Mission Park

September 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Jeremy Ray Valdez, Walter Perez, Will Rothaar
Directed by: Bryan Ramirez (debut)
Written by: Bryan Ramirez (debut)

Independent director/writer Bryan Ramírez has potential. While that might sound like a backhanded compliment for someone determined to lead a San Antonio film renaissance, it isn’t meant to be. I have little doubt Ramírez can produce something substantial for the silver screen. Unfortunately, the crime drama “Mission Park,” his first solo feature-length project, is not that movie—but it’s close. While Ramírez has a knack for capturing a consistent tone, his script lacks the imagination needed to leave a lasting impression on the genre. It does confirm, however, his significant technical chops behind the camera

In “Mission Park,” Ramírez follows four childhood friends who have grown up and grown apart—far apart—but remain linked by a tragic event they all experienced as kids. Bobby (Jeremy Ray Valdez) and Julian (Will Rothhaar) have graduated from the FBI academy and are eager to start their service as rookie agents. Jason (Walter Pérez) and Derek (Joseph Julian Soria) stay behind to sling drugs and contribute to an increasing wave of crime in San Antonio. With Jason sitting at the top of the drug world, Bobby is assigned to go undercover and bring down his entire operation

Loyalty, friendship and ambition are a few of the themes Ramírez presents in “Mission Park,” but the film is hard-pressed to contribute anything new to a formulaic storyline where brothers/best-friends find themselves on opposite sides of the law. From “Blood in, Blood Out” to “Tequila Sunrise” to Hong Kong’s “A Better Tomorrow” (and countless more in between), the framework is a tired one, especially when the screenplay doesn’t deviate from hitting familiar plot devices (corrupt cops, love triangles, etc)

“Mission Park” starts off well enough. Four teenagers (willingly and unwillingly) participate in the robbery of a neighborhood restaurant. The incident claims the life of an employee and reveals the impetus behind the decisions these young men make as they mature into adulthood. That strong set-up quickly dissolves into cliché and predictable scenes once the audience is introduced to the boys five years after they graduate from high school

Even if audiences can believe Jason has somehow become a powerful kingpin of “the single largest drug trafficking organization in North America” or that the FBI would put a major case on the back of one inexperienced agent, the script doesn’t tie everything together with much conviction. In the movie, Ramírez explains a lot of the choices he makes as a screenwriter (for example, Julian gets involved in the sting because he is “tired of being a fucking desk monkey” and “signed up to see some action”), but details like these are fragile at best and expose plot holes as the film continues. Falling by the wayside is a much-needed scene where Julian informs his superiors about his plans or a realistic reason as to why he isn’t given a cover in the police database. Next time, Ramírez should focus on creating a more organic flow to the plot

Aside from the narrative pitfalls, the film is technically sharp (a dialogue-less airport scene with actress Fernanda Romero looks fantastic) and boasts an impressive overall production value. Ramírez also got a couple of solid performances from Pérez and Soria right up to the final, bloody third act in an abandoned warehouse (someone fetch a straight razor and cue up Stealers Wheel), which is wrapped up in a fairly generic way. Nevertheless, with a little tightening up of the loose ends, Ramírez’s stock will rise. As “Mission Park” teaches viewers, “one day doesn’t define a man.” The same goes for filmmakers and their films.

Fernanda Romero – Drag Me to Hell

May 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Fernanda Romero might only have a small cameo role in Sam Raimi’s new film “Drag Me to Hell,” but the 26-year-old actress originally from Mexico City says she could get used to horror movies if given the chance.

Coming off roles in “The Eye” with Jessica Alba and “The Burning Plain” with Charlize Theron, Romero is focused more than ever on her acting career. During a quick interview, she talked to me about the horror genre and what scares her in real life.

What was it like to meet Adriana Barraza, a Latina actress who has been nominated for an Oscar?

Actually, what is funny is that one of the first jobs that I got acting, Adriana was my teacher. It was really great that we were sharing credits in this movie.  It was really exciting. She is amazing. She would be so tough on me. I was so proud of her. I was very fortunate when she was my teacher.

Were you familiar with Sam Raimi’s other horror films like “Evil Dead?”

I knew he started in the horror. It was very special for him. This was a very special project. I was just so happy to meet him and see how he worked.

Are horror movies something that you like doing?

It’s a genre that I like. I like thrillers and suspense. I like being scared. For me it’s the psychological stuff that I really like.

When it comes to horror movies, what actually scares you?

Real stuff. Stuff that could actually happen. Monsters and all that kind of stuff doesn’t really scare me. Like “My Bloody Valentine,” I liked that because it was suspenseful.

Do you remember any scary stories you were told as a child in Mexico?

La llorona! Yeah, I’m scared of that stuff. That was a really popular legend here in Mexico.

Are you familiar with brujerias?

Oh, that’s horrible. I don’t like that stuff. I wouldn’t want to mess with any of that.

Are you still finding time to model or are you concentrating on only acting?

Right now I’m focused on acting. When a modeling job comes and I can do it then yes I will do it but right now my priority is acting and movies.

Fernanda Romero – The Eye

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Moving from her home in Mexico City in 2003 to study fashion design in the California, Fernanda Romero never aspired to become a telenovela star, TV host, movie actress, or model. Five years later, she’s all of the above and more.

While taking classes in fashion at Santa Monica College, Romero, who was working on some jean campaigns at the time, was introduced to a casting director who thought she would be perfect for the modeling the same style clothing she was marketing.

A career in the entertainment industry came natural to Romero as she started her career in print and television ads for Rock and Republic, Clean and Clear, Pepsi, Apple, and JC Penny.

Although she was having fun as a model, Romero wanted more. Enrolling in acting classes paid off when she was introduced to the world of Spanish TV by landing a role in the Telemundo telenovela “El alma herida.” One more novela and eight movies later and Romero has surprised herself by what she has accomplished.

In her most recent film, “The Eye,” which was released on DVD last week, Romero stars as Ana Christina Martinez, a young girl from Mexico who is haunted by supernatural images. After Ana’s death, her eyes are donated to a blind girl (Jessica Alba) who begins to see the same bizarre visions.

During our interview, Romero talked about what makes Mexico City special to her, what it was like working with Jessica Alba, and how shy she can get during a photo shoot.

You’ve worked as a singer, dancer, actress, TV hostess, and model. How do you keep everything balanced?

I’m going crazy. (Laughing) It’s hard, but I am dedicated to what I do. I love what I do so I try to balance it out – a little bit here, a little bit there. My priority is acting though. I love acting so when I take on a project I am 100 percent devoted to that.

What led you to acting?

When I was a little girl I always like the arts. I was in theater in school and would always sing. I liked it but I didn’t think I would be doing it as a career. It’s destiny.

What do you miss most about Mexico City?

The energy and the people. I go back home and see all my family. I miss the culture. You don’t appreciate a lot of things when you have them. I got to appreciate my family and friends more and the flavor of Mexico. I like to go back there to refuel.

As a Latina actress, is Jessica Alba someone you look up to in the industry?

Absolutely. She is a great girl. My experience with her was great. She has had a great career.

What was the experience like working with someone as talented as Guillermo Arriaga (screenwriter for “Babel,” “Amores Perros”) for his first film as a director “The Burning Plain?”

For me it was an amazing experience. I was my first time working with a Mexican director. I was so glad it was him. He is very good with his actors. It was an honor to work with him. With him and Charlize [Theron], it was really a great time.

I just saw your video photo shoot for Maxim Magazine today.

Oh, don’t tell me that. I get so shy about that video.

Well, Maxim is known for their sexy and tastefully revealing photos, so how comfortable do you have to be with yourself when the photographer asks you to remove another piece of clothing?

Oh my God, I am very particular with that. Between shots I am wearing a jumper. I may not look very shy, but I am. They tell me, “Okay, we have to make it a little sexier” and I’m like, “Really? Aww, I don’t want to take any more clothes off.”

Is your family old-fashioned? What do they think about the modeling part of your career?

In the beginning it was kind of weird for them because we are part of the Latin culture. They didn’t think I could get a career as an actress. They wanted me to get a typical job, find a good boy, get married, and yada, yada, yada. Now, they got used to it and support me. They know that this is what I want to do.

Other than being attractive, what makes a good model?

Being in the moment and having fun with it. I like to have a good connection with the photographer. I like to go with the flow. I don’t like attitude and don’t like divas. When people are having a good time, it’s the best photo shoot.

So, you don’t want to be the next big Latina diva?

No, I like to keep myself really rounded. I like to help people and keep my feet on the ground. It’s important to me not to forget who I am.