Maltin Modern Master Award from BLACK MASS director, Scott Cooper as well as participating in a much anticipated Q&A with Leonard Maltin.

He arrived in a black Cadillac SUV and once he exited he instantly disobeyed his handlers and went directly to the vast mob of his fans.  He took his time signing autographs, taking photographs, and shaking each hand he could.  Depp then moved to the red carpet, timidly keeping away from the press yet posing for a gracious amount of time for photos against the sleek SBIFF backdrop.  He posed with Scott Cooper and then he quickly was moved to the end of the press line, but I caught his attention:

“Mr. Depp, one quick question: DONNIE BRASCO, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, and SWEENEY TODD.  Which is your favorite role?”

He put his hand up to his mouth, held his chin, stared right at me through his blue Michael Mann tinted glasses and said,

“I don’t know.  That’s difficult, man.”

Depp was quickly moved into the Arlington Theatre and the floodgates opened and everyone rushed in.  Once the gorgeous Arlington Theatre settled down, the dapper Roger Durling took the stage and he spoke graciously, thanking everyone for being there and thanked Johnny Depp for coming.

Maltin then took the stage and he introduced Depp and an excellently edited highlight reel played.  Watching a brief highlight of Depp’s career doesn’t do it justice, yet you can’t help feeling overwhelmed by his truly epic career.

Depp walked out, and the theatre erupted with applause and screaming.  Depp shyly smiled.  To this day, Johnny Depp is the epitome of cool. He was wearing socks with hemp leaf patterns and for about the first hour and a half of the Q&A, he meticulously hand rolled a perfect cigarillo.  He then lit it and took the rest of the Q&A slowly smoking it.  In California, and pretty much anywhere else, it is illegal to smoke in a public venue, but who is going to tell Johnny Depp to stop smoking?

Depp is a very sweet guy, he’s incredibly humbled.  Whenever Maltin would bring up a film, whether it was one of Depp’s blockbusters or a seminal undercard performance, the audience would clap and Depp would smile and thank the audience.

The Q&A with Leonard Maltin was almost three hours long and it was wonderful.  I was able to ask Leonard Maltin two quick question on the red carpet, I asked him to pick between DONNIE BRASCO, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO and SWEENEY TODD.  Maltin paused for a moment and said DONNIE BRASCO.  I then asked him what his favorite underrated performance of Depp’s was and he said, without hesitation, DON JUAN DEMARCO.

It took about an hour for Depp to warm up and get comfortable. He was incredibly candid about his career.  He spoke frankly about how he’s a musician, who happened to become an actor to pay the rent.  He spoke in depth about what a horror he was, and sometimes still is, on film sets.  Maltin asked him about his relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio on the set of WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE.  Johnny Depp just started laughing.

“You know, I respect Leo a lot.  He did so much work and research and preparation for that role,” and a sly smile arose on his face, “and I tortured him.”

The audience started laughing, and Depp stopped, and looked at the audience,

“No, really, I did.  He liked video games.  No Leo, I won’t give you a drag of my cigarette while you hide from your Mom.”

Depp briefly spoke about his work with John Waters, saying how Waters was the only filmmaker he knew who made a film based on a title.  He said Waters came up with the idea of PECKER, solely for the fact that when it would be advertised it would be: John Waters’ PECKER Coming Soon.

When Depp was asked about his casting in EDWARD SCISSOR HANDS and his long and awesome collaboration with Tim Burton, Depp started laughing.  He spoke about how he didn’t want to even meet with Burton, he knew he wouldn’t get the part, but his agent Tiffany talked him into it.  Depp recalled walking into a diner to meet Burton.  He had no idea what he looked like.  He scanned the diner and saw a guy “whose hair looked like a hardware store exploded, and I knew I had to talk to him.  Even if he wasn’t Tim, I still had to talk to him.”  The man with the exploded hair was Tim Burton, and that was the beginning of one of the greatest collaborations in cinema history.

Leonard Maltin beamed as he showed a clip of DON JUAN DEMARCO and then asked him about that film, and working with Marlon Brando.  Depp settled back in his chair and smiled, and spoke about his abundant love and admiration for Brando.  He said he was a father, mentor, brother, essentially a gigantic blanket that meant the world to Depp.  When Maltin asked Depp to describe what he learned from Brando, he paused looked down, and then back up at Maltin and said: justice.

Maltin asked Depp about the only film he directed, THE BRAVE that premiered at Cannes in 1997 and featured Marlon Brando in a prominent role.  Maltin asked when we could see it.  Depp asked the audience who wanted to buy it.  He then went on to speak about the reason he shelved the film was because he didn’t want to play the distribution game, and he wanted to retain control over it.

In 2004, when Brando died, Depp was devastated and he was receiving offers about releasing THE BRAVE.  He was told it was a prime time to release the film, it was an unseen Brando performance, and now was the time to release it.  That’s the moment when Depp decided to put the film under lock and key.  He was returning justice back to Marlon Brando.  Maltin then said that releasing it now wouldn’t be an exploiting Brando’s death.  Depp then said he would show THE BRAVE at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival next year, and shook Maltin’s hand on it.

So in theory, next year, Johnny Depp will be premiering his unicorn of a film, THE BRAVE, at the 32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival.  That remains to be seen, but seeing Depp speak, in depth, for three hours about his remarkable career was amazing.  After the Q&A was over, Depp went back outside to all his screaming fans and took more photographs and signed as many autographs as he could.  Johnny Depp is not only one of cinema’s best actors, but he’s truly a class act.

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Photo Credit: Podcasting Them Softly