Despicable Me 2

July 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt
Directed by: Pierre Coffin (“Despicable Me”) and Chris Renaud (“Despicable Me”)
Written by: Ken Daurio (“Despicable Me”) and Cinco Paul (“Despicable Me”)

Other than uttering the word Minions with a goofy smile, not much more has to be said when attempting to persuade someone to go see the animated sequel “Despicable Me 2.” There simply hasn’t been a more entertaining group of interrelated sidekicks since the little crane-praising green aliens from the “Toy Story” franchise. Not only are they extremely marketable, something Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment are sure to continue to bank on in the toy aisles, they’re easily the funniest characters to come out of the series since the original hit the big screen in 2010.

Besides the Minions stealing the show, “Despicable Me 2” is just about on par with the storytelling of “Despicable Me.” The creativity behind in the screenplay written by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul is passable and Steve Carell giving voice to lead character Gru once again is just as mismatched as it was the first time around. Carell may be the big name on the marquee, but there’s something about the weird accent he gives Gru that feels forced. The same can be said about Illumination Entertainment’s other lead voice actors like Russell Brand in “Hop” and Danny DeVito in “The Lorax.” They have yet to find a way to connect the right voice with the right main character like Pixar Animation has done even with small-name actors like Patton Oswalt in “Ratatouille.”

There is also much to be desired from an ineffective villain in this sequel. Benjamin Bratt voices El Macho, a chubby Mexican who salsa dances and is planning world domination. Two secondary love stories could have benefited from some serious polishing, too. One involves Gru and his new lady friend Lucy (Kristen Wiig). The other features El Macho’s charming son Antonio (Moises Arias), who catches the eye of Gru’s oldest daughter Margo (Miranda Cosgrove). Neither of them have any real relationship value.

But forget lacking love stories, the defective villain and the return of the ill-conceived fart gun. The Minions, who unsurprisingly will get their own movie next year called “Minions,” are given tons more to do in “Despicable Me 2” and don’t disappoint. Along with their hilariously rambunctious behavior and cuddly cuteness, the Minions reel in the laughs with some dorky film and music references tossed in by Daurio and Paul just for the adults in the theater. These include a stroll back in time to the 1978 version of the horror/sci-fi film “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and a musical interlude from 90s R&B group All-4-One. Leave it to the Minions to turn a song as romantic (cough) as “I Swear” into a riotous parody.

Moises Arias – Despicable Me 2

July 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the animated sequel “Despicable Me 2,” actor Moises Arias plays Antonio, the son of the supervillain El Macho (Benjamin Bratt), who uses his natural charm to woo the eldest of Gru’s (Steve Carell) daughters, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove). During an interview with me, Arias, 19, who is of Colombian descent, talked about playing such a charismatic lady’s man and also discussed his other film currently out at theaters, “The Kings of Summer.”

This will be the fourth time I’ve interviewed you in the last five years. The first time was when you were only 14 years old. Now, you’re 19. You’re making me feel very old, you know.

(Laughs) Yeah, being 19 is pretty crazy. Being in this business does mature you very quickly. But luckily I’ve had parents beside me that have always taken care of me. They’ve given me great values and taught me that if I really want to be in this business, I have to put time into all my characters. I really think that has impacted me starting at such a young age.

How much of your own personality were you able to put into Antonio?

A lot of it. In animation, you take the words right off the page and make them your own. They showed me the animated sketches and what [Antonio] was going to look like. You try to embody that and imagine what his voice is going to be. It was a very different and cool process.

What did you think when you first saw Antonio?

I thought he was surprisingly similar to me. I thought he was very good looking. (Laughs)

The first voice work you ever did in your career was when you were 12 years old. Is it still as fun now as when you were a kid?

When I was a kid it was much more difficult. You’re trying to understand what the director wants. It’s a learning process. Now, you go in and it’s more of a collaboration.

What did you like the most about the first “Despicable Me” film?

It was funny and dark and cute. I liked the Minions and Gru’s dynamic with the girls. Everything put together just made a perfect film. I was very excited to be a part of the second one.

I know when you make an animated film, you usually record your lines all alone in a studio, but have you gotten the chance to meet Benjamin Bratt yet since he plays your dad in the movie?

Yeah, I actually met Benjamin for the first time today. I went in and said, “Hi, I’m your son.”

There are a lot of animated films this summer going against “Despicable Me 2” at the box office like “Monster’s University” and “Turbo.” Why should parents take their kids to see your movie first?

I think “Despicable Me 2” is for all ages. I think it has every aspect for every age. I hope everyone gets a chance to go see it.

Other than yourself, who is most excited to see this film that you know?

All my friends that are girls. They were so excited when I told them I was doing “Despicable Me 2.” It’s so funny because there are all these 19 and 20 year old girls who are very excited to see it.

Not to take anything away from you, but it might have a lot to do with the Minions, too.

(Laughs) Yeah, it probably does.

If you had your own Minion, what would you do with him?

(Laughs) Oh, I would make him do everything for me.

Like, “Hey you! Go get me a drink from the fridge!”

(Laughs) Exactly.

Your other film “The Kings of Summer” is also out at theaters right now. What did you see in your character Biaggio that you liked so much?

How the character was written by Chris Galleta is so fantastic. Just off the page, it made me laugh out loud. When I read the script I was like, “What the hell is this character?!” That’s really what attracted me to the project. It was all about believing in the script and giving it your all as an actor. I wanted to make it believable and funny and heartfelt.

Have you ever felt the need to escape like the boys in the film?

I mean, even when I was 14 I guess you kind of want to be your own man, but it was always enough to just stay in my room and calm down. I’ve never really had the need to escape or run away, but vacations are always nice. It is nice finding that place where you can just go and relax. Even if you’re at home it’s great.

The Kings of Summer

June 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts (debut)
Written by: Chris Galletta (debut)

Back in 2010, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts brought a short film called “Successful Alcoholics” to the Sundance Film Festival. Reuniting “Cloverfield” co-stars Lizzy Caplan and TJ Miller, the darkly hilarious short about a couple who are successful in their lives and jobs despite being perpetually drunk, gained a lot of buzz and excited people for the future of a new up-and-coming filmmaker. In his feature length debut, Vogt-Roberts impresses once again as a new directorial voice in “The Kings of Summer.”

In the film, teenager Joe (Nick Robinson) sets out into the woods to build a real house so that he can get away from his father (Nick Offerman). Joining him are his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and Biaggio (Moises Arias), a strange kid who always seems to be lingering around. As they forage for food, explore, and build a house, the trio learn to live independently from their overbearing parents, and set out on a quest to grow from boys to men.

In his first feature length film, Robinson is quite good as a rebellious teen. Basso, who is a little more experienced, also brings a lot to the table as his friend Patrick. The last young actor of the trio, Disney Channel veteran Arias, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. In his finest moments, his bizarre character Biaggo is hilariously weird. Then there are times where he is strange simply for the sake of being strange. A lot of Biaggio’s humor is rooted in facial expressions and while it doesn’t completely wear out its welcome, it does get tiresome. The MVP of the cast, without question is Offerman. Deviating only slightly from the monotonous and dry wit of his “Parks and Recreation” character Ron Swanson, Offerman runs away with every scene he appears in and delivers the funniest lines of the film with complete perfection.

“The Kings of Summer” will likely draw comparisons to indie filmmaker Wes Anderson’s work, which is accurate for the most part. The quirky sensibilities of Anderson are there, but Vogt-Roberts does a really good job of reigning it all in and allows the film’s quirkier moments be a part of its charm, rather than use those scenes as a crutch. A lot of credit should be given to former “Late Night with David Letterman” writer Chris Galletta. The screenplay features strong albeit weird jokes and storytelling beats that appropriately capture the essence of teens trying to get away from a suffocating and annoying home life.  Much of the humor in the indie is found in subtleties. Galletta’s one liners and non-sequitors hit at a pretty good clip and laughs can be found even in the terrible patchy stubble of the fresh-faced leads.

It’s oddness might detract some viewers, but it’s hard to imagine young audiences not enjoying the hell out of “The Kings of Summer.” It’s an above-average coming-of-age story with a narrative about love, strained friendships, and the fight for independence. Above all else, Vogt-Roberts brings his unique voice to the indie film industry. He definitely has a bright career ahead of him.

The Secret World of Arrietty

February 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Bridgit Mendler, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi (debut), Gary Rydstrom (debut)
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki (“Spirited Away”), Keiko Niwa (“Tales from Earthsea”), Karey Kirkpatrick (“The Spiderwick Chronicles”)

As impressive as computer-generated 3D animation has become in recent years, there is something still incredibly charming about hand-drawn animation. There are flaws, odd movements and static elements that all add to the experience and even inform the personality of the film. Perhaps nobody believes in hand-drawn animation more than Hayao Miyazaki (“My Neighbor Totoro,” “Spirited Away”), the man behind the beloved Studio Ghibli from Japan. After flirting with the help of computers for a short span, Miyazaki has gone back to his roots. With a screenplay penned by Miyazaki himself, Studio Ghibli continues its American partnership with Disney with “The Secret World of Arrietty,” a beautifully understated animation centered on a forbidden friendship.

Adapted from the 1952 classic novel “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton and dubbed from the original Japanese animation, “The Secret World of Arrietty” centers around the Clocks, a family of tiny people who live in the floorboards of a house and “borrow” supplies they need from humans. When 14-year-old Arrietty (Bridgit Mendler) goes on her first “borrowing” with her father Pod (Will Arnett), she gets noticed by Shawn (David Henrie), a young boy who has just moved into the house. Though it is discouraged by her father and mother (Amy Poehler), Arrietty slowly develops a friendship with Shawn, while still attempting to remain incognito to protect her family.

One of the stronger points of “The Secret World of Arrietty” is the fantastic voice acting across the board. Known mostly for her TV work on the Disney Channel, Mendler is great as the young Arrietty, particularly in vocalizing her curiosity. While the rest of the voice cast is strong, the highlight of the cast is Poehler as the constantly flustered and anxious Homily. Her overexcited inflection and screams alone provide the film with some of its funniest moments. Though dubbing foreign films over in English can sometimes cause a distracting discrepancy between mouth movement and speech, that isn’t the case in “Arrietty.”

There is an underlying sense of tranquility that weaves its way throughout “Arrietty,” a tone that is established early and reinforced especially through the stoic Pod character and the leisurely pace of the film. The scenes where we see Arrietty and her father journey through the nooks and crannies of the house are filled with mesmerizing long takes that display an environment in which the smallest items like nails or sugar cubes serve as foils in their adventures.

Although there is one monologue in the film that might be a little intense for younger kids, “The Secret World of Arrietty” is a film that is enjoyable for audiences of all ages. There are plenty of visuals and adventurous scenes to keep children invested. The film works largely in part to Miyazaki’s fantastic script filled with empathy and sentimentality, mostly for the Borrowers themselves and Shawn’s earnest desire to make friends. If nothing else, “The Secret World of Arrietty” proves you don’t need high-tech animation to create a captivating world with its own intricacies.

Moises Arias – The Secret World of Arrietty

February 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Best known for playing Rico Suave in “Hannah Montana,” actor Moises Arias is looking ahead in his career now that the Disney Channel sitcom came to an end last year.

In the U.S. version of Japanese animation “The Secret World of Arrietty,” Arias lends his voice to the character Spiller, one of the four-inch people who live under the floorboards of human households.

During an interview with me, Arias, 17, talked about the types of shows he used to watch as a little kid and what kind of adventures he’d like to go on if he was only four inches tall.

Were you a fan of Japanese animation before making “The Secret World of Arrietty?”

I would have to say I became a fan after making this film. This type of animation has its own style and people love it.

What kind of cartoons did you watch as a kid?

“Dragonball Z” was a big one. It wasn’t a cartoon, but I used to watch a lot of “The Power Rangers.” That was my main show. It’s all I would watch. Now that I think about it, a lot of the shows and cartoons I watched when I was a kid came from Japan.

“The Secret World of Arrietty” features a family of four-inch people. If you were that small, what kind of adventures would you want to go on?

I think I’d want to get into one of those remote control cars and drive all over the place. (Laughs) There are advantages of being small. I actually am small. I’m probably just a few inches bigger than the little people in the film. Personally, it’s one of the reasons I enjoy this movie and wanted to be a part of it. There are a lot of things you can do when you are little.

You’re also lending your voice to another animated film this year, “Despicable Me 2.” What was that experience like?

It’s been great. I’ve been really exited to work with everyone in that film. I did my first session a couple of weeks ago. The directors are great, the writer is great. Everyone is amazing and I’m glad to be a part of it.

Everyone knows you as Rico from your days on “Hannah Montana.” Do you hope to you can shed that skin and show people there’s more to you as an actor?

Rico is very memorable because he is very different. I think that’s why he’s the character most people know me by. I don’t think people will ever forget about Rico. It’s part of my life.

What kind of roles do you hope to get now that “Hannah Montana” is behind you?

What I’m looking for now are more roles in films. I’ve done TV for a while, so I’m really looking to get some more roles in films.

Moises Arias – Hannah Montana Forever

July 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In its fourth and final season, the popular Disney Channel sitcom “Hannah Montana” (currently promoted as “Hannah Montana Forever”) has earned a dedicated following from many young viewers throughout the years. While the show features teen idol Miley Cyrus in the title role, it has been the collaborative effort from the entire cast that has made the series so successful.

Since making its debut in March 2006, one of the characters that immediately became a fan favorite was Rico Suave played by actor Moises Arias. While he was only a recurring character in Season 1, the popularity of Rico was evident when producers added him as a main character the following season.

During an interview with me, Arias, 16, who is of Colombian descent, talked about working on the final season and what he’s looking forward to now that this part of his career is behind him.

You have been on the show “Hannah Montana” for the last four years. What was it like shooting the final season?

Well, it was sad but we went through it like it was any other season. We are all a big family. We just enjoyed our time hanging out together.

What about shooting the final episode? Was there a lot of emotion when the cameras finally stopped rolling?

There was. It was crazy to hear, “That’s a wrap” for the whole season. When we heard that it was a shock. Everyone was taking pictures. Some people were crying. Everyone was giving each other hugs. I got like four hugs from everybody. But we’re all friends. We all have each other’s numbers and are still going to hang out. I’m never going to forget any of them.

Would you say your role as Rico Suave has been the one that has defined you as an actor for the last four years?

Definitely. Being on a show for four years does that. Rico is a great character and I’m happy to be known as him. He’s very funny and I had a lot of fun doing this character. It is the character most people recognize me for. Hopefully, I’ll be doing some other stuff soon but Rico will always be in my heart because it’s the first big role that I got.

How have you seen Rico change over the last four years and what can we look forward to as the final season continues?

Well, Rico has only grown like half and inch. (Laughs) Other than that, his voice got deeper. I think he got a little bit nicer. It’s going to be a great season full of surprises, different sets, and guest stars.

What are you going to take away from this experience to the next project?

Professionalism. I learned how to work well with other people. When that happens, things fall into place.

What are you looking forward to now that this part of your career is complete?

I just want to work more. Hopefully there are some auditions and meetings. We’re working on some projects now to see what I’m going to be doing later this year. I’m very excited for all that stuff. I’d really like to focus on some more film and do a character that is completely different – maybe a dramatic role.

During the last four seasons, did it ever surprise you how popular this show became?

The show got really big. It definitely surprised me. After four episodes people started coming up asking me for autographs and pictures. Now, it’s even a little harder to go out because we have such great fans.

Does it ever bother you when the media puts such a bright spotlight on Miley Cyrus and her career? Some critics say she growing up way too fast.

You just don’t listen to that stuff. Everybody is going to criticize. We’re people like everyone else. People are going to make mistakes. You just have to be yourself. That’s what she does. That is what’s great about Miley.

You’re only one year younger than Miley. Are you looking forward to three more years of being a teenager or would you rather skip past all that?

I really don’t want to lose this time. I like to live in the moment and see what happens for now.

The Perfect Game

April 16, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Clifton Collins Jr., Cheech Marin, Jake T. Austin
Directed by: William Dear (“Angels in the Outfield”)
Written by: W. William Winokur (debut)

It’s not easy to swing for the fences when the pitcher can’t even get it over home plate.

Therein lies the problem for “The Perfect Game,” the true story of the first Mexican baseball team to win the Little League World Series. While the material is there to develop an inspirational underdog sports movie, director William Dear and screenwriter W. William Winokur seem more comfortable lobbing Wiffle balls into the air when all the narrative is begging for is something with a bit more momentum. Sadly, “Game” plays like a lightweight athlete despite its big, misplaced heart.

In the film, a group of ragtag kids from the poverty-stricken, industrial town of Monterrey form a baseball team to compete against the best in the world. They enter the tournament when Cesar (Clifton Collins Jr.), a washed up local who was recently fired from the Major League, agrees to coach the boys and turn them into a competitive team. Cue the formulaic training montages and siesta jokes.

While “The Perfect Game” is exactly the type of story Hollywood needs to sit up and pay attention to, there’s no sense in supporting something that feels so unauthentic and glossed over. Never mind that the movie is in English (at least the kids fall back on their thick, cartoonish Mexican accents), the real eye-rolling should begin during a scene where a baseball literally falls from heaven. Then there’s the scene where the team recruits a player based on how hard he hits a piñata and another where the team stops for lunch at a diner and proceeds to dip their fried chicken into chocolate sauce to make molé.

The best line in the movie comes from team pitcher Angel Macias (Jake T. Austin) when he asks his coach where he learned how to throw a fastball.

“Who taught you how to pitch?” the young ballplayer asks.

“Cardinals,” Coach Cesar says referring to his days with the professional team in St. Louis.

“From the Basilica?” Angel asks with a sweet innocence.

There are a few other cute moments like that one when “Game” gets away with flaunting its cloying script, but those moments don’t come close to outweighing the massive amount of sports, religion, and cultural clichés from both sides of the border.

“It would take a miracle to make these kids into a real team,” Cesar says at one point.

It would take a heck of a lot more to make “The Perfect Game” as interesting as the black and white photos of the real-life players it displays during the closing credits. That’s the story everyone should really be rooting for.

Moises Arias – Beethoven’s Big Break

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Moises Arias has never let a little shyness control the things he’s wanted to do in life. When his parents realized he was a bit socially timid, they immediately enrolled him in acting classes so he could break out of his shell.

From there, the Arias family moved to Los Angeles when Moises’s acting coach told them he had potential to do great things in the entertainment industry. Soon, he was auditioning for film roles and landed his first feature movie, “Nacho Libre” with Jack Black, at the age of 12 in 2006. That same year, Moises joined the cast of “Hannah Montana” on the Disney Channel as the character Rico.

He now stars in the movie “Beethoven’s Big Break,” the sixth film of the “Beethoven” series, which began in 1992.

During an interview with me, Moises talks about the challenges he had working with animals on the set and what artists he looks up to in the entertainment industry as a young Colombian actor.

You weren’t even born when the first “Beethoven” movie came to theaters in 1992. Did you go back and watch all five films that came before “Beethoven’s Big Break?”

I watch a couple of the movies. I was a big fan of the “Beethoven” movies because the dog did a lot of tricks. It was amazing getting to know Beethoven. It was a great experience working with all the dogs, cats, raccoons and birds. It’s awesome to watch the animals in training.

What animal was your favorite to work with?

I think Beethoven was my favorite. We could play with him and push him around because he weighs like 150 lbs. I have two dogs and they weigh like 4 lbs. Filming a movie with dogs is definitely a lot harder than with humans. When I watch the other “Beethoven” movies I always wondered how they got the dog to do certain things. Finally, I got to see how they train them. They put baby food on me so he’d lick my face.

What kind of dogs do you have at home?

I have a toy poodle and a shih tzu. I also have a cockatiel that’s about the size of my hand. My family loves animals.

When you got the role on “Hannah Montana” did you realize how popular the show was going to be from the very beginning?

It was so surprising. From one day to the other I was just a regular kid and then I had people chasing me around asking me for my autograph. It’s amazing how many people go to the concerts and how expensive the tickets cost.

With all the attention you get from “Hannah Montana” do you feel like you’re only 14 years old?

I do not feel 14. All of this happening at such a young age is incredible. I have everyone from little 3-year-old girls chasing me around to grandparents who are 50 just to get an autograph for their grandkids. I’m just so happy that so many people watch it. I do hope to continue to have a profession in acting as I get older.

Are you ready for even more attention when the “Hannah Montana” movie comes out in April?

Yeah, it’s going to be crazy. I hope the movie does great. We worked really hard on it. It’s a great movie for all audiences.

Tell us something about Miley Cyrus that we may not know.

She loves to kid around like a teenager. She is really funny. A lot of times she forgets her lines, but a lot of us forget our lines when we’re shooting the TV show. She is a great, outgoing person.

What’s going on with your other movie “A Perfect Game?” I know it’s finished but was delayed last year.

That movie has been pretty weird since the very beginning. We’re hoping it comes out this year. It was one of the hardest movies to shoot because we had to go to Mexico and practice baseball. I really hope it comes out because it’s a great true story about a Mexican Little League baseball team.

Not only that, but the majority of the cast is Latino, which we hardly see in studio films.

Yeah, we want everyone to know that Latinos are everywhere. Not a lot of people know that I am Colombian. It’s a great way to tell everybody that Hispanics are coming up. So many Hispanics and Latinos are getting into TV shows, so I would love to see more of that happen.

Do you look up to any Hispanics in the entertainment industry?

Oh, yeah. I look up to Juanes and Shakira. They’re both from Colombian and I admire them a lot. They’re a big inspiration because they’re such great people with everybody. I’m very proud to be Colombian.