‘The Voice’ Q&A: Bria Kelly Is Always “At Home On Stage”

Bria Kelly’s take no prisoners approach to her music served her well with a barn burning rendition of the James Taylor tune “Steamroller Blues.” Last week, she and Tess Boyer formed a strong union with their take on the Janis Joplin classic “Piece of My Heart.” Usher chose Kelly to remain on his team, while Boyer was stolen by Blake Shelton.

Kelly,who cites singer-songwriter ZZ Ward as an influence, is one of this season’s powerhouse vocalists, and her swagger is backed up by her first rate musicianship and performance prowess. During the interview, Kelly talked about her love for “Steamroller Blues,” what she’s learned from Usher, and how growing up in a small town didn’t stop her from pursuing a music career.


You really knocked “Steamroller Blues” out of the park. How did you come to pick that song during the Blind rounds? (Kelly received a four chair turn from the coaches)

I used to perform with a guitarist in my area named Grant Austin Taylor and he suggested that we perform the song together in one of his shows when I was around 13 years old. Since then, it has been my favorite song to sing and I have been performing it for many, many years.

I just emotionally connect to that song and it’s a great song to perform. I thought it would be perfect to audition with.

What have you learned from your collaboration with Usher?

I’ve learned to basically become much more vulnerable on stage instead of just (having the image of) “I’m tough and I’m a badass and I have my guitar in front of me.” I definitely explored a softer side of singing. I’ve learned how to look more vulnerable and perform more vulnerably. It’s great to say I can do that now.

For the next stage of the Battle Rounds you competed against Madilyn Paige, who has a completely different style. Obviously, you really can’t say much about this match-up.

It’s going to be interesting to watch because we are so different, whereas me and Tess – we’re really similar. Yeah, that’s all I can say. (laughs)

Did your previous experience from America’s Got Talent help you prepare for The Voice or is performing, in general, always going to have its share of challenges?

I’ve been performing since 11. I’ve been on huge stages, small stages, bars, I’ve played in fields. It’s all the same to me as long as there is a crowd. I’m nervous every time, but it’s like a good type of nerves. It’s not to the point of where it’s going to mess up my performance. It’s just adrenaline. I’m always at home on stage no matter how big it is or how many lights there are.

What kind of rush do you get from performing?

It’s definitely a great feeling because people yell when I hit high notes. There’s some people who say that I scream too much. It’s all the same, and as long as people can feel something from my performance then I’ve done something right.

You’re a very confident singer. Is that quality something you’ve developed along the way?

Definitely not. I did not have that confidence when I was younger. It’s kind of grown and it’s definitely developed, as it should for any artist who’s been performing for seven years. It comes with time.

What was it like for you, as an artist, growing up in Smithfield, Virginia?

It’s a very small town and there’s not a whole bunch of places to play in my town so I kind of have to drive an hour away to Virginia Beach to be able to get to some shows that I can play. But it’s really cool to say that I come from a small town because it shows that people from tiny places can do big things. So it’s cool to be able to say that I’ve done that.

Bria, well thank you so much for your time.

Thank you.

To follow Bria Kelly on Twitter, go to @BriaKelly. Round two of the Battles begin tonight on The Voice(NBC, 8 pm et/pt).


‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ Debuts New TV Spot

X-Men Days of Future Past (20th Century Fox, Alan Markfield)

Sunday evening’s season finale of The Walking Dead featured the TV spot debut of X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s great to see Bryan Singer back in the X-Men universe, since he hasn’t worked with Marvel’s favorite mutants since 2003’s X2. Over the past decade, Singer has directed three features (Superman Returns, Valkyrie, Jack the Giant Slayer) with varying success, and one wonders if Singer will bring a completely new vision to the latest film.

It’s a pretty brief clip, but it does bring the point home. Whether it’s the past or the present, these X-Men are fighting to save the world, and as Professor X sagely points out, “Is the future truly set?” I could be wrong, but seventeen seconds into the clip has Magneto leading a group of Sentinels!

Starring Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, and Jennifer Lawrence, X-Men: Days of Future Past opens May 23.  Check out the trailer below and tell us what you think!!

‘Draft Day’ Star Jennifer Garner Is Hooked On Baseball’s “Soap Opera”


Starring Kevin Costner, Draft Day is a sports comedy that centers on the NFL Draft, aka one of the most important days of the season. If a team doesn’t do well at building their roster through the draft, their squad is pretty much locked in for a miserable season.  Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, a team that in reality has had way too many losing seasons to count.

Co-star Jennifer Garner is Ali, Sonny’s whip smart girlfriend who is also the Browns’ salary cap manager. To research the role, Garner picked the brain of Megan Rogers, the actual Browns capologist.

“I basically stole everything from her,” said Garner. “From what she carried in her arms. To the way she dressed. To how she comported herself. Megan is someone who never needs to show you that she knows everything. She just holds it inside and if necessary she brings down a hammer. That’s what I loved I loved about Alli.”

Garner has a valid theory on why women excel as high level sports executives. “What makes women so great in these high up positions in sports teams is (that) they can keep their emotions in check and their brains can do a lot of things at once,” adds the actress, who was seen last year in Dallas Buyers Club. “Because if you’re going to a capologist, you’re basically business affairs, plus you’re thinking about the art of football, plus (you’re thinking about) your team’s future, what’s been important in the past. You have to have so much going on in your brains at once and let’s face it, we’re just good at that.”

During the Draft Day press conference, Garner added that although she grew up in West Virginia as a football fan, her domicile is essentially a baseball house. The actress talked about why she loves America’s national pastime, which she describes as a “soap opera.” 

Directed by Ivan Reitman (Dave, Twins), Draft Day opens April 11.

‘The Voice’ Q&A: Deja Hall, With Feet Planted, Shows Her True Colors

Deja Hall is part of Team Shakira on The Voice, and along with a smooth, emotive voice, Hall is also blessed with a wonderful sense of graciousness and subtlety. If you’ve been following her journey on the show, you probably know that her talent is matched by her intense love for her family. During our Q&A, Hall talked about her parents, getting coached by Shakira and why, when in doubt, pressing your feet firmly on the ground can lead to wonderful results.

Where does your strength as a performer come from?

I feel like that would have to come from my family. Just because they’re very strong willed. They support me every step of the way and they are there for me with whatever I love to do. They just want me to go out there and just be myself and do what I want to do and just shine.

My mom and dad are the cheerleaders in our family and they like to encourage all of us to be the best that we can be. Not only that, they are always there for us, shouting our name out and giving us that extra boost in whatever we want to go out and do. I love my family so much and I really couldn’t imagine myself doing this without them.

Your battle round with Music Box could have been intimidating, but you didn’t crumble under the pressure. Can you talk about that experience?

 The only thing I was worried about was her experience, because she knew how to connect to the song more than I was able to. I admire her so much. Her voice is very distinctive. Singing with her gave me the opportunity to personally experience the approach and expression that she uses to convey the message in her songs.  She’s definitely a naturally gifted person and it was just great to be on stage with her. I grew so close to her and when she got stolen, I went crazy.

What have you learned from Shakira through your journey on The Voice?

 Working with Shakira was great. She knows so much about this business and she knows a lot about the art of singing. I was happy that she turned her chair for me and I personally got to choose her as my coach and mentor.

I’ve been a fan of hers since the beginning so it was great to have the opportunity to talk to her and have her give me advice. She told me that I had a soft, angelic voice and I need to project more so people don’t see me as (one-dimensional). Having her believe in me is amazing, since she’s big in everything and it warms my heart that she believes in me and she still wants to work with me.

What is it like to perform on the big stage?

When you go on stage, you really have to zone in to the moment and take everything in. I know one thing I have to do and one thing that I learned to do was just close my eyes and take a deep breath. I also take my feet, and I press them against the floor. It’s weird but it kind of releases my nerves a little bit.

When you’re actually in the moment, you really don’t know what’s happening because the adrenaline rush is just kicking in. It really hits you a couple of hours after or when you watch it back on TV.

The pressing your feet on the floor, did you come up with that idea? That seems like a great thing to do…

No, I actually didn’t make it up. I was backstage about to go on and they could tell I was extremely nervous because this is the biggest thing that I’ve ever done. So someone told me that something that helps them release their nerves is to take their feet and plant it against the ground as hard as you can. For some reason, I felt like a big rush go through me and it released most of my nerves. It was pretty crazy. It sounds weird but it really helps. I would recommend trying it sometime.

So you were raised in very different environments growing up.

It’s very difficult because I grew up in the military and we moved a lot. I would have to say I was mostly raised in Okinawa, Japan, but I was also raised in San Antonio. When people ask where I’m from, it’s kind of hard to tell them. I say San Antonio, since I’ve lived there the most.

I feel like it influenced in showing my true colors because they are two different places and cultures. It’s kind of hard to explain, but that kind of helped me show my true colors and show how I really am.

What have you taken through your journey on The Voice?

One thing I want to take from this whole experience is the exposure. It’s a great opportunity to get my name out there. I am still humble through this whole experience. I tend to be shy at times, so this whole experience makes me come out of my shell a little bit more. It’s made me open up and express myself.

**The second round of the Battles starts tonight The Voice (NBC, 8 pm et/pt). If you want to follow Deja Hall on Twitter, go to @DejaHallMusic.

Actress Stevie Lynn Jones Relishes ‘Crisis’ Life in Chicago

Up and coming actress Stevie Lynn Jones landed her biggest role to date on the NBC series Crisis. As Beth Ann Gibson, Jones is the daughter of a highly complex (and cerebral) guy (Dermot Mulroney) who is bent on bringing down various power players in the Washington D.C. area.

Beth Ann Gibson is one of the teenagers kidnapped by the organization headed by Thomas Gibson, and as of the first two episodes she has no idea that dear old dad is a criminal mastermind.

For Jones, growing up in Southern California enabled her to see the entertainment industry sans all the starry-eyed wonder. Having a family who’s worked in the business and spending a bit of time behind the camera herself, the actress has a practical and passionate view of her job. During our conversation, the actress talked about what makes Dermot Mulroney a wonderful co-star and why, even with her success on Crisis, she won’t rest on her laurels. If you’re a Twitter enthusiast (I’m still stuck on the MySpace era), Jones’ handle is  @stevielynnjones.


Chicago has great architecture, wonderful people, amazing food, and harsh winters. Since it was your home base during the Crisis shoot, what is your overall impression of the city?

Amazing. That sums up everything. It’s a fantastic city. Like you said it’s beautiful. And the food is glorious! The people are amazing. I lived through the polar vortex. I’m a SoCal native – 65 degrees was winter to me. And I experienced negative 40 with wind chill so that was interesting. I also refused to wear pants the entire time, so that was a whole other crisis in itself. But it was totally great and I did get to experience the summer and the fall. The changing of the colors is really beautiful.

Speaking of change, can you talk about your character and the challenge of playing someone who has so many complex issues to deal with?

I honestly think the hostage situation was eye-opening for her. She opened up to the other students in her class and realized that she had more in common with them. So she comes out having a stronger support network than when she went into it. Yes, they’ve been traumatized by this kidnapping but it’s brought a lot of them closer. She’s also opened up her heart up to her dad a little bit more and tried to forgive him. She’s definitely growing and trying to open her eyes.

Growing up in California, and also working behind the camera, did that help you ease into the business as an actress. Not just seeing acting as a dream but as a day to day job and craft that one has to hone?

 Yeah, I certainly think it does. My mom is an executive producer. She doesn’t do anything scripted or anything like that – she does clips and live shows. But I was always aware of it. I think growing up here you look at it so much differently than a girl growing up somewhere else.

To me, it’s all very real and natural, which has made it easier to transition into it for sure. It is also readily available. I can go to acting classes and find the best people to work with, wherein if I was living somewhere else it would be so much harder. I would have to move across the country and adjust. But it’s all here.

Does working with Dermot Mulroney enhance your own acting skill sets?

Dermot is really the only adult actor I interact with. Working with him has been absolutely phenomenal. He gives so much to another actor in a scene. It’s an absolute dream. Because you can get scenes where you’re stuck and you’re trying to interact with someone and they’re not giving you anything. They’re kind of in their own world. But Dermot immediately connects and engages with you. There’s so much chemistry that he creates himself and It’s really been such a learning process and so amazing.

I don’t interact with the other adults, but I can sit and watch them on set and learn so much. They integrate so much into the lines that they have and they bring so much life to it. It’s inspiring and really fantastic.

Even after landing Crisis, what are your goals as an actress?

I definitely want to work in movies, so I’m auditioning for that now. Fingers crossed. And I do think it’s important to stay in classes. I do scene study and I don’t think you can ever stop working on your craft. There are always different things you can hone in and sharpen. There’s certain things that come natural to you, because that’s (part of) your personality. There are other things that don’t come as naturally and you need to work equally on both. So I am constantly working on trying to grow and strengthen my craft. Definitely.


Stevie Lynn Jones (NBC, CR: Vivian Zink)
Stevie Lynn Jones (NBC, CR: Vivian Zink)

What are your strengths as an actress?

 Well, I keep being cast as the mean girl, apparently I can do that, and I don’t think I’m very mean (laughs)! I’m really a nice person, I promise! So I guess I can do that. But I really do try to listen and engage. I try to make it as natural and conversational as possible with the other person.

There’s nothing more awkward than watching a scene with two actors that are in two completely different places. So I try to be in the same place as the other person and connect with them. If you can believe that we are having a real conversation and we’re engaged with each other. The writing and everything else will fade away, because you’re engage in our relationship. That’s what I try and focus on.

To make it as an actor, does it take a level of perseverance to survive?

You definitely do. Completely. You cannot stop moving. You cannot stop working. You have to push yourself to get into the rooms. To meet people. To work harder. It’s one of the hardest businesses to work in because there is so much competition and you can never ever really stop working. Every single day you have to do something for your craft and for the business side of things, because that is such a big part of it.

I started auditioning when I was 12 and I got into commercials. It was just something fun for me to do. It was only a year or two after that when I realized that this was a career and something I wanted to do. And then I started taking it seriously and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. It never really was a childhood dream or anything. I was lucky enough to discover something that I love to do.

Tonight’s Crisis episode, titled “What Was Done To You,” airs on NBC at 10 pm et/pt.

‘Rob The Mob’ Director & Composer Team For Close Knit Collaboration

Rob The Mob (Michael Pitt, Nina Ariande)The intimate atmosphere of Rob the Mobwhich is another first rate comedy/drama from filmmaker Raymond De Felitta’s (Two Family House, City Island), is conveyed through a selection of creative avenues. Whether it’s the firecracker banter between Tommy and Rosemarie Uva (Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda or the world weariness of the story’s crime boss (Andy Garcia, who worked with De Felitta in City Island), Rob the Mob is like an old shoe you can’t replace. It’s comfortable, you know exactly how it makes you feel, and even if it’s not as flashy as the other kicks in your closet, your feet are where they want to be.

Penned by Jonathan Fernandez, the movie consistently (and effectively) changes tones, as we are treated to the Uvas’ foolhardy decision to steal from gangsters, a horrible miscalculation which eventually cost them their lives. Although their demise is obviously nothing to laugh at, they’re a passionate couple from Queens who love to shoot from the hip, even if it gets them in hot water. Somewhere in that mix lies a bit of comedy, and Fernandez effectively captures those moments.

The screenwriting isn’t the only golden aspect of Rob the Mob. Part of its natural, homemade touch to Rob the Mob also comes from De Felitta’s close collaboration with composer Stephen Endelman. The musician previously scored De Felitta’s Two Family House, and their working shorthand led to the filmmaker actually setting up shop at the composer’s studio. 

Ray Romano in Rob The MobMany directors cut their films with a temp score, and a composer is later brought in to flesh out the process. With Rob the Mob,De Felitta was editing his film while Endelman created his own pieces for the narrative. 

Click on the media bar below to hear De Felitta break down his collaboration with Endelman:

Rob the Mob, which co-stars Ray Romano as a newspaper columnist who covers Tommy and Rosemarie’s ultimately tragic story, is now playing in select theaters.



‘American Idol’ Singer Majesty Rose On Artistic Growth & Modeling Plans

Majesty Rose was eliminated this week on AmericanIdol, but considering how far she’s come in the competition (she’s also part of Idol’s summer tour), the singer should be celebrating all of her accomplishments. For Rose, a big part of her experience on the show centered on her own artistic evolution.

“Well, I’ve grown as an artist because I wasn’t…like I didn’t even know that I was an artist before I came,” said Rose, who performed the Florence and the Machines tune ‘Shake It Out’ on Wednesday. “I knew what type of music I like, but it’s just I didn’t know who [or] where I fit in that.  Now, now I knew who I was.  Like now I know who I am on the inside, and I think I really, really grew as far as perseverance and really just knowing where I stand in things and sticking to it.  That’s where I’ve grown a lot.”

After her elimination, Rose added that she would love to continue doing television as well as be a commercial model. “If I could be like a representative for natural hair (or) if I could have my own show just for kids,” said Rose, who’s also a pre-school teacher. “Because I really like kids a lot.”

Jennifer Lopez initially thought Rose could have won the entire competition. Click on the media bar below to hear the judge talk about the singer’s elimination:

Listen to Majesty Rose talk about what she expects from the American Idol summer tour.

DVD Review: ‘Home’ Is A New York Tale Anchored By Inspired Ensemble

Released on DVD this week, Home centers on Jack Hall (The Wire’s Gbenga Akinnagbe), an individual who’s determined to move out of a group home and find an apartment of his own. Jack is suffering from a mental illness which holds dominion over his life, resulting in a fractured relationship with his son (Judah Bellamy) and former companion (House of Cards’ Tawny Cypress).

Director Jono Oliver, a television veteran who’s spent years as an assistant director, has placed his heart and soul into Home. This low budget, labor of love project aims to shed light on mental heath issues, but thankfully the project is much more than a teaching lesson. From a purely dramatic standpoint, Home‘s narrative is anchored by the first rate work of the entire ensemble. Whether it’s Jack’s neglectful and alcoholic father (Joe Morton, who’s always excellent) or the caring supervisor of the group home (K.K. Moggie doing subtle, understated work), the acting is entirely spot-on and effectively heartrending.

Jack’s story is at the center of Home’s universe, but it’s the people who inhabit his world that give color and life to his domicile. Isiah Whitlock Jr., who plays one of the home’s residents, delivers a painful monologue directed at Mr. Hall, questioning our protagonist if his efforts are all for naught. Many of the players get their respective chance to shine within the story, and although Oliver gives his Brooklyn based drama a documentary feel, much of Home also has the makings of a well staged play.

Such influences infuse the story with a refreshingly spontaneous tone. We really don’t have an idea if Jack’s journey will end on a good note, and its unpredictability should keep viewers intrigued.

Credit goes to Oliver for not crafting a diatribe or polemic on our mental health system. Instead, by showing us Jack Hall’s gradual progress in the face of tragedy, Oliver delivers a clear eyed account of a man’s unwavering dream of rebuilding his family. The movie wouldn’t work if Akinnagbe didn’t fully capture the intricate shadings of Jack’s persona, but thankfully the actor effectively (and, at times, poetically) delivers the goods.

Home exists as a father and son story, but on a broader level it reminds us to follow the golden rule. We are all, as Bob Dylan once sang, seeking “shelter from the storm,” and for Jack Hall, his journey has just begun.

Special features on the DVD include deleted scenes, audio commentary from Oliver, a photo gallery, and a personal message from Oliver. If you end up loving the film as much as I did, check out the deleted scene with Morton and Akinnagbe. The sequence gives added depth into Jack’s complicated relationship to his dad.

Home (Not Rated, 112 minutes), which also stars James McDaniel (NYPD Blue) and Danny Hoch, is now out on DVD.



Richard Linklater’s Epic ‘Boyhood’ Readies for July 11 Release

Richard Linklater’s (Before Midnight, Bernie) ambitious feature Boyhood is hitting U.S. theaters on July 11. The project, which Linklater shot from 2002 to 2013, covers 12 years of a family’s life, with much of the narrative seen through the eyes of a wide-eyed boy named Mason (Ellar Contrane). The project, which stars frequent Linklater collaborator Ethan Hawke, Lorelei Linklater (the filmmaker’s daughter), and Patricia Arquette premiered to critical acclaim at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Boyhood (IFC Films)Linklater, who also produced the film, won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival. The project clocks in at 164 minutes, and if the movie is half as good as this sterling IndieWire assessment, then we may be in for a good one. After all, Linklater’s continued link to our youthful desires and drives (Slacker, Dazed and Confused, The Waking Life, the Before films, Me and Orson Welles) originate from a completely inspired place, and one assumes Boyhood could be his crowning achievement.

In the clip below, Julie Delpy talks about what makes Richard Linklater such a unique filmmaker (her comments are in relation to Before Midnight’s opening sequence):

‘The Raid 2’ Interview: Director Gareth Evans Elaborates on Visual Style

The Raid 2 (Sony PIctures Classics, CR: Akhirwan Nurhaidir & Gumilar Triyoga)

The beauty of Gareth Evans’ The Raid and The Raid 2 lies in the operatic quality of his action sequences. Their main strengths lie in the pure, visceral thrill of it all, but thankfully these moments are intricately planned and designed by Mr. Evans and his cinematographers (Matt Flannery and Dimas Iman Subhono are the DPs)

This time out, Evans broadens his narrative to show a deeper picture of the dangerous characters who populate Rama’s (Iko Uwais) world. Whether it’s an assassin (Yayan Ruhian) who has that proverbial date with destiny or a crime lord (Alex Abbad) that’s moving up the ranks, The Raid 2 has a meatier storyline than its predecessor.

The Raid (Sony Pictures Classics, CR: Akhirwan Nurhaidir, Gumilar Triyoga)With The Raid 2, Rama (in a possible nod to Infernal Affairs and The Departed) takes his undercover cop duties to the limits, as he willingly gets imprisoned to nurture a relationship with a crime boss’ entitled son (Arifin Putra). Throughout his journey, Rama slugs it out jail, tangles with a tool wielding lady named Hammer Girl (Julie Estelle), and cooks up a near fatal encounter in a restaurant kitchen.

For Evans, visualizing sequences doesn’t include a ton of artistic renderings. To find inspiration, he simply uses a camera to shoot his surroundings. “I’ve never done a mood board,” said Evans. “I don’t really do storyboards that much. I do shot lists with my DoP (director of photography) and then when we visit sets, we take a bunch of stills.”

Lighting was also an important, and improved, element of the sequel. “On the first one, it was (shooting in) corridors, and rooms, and an atrium,” he adds. “That was it, so we couldn’t really do much to change it around. We could put in a broken light now and again, but there really wasn’t much we could do to play around with the color scape of (The Raid). It was very kind of monochrome and dark and dingy.”

To hear Gareth Evans discuss the visual design and lighting technique for The Raid 2, click on the audio below:

The Raid 2 opens in New York and Los Angeles March 28.