Category: Movie Reviews

Pretty Rosebud: Chuti Tiu and Oscar Torre Discuss Emotional Film

Pretty Rosebud

While working on various film and television projects, actress Chuti Tiu was motivated to write a story about the reflecting values of women in Asian-American culture. Together with actor/director (and real-life husband) Oscar Torre they’ve brilliantly captured that vision as well as the essence of crossing from one stage of life to the next with their emotional new film, Pretty Rosebud.

In Pretty Rosebud Tiu plays the role of Cissy Santos, a career driven woman desperately searching for what will truly make her happy and in the process makes questionable decisions and encounters family rebellion. Moving and at times controversial, the film explores the traditional roles of women in immigrant culture and what happens when those expectations are ignored. Pretty Rosebud also stars Kipp Shiotani as Cissy’s out of work husband Phil, himself going through a transitional struggle of his own.

In addition to his supporting role, Oscar Torre shines in his directorial debut. With no formal education in film production but having spent countless hours on set as an actor, Torre delivers a true sense of Tiu’s flawed, believable characters going through transition. A coming of age for adults and a passion project for both Tiu and Torre, Pretty Rosebud takes a personal, intimate look at family rebellion and infidelity. More importantly, it’s a story about about striving to find your own voice.

The film is set to premiere at the Reel World Film Festival in Toronto, Canada in early April to be followed by a theatrical run in select cities across America. More festival and release dates will soon follow to make this must-see film accessible to all.

I spoke with Tiu and Torre about the making of Pretty Rosebud and more.

Chuti Tiu
Chuti Tiu

What inspired you to write the story?

Chuti Tiu (Tiu): In terms of values, I really wanted to explore the conflict between immigrant parents and first generation American born children. As children, we’re taught to follow the sometimes stereotypical pressures from family tradition, religion and culture. It’s only when we become adults that we realize it might not be something we want. Then there’s the idea of infidelity. When a man is unfaithful, society doesn’t seem to be as antagonistic as much as if it were a woman. I wanted to explore that as well.



Oscar Torre
Oscar Torre

Oscar, did you always plan to direct the film?

Oscar Torre (Torre): Originally, I hoped to just have a part as an actor, but as we started looking at directors and thinking about what we were looking for I began to think that it might be something I could do. I had never directed anything before and wasn’t sure if I wanted to take on that pressure and responsibility. Finally, I just threw it out there and to Chuti’s credit, we were both on the same page.

Tiu: I remember the first time Oscar read the script. He really loved it and wanted me to make it. Then as our relationship grew, he encouraged me more and more. I have to credit his encouragement and belief in me that it got done.

What was the filming process like?

Torre: It was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done but also one of the most rewarding. I really enjoyed the creative aspect of putting it all together. From story boarding, to determining camera shots and even choosing colors for the walls. Then being able to go out and actually shoot a film that had already been inside my head for months. There were some challenges along the way when things didn’t work out the way I had originally envisioned, but I really enjoyed the process of overcoming them.

What was it like working with Kipp Shiotani?

Tiu: Kipp was wonderful and was really involved in the creative process. For us, it was almost like playing tennis. You’re really able to volley back and forth when you find someone who is just as passionate as you are about the craft and story.

What can you tell me about the film’s upcoming theatrical run?

Tiu: We’ll have our Canadian premiere in Toronto next month and will then be having showings in LA, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Milwaukee and Miami.

Torre: We’ve also been chosen for the Big Island Film Festival in Hawaii at the end of May and have a few more festivals lined up. Then we’ll be looking into a larger theatrical release and VOD.

What other projects are you currently working on?

Tiu: I’m currently writing a project of my own that has to deal with the issue of death and how we wrap our heads around it. I also play Nurse Lailani in a series called Chasing Life which premieres this summer on ABC Family.

Torre: I play a lead role in a film called “Eenie Meenie Miney Moe” that’s coming out April 15th on Red Box. I also have a script for a short film that I’ll direct and also star in with Chuti. It’s the story about two characters from two different worlds who have nothing in common but meet once a week in a motel room. There are a few twists in the story as well. Then there’s Lunarticking, which is a film Chuti and I co-wrote along with a friend. It’s an emotional thriller that we hope to start filming at the end of the year.

Chuti Tiu and Oscar Torre
Chuti Tiu and Oscar Torre

How does completing this film compare to some of your other projects?

Torre: It’s much more rewarding. In a way, it’s like having a child. You don’t know what he or she is going to grow up to be like or how they’ll be perceived by the world, but you’re proud with each step that you take. Having people come up and tell us they identify with the characters is the real gift. It was our vision, but it took the help of a lot of people behind the scenes to make it happen. As an actor and director you often get a lot of credit, but if you don’t have a great team bringing their own creativity and input you don’t have a film. Our cast and crew was extremely diverse in background and it was important to have that kind of family to work with. They’re all part of this journey and its been fantastic.

Tiu: As an actor, I always thought of myself as one of the colors being used for an amazing painting. For this project, Oscar and I have been the painter and the canvas as well as some of the colors. It’s been our baby from the blank page on up and it’s great to see that we’ve been able to move and inspire people. It’s why we create art in the first place.

For more information on Pretty Rosebud Click Here
Follow Chuti Tiu and Oscar Torre on Twitter: @ChutiTiu @OscarTorreActor


Actress Amber Bollinger Discusses New Horror/Thriller “Big Bad Wolf”

BigBadWolfActress Amber Bollinger is no stranger to the world of horror, having already accumulated a number of them on her film resume. But it was her role in the 2010 scream filled “Pelt” that caught the attention of director Paul Morrell, who asked her to audition for a role in “Big Bad Wolf” (releasing on DVD March 4th). Working together alongside other talented cast and crew, this twisted version soon came to life; exceeding expectation and delivering a thrill ride of scares, screams and sexiness.

A dark, allegorical adaptation of the story of “The Three Little Pigs”, Big Bad Wolf stars former “Bachelor” Charlie O’Connell as Huff, an abusive stepfather living in poverty in California along with his battered wife, Lorelei (Elina Madison) and three teenage girls. On the verge of making a lucrative drug deal that will finally give him the money he needs to escape his misery and retire to Mexico with his mistress, Huff’s plans begin to unravel when his wife secretly gives the drug money to her daughters and encourages them to run away to seek better lives. This series of events triggers a chain of rage-induced asthma attacks, complete with ‘huffs and puffs’ as Huff attempts to locate the three runaways and recover his money. “Big Bad Wolf” also stars Clint Howard, Natasha Alam, Jenna Stone and Elly Stefanko.

I spoke with Bollinger about “Big Bad Wolf” as well as her upcoming film, “Listening” which deals with the power of telepathy.

How did you become involved in Big Bad Wolf?

I actually landed the role based upon a movie I had done called “Pelt”. A mutual friend had introduced me to Paul Morrell, who had seen it and liked my performance. He contacted me through Facebook and asked me to come in and audition.

What attracted you to the story?

I liked the fact that it was a different kind of horror film. It literally is a dark twisted ‘Three Little Pigs’ story.

Tell me a little about your character, Brixi.

Brixi is the oldest of the children and becomes the real mother figure her little sisters never had. She’s the God-fearing, tough one who understands that she may have to take on the role of martyr in order to protect her sisters and get out alive.

What was the chemistry like on the set?

It was great and we all got along really well. Charlie [O’Connell] is such a funny guy and not anything at all like his character on-screen. When “action” was called, he became someone completely different. He can turn it on and off at will. Elina [Madison] was great too. She works a lot to get into her character and I really trust her as an actress. You knew that everyday she was going to come in fully prepared and ready to give her all.

What do you think makes for a great horror movie?

I love all kinds of horror films but I think the best are the ones that aren’t apologetic. They’re just brutal, bloody and go for the jugular. That’s what this film does.

Amber Bollinger
Amber Bollinger

Tell me a little about your other upcoming film “Listening”.

It’s a Sci-Fi drama about grad students who are trying to invent mind-reading technology. My character, Jordan helps them along by giving them elements they haven’t seen before. There’s also a government organization involved that’s trying to get the discovery in order to use it on a much larger scale. In a lot of ways, the story is not that far-fetched. There’s a lot of reality to it.

Big Bad Wolf is available on DVD March 4th

Filmmaker Angelo Lobo Discusses New Documentary: “Romeo Misses A Payment”

Romeo MovieFilmmaker and father Angelo Lobo exposes the devastating effects of the American divorce industry in his amazing new documentary, “Romeo Misses A Payment.”

Through interviews with parents, attorneys, judges, and other law officials on all sides of the issue, the film explores the complicated world of divorce and child custody through interviews with common folks; some perhaps even like people you already know who believe they’ve become just a number and not a name.

“Romeo Misses A Payment” is controversial, insightful and at times heartbreaking. But through all of its harshness, Lobo’s film encourages us by showing that there is hope. “Romeo Misses A Payment” is a must-see documentary for both parents and other concerned citizens.

I spoke with Lobo about “Romeo Misses A Payment” and what we can do to help raise awareness about what’s going on in our court systems.

What inspired you to make this documentary?

My story is similar to all of the millions of other ones about non-custodial parents. It got to a point to where I just wanted to take the pain and emotion that I was feeling at the time and turn it into a positive to help other people. I started thinking about the power of video and knew that if I could show some of these emotions and touch on what people were actually feeling, then maybe people would start a discussion.

The problem is, no one really wants to talk about it; or if they do they automatically feel that the non-custodial parent is somehow a “bad” person. Saying things like “What did you do wrong?” or “You must not be paying” or “You’re not a good person” when most of the time, that’s not the case. A lot of the time you have normal, everyday people who are feeling tremendous pain and heartache and aren’t able to talk to anyone because the climate has been built against the non-custodial parent to make them feel like they’re not a good person.

How long did the film take to complete?

I started the project back in 2006. I bought a camera and just started going around to courthouses and filming. I just wanted to get as much footage as I could and interview as many people as possible. And it was the same heartache story: “I can’t see my kids”, I’ve got to pay this…” The judge ordered this..” It started to get overwhelming. That was when the parent organizations found out about what we were doing and came to us and said, “You know, we’ve been trying to do something like this for the past 15 years.”  And before long, people started emailing and calling. Doing whatever they could to send us in the right direction.


Did you find that a lot of the people you interviewed were eager to discuss their situations?

I think when a non-custodial parent finds someone who’s willing to listen and can relate to what they’re saying, it’s almost a relief that they can talk about it. That’s what we found. People were sharing with their hearts what was happening, and that in turn helped us move forward with the movie.

Was there a reason you chose some of the cities you visited? Like Dallas, Texas for example.

At the time, Dallas had one of the highest rates of incarceration for a failure to pay child support. That’s what brought us there at that time. The worst part was that these were average citizens who, because they weren’t able to pay $2000, were being put in jail with rapists and murderers. It was hard to believe that it was happening. How is the system helping parents by doing this?

Did you ever risk being arrested yourself during the course of making the film?

In a few interviews we were escorted out once they found out some of the questions we were asking, but the goal was the same. We had to keep moving and bring awareness to this and realize that one court document can ruin an entire family. I’m not saying that the courts aren’t trying to do their best. The fact is, they’re overwhelmed with a lot of cases.

Filmmaker Angelo Lobo
Filmmaker Angelo Lobo

What would you like people who are going through this issue to take away from watching this film?

I want them to realize that they’re not alone. There are other people out there who are going through the same issue, but there’s hope. We’ve got a great resource page on our website where you can reach out to organizations close to home. Stop and take a couple of deep breaths and know that you’re going to be ok, and your kids are going to be ok too. Just being able to talk to someone and not holding in the pain is a step in the right direction.

What do you think are some of the things we can do to solve this issue?

I think we really need to look at the laws that are in place. It’s a non-partisan issue so let’s have the legislatures really look at it and determine what the best interests are not only for the country, but for the children who grow up in it. Right now there are a lot of bills out there, but I think we should focus on the education end and maybe teach people who want to get married that certain things could happen down the road. Make sure that they’re really ready and also how to be good parents. Things that can benefit them before a disaster. Look at ways to strengthen things to create a better home for children. My hope is that this film will bring about that dialogue.

For more information on Romeo Misses A Payment
Check out the Official Website

Movie Review: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

mandylaneBetter late than never I suppose. Especially when you consider that when the artsy, independent horror film “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006, George W. Bush was still President.

But thanks to poor test screenings, distributor cash flow problems and bankruptcy, the film never made a big enough splash to warrant a more wide spread showing and instead wound up collecting dust for the next seven years until finally getting a proper release here in the U.S. on Dec 3rd.

“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” follows the same format of most horror/slasher films we’ve become accustomed to: a young, virginal Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is a high-school student who goes off to a remote ranch to party with a much rowdier bunch of kids that includes the jock (Luke Grimes), the sensitive guy (Edwin Hodge), the stoner (Aaron Himelstein), and two sexy, albeit air-headed beauties (Melissa Price & Whitney Able). The addition of a mysterious ranch hand (Anson Mount) popping up at the strangest of times only adds to the tension.

All of the guys are so focused on getting with Mandy that no one really notices that some of them have gone missing until it’s too late. That’s when the bloody truth emerges.

In addition to witnessing the demise of the film’s characters, old school slasher film fans will find plenty of other meat on the bone with “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane”. Whether its the recreational drug use, gratuitous sexual encounters and truth or dare or asking the question of who is really out there in the darkness. Artsy fans will marvel at many of the techniques director Jonathan Levine and cinematographer Darren Genet employed during the filming process.

But for me, what separates this film from the standard ho-hum fare of serial killer pablum was the cool little twist that’s engaged halfway through the film. I’ve seen plenty of Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger “adventures” over the years, but have to admit this was something I certainly wasn’t expecting, and it changed the viewing dynamic for the better.

“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is Lane’s first leading role as well as Levine’s directorial debut. He’s since gone on to make a name for himself with films like “The Wackness,”and “50/50”. Not bad for a director who’s first film took seven years and two Presidents to see the light of day.

In my view, any filmmaker who invests a substantial amount of time and money into a project should be able to see a proper release of the finished product. While this film is certainly not for everyone, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is one fans of the genre will find was well worth the wait. (Three Stars)


This American Journey: Paul Blackthorne Discusses Amazing Documentary

ThisAmericanJourneyFollowing the recent U.S. economic downturn, actor Paul Blackthorne (along with photographer and friend, Mister Basquali) decided to embark on a cross-country road trip deep into the heart of the American landscape.

Along the way, they stopped to interview random people about the issues and concerns facing every day Americans to try to gauge what society can do to pull together when times are tough.

The resulting documentary, “This American Journey” is an encouraging, insightful look into the unbreakable will of the American spirit.

Regardless of what we may have been brought up to believe through our own socioeconomic backgrounds and biases, “This American Journey” reveals the unique perspective that lies within each of us. It’s the showcasing of those opinions regarding what’s right and wrong with America that makes the documentary so compelling and engaging.

As an actor, Paul Blackthorne has appeared on some of television’s most iconic series, including “24”, “ER” and most recently, as Detective Quentin Lance on the CW hit series “Arrow”.  But it’s his directorial debut in “This American Journey” that adds a fresh layer of inspiration to an already impressive resume.

There are moments in the film that are uplifting, while others will surely move you to tears. You’ll hear perspectives of common folks from all walks of life; many of whom having ideas that may make you reconsider your own way of thinking.

But in the end, the real reason “This American Journey” shines is because it makes you think. And perhaps that’s what Blackthorne had in mind all along when he set out on his cross-country quest.

I spoke with him about his journey across America and what satisfied him the most about it.

What made you decide to take on a project like this?

Shortly after the economic down turn, I became curious about what the people of America were thinking about the country. At the time, the American Dream was in a troubled state, and even I wasn’t sure how I was feeling about America (having always loved it since I was a kid). I decided that the best way for me to form an opinion on how I felt about America was to go out and speak to the people of America. So that’s what we did. We got on the road and had a great chat with a lot of wonderful people.

Paul Blackthorne (Photo Credit: Jenn Crawley)
Paul Blackthorne (Photo Credit: Jennifer Cawley)

Did you go into it having an opinion of the people you were likely to meet?

It’s easy to judge a book by its cover, but if you take the time to actually open the book and read a few words inside, there’s a lot more to it than what you originally thought. As we drove across the country and met people in certain places sure, it would have been easy to form an opinion of what someone might be like. But once we had the chance to actually listen to them and really get a sense of their character, we were amazed.

Did you at any time during the course of your journey fear for your own safety?

There was one neighborhood we visited in a big city where we had to make a pretty hasty departure, but generally speaking everyone we met was very open and receptive to us and we were received very positively.

Paul Blackthorne (Photo Credit: Jenn Crawley)
Paul Blackthorne (Photo Credit: Jennifer Cawley)

What satisfies you the most about “This American Journey”?

Getting the film completed was very challenging, but we were supported by a lot of incredibly skilled people and that was very rewarding. Seeing the audience’s reaction to the film and the conversations that are generated from watching it is also very satisfying.

We went into it wanting to make a film that would make us all feel good about life and be inspired to dwell on the positive and as a result, hopefully generate more positive stuff. And that’s what we’ve done.

Has your own perspective of America changed now that you’ve completed the journey?

I feel very positive about America. We may be going though some tough times, but the American Spirit is in good shape. I’ve also learned that we have a lot more in common with each other than we have different. If we choose to dwell on the positive and look out for each other a little bit more, we’ve got a greater chance of getting out of difficult times. We’re all in this together, so let’s work together and focus on the important things we have in common.

For more information about “This American Journey” Click Here

Movie Review: Ambushed

In Ambushed, ambushed emailagents Maxwell (Dolph Lundgren) and Beverly (Carly Jones) are closing in on an international cocaine smuggling operation that’s being run by criminal mastermind Vincent Camastra (Vinnie Jones). But when Beverly goes undercover with mid-level drug dealers Eddie and Frank (Gianni Capaldi and Daniel Bonjour, respectively) she finds herself in deeper then she can handle. The case then becomes personal for Maxwell who has to combat ruthless killers and a dirty cop (Randy Couture) in an all-out action filled finale.

Ambushed is told from the point of view of Eddie and Franktwo seedy guys who want nothing more than to become bigger players in the game. But their quest for glory goes awry and in the process sets off a murderous series of events.

Couture plays crooked detective Jack Reiley, an officer disgruntled with the current state of the LA system who decides to strong-arm his way into the drug business for a fast pay-day and early retirement. Meanwhile, Lundren plays DEA agent Maxwell, a man who’s seen his own share of destruction, but has kept his path on the straight and narrow.

What I didn’t like: Although the context of the story certainly gives a general indication, my biggest complaint with Ambushed was the lack of a definable plot and difficulty in determining just who the actual “bad guy” really is. Is it Eddie and Frank? The criminal mastermind, Vincent? Or is it the dirty cop, Jack? The film leads you in many different directions, none of which making any real sense. In fact, many of the scenes through out the film appear to have either been rushed or leave you just scratching your head. For instance, there’s a chase scene between Lundgren and Couture’s characters that initially begins on foot in broad daylight, but ends with Lundgren catching Couture long after dark in the pouring down rain.

What I did like: I enjoyed watching Lundgren and Couture’s characters develop over the course of the film. Let’s face it, both of these guys are already giants of “bad ass”, so it was no surprise that it was only a matter of time before they faced off against each other.

There’s also a scene where Eddie and Frank are bantering on about the violence in a Bugs Bunny cartoon that I thought was terrific. While Eddie’s describing the animated scene in detail, a real-life violent confrontation is playing out at the exact same time across town. It’s a pity the rest of the film didn’t follow through with this kind of formula.

Lundgren fans will certainly find something to savor with Ambushed, but for me the film came up empty. Although living up to the title’s expectation, I ended up feeling incomplete and wanting more. (Two of Five Stars)


Movie Review: The Lords of Salem

LordsI’ve read quite a few mixed reviews of Rob Zombie’s latest release, “The Lords of Salem”; most of which have either applauded the director for taking a chance on a story about the Salem witches, or berating him for a weak script, uninspired character development and a theatrical plot that seems to go no where.

Having now seen it for myself, I can concur with the latter’s assessment.

The Lords of Salem is Zombie’s third horror film [OK, actually it’s his fifth, but I refuse to count any attempt at remaking the two original Halloween movies]. And whereas Zombie used “House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects” to showcase more of the carnage and body count, he takes a more methodical, artistic approach with “The Lords of Salem”.

Local D.J and recovering addict Heidi Hawthorne (Zombie’s real wife, Sherri Moon Zombie) receives a mysterious package at the radio station from a band calling themselves..(wait for it).. “The Lords.” When played on air, the record’s atonal melody evokes a strange response from Heidi and a certain female segment of the listening audience; summoning long-slumbering witches of Salem and drawing them to the only living descendent of their eternal enemy, the Reverend John Hawthorne. Someone who just happens to be…. Yep, you’re right again! Heidi Hawthorne!

Meanwhile, local historian and author Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) makes a guest appearance on Heidi’s radio show and begins to notice an odd connection between Heidi, the “Lords” record and the history of the town. His investigation leads him to visit Heidi at her apartment building where he encounters a trio of strange women (Judy Geeson, Dee Wallace and Patricia Quinn) who have taken an interest in protecting Heidi. It’s then when things really start to get out of the frying pan and into the fire.

If you’re into a witch coven returning from the 17th century to raise the prince of darkness, you’ve certainly come to the right place. The Lords of Salem is filled with shocking imagery; including some nudity that should not be seen by the human eye. Thankfully (as seems to be the case in every one of his movies) we do get the gratuitous shot of Zombie’s wife’s bare backside to balance things out.

Zombie has described “The Lords of Salem” as what it would be like if Ken Russell directed “The Shining” and indeed, there are elements of this scattered throughout the film, along with a haunting orchestral score.

Although I do have to join the chorus and poo poo him for a weak, cliché script and blase characters, I applaud Zombie for taking the mindless hack and slash out of horror and replacing it with elements of art. I wasn’t so much scared watching “The Lords of Salem” as I was disturbed. And perhaps that’s what the director really had in mind in the first place.

(2 1/2 stars out of 5)