Archive for October, 2011

Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek find their purr-fect roles in “Puss in Boots”

Posted in Features on October 31, 2011 by Steve Mesa

Antonio Bandares and Salma Hayek first worked with one another on Robert Rodriguez’s second film, “Desperado”. Since then, they have gone on to work on four more film together and they are have also become best friends for life. In their latest collaboration “Puss in Boots”, Bandares reprise the role of Puss in Boots, who is an outlaw on the run from a crime he unwittingly help partake in. Puss reunites with his old friend Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) who, with the help of Kitty Softpaws (Hayek), convince Puss to help steal magic beans that would lead to the goose that lay golden eggs. I have the opportunity to participate in a roundtable interview with Banderas and Hayek at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bricket when they were in town promoting the film.

Antonio, you have voiced your character for nearly five years. What motivated you to play this character and what do you attribute the longevity of the films?

Antonio Banderas: Years ago, I saw “Shrek” at the Cannes Film Festival that year. I was very impressed with the new approach of animation movies. When they called me, I could not believe that they asked to play a character in a “Shrek” movie. They showed me the entire movie put together on the wall and I really liked the character of Puss in Boots. In the beginning when I went to the recording studio for the first time, we did not know yet what he was going to sound like. We decided that the voice should not match the body. I produce a voice that is not my natural voice, but a voice that is deeper and bigger.

Salma, how did you get involved in the movie?

Salma Hayek: I was in Paris when I got a call from the filmmakers asking if I would like to do the movie. Since I had a family, I wanted to take some time off. Doing this movie was great you can record your line from anywhere in the world, even in the bathroom. It was so easy and it was very accommodating for me. Even if I did not have a daughter, I still love the “Shrek” films. I also love Antonio and his character what he did with it.

You have worked together many times throughout the years. What do you both like about working with one another?

Hayek: I have never worked with someone that is so enthusiastic about what they do. By nature, he is such a good storyteller and he really enjoys it profoundly. He is very professional; but at the same time, he love acting. I love what I do, but compared to Antonio, I look lazy. His attitude about working puts me to shame. I am so inspired to work with him. His is so generous that he makes you want to be better. His is also a very director. He not only has enthusiasm for his part, but he has enthusiasm for everybody’s part. He has so much energy more than anyone I have ever worked with. Antonio’s enthusiasm for life and what he does is amazing. I think he as an enormous passion for life. Now it is your turn.

Banderas: I could go on and on about Salma that sometimes it gets cheesy when we are promoting a film like this. She is unbelievable and sexy…

Hayek: Leave it at that.

Banderas: I adore her so much. Every time we see each other, it is like looking back in time and remembering the time when we were unknowns in the United States.

Hayek: The only difference is that he started here (raises her right hand high) and I started here (lowers her left hand). He was so kind to me. I have done nothing at the time and I was so scared, but Antonio and Robert were really kind to me during the making of “Desperado”.

You have adults that look up to you and now you have kids that look up to you. If you can give a pep talk to kids right now, what would you tell them?

Banderas: In some ways, this movie was not just made for kids. It was also made for adults  and different audiences. The movie is complex; but at the same time, it is very a well-crafted movie made by Hollywood, which is the only place in the world where these types of movies can be done like this. In this complicated world filled with violence and unpredictability, it is a privilege and an honor to have the opportunity to make both kids and adults laugh, to give them a couple of hours to have a great time together with a bucket of popcorn in their lap, go home with a smile and share some of the values the movie has about friendship, loyalty, honor and a number of things. It is priceless.

“Paranormal Activity 3” will scare the pants off of you

Posted in Reviews on October 21, 2011 by Steve Mesa

The third film of a horror movie franchise like “Final Destination 3” and “The Exorcist III” usually runs out of steam and ideas that could mark the end of a franchise. “Paranormal Activity 3” manages to do quite the opposite as it further explores the origins of the demonic entity of this franchise and come up with more scare that will cause your pulse to race a mile a minute.

As a prequel to the previous films, this movie is set in 1988 where sisters Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown) first encounter the demon, which Kristi thinks is an invisible friend named Toby. Strange things start happening around the house which causes the girls’ stepfather and videographer Dennis (Christopher Nicolas Smith) to set cameras around the house despite the objection of his wife Julie (Lauren Bitner). Bizarre and strange occurrences begin to manifest within the house that are more than just things going bump in the night.

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (“Catfish”), they establish a tense mood in the movie and manage to maintain that mood throughout this film. The scary stuff is not just limited to the nighttime this time around as the some of the scary moments in “Paranormal Activity 3” occur in broad daylight.

The editing plays an essential role in this film in order to help orchestrate set up the upcoming scary moments. Jump cuts are greatly used throughout the film whether it is a stationary camera shot of a bedroom at night or the panning shots of a camera atop an oscillating fan that build an incredible amount of tension. 

The best part about this movie is the anticipation of the scare and scanning the scene to see what is out of the norm within the frame. When the scares do occur, they are not just cheap “gotcha” moments (including an awesome scare that occurs early in the movie), but truly real and intense scares.

Screenwriter Christopher B. Landon expands the mythology of the franchise by exploring the history and possible origins of the demon that has been haunting Katie and Kristi. The story in this movie is careful in not unveiling everything, which leaves room for next year’s possible fourth movie. As a prequel, there are direct connections to the first two films that include cameos from Katie Featherstone and Sprague Grayden, who played the older Katie and Kristi in the previous films. However, moviegoers unfamiliar with the “Paranormal Activity” movies can still enjoy this film as a stand-alone scary movie.

Sometimes, the acting is not the most important and essential thing in “found footage” films like this one. Chloe Csengery and Jessica Tyler Brown, the child actors of “Paranormal Activity 3” are truly fantastic as the much younger versions of Katie and Kristi. The haunting start off innocent with sounds of footsteps and light flicking on and off. As the movie progresses, the entity eventually becomes violent, especially inflicting pain on some of the adults and torturing the little girls using its supernatural powers.

“Paranormal Activity 3” relies on the formula that has made the previous “Paranormal Activity” successful and it does lack the originality that the first film so frightening.

Among the horror remakes and sequels to come out this year like “The Thing”, “Paranormal Activity 3” shine above it all as not only the best installment of the series, but one of the best horror films to come out this year. Thanks to the filmmakers, they manage to keep this relatively new horror franchise as fresh of breath air in the horror genre.

“Paranormal Activity 3”: 4.5 stars out of 5

Anna Kendrick goes “50/50” with the Cinematic

Posted in Features on October 6, 2011 by Steve Mesa

Directed by Jonathan Levine (“The Wackness”), “50/50” is dramedy about Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young Seattle native who receives news that he has been diagnosed with a rare case of spinal cancer. As he goes through his treatment, he must rely on his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), best friend (Seth Rogen) and mother (Anjelica Huston) for support. Oscar-nominee Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”) plays Adam’s assigned hospital therapist, Katherine. As Katherine tries her best to get Adam through his treatment via sessions with her, they soon develop a strong bond with one another. I had the chance to sit down with Kendrick at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Brickel when she was in town promoting the film.

 Anna, congratulations on receiving the Spotlight Initiative Award in Toronto.

 Anna Kendrick: Thank you.

 How was the reception for the film there?

Kendrick: The reception was really extraordinary. I’m so proud of the film. At the end of the movie everybody was on their feet looking for Will Reiser to find him. It was just like a standing salute thing; it was sort of really special. I was also really pleased to see how young the audience was. There was a part of me that thought, ‘There’s all these college kids here, and they might be into Seth Rogen making  dirty jokes, but are they going to be into the rest of the movie?’ It went amazingly well, so that was really reassuring.

 There are moments in “50/50” when Katherine was very uncomfortable when she’s dealing with Adam, and I was wondering during those moments, do you feel uncomfortable internally and, if so, what do you do to reach those places?

 Kendrick: I would say this was like tennis in the way that you have a great partner, and it makes you better. In those moments, Joe made me feel uncomfortable because Katherine’s insecurity comes from the feeling that deep down Adam suspects that she is not good at her job, but that she suspects other people can tell too. Joe would be in those scenes and he’d look at me like I was crazy. It would make my stomach turn, so it definitely helped me feel uncomfortable. He was a great partner to have and made my job a lot easier.

 When you were reading the script, and considering doing the role, did it give you an indication that there are feelings between Adam and Katherine as it starts to develop? What did you think about that development when you were first reading the screenplay?

 Kendrick: We knew that it was going to be a tricky balance for so many reasons. You never want an audience to feel like they can see it coming. I think it’s possible to maybe see something coming, but then eventually root for them, and I think that’s what we tried to do, but Joe and I were really nervous about making the first move. As actors, I think we were just as hesitant as our characters were. It was a conversation I eventually had with him where I realized both of us were really fighting to not cross the line, sort of going to the director and saying, ‘I don’t think that character would do that,’ because there was a weird life-imitating-art thing where neither of us wanted to be inappropriate with the other character. I think that was part of it where we were both really careful. As actors, we were being just as careful as we would in real life like if I was really a therapist and he was really a patient. You don’t want to disrespect that person so hopefully people root for us. If they do, I guess all that nail-biting over it worked.

 You’ve worked with great directors like Jason Reitman and Edgar Wright. How are they different, those two in particular, from working with Jonathan Levine?

Kendrick: Jonathan is the most collaborative director that I’ve worked with. I’ve worked with some really specific directors and Jonathan pulls a really great trick on people. I think he’s an evil genius. He makes you feel like you don’t have to do anything or think about anything. You’re just doing so great that you’re making his job so easy. I don’t think that’s true because he certainly made everybody feel that way and I think he’s a mad genius. The great thing about this set was the feeling that your opinion was not only allowed but expected. When we were changing things and scenes, it was never someone disappearing over lunch and coming back with new pages. It was really collaborative and it made me feel so relaxed that I think you’re more receptive to direction. You’re more receptive to your other actors with this no-pressure environment that he created. It made us feel like we were making a movie without adult supervision.

 How would you describe “50/50” to people?

 Kendrick: It is a tricky thing. I guess what I try to say is, ‘This is just one guy’s experience, and this is what he found so perverse and bizarre that you have to laugh at it.’ It’s not like it is sick, inappropriate humor. It’s just one person’s experience with surviving and the humor that he found in it. It’s easy to just say that Seth Rogen is in this movie. It’s not a bummer. I guess I’m still working on exactly how to get people to see it, but I wish I could have the people who have seen it on speed dial because they’re better at that than I am.