Noël Wells – Mr. Roosevelt

October 27, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

Actress and comedian Noël Wells, 30, has never been the type of person to wait for something to fall into her lap. Instead, she’d rather create her own material and make something happen for herself.

After gaining an online following by developing her own sketch and parody videos for her YouTube channel and performing with the Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles, Wells did just that when she was hired as a “Saturday Night Live” cast member in 2013. Although her time on “SNL” lasted only one season, she went on to co-star in the first season of the critically acclaimed Netflix comedy “Master of None” alongside Aziz Ansari.

Now, Wells, who was born in San Antonio in 1986, attended Memorial High School in Victoria, and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, is debuting her first feature film as a director and screenwriter. In “Mr. Roosevelt,” she plays Emily Martin, a down-on-her-luck comedian who returns home to Austin when she gets some sad news. During her visit, she stays with her ex and his seemingly perfect new girlfriend and is forced to come to terms with the fact that her life is not going as planned.

I caught up with Wells in Austin this past March at the South by Southwest Film Festival where she hosted the world premiere of “Mr. Roosevelt,” which opens in San Antonio October 27.

Where did the inspiration for “Mr. Roosevelt” come from?

From little anecdotes of my life that have happened over time that I’ve been collecting. Everything in the movie has happened to me in some sense, but everything in the movie is completely fictionalized.

What are the similarities between you and your character?

She’s an amalgamation of these little quirks and ticks [I have], but she’s not me. When I was writing [the script], maybe she was a little more like me, but as you start doing the character it becomes something else. I do think I have a little bit of her combativeness when people cross her and she jumps down their throat.

Were you trying to do something unique with the genre and avoid clichés?

This whole movie was me taking the indie film trope of coming home after being away for a little bit and finding ways to flip it on its head and making it a little more absurd. I think comedically, you want to push back on whatever came before.

Is part of the reason you wrote your own movie to star in because it just makes more sense to create the content yourself?

Yeah, I think that’s how my whole career has worked. You don’t see all the things I’ve made before, but the only reason I have any career is because any time I’m not working, I am making my own things. You can’t just sit around hoping it’ll fall into your lap. It’s inevitable that I would make things. I find that the most satisfying.

What did you take from an experience like “Saturday Night Live” since you were on for only one season?

It was a definite goal to be on that show. It was really sad [when SNL didn’t renew my contract]. The second that I found out, I had all this grief. But there was something in the back of my mind that said, “It’s going to be fine.” I got there because I make things and have a voice. The whole world thinks I just lost a job and what a loser I am, but they just don’t understand who I am or what I’m going to do.

Do you find the industry oversaturated today since there are so many more platforms for comedians to show off their material?

Kind of. I don’t want to put a judgement on it, but I think whatever comedy is right now, it’s a cool kids’ club. It’s very in vogue and has become a trend. I think comedy is an underdog endeavor. It’s supposed to elevate people out of something darker. I think the idea of being cool right now is actually the opposite of what is funny.

How has “Master of None” helped you with your career and going to the next level?

“Master of None” was so good and now people are like, “Oh, Noël can do that!” So, it just makes it a little easier. You get called into more rooms. People are willing to collaborate with you a little more. They’re just more receptive to hearing what you have to say or looking at the projects you’re working on. I was so nervous when I got hired [for “Master of None”]. I was so anxious that I was going to do it wrong or that I was going to get fired. But working with Aziz [Ansari] and having it be so collaborative and seeing how good it came out made me realize I am on the right track. You just have to find the people that work the same way you do. It was very rewarding. I was able to take that and funnel it into this movie.

Barry Corbin – The Margarita Man

September 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

If anyone knows what it’s like to film a movie in Texas, it’s actor Barry Corbin (“No Country for Old Men”). During his 40-year career in the film industry, the Lamesa, Texas-born thespian has shot all over the Lone Star State starting with Deer Park in 1980 for his role as Uncle Bob in “Urban Cowboy.”

In all that time, however, Corbin had never made a movie in San Antonio — until now.

This past Wednesday, Corbin was in the Alamo City to shoot scenes for director Daniel Ramos’ upcoming comedy “The Margarita Man.” The film follows Miguel Martinez (Anthony Guajardo), a young college student who is forced to sell margaritas to pay for school after his father cuts him off financially. Corbin plays Doyl, the head of security at Miguel’s college campus.

At 76, Corbin said he doesn’t have too many prerequisites when deciding on whether to make a certain movie or not. These days, a simple phone call might do the trick.

“They called and offered it to me,” Corbin told me during an interview at the Hotel Valencia when asked what drew him to his role in “The Margarita Man.” “That’s about the criteria I go on. If I’m able to do it, usually I do. I don’t do any dirty films. Other than that, we’re alright.”

The only time Corbin remembers turning down a movie was back in the 1980s when he went through a phase of rejecting roles “if the character’s first name was Sheriff” because he was being offered too many of them.

“You do too many of one thing and that’s all they start thinking of you for,” Corbin said. “So, I turned them down for about three years.”

Now, with San Antonio checked off his list of Texas cities where he’s made a movie, Corbin is urging more studios to give Texas an opportunity to host their next production. With the new Supplemental San Antonio Film Incentive Program (SSAI), which kicks in an extra 7.5 percent incentive on top of the 22.5 percent from the state, Corbin hopes it’s an attractive enough proposition for Hollywood to set up shop more often in Texas.

“’No Country for Old Men’ was supposed to take place in Texas but we only shot one week in Texas,” he said. “The rest of it they shot in New Mexico because of the tax incentives over there. We need the legislature to get behind it and give us some strong tax incentives. It’s important because it affects the bottom line of the picture.”

Corbin believes the Texas legislature hasn’t been more willing to expand incentives in the state because “they think we’re giving something away to all those Hollywood liberals out there.” Corbin does not agree.

“What we’re doing is cutting our own throats and losing money,” he said. “[Film production] brings money into the state, but they don’t look at it that way.”

Despite the shortcomings of Texas’ film incentives, Corbin is not letting it effect his love for making movies. He’s going to do it as much as he can for as long as he can. It’s who he is.

“It’s a habit, I guess,” he said. “It’s kind a like dope — you start doing it and you got to keep doing it.”

Chris Silcox – Spider-Man: Homecoming

July 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

As a student at Churchill High School in San Antonio in the early 2000s, Chris Silcox could never have imagined the time he spent on stage with the drama department would lead him to an unconventional career in Hollywood.

In the new Marvel Studios reboot “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which opens at theaters this Friday, Silcox was hired as one of three stunt doubles for actor Tom Holland, who portrays teenager Peter Parker (AKA Spider-Man). The job sent Silcox traveling between Atlanta, New York City and Berlin for nearly three months last summer.

“It was one of the craziest and best things that has ever happened to me,” Silcox, 30, told me during a phone interview this past weekend while on a promotional tour for the film in Seoul, South Korea. “I got really lucky.”

After graduating from Churchill in 2004, Silcox, who was born and raised in San Antonio and practiced gymnastics at Alamo Gymnastics Center, studied acting and theater at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also competed in NCAA gymnastics while attending college. Silcox always knew he wanted to be an actor, but didn’t know where his path would lead him to reach that goal.

His career after college began when he landed a gig as an acrobat with Cirque du Soleil, where he worked for the next four years. When one of his Cirque tours ended in Los Angeles one year, Silcox decided to stay in the city and see if he could somehow break into the film industry.

“I really didn’t know what I was going to do,” he said. “It was an uphill battle, but slowly I started getting work as an actor and a stunt performer.”

Then one day last year, Silcox received a random email from a man named George Cottle, who asked him for his clothing measurements, but offered no other information about the request. The mysterious nature of the email deterred Silcox from offering up the personal information so easily.

“I wrote him back and asked, ‘Why’ and ‘For what movie,’ and he wrote me back and said, ‘Nevermind,’” Silcox said. “Then I Googled him.”

Cottle turned out to be a stunt coordinator and stunt performer for several high-profile films, including “The Dark Knight,” “Inception” and “Kong: Skull Island.” His filmography also listed him as the stunt coordinator for the upcoming blockbuster “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

“I wrote him back and profusely apologized and told him that I loved all of his films,” Silcox said. “He thanked me and said they were sending 12 people in for a fitting to see who was the best size to be a stunt double for actor Tom Holland.”

After the fitting, Silcox and two other stuntmen were chosen for the job. The next thing he knew, Silcox was on the set with the entire stunt crew rehearsing for the new film. Jumping onto a lamppost, getting hit by a bus and getting dragged across the street were standard duties for him most days.

“We were given storyboards and had to figure out how to get stunts done,” Silcox said. “It was like a stunt academy. I got dropped on my head and my back and punched in the stomach. It was so much fun!”

Although Silcox admits it is a bit difficult to know exactly which Spider-Man he is in the final version of the movie since he “did a bit of everything during filming,” he knows he had his hand in every action scene, even if it was pulling the wires his stunt colleagues, and even Holland himself, swung from.

“Whichever one of us is on screen, the others are behind him pulling him into the air,” he said. “It’s a funny industry.”

As much fun as he had hanging upside down in a harness in front of a green screen, Silcox said one of the most surreal moments working on the movie was the first time he tried on an official Spider-Man suit during production. It was then when Silcox felt like he was “a real superhero – like a god.”

“It was unimaginably cool,” he said. “All you want to do is jump around and climb up walls and save damsels in distress. It was fucking epic.”

With “Spider-Man: Homecoming” behind him, Silcox is now anticipating the release of his next film this Christmas, “The Greatest Showman,” starring Hugh Jackman. The musical drama tells the story of P.T. Barnum, the founder of the now-defunct Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. In the film, Silcox works as a stuntman, but is also credited with a role as a circus performer.

Until then, Silcox is waiting patiently in the wings ready to swing in to save the day if called upon.

“We’ll see if Spidey or L.A. have anything else in store for me,” he said.

Louie Anderson – Baskets (TV)

March 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

Although considered to be at one of the high points of his 30-year-career as a stand-up comedian, Louie Anderson wouldn’t mind if journalists scrapped the word “resurgence” for something a bit more poetic.

“This isn’t really a resurgence,” Anderson, 64, told the me during a phone interview earlier this month. “This is a brand new third act of my life. It’s like the window has opened and people can hear me. They have rediscovered me.”

What they have rediscovered is Anderson doing what he has been doing ever since he made his professional TV debut on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1984—making people laugh. The only difference this time is that he’s doing it while wearing colorful blouses.

In the hit FX comedy series “Baskets,” Anderson plays Christine Baskets, the mother of twin brothers Chip and Dale Baskets (both played by Zach Galifianakis). The role earned Anderson an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series last September.

During our interview, Anderson, who is making a tour stop at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio, Texas, on Sunday, March 26 at 7pm, talked about his success on his new TV show, growing old, and why he doesn’t do political humor on stage.

Did you actually come to San Antonio to shoot your scene in “Cloak and Dagger” in 1984?

Um, I’d have to look that up. Was I in that movie?

Yes, you had a small role. You played a taxi cab driver.

Ah, OK. No, we were on a street at Universal Studios.

Oh, that’s too bad. Compared to other cities, San Antonio doesn’t have too many major films we can claim.

So, then, yes! Let’s say yes. Yes. That’s how you fix that. You can start the rumor.

You made your first appearance on national TV in 1984. A lot of what you did back then was self-deprecating humor, which I know you still do now. How much has your material changed?

I like to tell people I do all the F words—family, food, father, being fat, being over 50. All the clean F words, I guess. I do a lot of food stuff. Did I mention food? I have a lot of fun. Stand-up is my first love and the thing I would put at the top of my résumé.

You’re turning 64 on Friday (March 24). Do you plan to use the Beatles’ song as an intro to all your shows?

That’s really a great song, isn’t it?! I was at a birthday party recently for somebody who was turning 64 and they played that song when they walked in. It’s certainly a song of my era. But I’d rather be 46. It’s always better to be younger because parts wear out and you can’t just go out and get them like knees and the back. I’m in pretty good shape, but I think 64 might change it all—change the perspective. If you were to ask me if I feel 64, I would say no. I just did a Funny or Die and I felt very young.

When you go on stage now to do stand-up, does it feel like a job or is it still as fulfilling as it was early in your career?

Oh, yeah, if not more so because now there is a whole new group of people getting to see me. It’s like I have a whole new audience. That gives me a boost right there. I’ve always believed this: You have to get up for your show. You have to be there—be present. You have to do a great job. Don’t mail it in. If you’re there 100 percent, your audience will also be there.

You mentioned that you are a clean comedian. Do you think there was a time in your career where you could’ve made the decision to go the other way and become offensive or controversial?

I think I could’ve been a completely different comedian, yeah. But I think for me, it wouldn’t have worked. What’s innate for me and comfortable for me is what I’m doing. If the dirtier or edgier stuff became more important to me, I would do it. So, I think for me I wanted to reach the family. I wanted people to be able to bring their kids and their parents to my show. Also, you get a lot more jobs on TV when you’re clean. At least that’s how it was when I started out.

So, along with staying clean, something else I noticed, especially now that everyone is doing it, is that you don’t talk politics. Why don’t you go there?

Yeah, I don’t talk too much about politics. In real life, if you did a survey of your audience, you might be surprised who your fan base is. [Politics] is not my thing. I guess I could be very political. I think everyone is political with their own beliefs, but I want people to have the greatest time they can [at my shows]. I want them to be able to forget their troubles. I want them to leave behind the newscast and just relax.

But you’re active on Twitter, so all you have to do is tweet something to Donald Trump and you’d be in the headlines the next day if he tweeted you back.

Oh, yeah. I do do an impression of him in my act. People can come and see that. [Trump] looks a lot like my oldest brother, so whenever I see him I always think of my older brother. But [politics] really isn’t me. It’s not where I’m going. I have a lot of beliefs and I love this country, but I’m a stand-up comedian. I mean, so many people are doing the political stuff and I’m glad. I think there’s an appetite for it, but my appetite is for a taco shell made out of chicken.

I know you pulled your inspiration for your character Christine Baskets on “Baskets” from your mother. What would she think of your portrayal? Would she find it funny?

Yeah, I think she’d really like it, but then she’d try to correct me. She’d be like, “You know when you’re doing that one thing, Louie? It’s not the same way I would do it.” I get it, mom. It’s OK. I get it. So, she would love it. She would feel special because it’s definitely a homage to her. She’s be thrilled.

The second season of “Baskets” is coming to an end this week.

Awwww.

Do you hope the ride continues and FX says yes to a third season? What would that mean to you? (Editor’s Note: After this interview, Netflix renewed “Baskets” for a third season).

Well, what I love is what’s next for the family and what’s next for Christine. The writing is so good. The people are so terrific. There’s just so much great stuff going on. I just feel the ride is getting up on that big hill and getting ready to go on another season. Everybody, I’m sure, would be excited to do it. I try not to think about that too much. I try to be present. I miss working on it when I’m away and I love working on it when I’m there.

You’ve joked before that you’re the most successful Anderson child—you come from a family of 11 children. Can you give me an example of what your brothers and sisters do for a living?

Oh, yeah. I had one brother who was a locksmith and also spoke to police departments about crime. Two of my sisters were homemakers. Both had six kids, so they were full-time moms. My other sister was a hairdresser. My other sister owned a flower shop. So, they had small businesses. I have a brother who is a carpenter and another who worked for a pawn shop for years. My other brother was a high school janitor. He’s the brother that was much funnier than I was, actually.

What is an Uncle Louie like?

You know, I love all the kids. I’m doing a benefit for one of my nephews who is deaf to help raise money for his school in Minnesota. I try to give advice, but try not to tell people what to do with their lives. I try to be loving and caring and kind and understanding. I want them to know they can confide in me. I want the best for them. I have one nephew who is a stand-up comic. He’s doing really well. He doesn’t mention he is my nephew, which I really think was the smart way to go. He wanted to make his own way. I want them to be able to do things and try things and get the most out of their lives.

Marlon Wayans – comedian

February 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Interviews

Actor/writer/producer/comedian Marlon Wayans (“Dance Flick”) will make his stand-up comedy debut in San Antonio Feb. 19 at the Aztec Theater. He talked to me via phone recently about his new venture on stage and about his position on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

Are you excited about coming to San Antonio?

Yeah, I heard San Antonio audiences are unbelievable, so I can’t want to yuck it up with you all and crack you up at the Aztec Theater.

Have you ever been here?

No, I’ve never been to San Antonio. Wait, I’m lying. Yes, I have been to San Antonio. I was there for an [NBA] All-Star game (1996) when Michael Jordan was playing basketball.

Well, you’ll have to come back when the NBA Finals roll through here this year.

Oh, you guys are confident, huh?! You guys get beat by 30 (by the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 25) and you’re going to throw that kind of statement out there?! You get beat by 30 with the Warriors playing like this and you think you’re going to get there?!

I’ll admit [Warriors point guard] Stephen Curry is playing like a madman.

It’s like someone mixed Reggie Miller and Cheryl Miller together.

I know you went on a comedy tour with your brothers last year. How does going solo feel in comparison?

It’s different. I love working with my brothers. It was a lot of fun, but sometimes working with four different personalities makes you see why a group like New Edition broke up. There’s only one Bobby Brown in the group. In our family, we got four Bobby Browns. Honestly, I like [going solo] because I have room to grow – to be on stage by myself and learn how to do an entire show and really rock with my point of view.

What is the secret in telling a good joke?

It’s the setup and the windup and the payoff. There’s the physicality of the joke and telling the joke and then animating the joke. You have to make sure you’re giving it a voice and that you’re in character. When you do characters, you have to make sure [the audience] doesn’t see you. In a show, you have to take [the audience] to different levels. Sometimes it’s not even about the joke, it’s about the statement. If you get them to listen, you can make them laugh.

Some stand-ups I’ve talked to say it might take 25 years before they really know what kind of comedian they are on stage. Do you think you’ve found your voice already?

I think I’m getting there. I have a voice, but I don’t have a style. I’m just honest. I’m a performer. I’m getting my standing ovations, so I feel like I’m getting close to being special, but I’m not special yet. I’ll be special when I look at myself as my own therapist and break that down and make that funny and relatable to the audience. Right now, I’m only good at telling jokes about other people and about other situations. I’m starting to understand how to really talk about me and my life and my damages and all that stuff. It’s like peeling away the layers of an onion. The more you peel away, the closer you get to the tears. Then you gotta take those tears and transfer it out and make people laugh at your expense.

How much of going into stand-up was because you wanted to do more research for the role of Richard Pryor you were auditioning for?

That’s what sparked me to do stand-up. I tried it when I was like 17 or 19. I never stuck with it. I got tired of doing the same bits over and over. I didn’t want to be a comedian. I wanted to be an actor. My brothers were all comedians. I wanted to take a different road. I wanted to travel a different way. I didn’t want to be what my brothers were. I love my brothers to death, but I didn’t want to be them. I always wanted to be me. I am a Wayans, but I’m really working on trying to be Marlon. So, I went on my own path and tried acting class. So, while they were doing stand-up, I was in theater class. But when I got the [chance to play] Pryor, the method actor in me is the thing that made me go onstage. Something happened this time around and I fell in love with stand-up. It’s funny because I wound up not getting [the role of] Pryor, but that’s the best thing that happened. I started out wanting to play a great, and now I want to be one. God don’t make mistakes. I know that wasn’t supposed to happen, but it was in the cards.

You’re new film “Fifty Shades of Black” just came out. Why do you think a movie like “Fifty Shades of Grey” lends itself so well to getting spoofed? What makes sex so funny?

I think sex is funny because we all do it. We all have odd things that we do, honestly. We’re not always the best in bed. There are situations you go through that people can relate to. The more serious the topic, the more it lends itself to jokes.

Are there any example you can share of how one of your own sexual experiences turned out to be funny?

Too many. I remember when I was younger, I was trying to be Mr. Smooth, so I laid out a blanket and lit some candles to make love in the backyard. I was kissing the girl and she was like, “I’m hot.” I was like, “Yeah, I can do that sometimes.” Then it started getting really hot and I looked back and the blanket was on fire.

What is your take on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy? Where do you think the root of the problem is when it comes to the lack of diversity in this year’s nominations?

I think it’s a collective problem. You can’t point the finger and just say, “Hey, Academy, you’re not doing this or that.” There’s a bigger problem. The bigger problem is that they’re not producing enough films with decent enough budgets to film spectacles. We’re so busy entertaining as African American filmmakers. We’re trying to be entertaining. The stuff the Academy likes is entertaining, but it’s something different. It’s more on an epic scale. The messages are very subliminal. Our audience likes big, fun movies. We go [to the movies] to laugh and enjoy movies. Critics don’t matter. My audience loves my movies. That’s who I make my movies for. The day I start making movies for the critics and for the associations and for the Academy, that’s gotta be something I can do on my leisure. We can’t afford as black filmmakers not to make movies that make box office. We ain’t trying to make no art movies until the audience can come support us no matter what movies we do. It’s not a black and white issue. It’s a green issue.

Do you think African American producers, directors, and writers have a responsibility to create work for African American actors that has a better chance of getting award recognition?

I think we all have to make the effort. I can’t put it all on African-Americans. We have to make box office, too. But we also have to make sure we diversify and do more than what we have been doing. We need to start producing more movies. I take it on myself as a producer to start trying to advance the kind of movies I make. Maybe for every one or two or three goofy comedies, I’ll go make a serious one – something thought-provoking or something that possibly can be nominated for an Academy Award. It’s on us as well. It’s all of us collectively coming to the table, coming to an understanding, getting the budgets we need, and going out and executing. I think we’re too far past the days of the boycott. I think that recesses all the advancements that we all have achieved over the years.

It sounds like you’re open to the idea of making something different than what you’re used to.

I make comedies. If you look at the Academy Awards, comedies rarely get nominated. What the Academy thinks is funny is not what my audience thinks is funny. It’s two different experiences. Critics never like movies I’ve written, produced, and starred in – in the history of all my movies. My RottenTomatoes score is terrible. But the fans love my movies. I don’t make movies for critics. I make movies for the fans. It’s the same thing with the Academy and the associations. They look at what the critics say. I make films for the audience. If the audience laughs and forgets about the problems they have in their life and take a vacation for an hour and a half, that’s all I care about.

This interview first ran in the San Antonio Current on Feb. 17, 2016.

Mick Foley – comedian

January 9, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

After a long and admired career as one of the most fearless professional wrestlers ever to enter the ring, retired three-time WWE world champion Mick Foley has found a couple of new callings in life that don’t require him to get smashed into a turnbuckle or drop-kicked in the face. These days, Foley, 49, is taking it much easier and learning that you don’t need bumps and bruises to have adoring fans.

Besides his family, of course, two things are keeping Foley’s blood pumping (without him having to lose any of it at the same time) – touring as a stand-up comedian (he calls himself a storyteller) and performing as jolly old St. Nick, a gig he is featured doing in the 2014 documentary “I Am Santa Claus.” The film follows five men, including Foley, who have dedicated their lives to dressing up as Santa Claus during the holiday season. Foley, himself, is so enamored by Christmas, he has an entire room in his home dedicated to it year-round. Last year, when he wasn’t wearing his customized Santa suit, Foley proved how serious he was about Christmas by dressing in holiday-themed attire every day until just a couple weeks ago.

During our interview earlier this week to help promote his tour stop at the River Center Comedy Club on Jan. 11 at 6 pm, Foley and I talked about what motivated him to become a stand-up comedian and whether it’s as fulfilling to perform on stage as it was in a wrestling ring. We also talked about how he handles when a joke of his bombs and why he’s not a fan of the Iron Sheik’s social media presence.

So, have you finally gotten out of your Christmas gear? You’re not wearing a vest with reindeer right now, are you?

(Laughs) It’s my 11th day without Christmas Day attire. But, actually, I was reading a book to my kids the other day and found out there is a Mexican tradition where you put your shoes out 11 days after Christmas (Day of Kings or Wise Men’s Day). (Laughs) It was the first time I heard of this tradition. So, we put the shoes out and the kids came out with a few more gifts. We try to find any way we can to extend the season.

After a long wrestling career, what motivated you to start doing stand-up performances?

You know, it was really because of the success I had with the book I wrote in 1999 (Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks) that opened the door to entertaining people in a different way. I found the same kind of storytelling that entertained people so thoroughly on the page translated well on stage – sometimes even in a better way. Unlike the written stories – when they’re finished they’re finished – I can work on my on stage stories every night and make them as good as they possibly can be.

Was it a natural transition for you since you’re performing in front of people in both wrestling and stand up? Do you get the same kind of rush?

Yeah, it’s almost exactly the same rush. I’ve had other wrestlers come out and join me for the Q&A part of the show. They remark how fascinating it is that they can get the same fulfillment from a few people that they can from thousands.

Have you found your voice yet on stage or is it still something you’re exploring? I’ve spoken to many comedians who say it took them years to find out what kind of comic they actually were.

It’s taken me a while. I think what I’ve realized is that I’m not a comedian. I’m a wrestle-centric storyteller. Other comics might watch my show and say, “Yeah, he’s a comic.” But I had to learn that I have a role to play and that any time I venture too far outside wrestling, I would go into territory that many others did far better than I did. I can really have fun and entertain fans and non-fans alike, but I do it from a perspective of a guy who traveled the world as a wrestler.

You played a few roles as a wrestler throughout your career, from Cactus Jack to Mankind. Would you say you’re playing a role on stage now or are you Mick Foley?

I’m Mick Foley, but I go into my roles as wrestlers. You can actually see some of the guys in the audience get goosebumps when I metamorphosized into 1997 Mankind or 1991 Cactus Jack. I have a lot of fun. Stand up gives me so much of what I loved about being in the ring without the obvious physical fallout.

You mentioned non-fans. Would you say people will enjoy your show if they’re not familiar with your wrestling career?

You know, it’s always gratifying to me when non-fans come up to me after the show. They’re usually females who tell me they had no idea what they were getting themselves into, but that they really enjoyed it. Unlike wrestling, which is a group effort where 30 different people will try to create an atmosphere, the atmosphere of my shows is really up to me. I really pride myself in creating a welcoming, non-threatening atmosphere for non-fans. That doesn’t mean I won’t give my fans stories of mayhem and bloodshed, but I’ll do it in a way that goes down nicely for the non-fans.

What does it feel like to make somebody laugh? I mean, I guess you did that a little during your career as a wrestler, but I think there were probably more people cheering and oohing at the stunts you pulled in the ring, wouldn’t you say?

I think there was quite a bit of humor as my career stretched on. I think wrestlers that have an extended career try different ways to connect with their audience than they originally intended. It usually involves some humor. I’m proud of the stuff I did in 2000 when I played the [WWE] Commissioner, which was largely a comedic role. But, you know, making someone laugh and making someone wince are things I take an equal amount of pride in.

Who inspires you these days? Other comedians?

I’m always inspired by people who take chances and leave their comfort level to do other things. But I’m pretty content in being my own guy. The biggest mistake I made doing these show five years ago was trying to be other guys; trying to learn too much from other performers. I was losing my own voice by trying to discover theirs.

So, how do you handle if one of your jokes bombs?

Well, now I’ll bomb intentionally. (Laughs) I like to see the reaction of the crowd and then have fun with that. But there’s nothing funny whatsoever about just dying on stage. But we’ve all done it. You either come out better for it or you never come out again. It is a very painful experience.

What about hecklers? I couldn’t imagine anyone brave enough to try and purposefully ruin one of your show. Has anyone tried?

You know, once in a while I’ll get an overenthusiastic fan who will yell out random stuff. I don’t tend to get real hecklers. I specifically choose off days like Sundays or Mondays – the nontraditional comedy days – to perform. It’s less likely that people who might say more than they should would come out during those days. I’d rather have people listening instead of hollering, you know? For me it’s the difference between having a great time on stage and punching a time card and doing a job.

You’ve seen how popular someone can get on social media like former wrestler Iron Sheik. Have you embraced that part of the business yet? Do you realize how important it is to be visible online as a comedian?

Well, I don’t believe Sheik actually tweets himself. There’s a lot of substance to the Sheik’s story. I’m not a fan of abusive humor. But, yeah, you have to embrace it. But all my tweets are my own. I read almost everything that comes in. I take stands occasionally when I feel there needs to be a stand taken. It’s a great way to get the word out about these shows.

Speaking of taking a stand, I read that you actually turned down a role on the TV show “The New Girl” last year because they wanted you to play a sleazy Santa. Did you make that decision because you hold this character in such high regard?

Yeah, I mean, Santa is not just a role I want to play. It’s something I want to do for many, many years to come. I have no problem with an actor choosing to play that role, but I want to be the guy in the chair visiting with hundreds of kids every December. I just want to live up to the standards of that iconic figure. It’s my hope that “The New Girl” will come back this year with a nice role specifically for me.

Who would win in a wrestling match today, you or Kevin James (Foley and James were on the same wrestling team in high school)?

(Laughs) Well, Kevin was training for that MMA movie he did a couple of years ago (“Here Comes the Boom”) and I can barely move. So, he could probably take me these days.

Christopher Lloyd – The One I Wrote For You

December 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

Best known for his role as scientist Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown in the “Back to the Future” trilogy, actor Christopher Lloyd, 76, has been keeping busy with a number of TV, film and voice roles over the last 30 years. In his newest film “The One I Wrote For You,” Lloyd plays Pop, the supportive father of Ben Cantor (Cheyenne Jackson), a coffee shop barista who decides to enter a reality show competition for songwriters and follow his dream to become a musician.

During an interview with me, Lloyd talked about whether or not he identifies with the main character and if there ever was a time in his career where he felt uncomfortable playing a role. We also chatted about hoverboards, “Back to the Future” and what he thinks about cosmologist Steven Hawking saying time travel was probably impossible.

How did you enjoy shooting in San Antonio? Had you been here before?

I had actually been two San Antonio a couple of times before. The first time I was able six years old. My other brother was a fighter pilot in WWII and he was based outside of San Antonio somewhere. My father, mother and I took a train ride from New York City to San Antonio to see him for his graduation.

Is it nice to get out of Los Angeles when making a movie? These days, as I’m sure you know, you can make a movie anywhere. So, is it nice to shoot something in a city you maybe haven’t been to in a while?

Yeah, location shooting definitely takes you places you didn’t necessarily see yourself visiting.

Have you ever made a movie that was so dependent on its music? I know you played a musician before on a show like “Fringe” and there are great musical scenes in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “The Addams Family,” but here the music is a major part of the narrative.

Yeah, it’s the plot really. It’s the story of a relatively young man who is married and has a 10-year-old daughter and had a really strong desire to be a musician and a songwriter. His heart is really into it.

The main character’s personality in this film changes when he gets on a reality TV show. In your almost 40-year career, has there ever been a time someone wanted you to be something you weren’t as an actor?

I always wanted to be an actor by the time I was 13 or 14. I sensed that’s what I wanted to do. I never wanted to look for another career. Sometimes I have been encouraged to be in a project that I don’t really feel comfortable about. But it’s usually turned out OK. When you do something you’re not comfortable with, you have to come out for that role very convincing. You have to reach down and find what it’s going to take to make it happen. So, I don’t have the same experience as the young man in the film because I never gave up on it. I’ve never had to be talked back into it.

Are there any examples you can share where you didn’t feel comfortable in a role?

I was once cast in a play in a role I didn’t feel comfortable about at all. I almost wanted to give notice and quit the show. I was embarrassed and didn’t feel like I measured up to the demands of the role. But like I said, when it comes to being on the stage, you can’t just shy away from the audience. I mean, every role I do, like any actor, is a new one – a new character and a different situation. There is always the fear of failure. You’re trying something new. It’s just part of the game.

I saw pictures of you at the premiere of “The Theory of Everything.” What do you think about Stephen Hawking saying he is not convinced time travel is possible?

(Laughs) Ah, well time travel in the “Back to the Future” series is pure speculation and fantasy. Stephen Hawking has such a profound knowledge based on science. He’s probably right. What Stephen Hawking has done with that mind of his is staggering. I felt the film was really well done. I thought it was great.

You had a great cameo earlier this year in Seth MacFarlane’s  “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” Would you consider that one of your favorite cameos you’ve made over the years?

That was really a lot of fun. It was like a pocket-sized cameo. I haven’t done many of those, but it was a real thrill being on a set of the Old West.

Something I recently saw you in is a fake hoverboard infomercial with HuvrTech and Tony Hawk you released earlier this year and also the fake apology you made after people thought the product was real. Did it surprise you that a lot of people missed the joke?

I think a lot of people were genuinely disappointed that it wasn’t real. They thought the hoverboard had been created and that they’d be able to go out and buy one pretty soon. I felt a little bad about that. But I heard there are some advances in the development of a hoverboard, so it may happen yet.

Well, I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but last month engineers at a company called Hendo, after its 18th prototype, were able to get a hoverboard one inch off the ground but the board can only be used on a special magnetic surface. Are you finally going to be able to get a good night’s sleep knowing the hoverboard finally exists?

Yeah, I feel if they’ve gotten that far – however limiting the circumstances – they can get the hoverboard to hover one inch above anything. (Laughs) It’s a step in the right direction. Those kinds of inventions take a while to evolve.

This past October, producer Bob Gale told Yahoo Movies that he would never make another “Back to the Future” film. Are you glad Bob has not entertained that idea despite studios asking him to do it?

For me, the writing and concepts in “Back to the Future” were so strong and the movies were so thrilling. I don’t know if they would have a problem making another sequel to “Back to the Future,” but I feel like “Back to the Future III” really completed the story.

Have you kept up with Michael Keaton over the years after starring with him in “Mr. Mom” and “The Dream Team” in the 80s? He’s getting some major Oscar buzz this year for his role in “Birdman.” Have you seen the film? What did you think?

I hadn’t seen [Michael] for a while, but I went and saw “Birdman” and he was there, so it was really great to catch up with him. I think his performance in “Birdman” is extraordinary. I think the role is so original and passionate. I think he is wonderful in it. I think the movie was revolutionary because of the way it was shot in all those long takes that somehow included all these close ups. Michael brought this energy to a role that I think was probably difficult to pull off. I thought he was absolutely brilliant.

Top Ten Films of 2013

January 3, 2014 by  
Filed under CineBlog

KIKO MARTINEZ, EDITOR/FILM CRITIC

Before anybody asks, yes, I saw “Gravity” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Those films, along with the other 193 new movies I was able to check out over the last year, made for a busy and very interesting time at the theater. From the 1960s folk music scene in Lower Manhattan to an unusual romance between a lonely man and his computer (a new way to consider cybersex, perhaps?), here’s a look at my 10 best films (and a few honorable mentions) of 2013:

10. Nebraska
Minimal in its delivery but brimming with heart and bittersweet moments, director Alexander Payne’s film about a father and son’s road trip to claim a bogus million-dollar sweepstakes prize makes for a tender dynamic between well-written characters pulled straight out of the American Midwest.

9. Fruitvale Station
A stunning and sympathetically rich film that paints a compelling picture of a 22-year-old man who loses his life in 2009 after being shot by a public transportation officer. First-time filmmaker Ryan Coogler has created a three-dimensional character in Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) that is both flawed and easily relatable.

8. Wadjda
As Saudi Arabia’s first-ever submission for Academy Awards consideration (and the first to be directed by a Saudi woman, Haifaa Al Mansour), this groundbreaking film takes an insightful look into the country’s societal ideologies through the eyes of a little girl trying to raise enough money to buy a bicycle. There’s a sense of hope that resonates with a character as confident as Wadjda that can’t be ignored.

7. Captain Phillips
Director Paul Greengrass keeps the blood boiling at high levels in this true story of a merchant mariner who was kidnapped by Somali pirates in April 2009. With Greengrass at the helm and two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks on board steering the ship, it’s the year’s most well-crafted dramatic thriller on both a technical and emotional level.

6. Inside Llewyn Davis
If 1960s-era folk music isn’t playing in your iPod right now, leave it to filmmakers like Joel and Ethan Coen to make you fall in love with the genre in an instant. Set in 1961 Greenwich Village, everything comes together beautifully in this plotless dark comedy by way of its expressive soundtrack and a noteworthy lead performance by Oscar Isaac.

5. Frances Ha
A carefree character piece by filmmaker Noah Baumbach, actress Greta Gerwig drives the comedy into a place where very clever and high-spirited dialogue prevails. In an industry that has forgotten how to write full-fledged female characters, Baumbach’s B&W film might be an easy target for hipster detractors, but Gerwig is the type of actress who can charm the skinny jeans off anyone with her adorable smile and talent.

4. Philomena
Heartbreaking, sensitive and at times very funny, this British drama about a woman searching for her son who was taken away from her when she was a teenager takes us on an incredible, full-circle journey and does it without one ounce of melodrama or false sentiment. Oscar-winning actress Judi Dench is miraculous, giving the title character extraordinary depth and resonance.

3. 12 Years a Slave
From its significant subject matter to Steve McQueen’s fine direction to a script that pits man’s brutal nature against the persevering human spirit, this harrowing drama set in the Antebellum South has all the elements for a Best Picture win at the Oscars this year. Capturing the harsh realities of the era, the film is extremely powerful and should be considered essential viewing for everyone.

2. Her
Coming from the exceptional mind of writer-director Spike Jonze, this touching romantic dramedy set in the near future about a man (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his technologically advanced operating system (think Siri with a conscience) is the most unique script produced in the last five years. Remember it next time you choose a screen (computer, TV or otherwise) over real human interaction.

1. Short Term 12
If all films were as affecting and authentic as this indie masterpiece by director/writer Destin Cretton about a group of teens and caretakers at a short-term group home, the moviemaking industry would be a better place. Deeply moving and featuring extraordinary performances by both first-time and established actors, this feel-everything drama is one of those honest and intimate scripts that come out of nowhere to say something incredibly meaningful and memorable.

Honorable Mention: “The Act of Killing,” “After Tiller,” “Blue is the Warmest Color,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Enough Said,” “God Loves Uganda,” “The Hunt,” “Mud,” “Narco Cultura,” “The Past,” “Prisoners,” “Upstream Color”

JERROD KINGERY, FILM CRITIC

10. The World’s End/The Wolverine (tie)
These are two movies I loved until they faltered at the goal line—“The Wolverine” much more so than “The World’s End”—that also represent two different sides of my life at age 35. “The World’s End” openly mocks Simon Pegg’s Gary and his insistence on living in the past, treasuring things like old cassette tapes and crappy cars from high school instead of growing up and moving on with his life…some of which hit so close to home with this developmentally arrested packrat that it stung a little. On the other hand, “The Wolverine” featured the best big-screen version so far of Hugh Jackman’s near-immortal mutant badass, one that felt truer than ever to a character I’ve loved since my days in middle school and made me unashamed to want to dig back into the long boxes of comics I keep in my roomful of collectible toys.

9. Frozen
For whatever reason, I’ve re-embraced the Disney mystique in the last few years (a trip to Disneyland may have been the catalyst), fondly revisiting classics from my youth like “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin.” While it’s no secret Disney animation lost its way for a decade or so, “Frozen” is proof that the magic is back. The tried-and-true formula—big musical with princesses and wacky sidekicks—felt fresh for the first time in a generation. Parents, get ready to see the characters from “Frozen” every winter of your kids’ childhood from now on.

8. Gravity
Director Alfonso Cuaron is a technical genius who sometimes falls just short in the storytelling department. “Gravity” is the most amazing film you could have seen in 2013, and it’s a real shame that the bare-bones plot doesn’t live up to the truly stunning visuals. That’s not to say the film is a disappointment; it’s beautiful and absolutely worth seeing on the largest screen possible.

7. American Hustle
Director David O. Russell channels Martin Scorsese and brings “Silver Linings Playbook” stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence along to scheme with and against Christian Bale and Amy Adams. While Lawrence may be too young for her role and Cooper too pretty for his, the performances of all the leads will keep you invested in this twisty, true-ish story based on the FBI’s Abscam sting of the late-‘70s.

6. The Wolf of Wall Street
Martin Scorsese channels Martin Scorsese of “Goodfellas” and “Casino” for one of the most surprisingly funny, invigorating tales of a true American criminal asshole, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort. Scorsese and screenwriter Terence Winter cook up an epic tale of greed, sex, drugs, and corruption that leaves you feeling kind of dirty when you realize people are still getting away with crap like this.

5. Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coen brothers deliver another of their patented mostly-plotless comedies about a put-upon man struggling through a difficult world of his own making, only this time with a relentlessly catchy folk music soundtrack. I dare you to see this movie and not seek out on iTunes, at the very least, the cover of “Fare the Well (Dink’s Song)” that plays over the montage of Llewyn’s (Oscar Issac) travels across New York City with a wayward housecat.

4. Nebraska
This lo-fi, black and white father-son road trip tale from director Alexander Payne shows us the fate we all might face: confronting the fact that our parents are deteriorating and it may be up to us to make sure their lives wrap up in a dignified way, fending off their old rivals and your dirtbag cousins when they get a whiff that there might be money to divvy up.

3. 12 Years a Slave
A harrowing yet approachable tale of the unspeakable horrors a free black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) from the north faces when he’s kidnapped and sold into slavery in the south. Outstanding performances from Ejiofor and Michael Fassbender as the cruel slave owner anchor this drama other critics are calling essential—for good reason.

2. Her
Writer/director Spike Jonze could have easily made “Her” into an unsubtle indictment of the isolated way we live our lives today: noses buried in our smartphones, constantly communicating via Facebook and other social networks in lieu of real personal contact. Instead Jonze veers the other way, giving us a world wherein a lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) can fall in love with an artificially intelligent operating system and have it seen as the natural evolution of human relationships, not the laughable misadventures of a sad sack.

1. Short Term 12
A small, deeply affecting drama centered on the difficult plight of children placed in group homes and foster care, often for reasons that can shake your very faith in humanity. The film is profoundly personal to me, as my family was a foster family growing up and I have siblings that were once in the system. That said, “Short Term 12” is no lecture or pity party. The movie stands on its own merits, with performances and an uplifting script that show there’s a way out of hell for some of these kids, and that they can, one day, find family that transcends blood.

CODY VILLAFANA, FILM CRITIC

As I finish up the last of the 165 films I watched in 2013 and construct my top 10 list, I cannot help but feel like this was an exceptionally weak year. So weak in fact, that this is by far the toughest time I’ve ever had constructing a top 10 list. It wasn’t merely a problem that nothing this year was an unequivocal favorite, but so many of the films melded together in terms of quality and it was hard to make the order. If there were a theme to this years cinema, it would be the year of the overrated film. Nonetheless, there were some very good films this year and you’ll find the
list below. As always, (and moreso this year given the circumstances) this list is subject to tinkering.

Special Honorable Mention: Our Children
Even though this Belgian drama didn’t hit theaters in the US until August, it was a Best Foreign Language Oscar submission last year which disqualifies it from our 2013 top ten lists. It’s a shame because this powerful and harrowing film about a true story of a woman who murdered her five children would have came in somewhere around 4-7 on my list this year. Not only is it an incredible psychological character study, but it also features one of the most devastating and depressing endings I’ve seen in a movie in years. If you can stomach downer movies, be sure to check this one out.

10. Blackfish
As far as publicity goes, no documentary this year got more attention than “Blackfish,” the documentary about killer whale captivity in Sea World theme parks. Though it perhaps isn’t as thorough as it could be, “Blackfish” is a brilliantly packaged, informative and extremely damning look at the practices of Sea World and whale captivity in general. San Antonians, take note. It might not deter you from making your summer visits, but this still feels like required viewing for park goers. This film is currently available for streaming on Netflix instant.

9. What Maisie Knew
In the 9th spot is the little seen or heard of indie “What Maisie Knew.” Adapted from a 100+ year old novel, the film tells the story of a bitter separation and nasty custody battle through the eyes of a 6-year-old girl. While the ensemble cast is great, the film is carried by the performances and the chemistry between Alexander Skarsgard and newcomer Onata Aprile. As sweet as it is heartbreaking, the looks at parental arguments and separations as well as the constructions of extended families make “What Maisie Knew” one of the timelier films of 2013. This film is currently available for streaming on Netflix instant.

8. The Kings of Summer
As a fan of his 2010 short film “Successful Alcoholics,” I was really looking forward to seeing what director Jordan Vogt-Roberts would deliver in his first feature film. What he brought was a subversive, odd, unique and completely hilarious film that was easily the best comedy of 2013. The premise is simple. A few kids who become fed up with their lives at home decide to build a house in the woods to live in. What makes “The Kings of Summer” so great is its fantastic cast (Nick Robinson and Nick Offerman especially) and its immensely quotable script. Its sense of humor might be a little too idiosyncratic for some, but this sweet and funny film is one of 2013’s hidden gems. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts is a name to watch down the line and while all the talk regarding coming-of-age films this year might be about “The Spectacular Now” and “The Way, Way Back,” I’ll take “The Kings of Summer” any day.

7. Short Term 12
While this film didn’t impact me as much as my fellow CineSnobs, the talent present in all facets of “Short Term 12” is unquestionable. This film about life in a foster care center completes the trifecta of strong writing, direction and acting. While much is being made about the performance of Brie Larsen (who is very good), for me it was the performances of Kaitlyn Dever and especially John Gallagher Jr. that really hold the film together. There is a certain rawness to “Short Term 12,” both in its low budget and its approach to serious subjects. At the same time, there is an underlying level of love, affection, and connection that makes this film one to seek out.

6. The Crash Reel
For the second year in a row, I walked into a film I knew nothing about at SXSW that has ended up on my top 10. This time around, “The Crash Reel,” a documentary about professional snowboarder Kevin Pearce who had a devastating crash while training for the Olympics and his subsequent traumatic brain injury, absolutely floored me. The amount of different narrative sections of this film is staggering. There’s the rivalry between Pearce and fellow snowboarder Shaun White, there’s the heartbreak of his crash and his road to recovery, there’s the dynamics of a family trying so hard to protect someone they love, and in one of the films better storylines, there is a parallel with Kevin’s injury and his charismatic brother David, who has Down syndrome. This film packs a serious emotional punch and I can safely say that no film in 2013 made me *feel* more than “The Crash Reel.” It made the shortlist of potential Best Documentary Feature Oscar nominees. Though unlikely, I can’t help but hope that the Academy recognizes the best documentary of the year with a nomination. This film is currently available for viewing on HBO On Demand and streaming on HBOGo.

5. Nebraska
Following up my personal favorite film of his in 2011’s “The Descendants,” director Alexander Payne returned this year with a slight, simple but solid and funny film. “Nebrska” is about a man who while clearly being scammed, is convinced that he has won a millionaire dollar prize sweepstakes. As his son who humors him and drives him across state lines to “claim his prize,” Macgruber himself Will Forte is a piece of inspired casting and more than holds his own against Oscar hopeful Bruce Dern, who is very good in his role. I was struck with just how funny “Nebraska” was, and much of that can be accredited to actress June Squibb who completely steals every scene she is in. Shot in black and white (a fine choice, in my opinion) and featuring many non-actors, Payne captures the spirit of the Midwest and delivers a film of well-executed simplicity.

4. Inside Llewyn Davis
With “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the consistent directing duo of the Coen Brothers brought us a glimpse of the 1960’s Greenwich Village folk music scene. Light on plot but heavy on character study, Llewyn Davis (loosely based on folk musician Dave Van Ronk) is a prototypical Coen Brothers character with sarcasm, cynicism and the feeling that everything is coming down on him. Carrying the lead role, actor Oscar Isaac is nothing short of a revelation. Not only is his acting performance pitch perfect and one of the finest of the year, but his talent as a musician is simply astonishing. Performing all of the music live (mostly old folk songs), Isaac’s voice and guitar skills are on the level of someone from that era and that of a professional, seasoned musician. The Coens make use of long form performances of full songs and in my opinion, “Inside Llewyn Davis” features the best usage of music in a film since 2007’s “Once.” The opening scene in which he performs “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” is my pick for the best scene of the year. The film features an odd 15 minute passage featuring John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund that feels completely out of place and briefly derails the film. However, the film regains its momentum and finishes as one of the finest of the year. Good luck trying to get the soundtrack out of your head.

3. Mud
Somehow, in the span of two years, Matthew McConaughey became one of the best actors working today. In one of his three great roles this year, McConaughey is fantastic as the title character in “Mud,” a film about two boys who help aid a man who is on the run from the police. One of the things that I like most about “Mud,” other than the deft writing and direction from Jeff Nichols is the Southern feel to it. Everything from the lifestyles of the characters to the accents helps immerse the audience in the world on a river in Arkansas. McConaughey is obviously the best member of the cast, but recognition should be given to teen actor Tye Sheridan who stands toe to toe with McConaughey in every scene they share. It’s a shame that this film came out earlier in the year, because I believe it is being lost in the awards shuffle.

2. Philomena
Based on the true story of a woman who had her child sold to adoption by nuns, told no one and attempted to reconnect with him 50 years later, British film “Philomena” was one of the years most pleasant surprises. The film is anchored by Judi Dench, who is brilliant in the role and gives my favorite female acting performance of the year. Perhaps most surprising is that Steve Coogan, who is known primarily for his work in comedy, is right with Dench every step in the way, providing for a certain “odd couple” that carries the film. Coogan’s comedic sensibilities obviously came in to play in writing the films script, which is filled with witty humor and one of the better screenplays of the year. Funny, sad, and sweet, “Philomena” is well made, strongly performed and one of the best films of the year.

1. Dallas Buyers Club
What a year for Matthew McConaughey. Along with the previously mentioned “Mud” and his scene stealing performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” McConaughey saved his best work for “Dallas Buyers Club.” Losing a tremendous amount of weight to play a man with AIDS, McConaughey disappears into his role as a homophobic cowboy who is coming to terms with his illness and impending death. Unflinching in its nature towards people’s bigotry, discomfort and perception of AIDS, (especially in the South) makes “Dallas Buyers Club” a powerful experience. McConaughey’s career best and award worthy performance, his characters journey, and the storytelling of the prominence, fear, and confusion surrounding AIDS in the 1980’s make “Dallas Buyers Club” feel like the most complete package and the best film of 2013.

CINESNOB.NET FILM CRITICS’ COMPOSITE LIST:

10. The Wolf of Wall Street & The Crash Reel (tie)
9. Frances Ha
8. Mud
7. Dallas Buyers Club
6. Nebraska
5. Philomena
4. 12 Years a Slave
3. Her
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
1. Short Term 12

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.

Armie Hammer – The Lone Ranger

July 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Interviews

Standing on a rickety platform at the edge of a mountain in Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park, actor and San Antonio business owner Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”) could see straight down into the canyon 2,000 feet below. The shot for the action/adventure film “The Lone Ranger,” in which Hammer plays the title role, was captured from a helicopter that whizzed by the 26-year-old star with such force, it would’ve blown him off if it hadn’t been for the harness strapped to him. Hammer’s wife Elizabeth Chambers, who opened Bird Bakery in Alamo Heights 15 months ago with her husband, stood on the set watching the perilous feat transpire.

“I think she was concerned,” Hammer, 26, told me during a phone interview earlier in June to talk about “The Lone Ranger,” which hit theaters July 3. “But we had a really good crew standing around telling her, ‘Don’t worry! Nothing’s gonna happen to him!’”

The rising movie star, fledgling stuntman, pastry aficionado, and all-around nice guy talks with me about Texas and Tonto.

I just took a trip to Bird Bakery this weekend and was a little disappointed there weren’t any “Lone Ranger”-themed cupcakes. What gives?

(Laughs) We have to wait until the movie comes out! “Lone Ranger” cupcakes coming soon. We have to pace ourselves.

You and Elizabeth seem to really be making things work here in San Antonio with the new business. Do you feel like the community has embraced you?

Oh, absolutely. We couldn’t appreciate the entire city of San Antonio more. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming. We really couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Now be honest, how much of taking on the role of the Lone Ranger, who is an ex-Texas Ranger, was due to the fact that you’re back to being a Texan and wanted more street cred?

(Laughs) Definitely all of it. I had lived in Texas before [Dallas]. I was very familiar with the lore of the Texas Rangers, so when I got the role I was like, “This is great!” The first thing I did was call my father-in-law in San Antonio, who knows everything about Texas history, and was like, “Bill, tell me everything!” He gave me a full rundown.

In “The Lone Ranger,” you’re taking on a pretty iconic character that has been around since the 1930s. Did you consider his long history when you joined the film?

Most definitely. I really had to pay attention to the long history because that is what made this project what it is. There are generations of people who hear the William Tell Overture and go right back to their childhood, whether it was sitting in front of a television or radio. We really wanted to pay attention to all that history so we could bring authenticity into this new adaptation.

We’re in a cinematic era where superhero movies are a rampant part of the industry. Do you hope people will consider the Lone Ranger a breath of fresh air since he’s a hero that doesn’t rely on superpowers?

You nailed it. He’s not a superhero. A superhero doesn’t have to eat. A superhero doesn’t get tired or weak. A hero knows he might get hurt, but he does it anyway.

In the past, Native American groups have considered Tonto politically incorrect. Did you worry about that or the fact Johnny Depp is a non-Native American playing the role?

I didn’t really think about it. When we were making the movie, it was just a bunch of actors — white guys, native guys — having a great time. As far as Johnny goes, he is 100 percent Comanche now. He’s been adopted by the tribe. He also has Cherokee blood in him. I don’t think they made a bad choice.

How much of reviving this character includes introducing him to a new generation?

We’d love to introduce him to a new generation. There are so many people who grew up with “The Lone Ranger,” but their kids might not know about it. If they tried to show their kids the originals today, they would probably be bored. We wanted to come up with a way to tell this great story and have it appeal to them.

Lou Diamond Phillips – Sanitarium (in prod)

September 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In San Antonio last week to shoot his segment for the thriller “Sanitarium,” actor Lou Diamond Phillips (“La Bamba,” “Stand and Deliver”) took some time to sit down with me and talk about the new film anthology. Directed and written by local filmmakers Kerry Valderrama (“Garrison”), Bryan Ramirez (“Mission Park”), and Bryan Ortiz (“Doctor S”), Sanitarium follows three separate stories in the same vein as “Twilight Zone: The Movie.” For his part, which is called “Up to the Last Man” and directed by Valderrama, Phillips plays a Mayan professor who has found the secrets of the Mayan calendar and believes the end of the world will come with an alien invasion and the abduction of his family.

Nice to meet you, Lou. So, you’re in San Antonio just for the week?

Yeah, since it’s a trilogy – an anthology – like “Creepshow,” we all have separate stories. Mine is literally taking me five days to shoot.

People are describing these stories as “Twilight Zone”-esque?

Absolutely.

And you were in a “Twilight Zone” episode when the series was rebooted in the 80s.

I was not only in a “Twilight Zone” episode, I directed one. I was in an “Outer Limits” episode and directed one, too.

And “Tales from the Crypt.” It’s obvious you love this genre.

Yeah, I love this kind of storytelling. It’s classic. It goes back to the original “Twilight Zone.” That’s one of the first things that caught my eye. I also loved that I would be shooting in San Antonio. I grew up in Corpus Christi. Just knowing that these were three San Antonio-based writers/directors who are trying to create a film industry here and that it was a homegrown production, I was very happy to support and be a part of that. This is where my roots are.

You’ve worked with amazing directors like Edward Zwick, Errol Morris, and Steven Soderbergh. Is it important for you to support projects from up and coming directors like Kerry Valderrama, Bryan Ramirez, and Bryan Ortiz?

It’s job security. (Laughs) I’m doing this one now. Hire me again when you get a lot more money. (Laughs) I love new, young filmmakers. And I love independent films. Some of my biggest successes were independent films. “Stand and Deliver” was an independent film made for less that $1 million. I just did “Filly Brown” with my old buddy Edward James Olmos. It got into Sundance. Gina Rodriguez and I won the Best Actor and Actress awards at the Imagens. I still have this passion for guerilla filmmaking – for getting down and dirty and forgetting about all the trappings of Hollywood. You kind of always roll the dice when you’re dealing with a new, young filmmaker. You’re hoping they have a vision and a plan, especially when they don’t have money. It’s been incredible working with Kerry. He’s as good as a lot of the directors I’ve worked with. What he lacks in toys and tools, he makes up for with imagination and a real vision. I feel very much like I’m catching this guy on the way up.

What are you hoping to get out of this specific character you are playing? What do you want audiences to know about him as they watch him on screen?

Well, first of all the script Kerry wrote is fantastic. It really engages the audience, pulls them in, and really keeps them guessing. The set up is really intriguing. I really want people to be able to relate to him. I think there is a great amount of poignancy and pathos in the story. This is an average guy. He’s not an action hero. He’s not bigger than life. He’s just a hyper-intelligent man whose brain may have gotten the best of him. There are some twists and Kerry is going to play with people’s minds a little bit. I really hope this is one of those stories that is not only entertaining and fun to watch, but one that people will be moved by a little bit. There is some real sadness to the character.

What do you think about conspiracy theories yourself? There have been quite a few in your lifetime.

I think anybody who has ever tried to keep a secret with more than two people know how hard it is to do. (Laughs) Mind you, we don’t know everything that goes on behind closed doors and in the hallowed halls of power. A lot of these conspiracies, sadly, deal with money and power. It’s not hard to imagine people pulling strings and orchestrating events to happen because it’s going to benefit them in the long run.

Have there been conspiracy theories you think might have any truth behind them?

For the longest time, the whole JFK thing, most definitely. Were there dark forces behind the scenes that needed to get him out of the way? When you look at a conspiracy like that – whether it was the Cubans or the mob or is it tied to Marilyn [Monroe] – it’s plausible. There was a spider web of deceit going on somewhere in there.

You’ve been quoted in the past as saying, “The only power an actor has is the ability to say, ‘No.’” Can you explain that idea a bit more?

(Laughs) It’s funny because I said that early in my career and since then have realized the world is a little greyer than that. Yes, once you choose to go down a certain path, you’re in the hands of the machine. The machine consists of the studio, the producers, the distributor. That’s before the critics and the public gets a hold of it and anyone else who can judge your work. After that, you are really out there to be discussed and dissected. The only moment of power you have is to say whether or not you’re going to do something. It used to be I felt a great responsibility when a film wouldn’t come out as good as I hoped it would. But now I realize I’m only responsible for my role and what I bring to the set by coming in with a good attitude and a professional work ethic and enjoying the experience and making sure everyone I work with knows I appreciate and value them. I would extrapolate what I said 20 years ago. I think the power is in what you can achieve personally.

If someone asked you which of your movies they should go back and watch that you feel didn’t get enough attention when it first came out, which one would you point them to?

There’s a bunch of them. “The Dark Wind” I thought was under-seen. It was a lovely little film, but it was done by Carolco [Pictures], which was going bankrupt at the time and decided to put all their money into “Cliffhanger” with Sylvester Stallone because it was an action film. So, this really good little mystery, which was a Jim Chee story, got overlooked. They brushed it aside. I did another movie called “Shadow of the Wolf,” which was a huge hit in Canada and overseas, but in this country the distributor just didn’t know what to do with it. They kept thinking it was “Dances with Wolves,” but it wasn’t. The protagonist wasn’t the white guy this time. It was by a French director (Jacques Dorfmann), so it had more European sensibilities. It’s a beautiful film. Toshiro Mifune (“Seven Samurai”) played my father. It has this amazing scope and heart to it. I was sad it didn’t get the support it should have.

“La Bamba” is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Where do feel that film fits in the music biopic genre? Do you think it laid the groundwork for others that came after it like “Ray” and “Walk the Line?”

Not to pat myself on the back, but “La Bamba” is still relevant. It holds up. It’s not trendy or of an era like other 80s films. “La Bamba” is timeless. The Chicago Columbia School of Film is throwing a retrospective, a 25 year anniversary in October. I’ll be there with Esai Morales and Elizabeth Peña. They’re going to screen it. We’re going to do some panels. “Ray” was directed by Taylor Hackford, who was an executive producer on “La Bamba.” I think with his success on La Bamba, it truly affected how he told the story of Ray [Charles]. I say “La Bamba” is one of the five best biopics of all time. It’s a classic and new generations are discovering it all the time.

What are your plans for Dec. 21 (date the Mayan calendar ends)? Are you going to be in a bunker like your character in “Sanitarium?”

(Laughs) On Dec. 21 I’ll probably be hanging lights and figuring out what Christmas dinner is going to be. I don’t have plans to get massively drunk and spend all my money on Dec. 20.

Congrats to all the ‘Harry Potter’ winners!

July 7, 2009 by  
Filed under CineBlog

Thanks to everyone who participated in the “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” ticket giveaway. I didn’t realize how many people in San Antonio want to be invisible or have a flying broomstick! Well, winners have already been notified. If you didn’t win this time around, participate in the next contest! Here is a list of those who won:

  1. Annabelle Murray
  2. Nelda Garcia
  3. AJ Palacios
  4. James Martinez
  5. Jake Palczewski
  6. Katy Alexander
  7. Deborah Cantu
  8. Melanie Starbuck
  9. Ronny
  10. Daniel Gonzalez
  11. Mia Lopez
  12. Jesse Ochoa
  13. Courtney
  14. Marilyn Litt
  15. Elisa Luna
  16. Brianna Brown
  17. Eric Lopez
  18. Hilary DeBow
  19. Felicia Canto
  20. Roberto Perez

And below is my favorite answer. Remember that creativity counts a lot and if you make me laugh you get bonus points!

Favorite answer (by Jesse Ochoa):
“Perhaps the magical possession I would like to have is Harry Potter’s owl. I love animals, and Potter’s owl is extremely adorable; especialy compared to Ron’s pet (weasel? rat?) Not only would I have the opportunity to take care of such a pet, I have never seen that owl eat a thing. I mean, a pet that doesn’t eat…much less poop…is like a tamagotchi pet with fur. In addition, since Potter’s owl also sends mail for him across distant lands by handling Potter’s mail and flying, it could very well be the demise of text messaging and email as we know it. So on top of having a beautiful white owl that doesn’t eat, whine about wanting a cracker, and provides free unlimited messaging anywhere in the world; there is nothing more magical.”

Other favorites:
“I would like to be able to transform into different animals and items. It would be cool to turn into a peguin so I could just chill in the Sea World enclosure, because its just too hot right now.”

“My most desired magical possession would be a wand – which gives you near unlimited magical power. Mine would be stained purple and I would use it to get the kids to finally clean their room, or the laundry to fold itself and be placed in the proper drawers or closets. It would definitely be with me at work – so I could turn a complaining client into a donkey or a quacking duck! When I return home a flick of the wand would run me a nice, hot bubble bath to relax in and when I’m finished a delicious dinner would (magically) appear on the dinner table! And, if I’m lucky enough – my wand will bring me a ticket for two to the pre-screening of ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.'”

“First gotta have the NIMBUS 2000 to travel to work, avoid traffic, no gas worries, and its green friendly! Second, the MARAUDERS MAP so i’ll see my boss coming and stop surfing the web and get to work. Third, the INVISIBLE CLOAK so i can ease drop on good gossip at work. Fourth would be to use POLYJUICE POTION and change to the CEO of my company and tell my boss to promote me asap. Lastly i would have a huge stock pile of WEASLEY FIREWORKS cause they would rock for 4th of July and New Years!”

Again, congrats to those who won and come back for more contests. Also, read my latest film reviews and celebrity interviews and watch me on Flicker Footnotes at WOAI.com every Friday !

If you are on Facebook or Twitter visit www.facebook.com/cinesnob and www.twitter.com/cinesnob

Next Page »