5 Questions with Anna Kendrick of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”

It’s likely you were first captivated by her Oscar-nominated performance in 2009′s “Up in the Air,” but that doesn’t mean the widely acclaimed comedy was Anna Kendrick’s first go-round in the world of big time performance. Ms. Kendrick, who is also a very fine singer, had been one of the youngest Tony nominees of all time when she was recognized for her work in a Broadway revival of “High Society” at age 12. Her first major film role was nevertheless four years away with another award-nominated musical appearance in the indie fave, “Camp.”

A few more years of hard work would land the young actress a leading role in the mostly well-regarded coming of age comedy “Rocket Science” and a recurring part in the pop culture behemoth we call “The Twilight Saga.” Still, it was only when Anna Kendrick wound up stealing scenes from George Clooney and Vera Farmiga that she became one of Hollywood’s hotter faces to look out for. She also earned the attention of geeks around the world with her role as Michael Cera‘s acerbic yet gorgeous younger sister in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”; her reported romance with director and uber-film nerd Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead“) probably did no harm to her already impressive and growing dweeb appeal. The 20-something actress’s most recent non-”Twilight” major film appearance was as a romantically conflicted therapist in the cancer comedy, “50/50.”

Purportedly inspired by the self-help bestseller of the same name, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” features Kendrick as a food truck proprietor whose fling with a high school flame (Chace Crawford) results in a surprise pregnancy. She was busily promoting the film when we caught up with Ms. Kendrick at the Los Angeles Four Seasons one Cinco de Mayo afternoon. There, she proved herself to be up to the 5 questions challenge, giving succinct answers to our slightly longish questions.

1. You play a professional chef in the movie. Do you cook in real life, and what was the most important thing you learned about food preparation while making the film?

I cannot cook. I bake a bit, but I cannot cook to save my life. We had to take lessons for this. [The most crucial thing I learned in them was] that you have to hold your hand like a claw and not lay it flat, so you don’t cut off your fingernails — like I did.

2. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is part of the ever-growing subgenre of interlocking story movies that includes everything from Robert Altman’s “Nashville” to Garry Marshall’s “Valentine’s Day.” What’s your favorite multi-story movie?

Now that you mention “Nashville,” I actually do love that movie. But as far as the modern version of that genre, I actually really love “Love Actually” — but “Nashville” is really great and I loved [Paul Thomas Anderson's] “Magnolia.” That was one of those movies that, when I was a teenager, [I thought to myself], “Movies can be like this? This is great!”

3. You’re probably best known to the public for your really outstanding performance in “Up in the Air.” I was just watching the scene where you kind of break down, and you’re very funny. I was wondering what you think is the secret to comic crying, as opposed to sad crying? I’ll dedicate this question to Mary Tyler Moore.

I like to talk through the funny cry. That makes it sort of easier, but I’m a pretty ugly crier, so that makes it kind of easy also.

4. Let’s talk about your singing roles. What was it like being a 12-year-old Tony nominee? And what about being 16-years-old and making your first movie, “Camp” and blowing everyone away with your version of Stephen Sondheim’s “The Ladies Who Lunch”?

It was obviously incredibly exciting, but I think it’s probably good I didn’t fully understand what a big deal the Tonys were at that age. I think my little 12-year-old brain would have exploded. It was just exciting. I was just happy to be invited to a party really.

["Camp"] was such a magical thing to make. It was everyone’s first film. Now, everyone says, “Making a film feels like summer camp,” but [during] that film we were living at that summer camp. We had no contact with the outside world. There were no cell phones, no computers, no TVs. So, it was just us and the film crew living in this place. It was a very intense and fun [thing] to do with a bunch of teenage non-actors.

5. There’s a clip online of you promoting “50/50″ with your co-stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen and discussing how women tend get asked different questions from the press than men do. You get asked about health and beauty stuff, your workouts, etc. What is the most embarrassing or just plain stupid question you’ve gotten and how did you answer it?

In relation to ["What to Expect When You're Expecting"], somebody asked me if I would be prepared for a one-night stand. I was like, “I don’t even know how to get out of this question in a joking way. That is so wrong and weird.”

  

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Blu Tuesday: Robot Rocky, Cancer Humor and Sex Slaves

Blu-ray enthusiasts have plenty to be excited about this week with MGM’s reissues of Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” and a trio of films from Alfred Hitchcock (“Rebecca,” “Notorious” and “Spellbound”). None of these titles arrived in time for review, however, so maybe I’ll do another short column later in the week after I get a chance to check them out. Thankfully, there are several other titles worth discussing, including Shawn Levy’s best movie to date and a comedy about cancer. No, seriously.

“Real Steel”

I didn’t have very high expectations for Shawn Levy’s robot boxing drama when the project was first announced, but after being invited to visit the Detroit set back in August 2010, it became a lot clearer that “Real Steel” was going to be more than just “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: The Movie.” That’s not to say that the robot-on-robot action isn’t great, because it’s more fun than your average Transformers melee, but it’s nice to see a movie that doesn’t lose sight of its human characters amidst all the shiny, CGI-fueled action. The father-son relationship between Hugh Jackman’s down-on-his-luck fight promoter and Dakota Goyo’s spritely kid doesn’t just drive the story – it gives the movie its heart, with the actors striking up an excellent onscreen chemistry reminiscent of films like “Paper Moon” and “The Champ.” Granted, it’s just as predictable as every other underdog sports drama ever made, but it doesn’t make “Real Steel” any less the entertaining crowd-pleaser that it aims to be.

Blu-ray Highlight: Although the Second Screen feature offers a lot of great behind-the-scenes info, the last thing I want to do while watching a movie is have an iPad or laptop sitting around to distract me. Instead, I was more impressed by the “Making of Metal Valley” featurette, which offers an in-depth look at the various departments involved in filming the junkyard sequence, including production design, visual effects and stunts.

“50/50″

Jonathan Levine’s “50/50” is everything that Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” aspired and ultimately failed to be – a well-balanced dramedy about the Big C that has you laughing one minute and holding back your tears the next. Though I don’t think that the film is quite as amazing as some would lead you to believe (then again, I also thought that “Bridesmaids” was vastly overrated), it’s a really good movie anchored by some excellent performances. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has hardly put a wrong step forward over the last five years (save for perhaps “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”), and he’s at the top of his game here with an incredibly realistic portrayal of a young man stricken with cancer. Seth Rogen is a lot more tolerable than usual as Gordon-Levitt’s best friend and Anna Kendrick lights up the screen as his grief counselor/love interest, but the real plaudits go to screenwriter Will Reiser, who managed to turn his own bout with cancer into a movie that actually feels sincere.

Blu-ray Highlight: I never received a review copy and therefore couldn’t sample any of the bonus material, but fellow BE critic David Medsker singled out the disc’s audio commentary by Seth Rogen and Will Reiser in his review, claiming that “when you give Rogen and his best friend microphones and press ‘record,’ funny stuff will follow.”

“The Whistleblower”

Sex, torture and violence in Eastern Europe is usually a recipe reserved for the horror genre, but that isn’t the case with “The Whistleblower,” a political thriller that will make you sick to your stomach – not from any graphic visuals, but because it shows humanity at its most vile. Though Larysa Kondracki’s directorial debut is a relatively by-the-numbers message movie, the subject matter – based on the true story of Kathy Bolkovac, a former cop who uncovered a sex trafficking ring in post-war Bosnia involving UN peacekeepers and local police – will make your blood boil. What separates the film from the various made-for-TV and direct-to-DVD movies that cover similar ground is its talented cast, particularly Rachel Weisz as the resolute Bolkovac. Vanessa Redgrave and David Strathairn also pop up in small supporting roles, but it’s Weisz who makes this otherwise vanilla thriller worth watching with another of the kind of solid yet unflashy performances that she’s built a career around.

Blu-ray Highlight: There’s only one special feature on the disc – “Kathy Bolkovac: The Real Whistleblower” – and it’s not exactly what you’d call a highlight. While several of the film’s cast and crew (as well as the real-life Bolkovac) sit down to discuss the movie, they’re unable to go into a whole lot of detail in the paltry five minutes provided.

  

Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to September

September is typically a pretty laidback month for movies. After being bombarded with big budget tentpole films over the summer, it’s the calm before the storm that is awards season. But this year, Hollywood is kicking off the fall movie season in style with big names like Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt all starring in films that could make an appearance at the Oscars next year. Throw in a couple of cool genre flicks and you’re looking at one of the most promising Septembers in recent memory.

“A GOOD OLD FASHIONED ORGY”

Who: Jason Sudeikis, Leslie Bibb, Tyler Labine, Lake Bell and Nick Kroll
What: A group of 30-year-olds who have been friends since high school attempt to throw an end-of-summer orgy.
When: September 2nd (limited)
Why: Though I’m still not convinced that Jason Sudeikis is the star that Hollywood seems to think he is, this raunchy sex comedy could finally be the film that changes my mind. It doesn’t hurt that he’s surrounded by such a funny ensemble cast, including actors like Tyler Labine and Lake Bell, who are always good for a laugh The real test, however, will be whether the film has the balls to go all the way or if it will chicken out at the last minute, because you shouldn’t joke around about an orgy unless you mean it.

“CONTAGION”

Who: Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Laurence Fishburne
What: An action-thriller centered on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors contracted by the CDC to deal with the outbreak.
When: September 9th
Why: When Steven Soderbergh puts together a cast this good, it’s hard not to stand up and take notice. But even with four Oscar winners, three nominees, and a three-time Emmy winner at his disposal, the real star of “Contagion” may end up being the story itself, which has the potential to scare the living shit out of audiences in ways that most horror films could only dream of. How Soderbergh manages to tap into our inherent fear of disease will be key to its success, but if the movie is anywhere near as good as 1995’s “Outbreak” (which also had an amazing cast), we’re in for a pleasant surprise.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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