Sadie Calvano, the 16-year-old actress who plays Anna Faris' pregnant teenaged daughter in the CBS sitcom Mom has come a long way in a short amount of time. With only a handful of credits on her resume — most notably playing the title character's niece in J. Edgar — Calvano finds herself not just on a hit television show, but with a plotline that has spurred a strong reaction. In the March 3 episode of the show it was revealed that her character Violet, intends to give her baby up for adoption.With the series recently picked up for a second season, the actress reflects on getting to work with her famous costars and playing a teenager struggling with some big life decisions.
It seems like an ideal situation for a young actress to get to work with Allison Janney and Anna Faris. What has the experience been like for you?I've gotten so lucky to work with such an amazing cast and crew, and to be with these women in Anna and Allison that are such amazing artists but still such amazing people. It's something that I don't feel really happens that often. So getting to be a piece of that puzzle is such a gift.
You've also had some big name guest stars as well, with the next episode focusing on Octavia Spencer's recurring character, Regina, heading off to jail.Octavia Spencer... what?! She is one of my biggest role models. I think all of her work is so brilliant. When she first made an appearance on the show, it took every fiber of my being not to go all fan-girl over her. She's so lovely and strong and brilliant. Working with her is such a lesson in being humble and grounded. It shows what a great artist is capable of and she's a wonderful woman as well.
What's the reaction been like since fans found out that Violet is giving her baby up for adoption?I think it's been good. Obviously, adoption is a touchy subject but I think that Mom is becoming known as being a comedy that doesn't hesitate to get into heavy subjects. I think that this really shows Violet's strength in a lot of ways because adoption isn't an easy decision for anyone, but hopefully it will create better lives for everyone involved.
Have you gotten much feedback from teens that really are, or have been, pregnant?Not me personally, but I'm sure that it's out there. The great thing about our show is that it enables teens and parents to start a dialogue about these topics and get a conversation flowing. These are real things going on in the world right now and hopefully it brings a little bit of awareness, even if it's in a comedic format.
Anna Faris also played a woman giving her baby up for adoption on Friends. Has she given you any tips on how to play pregnant?Anna is so wonderful and she's so good about answering any questions that I have. So, she's been not just an amazing coworker, but such a friend and such an influence. It's hard without a doubt [to play someone that's pregnant] because you're expected to convey so many feelings that you are just incapable of knowing about right now. But it's also been really fun in a weird way, because it feels like I've gotten to have a little secret. Obviously, everyone know that [the character] is pregnant, but pregnancy is such an intimate thing that it's taken a lot of digging and discovery. So, it's been super fun as well.
CBS just announced that Mom is coming back for a second season. How did it feel getting the news on the renewal?I could not stop smiling. I had the biggest smile on my face all day. It was the most wonderful news I could ever imagine. To find out now and not have to wait — knowing that you get to come back to this amazing project — it's just... amazing.
Any hints about what's in store for Violet?I have no idea, the writers are very good at being tricky. In the last couple of episodes, you've really been exposed to the strength that Violet has. She's made some undeniable mistakes, but she's a very intelligent girl. So, I'm hoping that you get to see the strength not just of Violet, but of the family that she's now enabling to thrive.
In the last seven years Denzel Washington has paired with director Tony Scott on four hyperkinetic ultra-saturated feature films: Man on Fire Deja Vu The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Unstoppable. When he strays from the time-honored action collaboration you'd think the man would take a break from the format. Not so—as Washington's new film Safe House clearly demonstrates.
Daniel Espinosa director of the acclaimed Swedish crime drama Snabba Cash shoots his espionage thriller with Scott-ian flair complete with rapid camera movement a palette of eye-scorchingly bright colors and fragmented editing. If Safe House was emotionally compelling the stylistic approach might make the narrative sizzle—but the script is as simple and familiar as they come: Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a CIA agent with a monotonous gig. He's a safe housekeeper tasked with maintaining a stronghold in South Africa in case the feds need to stop by for some…interrogating. After a year of begging for field work and keeping the joint tidy Weston finds himself embroiled in the investigation of Tobin Bell (Denzel Washington) an ex-CIA notorious for selling information on the black market. A group of agents bring Bell in to Weston's safe house for a routine waterboarding but everything is thrown into chaos when the lockdown is infiltrated by machine-wielding baddies looking to put a bullet in Bell's head. To keep the captor alive Weston goes on the run with Bell in hand…never knowing exactly why everyone wants the guy dead.
The setup for Safe House provides Washington and Reynolds two fully capable action stars to do their thing and to do it well. The two characters have their own defining characteristics that each actor bites off with ferocity: Reynolds' Weston is a man drowning in circumstance built to kick ass but still out of his league and just hoping to get back to his gal in one piece. Bell has years of experience boring into the heads of his opponents and Washington plays him with the necessary charisma and confidence that make even his most despicable characters a treat to watch.
But the duo fight a losing battle in Safe House contending with the script's meandering action and ambiguous stakes that turn the Bourne-esque thriller into a grueling experience. Much of the movie is an extended chase scene where the object of the bad guys' desire is never identified. It's a mystery!—but the lack of info comes off as confusing. Safe House cuts back and forth between the compelling relationship between Weston and Bell and a war room full of exceptional actors (Vera Farmiga Brendan Gleeson and Sam Shepherd) given nothing to do but spurt straightforward backstory and typical "there's no time Mr. ______!" exclamatory statements. Caking it is Espinosa's direction which lacks any sense of coherent geography. The action is never intense because you have no idea who is going where and when and why.
Safe House is a competently made movie with enough talent to keep it afloat but without any definable hook or dramatic emphasis it plays out like an undercooked version of the Denzel Washington/Tony Scott formula. Which is unfortunate as four solid ones already exist.
After Sofia Vergara dropped out of The Paperboy, Tobey Maguire didn’t wait long to follow suit. One can assume that director Lee Daniels (Precious) wasn’t lush with optimism around this time. But then, some pretty good things started to happen. First, Nicole Kidman signed on to replace Vergara. And now, taking the role of the death row inmate formerly occupied by Maguire, will be none other than John Cusack.
John Cusack is more than just a man. John Cusack is an embodiment of love and hate. After Chuck Klosterman so ingeniously revealed the significance of Cusack over the modern American human psyche in Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, it became clear that the Say Anything actor was a force beyond mortal.
And now he’ll be playing a man facing a deafeningly imminent mortality. Could this be any more apropos? Perhaps slightly more apropos was his role in Hot Tub Time Machine, in which he played the sort of shell-of-a-man whose life was tarnished by the culmination of the John Cusack era, to which he gets to return. But this role in the upcoming The Paperboy is almost as apropos.
Leading the film as the heroes bent on saving Cusack, whom they speculate to be innocent thanks to some action by Kidman’s character, will be Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron who, despite their twenty-one year age difference, will be playing brothers. You are not exempt from the passage of time, McCounaughey. Accept it.
Cusack will also play Edgar Allen Poe in the upcoming The Raven, which, unlike most movies advertized as thrillers, will actually be thrilling.
Starting near the end of his short 24-year life and then told in flashback this film version of Christopher “Notorious B.I.G” Wallace’s (Jamal Woolard) rapid rise from the streets of Brooklyn to fame is told in standard-issue Hollywood biopic style. We see this Catholic honors student (played by his real life son Christopher Jordan Wallace) become a teenage drug dealer and accidental father before a chance recording finds its way to Sean “Puffy” Combs (Derek Luke) who engineers an almost immediate rise to fame fortune -- and trouble. “Biggie” now must juggle his newfound recording career a marriage to fellow artist Faith Evans (Antonique Smith) his romantic encounters with female rap comer L’il Kim (Naturi Naughton) and a major East Coast/West Coast rivalry with Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie) that leads to tragedy for both. As Wallace Brooklyn rapper Woolard is almost indistinguishable from the real man himself. He’s completely convincing performing B.I.G’s biggie hits and proves himself to be a first-rate dramatic actor as well -- at least in a story like this that he can clearly relate to. As his mother Angela Bassett makes the most of limited screen time (despite top billing) and expertly conveys the angst of a parent fighting a losing battle for her son. Luke again shows why he is so promising playing Puffy with just the right amount of flash and supreme confidence. Unfortunately the “balanced” portrait of Combs and many others in B.I.G’s life is tainted by the fact this film was produced by some of the real life players including his managers mother and executive producer Combs. George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food) directs this by-the-numbers account of Biggie’s life in a style we have seen countless times before. Except for a couple of occasions he doesn’t even let the rap sequences play out to give us an idea of how this guy whose songs reflected his rough Brooklyn lifestyle could climb to the top so fast. Whatever was special is lost in what appears to be a brazen attempt to sell soundtrack albums.
Spanning from WWI to the 21st century Eric Roth’s screenplay (based loosely on a 1922 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald) tells the unique story of a man named Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). He is born in New Orleans as a very old baby the equivalent of a man in his 80s who then ages backward into youth over the better part of a century. The film is told in flashback by a very old dying woman Daisy (Cate Blanchett) who recounts her tale to her daughter (Julia Ormond) from a hospital bed during Hurricane Katrina. Left on the doorstep of a retirement home one night by his father (Jason Flemyng) Benjamin is brought up by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) who runs the place. While there he meets a young girl Daisy who will become a key figure -- romantically and otherwise -- in his life. Ben does have some grand adventures: He goes to work on a boat sees sea battles during WWII finds love with an older married woman (Tilda Swinton) -- and gets progressively younger as the decades fly by. It all manages to be alternately haunting romantic funny epic emotional and incredibly moving and will likely to stay with you a lifetime. Brad Pitt manages to deliver a thoughtful and subtle performance through all the special effects makeup and CGI. He does so much just by using his eyes. Cate Blanchett is equally fine as she plays Daisy from a teenager to an old woman and matches Pitt in bringing an entire lifetime skillfully to light. Her aging makeup is completely natural and she’s very moving in the hospital scenes opposite Ormond. Henson is just marvelous as Queenie a warm and understanding soul. Swinton is elegant and memorable in her few crucial encounters with Ben and plays beautifully off Pitt. Jared Harris (TV’s The Riches) as the colorful Captain Mike who hires Ben on his tug boat and Flemyng (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) as Ben’s father are also effective in their brief screen time. Interestingly Benjamin Button has been gestating for decades in the Hollywood firmament but needed time for the proper technology to catch up to it. Director David Fincher (Zodiac Fight Club) with his early background at George Lucas’ ILM proves to be the perfect choice to marry a compelling story with spectacular visual effects achievement. He did not want to do the film unless the technology allowed one actor to play the role throughout the course of the film. Remarkably they were able to achieve this superimposing Brad Pitt’s face and eyes into all the incarnations of Ben Button. In one sequence Pitt looks just like he did in Thelma and Louise. It’s an amazing feat. He has seamlessly created a unique universe without ever bringing attention to it advancing the art of screen storytelling leaps and bounds ahead of everything else that has come before. Benjamin Button is a plaintive and provocative meditation of life death and what we do while we are here. It’s the stuff of dreams.
As a thinking man’s actioner Ultimatum continues the franchise’s firm grasp on how spy games are actually played. The film starts at the point where Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is in Moscow having killed the assassin from Bourne Supremacy in a car crash. He has exacted his revenge for his girlfriend’s death but he is still haunted and needs to know how the hell he got into this predicament in the first place. Plus he’s got a new CIA schmuck Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) after him. Vosen has reopened the Treadstone project--now called Blackbriar--and is using a new cache of highly trained assassins to do his dirty work. Luckily for Bourne he’s got two women on his side: CIA lackey Pam Landy (Joan Allen) who while in the situation room tries to thwart Vosen at every turn; and Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) the young logistician who covers for Bourne whenever she runs into him. With their help our intrepid assassin circumvents the globe in typical Bourne fashion so he can hunt down his past in order to find a future. Damon has truly perfected his Bourne alter ego in this third go-around. With his cool demeanor he really makes it all look so effortless--jet-setting around the world fighting enemies off with pens books towels cars whatever he can get his hands on and covertly obtaining the information he needs. Damon is an accomplished actor no doubt able to take on a variety of roles--but he may never quite top Bourne. Damon is also surrounded by a top-notch supporting cast. In both Supremacy and Ultimatum Allen as Landy stands out in the crowd of power-hungry men she works for and with infusing the proceedings with a steely intelligence--and ultimately compassion. Stiles too is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise testosterone-filled environment and her Nicky may actually have more of connection to Bourne than we previously thought. The stellar Strathairn a character actor who can play both hero and villain with relative ease adds the sneaky Vosen to his list of bad guys while Albert Finney makes a brief but memorable appearance as a link to Bourne’s past. Helming his second Bourne installment after getting our hearts pounding with Supremacy Paul Greengrass (United 93) gets it. Although the Bournes sprouted from the furtive mind of spy-thriller author Robert Ludlum the director seems keyed into the whole spy genre as well handing us what feels to be a genuine look at how covert operations might work. From the operations center in which CIA personnel can find ways to tap into a target’s life via any number of ways to the action on the streets Greengrass keeps it moving at a whiplash pace. We’ve now come to expect the seat-clenching car chases along with at least one hand-to-hand combat scene between Bourne and some other super assassin in which Bourne kills his attacker with sheer brute force aided by some everyday item. Still they never seem redundant flowing nicely into the storyline. Greengrass’ filmmaking style however can be a tad jolting at times. He loves putting the audience in the middle of the action swinging the camera around fast-cutting between shots keeping things slightly confusing on who’s doing what to whom. But that real-time look and feel is what makes the Bourne movies unique from other actioners. Could there be room for a fourth Bourne? One can only hope.