August 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Paul Walker, Matt Dillon, Tip “T.I.” Harris
Directed by: John Luessenhop (“Lockdown”)
Written by: John Luessenhop (debut), Gabriel Casseus (debut), Avery Duff (debut), Peter Allen (“Klash”),

There are only so many things you can do with a screenplay as unoriginal as “Takers.” You can either compare it to better heist movies that have come before it or you can save your breath and take it for what it is: a generic, one-dimensional collection of cocky, GQ-fashionable stars running around with nothing meaningful to say or do.

In “Takers,” a group of professional thieves (Idris Elba, Paul Walker, Michael Ealy, Hayden Christensen, and Chris Brown) team up with Ghost (Tip “T.I.” Harris), a former member of their crew who was recently released from prison after being the only one to get arrested during the boys’ last run together six years prior.

Now out of prison, Ghost wants to steal $30 million from an armored truck and feel his old friends owe it to him to join up for another heist. Although some of the men don’t trust Ghost, their leader Gordon Jennings (Elba) accepts the proposal since Ghost never took a plea bargain and ratted any of them out when he was in the joint.

On the other side of the law are LAPD’s finest, officers Jack Welles (Matt Dillon) and Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez) who are hot on the trail of the “takers,” but have problems of their own to deal with as well. Like the criminals they’re after, neither of the boys in blue have much personality aside from a typical law-enforcement temperament.

Besides a few well-shot action sequences (this doesn’t include a pretentious shoot-out scene played over symphony music), “Takers” is not engaging unless you’re entertained by big-budget pissing contests. The testosterone and fashion might be at an all time high, but when you’ve seen one slow-motion strut in an Armani suit you’ve basically seen them all.

Jay Hernandez – Takers

August 27, 2010 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the new heist movie “Takers,” actor Jay Hernandez plays Eddie Hatcher, an LAPD officer who goes after a team of bank robbers alongside his edgy partner Jack Welles (Matt Dillon). During the heist, Eddie is faced with a situation concerning his son that compromises his position as a cop.

During an interview with me, Hernandez, 32, whose film credits include “Friday Night Lights,” “Nothing Like the Holidays,” and the “Hostel” franchise, talked about why playing a cop isn’t quite as fun as playing a criminal and why heist movies are as popular as ever.

Was there something particular you saw in your character that made you want to be a part of the film?

There are a lot of reasons why I wanted to be in the film, but one of the main ones was because the character was interesting and layered. Also, there was a very eclectic cast that would hopefully build tension.

Are these layered roles the type of work you’re pursing at this point of your career?

I think most actors try to do stuff that is not one-dimensional. It ultimately comes down to what options actors have. If you don’t have a lot of options, sometimes you’re forced to do things you don’t necessarily want to do. With me, I always try to pick things that are interesting.

You’ve played a cop before. How do you prepare for a role like this to make it completely different from the previous one?

You just try to switch it up in anyway possible and not repeat what you’ve done before. I have actually played a cop a couple of times. Maybe you can throw in a little accent. Physically there are things you can do. But this character had a lot of different things going on than the cop in “Lakeview Terrace.”

You played characters on both sides of the law, so which roles are more fun?

Playing the criminal is more fun. You get shoot more people and steal. The criminal always gets the girl.

Do you think in real life you might be able to pull off a heist without getting caught?

(Laughs) You know, I watch enough “Forensic Files” and Discovery Channel that I should be able to get away with it, but probably not. Everyone makes dumb mistakes somewhere down the line. You might be able to get away with it in a film, but not so much in real life.

What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t an actor?

Honestly, I don’t know. I’ve been doing it for a while now and I’ve accepted it as my world. If I was going to do anything else, I would imagine it would have to include a lot of traveling and experiencing different cultures. I don’t know what kind of job would take me all over the world like that.

What do you think it is about the heist movie that keeps it so popular as a genre?

It’s this idea that everybody has: If I could just get my hands on $1 million, what would I do with it? You can take that idea and put it in any setting around the world or in any situation. As a writer or director, the potential roads you could walk down are limitless. Everybody has that fantasy sometime in their lives – if I could just get my hands on some cash, legal or illegal. I think that’s why [the genre] keeps coming back and is always relevant especially now in terms of the economy.

Your co-star T.I. was recently quoted as saying that he wants to win an Oscar before he turns 40. You’ve been in the industry for 10 years. Is it realistic for actors to set those kinds of goals for themselves?

Well, the only way you’re ever going to reach a goal is if you set one. That doesn’t mean he’s going to do it, but I wouldn’t say it was impossible. I would love to do it someday, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Does he have the ability to do it? Maybe. But will the opportunity present itself? There are so many factors that go into somebody winning an Oscar that you never know. I hope to win one someday and if [T.I.] commits to it, I hope he does, too.

Nothing Like the Holidays

December 2, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Freddy Rodriguez, John Leguizamo, Alfred Molina
Directed by: Alfred De Villa (“ Washington Heights ”)
Written by: Alison Swan (debut) and Rick Najera (debut)

While the number of slapstick Christmas comedies usually go off the charts this time of year as much as Santa’s cholesterol, the Christmas family dramedy is the other holiday sub-genre that usually demands screen time in December.

Last year, “This Christmas” featured an African American family reuniting for the holidays after four years. In 2005, Sarah Jessica Parker met “The Family Stone” and experienced all their dysfunctional love. This year, Christmas gets a little Latin flare Puerto Rican-style with “Nothing Like the Holidays.” The film follows the Rodriguez family from the Humboldt Park area in Chicago as they come together in what might be the final Christmas they spend together as a family.

The reason: Anna Rodriguez (Elizabeth Pena) has announced over dinner that she has decided to divorce her children’s father Edy (Alfred Molina) after 36 years of marriage. She has reason to believe he has been having an affair. No one takes the news lightly including Mauricio (John Leguizamo), one of the Rodriguez boys, who has become a successful lawyer in New York, and his sister Roxanna (Vanessa Ferlito), a struggling actress living in Los Angeles.

Freddy Rodriguez (“Grindhouse”) plays Jesse, another Rodriguez brother, back home from Iraq. He thinks his parents are adult enough to make their own decisions. His mind isn’t really focused on his mom and dad’s problems, especially since he has a handful of his own. He has returned home to find his ex-girlfriend Marissa (Melonie Diaz), whom he still loves, has moved on with her life. He is also still haunted by the death of one of his friends in the military.

It’s not only Jesse, however, who has issues. Everyone has something going on in his or her trying life and debut screenwriters Alison Swan and Rick Najera tangle it all together in a cinematic version of stale fruitcake. While storylines that focus on Jesse and his hardships give the film a more serious tone than your average family head-butting session, there’s not much time to build on his character since the script seems sculpted from the blueprint of a tiresome telenovela. Instead, secondary stories like Maruicio and his wife Sarah (Debra Messing) arguing about the best time to have a baby, and issues that revolve around Ozzy (Jay Hernandez), a family friend and ex-gang member who is bothered that the guy who killed his brother years ago has been released from prison and is now hanging out in the old neighborhood.

The scene-stealer of the film is Luis Guzman (“Waiting”), who plays the family’s kooky electronics-loving uncle, but he and Freddy Rodriguez (one of the most talented young Latino actors working today) can’t raise the film above the usual stereotypical family dramedy we get every year. It might be in different packaging this time around, but a pair of socks is a pair of socks no matter how colorful the gift-wrapping.