Blu Tuesday: Old School Marty, The Real Lord of the Dance and More

I’ve mentioned on several occasions how great the selection of Blu-rays has been this summer, and it’s not just the quality of the films that matters, but the variety as well. This week’s lineup of new releases is a perfect example, with something for just about everyone. Though I wish that a review copy of “Lockout” had arrived in time to include in my column, there’s still quite a bit here to keep you entertained for most of the week.

“Mean Streets”

“Mean Streets” is one of those movies that’s lingered on my must-see list for years but I never found the time to watch, so this Blu-ray release was the perfect opportunity to remedy the situation. But whether it was just a case of my expectations being too high or something else altogether, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. Although there’s some great stuff in the movie that Martin Scorsese went on to utilize to even better effect in future projects, the sum of those parts feels too raw and unpolished. Robert De Niro delivers a stellar supporting performance in the first of his many collaborations with Scorsese, but the rest of the acting isn’t quite up to par. The story is also pretty lacking for a movie that runs nearly two hours in length, and it wastes so much time on petty confrontations that by the time the big finale finally arrives, my interest had waned considerably. I may be in the minority when it comes to the gritty crime drama, but when you’ve already seen all the other Scorsese/De Niro team-ups, it’s understandable why this might pale in comparison.

Blu-ray Highlight: Any audio commentary with Martin Scorsese should be considered mandatory listening material, and the one included here featuring the director with co-writer/frequent collaborator Mardik Martin and actress Amy Robinson is no exception.

“Singin’ in the Rain”

For a movie that’s considered by many to be the best musical of all time, it’s surprising that Warner Bros. took so long to release it on Blu-ray, although you could say the same for a lot of their classic titles. In celebration of its 60th anniversary (hardly an important milestone, but one that sounds impressive nonetheless), the studio has spared no expense for the film’s Blu-ray debut, which boasts a new 4k high definition video transfer that looks amazing. Though it’s a little strange to watch the movie after having seen “The Artist” (which, let’s be honest, was obviously heavily influenced by “Singin’ in the Rain”), it’s still a really enjoyable flick. The story is admittedly a bit cheesy, but almost every song-and-dance number is memorable, and the main three actors are perfectly cast in their roles. In fact, although the film may be a Gene Kelly vehicle, it’s his two co-stars that steal the show. Donald O’Connor manages to keep up with the fleet-footed Kelly every step of the way (and makes you laugh while doing so), while Debbie Reynolds is so charming that you’d be crazy not to fall madly in love with her the minute she appears onscreen.

Blu-ray Highlight: The Ultimate Collector’s Edition box set comes packed with some pretty cool goodies (including a 42-page hardcover book and your very own umbrella), but the all-new documentary “Raining on a New Generation” is the best of the limited bonus material. Featuring interviews with the likes of Paula Abdul, Matthew Morrison and Harry Shum Jr. of “Glee,” and the directors and choreographers of recent movie and TV musicals, the featurette is an interesting retrospective on the film that covers the choreography, ensemble cast and the effect that it still has on Hollywood today.

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Sunday Reading: Father’s Day, Tyrion Lannister and Génesis Rodríguez

Hopefully you’ve realized that this is Father’s Day and you’ve already picked up some cool gifts. If not, check out our guide for some last minute gift ideas, and you can always go with booze, though in some areas you can’t buy it on Sundays.

Looking back on the week, season two of “Game of Thrones” came to an end, and Nate Kreichman took at look back at the highlights of another excellent season. Tyrion Lannister (played by Emmy Award winning actor Peter Dinklage) is probably our favorite character on TV these days, as his approach to life in many ways mirrors that of our staff.

You might remember the lovely Génesis Rodríguez from her season 7 appearances on Entourage, and Bob Westal caught up with her in connection with her role opposite budding Latin American leading man Will Ferrell (pronounced “Wheel Fer-all”) in the over-the-top Spanish language Mexploitation/telenovela spoof, “Casa de mi Padre.” Check out our 5 questions interview with Génesis.

You can also check out our review of the Entourage Season 8 DVD. It wasn’t the best season for that show, so you might want to check out Season 8 of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” instead.

It’s hard to believe that “Dallas” has been revived with Bobby and J.R. Ewing coming back with a new crop of young soap-opera styled actors and actresses. This naturally inspired Will Harris to take a look back at some other famous and not-so-famous TV revivals.

Joe Gustafson has a great piece on the Triumph Bonneville and how it brings 60s cool to the new millennium. You can find stories on more bikes on our new motorcycle channel.

For our car review last week we had the BMW 335i Sedan, which naturally put a smile on our reviewers face. Also, publisher Gerardo Orlando flew out to Salt Lake City this past week to drive the 2013 Mustang Boss on a race track, so check back next week for that story.

Meanwhile, in theaters, “Rock of Ages” is a dud according to David Medsker.

  

SXSW Film Fest 2012: Day Five

This is my third year down in Austin for the South by Southwest film festival, and I think that I’ve finally figured out the science to covering the event all on my lonesome. Instead of past years, where I’ve done a mix of both full-length and shorter movie reviews, this time around, I’m going to be doing daily blogs with even shorter, capsule-style reviews of the films that I saw the previous day. I’m hoping this will make me more productive than usual, but as my schedule is constantly in flux, please bear with me. And if you can’t wait for my daily posts, be sure to follow me on Twitter @JasonZingale for more.

“Casa de mi Padre”

Will Ferrell’s Spanish-language comedy “Casa de mi Padre” is exactly what you’d expect from the “Saturday Night Live” alum; although it’s good for a few laughs, the one-joke concept results in more misses than hits. Ferrell plays Armando Alvarez, the eldest son of a Mexican rancher in danger of losing his land. When Armando’s brother Raul (Diego Luna) returns home with his new fiancée (Genesis Rodriguez) pledging to save the ranch, he inadvertently thrusts the family into a war with a local drug lord (Gael Garcia Bernal). Essentially a telenovela done in the style of a grindhouse film, “Casa de mi Padre” is amusing at times, but it never amounts to more than a few chuckles. This is one very odd movie – even more than the typical Will Ferrell comedy – complete with musical numbers (“You No Se” is not only funny, but catchy as well), painted set backgrounds and talking animal puppets. Ferrell handles the challenge of acting entirely in Spanish remarkably well, but it’s a gimmick that loses its charm pretty fast. Fans of the actor will enjoy his latest in a series of bizarre career moves, but for everyone else, the film’s quirkiness only goes so far.

“Sleepwalk with Me”

Most stand-up comics probably only dream about making a movie as funny and honest as Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk with Me,” let alone one that marks their directorial debut. Based on his one-man show (which was in turn inspired by actual events from his life), Birbiglia stars as a fictional version of himself, an aspiring comedian who hasn’t had a whole lot of luck in life apart from his amazing girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose). When their eight-year relationship hits a standstill after Mike expresses his objection to marriage, he hits the road to improve his act, all the while growing farther apart from Abby and dealing with a dangerous sleep behavior disorder. Reminiscent of Woody Allen’s films in a lot of ways, “Sleepwalk with Me” is a witty and consistently funny human comedy about the fear of commitment. Much like his character’s stand-up in the film, the story is entertaining because it’s so personal, and he makes it even more so by narrating the movie with brief snippets of POV segments littered throughout. It’ll be interesting to see how the general public receives “Sleepwalk with Me” when it’s finally released in theaters, because the movie is so good that if you weren’t a fan of Mike Birbiglia beforehand, you will be afterwards.

“Intruders”

There wasn’t a lot of horror on tap at SXSW this year, which is probably why Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s “Intruders” feels like such a big letdown. More than anything else, it’s just not very scary, with Clive Owen starring as the father of a young girl who believes she’s being stalked by a faceless bogeyman named Hollowface. Though he writes it off as a nightmare at first, he soon becomes a believer after witnessing the menacing figure try to abduct his daughter. Meanwhile, in Spain, a young boy is having the same terrifying visions, prompting his mother to seek help from the local priest. While the first act does a pretty good job of setting up the two stories and building tension, however, it never really goes anywhere. Instead, the audience is forced to sit through a number of supposedly frightening situations without so much as a scare, and it quickly becomes repetitive to the point that you lose interest. But where “Intruders” really drops the ball is in the final ten minutes, dragged down by a flimsy twist ending that is not only predictable, but requires Fresanadillo’s to cheat a little to get there. I admire the attempt at creating something original, but when a horror film can’t even play by the rules, there’s no point in watching.

  

5 Questions with Génesis Rodríguez of “Casa de mi Padre”

Be sure to check out our interview with the “Casa de mi Padre” cast and crew, including Will Farrell, Diego Luna, Génesis Rodríguez, Nick Offerman, and writer Andrew Steele!

If you’re a regular viewer of Telemundo telenovelas such as “Prisionera,” “Dame Chocolate” and “Doña Bárbara,” it’s a bit odd you’re reading an online men’s magazine. If you have watched them, however, odds are you are already a fan of the beautiful young woman whose full name is Génesis Rodríguez Pérez. A second generation Latin American TV star — her father is Venezuelan legend José Luis Rodríguez, aka “el Puma” — Ms. Rodríguez (“La Pumita”) is Miami born and bred. She is, to say the least, equally loquacious in both Spanish and English and, in the nicest possible way, just a bit wacky in her approach to chatting up the press. So much so, in fact, we expect her to conquer Hollywood shortly.

A seasoned veteran with plenty of onscreen gravitas at the shockingly young age of 24, she makes a entirely credible romantically conflicted leading lady opposite budding Latin American leading man Will Ferrell (pronounced “Wheel Fer-all”) in the over-the-top Spanish language Mexploitation/telenovela spoof, “Casa de mi Padre.” “Casa” however, is not Ms. Rodríguez’s only recent brush with the big time. After a relatively small part as one of Turtle’s bevy of attractive drivers on “Entourage,” she has also appeared in her first really big American movie as Jamie Bell’s girlfriend in the hit thriller, “Man On a Ledge.” The high profile production also gave her a scene with thespian living legend Ed Harris (see a photo from the film below, before question #4). Her next gig is “Hours,” an intense drama set during Hurricane Katrina and co-starring Paul Walker.

Clearly, Génesis Rodríguez is more than holding her own in the world of Yanqui entertainment. She certainly gave much better than she got when it was time for us to ask her five questions.

1. Who’s more intimidating, Ed Harris or Will Ferrell?

Ed Harris, because Will Ferrell’s a teddy bear. Will Ferrell’s the sweetest individual you could ever come across. Ed Harris is very method, so if he plays a villain, good God. You’re going to be scared. You’re going to be very scared.

2. You obviously did just fine in the movie, but since this was your first big, funny movie with some pretty major comedy talent, are we going to see your cracking up all over the “Casa de mi Padre” Blu-ray?

I really tried to keep it together. There were moments. I don’t take myself very seriously, as you can see; I’m kind of a goofball. I kind of get nervous when people are extremely intense. So I tend to crack. I just start laughing for no reason. If someone has an accidental fall or something, and they’re hurt, I can’t help it. It just happens out of nervousness. So, I really had to learn how to keep it together. I didn’t want to be that jerk that Will hired that’s a newbie that can’t hang around the comedy people.

I had to say different, random things in my head, like, “This isn’t funny, Génesis, why don’t you just come on?” “He’s not funny.” “This is not funny, come on.” I would think about my grandmother and what I was going to eat later and just random things to keep my mind occupied — as well as thinking about my acting. It’s a very complicated thing to do!

3. Since this is for an online men’s magazine, I am forced to ask you about “Entourage.” What was the best thing and what was the worst thing about your stint there?

The best thing was just the people who do “Entourage.” They’re so very respectful. They’re a very nice group of guys to hang out with on set.

The worst thing about it is that I was hired to be a driver and I didn’t know how to drive. I had to drive the car and I didn’t know how to do that. They said, “Hey, Gen, this is a $500,000 car. Are you okay with this?”

And I said, “No, see, I don’t know how to drive.” So, they had to get a stunt [person] for my little part in “Entourage,” which I find to be very ridiculous.

4. And what’s the best and the worst thing about being a telenovela superstar?

Telenovelas have a stigma to them but it’s part of our culture. People don’t know how hard it is to be in a telenovela. It’s 18 hour workdays, Monday through Saturday, for eleven to [16] months straight. No breaks. We only had Sunday off. We really became vegetables by the end of it. It was extreme hard work.

The good thing about it was the audience that we got. We were on the air five days a week and we were in prime time. People were watching us when they were cooking, or putting the kids to bed, or eating dinner. You really became a part of their home. When people recognize me, they hug me, they kiss me, and they love you because you’re part of their family.

The same thing. When I see someone from a telenovela that I love, I kind of melt. I kind of melt because I adore them. You don’t even know the person but you feel like you love them. That’s the beauty of a soap opera; it’s a very special fan, a very special audience.

5. Speaking of your telenovela work, Will Ferrell has publicly marveled at your ability to cry on cue. What’s the secret?

This is something you learn doing a soap opera. It’s something that you automatically know that you just have to do. People get scared when they hear that, especially men. They’re like, “Ohhh — this one; she knows how to cry on command. This is kind of scary.” But you kind of can tell when I’m faking it.

You can tell because when I really cry, my face just completely distorts and morphs into another ugly, ugly face. My chin starts trembling and that’s when it really hurts to cry. The tears thing — it’s just technique. It’s just like anything else, for me. Which is a gift, I know. I know, it’s a gift. Do you want me to do it right now?

[We were initially startled, but of course we did!]

You don’t have a camera, but you’ll see.

[At this point, Ms. Rodríguez took a gulp of water. An intense, but not particularly disturbed, look crossed her face as she began the tearing up process. Her voice got noticeably more quiet, but she continued talking.]

It’s coming…You get glassy. You just start getting watery. I’m not thinking about absolutely anything. It’s coming. You see it? You can’t see it yet? It’s going to happen.

[And sure enough, the waterworks flow. Very impressive.]

It’s nothing. I could talk about cupcakes and dogs. I can talk about happy things and rainbows.

  

A Chat with the Cast and Crew of “Casa de mi Padre” – Will Ferrell, Diego Luna, Génesis Rodríguez, Nick Offerman and writer Andrew Steele

Be sure to check out our 5 Questions interview with the beautiful and talented Génesis Rodríguez to read how she learned to cry on command!

Everyone in show business knows that comedy is hard. Apparently, however, it’s not hard enough for Will Ferrell. The SNL-bred all around comic superstar decided sometime ago he wanted to make a film in Spanish. He didn’t know what the movie would be about, but one thing was clear, the far from fluent Farrell would need to learn his part semi-phonetically, which by all accounts is every bit as difficult to do as you might imagine.

With the help of writer Andrew Steele and first-time feature director Matt Piedmont, that movie evolved into “Casa de mi Padre” (“House of My Father”). A broad but reasonably affectionate and detail-oriented spoof of telenovelas and Mexican and American exploitation movies, the film stars Farrell in one of his best performances yet as the 100% virtuous Armando Alvarez. Armando’s unwavering good guy nature is tested by the disrespect of his wealthy patriarch dad (the late Pedro Armendáriz Jr.) as well as the fact that his beloved brother, Raul (Diego Luna), has become a powerful narco at war with the ultra villainous La Onza (Gael García Bernal). Even more challenging is the increasingly melodramatic mutual attraction betwixt Armando and Raul’s fiercely stunning fiancée, Sonia (Génesis Rodríguez).

Bullz-Eye was fortunate enough to meet with several members of the cast and crew one day earlier this month. Along with comedy superstar Ferrell, we met with Latin-American heart-throb and respected U.S. actor Diego Luna, who may still be best known stateside for co-starring in 2001′s hyper-sexual “Y Tu Mamá También” with real-life lifelong best pal and “Casa” co-narco Gael García Bernal. Also along for the ride was fast rising comic actor Nick Offerman of “Parks and Recreation,” who portrays a bigoted DEA Agent. To discuss behind-the-camera matters we also spoke with screenwriter Andrew Steele (“The Ladies Man”). Also present at the event was the beguiling Génesis Rodríguez, who is the subject of a separate “5 Questions” feature.

Below are some highlights of the rather freewheeling discussions.

Will Ferrell on how “Casa de mi Padre” came to be.

I had always thought that it could be interesting to put myself in the middle of a Spanish language movie and fully commit to speaking Spanish. That heightened world of the telenovela meets the bad Mexican spaghetti western — all of that seemed like it could be a recipe for a type of movie you hadn’t seen before.

Diego Luna on his opinion of Will Ferrell’s Spanish.

He sounds perfect. You understand everything, basically. I was very worried. Forty days before we started shooting, I sat down in a bar with him and the director and he knew no Spanish at all. He couldn’t speak it.

He said, “Yeah, well, I’m gonna try.” Thirty days later he gave this two-minute monologue and, in fact, he makes sense. He understands what he’s saying. That was impressive, and [it was also] very impressive that two weeks after he forgot everything.

Will Ferrell on learning his lines in Spanish

Patrick Perez, who translated the script from English into Spanish, I kind of got to know him and he said, “Hey, I’m willing to work with you on your Spanish if you want.” I said “That’d be great.” We just started working about a month to six weeks out in front of the movie, meeting three or four times a week. Once we started filming, we would drive to the set every day and drive home every day. In the morning, [we'd] work on the scene or scenes for that day. On the way home, [we'd] start to work on the next day, to try to just embed it into my brain.

Every day I finished I felt like I’d wrapped an entire movie. It was just “Groundhog Day.” Diego and I laugh about because he improvised every take and I had no idea. “Okay, he’s finished? Now, I go.”

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