‘American Idol’ Singer Kristen O’Connor To Continue Music Dreams

Kristen O'Connor (FOX, CR: Michael Becker)Kristen O’Connor was eliminated last night on American Idol, and although it’s understandably a total downer for the singer, she handled her exit with grace and appreciation. During her exit interview, the singer reflected on her American Idol journey.

“I gained so much from this whole experience,” said O’Connor, who sang an inspired rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Beautiful Disaster’ this week. “My whole life I have been singing, but this is the first time in my life that I’ve had people be objective with me. For the first time I’ve had people who’ve made it in the industry tell me ways that I can improve.”

The mentor section of American Idol also left O’Connor with great memories. “Working with Chris Daughtry, I think that might have been a highlight of my life,” added O’Connor. “He told me my voice is sick. He said I gave him chills. That was amazing and it’s definitely something I’ll take with me forever. And (with) Adam Lambert I got to talk to him for a long time. He gave me great advice and he’s an awesome guy.”

Click on the Soundcloud audio to hear O’Connor, who just received her nursing license, talk about her plans post-Idol:

American Idol judge Harry Connick Jr. also said that O’Connor handled her elimination with “great dignity and class.”

Click on the audio to hear Connick Jr. explain why he really didn’t need to give advice to the talented singer.

Blu-Ray Review: Ice Soldiers Is A Satisfying Snow Bound Thriller

Ice Soldiers (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 95 minutes, Rated R) features Prison Break’sDominic Purcell as Dr. Andrew Malraux, a guy whose search for three Russian super soldiers goes beyond scientific interests.

Over fifty years ago, these trio of fighters massacred a group of scientists in the Canadian arctic, and their killing spree will continue unless Malraux saves the day. Michael Ironside (Total Recall, The Machinist), is Colonel Trump, a military man who, along with several soldiers, provides security for the base camp. Camille Sullivan co-stars as an oil executive who is using the search for her company’s own business interests, and Adam Beach (Flags of our Fathers) is a Cree trapper who helps Malraux battle it out with the soldiers.

Although Ice Soldiers, from the surface, has all the trappings of a B-movie, it’s beautifully shot by director Sturla Gunnarson, and his filming of the snow bound exteriors are quite captivating. The action sequences, most notably Purcell’s climactic showdown with the lead soldier, are also solidly executed. Fans of Michael Ironside will also be treated to the reliable character throw out the movie’s best line when Colonel Trump looks out into the Arctic and reflectively remarks, “Hell of a place to die.”

Try checking out Ice Soldierson Blu-ray, as some of the visual sequences in this action flick are definitely eye-catching (Purcell nearly freezing to death amidst the white capped mountains is a particular highlight). As a guilt free B-movie, Ice Soldiers kept me entertained for an hour and a half, and my only complaint is there are no special features to speak of on the Blu-ray. There are several trailers (Oldboy, Cold Comes The Night, Bad Country) featured on the previews section of the disc, but that’s just a scant offering for a film that deserved at least a featurette on the making of the movie.

To watch a clip from Ice Soldiers, which is now out on Blu-ray and DVD, check out the video below:

‘About a Boy’ Moves To Tuesday Nights With A Dude Bonding Pool Party

After having its premiere over the weekend after Olympics coverage, About a Boy moves to its regular time slot tonight, and having TheVoiceas its lead-in isn’t such a bad thing.

The first episode, directed by Jon Favreau, showed that lead actors David Walton (as rich, womanizing bachelor Will) and Benjamin Stockham (as the precocious man-boy Marcus) have an innate chemistry, and although she’s by default a third wheel in this dude bonding equation, Minnie Driver also put in solid work as Marcus’ New Age influenced mom.

Jason Katims has proven films can successfully be adapted into inspired television shows (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights), and now he’s going for another creative home run with About a Boy.

“This was far and away the best piece of television I had read in forever,” said Driver, who also starred in the acclaimed yet unfortunately short-lived FX series The Riches. “The people attached were so wonderful. The cast, and Jason Katims, and the producers. It just seemed like a great confluence of aspects.”

Click on the audio bar below to hear Walton explain why Will, even though he’s a womanizer and perpetual bon vivant, is actually a pretty likable guy.

Tonight’s episode, titled “About a Pool Party,” airs at 9 pm et/pt (NBC).

‘Black Out’ Director Arne Toonen Sees “Red” With Visual Filmmaking

Black Out (Doppelganger Releasing)

On the surface, Black Out seems like a riff off director Guy Ritchie’s earlier crime films, where flashy camera work, pinpoint editing, and witty dialogue ruled the day. Black Out contains such ingredients, but considering this Holland project was made, in director Arne Toonen’s words, on a”shoestring budget,” the finished product is a pretty impressive accomplishment.

The story centers on an ex-crook (Raymond Thiry) whose desire to live a straight and arrow life takes a turn for the worse. His excitement for his impending wedding is marred after waking up with having no memory of killing the dead man that’s on his bed. But murder isn’t the only thing our protagonist must face, as fellow criminals and the police believe he may have stolen twenty kilos of cocaine.

Black Out (Doppelganger Releasing)One of the film’s many strengths is its strong visual design. Even with minimal funds, Black Out is definitely pleasing to the eye, and part of Toonen’s singular vision stems from his extensive pre-production work as well as ample use of mood boards to give the film a more specified, painterly canvas. “I’m always attaching tons of images into every scene in order for all heads of departments to get an idea of what I want a scene to look like,” said Toonen, who shot the film with two Red One cameras.

I ask Toonen, whose next goal is to direct a film stateside, if he has any advice for novice directors. “I definitely encourage any one who wants to pick a camera and make a film and exercise themselves in the art of filmmaking,” said Toonen. “And by telling a story through images. I think the biggest challenge for anyone is to use as less words as possible.”

Black Out (Doppelganger Releasing)“I started off with two VHS recorders and (doing) linear editing,” added Toonen, who began making films at 19. “It was so much fun. You had to really think. It was a big puzzle. Nowadays it so much easier and the quality of everything.”

Hopefully Toonen’s aesthetic will navigate its way through the studio system, especially since Hollywood definitely needs more directors who know how to successfully mount genre driven projects and work within a reasonable budget.

 “My big dream of making film is to reach as large an audience as possible and entertain people and give them something to talk about,” said Toonen. “Basically showing something that they want but they don’t necessarily expect.”

Black Out is now playing in select cities and is also available on VOD. To check out my review, take a gander at Hollywood Outbreak.

Julianne Moore On Diverse Acting Career: “I Like To Mix It Up”

It’s hard to find an actor in Hollywood who’s had a more diverse career than Julianne Moore. If you’re a cinephile who digs indie films, you probably love her work with director Todd Haynes (Safe, Far From Heaven). Lately my tastes have veered towards genre driven projects, especially if they’re thrillers (which is why I enjoyed Julianne Moore’s work in Carrie).

Now Moore plays a passenger whose life is in peril with Non-Stopa project that reunites Liam Neeson with Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra.

During the Non-Stop press conference, Moore talked about why she loves changing things up when it comes to filmmaking.

“I like to mix it up,” said Moore. “If I’ve done something really serious, I like to do comedy. If I’ve done a comedy, then I’ll find a thriller that’s interesting to me. I like genre. I like movies. I like to accrue experience. That’s really been it.”

To listen to Neeson praise Moore as well as hear the actress elaborate on her acting career, click on the audio bar below:

Non-Stop opens nationwide February 28.

Scott Mescudi Feeds “Need For Speed” Fix With New Song & Rivals Add-On

NEED FOR SPEED (DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC)Need for Speed hits theaters March 14, and although it may initially be viewed as yet another movie trying to capitalize off a successful video game franchise, there’s a couple of huge reasons why I’ll plunk down what little money I have to catch this flick.

For one, it’s directed by stunt vet and Act of Valor filmmaker Scott Waugh, so at least the action behind Need for Speed should deliver the goods. Secondly, the cast (Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots, Rami Malek, Dominic Cooper, Scott Mescudi) each bring their own sense of believability to the screen.

Of the aforementioned actors, Mescudi, best known to music fans as Kid Cudi, is the least experienced, but if his passion for innovation and spontaneity (you can submit his hip hop/rock album Wzrd as evidence) should lend itself well to the silver screen.

Mescudi also contributed a song to Need for Speed. Click on the Soundcloud bar below to hear him talk about the process.

During a recent Need for Speed interview, Mescudi talked about how he’s contributing to the Need for Speeds Rivals videogame for an add-on feature. Click on the media bar below to hear Mescudi:

Kathryn Hahn Reflects On “Creatively Thrilling” Acting Period

It’s a cliche, but Kathryn Hahn is that perpetual scene stealer, an actress who breathes life into everything she inhabits. Whether it’s We’re the Millersthe unfortunately short-lived TV series Free AgentsStep Brothers, or last year’s indie drama Afternoon DelightHahn is just a pleasure to watch, mixing an innate likability, hilarity, and a subtle touch of pathos to her work.

With Bad Words, a comedy which marks the feature directing debut of Jason Bateman, Hahn plays a reporter who’s trying to figure out why a grown up misanthrope (Bateman) has entered a revered spelling bee contest in Los Angeles. Like much of her previous work on television and film, Hahn’s comedic abilities are on full display.

During this week’s interview for Bad Words, Hahn described this period in her acting life as “creatively thrilling.” Click on the clip below and listen to this actress talk about how having children and possessing a bit of “stillness” has helped her as an actress:

Bad Words hits theaters in March.

Comedian Kevin Hart Thinks Like A Man With A Plan (Audio)

Kevin Hart (Invision, Eric Charbonneau)With the success of About Last Night, as well as the June release of Think Like A Man Too and the sequel announcement for Ride Along, Kevin Hart is at an all-time high career wise.

Some actors who reach that level may want to take a year or two off, sit on their accrued wealth and enjoy the spoils of their success. Hart’s stand up comic work ethic, as well as his ambitious path, are two reasons why he won’t be stopping anytime soon.

“My goals are through the roof with what I want to accomplish,” said Hart during the About Last Night interviews. “When you look at the comedians that have gotten to a certain level of success. They have done so much. From the Pryors, to the Murphys, the Chris Rocks. Literally this list can go on and on. From George Carlin to Seinfeld. Bill Cosby. They’re legends for individual reasons.”

To hear Kevin Hart talk about his future goals as an actor and a comedian, click on the clip below:

‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Trailer Gets Us Hooked On A Feeling

Like such super groups as The Defenders and the Squadron Supreme, the Guardians of the Galaxy has always taken a backseat to Marvel Universe’s super teams of The Avengers and the (uncanny) X-Men. Credit Marvel for hiring filmmaker James Gunn, who proved he can expertly blend tragedy, vigilantism, and kinetic action with his low budget superhero offering Super.

Guardians of the Galaxy, opening August 1, has Chris Pratt (Zero Dark Thirty) playing Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, an unpredictable (and from the looks of the trailer, extremely witty) space traveler whose discovery of a mysterious orb leads to his inevitable conflict with a world beating villain named Ronan (Lee Pace). Helping Star-Lord’s in his battle are fellow outsiders Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Baustista), Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel).

The trailer is fantastic, and one of the many reasons why I’m pumped for the film is it’s shot by Ben Davis, a cinematographer who previously worked with director Matthew Vaughn on Layer Cake,Stardust, and Kick-Ass.

Check out the trailer, which features one of B.J. Thomas’ most popular tracks. From what I’ve seen from photos as well as this clip, I’m definitely (excuse the pun) “Hooked on a Feeling.”

‘Top Chef Estrellas’ Premieres Sunday With A Sous Style Twist (Video)

Top Chef Estrellas is putting a different spin to the Top Chef franchise when it premieres February 16 on Telemundo. Instead of the contestants coming from a culinary background, the participants will feature Latin stars (hence the word “estrellas”) such as pop star Christian Chavez, Argentine actor David Chocarro and Mexican actress Erika De La Rosa cooking up dishes for their favorite charity.

The charity angle obviously makes the idea much more palatable, and Top Chef Masters contestant Lorena Garcia is also on hand to judge the competition and ensure the stars learn the proper way of cooking and plating the perfect dish. While promoting Top Chef Estrellas several weeks ago at the Television Critics Association press tour, Garcia claimed the novice chefs did a solid job in the competition.

“I was going in (having) high expectations as a chef, because I’ve been a judge on Top Chef on Bravo,” said Garcia. “I figured, why not do the same (with Top Chef Estrellas) and see what we can take from this talent. They were committed to the competition. They really studied and got prepared. So to me, it was always about the dish (and) having a high expectation from them. Each and every one of them did their work and they were actually able to progress and grow through the competition.”

During the interview, I asked Lorena Garcia and Top ChefEstrellas host Aylín Mujica if the daunting quickfire challenges will still be a big part of the show. Check out the video to listen to them talk about the program (Chocarro is also featured in the clip – and many apologies for the horrible placement of my camera).

 Check out Top Chef Estrellas Sunday, February 16 on Telemundo (8 pm/7c), as eight celebrities (David Chocarro, Dr. Nancy Alvarez, Fernando Arau, Christian Chavez, Christian de la Campa, Erika De La Rosa, Lorena Herrera, and Cynthia Olavarria) cook it out for their favorite charities.