My Month in Review: April '11

Nohoi Oron (State of Dogs)
Peter Brosens & Dorjkhandyn Turmunkh, 1997
An extremely difficult Brosens vs. Brosens ranking decision for the top spot this month (and not just because I think the "Altiplano" screencap would make for a better thumbnail, I swear)! This glimpse of Ulan Bator and its outlying regions, caught through the limbo between a stray dog's death and rebirth as a human, conveys contemporary urban Mongolia - electrification and disconnection, modern rationales and aging mysticisms. "State of Dogs" is thoroughly engaging - a gorgeous must-see that has me near-speechlessly impassioned.

Peter Brosens & Jessica Hope Woodworth, 2008
The most narratively driven of Brosens' (and Woodworth's, for that matter) directorial efforts thus far, where "Altiplano" limits itself by putting forth a more finite story (finite when directly compared to the more openly poetic "Khadak" or "State of Dogs", anyway), it prominently features some of Brosens' greatest cinematographic accomplishments yet, both majestically static and intricately mobile. An enchantingly and devastatingly beautiful film.

The Thing
John Carpenter, 1982
Like Ray Bradbury, Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft brought together through a persistently tense Ennio Morricone score, "The Thing" absolutely lives up to its own hype and more. With some of the best  and most unique suspense, most insane special effects (practical ones!) and most interesting concepts I've seen in horror, the only pity is the apparent absence of maniacal meticulousness a la Stanley Kubrick's (strong "The Shining" vibes here, regardless). Carpenter's rough-around-the-edges qualities aren't without their charms, though, and for my money "The Thing" is actually a fair bit better than his "Halloween".

Edmund Elias Merhige, 1990
Though many of his films are worthily iconic entries in the horror genre, when Vincent Price exordially warns of terror the daunting images resulting in our minds are always far more chilling than what winds up on screen. Hypnotizingly ambient, "Begotten" excavates those subconscious effigies in the raw. Its hyper-contrasted black and white obscures subject, allowing the little left in our grey to extrapolate dread and find what could well be rudimentary gore effects quite hauntingly real indeed (I could swear the organs were in fact whoopee cushions and cheese danishes coated in motor oil and canned spinach but damn did they look authentic as they were crudely torn and beaten to respective pulps before being - actually refreshingly - washed away by rain). What the already clinical "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" might be if gone existential and subjected to the saturation chamber, "Begotten" is a true nightmare on celluloid. All but surmounting its images, its cynicism toward humanity is its scariest aspect even to this misanthropist.

Black Belt Jones
Robert Clouse, 1974
Definitively formulaic but extremely awesome with high energy, a good cast (Jim Kelly, Scatman Crothers, Gloria Hendry, Earl Brown) and laughs to equal the woop-filled, super-funky soundtrack-accompanied ninja(-ish) action. Never before have I seen someone take so much pleasure chucking baddies into a dump truck.

Mario Camerini, 1954
Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn headlining a peplum rendition of Homer's "The Odyssey"? It just has to be great, right? Well, I'm glad I stuck it out through the shoddy opening act because yes, "Ulysses" became one of the better pepla I've seen. If the version I viewed is the best we've got, though, we could really use a restoration. Any chance the original audio track for Douglas' brash and rascally performance is laying around? Yeah, doubt it, but I'd love to see this again with remastered picture and less lame-o dubbing.

Ralph Bakshi, 1975
Quite clearly a response to "Song of the South" (and subsequently the tales of Joel Chandler Harris), this very "out there" mix of vivacious live action and unmistakable Bakshi animation twists the Disney film's "Uncle Remus" stereotypes and their trials to confront its audience head-on as the rabbit, fox and bear characters are driven to extremes under post-Civil Rights Movement prejudice. As most Bakshi appears to be through the three features I've now seen from the notoriously racy filmmaker, it's rather uneven and tryingly paced, but its spirit carries with ease. As a whole it doesn't top "Fritz the Cat", but certain aspects put "Fritz" to shame. Scatman Crothers' opening song is invigorating and I love the personification of "the man" as a voluptuous, red, white, blue and star-spangled woman humorously taking every easy advantage she can to the detriment of the poverty-stricken she clutches whilst cackling to herself.

Hot Potato
Oscar Williams, 1976
Jim Kelly's Black Belt Jones trades his sideburns for some charismatic teammates (named Johnny Chicago, Rhino and... Pam), transitioning from blaxploitation with a side of ninjitsu to chopsocky lite with ridiculously entertaining results (a complete tone shift from Oscar Williams' prior "Five on the Black Hand Side", as well).

Vrooom Vroom Vrooom
Melvin Van Peebles, 1995
Lovely, lovely Melvin Van. Maybe "lovely" isn't exactly the word but, y'know... read it in a Malcolm McDowell voice. This is the best review I've ever written.

Steve Antin, 2010
The framework of a tamer "Showgirls" leaves a little to be desired (in particular I'd have liked a fleshed out pre-burlesque audition sequence) but "Burlesque", thankfully, is more than just "that movie Christina Aguilera did with Cher" or, for that matter, a mere series of music videos. At an arm's length it's a fun, timeless musical with a solid cast, sufficient tunes and sultrily inspired aesthetics. Cinematography ain't too shabby, either. "I have more to worry about than trying to keep you from pouring tequila on your Cheerios!"

Further viewings:

Cyrus - Jay & Mark Duplass, 2010
The Duplass brothers' latest (and my first from the duo) is easily accessible while remaining tongue-in-cheek throughout, its humor brought to us in authentically discomforting fashion.

My Soul to Take - Wes Craven, 2010
What the what? This amalgam of Craven's more reputed works (with a little "Mean Girls" mixed in) manages to genuinely best most of those works while somehow simultaneously - and just about indescribably - reveling in so-bad-it's-good territory. Highly enjoyable.

Skyline - Colin & Greg Strause, 2010
Leave it to me to like "Skyline", I guess. Mostly I'm impressed with what the brothers Strause managed to accomplish aesthetically on such a relatively skimpy budget, but I was also thoroughly engaged by the oft-yonic, rather "Cloverfield"-esque alien invasion affair. I definitely see where the wide naysaying stems from and - spoiler alert - the movie does lose a whole lot when it decides to make the awesome Donald Faison its first major casualty, but it's a perfectly fair dose of filmic entertainment save for a few obligatory "Nooooos" and "Let's go check it outs". And yeah, that ending? Totally, perversely nuts, and I love that with the exception of a single confirmative word it was all done non-verbally.

Dinner for Schmucks - Jay Roach, 2010
I cannot draw comparisons to the original French film, (which I am now interested in seeing), but considered here as its own piece, "Dinner for Schmucks" is harmlessly amusing Euro-influenced comedy with good performances and occasionally touching moments, even if the ending is mostly foreseeable before we really meet the characters and if it often becomes a bit too strange for its own good.

Die Höhle des gelben Hundes (The Cave of the Yellow Dog) - Davaagin Byambasüren, 2005
A more deliberate and standard narrative ultimately render this a relative disappointment after my enthusiastic reaction to Byambasüren's "The Story of the Weeping Camel", but enough of the same - culturally and cinematographically - remains considerably successful in the family yarn woven amongst the rocks, streams and endless grass of the gorgeous Mongolian steppe.

Kino-pravda 1-5, 7, 15, 17-23 - Dziga Vertov, 1922-1925
Without much frame of reference, Vertov's original "life as it is"/"life caught unawares" recordings are hardly accessible, particularly from a non-Soviet vantage. Nevertheless, Vertov's controversial approach is fascinating, dare I declare moreso here than with his subsequent "Man With the Movie Camera". Of the viewed, I find numbers 1 and 18 the most intriguing.

The King's Speech - Tom Hooper, 2010
A robust film indeed, though yet another example of handsome cinematography being over-edited. Really, it's all about Colin Firth - his performance is emotionally involving from the moment he opens his mouth and keeps us afloat while the story meanders through an obligatory midsection. He disappears into the role beautifully.

Stachka (Strike) - Sergei M. Eisenstein, 1925
Though not much against the behemoths of cinema Eisenstein would go on to create (including "Battleship Potemkin" later the same year) it easily gets by on the definitive ingenuity of the Soviet master, boldly original here with his first feature.

Doctor Zhivago - David Lean, 1965
Lean's broad, ultra-Hollywood take on the Bolshevik Revolution can be drier than the deserts of his vastly superior "Lawrence of Arabia" (compensation, perhaps, for Omar Sharif's oft-damp eyes). Regardless, Lean knew epic and shows as much here with occasionally awe-inspiring composition. This is probably the only list you'll find in which "Doctor Zhivago" is listed behind "Dinner for Schmucks" (or "My Soul to Take" or "Skyline" or "Burlesque" or...).

The Snow Creature - W. Lee Wilder, 1954
Classic creature feature fun, even if it is noticeably short on actual creature.

Die Golden Jurte (The Golden Yurt) - Rawsha Dorshpalam & Gottfried Kolditz, 1961
I must confess to not following along with the dialogue-heavy nature of this German/Mongolian co-production, but the fancifully pastoral visuals nevertheless provided blithe escape.

Tarzan the Ape Man - W.S. Van Dyke, 1932
Even after reading so much about Johnny Weissmüller and the Tarzan phenomenon (in, well, uh, "Uncle John's Bathroom Reader"), this was only my first early twentieth century Tarzan film. Though blatantly and often sloppily economized it was surely a blast in its heyday. Actually, it's more what I expected the earliest works of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack to play like before I actually watched "The Most Dangerous Game" and "Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life" to discover otherwise (and for the better).

All the Vermeers in New York - Jon Jost, 1990
Jost picks a meager handful of striking compositions and sticks with them throughout to aesthetic success, but with the exception of just as few beautifully haunting scenes this one is ultimately a bore - sometimes annoyingly so.

Taivasta vasten (The Stars' Caravan) - Arto Halonen, 2000
Such an intriguing premise - a lone cinephile charged with bringing inspirational Soviet propaganda reels to nomads and gypsies in Kyrgyzstan but released to violent American VHS tapes after the country's independence from the crumbled USSR - is unfortunately executed with little passion... or at least little that actually comes across. With glimmers of buoyant cinematography and vague cultural comparabilities I can see why this was suggested based on my recent fascination with Davaa Byambasüren (it's no surprise Peter Brosens produced), but with few intriguing sequences it lacks much of Byambasüren's alluringly immersive spirit.

Essential Killing - Jerzy Skolimowski, 2010
As though trying to convince that (relative) minimalism and thrillers shouldn't mix, the shallow "Essential Killing" is nakedly contrived; often self-defeating in its lame conventions. Well, alright, the final act ranges from good to great but does it redeem the preceding two? Enough to put it ahead of the rest of this list, anyway.

Arthur - Jason Winer, 2011
How does one transport Dudley Moore's hilariously offensive and financially irresponsible man-boy to these more politically correct and economically conservative times? By watering down his vodka, it would seem. The cultural shift from 1981 to 2011 is palpable from scene one, in which our new Arthur already appears to have a set, almost altruistic moral code contrary to that of the Arthur we were introduced to as he picked up prostitutes. Would it be so difficult to like this character today were he less, well, ostensibly likable? Do we really need to send him to Alcoholics Anonymous (literally)? Read the full review.

Cleopatra Jones - Jack Starrett, 1973
In this frail picture, Bernie Casey eclipses Tamara Dobson as the anchor of badassery. Wonder if I might have liked it better had Pam Grier never existed? Ouch, perish that thought. Invalid anyway, as "Sugar Hill" was just fine behind still another icon of fine blaxploitation sass, Marki Bey.

127 Hours - Danny Boyle, 2010
Well, it made me want a glass of water (if a bit underhandedly). As is the widely cried complaint, the surreal-ish vision stuff doesn't work at all and some of the over-stylization is useless. A Timothy Treadwell-esque aspect is evidenced in the frequent self-filming Aron Ralston is shown to do. Ralston is his own hero and through his recordings seems to desire the same sentiment from his peers. Does this mean the celebrity he earned through his will to survive - in spite of stubborn self-alienation - was what he wanted all along? Probably the second best of the five I've seen from Boyle, who can always be counted on for something completely different whether for better (seldom) or for worse (often). For the record, the best for me would be "The Beach", though it took me a while to come around on the definitively Alex Garland ending.

Love & Other Drugs - Edward Zwick, 2010
I got a Penelope Cruz-in-"Abre los ojos" (and/or "Vanilla Sky") vibe from Anne Hathaway, which appears of little coincidence upon learning she cites Cruz - the "Abre los ojos" performance in particular - as a source of reassurance regarding this role's call for copious nudity. Apart from the always magnetic Hathaway factor, this is basically a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy with better production values and your traditional Ed Zwick protagonist but unfortunately devoid of the director's trademark landscapes. In many ways it's a watered-down medley of Cameron Crowe pictures. While the "Other Drugs" skew the focus, this one is at its best when the "Love" is clamoring through the glimmer of the 1990s. And by "Love" I mean Jake Gyllenhaal giving ill-timed bedroom eyes amidst an extended Tom Cruise impression.

Hot Tub Time Machine - Steve Pink, 2010
Time travel and/or nostalgia movies are becoming - in another way than by definition - very "been there, done that" affairs. Little about "Hot Tub Time Machine" is surprising, or competent in general, for that matter. It's tough to go wrong with latter twentieth century pop culture throwbacks or ideas of reliving and rectifying past traumas (I.E. helpless beatings, break-ups) and "Hot Tub" doesn't go entirely wrong thanks to apt costuming and a few supporting actors who seriously nail '80s movie emulation (including the original George McFly, Crispin Glover), but really, with the minor exception of Rob Corddry (whom I honestly don't typically care for but does a good job here with the film's only worthwhile character), it's just a time waster.

Emmanuelle - Just Jaeckin, 1974
As Emmanuelle explores new realms of her sexuality, her growing experience is progressively felt through her on-screen presence. The mind is the most sensitive erogenous zone, after all.

Bamboo Gods & Iron Men - Cesar Gallardo, 1974
Uh... no? With occasional glimpses of badass and/or irreverent yes? But yeah, mostly no.

Krull - Peter Yates, 1983
The term "Star Wars rip-off" gets frequently tossed around amongst late '70s, early '80s sci-fi fare. Much of the time, as was the case last month with my "Message from Space" viewing, I find the alleged culprits less "rip-offs" and more just pieces capitalizing on a craze. "Krull", on the other hand, while not being the most overt perpetrator as it takes a somewhat unique medieval approach, steals tricks straight out of the "Star Wars" book in about every other scene. Compared to similar films of its decade, its production values are fair and on occasion it does ride on the allure of fantastical questing, but that's about all I can offer by way of compliment.

Kinta - C.L. Hor, 2008
AKA "Four Dragons". All but an absolute mess.

Life As We Know It - Greg Berlanti, 2010
Through atrocious writing and Katherine Heigl at her irritating worst, "Life As We Know It" is worse than "The Ugly Truth". Take that as you will, as miraculously I didn't wind up finding "The Ugly Truth" to be the worst thing in the world. But seriously, I feel I should earn some kind of trophy for making it through an hour and forty-nine minutes of "Life As We Know It". Granted I did have the foresight to approach the endeavor with a handicap of... uh... I dunno, what's a golfing euphemism for tequila?

Total first-time viewings: 36

Rewatches (11 total): Alexander (Stone, 2004), Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (T. Jones, 1983), Forward March, Time! (Tarasov, 1977), Burn After Reading (Coen, 2008), Cigarettes & Coffee (P.T. Anderson, 1993), Primal Fear (Hoblit, 1996), Arthur (Gordon, 1981), Deliverance (Boorman, 1972), The Fly (Cronenberg, 1986), The School of Rock (Linklater, 2003), Waterworld (Reynolds/Costner, 1995)

- Concise words can hardly sum up my adoration for Oliver Stone's director's cut of "Alexander". This viewing saw me misty-eyed for the duration - easily 160 of the quickest minutes I've experienced. Sheer perfection? Nay; after so many viewings I've picked up a number of nit-picks, but what could be considered shortcomings are so inconsequentially minor they don't begin to damper the proceedings. After what is probably the longest period I've gone without watching the film since I first saw it, it feels great to be reminded why I fell in love in the first place.
- For the record's record, "The Meaning of Life" is easily my favorite pure comedy. I've seen it countless times and I still laugh out loud the whole way through, often more and more with each go. If there's a more quotable movie whose quotes hardly if ever apply to actual conversation, I am unaware of it. "What was that about hats again?"
- With each viewing "Burn After Reading" becomes funnier and funnier to the point that it's now a consistent riot with near every line eliciting belly laughter. It also distinguishes itself more and more in my mind from being essentially a Coen brothers "best of" (though strong similarities to the prior works - "Fargo", "The Big Lebowski" and "No Country for Old Men" in particular - are very noticeable). Editing and score top it off by making the uproariously overblown nothing of a situation feel like a hard political thriller. Brilliantly snappy stuff!
- A more digested, relatively more informed look in to Vladimir Tarasov's "Forward March, Time!" proved even more groovy, fascinating and disquieting than the first just a couple weeks prior. What a film!
- It having been a while since I had taken in a Richard Gere movie, I was overdue. "Primal Fear" doesn't hold up immaculately to multiple rewatches, but I still find it an excellent example of American '90s dramatic entertainment with an exhilarating twist and excellent performances from Edward Norton's debut to the firecracker of a showing from Laura Linney.
- "Deliverance" is intense. Though sexual subtext is skated over, it's a superb page-to-screen adaptation, as well. Incidentally, I never before noticed how strikingly similar the younger, mustached version of my father looks to the younger, mustached version of Jon Voight.
- I'm not sure I recognized this distinctly the first time, but "The Fly" is very much a "Frankenstein" story at its core. As with Mary Shelley's masterpiece I cannot help but wonder what might have happened had things just gone smoothly! Of course wondering is probably part of the point.


REVIEW: Arthur (Jason Winer, 2011)

How does one transport Dudley Moore's hilariously offensive and financially irresponsible man-boy to these more politically correct and economically conservative times? By watering down his vodka, it would seem. The cultural shift from 1981 to 2011 is palpable from scene one, in which our new Arthur already appears to have a set, almost altruistic moral code contrary to that of the Arthur we were introduced to as he picked up prostitutes. Would it be so difficult to like this character today were he less, well, ostensibly likable? Do we really need to send him to Alcoholics Anonymous (literally)?

Russell Brand, who attests to loving the original film, performs fairly as the comparatively sober incarnation of the billionaire, though an uncomfortable family-friendly restraint is apparent. Without the constant laughter and with quips fewer and farther between than those of 1988's "Arthur 2: On the Rocks", Brand's Arthur is less enamored with the mere state of being and conducts himself with somewhat greater purpose. This, more or less, eliminates any character arc he might have traveled. Still, for fans of the British comedian, there are several quite amusing moments attributable to Brand's distinctive style and several others for which, if one's eyes were closed, one might think Dudley Moore himself had re-inhabited the screen.

Brand's supporting cast is hit-or-miss. Most outstanding, perhaps most surprisingly so, is Greta Gerwig's reinvention of Liza Minnelli's character, Linda, here renamed Naomi. In another modernizing damper she is altered from a desperate waitress caught stealing to an unlicensed tour guide with a dream, but the actress' subtle blend of feisty Minnelli-isms and contemporary vulnerability is a winning one. Her rival in romance, Susan, is portrayed by Jennifer Garner. This is fitting as Susan is meant to be distasteful and Garner has always been kind of scary, even through her categorization as one of America's sweethearts. Garner does well to avoid our sympathies, shamelessly tromping into a stilted antagonist's role. Stilted though it may be through brazen plot points, the Susan character sees one of the few good updates in that this time she's given real motivation to force Arthur into marriage. Previously we had little clue why the heiress would want the drunken child, we just knew it was the case and Arthur stood to lose his inheritance were he to refuse. Of course the most obvious alteration is the in caretaker Hobson's gender. Hobson was originally, brilliantly portrayed by the great John Gielgud and is here reinvented by the great Helen Mirren. This sends several ripples through the film's few subtleties regarding Arthur's parental scenario. For example this time his father is long dead and his mother is head of his family company, thus creating maternal as opposed to paternal subtext between the authority figures. At its base - and I hate to say it - Mirren puts too much emotion into Hobson. Where Gielgud was so gloriously deadpan, she appears genuinely offended when, say, Naomi shows up in a less-than-refined dress. Finally, there's Nick Nolte. I'm still half-convinced that since 2003's "Hulk" Nolte hasn't been aware of his continued involvement in movies. I think he's escorted to film sets in drunken stupors and allowed to behave as he deems fit while camera crews attempt to capture workable material. In other words, Nick Nolte is awesome and easily one of the shining points here.

Now, none of this is to say this remake is invalidated through changes to its beloved predecessor. Some of the changes, like the mentioned motivation for Susan, are beneficial. Thing is, most of the changes seem to have been made in the interest of not offending the masses, where the whole point of "Arthur" is to offend! More often than not the writing, while honorarily similar in much of its humor, feels afraid of going too far; or, for that matter, even cautiously approaching the proverbial line. It's certainly not that Helen Mirren isn't allowed to put forth her own interpretation of a classic character, it's just that - particularly with many of the same lines to deliver - it's practically impossible to disassociate it from Gielgud's ingenious performance and her interpretation doesn't work nearly as well. As a side effect of all these amendments, the themes that made the 1981 film as interesting as it is - of happiness in both wealth and poverty, appreciating parents and accepting maturity - become detrimentally diluted.

On the bright side, this "Arthur" is decent family entertainment for Brand fans and those not overly attached to the merits of the original, and features its share of chuckle-worthy and even sweet moments added the awesomeness of Nick Nolte.


INTERVIEW: Kelsey Chow: Becoming Hollywood's Next "It Girl"

An excerpt from my interview published in Icon Magazine's Spring 2011 issue.

At 19, the half-American, half-Chinese Kelsey Chow has already come a long way from her timid takeoff as GiGi Silveri on the CW's "One Tree Hill". A prominent member in Disney's current crop of on-screen talent, she has her hands full between acting, studying global health at Columbia University, raising awareness for noble causes and commanding many a paparazzo’s lens at red carpet events.

Chow is currently the female lead of Disney XD's sit-com "Pair of Kings", which follows the fantastical exploits of dizygotic twin boys (Mitchel Musso and Doc Shaw) who assume leadership over a Polynesian island. With refreshing intelligence, youthful optimism and stylishly stunning looks she is embracing the worlds of showbiz and fashion en route to becoming Hollywood's next it-girl.

You had a big 2010. In August approximately four million people watched your TV movie "Den Brother" and in September your new hit show premiered. How do you unwind from all this?
 (Laughing) I'll let you know when I do. It really has been a crazy year, especially because right after our season of "Pair of Kings" ended, I went straight to school. Honestly, I think I'm happiest doing a million things at once. I think I get that from my dad. It's when I do my best; when I'm most efficient. I'm happy, but I am looking forward to Christmas break!

To go or not to go to college is a big question for celebrities your age - how did you arrive at the decision to pursue a degree?
 I always knew I wanted to go to college. That was very, very important to me. It's such a valuable experience, not only academically but also socially. You find out a lot about who you are and you really mature and find amazing people who last a lifetime. Some of my best friends go [to Columbia]. With the entertainment industry, timing is everything and it can be really challenging balancing both, but acting is absolutely my passion. I love every day on set. I am a totally happy camper and although right now, especially with "Pair of Kings", that does take priority, I'm happy to be able to go back to school when I can.

Do you view your collegiate studies in global health as a back-up career plan or more a broadening intellectual experience?
 Well, my grandparents were in the World Health Organization and my dad is a physician who works with humanitarian efforts, so I've really grown up around it. If I am lucky enough to continue acting throughout my life, I will be ecstatic. At the same time, I want to be more than one-dimensional. I want to be doing different things. I think that what's so great about acting is it does offer kind of that unique advantage to be an advocate for different causes. So if I can fuse the acting and the global health together that'd be cool.

Read the full interview in Icon's Spring 2011 issue!

INTERVIEW: The Real Dennis D

An excerpt from my interview published in Icon Magazine's Spring 2011 issue.

You've probably heard of Los Angeles-based investor and new “Million Dollar Listing” cast member Dennis Desantis. For starters, he's involved with various high-profile businesses such as Eva Longoria's restaurant/nightclub Besos and Dr. Tea's Tea Garden. You may also have heard his name a couple years ago regarding a certain young actress’ fender-bender in his pricey ride. To pursue current and upcoming successes, Desantis has battled the reputation that comes with being a former owner of an adult entertainment company. Is the placement of this hurtle fair? Everyone will have his or her own opinion, so let's hear from the man himself.

Did you start from scratch or come from money?
 I was born in Brooklyn, right outside of Coney Island. A rough neighborhood. My father was a telephone man. My mother never worked, she was just a housewife. I started with nothing. Everything was pretty much self-made. I didn't have any celebrity parents or any connections; I just started from the ground up.

Of course I have to ask about your links with the adult entertainment industry.
 Alright, well, first, back in Brooklyn it was really tough making money. I opened up a pool hall, I opened up a pizzeria and I opened up a bar when I was 21. I was always used to owning my own businesses. Then I had to start from scratch again so my friend was like, "Hey, why don't you come work in the adult business with me?" I was like, "Hey, whatever, let's do it." This friend of mine owned the company; I went in as a salesman and saw how much money could be made doing it. I jumped in with two feet and did it for a long time. It was an amazing business; I definitely learned a lot. I met a lot of interesting people. It was a great moneymaker for a long time.

I've heard if you touch the stuff and your name isn't Jeremy or Jameson, Hollywood blacklists you until you're cast in an independent Steven Soderbergh film. How does one leave or transcend that industry?
 Well, there's a difference between those people and me. I owned the company. I never performed in a movie. I never held a camera and filmed on a set. I did most of the sales, sold the rights, stuff like that. I wasn't heavily involved like those people were so I think that's the difference. It was all about business to me.

Read the full interview in Icon's Spring 2011 issue!

ARTICLE/INTERVIEW: Behind Icon with Editor-in-Chief Julie Rabbani

An excerpt from my piece published in Icon Magazine's Spring 2011 issue.

Spring 2010: Julie Rabbani fires up a local fashion publication for Southwest Florida. Skip ahead to now: she's editor-in-chief for the newly digitized and globalized Icon Magazine you see before you on your computer, iPad, Kindle, or other personal device. How did this quick evolution come about? What spurred the switch from print to digital? Just who is this Julie Rabbani, and why did she conceive a fashion magazine in the first place?

Says Rabbani herself, "Since I was old enough to read I've collected magazines. Elle, W, Women's Wear Daily... I'm obsessed with fashion magazines. There were so many things I loved about it and so many things I hated. I would read the articles, but what was more interesting to me was the photography. I would get the magazines to look at the spreads." On exclusivity, she continues, "Who can really afford a $5,000 jacket in Vogue? I can't afford that, but of course I like to look at it! That's the whole point. When you look in a magazine you're daydreaming. It's like watching a movie - you become one with another reality."

Read the full article in Icon's Spring 2011 issue!

COVER ARTICLE: Camila Alves Opens Up about Love, Life & Work

My introduction for Cara Houston's interview with Camila Alves, published in the Spring 2011 issue of Icon Magazine.

Brazilian supermodel Camila Alves hit the worldwide scene early this millennium with a climb that a decade later shows no signs of slowing. Along with recently appearing as a host and judge on Bravo’s “Shear Genius”, she designs a high-profile handbag line and faithfully pursues charitable endeavors involving her community’s youth. On top of it all she is mother to son Levi and daughter Vida whom she shares with her partner, Hollywood beefcake and proud father Matthew McConaughey. Icon's cover model discusses travel, inspiration and what keeps her going.

Read the interview in Icon's Spring 2011 issue!

No Foolin': Icon's 1st Digital-Only Issue is Here... and it's Free!

Being part of Icon for just shy of a year now has been a great experience - celebrity features and interviews with Steve-O and Patti Stanger all while continuing my movie reviewing thang - and I'm most excited for the latest offering. Not only do I have three (and a half, kind of) pieces amongst the pages and not only is this the first digital-only issue (more on the format switch here) but this Spring 2011 issue also sees my heightened involvement overall through my recent promotion to copy editor. Much of what you will see has been proofed by yours truly, and it has been my honor.

Particularly recommended are Nicole Forbis' "Adventures of 'It Girl'" chronicling Forbis' first New York Fashion Week and David Benoliel's "Black Tie Optional" spread. As for my pieces, check out my interviews with rising star Kelsey Chow (Disney XD's "Pair of Kings") and controversial investor personality Dennis Desantis (Bravo's "Million Dollar Listing") and an article based on an interview with Icon editor-in-chief/photographer herself, Julie Rabbani. I also provided the intro for the Cara Houston's cover interview with Camila Alves (hence the mentioned "half").

The magazine is available for free right on Icon's official website. Check it out!