Thursday, July 28, 2016

TLR Chats With Actor Stephen Manley

Actor Stephen Manley is a showbiz veteran whose career in both film and television spans over 40 years.

He may be best known as one of several Young Spock's in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock but as you will soon discover his work crosses many genres.

As a child and teen Manley appeared on classic shows such as All in the Family Emergency! The Love Boat Little House on the Prairie and The Streets of San Francisco.

As an adult he stayed quite busy over the years--but 2016/17 may his most productive period yet. The interview touches upon a lot of it.  When the chat began I promised him that I would try not to geek out with too many questions about Star Trek. I will let you guys judge whether I succeeded in doing that or not....but we started where all good stories begin...

You've been acting since you were very young. How did you get started?

My grandfather Stephen E. Soldi, had started in the silent era. His first job was as a Roman Soldier in D.W. Griffith”s film “ Intolerance:”. He worked as a character actor and stunt double for decades until his retirement in 1966. He worked on everything from “ Frankenstein” to “Singin' in the Rain”. After his wife passed he lived with my parents and he was my biggest role model, He taught me to read by giving me film scripts. when i was 5, I obtained a SAG\ Card thru him and eventually began to audition thru a wonderful agent named Dorothy Day Otis who represented young people.

You have appeared on number of TV shows from the 70's  Can you talk about that period?

The 1970’s was a wonderful period of time to be working in film and television. All of those fantastic shows which are now pop culture classic’s. I primarily worked at Universal Studios, which was an institution: Emergency, Rockford Files, Six Million Dollar Man, Earthquake, I myself worked on The Hindenburg. A great place to be. Warners had Kung Fu, which I also did some episodes, and 20th Century Fox where The Love Boat set sail from. I Cherish the period.

How were you treated by the adults you worked with?

When I was very small, many “old-timers” who knew my grandfather kept a good eye on me and helped keep my standards professional. It could be magical, creative and fun, but it was work, the jobs in every aspect of production are highly sought after , and I learned to respect that very early. I was treated on a level playing field among the adult actors and learned much from many of them which i still carry to this day.

You were on "Little House" which already had a few established young folks on set what was that like?

The Labyorteaux Brothers, Matt and Patrick, whom are still are friends to this day, were a part of that show for years. However it was not until the final season that I was fortunate enough to land a good guest star role as Italian acrobat Marco Gambini. Michael Landon was a very kind and sincere man and i enjoyed the work there very much..even the circus leotard was not too bad. I also got to work with veteran character actor Jack Krutchen who had been in so many wonderful films and shows.

How did you land the role as young Spock (age 17) on Star Trek III: The Search for Spock?

Mr. Nimoy had seen my work in an episode of “ The Secrets of Midland Heights”, a series created by my dear friend David Jacobs. In one episode my character was dealing with the death of his mother by going to a empathetic and warm gypsy fortune teller who was played by the legendary and passionate Zohra Lampert. Ms. Lampert and I played some beautiful scenes and Mr. Nimoy wanted me to bring some of that feeling to what would be “ Pon Farr Spock” with Lt. Saavik.

We lost Leonard Nimoy last year--What was he like to work with?

A wonderful and giving man. A fantastic and gifted actor himself, with that incredible voice. He never lost his temper or patience, treated everyone kindly and as a director ran a very smooth and stress free set. He wanted everyone to have a great creative environment.

Talk about filming the pivotal Pon farr scene?

Mr. Nimoy explained to Robin Curtis and myself that the Pon Farr ritual had only been hinted at in the Star Trek Universe and that now was the time to at least show the lead in to it. Robin, like Ms. Lampert, is a very warm and compassionate woman and worked hard to keep her emotions’ Vulcan-like”. The three of us created the scene under Leonards’ guidance, Robin and I reacting off each others touch, which is very strong way to work. There were more elements that we did that were not shown, for instance there is a pic of Robin touching my face as Leonard observes us. I humor my fans and tell them that it was from the Italian Bertolucci version..! However, I will always be eternally grateful to Mr Nimoy as he insisted the Pon Farr scene be kept in the film when some executives not familiar with the worlds of Star Trek wanted it cut out.

Reflect on Star Trek at 50

What can I say, Star Trek will forever be with us. It stands the test of time and perseveres. Many of the fans I meet are in their teens or early 20’s now, and have become avid fans in their youth. That says to me how strong Star Trek will always be.

Talk about your interaction with the Trek fans

Mr. Nimoy had strongly advised me about the responsibilities of Star Trek actors. He told me that Star Trek would be with me the rest of my life and how he himself took that responsibility very seriously. I assured him I would do the same as I was representing his character at a different stage of life. As a result, I always give to the fans as much as I possibly can, answering their questions and even Pon Farr-ing in pictures with my wonderful fan ladies who have shown such wonderful support. They are all great people and I am always taken with the fact that they remember me.

What is Star Trek: Progeny?

Star Trek Progeny was a high end fan based web series that was slated to begin production, however production is postponed until further notice. I have however taken part in a Star Trek Excelsior Internet Radio Program which features the voices of many Star Trek actors and actresses, Ms. Curtis and Ms. Nichols included. Enthusiasm and followings for these projects is always high and the people wonderful.

What's your take on the reboot of Trek and the latest movies?

The movies were great. A throwback to the original series which I always encourage. And now, Star Trek Discovery. Very pleased to see another series to continue the universe.

You have been really busy this year with no less than 6 projects--all at various stages in the pipeline. Of course some will bow in 2017. Can you talk about them for me? I am particularly jazzed by Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter and  Curse of the Phantom Shadow.

Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter is a Sci Fi / Action film by Director Neil Johnson and starring actress Tracey Birdsall. Also appearing are Daz Crawford from “Agents of Shield” and William Kirtcher from “The Hobbit”. Cannot give away the plot or story, but action fans and Sci Fi fans should be pleased. Neil creates incredible worlds and this is his biggest film yet, as Tracey says: “ This one is EPIC.” Curse of the Phantom Shadow is a stylised 1940’s era serial type project by filmmaker Mark Ross. In place of spaceships and robots, we have B-25 Bombers, Burma, Whiskey, Secret Agents and Varga Girls. How’s that one..!!

Sounds pretty cool. I like horror flicks Ghosthunters was released recently--talk about filming that movie and The challenges of playing Henry.

All of the characters in Ghosthunters had very high emotional stakes. I d prepared my auditions for Pearry by rehearsing with my grandpa who is now in a mausoleum…! I often visit him, but now we had a great role to prepare for, so I brought my fold up chair, a large coffee, and worked the scenes in his presence for hours. Hows that for method,,! The film was written and directed by Pearry Teo whose goal was to craft a serious gothic horror film for The Asylum which is known mostly for it’s tongue in cheek “mockbusters”. What resulted from everyone's hard work was a highly dramatic film with elements of the older Hammer films of the 1960’s but shot with Pearry’s unique style that included some SteamPunk flourishes. Francesca Santoro, David O’Donnell, Liz Fenning, Web Crystal, Phyllis Spielman and myself found ourselves in this fantastic historic home rehearsing and acting out what was really a Gothic horror play. It was an incredible experience for all of us and a wonderful opportunity to help Pearry deliver something new for this company, who were shocked at the dailies they were seeing. I was so wrought after playing Henry that it took a couple of weeks to heal. So proud of everyone I worked with. There were no best or worst days. The whole production was first class.

 What do you like to do when you are not working?

I cannot remember, thank goodness I have been blessed with quite a lot of work recently so am focused on that. I have cherished playing in the pool lately with my little girl who is now 9. After some fear of the water, she is now swimming “ like Pac-Man” under and above the water. I am so proud of her.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be an actor?

As with any Art, find the best instructors that you can and be willing to work very hard on both yourself and the work. Being an actor, one is exposed, there is no canvas to protect you. You have to be willing and ready to open yourself up for your art. Not always easy to do for any actor or actress including the ones you admire. You will be training for the rest of your life.

Your chance to say anything else...

Thank you so much Tom. I can talk forever on these things so I better let you rest..!

I am so very grateful to Stephen. He is one of the nicest industry folk that I have met in my travels. He was so understanding about my hand injury--the interview was a bit unorthodox to say the least. He also gave me as much time as I needed so that I could do this interview for you guys. I hope at some point down the road that we will be able to chat again. In the meantime be sure to "Like" his  Facebook Page and follow him on  Twitter. Thanks again Stephen! And to you guys my loyal readers--as Spock might say: "Peace And Long Life"...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review of Batman: The Killing Joke -- Two Masked Men At Their Darkest

I should preface this review by first saying that while I have a deep affection for Batman, I am by no means a Dark Knight connoisseur.

I probably know more about Batman than the average person, but I hesitate to call myself a "fan" because that title is, at least in my mind, reserved for people who really know the comics inside out (and it is fair to say that this movie is in many ways aimed at such hardcore fans.)

I don't read a lot of comics, and I've only read a handful of Batman ones. Rather, my relationship to the Caped Crusader stems mainly from the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy, as well as perhaps the pinnacle of superhero-comics-as-games, Rocksteady's Arkham Trilogy.

Most importantly, however, it is my childhood fondness for Paul Dini's Batman: The Animated Series that shapes who Batman is to me (and a whole generation of millennials, for that matter.)

As such, the voices of Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy are the Joker and Batman, respectively. Any time a producer is able to wrangle these two voice actors back together for any Batman project, it lends a heavy weight of credibility for me and many like me.

(As a side note, Kevin Conroy as cranky old Bruce Wayne in Batman Beyond is probably the best I've ever heard him in his decades-spanning role.)

The Killing Joke film being an adaptation of an era-defining classic comic, it hardly needed any more "credibility" to be taken seriously, but the fact that these two actors were onboard was probably the biggest reason I went to see it.

(I should point out that, lest anyone be misled, this movie is rated-R for a reason. We have long left the innocent territory of the Animated Series. This movie is violent, gory, and in some places quite disturbing. No explicit sexual content is shown, but heavily implied, including a sexual assault.)

As prefaced earlier, I am not deep into Batman comic lore, and had not actually read The Killing Joke prior to seeing the film. I caught wind of a few details beforehand, but by and large the story was new to me. So while I have been told that the majority of the film follows the comic almost shot-for-shot, I cannot speak to this personally.

What I can say is overall the relationship between Batman and the Joker is explored more deeply in this film than any I've seen. In TKJ, Joker is at his darkest and most sadistic, and Batman is forced to confront the fact that the only real way their dysfunctional dance will end is if one of them is killed.

Whether Batman is capable of doing it, and whether or not he can avoid tumbling into an abyss after breaking his character-defining rule of not killing, is the ultimate question posed (but maybe not answered?) by the film.

[Warning: Spoilers Ahead]

The flashbacks to Joker's past are beautifully done and do very well to humanize an otherwise utterly inhuman character. We even see a brief moment of this humanity peek through when Batman offers to help the Joker return to sanity, and Joker pauses to reflect, only to make it clear he has given up hope on himself.

While I certainly appreciated this extra dimension to Joker, I was not entirely convinced by his backstory of a relatively normal person who, after a series of terrible events, is pushed straight into pure insanity. Joker's level of depravity makes such a leap too difficult to buy, and even though I like seeing into his past, made me almost wish they had left it unknown.

One of the most controversial bits of this film is the added content in the first 20 or so minutes detailing the relationship between Barbara Gordon AKA Batgirl (voiced by Tara Strong) and Batman.

Romantic undertones have always been implied between these two, but in this film, that relationship is-- shall we say-- fully "fleshed out".

One one hand, this is a very odd story choice. Batman has always traditionally fulfilled a mentor or fatherly role for Barbara, whose romantic affections towards him are little more than a juvenile crush, and eventually redirected to the more appropriately-aged Robin.

Their love scene in particular was very poorly done and rather sinister in nature, which only brought the feeling of creepiness to the forefront.

Naturally, a lot of people are very upset about this rather abrupt change in the relationship. The romantic interlude tailed by an immediate falling out, tailed by her being brutally attacked by Joker and then ending with her working with Batman once more as Oracle with no apparent emotional reservation is... tough to swallow.

At the same time I do understand it-- her near-death at the hands of Joker is suddenly given much more emotional impact and heightens Batman's sense of revenge. Unfortunately, I don't feel that at-the-edge-of-madness rage that Batman feels after the incident are very well communicated in the dialogue, and the entire point of adding that relationship feels wasted.

But what about everything else?

This movie is beautifully animated, written, and executed. It has some very memorable shots. Joker's eyes twinkling in the lights of his new abandoned theme-park-turned-hellscape is flawless. The pacing is great. 

I particularly appreciated the level of attention given to the sound design. If you were to close your eyes in the theater, you could easily forget it was animated-- no low-budget SFX or music score taint this film. Explosions feel huge, the Batmobile sounds as souped-up as ever and the dialogue is nice and crisp.

If you like Batman at all, and can appreciate good animation, you would be well-served to experience this piece of classic Dark Knight storytelling.

The film is available on Digital HD this week and comes out on Blu-ray and for rental in early August.

TLR Gets Another Writer!

I am sooooo excited to announce that my cousin Vincent Lobascio will be posting on TLR! I told him that he can post as little or as much as he likes There's no set schedule or topic.

I will continue posting as much I can--eg The Stephen Manley Chat--Still I cannot thank Vincent enough ...This will allow me to rest my hand and wrist--Doc says I stll need to do less if I want the injury to my right hand to ever properly heal.

Vincent's first post?

A review of the much talked about animated film Batman: The Killing Joke! I think you will find his take entertaining and interesting.....

Show him support and let us know what you think of his posts.

Thanks for your continued loyalty to TLR.

All the best T

Sunday, July 17, 2016

TLR's Next Interview....

Wanted to share this news with you guys!

Gotta jet! All the best


Friday, July 15, 2016

Ross Lynch Is A Class Cut-Up

Heat Vision reports that "Teen Beach Movie" star Ross Lynch will play infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in the indie drama "My Friend Dahmer".

Based on cartoonist Derf Backderf's graphic novel the project sees Lynch play Dahmer during his high school years in the 1970's. The young man struggles with a difficult family life and the urge and thoughts of wanting to kill.

Dahmer is one of the most infamous serial killers om record=he raped and murdered seventeen men and boys in the late 1970s through the early 1990s by way of dismemberment and cannibalism. He was killed in prison in 1994.

Marc Meyers ("Harvest") will direct the film from a script that he wrote that made the 2014 Black

Adam Goldworm is producing the pic. Production begins in Ohio in August.

Wow! You can't get further away from the Disney nice than playing a future serial killer.  Lynch can pass for Dahmer. If he has the acting chops to explore a dark side--this could put him on the map with non Tweens--Will be watching to see where this one ends up.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

TLR's Captain America Contest Answers And More!

Now that TLR's Captain America: Civil War Blu-ray Contest has ended--It's time to reveal the answers and the winners...yes, you read that right, winners--as in more than one! There were in fact 3 winners! Each of whom guessed one of the missing answers:

Tom's top 5 movie scores. The first two were easy and thus I told you what they were.

1. Superman The Movie
2. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
3. Halloween 1978
4. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
5. Psycho

Never in a million years did I expect a 3 way tie!!! Since I did not state within the rules what would happen in the event of a tie--my error means that ALL THREE OF THE WINNERS WILL GET A COPY OF "Civil War"!! Congrats to the winners! And thanks to everyone that played along! It was fun!

Winners Don't forget to send me an address and your name so that I can get it to you by its street date of 9/13/16. Send the info via email with words Cap 3 Contest Address in the Subject line or via Direct Message by way of the Twitter handle @TheLastReel. As soon as I have everyone's snail mail info--I will pre-order the disc!

 Maybe the next contest will finish the bottom 5...One things fer sure I will include tie!
All the best!

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

TLR's Captain America: Civil War Blu-ray Contest Is OVER

Hey folks:

I hope this post finds everyone well.

Before I get into my plans for TLR going forward--Here are those contest details I promised you on social media last week where you could win a copy of Marvel's Captain America: Civil War on Blu-ray! The popular superhero mash-up hits the streets on September 13th 2016. The winner will have it delivered on that very day....In case you missed it--here's my review of the film...

One of the most important aspects to a film is its music soundtrack--the contest will underscore  (Sorry I couldn't resist!) that--as well as test how well you pay attention to details on TLR....

All you have to do is complete the following list:

Tom's top 5 movie scores. The first two are easy and therefore I will tell you what those are.

1. Superman The Movie
2. Star Trek: The Motion Picture


The bottom 3 are really not that hard to figure out. The answers are here if you can find them. Still too hard?  OK you don't have to put them in the right order...BUT if you do, there's a bonus 25.00 Amazon gift card in for you as well. If nobody gets all three answers then its whomever got closest with one or two. The guessing period runs for ONE WEEK--starting today 7-5-16 until 7-12-16 at 12:00 PM EDT The answers can be submitted via email with words Cap 3 Contest in the Subject line or via Direct Message  by way of the Twitter handle @TheLastReel


 The winner will be announced on 7-13-16 (WED) Once that's done he or she will provide a mailing address. Further info will be given to said winner....

Questions? Send them to the email address above DM on TWITTER or at The Last Reel Cinema Group on Facebook

I will back soon with that blog news...Stay close.