Archive for April, 2009

A look at Observe & Report ‘con Pena’

Posted in Features on April 15, 2009 by Steve Mesa

What would happen if you combine the attitude of “Dirty” Harry Callahan, the personality of Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver and a hint of Paul Blart: Mall Cop?
You get the main character of the latest raunchy dark comedy, Observe and Report.
Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) is the head of security at the Forest Ridge Mall, where he combats with rowdy skateboarders and unruly customers every day. He take his job seriously and frowns at the idea that the mall’s security staff are not allowed to carry firearms.
When a menacing flasher strikes fear into the hearts of all mall shoppers and Brandi (Anna Faris), a woman that Ronnie has fallen for, Ronnie chases his dreams of becoming a police officer. Meanwhile, Ronnie is also waging a turf war on local police, headed by Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) to see who handles crimes committed at the Forest Ridge Mall.
The Beacon had the chance to talk with actor Michael Pena (Crash, World Trade Center) who plays Ronnie’s second-in-command, Dennis, at the Lowes Hotel in South Beach.
Pena auditioned for the movie because he was a fan of Observe and Report‘s director Jody Hill’s last film, Foot Fist Way, a dark comedy about an inept karate instructor (Danny McBride) struggling with marital troubles and an unhealthy obsession with a fellow karate fighter.
“I thought that it was an awesome movie and I hoped that I would do a movie with this guy,” Pena said.
When it came to working with Hill, it was different than when Pena worked with Paul Haggis on Crash and Oliver Stone on World Trade Center.
“Haggis is such a stickler for words as well as Stone,” Pena said. “But with Jody Hill, it is different because he comes up with lines every freaking time.”
When it came to working with Seth Rogen, Pena said that it was cool because Rogen is an improvisation genius.
“He has been doing stand-up comedy and writing jokes since the age of 13,” said Pena. “It was pretty intimidating at first, then I kind of got settled down and it was cool.”
In the film, Pena’s vision of the character involved aviator glasses, a perm and an accent that is reminiscent of a pimp.
Pena was inspired by the Hughes Brothers’ 1999 documentary, American Pimp, which details the lives of African-American street pimps. He watched one of the subjects being interviewed and was able to pick on that person’s speech pattern for his character.
Pena also prepared for his role by practicing in his car and listening to a lot of rap music.
“Bad rapping enabled to clearly realize the character,” Pena said.
When it comes to what Pena wants moviegoers to take away from Observe and Report, he just hopes that they laugh and that they are entertained.
“I think it is cool and I hope that the movie sticks with them for a while,” Pena said.
The next film Pena will be working on is My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done.
The film will be directed by German filmmaker Werner Zerhog (Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World) and features an all-star cast that includes Oscar nominees Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man) and Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road).
The Cinematic is a weekly column about all things movies. Look for it every Friday.

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A chat with makers of I Love You, Man

Posted in Features on April 3, 2009 by Steve Mesa

Fresh off his role in the hit comedy Role Models, Paul Rudd returns in potentially the funniest film of the year so far, I Love You, Man.
Rudd plays Peter Klaven, a successful real estate agent who has recently proposed to the woman of his dreams, Zooey (Rashida Jones). Zooey finds out that Peter never really had a best friend, which means no best man for his wedding. Peter starts going on some “man dates” to discover the right person to fill this role. He finds that in the form of Sydney Fife (Jason Segal), a man that is not afraid to state his opinions.
Peter and Sydney instantly become best friends and develop a “bromance.” When Sydney starts making Peter’s life a little hectic, Peter’s relationship with Zooey is tested and he must choose between his fiancée or his new best friend.
Rudd and director/writer John Hamburg (Along Came Polly) were on hand for interviews in Coconut Grove at Mr. Moe’s Restaurant and Bar.
The concept of a close male relationship is nothing new to the pop culture world. On Dec. 29, 2008, MTV premiered a reality show called “Bromance,” where nine males ranging in age from 21 to 26 competed in an attempt to win a “bromance” with Brody Jenner, a socialite and former fashion model.
“When we were filming this movie, none of us ever heard of the term ‘bromance,’” Rudd said. “With the show ‘Bromance’ coming to light and this movie being released, it just seems like everything is coming to fruition at this point.”
“It is kind of like a bizarre and misleading plan because the original idea for the movie was made way before anyone heard of ‘Bromance,’” Hamburg said.
Rudd added that the idea came before Jenner was modeling short pants and Hamburg agreed.
“Brody Jenner is copying us and he is talking to both our lawyers right now,” Hamburg said.
“We are not allowed to comment on it,” Rudd said.
This is not the first time Rudd and co-star Jason Segal appear on the big screen together. They worked together in 2007 on Judd Apatow’s second film, Knocked Up.
A year later, Segal got his first starring role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a movie he co-wrote with director Nicholas Stroller. Rudd appeared briefly in the film as a stoned surfing instructor.
Rudd said that working with Segal again was great because they knew each other and were friends since making their first film together.
“In a way, it was nice because when John cast Jason and me in this movie I think it really showed that we knew each other and felt that we were on the same page on how we saw the movie,” Rudd said.
Rudd said it was easy to play Segal’s friend because they were making a lot of jokes and riffs while they were setting up lights on the set of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
When it came to improvising, Rudd said that most of the script was hilarious without using improv, but it did not stop him and Segal from doing some improvised bits on film as in the scene where their characters are getting to know each other by going to a restaurant to eat fish tacos and drink beers.
“We knew we were going to film this scene all night,” said Rudd. “When Jason is doing his Andre the Giant impersonation or we are talking about hybrid animals, those were all things we were doing off the cuff.”
“Some of the funniest stuff was [already] in the script and some were things we came up with in rehearsal; me, Paul and Jason would meet up in my office to come up with funny things,” Hamburg said.
“If you give Paul a little bit of film and a few minutes, he would come up with the stupidest phrase you have ever heard in your life and I mean that lovingly.”

Fast & Furious delivers cheap thrills

Posted in Reviews on April 3, 2009 by Steve Mesa

The gang is all here as the original cast from the 2001 hit movie The Fast and the Furious reunites eight years later to deliver fast action and fast cars in Fast & Furious.
Fast & Furious, the fourth installment of The Fast and the Furious series, takes place after the events of 2 Fast 2 Furious and before The Fast and the Furious-Tokyo Drift. Now that we got that out of the way, Fast & Furious opens with an amazing sequence that involves heists, big explosions and oil tankers. It will make moviegoers breathless with so many close calls. The man responsible for the heist is Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who is still on the run from the FBI with his girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). A tragedy in Dom’s life leads him to return to the United States, where he reunites and teams up with friend/enemy Brian O’ Connor (Paul Walker) to bring down a heroin importer by infiltrating his operation as drivers.
We can admit as moviegoers that we do not go watch a new Fast and the Furious film for the acting. We watch these films to entertain ourselves and escape reality for an hour and a half or more. This is what Fast & Furious manages to do. We are greeted with images of slick cars and beautiful women that seem to fall under the category of “Look But Don’t Touch.”
Aside from the opening sequence, the film has many car races, including an interesting race that pits Dom and Brian against each other through the streets of L.A. where a global positioning system device in their cars tracks their movements. There are many close calls and many crashing cars as the racers drift in and out of the crowded streets.
Director Justin Lin took the helm following the footsteps of Rob Cohen and John Singleton. Lin took on the franchise three years ago with The Fast and the Furious-Tokyo Drift. He does a better job with Fast & Furious as he manages not only to showcase car chases and races, but also balance it out with other action sequences such as foot chases on the roofs and streets of L.A. Trying to follow the action with the camera bouncing up and down may be a little nauseating for people who have motion sickness.
Fast & Furious brings back the whole team that made the first movie popular, instead of just bringing one (Walker in 2 Fast 2 Furious) or the other (Diesel’s cameo role in The Fast and the Furious-Tokyo Drift). While it is fun to see the cast reunite again, the performances are what you would expect from a Fast and the Furious film. There is no Oscar-caliber acting in this movie and Vin Diesel and the gang try to get by with their acting capabilities and a bad script. Vin Diesel’s dialogue in this film can inspire a book called “How to Say Cheesy Lines without Looking and Sounding Like A Dork.”
While the dialogue is bad, the script also has some problems when it comes to the story. The mood of this movie is much darker than the previous installments. The movie takes itself too seriously, becoming one of its weaknesses.
Though this film has a weak script and insubstantial performances, Fast & Furious reunites the cast to bring a decent action-packed film that provides tons of eye candy and the feeling that summer is around the corner.
FAST & FURIOUS: 3 stars out of 5
The Cinematic is a weekly column that dives into film and filmmaking.

Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez talk ‘Fast & Furious’

Posted in Features on April 3, 2009 by Steve Mesa

Fast cars. Beautiful women. Action-packed. These words describe the Fast and the Furious franchise and their fourth installment doesn’t lack any of those elements.
In Fast & Furious, five years after the events of The Fast and the Furious, a tragedy in his life causes Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) to return to the United States. When Dom returns, he re-ignites his feud with F.B.I. agent Brian O’ Connor (Paul Walker). Eventually, they team up once again to take down a common enemy: a sociopathic drug kingpin. While Brian looks forward to arresting the criminal, Dom has other plans for the kingpin who caused the loss a loved one.
The Beacon were able to interview actor/producer Vin Diesel and co-star Michelle Rodriguez at the Setai Hotel in South Beach, where they were promoting the film’s release.
Both actors began their rise to stardom with the 2001 hit film, The Fast and the Furious and they both felt that they learned many things from each other.
“In my estimation, Michelle has been one of the few actors to not buy into the Hollywood game and do exactly what she wants to do,” Diesel said.
Diesel said that, as an actor, all the characters he has played are in some way a representation of something inside him and who he is.
“I think Dom has something in him where he can be so loyal, but at the same time, affected by a betrayal,” Diesel said.
“I like that she is very crystal clear about her intensions all the time,” Rodriguez said. “With a character like Letty, what you see is what you get.”
With Diesel returning to the Fast and the Furious franchise, he has a different director to manage him in the film, Justin Lin. Lin took over for past Fast and the Furious directors Rob Cohen and John Singleton when he directed The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
“He had cut his teeth on Tokyo Drift and was ready to take on a real Fast & Furious story,” Diesel said.
Diesel said that now that Lin has been to introduce to the cars, Lin has a whole movie to play with action, speed and an opportunity to play with the elements of The Fast and The Furious.
“Being the star and producer of the film is an intimidating position and yet somehow Justin was able to be committed throughout the whole thing and wanted it to be great for everybody and make this a success,” Diesel said.
Diesel has never had the chance to attend a ceremony like the Academy Awards and he believes it takes more than impressing the Academy and critiquing his work.
“You are trying to impress so many more people than the Academy because everybody today is a critic,” Diesel said. “When somebody walks out of Fast & Furious feeling emboldened in some way, that is a different experience than winning an Oscar or gaining a hundred pounds for a role”.
Diesel wants to do a lot of things before he goes into acting retirement.
“I feel like my life has been committed to this medium of film,” Diesel said. “It is a lifelong process and study and I like to do it all.”

12 Rounds offers moviegoers suspense

Posted in Reviews on April 3, 2009 by Steve Mesa

World Wrestling Entertainment superstar John Cena makes his second film venture with his new movie 12 Rounds.
Cena plays detective Danny Fischer, a New Orleans police officer who stops Miles Jackson (Aiden Gillen), a brilliant thief, from getting away with a multi-million-dollar heist when Jackson’s girlfriend is accidently killed. Years later, Jackson escapes prison and begins his revenge scheme by kidnapping Fischer’s girlfriend, Molly (Ashley Scott).
He then starts to play a game with Fischer called “12 Rounds,” where he tests the cop on accomplishing nearly impossible tasks throughout New Orleans. It is now up to Fischer to complete these tasks to save Molly.
The Beacon was able to sit down with Cena for an interview at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Brickell, one of the first of many stops to promote 12 Rounds.
Cena first came on board with this project when one of the producers, Josh McLaughlin, approached him with the story.
“I was totally taken by the script and it was totally different than my first picture [The Marine],” said Cena. “The plot was more unique and the character development was more intriguing.”
Cena told McLaughlin that if he gave him the script, he would pitch the movie to Vince McMahon, his boss and pro wrestling entrepreneur, who was in charge of WWE Studios. McMahon agreed and granted McLaughlin the green light to start production.
The film found its director in action film veteran Renny Harlin, who has done classic action films such as Die Hard 2 and Cliffhanger.
“He certainly is the life of the party off the set,” Cena said. “But when you are on the set and it is all business, there is nobody I want better in the director’s chair.”
To prepare, Cena trained with the New Orleans Police Department, drawing true inspiration from his brother who has been an officer for nine years.
“That was where I drew the everyman type of aspect of being a police officer because I have seen his face whether he is working 60-hour traffic detail or working three nights in a row,” Cena said.
The most difficult scene Cena had to shoot was when he hung on a rope from a building.
“For two days, I was 10 stories above the city of New Orleans and that was just two very crappy days of work,” said Cena, who is afraid of heights. “But we got it done and the sequence was able make the final cut of the movie.”
Cena would work on the film throughout the week. On Mondays, he would shoot mornings and then fly to wherever the WWE was filming its live wrestling program, “Raw.” Cena would wrestle and get back on an 11:30 p.m. plane to New Orleans to start the week all over again.
Cena wants audiences watching 12 Rounds to be entertained.
“Whether you are trying to get a point across, the main goal is to entertain the ticket buyer,” Cena said. “I really think this film does that as it will keep everyone in suspense with great character development.”