23 Blast

October 24, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Mark Hapka, Stephen Lang, Alexa Vega
Directed by: Dylan Baker (debut)
Written by: Bram Hoover (debut) Toni Hoover (debut)

How irritating must it have been for the filmmakers behind “23 Blast”–including character-actor-turned-director Dylan Baker– that they couldn’t call their movie about a literally blind football player “The Blind Side?” Of all the issues facing this low-budget, mildly faith-based project, though, a nonsensical title is pretty low on the list. The challenges for a film like this aren’t really that difficult to overcome, and generally consist solely of “throw a little Christianity in there” and “nakedly appeal to the ‘regular folk’ of America.” But seriously, would the extra step of actually making a competent motion picture really be that much more work for the films in this genre?

The film opens on a football field during pee-wee league practice. The grizzled yet kind coach Farris (Stephen Lang) drills plays into the minds of the boys on the Redhounds squad, including new friends Travis and Jerry. When revered high school football coach Powers (Fred Dalton Thompson, the movie’s walking and talking heartland values seal of approval) shows up at practice, he taps Farris as his replacement. Fast forward 10 years and best friends Travis (Mark Hapka) and Jerry (writer Bram Hoover, clearly in his early 30s) are the leaders of the high school team with Coach Farris at the helm. The morning after a big game, Travis wakes up with swelling in his eyes. After a trip to the hospital and emergency surgery, Travis is given the bad news: the infection was too great and it has cost him his eyesight. As he and his family learn to cope with his blindness, Coach Farris has an idea and Travis is offered an opportunity to return to the football field.

Indifferently lit, shot, written, directed and acted, “23 Blast” looks and feels cheap. At times it seems Baker and his crew could barely muster more than 20 people at a time, making the film feel sparse and underpopulated, most egregiously in a pivotal scene in a church full of empty pews on what should be a busy Sunday morning. The high school football action lacks the crackling nobility present in superior takes on the subject, namely TV’s “Friday Night Lights,” which the film is clearly aping, only with lazy, locked down cameras and the store-brand Explosions in the Sky soundtrack. Twenty-eight-year-old Hapka is decent enough in a performance as a newly-blind teen that only resorts to overacting a handful of times. Less successful is Hoover’s attempt to pass as a mildly wild teen, with his ruddy face and receding hairline making him look every bit his real-life age. Alexa Vega, once again hopscotching from Robert Rodriguez T&A to a low-budget, churchy affair, doesn’t really have much to do as Hapka’s friend turned half-hearted love interest. Any real hormonal moments between the two of them fizzle with a shrug as the movie fails to get excited about, well, anything at all.

Alexa Vega – The Remaining

August 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Best known for her role in the “Spy Kids” franchise and films like “Repo: The Genetic Opera” and “Machete Kills,” actress Alexa Vega is having a busy 2014. This year, she stars in Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For” and in the end-of-days horror film “The Remaining.” In “The Remaining,” Vega plays Skylar, a young woman who finds herself in an Apocalyptic scenario of Biblical proportions on the day of her wedding.

During our interview, Vega, 25, talked to me about how she’s focused on finding roles that are first and foremost fulfilling to her, why religion plays an important part in her life, and whether or not she really believes the world is going to end in a hailstorm of fire and brimstone.

Before we get into your new film, the “Sin City 2” trailer just came out of Comic Con in San Diego today. Have you seen it?

You know, I just found out. I haven’t seen it yet. (Laughs) So, what is happening in the trailer?

Well, there are a lot of things happening in the trailer. There is a nice little shot of you dancing on a bar top and giving Jessica Alba a run for her money.

Oh, boy. (Laughs) Well, I’m eager to see this trailer. We’ve been so busy over here. I haven’t been to Comic Con. I’ve been out of town. I’ve been missing a lot of the scoop. I need to get caught up.

In “Machete Kills,” you said you kind of had to beg director Robert Rodriguez for a part in that movie. I guess you were able to get through to him for a movie like this where you’re revealing a little more.

You know, it’s so funny because I keep on going back and forth on what is the right decision and how do I make that transition [into more adult roles]. You have to be so careful because you don’t wan to jump over too quickly. I definitely think that this role is pushing it a little bit. I doesn’t have anything horrible at all. I think dancing on the bar is probably the worst of it. But I’ve never played sexy roles like this before. “Machete Kills” was kind of the first thing. I literally shot [“Sin City 2”] right after “Machete.” It’s so different from anything I’ve done. You just want to make sure you don’t alienate your audience or don’t lose your fans along the way. Now, I’m so much pickier as to what [roles] I take. You don’t want people to know what you’re going to do next. You want to keep people guessing. I don’t want people to think, “That girl is predictable.” For me, I think I’m really going to start changing it up with the [roles] I take. The actors I admire…like Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp and Gary Oldman…they’re unpredictable with the jobs they take. Johnny Depp is hardly recognizable from character to character. The depth Meryl Streep has with every character she takes and how she changes [those characters] is amazing. I feel like even if I watch a Meryl Streep movie and we know she’s going to be amazing, you’re never like, “Oh, that’s just Meryl Streep again.” You dive in with her. That’s kind of how I want my career to go.

You know, Meryl Streep could probably stay unpredictable if she danced on top of a bar in her next movie.

(Laughs) Yeah, we should get her in “Sin City 3!” (Laughs) I’m sure she’d be down to do it, too!

Do you think it’s important for you to change your image at this point in your career? We know you as the little girl from the “Spy Kids” movies, but is that the advice you’re getting from the people around you?

I just think you kind of have to gradually make that decision as you grow. I don’t want to alienate the awesome fans that have grown up with me and the younger fans who are still out there. You can only play young for so long and then your time is up. So, instead of running away from it, I’m embracing it for as long as I can. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. (Laughs) With that said, you also want to fulfill yourself with the roles you’re playing. Right now, for me, it’s not about the most strategic move. It’s about what is fulfilling for me. We’ve done the strategic moves. We’ve done the moves that we’re supposed to do. At the end of the day, you have to do what is fulfilling for you or it becomes work. There are days that are harder than others, but I love my job. You do a movie that pays the bills and then you do a movie that you really want to do.

Something that seems a lot different than what you’ve done in the past is your next movie, “The Remaining.” I think the end of the world is probably something at the top of the list of things you don’t want to happen at your wedding.

Oh my God, yes! It’s the last thing you would want to happen at your wedding! (Laughs) It’s so funny because I don’t like horror or scary movies. To me, [horror movies] are so freaky and I get scared so easily. It’s funny actually working on one because while everybody else is laughing and playing around, I am genuinely freaked out. There are all these extras covered in cut and bruises and playing dead. Meanwhile, cars are flipped over and things are on fire. All the elements are there. There wasn’t much acting involved (Laughs). What drew me to the project was that I liked how universal [the story] is. Whether you’re watching this movie in Japan or America or Mexico, thrillers translate wherever. That scariness translates over and I love that. It’s about the Rapture, so it makes you think. By the end of the movie, you’re questioning yourself like, “What would I do if I was in the Rapture?”

With a show like “The Leftovers” on HBO, this is definitely a theme people are currently flocking to. You have to admit, this is a great time to be releasing a film like this.

Yeah, it’s so funny because we shot [“The Remaining”] a few years ago. The fact that “The Leftovers” is on now and you have more of these faith-based films, it’s really interesting to see how they’re coming out all at once. Whether you’re religious or not, when you have religion behind a movie like a thriller, it makes it so much scarier. Anytime you have those demon movies, I can’t watch it. I’ll get nightmares. Even with the trailers, I have to look away. That stuff just scares the crap out of me. I feel like when movies have that religious aspect, it makes it all too real. It hits you at your core.

There have been a lot of religious-themed movies that have come out this year like “God’s Not Dead” and “Heaven is For Real,” but I’m thinking “The Remaining” might be a little different.

That’s what I like about this movie. Whether you’re religious or not, this is something you can enjoy. If you happen to be religious, it’s that more powerful. For me, my faith is everything. It’s super important to me. I love being entertained, so it’s great having those two things together in something that is not corny or typical. Like, “Here’s a Christian movie that we’re making.” Those are so cheesy. [“The Remaining’] is scary. If you read the story of the Rapture in the Bible, it is the scariest thing! It is not fun! I feel like [the film] hits all those aspects. There are happy moments in the Bible. This is not one of them. The creatures that come out of the sky and the way they’re described in the Bible and the way they were created and their wings, they look like a Dementor meets a hornet. It’s such a creepy creature and they did a great job with them. It’s haunting. I watched it with my husband before we went to sleep and we both were freaked out of our minds. (Laughs) We had nightmares all night long. It’s horrible because I want to say I loved the movie…but it just scared me so badly!

Since you brought up the Bible, I’m wondering if those events that take place in the Book of Revelations like fire and brimstone or seas turning into blood or beasts rising from the earth are something you believe will actually happen.

You know, it can sounds crazy, but in my faith, I believe that book, so if it says it’s going to happen, I have to believe it’s going to happen. But it’s something you don’t want to think about. It’s certainly not like, “Oh, I can’t wait until this day comes!” It’s one of those things you put to the back of your head.

So, is this something you were taught at church growing up?

Well, I mean, kind of. I grew up in a religious home for a certain amount of time, but after a while my family stopped going to church and I found [religion] on my own as I got older. I mean, I met my husband at Bible study. For us, it’s the core of everything we do. We just want to do good things and be as helpful as we can be and be positive role models. Our faith and paying it forward is No. 1 for us.

Some people might think what you believe is way off base and that the Bible shouldn’t be interpreted so literally. How do you defend those beliefs?

You know, I have a lot of friends who don’t believe in the Bible at all. I just have a lot of faith and so does my husband. You just have to know where your heart is. You can defend yourself as much as you want, but it’s not until somebody wants to truly listen and has the time where you can truly break things down for them. When you read the Bible, it’s really clear on what it is saying. When people try to interpret it in different ways, the real meaning gets lost. I feel people get so caught up on religion they lose sight on what we’re really supposed to be focused on. For people who get caught up and say, “How do you believe that?” they’re missing the point about loving one another and being supportive. We have a Bible study at our house every Monday. We call ours the Kindergarten Bible Study. We want to make it as easy as possible to understand. All the stuff [in the Bible] is so overwhelming. It’s not something you can learn overnight. It’s not something you can learn in a week. It takes a lot of faith and growing. For us, it’s a lifestyle that has given us so much. I wake up and go to our prayer room every morning. It starts my day off right.

Alexa Vega – The Remaining (Podcast Int.)

July 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews, Podcast

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Click here to download the episode!

In bonus episode No. 3 of The CineSnob Podcast, Kiko Martinez, editor of CineSnob.net, breaks away from his usual written Q&As to conduct his first audio interview ever. In a twist of fate, he interviews 25-year-old actress Alexa Vega (“Spy Kids,” “Repo: The Genetic Opera”) for the very first podcast of her 20 (yes, 20!)-year career in the entertainment industry. During their chat, Alexa talks about her upcoming film “The Remaining” and discusses the popularity of Rapture-themed TV shows and films in the last couple of years. She also talks about how her own religion affects her life and whether or not she thinks the world will end in a flurry of fire and brimstone.

Subscribe to The CineSnob Podcast via RSSiTunes or Stitcher.

To give your feedback, e-mail us at podcast [at] cinesnob [dot] net, or leave a voicemail at 920-FILM-210.

Alexa Vega – Machete Kills

October 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Alexa Vega rose to fame playing the young secret agent Carmen Cortez in Robert Rodriguez’s “Spy Kids” in 2001. Twelve years and a resume full of teenage roles later, Vega is ready to transition into more grown up fare. Helping her make that leap is Rodriguez himself, who cast Vega as the murderous prostitute KillJoy in “Machete Kills.”

You’ve essentially grown up with director Robert Rodriguez, from the first “Spy Kids” movie, now into “Machete Kills.” How has your relationship with Robert evolved?

I started working with Robert when I was 11 years old, on the first “Spy Kids,” and we did three of them, and then 10 years later went back to do a fourth.  Throughout that entire period, Robert and I were still very close. He was so much like a father figure in my life. He was there during such huge, pivotal moments and essential growing years, and he was always giving me good advice. I mean, I had my first kiss on his set, he bought me my first car, he walked me down the aisle, and he walked me through the divorce (laughs). He’s literally been there for me through all of it, and to be able to come to a more grown-up role, leading into – hopefully – my adult career, he’s the perfect person to help me make that transition.

Speaking of adult roles: your character KillJoy, through most of the movie, is wearing pretty much nothing at all. Was there any hesitation on your part to show so much skin, or did you just say, “Hey, this is me…I’m an adult”?

Well, it’s funny. I called Robert and said, “Look, I keep playing these 16, 17-year old roles – and don’t get me wrong, I love that. I’m going to milk that for as long as I can. Once I get too old to play those roles, that ship has sailed, so I’ll take advantage of it. But I am ready to start making that transition, so if you have anything in maybe ‘Sin City’ if you could think of me for…” And he’s like, “‘Sin City?!'” and he started laughing. He goes, “That would NEVER happen!”

I was like, “Robert, I’m old enough to do those kind of movie now!” and he said, “No you’re not!” and I said, “I’m 25 years old! How old do you have to be?” He really was kind of shocked. He knew I was 25, but the reality hit him how quickly time has gone by. We were both like, “Let’s just go for it.”

So I went on set and they had all these corset-type outfits, but when I saw those leather chaps, I felt like if we’re gonna do this, let’s do it. That outfit stood out so much compared to the other ones. The others were just your typical sexy outfits, but [the chaps] were just kind of kick-butt, a little harder, a little more KillJoy. That’s what I liked about it. And it’s funny, because if you think about it, I would have shown way more skin if I was in a bikini. But because just a small area is taken away from something that is usually covered up, it makes it seem more risqué than it would have been if I was in a bikini the whole time.

I know the picture of that outfit caused quite a stir when it was released online.

(Laughs)

I think everyone was surprised by how much you had grown up when that hit the internet.

It’s funny, because we were talking about the transition. We thought it was going to take a lot longer. We thought it would take a few movies to change peoples’ minds and see me in a grown-up way, but it literally took one photo (laughs).

It’s amazing how the internet works.

Right? Oh my gosh, it’s crazy.

So the film begins with a trailer for “Machete Kills Again…In Space” wherein you have a pretty big role, at least in the trailer. Is that process far along, or was it just for fun?

You know, Robert has always been the man who answers to his audience, and it’s really what the people want. With the first “Machete,” they didn’t even know they were going to make it. He had released a trailer for it in “Grindhouse” with Quentin [Tarantino], and people loved it so much they begged for a Machete film. When they made that, people begged for a sequel because he left it hanging either way. He just decided, “You know what? Whether or not I get to make three, I’m going to throw a little bit of three in there and kind of tease people with it.” Hopefully they respond and we get to make a third one because I would love to. Not to mention, I’m curious as to what space chaps would look like. I’m sure they’ll be interesting…but it’ll probably be a little cold up there.

Alexa Vega – Spy Kids 4

August 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

After the sequel “Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over” wrapped in 2003, actress Alexa Vega though playing her role as a pint-size secret agent was complete. At 15 years old, Vega didn’t exactly put the “kid” in “Spy Kids” anymore. She was growing up fast.

“I really thought it was over after ‘Spy Kids 3,’” Alexa said during an exclusive interview to promote “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D,” the fourth film of the franchise. “I was really floored when I heard we were coming back. To come back eight years later is so wonderful.”

In “Spy Kids 4,” Vega reprises her role as Carmen Cortez, but does so as a secondary character. Now a young woman, Carmen and her onscreen brother Juni (played once again by Daryl Sabara), pass the touch to a new pair of spy kids (Rowan Blachard and Mason Cook) for a whole different adventure against a supervillain known as the Timekeeper (Jeremy Piven).

During our interview, Vega, who has starred in such films as “Repo: The Genetic Opera” and “From Prada to Nada” since the last “Spy Kids” film, talked about what she cherishes most from the first three films and what she’s looking for in the industry now that she’s not a kid anymore.

Did you give Rowan and Mason any advice from all your years of “Spy Kids” experience?

I told them to enjoy every moment and not to expect anything from it. If good things are going to happen, then just let them happen. Don’t have any expectations, that way when things do happen it can be that much more exciting.

It’s been 10 years since the first “Spy Kids” hit theaters. Do you remember most of it?

I remember all of it. I was so little, but I remember everything. I had never done a film like that before. I had never been a part of anything that cool. We had gadgets and we did stunts. It was the first time I was ever on a harness, which was exciting. I remember the first time walking back on the set for “Spy Kids 4” and seeing a lot of our old sets and getting giddy. I was like, “Can you believe we were as little as these little kids are when we started this movie?”

So, when you looked at Rowan did it feel pretty surreal?

It was very surreal. It was so weird. I was like, “I don’t ever remember being that little in the movie.” When our costume designer pulled out all of our old costumes I couldn’t believe it. The pants were so small!

Over these last 10 years what have been some of the highlights for you in this franchise?

I think the highlight is being a part of this film franchise that people truly love. I loved working with the same cast and crew for all of the films. You really become a family. That was definitely my favorite thing out of everything. Working with Robert Rodriguez was wonderful. I call him papi like if he was my dad.

I know you and Robert have become great friends over the last decade. I read he even walked you down the aisle and gave you away at your wedding last year.

He did. We’ve become very close. I love him.

I’m sure you could brag about him as a person all day, but tell me about him from an actress’s perspective who has worked with him four times.

The thing with Robert is that he’s a very hands-on, do-it-all director. He writes, directs, scores, and edits. I don’t know how he does it all. It takes so much work. He is truly a genius. I feel like a lot of directors are inspired by him because if he wants to make a movie he will get it made by any means possible.

I’ve been to Troublemaker Studios once before to interview Robert. What is it like to be in that environment as an actress? It must feel like its own little world out there in Austin.

It really is. During the first “Spy Kids,” Troublemaker was just starting. It wasn’t even near what it is today. I was kind of a part of that growth during these last three films and now coming back for this fourth one. It’s fun to see how far it has come along. I think shooting there is a huge part of the process. Robert really brings something wonderful to that community in Austin.

Some of Robert’s fans of his more hardcore action films like “Sin City” wish he would stop making kids’ movies. What do you think about how he switches back and forth from family-friendly movies like “Spy Kids” to movies as ultra-violent as “Machete?”

I feel like it’s so easy to get bored. I would be the same way if I had to play the same character over and over again. You really want to change it up. If you look at some of the characters I’ve played, they’re all so different. I think that’s how Robert does it. You don’t want to be stuck in the same genre all the time. You want to keep people guessing. What makes Johnny Depp so brilliant is you truly have no idea what kind of character he’s going to play next.

What are you specifically looking for in the film industry now that you are a bit older? You’re in your early 20s and you have a better idea about how everything works, so what kind of roles do you want?

It’s not something specific. It just comes down to finding the right project. If a script comes together and you end up liking the people who are part of it, that’s when you can make magic happen. It’s a huge combination of trying to find something you think you can deliver on and a director you think you can collaborate with to make a good picture.

Has it felt like a cutthroat business for you so far?

Absolutely. The older you get, the more competition there is. When you’re younger, there aren’t very many kid actors. It’s a lot easier to get jobs. Now, I’m going up against these beautiful and talented actresses. To be in the running with some of the company I’ve been in is just flattering. It is hard. You really have to build your name in this business as quickly as possible.

How do you feel like you separate yourself from the crowd?

You know, I’m very fortunate. I can still play roles that are very young. I just finished playing a 15-year-old character on a TV show. It helps. I think I just like to keep people guessing. I’ve done very different films like “Repo: The Genetic Opera”  and I know have a very different fan base from that movie – more of the goth crowd and people who are a little edgier than the “Spy Kids” audience. It’s nice to have that support from all ends. It comes down to the fan base at the end of the day. They’re the ones rooting for you. If you can keep your fans happy, I think you can have a good, solid career.

Did Robert cook anything on set for you?

(Laughs) He made his famous grilled cheese sandwiches. He makes them with Texas toast and lots of butter. They’re delicious.