Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review: 2012 (2009) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Roland Emmerich (written by) & Harald Kloser (written by)
Genre: Action / Drama / Sci-Fi
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense disaster sequences and some language.
Released: 13 November 2009 (USA)
Starring: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover and Woody Harrelson

Plot: An epic adventure about a global cataclysm that brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors.

Review: 5/10

The Story is about: Centuries ago, the Mayans left us their calendar, with a clear end date and all that it implies. By 2012, we'll know -- we were warned. Never before has a date in history been so significant to so many cultures, so many religions, scientists, and governments. A global cataclysm brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors.

My Thoughts: Why are people so infatuated with the idea of the end of the world? Better yet, why are people always contemplating if the end may or may not be in their lifetime? Perhaps it’s because people want the answers to what cannot be so easily answered, or perhaps the majority in this world (even if they won‘t admit it) is as wickedly cynical as I (yes folks I too wonder when the end will be!) It does however baffles me sometimes when I hear people bring up the conversation of whether or not they’d be alive to see the world come to an end. I have no problem with talking about such, as it does in fact amuse me quite a bit and arouses my imagination with the infinite possibilities of how the dramatic end will be like, and if man will go out loudly with a bang or silently drift off into the quiet slumber of history, but what interests me is that the majority of people in the world would prefer not knowing when exactly they’d meet their maker (provided they have a spiritual based faith) compared to the small minority of people out there who would most certainly want to know when their own time was approaching, yet this same majority of people who prefer to live life impaired from the knowledge of how many years they have left is in usually the most curious of the bunch as to wanting to know when all life as we know it was coming to it’s end. *cough, cough!* Hypocrisy! *cough, cough!*

Seriously though, I don’t know how or when the end will happen, I just know that history has shown everything has both a beginning and an end, and though the discussion over our beginning has been debated upon for as long as man was able to count the number of fingers and toes on his hands and feet, it’s only a matter of time before our species bears witnesses to it’s inevitable end, and I, however, believe that when humanity’s chapter comes to a close life will go on without us and the world will continue to spin around the sun without us on it’s back.

Director Roland Emmerich, the man behind such notable big-budget popcorn flicks such as: 10,000 BC (2008), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Godzilla (1998) and Independence Day (1996), brings us his latest film, 2012 (2009). A disaster flick to end all disaster flicks, and at the same time, becomes it’s own disaster! The film’s plot is loosely structured around the premise of the end of the 13th baktun cycle of the ancient Mesoamerican (Mayan) long count calendar, the film explores the idea of “What if” the Mayans and other past civilizations really did foresee this day coming thousands of years ahead of their time. The film is without a doubt an orgasmic spectacle for these viewing eyes, with gorgeous cinematography and pulse pounding adrenaline fueled scenes being thrown at you almost nonstop leaving you almost breathless, one would normally argue that this modern-day Noah’s ark tale would no doubt be the blockbuster popcorn film of the year. However I cannot stress enough how much this fails on a grand scale. For one thing it’s logic should not be taken to heart, because the illogical conclusions this film runs on not only undermines the original Mayan prophecy, but also blast’s viewers with false incoherent and somewhat laughable scare tactics of how the world will come to an end on 2012! and how there is little next to nothing we can do to prevent it, if you ask me it reminds me a heck of a lot like the Y2K incident (Speak up folks, who here overstocked their homes with useless survival supplies for that humiliating event?) when you take into account all the mindless action and needless awkward comedic moments thrown around in 2012, you can’t help but feel that Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) was a masterpiece plot-wise compared to this, and believe me that’s saying a lot coming from me.

But to be fair, 2012 does have it’s fair share of redeeming moment, I’ll give it that much, the film manages to capture it’s audiences at quite a few tear-jerking points that will no doubt have you overwhelmed with emotions. One of these emotional wrecking scenes in particular revolved around the characters Harry Helmsley (Mankuma) and Tony Delgatto (Segal), these two men are your typical odd couple-like characters who are enjoying their twilight years lounging aboard a cruise liner as jazz performers, keep in mind that their storyline plays no significant role to the film’s overall plot, but rather a side story that is only a fraction of what’s going on in the film, however their screen time manages to manipulate the audiences into feeling a great deal of empathy for them from the get-go, meanly because it shows that their chance of survival in the film is next to zero, leaving them S.O.L. and J.W.F. (S*** Out of Luck and Jolly-Well F*****). To make matters worst, their only connection in the film is that Harry is the father of American geologist Adrian Helmsmen (Ejiofor). Other than that I felt no sympathy for the majority of the characters that bite the big one, meanly because it’s hard to feel anything for them when they are so poorly developed as two dimensional characters. To be honest, what I found most disappointing with 2012 is the fact I (FYI, not socking one bit, but I was not the only one in the theater reacting to the film like this) ended up finding myself rolling my eyes with despair at every sad attempt at humor and chuckling my butt off at the more serous of moments in the film.

As for the acting: Well what can I say, despite the slew of A-Listers, acting isn’t this film’s strong point, in fact it often plays out as it’s weakest. John Cusack has always been a favorite of mine, and often at times I’ve been a bit bias towards his films, and yet his presence couldn’t even win me over in this than alone save the film. However he does mange to pull off a somewhat okay performance, however don’t hold your breath because it’s defiantly not him at his best. Generally I like Amanda Peet because she’s a fairly talented actress that can make you easily laugh or cry and no matter what role she’s in she always has that gentle sweetheart look on her face that easily wins people over, and it saddens me to see that the chemistry between her and Cusack was greatly absent in this film, which is even more so disappointing because Peet and Cusack have don very well together in the chemistry department in past films like: Identity (2003) and Martian Child (2007) just to name a few, but it seems that this was not the case with 2012. Chiwetel Ejiofor was fantastic in his performance despite my displease with the acting in general, though I will say I felt the romantic courting that was being set up between Ejiofor and Thandie Newton characters in the film was not only rushed, but did not at all feel the slightest bit believable.

Oliver Platt was not so bad, though at times I did feel a bit disappointed in his performance because here‘s an actor that normally co-stars in films that are somewhat decent, and even though he at times star in films that are just down right embarrassing to watch (can somebody please explain to me why the film “Year One”? (2009)) than alone acting in it, he still manages to pull his charm into what ever role he‘s in, however this was not the case with 2012 as I found his classy charm was gravely absent. Woody Harrelson is well known for playing controversial roles in past which for better or worse I’ve always found very amusing to see, his role in 2012 is yet another one of those head turning roles yet, which doesn’t cease to amaze me, because it seems the man love to be “that” guy in every film I see him in, is his performance good? Well that debatable, if you were to ask me it seemed like he was just being himself in the film [Insert pun here]. Last but certainly not least, actor Danny Glover, the man who graced the big-screen with his signature phrase “I'm too old for this shit!” was the biggest of all disappointment, why? Because he gave such a dull performance in the role of President Thomas Wilson that he left me unsold, and believe me, being a hug fan of his work over the years I was very disappointed. George Segal and Blu Mankuma were among the few in this film who I enjoyed performance-wise. I could go on and on about the rest of the cast but I won’t dare bore everyone who reads this to death.

Final Say: Despite my feelings toward this film not having much a chance of being a major critical success among film critics like myself long before it’s realest, I took the high road and withheld my Judgement and went into the film with hope and optimism, I hate to play devil's advocate here, but sadly I told you so, the film was just as much as it was expected of itself, a mindless disaster film that’s only purpose is to serve one’s fears and nothing else and believe me it more often than it should it fails at that too! If one is still curious to see this disaster of a film than I recommend you do the courteous thing and check your brain at the door first. Watch at your own risk!

Copyright 2009
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Review: Law Abiding Citizen (2009) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Written by: Kurt Wimmer (written by)
Genre: Crime / Drama / Thriller
MPAA: Rated R for strong bloody brutal violence and torture, a scene of rape, and pervasive language.
Released: 16 October 2009
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler, Colm Meaney, Bruce McGill, Leslie Bibb, Michael Irby, Gregory Itzin, Regina Hall, Emerald-Angel Young, Christian Stolte, Annie Corley, Richard Portnow, Viola Davis, Michael Kelly, Josh Stewart, Brooke Stacy Mills, Ksenia Hulayev.

Plot: A frustrated man decides to take justice into his own hands after a plea bargain sets one of his family's killers free. He targets not only the killer but also the district attorney and others involved in the deal.

Review: 8/10

The Story is about: Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) a brilliant inventor orchestrates a series of high-profile murders that grip the city of Philadelphia - all from inside his jail cell. The prosecutor assigned to his case Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) realizes he is the only one who can end the reign of terror.

My Thoughts: There’s a saying in show business; “it's not what you know, it's who you know!” which sadly is at times the inconvenient truth that is the business. Is it fair? No, but what are you going to do about it, business is business right? Well how about a different saying that is used in the legal system but with the same meaning behind it that is a frightening one to hear “It’s not what you know, it what you can prove in court.” This is a very sobering thing to hear, because the thought that an innocent person may take the rap for something they were not really at fault while the guilty party walks free is something no one in this great country wants to hear. But just like the industry, business is business and what are you going to do about it?

As depressing as that may sound to some I sat down to watch a film in which someone actually does something about this easily corruptible legal system. From director F. Gary Gray (director of The Italian Job (2003) and The Negotiator (1998)) and Writer/Producer Kurt Wimmer (Writer of Street Kings (2008) and Equilibrium (2002)) comes Law Abiding Citizen, a film that dives deep into more than your average revenge flick, but proves to be a rollercoaster ride into the mind of psychological mastermind that packs more punches than a bare brawl! Clyde Shelton (Played by Gerard Butler) was a mild mannered husband and loving father who had it all, but on one unfortunate night everything he ever loved was taken from him in a moment of despicable violence. After surviving a horrific home invasion which brought him close to death and witnessing his wife and daughter raped and murdered in front of him, all he desired was to see these men tried for the crimes they committed, and even though they may be a chance they could walk free due to a lack of evidence he would still be happy knowing they got put through the system accordingly. However when you’ve got a power-hungry attorney who is more out for his own personal gain by trying to maintain a high conviction rate. The odds of getting what you want are most likely not going to be in the cards. After one of the men who killed his family walks free from the death penalty, Shelton feels he’s been wronged by the system that was built to bring justice to those who seek it, and now seeks to avenge his family by killing the one who got away, as well as all those in the legal system who allowed it to happen. What I most liked about the film is the fact it blurs the lines between good and evil and straight-out anarchy. It’s unforgiving and never lets up for a single moment.

Though Gerard Butler’s character, Clyde Shelton, is seen as the film’s antagonist while Jamie Foxx’s character, Nick Rice, is considerably seen as the protagonist of the story, anyone with a single bit of a conscience can see that its complete nonsense to chose a side in this film, nor can you truly categorize either of them as such. Though Nick Rice is considered the “good guy,” his actions in the beginning of the film as well as throughout can be deemed as questionable due to the fact he’d rather take a small win and let one of the criminals walk free than nothing at all, which serves his hunger for power and personal gain within the system. But as the film goes you begin to feel remorse for him as he witnesses his friends and colleagues start dying one by one. Shelton, a man who is considered the villain of the story can’t really be seen as a full fledged “Bad guy” because you feel a great deal for him after he loses his family, and thus you sympathize for him. Overall the film’s two main characters can be seen more as couple of unfortunate people who was thrown into a predicament that neither really deserved. Does the film have problems? Sure it does. One of the main problems I had dealt mostly with the editing with the film. The scene in which Shelton is escorted outside the prison to have a privet conversation with Rice was great scene, but a poorly edited one at that, in the beginning of the scene we see Shelton getting roughed up by Rice, and he’s got blood coming out of his mouth and on his face. However in the very next moment he doesn’t have a single drop of blood on him at all. This was very frustrating for me, and I wished they’d have never edited it that why. Aside from that I didn’t have any real problems with the film.

As for the acting: Gerard Butler was fantastic, he’s manage to prove his worth as an actor time and time again with films like “RocknRolla,” Nim's Island,” “P.S. I Love You” and “300”. His performance is nothing sort of brilliance! And he continues to show this in Law Abiding Citizen. Jamie Foxx is an actor that has gained great respect from me over the years. It wasn’t long ago I used to see him as a C-List comedian and a hack in the acting department. However that has seriously change for me over the years, after watching him give stellar performances one after another in films like “Collateral,” “Ray,” “Jarhead,” “Dreamgirls,” “The Kingdom” and “The Soloist”. It’s intriguing to think it wasn’t long ago he was such a terrible actor, and now today it’s very much the opposite. I was never a Regina Hall fan, mainly because I didn’t care for her lackluster performance in the “Scary Movie” films, as well as her inability to be humorous in them. However I got my chance to see her act in a serious role for a change. And believe me when I say: not only was it great, but it was the first time I saw her put hard effort into her performance. Emerald-Angel Young did a pretty decent and adequate job in her performance. Acting alongside Foxx and Hall as their daughter in the film worked fantastically. Christian Stolte and Josh Stewart did a fine job in their brief roles as the film’s real villains. From the get-go the viewers are put in a situation of wanting to just hate these two in the most unforgiving manner, that when their grizzly demise comes to pass you’ll be cheering it on. Stolte and Stewart were outstanding. Other notable mentions in the film go to Colm Meaney, Bruce McGill and Leslie Bibb who are magnificent in this.

Final Say: Law Abiding Citizen was a fantastic film from start to finish. Though the film has its faults, and mild plot holes, you can’t help but appreciate this film’s fine quality for being blunt and unforgiving. I highly recommend!

Copyright 2009
All Rights Reserved

Review: Zorg and Andy (2009) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Guy Davis
Written by: V.Z. Montengo (Screenplay)
Genre: Comedy / Horror
MPAA: Not Rated
Released: 2009 (USA)
Starring: Scott Ganyo, Kate Rudd , Jennifer Wilkens, Sally Weatherston, Trevor Fanning, Ben Ayres, Nick Kraynak.

Plot: Andy (Ganyo) an undergraduate who’ll must recover an idol that was stolen from him after it was placed with him to be cleaned, he’ll go up against a mysterious woman killing anyone and everyone who knows about the idol, a cult that wants it for themselves, and if that wasn't enough already, trying to win the girl. Can Andy pull it all off?

Review: 5/10

The Story is about: Perpetual undergraduate Andy has one last chance to keep his financial aid: a work-study job at the mysterious Kungsbaden Museum. After a beautiful stranger steals an ancient fertility idol in his care, Andy sets out into the night to recover it. In the process, he discovers that his idyllic campus is home to a network of bloodthirsty pagan cults, all of whom are fighting over the idol.

My thoughts: Today’s modern moviegoer will spend their time looking for the next best thing in film. The ever so Oscar worthy film or the next big popcorn flick to see, because anything less is just icing on the cake. This of course is where I stand at odds with my own generation, because they don’t know how to appreciate the fine quality of a classy B-Movie. Then again most of the modern movie going community didn’t spend their nights staying up into the wee early morning hour watching marathons of cheesy B-films like I did growing up. Which of course is why you could say that it’s because of this that I’ve learned to see pass the simple qualities of visual filmmaking that is only skin deep.

Zorg and Andy is a film that purposely sets itself up as a B-style movie. Because it’s not trying to be the next big hit, but rather a cheap check your brain at the door thrill! This is a form of moviemaking that is at times forgotten and unappreciated. The film follows Andy, a perpetual undergraduate who screws up time and time again and never seems to get a break. And when he’s down to just one last chance to keep his financial aid he gets a job working for the Kungsbaden Museum where his first assignment is to clean and prepare a small idol that just arrived, however little is known of the idol, other than the fact a mysterious woman is killing anyone and everyone who comes in contact with it, and to make matters worst an on campus cult has stolen it. Now it’s up to Andy to recover the idol and uncover the secrets behind it. As cheesy as it may sound, it’s actually kind of entertaining for those looking to checkout a film that doesn’t require much out of you but a set of eyes and an hour of your time.

Where I appreciated the film for its cheesiness, it does however have a lot of problems that I had with it. The big problem I had with the film was that, though the film’s premise is to be as much a B-movie as it can be, it overdoes itself at times with over the top jokes that instead of being delivered in a humorous manner instead hits the viewing audience as being rushed and amateurish which serves more as a weakness to the film rather than keeping with the theme of the genre. But the biggest weak point stands to be the film’s runtime, which is only 62 minutes from start to finish. Though I have fairly enjoyed short films in recent history, Zorg and Andy’s Achilles’ heel seems to be the fact it lacks character development. Because the film does not allow the character’s to be more three dimensional we are left unable to have any compassion or will for these characters. Though I will admit that despite me being displeased with the film in general I will say that the film does have its moments of enjoyment. Sadly though, these moments of enjoyment never expand into becoming anything more than just moments. And because of this, no matter how much I tried, it simply was not my cup of tea.

As for the acting: Well what can I say, the acting was very problematic for me. First there is Scott Ganyo, who I could not get into liking his character, nor could I find an ounce of myself to enjoy his performance. Kate Rudd was probably one of the only performances I fairly enjoyed, though there are times in the film where I felt she could have done much better. Jennifer Wilkens was okay, except for the part where her character annoyed the heck out of me. If it was meant to be like that than she did a good job, otherwise I was not enjoying her on-screen time. I was not at all thrilled with Sally Weatherston performance, mainly because she didn’t sale me on the character’s attitude all that much. Last but certainly not least there’s Nick Kraynak, who plays “The Pig” was probably the most interesting thing about the film, because the actors spend the whole course of the film with a pig’s mask on. Sadly though as much as I thought it was fascinating I found it rather weak on the fact there is no explanation as to why this person where’s the mask or a punch line to it assuming it was meant to be a joke that is.

Final Say: Zorg and Andy was an interesting film with a lot of promise to become a cult hit but ends up missing it’s target half the time due to it’s failed attempts at trying to be funny. Nothing personal against the film or filmmaker, but a comedy not being humorous is in my opinion, a deal breaker.

Copyright 2009
All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

American Sunset (2009) AKA The return of Cory Haim!!!

Whenever I hear the name Cory Haim mentioned the first thing I have is a blast from the past of memories filed with vampires, Werewolves, and dare I say it... Rollerboys!. sure I may not have been old enough to remember much of the 1980’s era (Except for Prayer of the Roller boys (1990)) but I certainly grow up indulging in a nice daily regiment of it’s era’s finest Cult classics. Most notable of the Cult Classics include film’s such as “Silver Bullet” and “The Lost Boys” and let’s not forget his long term partnership with buddy Cory Feldman whom have worked together in a slew of film dubbing them the title known by their loyal fans as “The Two Coreys.” over the years both Feldman and Haim have seen the unfortunate decline in their status among the Hollywood A-list community, but between the two Haim seems to have gotten the worst of it over the course of this new millennium both professionally and personally. However to show the way of success, fallen from grace actors like Mickey Rourke has exemplified themselves as living proof that you can’t keep a good man down, and sooner or later they will make a comeback!

That’s where the independent film American Sunset (2009) come into play. Cory Haim plays Tom Marlow, a man who gets a phone call from mysterious voice saying that his wife has been kidnapped and if he ever wants to see her again alive he must play a deadly game of cat and mouse while trying to race against time as he only has 24 hours before his wives is never heard from again.

While some may think that the outline of the plot has already been said and done time and time again, the film’s advertisement shows much promise and may still hold a few surprises for moviegoers. Cory Haim is said to have given it his all in his yet most current starring role in American Sunset. And the film could quite possibly be Haim’s long awaited comeback film. Only time will tell however. As of right now if you’re in California tonight (November 9th) be sure to drop by Laemmle theater, 2nd street, Santa Monica around 6:30 pm for the Red Carpet event premiere. Corey Haim will be there in person greeting fans, First 100 get in. Meet Corey and receive a ticket to the after party. More info on the film and it’s premier can be found on it’s official website

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Exclusive Interview with Director Ryan Andrew Balas

TCWreviews’s Administrator and Editor in chief Clifford Kiyabu sits down with Cater director Ryan Andrew Balas for an exclusive interview. Ryan Andrew Balas is a Director, a Writer, and an Actor. He did this interview with me recently to talk about his new film ‘CARTER’ which will make it’s d├ębut later this month, as well as a little about himself and what is the driving force behind his style of filmmaking. But what makes him such a worthy person to have a sit down with yours truly is the fact he is a person with a impressively strong will who will not stop until his daydreams become a reality for all to see. Such ideals are that of a genus in the making.

CK: First off let me thank you for making time to do this interview, you must be very busy with the premier of CARTER just around the corner.

RB: No problem at all, totally my pleasure. Thanks for taking the time to ask these questions, it's very appreciated. I'm busy promoting the screening for sure, and putting the final touches on my directors cut of the film. I also stay fairly preoccupied day dreaming about the other projects I’m working on. I'm a hyperactive guy.

CK: So before we get into talking about the film I think it would be great if my readers got to know a little bit about the man behind the camera first.

RB: The man behind the goofy glasses!

CK: So sell us a little about yourself

RB: I'm a Midwestern transplant. Born in Indiana and spent my teenage years in Michigan. I moved to NYC in 2004, to study acting, I did the first year with the Upper West side as my campus. In 2005, I hopped over to the west coast and completed my conservatory training in Los Angeles in 2006 and shortly thereafter, moved back to NYC. I've been happily living in Queens, with my girlfriend, two dwarf rabbits and two cats, ever since. I tend to get the most work done when I stay up all night, so I get very little sleep. I'm a huge day dreamer and try to go for a good brain storm walk, every day.

CK: So you’re a fellow nighthawk I take it? [Laughs]

RB: Yes. It's the best time to work! My poor girlfriend falls asleep to typing noises and a computer light, every night.

CK: Care to give a shout out to your lady friend?

RB: Of course. I love Deirdre Herlihy. She's a talented, beautiful young lady from New Hampshire. We met in school in NYC, moved to LA together, and back to NYC together. I think she deserves a development and producer credit on everything I work on, because she has to constantly hear all the idea's through fruition. Needless to say, she's a great listener and I love her honest feedback. I don't think I trust anyone as much as I trust her.

CK: So is your girlfriend in acting or filmmaking too?

RB: Yes, She's an actress. We met working together in class. She's been very busy this year, working on multiple films by various directors, Brian Ackley and Richard Buonagurio, to name a few. She has a natural ability to be in the moment and act accordingly---I have a longer way to go. I think she's going to do great out there, because she has a kind heart and no ego---and that kind of personality goes a long way. To date, she's acted in all my films and I'm very lucky to have that. Eventually, I'd love to see her behind the camera on something; she has a really keen eye for photography. I'm not sure if that's something she will ever really want to go after but we shall see.

CK: What inspired you into wanting to become a filmmaker?

RB: Home movies. There is footage taken on an old VHS home movie camera, of my dad filming a family party and I’m just following him around asking to use it. For as long as I can remember, I've been in love with filming human interaction.

CK: So basically what you’re saying is that you were born with a strong will for filmmaking?

RB: Yes, I was born with the curse of neurosis and desire to be broke! [Laughs] There is something inherent to me about wanting to tell a story and movies feel most natural.

CK: This may sound a bit unorthodox to the interview, but when you talk about an old medium such as the “VHS” doesn’t that make you feel a bit old? [Laughs]

RB: VHS is making a comeback. Mark my words! It's a beautiful format, with subtle nostalgic elements associated with its picture and sound and despite how it might "age" me, I can't deny that feeling. [Laughs]

CK: Were there any particular films or T.V. Shows you watched growing up?

RB: I'm terrified of dark water---but JAWS is one of my favorite films and easily my earliest memory of a movie. I think the film that motivated me the most creatively was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Such Humanity! ha. I spent hour’s day dreaming of being a crime fighting ninja---I’m actually very surprised that there isn't more TMNT influence in my work. My earliest home movies were ninja films. My brother's and I would dress up in my mom’s dark spandex and swing around from tree's. As for T.V., Zach Morris was (and continues to be) my hero...I love Saved by the Bell.

CK: Was getting into “the business” always in your cards or did it come along later on in life?

RB: Ya know, honestly, "the business" aspect of this whole thing is just a stone on the path. For me, making films is as equal and important to hunting, gathering and building a shelter. It's just what I do in this life; I really just don't see another way. The business part of it, is just as much about getting bread on the table as it is about enjoying the meal. Does that make any sense at all? Here I go again, creating strange new ways to phrase my feelings. ha.

CK: Actually that makes a lot of sense. As for creating new phrase to extend your personal feelings, I’ll let you in on a little secrete; I do it too! But shh! Don’t tell any of my readers okay? [Laughs]

RB: You have my word. Not a soul.

CK: So where do you see yourself in the future of filmmaking, do you plane on sticking to Indies or would you like to move up to a more mainstream level?

RB: I want to continue making personal films that say something about my experiences. However, there are many roads up the mountain, but I think ultimately we are all headed to the same place. Wow, there I go again. sorry folks.

CK: You’re both an aspiring actor and filmmaker, and I’m pretty sure over time you’ll make your mark in the industry. But if you had to choose between the two careers’ which of the two do you prefer most?

RB: Filmmaking. Hands down. Acting to me, is simply a part of that process.

CK: So as a filmmaker and an actor do you have any set boundaries genre wise or are you willing to explore all the film genres?

RB: I only do Sci-Fi skin flicks!...ha. Just kidding. Sort of. My new movie is kind of sexy and kind of Sci-Fi. So maybe I’m headed in that direction. I don't really see my work as being "genre" based. I just want to make personal movies. Not necessarily films that are solely from my own experience but a personal view of someone else's experience as I encounter it. Sometimes those stories will fit into the context of "genre" and so I strive to serve the needs of that experience.

CK: So you’re willing to try anything at least once than genre-wise?

RB: I'm open to any form of storytelling that feels honest and that I can connect with on a personal level---if that's commercial comedy like my web series "The Really Cool Show" ( or a meditation art film like "Carter", then that's the path I will take.

CK: I understand that aside from directing and acting in the film CARTER, you also wrote it?

RB: To an extent, yes. I conceived the overall concept, and I wrote the one act stage play that the film is inspired by. But the film had no official script. We shot based on a minimal outline, breaking down possible thematic elements of scenes that would take place in specific locations. We shot one scene using the dialogue and scenario from the one act play---but it was the first thing to hit the cutting room floor.

CK: Interesting, so basically parts of the story were developed as filming was going on than?

RB: Absolutely. I always try to be open to that. I make very low budget films, independent of a structure that can provide little more than encouragement, man power and most importantly, creative collaboration. If my films are going to work, I have to give them the freedom to be "discovered". Many time's that will happen in the editing room. I see the position of "director" as being someone who knows to work with people smarter than himself and to have the ability to serve the best idea in the room, even if it's not his own. A filmmaker friend once told me "the audience doesn't know your intention, they only know what they see" and that's been huge advice, that I take to heart.

CK: So what inspired you to write CARTER?

RB: I was sitting in a car, with a good friend, and he made the same vow that Jebadiah Sminch makes in the film. Which is: If he isn't married by the time he turns 23, he will kill himself when he's 25. I really liked the idea of exploring the absurdity of that vow and how far someone might go to commit to a "joke".

CK: Did your friend ever follow through with the vow?

RB: He's not 25 yet. So we shall see.

CK: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I heard that some of your co-stars also had a part in co-writing the film as well?

RB: Oh Yes! The actors improvised all their dialogue, based on direction I would give them. Julia Howe who plays Carter, once joked that she was nervous because she felt like she needed to say something clever, but I'm really looking for the opposite of that.

CK: That’s very impressive of you to give the actors such a nice stretch of freedom to work with on the dialogue. Did they have time to practice with each other on the dialogue before filming started or was it all improved on the spot?

RB: Everyone discussed characters and the situation prior to shooting, but all of the dialogue was improvised as we were shooting. It's always about discovery! I love being surprised in a scene and finding new things to work towards. It keeps everyone on their feet. Some things, you just can't write. Even in my new film, which has a complete screenplay. we are using a lot more of the improvised moments, because they just feel more honest and personal.

CK: If so, can you explain what hand they had in co-writing it?

RB: The way I like to work is fairly loose, allowing the actors to personalize it and bring in their own experience or reactions to a given scenario. I start by shooting long take's allowing us to "find" the scene then dig in for the good stuff. I sometimes like to give each character a secret mission within the scene and I play with each character, adjusting those missions, until we have either complete chaos, or a precise interaction. We tend to find the story in editing.

CK: So tell us a little about the film.

RB: As a teenager, Jeb Sminch jokingly made a vow that if he wasn't married by the time he turned 23; he will kill himself when he turned 25. The story takes place, three days before Jeb's 25th birthday, he is unmarried but in a committed relationship with a beautiful young lady named Carter. He fully intends to commit to his vow despite as he fully acknowledges that he's never been happier. This film is an exploration of a character who wants to "get the last laugh" at the absurdity of life. I hope it feels more like a human experience than a plot driven narrative.

CK: How long did it take to film?

RB: Five days. Three of which, the majority was shot. The other two were pickups and additional scenes.

CK: Did you manage to get everything from your script film?

RB: The story wrote itself, and because we were open to that experience, I felt I said the things I needed to say. Yes.

CK: So I’ve heard that you and Director Princeton Holt and Brian Ackley aren’t just calques but also close friends?

RB: By close friends, you mean all night phone debates about whether or not Improvising a scene is "serving" the story or not, than yes! [Laughs]. We all worked together on each other's films in one way or another (no pun intended) and we certainly have sat down to have a beer from time to time. Everyone is so busy with new projects these days; it's hard to get anyone on the phone! It's starting to feel like a break up. [Laughs]. BRIAN and PRINCETON, if you are reading this, I never stopped loving you. AND I want my plaid tee shirt back! [Laughs harder]. I'm kidding, kind of.

CK: [Laughs]

CK: Care to elaborate more on how this three musketeers like friendship started?

RB: I met Brian and Princeton in a basement apartment somewhere deep in Brooklyn. I was looking for support for my new film "Life in Rewind"...which later became "Carter" and they were looking for support for Brian's debut film "Uptown". I hopped on board as second camera operator and eventually producer and they came over to help produce my film. In between shots at the apartment, and Brian shooting a scene, solo, on a bus, Princeton and I began a dialogue (that continues to this day) about Indie film distribution and the new role that filmmakers play in that. We all enjoy a good debate on the topic and our different approaches to the work, I think, is our greatest strength. Our different approaches? Well, that's a whole other conversation!

CK: This next question I’m about to ask you has become somewhat of a tradition for interviews here at, so don’t worry, you’re definitely not the first one I’ve asked this question to, and you won’t be the last. [Laughs]

RB: Uh Oh.

CK: As a filmmaker how far are you willing to go for the sake or art?

RB: I haven't crossed that line yet, and until I do, I'm not really sure. I know there is a certain liability to making very personal films and having the actors personalize their work but I think as long as it comes from an honest, safe place, we will be able to continue pushing forward. I'm excited to see where the work goes. In short, until I'm doing science fiction porno’s for late night cable programming, I'm not satisfied. I'm joking. Right?

CK: Same question as an actor?

RB: Well, I've played a bear getting a fake b*** *** by a man playing a prince. So I guess as long as the story is good (or funny) and the director wants to work from an honest place, I'm willing to explore a lot of places. I don't ever want to do something that risks the integrity of my personal character or that of my loved ones but I come from an extremely supportive family and that allows me to feel safe enough to go the places that best serve the story. Very little has stopped me so far, and I'm up for the challenge.

CK: Last question: what projects can we expect to see you next in and or working on?

RB: Well, my web show The Really Cool Show (dot com) just released a "best of" DVD. We are super excited about that, and are currently discussing a season four. I'm in post production on a new film called "Mother/Sister" about two sisters, one black, one white, who spend a week together at their famous father's summer home. We shot the film in mid September in Michigan. I'm really excited about the project---it was self produced on a budget raised through social networks and family and friends who wanted to support my work. It feature's wonderful performances by Jace Nicole (Cookies N Cream), Joe Swanberg (Nights and Weekends), Deirdre Herlihy (Carter) and myself in a leading role. Look for it hitting the festival circuit, hopefully spring 2010. Last, but not least, I produced, photographed and have a supporting role in a film by Richard Buonagurio called "Harry's Judy" that is just wrapping Post Production and will be coming out very soon. Like I said before, I'm super hyperactive and like to stay busy. I'm always looking forward to the new projects.

CK: Well it was a pleasure talking with you. I look forward doing this again someday. I’ll let you have the last word.

RB: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. It's been really great and I look forward to a future conversation. If any of the readers are in the NYC area on November 24th, please come see the official directors cut of my film "Carter" screen at the Anthology Film Archives as part of the NewFilmmakers Fall Series. And if you are interested in seeing the naked series "festival" cut of the film, you can order a DVD at And last but not least, if you are interested in any of my other work, you can find me at or on twitter @ryanbalas. Let’s be friends!

And that concludes my interview with Actor/Director Ryan Andrew Balas. We continued conversing off the record for quite a bit after the interview was over. We talked about my personal thoughts about his film after I sat down to watch a privet screening of it. Which you’ll get to read later this month. We also talked about doing another interview together sometime in the near future, preferably sometime soon after my review hits the web so that we may have a deeper conversation going between us about the film. However way it may go I look forward to doing it, as do I look forward to his next project. If you’re in the New York area on or around November 24th you can check out his film CARTER at the Anthology Film Archives for the NewFilmmakers Fall Series. Which believe me is going to be the place to be for all the Indie lovers out there on the east coast. However if you’re unable to make out that way to see the film at the festival you can purchase the DVD which is available now on the Official website for only $20.