Archive for March, 2011

The stars of “Battle: Los Angeles” ban together to talk about their roles

Posted in Features on March 29, 2011 by Steve Mesa

You can expect Black Hawk Down meets Aliens in the latest science fiction/action film Battle: Los Angeles, which was the #1 movie this weekend with $36 million.

A group of Marines (that includes Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez and Ramon Rodriguez) are on a mission to rescue civilians that are located in a desolated police station in Santa Monica after aliens invade the coast of California.

Michelle Rodriguez, Ramon Rodriguez and Michael Pena were in Miami two weeks ago promoting the movie and getting ready to appear on the red carpet later that night at Regal Cinemas South Beach 17. I was able to sit down with the actors as part of three different roundtables at the Ritz Carlton in South Beach.

Both Michelle and Ramon were attracted to the project when director Jonathan Liebesman showed them a five-minute short that starred Aaron Eckhart and it was the genesis for the film.

“When I saw the video, I thought this was going to be really cool and different,” Ramon Rodriguez says. “I’ve always been interested in playing some type of soldier or some sort of military character so that was fun. Also, it’s a combination of two worlds that I love: I love both genres, I love sci-fi movies and I do love war films, especially with the style Jonathan uses to do it, documentary/hand-held.”

Michelle said she was fascinated with Liebesman’s perception of how he wanted to his film to be shot and completed with a documentarian style that she has never seen before.

“He wanted it to be more of an intimate experience between you and the chaos,” Rodriguez said. “I think that what really made everything real because it was less green screen and it was really all about that experience.”

There were a number of things that attracted Pena to Battle: Los Angeles, but the relentless action and the pacing of the story is what attracted him the most.

“I wanted to have a meeting with the director, Jonathan Liebesman, and he showed me on his little laptop what the aliens were going to look like and I wanted to have a meeting with him,” Pena said. “I have to be honest, even if the actors are amazing, but the aliens suck, I don’t want to see this movie. That why I had the meeting and he showed me something that was awesome. It was not super glossy, like some weird metal skin. It is actually pretty damn real and the things that he showed caught my imagination like when I was a kid.”

Michelle and Ramon play soldiers in the film and as actors playing soldiers who were fighting aliens in California; they had to shoot some crazy and difficult scenes.

For Ramon, the most difficult scene to shoot occurred on the first week of filming was “that redeeming scene with the bus”.

“It’s difficult when you are shooting a moment like that and you have to have the levity and the weight of what your character has been through up until that point or else it doesn’t fit,” he said.

The craziest scene Michelle had to shoot was the last action sequence of the film in which she called it “pretty freaking gnarly.” She said the scene involved unloading 20 magazine of bullets in one night and shooting the scene from different perspectives.

According to Michelle, the most difficult scene to shoot for her was the bus sequence because it involved twenty people in a bust with no air conditioning and the Louisiana weather, which was humid and 110 degrees.

“A bunch of smoke going up your nose that you blow out at the end of the day and it’s all black,” Rodriguez said. “There was lots of running and I got knee issues because I have no ACL on this knee so it kept popping out of place.”

Battle: Los Angeles is in theaters now.


MIFF ends with a celebration featuring awards and accolades

Posted in Festival/awards on March 29, 2011 by Steve Mesa

The 28th Annual Miami International Film Festival was very busy in organizing not jst screenings for festival moviegoers, but events in which the average moviegoer could ask a question to an acclaimed filmmaker following certain screenings. The last week of the festival featured many highlights including the Career Achievement Tribute to Susanne Bier and the premiere of the shot-in-Miami drama Magic City Memoirs.

On Sunday, filmmaker Susanne Bier was honored by the festival with a Career Achievement Tribute that featured clips from her past works including After the Wedding and Things We Lost in the Fire starring Oscar-winners Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro. Bier was not traveling alone as she brought the Oscar that her latest movie, In a Better World, won two weeks ago at the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language.

Documentarian Morgan Spurlock made his first trip to the festival this year by premiering his latest film, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold in South Florida. Spurlock also participated in a seminar on Tuesday night entitled A Conversation with Morgan Spurlock which was held at the W in South Beach and moderated by Peter Debruge, the senior film critic and features editor for Variety. Spurlock talked about his experiences making this film including a scene in the movie where he takes part in a neuro-marketing experiment.

“They put people in MRI machines and show you commercials, than they check the response of your brainwaves to the MRI results. They go back to re-edit the commercial and change the commercial to tap into their brains,” said Spurlock.

The first annual Cinemaslam was held at the Colony Theater on Wednesday night where students from Miami-Dade College, University of Miami and Miami International University (AI) were in competition against each other for the Miami Student Film of the Year. With three finalists from each school, there could only be one winner each school. The event started off with the judges awarding an Honorable Mention prize to Nurse Interrupted from Miami International University student Lara Fuchsbrauner. AI’s Bobby Douge, MDC’s Tamara Benavente and UM’s Bryan Lorenzo won over their fellow students with their films Augustus, Lost and Found and Breakaway Street. With all the winners on stage, the judges announced the winner of the Miami Student Film of the Year, which went to Bobby Douge for Augustus.

Friday was all about the World Premiere of Magic City Memoirs at Gusman Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Miami. An independent movie that was directed, produced, written by and starring an ensemble cast and crew of Miami locals, the film is about three lifelong friends who go to private school together who are on the verge of graduating from high school. However, they live a dangerous lifestyle at night that includes sex, drugs and hip-hop. Executive producer Andy Garcia, director Aaron Salgado, producer J.D. Freixas, actors Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Natalie Martinez, J.R. Villarreal, Michael Cardelle and Andres Dominguez were on hand for a press conference held at the conference rooms at the Betsy South Beach.


Posted in Movie News on March 4, 2011 by Steve Mesa

Four new films will be hitting your local cineplex today that are better choices than the films that came during the first two months of the year.

Based on a story by Phillip K. Dick, The Adjustment Bureau is a story about a New York politician (Matt Damon) who falls in love with a ballerina (Emily Blunt). However, their romance is being prevented by men who fedora hats who have the power to control the world. This movie is an actual romance movie that I like becasue it something more than just another romantic movie. It adds the subtext of themes such as paranoia and fate vs. destiny to be injected into the storyline. Damon and Blunt’s chemistry will make audiences want to root for them to end up together at the end.

A modern-day take of Beauty and the Beast, Beastly is about a New York teenager (Alex Pettyfer) who must find his true love after he is tranformed into a scarred and tattoed monster. His only chance at that is his former classmate (Vanessa Hudgens) who does not recognize him.

Possibly the first best movie of the new year, Rango is the first animated movie of Industrial Light & Magic and they are likely to give Pixar a run for their money at next year’s Oscar ceremony. The film is about a domesticated chameleon  (Johnny Depp) who accidently wind up in a town in the deser filled with strage and odd-looking characters and eventually winds up being the sheriff of the town. The details and textures of the characters in this film are almost realistic thanks to the outstanding animation. Depp adds another odd and fascinating character to his resume, along with great voice work from Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin, Ned Beatty and Bill Nighy. There are also great homage to Chinatown and the Sergio Leone westerns taht makes it fun for any film buff to identify.

Set in the summer of 1988, Take Me Home Tonight is a raunchy comedy about three friends (Topher Grace, Dan Fogler and Anna Faris) who have one of the craziest night of their lives complete with a stolen car, cocaine and sex. This movie is an enjoyable film with good performaces by the cast and a kick-ass 80s soundtrack.

Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer are all about the 80s in TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT

Posted in Features on March 4, 2011 by Steve Mesa

Set during the summer of 1988, Take Me Home Tonight is a raunchy comedy about three friends (Topher Grace, Dan Fogler and Anna Faris) that have one of the craziest nights of their lives complete with stolen cars, cocaine and sex. This movie is one of the most enjoyable comedies this year that does not take make fun of the 1980s like last year’s comedy that was set in the 80s, Hot Tub Time Machine.

I was able to sit down with Topher Grace, who is the star, writer and producer of the movie, and his beautiful Australian co-star Teresa Palmer at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for a 2-on-1 interview to talk about the film

Hialeah Movie Examiner: Topher, what inspired to create the story for this film?

Topher Grace: I was so bummed that I missed the John Hughes era of the 1980s. It was a great time for actors and those kind of films with young cast ensembles to be able to work with each other before they became big movie stars. I love working with huge movie stars. I have done that a couple of times and it is a great way to apprentice someone who are masters of their craft. For me personally, I also wanted to work with someone like Anna, who I have known for many years and Dan, who I saw on Broadway. I wanted to bring one of those kind of groups together for a movie. My producer partner (Gordon Kaywin) said “American Graffiti was shot in the 70s and set in the 50s and Dazed and Confused was shot in the 90s and set in the 70s. We can do that for the 80s”. We wanted to make the first movie about the 80s that wasn’t a spoof of the era. It is very hard to not make fun of the 80s. I have see movies and TV shows where someone would say “Cell phone…they can’t get any smaller” or “They will be hovercars in the year 2000”.

HME: Did you planned to be the one of the producers for this film?

Grace: I had this idea with my friend who is now my producing partner and he is the one who said what if we look back 20 years like Dazed and Confused. We did not want to spoof the 80s like other films and have “Rock Me Amadeus” or songs like that were obviously from the 80s. We went with songs that stood the test of time like Duran Duran. We went to Ron Howard, who was in American Graffiti, and Brian Grazer to produce the film. They liked the idea and then we hired writers to write the screenplay. By that point, I was already a full-time producer for the film.

HME: What was the most difficult scene to shoot?

Teresa Palmer: To shoot together? I think it would have to be the sex scene. I found it to be very traumatic. What was the most difficult scene to shoot?

Grace: Yes, the sex scene. Shooting that scene with her was a little difficult to do compare to other scenes I had to do.

Palmer: After finished wrapping up that scene, we ended up partying a lot that night. I had fun shooting this movie every day I was on set. I had one of the best times during the making of this movie. I was very lucky to be part of it.  

HME: I read that this movie was shot in 2007 and it took four year to release the film. Did Anna, Dan or Teresa ever run into you after shooting and asked you about when it was getting released?

Palmer: We all became friends after we shot this movie.

Grace: We remained very close. What happened was we screened the movie two years ago and it went very well. However, the original studio that was going to release the movie had a real problem with how much cocaine was in it and how much cocaine Dan was doing. Our feeling was that if you do a movie about Prohibition, you have to show alcohol. If they are kids partying in Beverly Hill in the 80s, there is going to be cocaine. We were really lucky to have Ron and Brian as our producers.

Palmer: They are the best producers of our time.

Grace: They said “Why don’t you just chill and we will find another studio to put this movie out for what it is”. I was so nervous about it because I was afraid they we had to cut the cocaine scenes out. It would be weird if Dan was acting strange for no reason. Ron and Brian showed the movie to Ryan Kavanaugh (CEO of Relativity Media) and we were lucky to get a bigger release then what we originally had thanks to Ryan. He was not one of those studio executives who are their 60s or 70s. He was actually three years older than me. He said he thought it was great and didn’t feel we had change a thing.

Palmer: He definitely saved the project from being neutered.

Grace: I am so glad that I am getting to talk to you because I was with this movie since its inception and it is exactly what we wanted to put out.

Take Me Home Tonight is in theaters everywhere starting today.


Abigail Breslin takes on animated role in RANGO

Posted in Features on March 2, 2011 by Steve Mesa

14-year-old actress Abigail Breslin’s career skyrocketed five years ago where she casted in Little Miss Sunshine along with Steve Carrell, Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin. Her performance got her nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actress category that year. Since then, she has starred in several movies with movie stars like Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jodie Foster, Cameron Diaz and Woody Harrelson.

Breslin stars alongside Johnny Depp in the latest animation film Rango, where she plays a mouse by the name of Priscilla who lives in a small-town called Dirt where Rango (Depp) wanders into town and accidently becomes the hero and eventually sheriff of Dirt. I took part of a roundtable interview with Breslin at the Four Seasons Hotel in Brickell that included other critics from the South Florida area where she talked about her character and the movie.

Question: How did you get involved in Rango?

Breslin: Gore Verbinski, the director, sent me a sketch of Priscilla and a letter that asked me to be in the movie. I love the story and I thought the character was hilarious.

Question: Can you tell us about your role as Priscilla in the movie?

Breslin: Priscilla is a very morbid, draw, tough mouse. There is a technical name for the type of animal she is, but I can’t remember it now. At the beginning of the movie, she is not sure about Rango and she sort of makes fun of him. She was a fun character to play.

Question: If you were to play another character in the movie besides Priscilla, who would it be?

Breslin: Oh…that is really hard. There is one, but I would not want to another character to play because I think Priscilla would be awfully offended.

Question: How were you able to come up with the way your character speaks in the movie?

Breslin: Gore had a very specific accent he wanted me to do with my character. It is not a pretty Southern accent, but a raw and real Southern accent. In order to work on the accent, I saw a dialogue coach in New York and Los Angeles.

Question: Was this your first time meeting Johnny Depp?

Breslin: Yes. He is a really nice guy. We filmed all of our scenes together, which was a really great to do because it is good to work with him and the other actors.

Question: You have done voice work on Quantum Quest and Air Buddies, but with Rango, this is different because the director Gore Verbinski uses the “human experience” method. What was it like to not be trapped in a just a sound booth to record your lines? What kind of results did you see between doing something in that process as opposed to recording it by yourself in a booth?

Breslin: On Rango, I got the chance to play off of the other actors. We had the chance to say our lines differently than what we had in mind, which made the process real fun. Being in the booth is fun sometimes, but I had more fun where we were acting like we were in a play.

Question: For an animated movie, I found this movie to be very mature and adult. It also seemed to me that it did not dumb down the subject matter for children. Did that sort of thing appeal to you?

Breslin: What I think is really great about Rango is that it does not talk down to kids. It is obviously something that kids can enjoy and have fun watching.

Question: What is the message that you want people to take away from this movie?

Breslin: I think it is a kid’s movie, but I also think that it something that everyone can enjoy. It has a really great story, jokes that the adults would like and stuff that kids like If you look at everybody in the town of Dirt, they are all pretty crazy and strange looking characters. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is where Priscilla and Rango are picking on each other’s flaws. The message that people can take away from this movie is just to be who you are.

Rango opens in theaters everywhere March 4. 

HBO and MIFF co-hosts a free outdoor screening of SOUNDS OF MUMBAI

Posted in Festival/awards on March 2, 2011 by Steve Mesa


  Tomorrow night at 7 pm, HBO and the Miami International Film Festival will co-host a free and public outdoor screening of the HBO Documentary Film The Sounds of Mumbai: A Musical at the newly-built New World Symphony campus.  

  The Sounds of Mumbai: A Musical is a focuses on a group of children from the slums of Mumbai who are recruited to perform a one-time only concert with members of the Bombay Chamber Orchestra. They are to perform many songs from Roger and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music in front of a sold-out crowd at Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts.

  The movie will be projected from the City of Miami Beach’s Soundstage park area onto the 7,000 sq ft. of the New World Symphony’s wall. Australian director Sarah McCarthy, producer Joe Walters and Sara Bernstein, vice president of documentary programming for HBO, will attend the screening tomorrow night. The trailer of the documentary can be found on the film’s website at