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Sunday Synopsis: A $100+ Gift of Hope Goes to the American Red Cross

It’s been seven months since my Red Cross fundraiser launched with the first stop on my Dinner-and-a-Movie tour. As the dust settles on this campaign, I am blogging today to thank the small businesses, military families and citizens from the southern and northeastern regions of the country who helped make it possible.

The tour raised over $100 to provide emergency shelter for men, women, children and pets who escape home fires. Did you know fires are the biggest disaster people experience in the United States? Just within the last few weeks, this organization assisted dozens of families who became displaced when fires destroyed their homes and belongings in a matter of minutes, leaving them with nowhere to go.

Individual donations enable the Red Cross to cover a night in a hotel, food, and clothing as well as provide emotional and spiritual support to these survivors, among other services including finding new homes. After the Red Cross provided aid to the U.S. Air Force Veteran I worked with who lost his home in a New Year’s Day fire, I am glad that I decided to use my short film “Abyss: The Greatest Proposal Ever” as a vehicle for hope – putting more people on the path to recovery following our nation’s most common disasters.

How often do YOU practice fire safety drills with your family (including children)?


Monday Movie Meme – Cry Me a River

(l-r): Charles Parnell, Kim Wayans and Sahra Mellesse in "Pariah."Here’s hoping everyone brought the New Year in on a high note…’cause this week’s Monday Movie Meme is about to get emotional!

We’re kicking off the first blog post of 2015 with a theme focused on movies that moved you to tears: Cry Me a River.

Share on your blog or in the comments section, some of the most memorable tearjerkers you ever watched. This includes films with heartbreaking scenes, underdog movies that have moments of victory or those unexpected flicks showing a turn of events that just made you cry (or want to cry).

Here are my selections for this week’s theme about tearjerkers.

This Sundance hit drama starring Kim Wayans tells the story of a teenager struggling with identity issues while coming to grips with her sexuality. Now that I finally got around to watching “Pariah” during the holidays, it’s one of those films that has me starting to think there are times when a movie soundtrack is a huge factor in whether viewers start tearing up or not; especially during certain scenes. It's as if the producers, directors and/or editors orchestrated moments to induce tears on cue. Either way, this movie is effective in tugging at one's heart strings.

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete
This dramatic movie starring Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon and Jennifer Hudson is about two boys who have to survive after their mothers are arrested.  I went to a screening of “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete” and had to catch myself during a scene in the third act that caught me off guard.

Fruitvale Station
This biographical drama starring Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer is about the encounters Oscar Grant III had before being shot on New Year’s Eve. You know that Isley Brothers song about not being able to hold back tears? Well, I succeeded with well intentions when I went to see this movie in theaters, but it was damn hard.

Revolutionary Road
OMG...horrific is one of the only ways I can describe the turn of events in this sad, sad romantic drama starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie is about a young married couple who move out to the suburbs and start a family with plans to live the life they dreamed of until realizing that circumstances have other things in store for them.

Blue Valentine
This romantic drama starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams is right up there with “Revolutionary Road” on my tearjerker scale. It has Love, Babies, Marriage, Broken dreams, Drunken arguments in the middle of the street, Drunken arguments in a cheesy hotel room and Fistfights in the workplace. However, it also has a dude serenading his future wife, on the sidewalk and and loading her up on mix CDs. That’s cute. Yeah, it’s one big ol’ rollercoaster ride of feel-good scenes and not-so-fun scenes and the latter can just be too much to handle if you let yourself get wrapped up in it all…which I did.

Set It Off
Although this is an action movie about female bank robbers starring Queen Latifah and John C. McGinley (gotta love this dude from the NBC comedy show “SCRUBS” tho!) that I've seen more than one dozen times, it's STILL hard to watch that heart-pounding car scene were a tough  janitor faces the LAPD head on. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. Even Dr. Dre had to look away from the screen!


What movies made YOU cry or tear up?


A Moment with theory11 – ‘Now You See Me’ Cardist Andrei Jikh on Creating the Best Movie Theater Experience

Andrei Jikh showcases his wizardry using Monarchs playing cards by theory11.We are living in a time where it costs $50 to see Brad Pitt fight zombies and all you come away with is little more than a poster and small bag of popcorn. So it’s no surprise that getting people to show up at theaters on opening weekend has become increasingly hard, given the fact that there’s nothing special about going to the movies anymore.

Now that the opportunity to watch a new flick is just an App away, anyone releasing films in today’s fast-paced world must rely on more than star power, IMAX and CGI tricks, to get audiences’ attention.

Knowing Russian cardist Andrei Jikh at theory11 is among the most sought after performers in a profession that continually finds ways to mesmerize audiences, I asked him what does it take to convince a magician like him (who can cut a banana in half with one single toss of a poker card) to see a film in theaters?

Jikh, who directed the special features and iTunes Extras for the mystery thriller “NOW YOU SEE ME” (starring Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson and Mark Ruffalo), is also part of the design team for the Monarchs playing cards seen in this film. For starters, he expresses how virtual reality is a promising endeavor for showcasing films. Going beyond IMAX and 3D, this particular upgrade to the typical theater setting can give every movie goer a front row seat to the action.

Andrei Jikh: I think the Oculus Rift has potential with its immersive capability. Imagine seeing a movie (or wildlife documentary) with a 180 degree field of view (curved screen). You can pick to look anywhere you'd like at any moment. Everyone would experience movies in a truly unique way. As far as 3D goes, perhaps glassless 3D would get people more into theaters (Nintendo 3DS screens use this technology).

As Jikh points out, the gaming industry provides inspiration for utilizing new technology to fill empty seats. Motion-activated solutions are also among the tricks he has up his sleeve for enhancing the theatrical experience.

Andrei Jikh: Another idea might be to incorporate gyroscopic technology into the seats so certain action scenes would trigger each seat to tremble/vibrate or slightly rotate accordingly.

I don't think that's ever been done outside of the cheesy 4D rides *laughs* (which may be a possibility as well if incorporated into certain film genres like perhaps horror films - like a gust of wind on a scary jumpy scene would definitely give me a heart attack *laughs*).

This card flourisher who comes from a family of gymnasts believes we’ll see these ideas in the distant future. For now, he considers that even the subtlest changes can make a difference in how movie goers receive what’s happening in a scene.

Andrei Jikh: As far as improving the movie going experience today, I think simply having surround sound seats in the headrests like Cirque Du Soleil's shows have would tremendously help. [These are] just some outside-the-box thoughts.

Creating the ultimate movie theater experience is important as the film industry tries to maintain the appeal of new releases. Thanks to Andrei Jikh, ways to create that magical viewing experience are being noticed. It’s up to film producers, exhibitors and distributors to utilize these opportunities.

Regal Cinemas' L.A. LIVE Stadium opens the first 4DX theater in the U.S.We have to come better than some free snacks and promotional swag if we want people to fork over their hard-earned money or tanks of gas in exchange for two hours of entertainment. Establishments such as Rooftop Films, Secret Cinema and Couch Fest Films get it. British company Hot Tub Cinema also understands that innovative measures put butts in seats, or in their case, in water.

The time to revolutionize the way people watch movies in the dark is now because that’s what it takes to keep ‘em lining up at the theater.

Andrei Jikh is one of the world’s most raved about artists at theory11, a team of magicians who create new magic tricks, playing cards and instructional DVDs. GENESIS, a video containing over three hours of instruction on cardistry for beginners, is among Jikh’s work. Now available to order at theory11.

What is YOUR definition of a magical movie experience?

How skilled are YOU at shuffling playing cards?

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