Archive for August, 2010

TAKERS’ Idris Elba is an actor on the rise in Hollywood

Posted in Features with tags , on August 25, 2010 by Steve Mesa

  Ever since getting his first breakout role as Stringer Bell on The Wire, British actor Idris Elba has played a variety of characters from a man with Beyonce Knowles as his wife in Obsessed to a drug-dealing rival of Oscar-winner Denzel Washington in American Gangster.

  In Takers, Elba stars alongside Paul Walker, Chris Brown and Hayden Christensen as the leader of a notorious group of criminals that execute perfectly planned bank heists that baffles police. When the group attempts another robbery with extremely high stakes, the crew may find their plans interrupted by a veteran detective (Matt Dillon) who is determined to solve the case of their previous robbery.

  Elba was in town for the film’s press tour and The Beacon has the privilege to sit down with the actor.

  Elba first got involved with Takers when he was given a first look at script given to him by producer Will Packer, in which Elba really liked the script.

  Elba and Packer have collaborated on many films together like This Christmas and Obsessed. Elba first collaborated with producer Will Packer in 2005 with his role in The Gospel.

  “I was very fortunate to get the role of Reverend Frank in The Gospel, which could have gone to any number of actors,” Elba says. “He gave me a shot.”

  Elba says that he likes to collaborate with Packer because he is a force to reckon with and that he likes to challenge himself and the filmmakers he works with.

  Elba has been using a standard American accent to play characters in American-produced films such as The Losers and The Reaping. Even though he says it did not make a difference to him as an actor to use his native British accent in Takers, he says that it is nice to represent his culture in an American film.

  “It was my choice to use my accent or not,” Elba says. “It was originally written as an American and it was a choice that made the film has a more international feel.”

  Aside from with the cast members who play his motley crew of criminals, Elba was able to work with British Oscar-nominated actress Marianne Jean-Baptiste, who plays his sister Naomi.

  “She brought what I wanted to see in this character, which is the Afro-Caribbean experience for those who are of Afro-Caribbean descent in England that has never been put on television or on films much,” Elba says. “While she is Jamaican and I am West African, we understand we are from in London and it was great doing it.”

  Not only is Elba just an actor, but he also happens to be Anti-Crime Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust, which is Prince Charles’ personal foundation.

  “Basically what we do is bring awareness to the situation that is happening in England and in London, where kids as young as twelve are in gangs and there are tons of criminal activities,” Elba says. “What I want to do is bring that awareness to certain groups around the world that not only includes police and governing bodies, but parent association groups. Every now and again, I go to the streets and speak with kids about crime. When I was doing Luther, I invited some of the kids to come on the set to see me work.”

  Elba has two upcoming films that include a movie that he produced called Legacy in which he plays a tortured Black Ops operative returning home after a botched mission. Next summer, he will appear as Heimdall in the Marvel comic book adaptation, Thor. Elba will also be the second actor to play James Patterson’s Dr. Alex Cross, a role originated by Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman in previous Patterson adaptations, Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider.

LA SOGA is Manny Perez’s chance to portray real Dominicans

Posted in Features with tags , on August 25, 2010 by Steve Mesa

  In the movie La Soga, Manny Perez plays Luisito, a cold-blooded hit man for the Dominican secret police. However, his childhood sweetheart (Denise Quinones) reenters Luisito’s world and falls in love without her knowing what he does for a living. Meanwhile, Luisito finds out something about his past that thrusts him to the path of vengeance against the man (Juan Fernandez) he makes works for.

  La Soga is not the first film in which Manny Perez in which he wrote, produced and starred in. In 2002, Perez was also the writer, producer and actor on a movie called Washington Heights, an independent movie set in his neighborhood. The Beacon has the chance to sit down with Perez while he was in town for the South Florida premiere of La Soga at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Miami.

  The idea for the movie came to Perez ten years ago when he remember an incident that happened in the Dominican Republic when one of his friends who got deported was killed by a cop.

  “At that time, the government gave cops licenses to kill these dudes who taking over the country like deportees who thought they were above the law,” Perez says.

  Perez said that when he finish making Washington Heights, he promised himself he will never write, produce or star in the same movie again. However, he also said that he did miss doing that because it felt like an adrenaline rush for him.

  “I feel like as an actor, I want to change my way and I want to change what I do,” Perez says. “I don’t want to just act in Hollywood; I want to act for me so I can write my own stories where I am the lead.”

  La Soga premiered last year at the Toronto International Film Festival where it was the first film from the Dominican Republic to be screened at the prestigious festival. Perez said it was one of the best moments of his life when he found out on his birthday that his film was set to premiere at the festival.

  “They schedule two screenings and they both sold out immediately,” Perez says. “The reviews from Variety and the Los Angeles Times were amazing because they loved what they saw.”

  For Perez, getting the money to make the movie and finding a distributor for the movie is the most difficult part of filmmaking.

  “There are so many people who have great films that they can’t get distribution because these people don’t know how to distribute the film,” Perez says.

  Perez went to major studio like Sony Classics and Paramount Pictures for distribution, but he said the studios did not know how to promote the movie. Eventually, La Soga was picked up by a New York film company called 7-57 Releasing for distribution.

  Sugar is a Sony Classics film about a Dominican baseball player who is recruited to play in the United Sates for a minor league team. Even though he has watched the movie and enjoyed it, Perez believes that Sugar was not a true Dominican film because he does not think other Dominicans recognize themselves in the movie.

  “I think Sugar was more like a Hollywood mainstream film about what a Dominican should be like,” Perez says. “Dominicans have a lot of pride on how they are perceived.”

  Perez said that one flaw he that found in the film was that the Spanish language spoken in Sugar is not how real Dominicans speak in real life.

  Perez’s next film, Forge, has already has found success when the movie won the Best Picture award last month at the New York Latino International Film Festival. In the film, Perez plays a father who tries to reconnect his son after serving ten years in prison for the murder of his son’s mother.

  “We are looking for a distributor for the film,” Perez says. “We have someone who is interested, but we are still waiting for the final confirmation.”

Edgar Wright brings SCOTT PILGRIM to life with dazzling results

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on August 12, 2010 by Steve Mesa

British filmmaker Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) directs and co-writes his third full-length feature that is an ode to comic books and video games, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Scott Pilgrim is about 22-year-old Canadian slacker Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) who falls in love with Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) an American delivery girl. However, in order to fully commit to Ramona as his girlfriend, he must fight and defeat her seven evil exes that include an egotistical action star (Chris Evans), a pretentious bass player (Brandon Routh) and a sleazy record producer (Jason Schwartzman).
Scott Pilgrim is Wright’s first film in which he is adapting a movie from a source material, which is the six-volume set of graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley. This movie also marks Wright’s first cinematic outing without co-writer Simon Pegg and actor Nick Frost. While his last two films created a cult following with its British humor and culture, Wright creates a fantastical world where fights to the death are arranged via email and the power of music literally comes to life in Toronto.
The film has several hilarious moments, but sometimes it is hard to distinguish if most of the humorous moments came from O’Malley’s books or Wright’s sense of humor.
The look of the film is tremendous as Wright manages to recreate full panels from O’Malley’s books down to smallest detail whether it is a t-shirt that Scott wears or the room/house that he lives with his gay roommate.
The highlights of the film are the fight sequences between Scott and “The League of Evil Exes”. With the film structured like a live-action video game, each ex represents a boss at the end of a level. Each ex have special powers and turn into coins when they are defeated. These scenes also incorporate actual sound bites from video games like The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog and Street Fighter. The fight scenes also manages to pay homage to comic books and anime with panels appearing onscreen, speed lines and words like “Ponk” and “Kroww” popping up on screen when people punch each other.
Michael Cera is not playing another teenager or high school like in his previous films. As Scott Pilgrim, Cera gets to display an array of emotions within the movie that we have not seen him done before. Surprisingly, Cera can hold his ground in the fight sequences and pull it off without the scene looking awkward or weird.
Newcomer Ellen Wong is great as the innocent, naïve and Scott’s “fake high school girlfriend”, Knives Chau. Wong also contributes to some of the funniest scenes in the film whenever her character makes an appearance in the midst of an odd and awkward moment in the film.
The side characters that populate Scott Pilgrim’s world and show up to comment on Scott’s decisions are just as entertaining as the main character of the film. Kieran Culkin and Aubrey Plaza steals every scene that they are in as Wallace Wells, Scott’s sarcastic gay roommate and Julie Powers, the foul-mouthed acquaintance that is criticizes him every chance she gets. As the exes, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman deliver over-the-top performances that are welcomed in a film where the ridiculous is of the norm within the Scott Pilgrim universe.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the most entertaining movie of the year with another unique film directed by Wright, who managed to capture the look, feel and essence of O’Malley’s comics.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD: 5 out of 5 stars

Stallone’s EXPENDABLES is action-packed film that should not to be taken seriously

Posted in Reviews with tags , on August 12, 2010 by Steve Mesa

With this year being the latest summer to offer some disappointing sequels and remakes, it is nice to have a fresh breath of air in term of originality as Sylvester Stallone and an all-star cast of action stars from the past three decades comes together in The Expendables.
Barney Ross (Stallone) is the leader of a group of freelance mercenaries that are available for the most dangerous missions if the price is right. Barney and his team are hired to take down General Gaza (David Zayas), a ruthless dictator of the small island country of Vilena. However, it is revealed ex-CIA operative James Monroe (Eric Roberts) and his henchman Paine (Steve Austin) are actually controlling the actions of the dictator. Ross accepts the mission, but not because of the money, but to save a beautiful woman (Giselle Itie) from an impending death sentence.
The script, which was written by Stallone and David Callaham, flesh out their characters with some personality traits that make each men different. The script is not perfect as there are moments in the movie where some of the dialogue is laughable. There is a great not-to-be-missed scene where Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are on screen together for the first time as they break each other chops and try to one-up each other.
As he is aiming reclaim his throne as of king of the action stars at the age of 64, Stallone plays another badass character who loves what he does, but is in danger of losing his soul. Jason Statham is great as his Ross’ second-in-command Lee Christmas, a man who likes to work with knives. It is also nice to see both Stallone and Statham create on-screen chemistry with one another as they banter and fight together.
The rest of the team members mixes the action stars of old with new and upcoming action stars that features Jet Li as close-combat martial arts expert Ying Yang, Randy Couture as demolitions expert Toll Road, Terry Crews as gun-toting weapons expert Hale Caesar and Dolph Lundgen as the menacing sniper Gunnar Jensen.
People who are planning to watch The Expendables are not watching the movie because of its plot and acting. While the plot is structured simply as a no-holds-barred action flick, the acting is not as bad as you would think.
There one dramatic monologue in the film that seems out of place for a testosterone-driven movie like this, but it is an intense and convincing speech that provides Ross with a motive to rescue a woman. In the scene, Mickey Rourke, who plays the ex-Expendable whose tattoo parlor serves as headquarters and clubhouse for the team, recalls his last mission in Bosnia in which he realized he does not have the compassion to continue as part of the Ross’ team.
The action in the film is a throwback to classic 80s action flicks complete with extremely bloody violence, big guns, big knives and big explosions. The epitome of such is a scene when Stallone and Statham takes out a batch of bad guys using a machine gun embedded in a 1950s Albatross sea-plane.
The fights in the movie have memorable matchup with the actors that includes Hong Kong legend Jet Li taking on Dolph Lundgren in a true David vs. Goliath matchup where Li uses Lundgren’s height against him. As Rocky in Rocky III, Stallone fought legendary pro wrestler Hulk Hogan and in The Expendables, Stallone goes “mano-o-mano” with former WWE wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The result is a fight sequence that is a tough and dirty free-for-all brawl, in which Stallone broke his neck while filming the scene with Austin. Austin also faces another “Expendable” team member played by UFC legend Randy Couture. With both Couture and Austin being a legend in their sport, both WWE and UFC fans should be excited to see both men fight onscreen while surrounded by a ring of fire.
The Expendables is an action film fans’ wet dream complete with the ultimate all-star cast of action stars. The script and dialogue may be lacking intelligence, but enjoy it for what it is: a dumb and fun testosterone-driven movie.

THE EXPENDABLES: 3.5 stars out of 5