Imelda Staunton – Finding Your Feet

May 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the romantic comedy “Finding Your Feet,” Oscar-nominated English actress Imelda Staunton (“Vera Drake”) stars as Lady Sandra Abbott, a well-to-do woman who finds out her husband of 40 years is having an affair with her best friend.

Sandra decides to start over when she moves in with her estranged sister, who lives in London, and signs up to take community dance classes to keep herself busy. Through dance, Sandra is able to reawaken the spark inside her, especially since the classes allow her to spend more time with Bif (Timothy Stall), a humble furniture restorer who she initially does not like.

During my interview with her last month, Staunton, 62, who is also known for her role as Dolores Umbridge in the “Harry Potter” franchise, talked about starring in a rom com featuring characters of a certain age, how she enjoyed dancing on the film and how she thinks she’d do if she tried to find a date online.

Did you find it refreshing that this is a romantic comedy that centers on characters who are in their 60s and 70s? That’s not something we see too much these days in this genre.

Aren’t we lucky?! This film wouldn’t have been made 20 years ago, I don’t think. It’s great. It’s funny, poignant and serious. It covers a lot of bases and it isn’t just about older people having health problems. It’s about people having things they’ve got to deal with. I think it shows how my particular character deals with her life. Can you change? Can you stop being a stuck-up person that no one really wants to know? Can you break [out of] your shell or not? I think it’s a good journey that my character has to go on.

What, if anything, did you learn about yourself on the dance floor? Did you realize you had more moves than you thought?

Well, I also have moves that I wouldn’t put on camera to be absolutely frank. (Laughs) Listen, we had a lot of rehearsal, which we needed. I love the fact that we’re not just old people waltzing around on the dance floor. We’re doing a little hip-hop. We’re doing rock ’n’ roll. There’s tap. It’s a lovely mix of dance styles, which is unusual. But we get to do all that and, like you said, it’s quite refreshing and exhilarating.

I know you’ve worked with your co-star Timothy Spall before on “Harry Potter.” What was it like sharing the dance floor with him this time?

It was great. We’ve known each other since we were in our early 20s. I have such respect for Tim and I admire him. He’s such a funny guy, so we had such a lovely time. And how nice having two people [like us in these roles]. It wasn’t like it was George Clooney and Angelina [Jolie]. We are ordinary people who happen to have this lovely story happening to us. I think it’s rather nice that two actors, who are sort of character actors, get to play these roles.

As an actress, does the art of acting change for you when you’re working on a more intimate film like this in comparison to something that is a lot bigger in scope like the “Harry Potter” films or “Into the Woods” or “Sweeney Todd?”

Each film takes on its own script, so you have low-budget [films], medium budget, big budget. But the bottom line is always the truth of the script, however you do it and however much money you spend. If the script is no good, no amount of money can make up for that. For me, it’s always about doing the best job you can on that day. I think it’s what matters the most.

For someone who finds themselves in the same position as your character – whether they’re divorced or widowed or just alone – what advice would you give them about getting back out there and continuing on with their lives?

I think what one has to do is reach out because you’ve been isolated or, for lack of a better word, abandoned. Don’t stay there on your own dealing with that. It’s always in you. So, I would get out, talk to friends and try and get your life back.

I know you are happily married, but how do you think you’d fare in today’s dating world where everyone is meeting people online and dating with the help of computers and apps? Do you think you’d have any luck?

I don’t think I would have any luck whatsoever. I think I would just have to go meet someone at a garden center; meet someone in person – like a human. Unusual, I know.

 

Xolo Maridueña – Cobra Kai (TV)

May 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Although nostalgia enthusiasts were excited to see original actors Ralph Macchio and William Zabka recently reprise their roles as Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence on YouTube Red’s “Cobra Kai,” there’s no denying how much heart and talent the younger cast members have added to the new series based on “The Karate Kid.”

Leading the latest group of martial arts trainees in the resurrected franchise is 16-year-old actor Xolo Maridueña, who portrays main character Miguel Diaz. On the show, Miguel is the first novice karate student Johnny takes in to train when he decides to resurrect the Cobra Kai brand by opening his own dojo under the same name and taking on the role of sensei. Johnny meets Miguel when he saves him from a group of bullies outside of the strip mall where the dojo is located.

Miguel is a nice enough kid who lives with his loving mother and grandmother. We don’t know too much about his father except that he stayed behind in Ecuador and might’ve been caught up in something shady. Miguel’s mother describes him as a “very bad man.” In Johnny, Miguel finds the father figure that he’s always wanted.

Along with his new interest in martial arts, Miguel has his sights set on making an impression on a girl at school – Samantha LaRusso (Mary Mouser), who happens to be Daniel’s daughter. As the 10-episode season progresses, Miguel becomes closer to Samantha, although her father has no idea that he is Johnny’s student, which Samantha knows would not be welcomed news in the LaRusso household. While that drama plays out, Miguel finds a new foe in Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan), Johnny’s estranged teenage son who happens to work for Daniel at his car dealership and begins a friendship with Samantha while under Daniel’s tutelage.

During an interview with me last week, Maridueña talked about why everyone should give “Cobra Kai” a chance even if they haven’t seen the original movie, and why viewers should stick around for Season 2, which was greenlit by YouTube Red the day before our interview.

Why do you think this reboot of “The Karate Kid” franchise has registered with audiences?

I really want people to give [“Cobra Kai”] a shot and at least watch the first episode. I think it hooks in the audience. The cast is phenomenal. They portray their roles perfectly. By the end of the first episode, you’ll want to know everyone’s life story and what their character arcs are going to be. Once you’re in, it’s a wrap.

Should viewers interested in seeing “Cobra Kai” go back and revisit the original films or can they start from scratch with this new show?

Since there are a lot of references and a lot of nods to the first “Karate Kid,” it would only make sense to watch at the very least the first one just so you can get a couple of the jokes that you may not have understood otherwise. But I really don’t think it’s necessary. I think [“Cobra Kai”] is its own project and separate from “The Karate Kid.” Because of that, you don’t need to, but I would advise it.

You know, this show can go into so many different direction for Season 2.

I was on a call with the directors yesterday and was begging them, “Just tell me what you guys have planned [for Season 2]!” There are so many different directions [Season 2] can take. In the first season, our writers and directors knew from the get-go where they wanted a lot of these characters to end up at the season finale. They didn’t have it perfectly written down on paper, but they knew. I can only imagine they’re going to come into Season 2 with the same [concept]. There’s no way they haven’t planned for like [as far ahead as] Season 5. I think they have the right idea. You should always feel confident in yourself.

How does it feel being the first Latino “Karate Kid” ever?

Latinos are the No. 1 moviegoers and TV viewers, but the representation is not there in front of the camera. Latinos are towards the bottom of the list when it comes to being in [movies and TV shows]. It really feels great to be a character who is explicitly Latino. It really is a huge deal for me just because it’s not a stereotypical role. It is great because there are so many young kids that don’t see people that look like them on screen. Having someone who has the same skin tone as you is world changing for a lot of these kids.

What did you think about your character toward the end of Season 1 and how much he changed?

I really love both sides of Miguel. I don’t think he’s that much of a different character. I think a lot of his motives and ideals are different. I don’t think his personality has changed. I think he’s a very passionate person. When he’s set on something, he’s set. With that being said, I know Season 2 is going to be a lot different from Season 1. We’ve established all the characters, so I think Season 2 we’ll see a change in Miguel and [all the characters]. You come to watch [Daniel and Johnny], but you’re going to ultimately stay for the new generation of karate kids.

David Tennant – Bad Samaritan

May 23, 2018 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the thriller “Bad Samaritan,” Scottish actor David Tennant plays Cale Erendreich, an arrogant, rich guy with a bit of a grisly secret. His private life is accidentally unearthed when he hands his car keys over to Sean (Robert Sheehan), a scheming valet at a restaurant, who decides to drive Cale’s Maserati back to his home to rob him while he is inside having dinner.

When Sean breaks into Cale’s home, he discovers a young woman beaten and chained to a chair. With little time to react, Sean must decide how he will handle the situation as a vast amount of scenarios run through his head.

During an interview with me a couple of week ago for the release of the film, Tennant, 47, best known for his role in the popular British TV series “Doctor Who” and in Netflix’s Marvel series “Jessica Jones,” talked about what it was like to portray a psychopath, how his role in “Doctor Who” has impacted his career and his experience giving voice to Scrooge McDuck in the reboot of “DuckTales.”

What is it about Cale that makes him such a great antagonist for this particular film?

Yeah, it’s kind of hard to see him from a rational point of view as anything other than a monster. He, of course, feels justified in everything that he does. Hopefully, that’s what makes him horrifying.

Well, not only that, but he takes it a step further than most bad guys. Did you find that aspect of his character interesting?

I started reading the script and what immediately had me captivated was the story of the valets robbing houses. I thought it was [a] likely [story]. Twenty pages in, [the script] takes this hand-break turn into this whole other world of pain. Cale emerges as this coldblooded monster. I started reading the script and I didn’t stop till I finished it. More than anything, that indicated to me that it was a project worth pursuing. It all fell into place as a fantastic project to be a part of.

As an actor, did you tap into anything mentally to get to some of the darker places your character goes?

You’re trying to find the route into what that kind of psychology is. If you’re talking about psychopaths, you’re trying to remove the notion of guilt or empathy. If you can get to that place, then it starts to make sense – that place where other people’s suffering means nothing to you. I guess that’s the kind of trick you’re trying to pull on yourself. You’re trying to imagine what the inside of that kind of a brain might feel like.

Is there something these days that you look for when you’re reading scripts?

It can be slightly nebulous. It might just be that [a script] connects with you and gets you excited. Whether that’s an extraordinary plot or the fineness of the characters, it’s hard to really know. Until you see it, you really don’t know what is going to excite you or what’s going to make you decide on the next project you want to be a part of. You just hope that you’re fortunate enough to be in a position where people keep asking you to do things. If those things create new challenges and take you to places you’ve never been before and provide you with characters that might feel like a bit of a stretch, then that’s all I could ever really hope for. I don’t really think very tactfully. I don’t really have a five-year plan or fantasize about what my next professional move might be. Fortunately for me, I have a few things coming up that feel challenging and exciting.

There are some elements in “Bad Samaritan” that felt like the film was borrowing from other movies like “Rear Window” and “Se7en.” Are those comparisons welcomed or would you rather the film stand on its own?

It depends really. Of course, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. I think there are certain elements [in “Bad Samaritan”] that feel a little Hitchcockian and a little cinematically old-fashioned in the best sense. I don’t have any problem with that unless it’s something too similar that has come before that would prevent it from having its own character. Inevitably, things are going to remind you of other things and suggest other movies. You’re always looking for that spark of originality or that story you haven’t imagined before. It’s hard to define, really. If you’re fortunate enough to stumble across it, you’ll know it when you see it.

When you get offered a project that is not specifically for a Scottish character, is that something you revel in more than most roles?

I think early on in the U.K., I was quite lucky that I did quite a few English parts. So, early on, I think I confused people about where I came from. I’ve always enjoyed the idea that an accent can help you disappear into a character. I like the idea of transforming and losing yourself in a character. But I do enjoy playing characters in my own voice, too. If people are willing to see you as something other than what you are, that is part of what you’re chasing as an actor.

When you’re so well known for a specific role like you are with “Doctor Who,” do you find it difficult to shed that skin? Do you ever wish people might forget about that role and not automatically connect you with it?

You sort of just move on when the job is over as an actor. Once the job is over, you’re looking for the next one. The public might see you as something else, but I think as actors we sometimes believe we can do anything.

An actor I think is doing a really great job of moving on is someone you’ve worked with, Daniel Radcliffe. I know there are a lot of people who might only see him as Harry Potter, but I think he’s making some interesting decisions with his career post boy wizard.

I don’t know that Daniel is doing that consciously. When I see the things that Daniel’s gone on to do, he’s done a variety of things and has been convincing in all of them. It’s something I always want to do – to be allowed to keep doing different things. I’d rather be limited by my own limitations than by any objective sense of who I am from other people.

Do you think people have put those limitations on you at any time in your career?

It’s hard for me to know because I’m only aware of the things people ask me to do. I’m not privy to conversations where people go, “No, we don’t want him!” I’m sure that happens regularly. I have a sense that “Dr. Who” opened more doors than it closed for me. I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to do that and what it has allowed me to do since. I think audiences are used to seeing actors doing different parts and getting excited about that. Maybe that’s more of a modern phenomenon. Maybe typecasting was something that happened more in the past, although it still does happen now.

For your voice work as Scrooge McDuck in the reboot of “DuckTales,” did you have to prepare for it by flapping around in a big pile of money?

I certainly hung out with some ducks for a while. And I lived in a pond for a fortnight. The Scrooge McDuck role has been great. I didn’t realize how beloved those characters were. I sort of missed “DuckTales” the first time around. I think I was too old. I took on Scrooge McDuck with great joy and with a slight underestimation of what it meant to be that character. It’s been a huge pleasure to hear the reaction that “DuckTales” has received. It’s a fantastic cartoon. I’m so proud of it.

Deadpool 2

May 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin
Directed by: David Leitch (“Atomic Blonde”)
Written by: Rhett Reese (“Deadpool”), Paul Wernick (“Deadpool”), Ryan Reynolds (debut)

Ignore the fact that “Deadpool 2” is one of the six live-action superhero films being released in theaters in 2018. Moviegoers love the specialty genre, and damned be any outsider who proclaims half a dozen action-packed pictures from the Marvel and DC catalogs is excessive. When a company is pulling in billions worldwide, it’s not good business acumen to turn your back on the genre.

That said, it’s also obvious that after so many additions to so many franchises, things are bound to get a little repetitious. Sometimes the best films don’t stand out from the crowded field. Besides a super geek, can anyone really tell the difference between “X-Men,” “X2,” “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” if shown a random fight scene? It’s no wonder critics fell for “Logan” so hard. It was fresh and new and not so Marvel-y.

In “Deadpool 2,” which is also technically an X-Men movie, director David Leitch (“Atomic Blonde”) and returning screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick decide the sequel should basically mirror the original, except this time with a pissed-off kid and a much-anticipated villain thrown into the mix. The combination should appease fans of the series who get a hard-on for pop culture references and extreme meta humor. But depending on your threshold for snark and self-awareness, “Deadpool 2” could either be a quippy masterpiece or a catty backhand to the face. Wherever you fall, it’s safe to say viewers can at least agree that it’s unapologetically crude and that Ryan Reynolds once again proves he is the perfect choice to play the titular anti-hero.

A quick spoiler-free synopsis (since Reynolds himself tweeted out a plea last week to “not say a fucking word about the fun shit in the movie”): Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson (Reynolds), is emotionally devastated after tragedy strikes. As he does in the original, he teams up with a few of the lesser-known X-Men, including newcomer Domino (Zazie Beetz), to try and corral Russell (Julian Dennison), a young, powerful mutant who has gone rogue. Also on the hunt for the mutant kid: Cable (Josh Brolin), a time-traveling, techno-organic bad dude (good dude?) driven by vengeance. How’s that for vague?

Aside from an interesting storyline or any real character development, “Deadpool 2” delivers on what it promises — a butt-load of double entendres, mostly funny comic-book humor, effective music choices (including a new Celine Dion song — ha!), exaggerated, “Kill Bill”-style violence and Reynolds hamming it up and delivering one-liners that will likely become memes in a few weeks. If you’re looking for anything else, Deadpool has a message for you: fuck off.

Disobedience

May 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Rachel McAdams, Rachel Weisz, Alessandro Nivola
Directed by: Sebastián Lelio (“A Fantastic Woman”)
Written by: Sebastián Lelio (“A Fantastic Woman”) and Rebecca Lenkiewicz (“Ida”)

After earning an Oscar this year for his compassionate foreign-language drama “A Fantastic Woman” (“Una Mujer Fantástica”), Chilean director Sebastián Lelio makes his American film debut with “Disobedience,” a seductive and mature love story between two women with ties to an Orthodox Jewish community in London.

Esti Kuperman (Oscar-nominated actress Rachel McAdams) and Ronit Krushka (Oscar-winning actress Rachel Weisz) have been close friends since childhood. Growing up together in the synagogue where Ronit’s father was a well-respected rabbi, their lives parted ways as young women when Ronit “disappeared” to New York to become a photographer.

Many years later, Ronit finds herself back in London to pay her respects after her father dies, although she admits she was never as close to him as he was to his students. Early on, Ronit is surprised to learn that Esti has married their mutual childhood friend Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), one of the rabbi’s prodigies. Ronit assumes it is a marriage of convenience, however, since she knows Esti, whom she has been intimate with in the past, has always been attracted to women.

Ronit’s arrival — you guessed it — reignites something inside Esti that she has kept dormant for a long time. As the two women begin to re-embrace their passion for one another, the Jewish community around them begins to stir. Already having an unfavorable opinion about Ronit for leaving her father and her faith behind, those closest to the rabbi question her motivation for returning to a society that ostracized her long ago.

Adapted from the 2006 novel of the same name by English writer Naomi Alderman, “Disobedience” is an absorbing, well-written narrative that explores the conflict between free will and religious obligation effectively and in a thought-provoking way. In Ronit, Esti and Dovid, Lelio introduces audiences to a cast of three-dimensional, adult characters who are given choices, have conversations and never overdramatize the uncomfortable situation they find themselves in. In a less capable director’s hands, a film like this would likely amount to a worn-out love triangle, but Lelio identifies the nuances within the relationships and allows them to breathe on their own. He also avoids turning the outspoken Ronit into a she-devil stock character who waltzes into Esti’s life to cause trouble like some biblical serpent — especially since the film opens with her father sermonizing on the “desires of the beast.”

While Nivola blends Dovid’s anger, empathy and disappointment perfectly, “Disobedience” belongs to McAdams and Weisz in their most provocative roles to date — from Ronit’s condemnation of Jewish traditions to Esti’s pent-up sexual frustration that she releases in one erotic afternoon. We could have done without the couple listening to The Cure’s “Lovesong” (too on the nose), but every other moment they spend together feels honest.

The Rider

May 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Brady Jandreau, Lane Scott, Tim Jandreau
Directed by: Chloé Zhao (“Songs My Brothers Taught Me”)
Written by: Chloé Zhao (“Songs My Brothers Taught Me”)

Although it already happened earlier this year in director Clint Eastwood’s poorly-constructed drama “The 15:17 to Paris,” it’s rare for a filmmaker to cast the real-life subjects of a story to portray themselves in their own biopic. The decision, of course, is usually made when a filmmaker believes the non-actor, who actually lived through the experience, will bring an authenticity to the role.

While it has worked in the past with shock jock Howard Stern depicting himself in 1997’s “Private Parts” and Eminem playing a fictional version of himself in the loosely based biographical film “8 Mile,” the concept is still a bold move – which is why you hardly ever see directors take this leap.

Don’t tell Chinese-American director/writer Chloé Zhao (“Songs My Brothers Taught Me”) that the idea is too risky for her new film “The Rider.” In what will easily go down as one of the best examples of this unusual casting process, Zhao has taken a tender narrative and transformed it into a breathtakingly beautiful drama that shoots straight to the heart. Yes, the performances from some of the novice actors in supporting roles are unpolished, but the spirit that emanates from the setting, characters, relationships and direction is brilliant.

In “The Rider,” Zhao taps former bronc rider-turned-actor Brady Jandreau to play the cinematic version of himself, Brady Blackburn, a young, Native-American cowboy from South Dakota reflecting on his life after suffering a severe head injury. In 2016, Jandreau was thrown from a horse and his head was trampled. A metal plate was fused to his skull, which was fractured in three places.

As Brady Blackburn, Jandreau revisits the recovery process and the difficulty of accepting that his rodeo days were over. Another head injury would surely prove fatal. But how does a tough young man let go of something that defines him? How does he turn his back knowing that nothing else in the world will provide him that much happiness?

Director Darren Aronofsky tackled these issues in his 2008 masterpiece “The Wrestler,” which followed a broken-down grappler at the end of his career. Zhao, too, exposes Brady’s vulnerabilities much like Aronofsky does with Oscar-nominated actor Mickey Rourke. The difference is that Brady, unlike Rourke’s character, feels like he has something to live for, which allows the film to take a more hopeful approach, which is augmented by Zhao’s decision to cast Jandreau’s actual father, sister and friends, including Lane Scott, a former bull rider who was paralyzed in an auto accident in 2013.

“The Rider” is Jandreau’s film, and he delivers a complexity and cowboy flair to the role that is unmatchable. Watching him train colts on the rugged Dakota landscape, confronting the idea of what it means to be a man and simply appreciating being alive is what makes “The Rider” so emotionally fulfilling.

RBG

May 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Gloria Steinem, Nina Totenberg
Directed by: Julie Cohen (“American Veteran”) and Betsy West (debut)

It probably won’t become the definitive film on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and 60-year legal career, but the documentary “RBG” is a satisfying start.

Referring to the initialed moniker of the trailblazing judge and champion of women’s rights, “RBG” is a solid, albeit slight, glimpse into the inspiring story of the 85-year-old Ginsburg. From the Brooklyn-born daughter of Russian Jewish parents to one of the three female justices currently serving on the nine-judge bench, Ginsburg has become a cultural icon. Early in her career as counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, she made a name for herself by trying more than 300 gender discrimination cases, including six in front of the SCOTUS, five of which she won.

In “RBG,” directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West use talking-head interviews with childhood friends, family members, colleagues and others who have known Ginsburg throughout the years, to illuminate aspects of the justice’s work on the bench and her private life. While much of what comes out of the mouths of the interviewees might be considered hero-worship, Cohen and West do a reasonable job of not allowing it to get out of hand, although journalist and activist Gloria Steinem at one point describes Ginsberg as the “closest thing to a superhero I know.”

If you want to get to know Ginsberg on a personal level, the most effective sections of the documentary are when Cohen and West focus on her loving relationship with her late husband Martin. Through home videos and photos, audiences get an opportunity to identify with Ginsberg as more than the crown-wearing, meme-ified persona trending on Twitter.

Still, as enjoyable as it sometimes is to see Ginsberg train at a gym, attend the opera and laugh at comedian Kate McKinnon impersonating her on “Saturday Night Live” (“That’s a Ginsburn!”), the elements of Ginsberg’s life that are truly fascinating are the landmark court cases she presided over that changed the course of history, like Frontiero v. Richardson, Ledbetter v. Goodyear and United States v. Virginia, all of which are covered in “RBG.” Unfortunately, they’re not explored in much depth. This proves that Ginsberg is a subject for a 12-part docuseries, not a 97-minute teaser.

We won’t fault the film too much for glossing over most of the cases and trying to make “RBG” easier to digest for audiences not interested in listening to any legalese. But there is enough content for a few sequels if Cohen and West are so inclined. Until then, “RBG” is good enough. It’s surface-level stuff, but it still speaks truth to power — something everyone could use currently in this toxic political climate.

Susan Walter – All I Wish

May 9, 2018 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the romantic comedy “All I Wish,” first-time feature director/writer Susan Walter breaks the usual conventions for a coming-of-age movie to tell the story from the perspective of a middle-aged woman.

The film, which Walter also wrote, stars Oscar-nominated actress Sharon Stone (“Casino”) as Senna Berges, an aspiring fashion designer unlucky in love. When she meets Adam (Tony Goldwyn) on her 46th birthday and things don’t go very well, she assumes they will never see each other again. Fate, however, takes over and the two run into each other the following year – again on her birthday – and the following, and the following. Soon, Senna and Adam realize their serendipitous reunions are more than just coincidence.

During an interview with Walter, we talked about the inspiration she took from her favorite film “When Harry Met Sally…” to make “All I Wish,” working with Stone, who she said saved the film from essentially not being made, and her thoughts on soulmates.

So, where did the idea for a movie like this come from?

One of my all-time favorite movies across any genre is “When Harry Met Sally…” What I love about it is that it’s about a relationship that evolves over many, many years. I knew if I was going to do a romantic comedy, I didn’t want to do one of those movies where the characters meet-cute on Monday and are engaged by Friday. It didn’t feel very deep or realistic or satisfying to me. So, I wanted to construct a film about two characters who first have to find themselves to ultimately find a love relationship with one another.

So, if moviegoers bring up the similarities this movie has with “When Harry Met Sally…,” are you fine with that, or would you rather the film stand on its own?

Anybody can compare me to “When Harry Met Sally…” any day of the week. There is definitely an ode to that [movie], so I have to own that.

Why did you decide to center the narrative on Senna’s birthday each year?

Birthdays are a time for reflection. You sort of take stock of your life and who you are. Sometimes you’re disappointed. Cinematically, you’re bringing the same characters together because you always see the same people on your birthday. It seemed like a good cinematic hook to do it on her birthday, but it was also a way to extend the story over many years, which is what I wanted to do.

Is it still bad manners to ask a woman how old she is?

You know, it is. I don’t know that it should be though. The advice that I always get now that I’ve made my first film and am out there trying to make another one is to not tell people how old I am. I buy into that on one level because we all want to be young and look better and be a part of this youthful movement. But the truth is, you can look at my [film] credits and you’ll know that I’m not 30. So, why is it hard to own that? I do have a hard time owning it and I wish I didn’t. I wish that experience was valued more than youth. But the truth is, in Hollywood, it’s really not.

Talk about casting Sharon Stone in the lead role. What did you see from her that made you want to go that route?

Originally, I offered Sharon the role of the mom because the [main] character was much younger. Sharon read the script and latched onto it. Then, when the younger actress who was going to play Senna fell out, [Sharon] called me and said, “Don’t let this movie fall apart. I’ll be the lead.” At first I was taken aback by that because I hadn’t imagined a coming-of-age movie about a woman that old, to be honest. [Sharon] was in her 50s and you really can’t write a coming-of-age movie about a woman in her 50s. She said, “Susan, if this was a movie starring Bill Murray or Adam Sandler having some sort of Peter Pan syndrome and not wanting to grow up, you would get it immediately. Nobody’s made this movie. Let’s make a movie nobody’s made.” She convinced me. I have to give her full credit for having that vision and being bold.

Beside it not being a “movie nobody’s made,” why else did you want to tell this type of story?

Look, I’m not 20 myself. I’ve been in this business a long time – first as an assistant director and then as a creative director and then as a writer. If I want to believe I can reinvent myself as a filmmaker and director, then maybe it’s pretty cool that I’m making a movie showing a character doing pretty much the same thing. I think that’s a really powerful message. I think Sharon saw it before I did how important it was and how inspiring it could be for people of a certain age.

Are you married yourself?

I am. I have been married for almost 15 years.

What did your husband think about the scene you wrote where Senna and Adam talk about soulmates?

My husband is an engineer and he’s very logical. I actually stole that line from him where Tony’s character goes, “There’s seven billion people in the world. Surely I can make it work with at least five.” I’ve always been like Sharon Stone’s character in that love is like getting struck by lightning and you know you’re in love when you’re in it. So, in some ways, that relationship between Sharon’s character and Tony’s character is modeled loosely on my own.

I’m like your husband, but isn’t it a little unromantic to know that he thinks that way?

(Laughs) Yes, it’s totally unromantic! I almost didn’t marry him because of it! There’s another line in the movie where Tony’s character says to Sharon’s character, “What, is he supposed to know the minute he lays eyes on you?” The answer is yes! But my husband didn’t [know]! He was like, “Yeah, I’ll try her. Does she like the same things I do? Are our compatibility equations favorable? In the end, now that we have kids, having a family is like running a business together, so you’re priorities better be lined or there’s going to be friction. You’re hitting on what the central question of the movie is: do you choose love or does love choose you? Honestly, after 15 years of marriage, I think it’s both.

Overboard

May 4, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Eugenio Derbez, Anna Faris, Eva Longoria
Directed by: Rob Greenberg (debut)
Written by: Rob Greenberg (“Meet Dave”) and Bob Fisher (“Wedding Crashers”)

Cinematic purists beware! They’re coming for your ’80s movies — and they’re coming hard and fast and with little justification.

It seems nothing is sacred in Hollywood these days. That’s especially true for those relatable and entertaining, albeit often cheesy, ’80s flicks. They have a target on their back, and studios are banking on the idea that nostalgia is far too powerful for moviegoers in their thirties and forties to ignore.

Now that remakes of movies like “The Karate Kid,” “Hairspray,” “Robocop,” “Ghostbusters” and many others — which achieved varying levels of critical and box-office success — are behind us, next on the list for an uninspired reimagining is “Overboard,” the 1987 comedy starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell about a rich heiress with amnesia who is tricked into believing she is the wife of a poor carpenter with four boys.

In this new reiteration, gender roles are reversed, with Russell’s character going to comedian Anna Faris (“The House Bunny”) and Hawn’s going to Mexican box-office champion and funny man Eugenio Derbez (“Instructions Not Included”). But as different as it would like to declare itself to be because of the gender switch, there isn’t much to the “Overboard” remake that warrants a second shot on the big screen.

The setup is roughly the same as the original. Kate (Faris) is a single mom raising three daughters and working a few dead-end jobs while studying to be a nurse. She meets millionaire playboy Leonardo (Derbez) when she is hired to clean his yacht. When Leonardo demands that Kate go find him a mango, she refuses, and he stiffs her out of her pay and pushes her off his ship. Later, when Leonardo falls off the boat himself and is found washed up on the beach with amnesia, Kate decides to get her revenge by claiming to be his wife and making him work off his debt as a faux husband and father.

It’s virtually impossible to watch the updated “Overboard” and not compare it to the first since so much of it follows the same exact plot points and even borrows chunks of the original dialogue. Aside from the role reversal and the casting of Derbez, the latter of which gives focus on a somewhat more Latino-centric story, there is nothing remotely fresh or updated about the narrative. In fact, the screenplay hits a major snag right from the start when its screenwriters expect audiences to believe that in 2018, a person of Leonardo’s stature could go missing for more than a day without someone jumping on social media and piecing it together in a few seconds.

The most glaring problem with “Overboard,” however, is the underwritten relationship between Leonardo and his fake family. In the original, Hawn bonds with her boys in such a sweet and authentic way that when the heartbreaking reveal comes, there is a sense of real loss and sadness. When Derbez’s Leonardo gets his memory back, it doesn’t feel like he’s leaving behind anyone who made an impact on his life in any meaningful way. And let’s face it: If the original film was missing that deep, emotional connection, there would’ve been no reason to join Dr. Death for a final rescue mission.

Eva Longoria – Overboard

May 4, 2018 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

As a young woman in her early 20s having just moved to Hollywood from South Texas in 1998, Eva Longoria thought she “had arrived” when she landed a role as an extra in Ricky Martin’s music video for his single “Shake Your Bon-Bon.” It’s a story Longoria, 43, shared with an audience in Los Angeles last month during a ceremony where she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

If Longoria, best known for her role on the popular TV series “Desperate Housewives,” thought she had made it big back then, there’s no telling how that same young woman would have reacted knowing the kind of success she would earn over the next two decades. From award-winning actress to TV producer and director to spokesperson, restaurateur, fashion designer, political activist and philanthropist, Longoria has made a mark in her fair share of industries.

In “Overboard,” the remake of the 1987 comedy of the same name, Longoria plays Theresa, a pizzeria owner who encourages her friend and employee Kate (Anna Faris) to take advantage of a millionaire playboy (Eugenio Derbez) with amnesia who cheated her out of some money. In the remake, genders are reversed as Faris takes on the role originally played by Kurt Russell, and Derbez does his best to match Goldie Hawn’s previous fish-out-of-water character.

During an interview with me last week, Longoria talked about the importance of the gender switch for today’s audience, women as storytellers and how she’s helping young Latinas strive for the same dreams she had 20 years ago.

Remakes of ’80s movies aren’t anything new, but why remake something like “Overboard” that is already beloved by so many people?

I was such a big fan of [the original movie] in the ’80s. Eugenio Derbez is the one who found the title and thought, “Hey, this would be interesting to remake.” The gender switch in it makes so much sense. It’s so contemporary. I was really nervous that they were remaking it until I read the script and then I was like, “Oh, my God, this is hilarious!”

By switching genders, the female character in the new film has more control of the situation than in the original. How do you think a remake of the film would’ve been perceived in 2018 if gender roles weren’t reversed?

I think [the original movie] was a movie for the ’80s — a movie for a different time. With women’s empowerment and #MeToo and #TimesUp, I don’t think you could do the original version today.

Do you think reversing genders in films like this and “Ghostbusters,” is a direct result of women in the film industry speaking out and demanding more prominent roles?

I hope this is a tidal wave for change in how we approach storytelling. Women are not a special interest group. We’re 50 percent of the global population. There should be an equal amount of stories from our perspective. Women have buying power and have a strong view on life and are complex human beings. There are many untapped wells of stories we can draw from.

Talk about the monthly meetings you recently started having in your living room with other Latina actresses.

It’s called Latinas Who Lunch. It’s a group of Latinas in the industry who want to support each other. We want to be sure we uplift each other’s projects and become megaphones for the work we are doing. So, instead of standing alone, we’re standing together. It’s been so wonderful connecting with all these powerful, strong, intelligent Latinas who are doing great things in the business.

You were just immortalized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame two weeks ago. How does it feel to now be a permanent part of Hollywood Blvd.?

This is a legacy beyond my dreams. When I moved [to Hollywood] 20 years ago, I told myself, “One day I’m going to have a star on this street.” For it to become true is just mind blowing to me.

Did you think 20 years ago that you would become a director?

I knew I wanted to be on the business side of entertainment. I really loved directing and producing when I landed here, but I went the acting route. Now, I’ve come back to my true passion, which is putting projects together and utilizing different muscles of my brain. I never felt like I reached my full potential as an actor, but as a producer and director, it’s so much more fulfilling.

Tommy Wiseau – Best F(r)iends: Vol. 1

April 24, 2018 by  
Filed under Interviews

Fifteen years after they teamed up to make “The Room,” a cult classic that many film pundits consider one of the worst movies ever made, director/writer/actor Tommy Wiseau and actor Greg Sestero, who were portrayed last year by James and Dave Franco in the critically-acclaimed “The Disaster Artist,” are at it again.

This time, the real-life best friends are reuniting for the first time since “The Room” debacle for “Best F(r)iends: Volume One,” a buddy crime flick written by Sestero and starring him and Wiseau in the lead roles. Sestero plays Jon, a homeless man panhandling on the streets of Los Angeles, who develops a friendship with Harvey (Wiseau), an eccentric mortician, who invites him back to his morgue to lend him a hand. Soon, the two find themselves caught up in a scheme revolving around the selling of the gold dental scraps Harvey removes from the dead bodies.

I caught up with Wiseau via phone while he was attending the Gasparilla International Film Festival in Tampa Bay late last month. We talked about how his talent has grown as an actor, if he feels Hollywood has finally embraced him and why negative reviews of “The Room” are OK with him.

Do you think “Best F(r)iends” could earn the same kind of following “The Room” did?

I have no idea what happens. I stay away from criticizing my best friend’s movie, which is called “Best F(r)iends.” I want people to see “Best F(r)iends” and say what they think about it. I’m just one person. Move on, next question.

Do you feel you’ve become a better actor in the last 15 years? Do you feel like you’ve picked up some skills you didn’t have before?

This is good question. I commend you for it. I would say the most skills you have, the better. If I could talk to all the actors in the world, I personally think people would be with me. It’s a process of learning. Anytime you have new project, I always learn something. So, to answer your question, absolutely. Acting is very complex. It’s not easy to do it, as you probably know. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Move on, next question.

Why do you think you and Greg work so well together? What makes you good collaborators?

Ah, that’s good question, too. I cannot give you all the secrets. Move on, next question.

I recently saw your audition where you play the Joker. If someone gave you the opportunity to play an iconic character like that, would you take that chance?

Thank you for that question. The answer is yes. Absolutely. I’m ready. The question is, are they ready for Tommy Wiseau? But back to your question about collaboration. We have a lot of good chemistry between me and Greg. Sometimes it’s difficult to work with actors. It’s not easy. OK, two more minutes, two more questions.

Would you ever want to sit down and try writing another script for a feature film?

I have two scripts on my desk that are completed. One of them called “Vampire from Alcatraz.” The other one, I can’t tell you right now, but the answer is yes.

Do you feel like you are part of Hollywood now? Do you feel like you are part of that world?

That’s a good question. I tell you, you have very good questions. Uh, you know, let other people decide. You can ask other people. I am very respectful to studio system and I think they are very respectful towards us. That’s all I can tell you.

For those people who have never seen “The Room,” would you recommend it?

I am very respectful person towards everybody. In the past two years, we are very happy with all the media. We had really good positive reaction. Let me stress, I don’t talk only about positive reaction. There’s nothing wrong when people say, “Hey, I don’t like ‘The Room.’” I like when people are sincere. I always encourage people to see “The Room” and see what you think about it and give us a good critique. Negative is OK, too.

Were you disappointed James Franco didn’t end up getting an Oscar nomination for portraying you in “The Disaster Artist?”

It’s not for me to decide if he should get it. I think recognition has been done to “The Disaster Artist” as well to “The Room” global-wide. “The Disaster Artist” was very successful, and it keeps going. You shouldn’t expect too much. It’s not nice to criticize because he didn’t get it. It would be nice to get recognition, of course. That’s given. That’s what we work for – to be recognized. But I think if you give a message to people and people love you for it, I think it’s more important than recognition as far as I’m concerned.

Final Portrait

April 24, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Armie Hammer, Geoffrey Rush, Clémence Poésy
Directed by: Stanley Tucci (“Big Night”)
Written by: Stanley Tucci (“Big Night”)

While it’s usually never great to see “how the sausage is made” in most industries, there’s always been something intriguing — at least from a cinematic perspective — about peeking into the life of an artist and witnessing the inspiration, imagination and sometimes ugliness that permeates the creative process.

From the obsessed filmmaker Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) in Federico Fellini’s 1963 surreal Italian classic “8½” to last year’s neurotic dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) in Paul Thomas Anderson’s romantic, stylish and strange drama “Phantom Thread,” watching masters at work (or in pain from their inability to create) makes for some fascinating substance for character analysis.

It’s especially true when documentarians are able to identify a compelling subject whose passion for their craft knows no limits and details something as specialized as video-game design (“Indie Game: The Movie”) or method acting (“Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond”) or even preparing sushi (“Jiro Dreams of Sushi”). The subgenre is one that extends across countless disciplines – none as tempestuous as visual art.

Although the tortured artist is a cliché that is often overemphasized, a number of biopics and docs such as “Basquiat,” “Pollack,” “Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry” and “Gerhard Richter Painting,” have proven that each of these artists’ insight is worthy of a deep dive into learning what makes them tick. The same can’t be said, unfortunately, about “Final Portrait,” a shallow, British-American drama that offers no real substance behind the paper-thin narrative and characters presented by Oscar-nominated actor-turned-filmmaker Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”).

In his first foray into the director’s chair in more than a decade, Tucci explores the connection between Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush) and American writer James Lord (Armie Hammer), who poses as a model inside Alberto’s Paris studio in 1964. “You’re my husband’s next victim,” Alberto’s wife Annette (Sylvie Testud) tells James on the first day he steps into the studio for what is supposed to be a three-hour sitting.

A few hours, however, drag on for nearly three weeks as Alberto, surrounded by dusty sculptures and picturesque albeit dreary production design, transforms into a self-doubting, hopeless curmudgeon who curses at his canvas as much as he actually puts paint on it and delivers empty dialogue like “It’s gone too far; same time, not far enough” when he makes a potential breakthrough. James is also introduced to Caroline (Clémence Poésy), a pretty prostitute Alberto considers his muse and “nighttime companion.”

Alberto is a frustrating character, which was probably Tucci’s desire from the get-go, but the repetition in his process, or lack thereof, which spins in a loop from self-deprecating to compulsive to selfish, also twists him into a fairly unlikeable human being. Rush plays it with compassion much like he did in his Oscar-winning role in 1996’s “Shine,” but it’s a move that would only be helpful to the story if Hammer’s portrayal of James balanced it in a way audiences could feel a real relationship was present or at least forming.

Sadly, Hammer is a blank slate — a wet napkin dressed in a blue blazer and tie, sitting on a rickety wicker chair watching Alberto dip his brush into gray paint. He’s an emotionally absent pushover, and none of it is very revealing or in the interest of either gentleman. In fact, around day 12, James, through some ineffective voiceover narration, says the time he has spent with Alberto has put a “psychological strain” on him. However, Tucci, who adapted the script from Lord’s memoir “A Giacometti Portrait,” never gives an indication that James is stressed about the situation he has found himself in. Instead of just telling audiences that the prolonged art project is driving him nuts, it would have been beneficial to see something expressed on James’ perfect face. In “Final Portrait,” Hammer adequately plays what is ultimately the equivalent of a bowl of fruit.

Aside from a couple of short, thought-provoking discussions between James and Alberto about suicide and artists stealing ideas from each other, not much is memorable during their studio time. What we’re left with is Alberto scowling at his work, threatening to abandon the portrait, smoking, yelling “fuck” a lot, burying his head in his hands in complete anguish and going for occasional walks.

At one point, Alberto declares that “portraits have no meaning,” to which James questions with, “So, what we’re doing is meaningless?” As a moviegoer watching “Final Portrait,” the theory also rings true.

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