Tommy Blardo and Frank Morin of Enemy Remains talk about their new album “No Faith In Humanity”.

Global Music Award-winning heavy metal group Enemy Remains are set to release their second full-length album on January 20th titled “No Faith In Humanity”. After a lengthy hiatus the band which features original Fates Warning drummer Steve Zimmerman along with Tommy Blardo, Frank Morin, Scott Kadish and Jeff Curtis are ready to unveil their latest creation. Media Mikes had the chance recently to speak with Tommy and Frank about the new albums creation and what it was like reforming the band after their extended break.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about the work you have put in on the new album “No Faith in Humanity”?

Tommy Blardo: Funny thing about that, when we signed with Skateboard Marketing we didn’t have one track written for the album, zero, not even ideas. We put a single out, “No Faith in Humanity”, and that’s all we had at the time. It was pretty scary but, I think when you set deadlines it motivates you. Everyone worked really hard on this new album. I wanted to take the band in a whole new direction, new line, new sound, new writing style, new everything! We kind of things a facelift and I think we nailed it.

AL: What were the first couple of writing/rehearsal sessions like after getting back together from your hiatus?

TB: Honestly it was weird, with Steve coming from Fates Warning and playing old prog metal stuff, it was a big change for him, but he was willing to adapt to the new modern style we are going for with hooks but still keeping his roots grounded musically with the off time changes. With the addition of new vocalist Frank “Heretic” Morin, the musical transition seemed to work very well. What Frank has brought to the table just takes so much weight off Steve and I and it really enforces the new sound we were going for.”

AL: At what point did new members come into the picture and, how have they further shaped the new direction of the band?

TB: Frank was added first, I knew we needed a vocalist that could really catch the attention of the listeners with that “radio voice” as they call it – to really fit the new style we had in mind. Scott Kadish (guitars) and Bobby Byrk (keyboards) were added a little later, but were totally involved in the whole writing process. I’ve got to say, this is the strongest line up of professionals we’ve ever had. Band practice has become fun again.”

AL: What can you tell us about the two tracks the band has released thus far from the album?

Frank Morin: I can tell you they were a pain in the ass! Tommy and Steve first approached me with the music to “No Faith In Humanity” and I got really pumped! I had been waiting to jump into a rock/metal project of this caliber for a while, so that song kind of wrote itself based on how I was feeling about the world and the people in it. “Trust in No One” was a little more difficult. It was the first time I played with progressive riffs in a 5 count. It took Tommy and I about an hour to write the hook. Both tracks, like the entire album, touch on personal issues from a singular point of view, though we all share the same ideologies on them. Like the rest of the album we wrote all the music based on the concept, and I just started with the lyrics.

AL: Do you have any touring or performance plans in place to support the release?

TB: At this point we have full press and radio campaigns hitting hard the first week of January and the release of the album is on Jan 20th. After that we have plans to tour the east coast, mid-west and extended dates throughout the west coast by summer. After that hopefully we will be jumping on as a support act for a national artist!

For more info on Enemy Remains you can check out www.facebook.com/enemyremainz

Film Review “Frank”

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal
Directed By: Lenny Abrahamson
Running Time: 95 minutes
Magnolia Pictures

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Frank stars Domhnall (that’s pronounced “Doe-nuhl,” everyone) Gleeson as Jon, a struggling songwriter and keyboard player who chances upon a gig with quirky band, The Soronprfbs (don’t ask me to pronounce that one), when their keyboardist goes off the deep end. That is, he tries to drown himself. When Jon’s asked to join the band by its frontman, he’s undeterred by both that suicide attempt and said frontman, Frank (Michael Fassbender), having a large papier-mâché cartoon head on at all times.

Jon leaves his boring office job when the band drives far out into the Irish countryside in order to record their next album. A process that involves making their own custom instruments as well as the occasional bout physical violence. Meanwhile, Jon catalogues their musical development across his various social media platforms so that even in seclusion, The Soronprfbs have a growing audience.

That this audience is unbeknownst to rest of the band is at the heart of the problem between outsider Jon and the rest of the band. Frank’s passion for being creative while sheltering himself from the outside world both geographically and within the head is supported by his band mates who are resentful of Jon, hilariously so in the case Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Clara the hostile theremin player, and ambivalent about completing their album in any sort of timely fashion. Jon pushing them to perform for the web saavy crowd at Texas’s South by Southwest festival is what ultimately brings their problems to a head.

Having Jon as the focal point for the film is a clever move as he, like us, gradually learns Frank’s head is not merely a quirky affection of an eccentric artist but a real crutch for a man with serious issues. Gyllenhaal’s Clara too gains more dimension as someone who may really just be trying to protect Frank from himself after all. Meanwhile Fassbender’s one of those actors who I could watch read a telephone book to be honest, and having a huge expressionless mask over his head for 98% of the running time is about as impeditive as that setup however he works all his remaining faculties to the advantage. From Frank’s curiously dorky wardrobe to Fassbender’s distinctly odd muffled voice–we’re told he’s from Kansas–Frank’s a fascinating character. The fleeting moments without the mask are truly compelling and Fassbender maximizes this screentime with a strangely damaged song performance.

None of the above not to say the film isn’t hilarious as advertised, which especially during their countryside training, it is. Rather that it treats its characters as real humans rather than caricatures. It’s a bizarre gem of a film that’s worth seeking out.

Frank opened today in New York and Canada with additional screening locations to be added in the coming weeks.

Frank Pavich talks about directing documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune”

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Classics

Frank Pavich is the director of the new fantastic documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune”, which chronicles about Alejandro Jodorowsky’s never made film version of Frank Herbet’s “Dune”. He has also worked as a production manager on TV shows like “Paranormal State”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat “Dune” with Frank and find out about how he got involved with Jodorowsky and his passion for what he does.

Mike Gencarelli: How did you get involved with the documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune”?
Frank Pavich: You just hear and read about these things like “The Top 50 Greatest Movies Never Made”. I was a fan of Jodorowsky and his movies like “Holy Mountain” and “El Topo” going back to even when you couldn’t get it except on like crazy VHS bootlegs. There was a small segment about his unfinished “Dune” in a documentary called “Jodorowsky Constellation”, but it only ran like five minutes. But during it you see his screenplay book and I thought to myself “What the hell is that book?” Once you see that book, you feel the need to just learn more and more about it. So I searched and search until one day, there was no more information out there that I hadn’t seen. So I decided to just find the guy himself and speak with him.

MG: How did you end up tracking him down and convincing him to do this?
FP: I wish I could tell you what made him do it. I think the only thing I can say was from my obvious unbridled enthusiasm. I was searching for him and I found that he has an agent in Spain for acting. I didn’t even know he acted in movies other than his own but obviously he does because he has this agent. I just sent her an email and explained my situation. She took my email and just forwarded it to him. So then a couple of weeks later, I just happen to wake up to an email from Alejandro Jodorowsky. It was awesome. If I remember correctly, I didn’t even open it for like a week. I was afraid if he wrote “Dear Frank….NO!” It would have crushed my dreams. So when I opened it included was a very short message saying “I hear you are looking for me? I live in Paris and if you would like to discuss doing a project like this we would need to meet face to face”. I was like “GREAT! You don’t have to twist my arm”. I made an appointment and went to his house to discuss. I gave him the short pitch and either he just thought I was crazy or deep down that we weren’t going to finish it but he agreed to do a few interviews. So we started and went back a few times to shoot more and more interviews over time. Overall, I think it worked out really well.

MG: What I loved about this documentary is that there wasn’t like a million interviews…
FP: Oh, I hate those.
MG: Right! You had the key 10 people involved and that is all.
FP: That is what I always wanted to do. I hate those documentaries where it is only 90 minutes long and features 90 people. I can’t follow who is who and I can’t follow what is going on. Each person comes on for a half a sentence and I just get lost. I wanted to keep it to a minimum number of people. We had the greatest storyteller in the world.
MG: I agree, most importantly you kept Jodorowsky in the spotlight…
FP: Thanks for picking up on that man!

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Classics

MG: What was it liked getting to review Jodorowsky’s screenplay book during your meetings?
FP: It’s funny because the first time I met him to pitch him the idea; we sat on these two chairs facing each other and in between us what this ottoman with books on it. He had actually placed THE “Dune” book on there but he never let me look at it and I didn’t ask. It was like he was teasing me with it [laughs]. It was so cruel but also hilarious. But the book was amazing. Once you get to go inside of it, you get to see that is in fact a complete film. It has every scene from the first to the very last. It also has every bit of dialogue and character details. It is something that I do not think was ever done before. It was ready to go and be filmed. What was also very interesting is that the screenplay was totally different than the book of storyboards, since it evolved over time. As he got all his “spiritual warriors”, it started to change. Just like if he would have gotten to shoot it, I am sure it would have evolved again. It is really interesting to see the process of his creativity.

MG: Tell us about the animation in the film and how was it getting to bring parts of Jodorowsky’s “Dune” come to life?
FP: We had this great animator, his name was Syd Garon. I met him through another friend and I thought that his work was perfect. He had that perfect light touch. I didn’t want to overdue the animation because it is not my vision of “Dune”, it is his vision. I just wanted to take those storyboards, which are primarily pencil on paper and breath enough life into them to elevate it off the page a little and hopefully then the viewer’s imagination will fill in the rest. It straddles the that middle ground between the storyboard and what the actual completed feature film would have been like. It was so much fun to do. We went through the book and literally got to pick out the scenes that we wanted to bring to life.

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Classics

MG: What was his reaction when he saw these animated sequences?
FP: He has this philosophy when he directs his movie for everyone to leave him alone and he doesn’t want to hear from anyone since he is the artist. That is great and that is why we get the kind of movies that he makes. So I was afraid that he was going to be over my shoulder the whole time but he was definitely not a hypocrite. He believes that for himself and believed that for me as well. He let me do what I wanted and didn’t bother me at all. The first time he saw it was at the premiere at Cannes. It was a really cool experience and a really great place for him to see it. Him and his wife were next to me watching it and kept trying to peak over at them to see if they were laughing, interested or sleeping [laughs]. I could see that they were really enthralled and into it. They were also both wiping away tears at the end, which is great because you always want to make an 85 year old man cry [laughs].

MG: Having seen the film a few times now and I agree the film is quite dramatic.
FP: It is so interesting. It all comes down to his world view. This story for somebody else could be a very depressing story or it could be a winy story or angry story. “Oh, look what I didn’t get to do”. For him though, he thought it was great. He didn’t get to make the movie but he made my movie and he also had a great career and a lot of other movies were influenced by his work. Even I get choked up watching the end of the film, where he says that you have to try and that it is all about ambition. It is great. He is such an amazing and powerful guy. I am very lucky to have had a chance to work with him.

MG: Tell us about the score in the film?
FP: Our composers name is Kurt Stenzel. It is his first film and he was just great. He has never done a score before. He is this electronic musician and does all this great synthesized music. But he and I go way back actually and we grew up in Queens, New York together. I first knew of him when he was part of the New York hardcore scene. His old band was the very first New York hardcore tape that I ever bought back in 1987 or something. It is totally crazy. So he has gone from the New York hardcore world to a career scoring films. He can be like the new Mark Mothersbaugh. We are also hoping to release the score down the line for the fans.

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Classics

MG: How did the relationships between other films like “Raiders of the Lost Ark’s “Masters of the Universe”, “Prometheus” and others get recognized?
FP: It is weird. Some of them are obvious. When we were making the documentary “Prometheus” came out, so that was an easy one. I remember seeing the commercial and thinking “What the hell?”, since that was the Giger mountain. It was crazy. It was totally lifted from the “Dune” artwork. Then some of them we really had to search for and some we couldn’t even include. After he attempted to make “Dune”, he spoke about how he started his career in comics, he did “The Incal” and “The Metabarons” series and a bunch others. If you look at the “The Metabarons” comic, you can see images in there that ended up in the movie “The Avengers”. There was no way to put that into the movie because it would be an entirely different chapter showing how his work influenced this and that etc. But his stuff is everywhere. Even Kanye West’s last tour/album was inspired by “Holy Mountain”. So we can say that he touches everything from “The Avengers” to Kanye West. How can someone do that? So we just be searching around and looking at the storyboards and trying to see anything that resembled them. They think that there were about twenty of those books made and only two exist today. So where are the other eighteen? You see so many similarities in other films that somebody else has had to have seen this book over the years.

MG: Do you think the world will ever see Jodorowsky’s take on Dune?
FP: I think this is his take on the film. I do not think he has that burning desire to do it anymore. I think he feels that “You want to see the movie? Then it is here, watch the documentary”. I think in his mind he feels like it is done. I think he has moved on also since it has been so many years. Also can anyone make a “Dune” movie anymore? Lynch had a hard time. Syfy did a one over a decade ago. So many people have taken from the “Dune” source material, the book, which in turn has influenced so many other films. Maybe if a true representation of “Dune” came out people would think, “Oh, I have seen all this before”. They have seen in various films that maybe it wouldn’t be as exciting for them. Jodo is happy and he has no regrets. He is also very happy to have been able to tell his version of the story now in this film.

Courtesy: Sony Pictures Classics

MG:  What can we expect from the Blu-ray release in terms of special features?
FP: There is a ton of great material that we are passing off to our distributor, Sony Pictures Classics. I am not sure what is going to end up on the Blu-ray but I would think that they would want to include it all on there. We shot hours of interviews footage. So, we have hours and hours of interviews with Jodorowsky and all these people that couldn’t fit into the story we told. But it is still valuable stuff that I want to share with the world. If I was a betting man, I would say that it will be included on the Blu-ray release. It is too great not to have it.

MG: What do you have planned next after this film?
FP: I have a couple of ideas and projects in my head stirring around. But man, it is a challenge because this movie came out really good and I am really proud of it. It premiered at Cannes and went to Telluride and all these great film festivals. Sony Pictures Classics is releasing it. How much better can this be? What do you do to top this or complement this? That is the challenge for me. It takes so long to make these movies anyway. As far as I learned with this, if you are not totally in love with the movie you are making you are never going to finish it. Hopefully, I can find a subject that is as interesting as Alejandro Jodorowsky and his version of “Dune”. If you hear of anything left me know [laughs].

Lenny Abrahamson discusses “What Richard Did” and “Frank”

Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s third feature, What Richard Did, made a great stateside impression when it premiered last month at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival check out our review here and is currently on a limited release here at Cinema Village. Now back in Ireland, Abrahamson took some time out of post-production on his next feature, Frank, to speak to me in further detail on What Richard Did.

Lauren Damon: How was your experience at the Tribeca?
Lenny Abrahamson: It was really good! The film, you know seemed to go down well and we got quite a lot of good press and so generally very pleased with it.

LD: Between the festival, onDemand and now this New York engagement, What Richard Did is getting all different sorts of exposure, any thoughts on that?
LA: I mean it’s a very small release but it’s great because I suppose it has a chance to grow if people like it and maybe it gets taken by arthouse cinemas in other towns and also it’ll be reviewed. So that’s all very important…I’ve made three films, this is the first one that’s had a release in the states and I think you know, it’s great. it’s such an important place to have your films seen. And I like Tribeca as a company as well, they look after you pretty well. I think it’s a good name to be associated with.

LD: Were your first two features also Irish dramas?
LA: They were dramas…and they’d been very successful over this side–certainly critically very successful..Both the first two films won British Evening Standard Film Awards and so they’ve actually done well. It’s just that they’re very–the first two films are very, in terms of like accent and demographic, they’re probably tough for an American audience and because of that you find American cinema exhibitors are really frightened of strong accents. Whereas What Richard Did is more of a middle-class milieu and that makes it I think a bit easier. But they’ve been onDemand and they’ve aired on the Independent Film Channel and that sort of stuff and you know, both were in Toronto and the first film was in Telluride. So they’ve existed in the states, they just never got distribution.
What Richard Did tells the story of a middle class teenager (played by Jack Reynor) who, in a drunken brawl, accidentally kills a romantic rival at a summer party. As Richard, Reynor does a spectacular job at playing an otherwise good-natured teen dealing with the crushing guilt of his life-altering action. This includes a tearful confession to his father.

LD: Jack Reynor told me that you made a lot of on-set decisions with the confession scene, how did that change the film?
LA: Yea, well the peak of the scene is when Richard blurts out that he’s responsible for the killing…and that was never in the script. I mean we changed a lot in the script anyway and the script itself was evolving through the writing process. But you know, once you start shooting a film you just test. You just immediately have to respond to how the stuff feels and you have to look at it. You can’t just stick rigidly to some kind of pre-existing plan and I always like to allow things to evolve. But in that scene particularly, it just felt on the day that there was something sort of bursting to get out in the scene. It happened quite organically, we just kept working on it, working on it, working on it. Shooting it, shooting it, shooting it, until we just felt that Richard had to…in the moment where his guard is down because he’s being held by his father and everything that that means, he allows himself to dissolve a little bit…he becomes more of a boy again. And so he just goes that last little bit and lets it all out in that belief that he has in the instant that this will be cathartic. But it’s not cathartic, it’s dreadful. And it just felt, on the day that felt absolutely right. I can be quite skeptical about you know, people talk about scenes that affect the crew and you know, ‘the whole set really felt something had happened’ and I always think those scenes aren’t great, you know. There’s a kind of illusion that if it feels powerful, it must be amazing and sometimes it’s not. But actually that was one case where it really did feel very strong and it translated onto screen.

LD: Then you also have Richard having a physical breakdown on his own, what was it like on set for that?
LA: We did that–there was always a scene in the script and it didn’t specify in the script really what happened, it was just talked about. I always had this image of Richard on his hands and knees having just woken up in a sort of panic. But while we were shooting we just never got a chance, just given the schedule, we never got a chance to attack that scene really properly. So I decided I would go back after we finished principle photography…Halfway through the cut we went back out to the location and we spent the day there. And I think the way we worked on it was just to develop a kind of physical shape to the scene…I’m a great believer of acting from the outside-in…So rather than talking endlessly about what he was feeling, we just got to a kind of really heightened physical state. And then that brought with it a kind of mental component and Jack found it that way. I mean some actors are different, some actors can think themselves into that state but I tend to feel that starting physically is a–it’s like you know if you kind of intensely enter into the shape of the action. Then a lot of times the kind of interior part comes with it…And we shot it about three times on two cameras, it was really exhausting for Jack. You can tell in the scene. It really felt very good and I think it’s a really important scene in the film.

LD: Did you find yourself wanting the audience to sympathize with Richard through all of this?
LA: Yeah, I mean my sort of view is that we’re all capable of doing sort of awful things and very very few of us are the sort with the kind of bravery you’d need to admit to it if you had the chance of getting away with it. So I would like them to empathize with him just like one should empathize with any other human being I would think. You know, anybody who isn’t a monster. And Richard certainly isn’t a monster. But another way of answering that question is to say I don’t think it’s the director’s job in a film like this to tell people how to feel at all. I think that the important thing is to try to render the situation as truthfully and in as much detail and as much kind of natural veracity as you can achieve…And then if you do that, you allow audiences to enter into that world and then to feel about as they do. I mean of course you make decisions when you cast somebody like Jack, you know there’s instantly kind of warm about him. But there’s also in the way that he played Richard, there are darker aspects too…It’s worth saying that audiences have and audiences will react differently to him. Some people say to me “God, you know, he was chilling and you really did that really well.” And then other people say “He was so beautiful and I cared so much about him and you did that really well” So I think all you can do is try to penetrate as kind of truthfully and deeply as you can as a director. And give as rich an encounter with that world as you can and then you let it go and you let the audience kind of position their own decision inside it.

LD: Did you audition many young actors for Richard?
LA: We did audition a lot of actors for Richard but Jack you know, he just has a certain presence. He’s just absolutely right for that part. When I saw him for the first time, I sort of knew that that would be it. And then we started to adjust the film to fit him, to fit Jack as a person so that we could allow Richard and Jack to overlap. But I didn’t, it wasn’t a hard decision to cast him. I mean it was he’s such an unusually poised young actor. He’s from the right background, he understood the story really well. He knew kids like that. He went to one of those schools. And he’s a really fine actor, I can’t imagine the film working if we hadn’t found him.

LD: Now Jack is going to be in the next Transformers film, were you around him at all when he got that part?
LA: He had said to me that you know, he got had an agent…and then that didn’t work out. He’d been out to the states and he said he was going to go back again…give it another shot. And we were in Toronto together when he was talking about that and I was trying to advise him not to! Because I thought, you know, like so many young actors he would go out there and just get swallowed up. And he had no money and he just had a place to stay just about. I was trying to persuade him he should spend more time in London, but he said to me ‘Look, my plan is to go out to Hollywood and get a three-picture deal…’ I just thought he was deluded! Not that he’s not a great actor. That just doesn’t happen. People are going out there everyday–hordes of kids are arriving there every day and it’s just the reality and the dream are very different. But yea, Jack called me and said ‘I’ve just been cast in Transformers, it’s for a three-picture deal’ and I just thought ‘Well there ya go!’ [Laughs] What do I know? And I’m really delighted for him. Aiming for an autumn release is Abrahamson’s next feature, Frank, which sees Michael Fassbender donning a cartoonish facemask to play an eccentric leader of a band alongside Domhnall 2Gleeson and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

LD: Where are you with Frank now?
LA: We’re kind of hopefully about six weeks away from locking picture and after that it’s just lots and lots of sound work and music work and that. Exciting.

LD: Is this based on the character of Frank Sidebottom?
LA: That’s the thing, the history of the project. Jon Ronson one of the writers was in the Frank Sidebottom band back in the eighties and that’s how this idea began. But actually the character in our film isn’t Frank Sidebottom anymore. So we’ve just made him up. He’s an American instead of a guy from Manchester. He’s a real musician…He’s not–the original Frank Sidebottom was a kind of alter ego, a kind of comedy persona of this guy, so they’re very different. But there is a kind of visual similarity in that Frank Sidebottom wore a head not a million miles away from the head that Fassbender wears in this film. But it’s a totally imagined film.

LD: What was the casting process like on this film?
LA: Like any film it’s a bit of an adventure when you start. I certainly didn’t anticipate–I mean I was delighted to have Michael in it, he’s fantastic. He’s such a great actor and he’s such a fascinating actor because…there’s a kind of energy, a kind of intensity that comes over. And it comes over in Frank despite the fact that he’s wearing a mask. And you still know it’s him and there’s still that kind of quality to what he does. And having him, it helped us get the rest of the cast to be so great. I mean Domhnall Gleeson who’s a superb young actor and he’s destined for really big things and then Maggie as well who’s amazing you know, really very courageous in what she’s doing in the film. So yeah, it was quite an adventure…

It was a really happy shoot and I think the cast really enjoyed it. And that’s not always the case. You know there was a great sense of camaraderie and a real community at the center of the film and I think the best thing about it is the actors really gel together like a band…What you’re going to hear in the film is what they played on the day. The music is all recorded live. So they actually do work as a band. And that was very exciting.

LD: So the cast did they’re own musical performances?
LA: They sing, they play instruments…it’s the real thing… Michael sings, he plays guitar. Domhnall plays keyboard, sings and Maggie plays crazy synthesizers and sings. And then you have Carla Azar who’s a superb drummer in a band called Autolux she plays with. She also plays with Jack White. So she’s the drummer. And then this brilliant young French actor called Francois Civil who just happens to be a great bass player as well. It made the casting really hard because we wanted to cast people who were musical and who could really play instead of having them mime to playback. Which you can tell when that’s happening by watching. So to get a bunch of people who are great actors but also musicians was a really tricky but I think we managed.

LD: Did the mask on Michael stay on throughout shooting?
LA: No! No, I think he would of died if he had to leave the head on [laughs]…It’s really funny, I’ve been cutting the film now for a while and after a while you’re just working with cut sequences. So you’re not looking at rushes anymore, you’re not looking at you know every take from the beginning to the end so I’ll go through the whole day of you know with the editor and we’ll just be looking at him with the head on but every so often we have to look back to the rushes and look for you know an alternate take or something and then you see him, he takes the head off after “cut” and you think ‘Oh Christ, yes, Fassbender!’ you know? You’ve sort of forgotten that he’s there because the character really works…You really believe the character, you forget he’s there. But yea, I think it took some getting used to and we designed the head around–you know it’s specifically designed for him, but it was hard. Visibility was really poor–and he’s running and doing all sorts of stuff in the film so it’s quite an achievement.

What Richard Did is currently on a limited NYC engagement at Cinema Village as well as onDemand. Check back with Media Mikes this fall for more on “Frank”.

Rachael Ma talks about her role in "Robot & Frank"

Rachael Ma stands at just under 5 feet and can currently be seen in the role of the robot opposite Frank Langella in “Robot & Frank”. If you have seen the film you know that Peter Sarsgaard is the voice of the robot but as Rachael puts it “people…literally think the robot IS a robot”. Thanks to Alterian, which is the company behind the LED helmets worn by the electro duo Daft Punk, Rachael gives wonderful life to this role. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Rachael about the film and what she has planned next.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how you get started acting, singing and dancing?
Rachael Ma: My mom owns a dance studio in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was a dancer herself. I was born into it. Being a dancer first, it was very easy to channel physicality into acting and singing. Movement tells a story.

MG: How did you get involved with the role of the Robot in “Robot and Frank”?
RM: The whole process was very quick; from my first casting (interview) to the first day of shooting was, only 2 days. Originally, the robot was supposed to be performed by another girl, a friend of the director, and the suit was specifically built to her body specifications. But the first time she tried it on in its entirety, she had a claustrophobia and refused to go back in it. I was a replacement and was brought in mostly because I fit the costume (and was willing to have claustrophobia).

MG: Tell us about the costume itself; was it different to act in?
RM: The heat, lack of vision and immobility of the parts made bringing the robot to life difficult. The robot is all-encapsulating in two layers: the first layer is a thick, rubber unitard that covers everything- head to toe, and then a delicate, fiberglass shell of body parts, including non-ventilated helmet lined in mesh and foam. No breathing room, no A/C, no fans. Just sweat. And wow, it was hot! We shot 12 hour days, outdoors, during a heat wave in the summer for 5 weeks. I was constantly dehydrated, nauseous and fainting. The helmet was another challenge because it was lined with a thick mesh and decreased my vision by about 70%. When we shot at night, I did everything in the blind. The robot joints are clunky and bulky which also made mobility a challenge. As a dancer, I have a fine understanding of controlling movement and to deliver a robot that appeared smooth, grounded and with precise comedic timing in its gestures, was no easy task. I rehearsed and analyzed its walk, its head quirks and wanted to develop certain nuances that made the robot lovable.

MG: Was there any particular scene that sticks out to you?
RM: In one scene I was supposed to catch a mimosa flute that falls off a table- it was no movie magic- I caught that glass out of thin air 13 takes in a row! Clunky robot hand and all! It was miraculous.

MG:Tell us about taking the show “Nutcracker: Rated R” to Tokyo?
RM: I’m in my 4th season of “Nutcracker: Rated R” and am so excited its going to Tokyo. My friends tell me Tokyo is like being in a city in the future, which is kind of funny because I feel like I’ve already been to the future with “Robot and Frank”.

MG: How do you feel that stage differs from film and TV?
RM: Acting for the stage is a whole different beast. Its film/TV acting on steroids. Shifting between stage and screen takes adjustments in my mindset and body, but I always approach whatever work I’m doing thinking of the audiences perspective. It helps me focus on what needs to be seen.

MG: What else do you have planned for 2013?
RM: In 2013 you can expect to see me in New York City’s Broadway/off-Broadway shows, in Tokyo with the raucous ‘Nutcracker: Rated R’, and the occasional film/TV/commercial stint.

DVD Review "Robot & Frank"

Directors: Jake Schreier
Actors: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Peter Sarsgaard, James Marsden, Liv Tyler
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: February 12, 2013
Run Time: 89 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

When I saw the trailer for “Robot & Frank”, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.  Frank Langella gives a wonderful performance as Frank, an aging thief, who gets a second life with the help of his robot. The story is very simple but really keep you on your toes.  I loved the futuristic aspect but without really needing to show too much of the future. If you are wondering who Peter Sarsgaard plays in the film, he is actually the voice of Frank’s robot. He really delivers a great vocal performance. This is a rare little gem and really deserves some attention.

Even though the film is set in the future, I like the fact that their are only a few subtle differences including snazzy cars, transparent phones and, of course, robots. Not to different from now, yes even the robots, have you ever seen what Japan is doing? The phone and TV displays were designed by Justin Ouellette, who works at Tumblr. Most importantly, the robot’s costume was designed by Alterian, which is the company behind the LED helmets worn by the electro duo Daft Punk. All very impressive since the film was very low-budget at $2.5 million, so don’t expect any major special effects.  This film is all character and story driven. The little touches just add the charm to the film.

Official Premise: Set in the near future, Frank, a retired cat burglar, has two grown kids who are concerned he can no longer live alone. They are tempted to place him in a nursing home until Frank’s son chooses a different option: against the old man’s wishes, he buys Frank a walking, talking humanoid robot programmed to improve his physical and mental health. What follows is an often hilarious and heartwarming story about finding friends and family in the most unexpected places.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment only released this film on DVD, which is a little disappointing since I would have loved to see this film on Blu-ray.  Still though, the film looks great with its 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The special features on the DVD are a bit of a let down but worth checking out.  There is a commentary track from the director Jake Schreier and the writer Christopher Ford. Lastly there is a photo gallery included for the Robot posters created for the film.  I would have loved to see a feature on the Atlerian’s robots and Justin Ouellette’s designs.

DVD Review “Frank Capra: The Early Collection”

Director: Frank Capra
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Number of Discs: 5
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: September 27, 2012
Running Time: 450 Minutes

Our Score: 4 out 5 of stars

Frank Capra is one of Hollywood’s most beloved directors, though many of his earlier films have never been made available on DVD….until now. This release features five key films which showcase his career before he became the legendary director we all knew him as. “The Frank Capra: The Early Collection” is available exclusively through TCM’s online store as part of the TCM Vault Collection. The five films includings includes re-mastered editions of “Rain or Shine” (1930), and four early collaborations with his legendary leading lady Barbara Stanwyck: “Ladies of Leisure” (1930), “The Miracle Woman” (1931), “Forbidden” (1932) and “The Bitter Tea of General Yen” (1933). If you are a fan of Capra’s work, I would HIGHLY recommend this release.

The following are the five films included in Frank Capra: The Early Collection:
“Ladies of Leisure” (1930) – This drama marked Frank Capra’s first collaboration with Barbara Stanwyck. The film tells of a Depression-era romance between a working-class model and a high-society artist, played by Ralph Graves. The film is based on the 1924 play Ladies of the Evening, written by Milton Herbert Gropper.

“Rain or Shine” (1930) – This rollicking comedy-drama follows the ups and downs of a struggling traveling circus. Joe Cook, Louise Fazenda, Joan Peers and William Collier Jr. star in this film, a non-musical version of a Broadway musical of the same name. {Note: The International version of the film is included here}

“The Miracle Woman” (1931) – In this dramatic exposé of religious charlatans, Barbara Stanwyck stars as a female preacher modeled on Aimee Semple McPherson. David Manners co-stars as the blind man who falls in love with her.

“Forbidden (1932)” – This charming, romantic drama depicts the intense relationship between librarian Barbara Stanwyck and a wealthy married man, played by Adolphe Menjou. Ralph Bellamy and Dorothy Peterson co-star.

“The Bitter Tea of General Yen” (1933) – This once-controversial drama depicts an affair between the fiancée of an American missionary, played by Barbara Stanwyck, and a Chinese warlord, played by Nils Asther. Toshia Mori shines as General Yen’s concubine, Mah-Li. The film, which was the first ever to play Radio City Music Hall, also features a memorable dream sequence in which Yen seduces the young missionary. The interracial aspect of the story led the film to be banned in many areas where miscegenation laws were in place.

These films are presented for the first time on DVD and have been restored and remastered. Each film looks equally fantastic, especially for their age.  This release has a lot of love behind it.  It also comes with a nice presentation flip-found case. There are also some decent special features including introductions from Martin Scorsese and Ron Howard on “The Bitter Tea of General Yen”. Ron also intros on “The Miracle Woman” and Michel Gondry intros on “Rain or Shine”.  There is an audio commentary track from Jeanine Basinger on “Forbidden” and Jeremy Arnold on “Ladies of Leisure”.  Each disc also comes with a “Digital Image Gallery” including Scene Stills, Movie Posters, Publicity Stills, Behind the Scenes Photos and Lobby Cards.  There is a “Screen Snapshots” featurette included as well.  Lastly there is a “Frank Capra Biography” on “Ladies of Leisure” and “TCMDb Articles” on each disc as well.

DVD Review “The Frank Sinatra Film Collection”

Starring: Frank Sinatra
Number of discs: 10
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: April 3, 2012

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Who doesn’t love “ol’ blue eyes”? Frank Sinatra is a true Hollywood legend. He did it all, singer…actor…all around superstar. Unlike some musicians who decide to act, Frank actually has the chops and is an Academy Award Winner. This collection includes ten of his signature films, which cover the basis of Sinatra’s acting career. This set has got everything from musicals to dramas to action-adventures and just completely captures the phenomenal range and talent of this amazing man.

The 10 films are: The Pride And The Passion / Kings Go Forth / A Hole In The Head / Can-Can / The Manchurian Candidate (1962) / Von Ryan’s Express / Cast A Giant Shadow / Tony Rome / The Detective / Lady In Cement.  Some of my favorites are Oscar nominees like “Can-Can” and “The Manchurian Candidate”.  “A Hole in the Head” is another classic directed by Frank Capra and is an Academy Award winner for Best Music/Song.    This set has seriously got it all, I just love its range.  The aspect ratios of each film slightly differ but they are still sharp and very impressive.

The film collection consists of two volumes and packaging is very impressive.  Sometimes with box sets, they are just bare bones but these really are impressive with great images and all around classy release just like Frank himself. All Thanks to Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment for releasing this great collection.  Even if you have never seen a single Sinatra movie, this will be a great introduction into his film career.  Of course, upon first look at this set my wife’s first comment was “Wait, no ‘On The Town'”.  Though there is still enough great entertainment here to satisfy your fix of Sinatra.