Film Review: “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek
Directed by: Patrick Hughes
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 58 mins
Lionsgate

Michael Bryce (Reynolds) is a Triple-A rated bodyguard who is proud of the fact the he hasn’t lost a client since….BANG! Oops.

A film that only works in small doses, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is several films in one. First you have an action comedy full of dirty words and exploding heads. Next is a political thriller as the leader of Belarus (Gary Oldman) is put on trial, at the Hague in the Netherlands no less! Finally you have the “bro-mance,” featuring Bryce and hired killer Darius Kincaid (Jackson), a duo that yells and bickers with each other like an old married couple. Taken separately, you have a surprisingly entertaining (sometimes) film. Put it all together, and you have a mess.

When the film works it’s when Reynolds and Jackson act as you expect them too. Reynolds is all smarm, his character seemingly trying to be the smartest man in the room while Jackson finds new and entertaining ways to use the words “mother” and, well, you know.

Somehow Kincaid is the only witness that can put Oldman’s character away forever, though it’s never really understood how until the end of the film. Throw in Bryce’s old lover, who just happens to be an INTERPOL agent, and you can see how jumbled the film is. Thankfully, the chemistry (and improvisational skills) of Reynolds and Jackson keep the film moving. The action is frenetic, moving across Europe like a Zagat video gone wild, so much so that you appreciate it when Mr. Jackson gets to utter his favorite phrase. “You know you’ve totally ruined “mother fu**er) for me, Bryce tells Kincaid. Hardly. The words flow out of Kincaid like the paint off of an artist’s brush. If only the rest of the film were as much of a masterpiece.

Win Passes to the Kansas City Premiere of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”

Media Mikes has teamed with Lionsgate Films to give 50 readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see the new film “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” in Kansas City.

The screening will be held on Tuesday, August 15th at the B&B Shawnee 18 Theatre in Shawnee, Kansas and will begin at 7:00 p.m.

All you have to do is go here and download your passes. The first 50 readers to do so will receive a pass for two to attend the screening. This is a first come/first serve contest and once the passes are exhausted the giveaway is over.

“The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman, opens nationally on August 18, 2017

A Conversation with Deadpool’s Greg LaSalle

If you’ve made the right decision this Valentine’s Day weekend and have checked out Deadpool then you may not have heard Greg LaSalle but you definitely saw him. Sort of. LaSalle is one of the tech wizards behind the Academy Award winning MOVA Facial Performance Capture system used in bringing Deadpool’s X-men reinforcement, Colossus, to the screen. While Colossus’s body and voice were provided by actor Stefan Kapicic, LaSalle stepped in front of the MOVA cameras to give the metallic facial performance.

The morning after Deadpool made its New York debut amidst a Deadpool fan costume contest, I sat down with LaSalle for a conversation on Deadpool, other Marvel films and this amazing process used to bring characters such as the Incredible Hulk and Thanos to life.

Lauren Damon: Did you go to the fan premiere last night?
Greg LaSalle: Oh yeah, that was a lot of fun.

How many Deadpools showed up?
LaSalle: Oh you mean the people who dressed up? Oh I don’t know, I think there were quite a bit. I think they chose like seven of them or something, it was pretty funny. One in a tutu, I mean…it was hysterical.

Are you someone who goes to conventions in general seeing that?
LaSalle: No–
“Avoid them like the plague!”
LaSalle: [laughing] No, it’s not that, you know it’s just I have so many things to do. I don’t get a chance to do that very often.

Can you talk about what MOVA Facial Performance Capture is?
LaSalle: I’ll start by telling you first a little bit about what motion capture actually is–which is where you would wear the reflective markers. And that system, those systems were actually developed to deduce where a skeleton is moving. So as those cameras became higher resolution, people started shrinking the dots and gluing them to people’s faces. The data set you get from that is only like 200, 250 points. So a friend of mine in the bay area decided that he would fund the development of research to find out how to actually capture the entire surface of the skin deformity and that’s where MOVA comes from. That development.

So it’s super high resolution, it captures about 7000 data points, all the wrinkles, all the subtlety of the performance is captured. So it’s basically like capturing a scan per frame of the film of the actor. And then about two years ago Digital Domain developed a technique to take those and apply them mathematically to a computer generated character. So the entire performance gets carried over so it really looks, you know, all the performance is captured.

I heard that it’s captured through paint instead of dots?
LaSalle: We apply, it’s invisible makeup in white light that just is applied as a random pattern and then the system has strobing black lights and white lights. So certain cameras take a picture when the black lights are on and all they see is this random pattern makeup. And that’s what’s used to create the scans and track the points across the face.

Seeing as you worked on both Avengers and Age of Ultron and a couple years had passed between them, did the process for capturing the Hulk change? If you worked on the Hulk?
LaSalle: I did, in the first Avengers that’s what it started out as actually, it was before filming was working with Industrial Light and Magic to capture Mark [Ruffalo] to see how he would move as the Hulk. On set they used a bit of different technology so this new technology that we used for Colossus is actually the first time it’s been used. This mathematic transferring of the performance. Things like in the past, like in Avengers, we surveyed the actor. We’d get all the information about how the actor’s face would move and then companies would build a rig which is just a way of animating and when you run a slider, the lip goes up and it goes up as if it was the actor. But it doesn’t have all the subtlety and nuance of the variation in a performance. The new technology the does.

Did you have any hand in that Hulk-smashing-Loki scene?
LaSalle: Well we only specialize in the facial stuff, so only the expressions part of–but that was my favorite part of the first Avengers movie. That ‘boom boom boom!’ [LaSalle does some pretty accurate Hulk smashing motions] It’s a shame though to see Tom Hiddleston beat up like that because he’s such a nice guy.

You captured his face for that? Wasn’t it just grunting?
LaSalle: Yeah yeah…It’s so many years ago now and we’ve done so many things that I can’t remember exactly what we did. If I remember correctly, they put a pipe with some foam on the end and they kept [jabbing motions, laughing] like they’re pushing the back of [Tom’s] head so that he’d [jerks his head]…It was very strange!

What did you work on for Age of Ultron?
LaSalle: Actually I only did the–Thanos. Working with Josh Brolin.

Also on Guardians of the Galaxy too?
LaSalle: Mhmm.

I don’t know if Marvel would let me ask you but when is he coming back?!
LaSalle: That’s really funny because I was convinced while we were filming Age of Ultron that they’re gonna–I just have this feeling that something will happen. I mean he’s like the baddest dude in the whole universe and they have to do something–

Yeah coming up of course we have [Captain America] Civil War, that’s Earth-bound but [Thor] Ragnarok is coming and that’s out there! He’s waiting in the wings…
LaSalle: I mean I wish I could say. I’m not privy to those kinds of things to begin with. But it would be really cool to see a bad ass movie with Thanos. I mean they have so many characters and so many things to do. Kevin Feige–he’s the president of Marvel–knows this universe probably better than Stan Lee and he has this all mapped out in his head. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

Do you keep up with the other projects in between what you’re working on?
LaSalle: I don’t actually like actively keep up. I look for within the industry, what we could work on and how we could pull things off.

So working as Colossus, you’re performing his scenes and they just transfer your face into his?
LaSalle: Yes, in simple terms, yes. It creates a scan first and then this fancy math transfers that by figuring out where–you teach it ‘Okay, this is where the center of my cheek is and this is the center of where Colossus’s left cheek is’ and it mathematically calculates what else is going on in that area. It transfers it.

How did it come to be this split performance where you’re on the face and Stefan Kapicic provides the body and voice?
LaSalle: Tim Miller understands this technology really well, so he figured he could take the best of what different people had to offer and Frankenstein all that together. And he was adamant about having an authentic Russian voice. I believe he even recorded another and he just didn’t like it and then he found Stefan. And I think it works extremely well. It’s a pretty cool way of using the technology.

What was the most fun about being Colossus?
LaSalle: Well I’ve known Tim for a long time and I just like working with him. He’s fun, he’s actually a lot like Deadpool in his comedy and the way he’s sarcastically funny. So I enjoy working with him on that. But I also did the tests which we did like six years ago so it’s been really awesome to see it finally get made. So just the general overall feeling of being happy about that.

Was Tim involved at all in how Deadpool was treated in [2009’s] Wolverine?
LaSalle: No

Was there discussion about just getting away from that entirely?
LaSalle: Tim is a huge comic book fan. He reads a ton, he likes graphic novels. He knew that he wanted to take what’s on the page and have that be what’s in the film. He wasn’t going to mess with it, he wanted to–as a fan he knew that that’s what everybody wanted to see. That’s what he wanted to do.

How instrumental was Ryan Reynolds also in getting this?
LaSalle: I think it was a collaborative effort because they all have their understanding of the character so they–and Tim is great that way. I know he had people that they discussed it: ‘This is what I’d like to see, this is what you’d like to see’ and then they figured out a way to get that all to happen.

This is your second time in front of the camera [after an appearance Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb] is this what you’d like to do more of?
LaSalle: Well I think it’s fun, I’ve been acting for a while and that’s why Tim gave me the part. But I like to do both. I think it’s fun to play the computer generated characters because you get to do really wacky stuff. And then but I also like really small, intimate type live action things. So I’ve been shooting a few short things.

What’re some of your favorite films this past year?
LaSalle: Oh, I liked the Big Short, I liked Trumbo if you’ve seen that. I thought Trumbo was really good.

Yeah, it was weird to watch that in the context of “Award season” since there’s so much of Oscar in the storyline…
LaSalle: I know! You gotta block all that stuff out. Well it’s so interesting too. I mean it’s doubly cool that it’s true.

Do you have more acting roles coming up?
LaSalle: I just finished filming, ironically with Blake Lively [married to Reynolds]. A movie with her called All I See is You which there’s what we call invisible effects. It’s a live action movie but they wanted to use this new technology to drive her newborn baby being born and a character that she sees in her head. So I played both of those parts.

Playing a fetus?!
LaSalle: Not the fetus! As soon as it’s born I had to do the scenes of taking the first breath of screaming and crying and opening the eyes and looking around. They wanted all this subtlety. They figured a live performance would do that more than trying to animate all that subtlety into it.

[This next question features discussion of a specific Deadpool moment, so for the SPOILER-shy, skip down past this one!]

Does that mean you had anything to do with Deadpool regrowing a baby hand? [A brilliant moment after Deadpool cuts his off to escape Colossus’s handcuffs]
LaSalle: (Laughs) No! No. It’s so funny because I’d known that he cuts his hand off for a very long time but I never go to see anything–I only knew because Colossus ends up with his hand. And I never knew what happened. So when he cut his hand off, the first time he saw the movie it was like ‘OK now how does it grow back? How does it grow back?’ And then they even made that funny, it was awesome. I didn’t know what to expect because I don’t like to see the movie until they’re completely done because there’s just so many things that pull you out of it, you know? So I wanted to wait til it was done and I think that all this talk–the blood and the guts and the R-rating, it’s perfect. I don’t care!

It would be weird if you had this much violence and then just no blood, it’s annoying when PG-13 movies do that–
LaSalle: Plus it’s there because it needs to be, a couple of short seconds and it’s not gross. It’s just real.

[Spoiler over!]

Back to Deadpool , considering there are so many films now in the ‘Marvel Universe’, what do you think is most appealing about this character, what does he bring?
LaSalle: Well I think his authenticity to the original character. And the comedy. I mean I think there’s a lot of funny stuff in the Avengers movies and some of the other stuff, but that’s what Deadpool’s character is built around. And I think that that just makes it’s different and stand out.

If Deadpool had to be pitted against any of the Avengers, who do you think would win out?
LaSalle: Oh…This might sound bad but I think Deadpool is way smarter than those other characters. So I think he’d win a lot of stuff. Because he thinks differently than they do.

Film Review “Deadpool

Review by Mike Smith
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein and Morena Baccarin
Directed by: Tim Miller
Rated: R
Running time: 1 hr 48 mins
20th Century Fox
Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Sometimes you know a few minutes into a film what the tone is going to be. Deadpool sets it almost immediately when, during the opening credits, the Producer is identified as: SOME ASSHAT! Thank you, Mr. AssHat, for making one hell of a film.

One of the lesser known (to me anyway) of the Marvel Comic characters (think Spider-man in red without the webs), Deadpool (Reynolds) is a foul-mouthed fool who enjoys his work a little too much. And when I say “foul-mouthed,” I’m talking filthy. He makes Hit Girl in Kick Ass look like Little Miss Sunshine. Known to his friends as Wade Wilson, he earns his money by taking down local bullies. Things are going well for Wade. He’s just found the perfect woman of his dreams (Baccarin) when he learns he has cancer. He is offered a chance for the cure if he becomes part of a mercenary team. Instead he is greatly disfigured by the treatments he receives and decides to just disappear from those that love him (“please don’t make the suit green or animated,” he tells his handlers, pointing fun at Reynold’s last attempt as a hero, “Green Lantern”). If smart-assed sarcasm is your cup of tea, then Deadpool will quench your thirst.

As a character, Deadpool is unlike any “hero” you’ve ever seen. He has no qualms with blowing a bad guys head off with his pair of nine-millimeter pistols or cutting them off with his twin katanas, he’s mixing it up with both the on-screen baddies and the audience. Between breaking the fourth wall and dropping little “inside” quips – when told he needs to go see Professor Charles Xavier he asks, “Stewart or McAvoy?” If I have to explain that comment to you, stop reading now. You don’t want to see this movie.

A superhero film is only as good as the actor playing him and, if ever an actor was meant to play Deadpool, it is Ryan Reynolds. Ever since “Van Wilder” he has spent his career trying to re-capture that “smart-ass” charm. He fits the bill here perfectly. He is surrounded by some strong co-stars, including Skrein as a fellow mercenary and Baccarin who is as tough as she is loving. And I’m sure Stan Lee will agree with me when I say this is his “best cameo EVER!” Throw in a couple of X-men and you’ve got a damn good escape for the weekend.

Ryan Reynolds talks about his latest film “Self/Less”

3

3Ryan Reynolds stars this week in Gramercy Pictures’ new sci-fi thriller Self/Less from director Tarsem Singh (The Cell). Self/Less revolves around a dying billionaire named Damian who’s initially played by Sir Ben Kingsley before he undergoes a groundbreaking procedure to place his mind inside a younger, healthier body. Ryan Reynolds’s body to be precise. Secretive underground sci-fi operations generally not being on the up and up, Damian finds himself fighting to find out the origins of this new body while on the run from people behind the shady organization. Assuring us that he was himself and not Sir Ben, the future Deadpool star sat down in New York to discuss the film as well as some other acting aspirations (hint: let’s let the man be evil for a change!)

What attracted you to this film?
Ryan Reynolds:
As I’ve gotten older–and I guess I can say that now–I kind of, it’s about working with people you want to work with. And Ben Kingsley had signed on before I was involved. And Tarsem, I remember being so taken with Tarsem’s The Cell. A film which I thought was incredible and of course, Sir Ben and basically everything he’s ever done so…I was just kind of excited to get in the sandbox with those guys.

How familiar are you with the actual research that people are doing regarding this concept?
Reynolds:
A little bit, I read some stuff on it–there’s actually some compelling science that would suggest that this is something that we could actually achieve…I find it disturbing, actually. I find the whole concept of it disturbing to so abuse this first life and privilege that we have that we would be as arrogant to ask for a second one. It raises all kinds of questions. For some people it raises a theological argument, for some people it’s just a moral issue, for some people it just sounds awesome. So you know, it just depends. I remember when we were scouting for locations for the movie, we met a couple of billionaires here in New York because we were interested in borrowing their penthouse for Ben Kingsley’s character you know, because he’s a billionaire. And every one of them said “is that possible?” [laughs] You know and you just think ‘wow, you really, you would do that, wouldn’t you?’

Did you meet with Ben Kingsley, since you’re playing the young version of the same character even though you don’t share scenes together?
Reynolds:
Yeah I met him. Yeah. I actually spent a lot of time with him. It wasn’t so much that we were shooting together, we had one scene together, but he was around quite a bit. And you know, I would just hang out with him, we had lunch a couple of times. He’s amazing. He’s just an amazing person. I really think he’s kind of like a skin covered nuclear reactor. I mean I’ve never seen a guy with that kind of intensity. He’s got something blowing through him that’s otherworldly.

Lauren Damon: How was it playing against Matthew Goode who’s really playing one of those Archetypal British Villains?
Reynolds:
Well, he British. It helps. [laughter] But yeah the Brits are to me, you know, they embody great dry comedy. But certainly there’s a perception that villainous behavior goes in tandem with being British…Yeah, he brought a great screen villain into the mix for us…He is really remarkable. It’s also great because he’s kind of a leading man type of guy and you know, that’s important. I always think–my dream role is to play a villain. I still, to this day, I haven’t had the chance to play like a proper you know, on screen villain. The Voices [2014] I play sort of a nefarious bad guy, but he doesn’t believe he’s a bad guy so I can’t wait to do that some day. Because that’s just, I love villains because villains never ever ever ever feel like villains to me. I would love to do a villain role because I would play every line like he’s the hero. Because in real life that’s what villains are. Villains are just people with opposing convictions, not necessarily people that wake up in the morning and go ‘I need to kill someone.’

Why do you think you’ve not been asked to play a villain?
Reynolds:
I don’t know. That’s a good question. I don’t know. I also just think that Hollywood tends to cast villains–they tend to cast people that seem like villains…And I don’t know why they do that. I think like–I would prefer that they take somebody who doesn’t necessarily strike you as a villain and make them the greatest onscreen villain to ever happen. So I don’t know. I would love that opportunity though. I mean I look for them, I always look for them. But typically it’s in the writing–you read them and you’re like ‘oh well he’s written like a villain’ that’s why I don’t want to do it…You know, he’s talking like a ‘bad guy.’ I don’t think villains are like that. I think that villains talk like they’re the hero. You know, if you look back throughout history and you think of some of the greatest, you know, most awful human beings and the people that truly did the most damage, they believed in what they were doing. And that’s why they did the most damage. So like that to me is interesting.

LD: Shooting this and then also being Deadpool, a basically unkillable character, did you find yourself giving more thought to the concept of immortality, whether you saw it as a good or bad thing?
Ryan Reynolds:
I don’t know who would want to–to live forever, I feel like that’d just be a sentence. It would be kind of awful. I would not want to, I wouldn’t want to do that. But yeah, as a theme, it’s kind of been around lately for me…I think for a lot of people that’s wish fulfillment and in this film, I think Self/less they kind of tackle it in an interesting way. There’s a real moral argument there. There’s something, it’s a lot to with a class system. There’s a guy who uses his influence, power and money to acquire something that no other human being could really acquire. And to use it in such a way that is not necessarily altruistic but kind of disgusting, that’s the moral journey that he’s on and I think that that is what also derails him. And I found that to be kind of interesting.

LD: Are you going with Deadpool to Comic Con? And do you think you would brave the show floor whether in disguise or not?
Reynolds:
Oh yeah, we will have a presence at Comic Con for sure. Yeah, I’d love to go on the floor…

LD: Deadpool’s really covered, you could do it.
Reynolds:
Yeah I could! But if I wear the actual Deadpool suit from ten miles away, you’ll know it’s me. Because it’s the actual Deadpool suit, which I think is a feat of engineering. No cosplay looks that good. So I don’t know, maybe I’ll go in a Hulk mask or something.

Self/Less opens Friday July 10th
Deadpool is scheduled for release February 16th 2016