CUBAN FURY MOVESTO A HILARIOUS BEAT- NICK FROST SCORES BIG WITH NEW FILM

Who says big guys can’t be sexy? That’s the question Nick Frost answers in his recent interview 8_low-172x94about his new movie, a fest called Cuban Fury. In the film, Frost plays Bruce Garrett, a downtrodden junior executive who was once a contender for London’s Junior Salsa Championship. 25 years later, our anti-hero older, bigger (wider) and stuck in his day to day life and uninspired job. Bruce’s passion for Salsa is re-ignited when his hot new boss arrives. But there is stiff competition to overcome. Nick Frost joined us for a chat about the film.

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HS: What inspired the name of the film?

FROST: Cuban Salsa is among the best. It’s so cool. The second part was more like trying to have a title that made you think of a superhero. Our central character has that passion for Salsa.

HS: The dancers in the film were amazing. Where did you find them?

FRONT: Yes, they were amazing. Many of the salsa dancers appearing in the film were among the very best of the London Latino Salsa scene. 

HS: You’ve action films with fights and shoot outs. How does this film compare?

FROST: You’d be surprised to learn that dance choreography was harder than fight choreography.  But one thing I learned from doing both of them is that there is a powerful correlation between dancing and happiness.

HS: Your character got his sexy on every time he broke into Salsa. That’s not something you see very often with the big guys in movies.

FROSTNo it’s not often you see that. When you are big, and dance, people look at you a certain way. It’s like they really feel sorry for you. But really, It is about passion.  Sexy isn’t about a six pack.

HS: You had to learn to dance salsa. This was something of a challenge. How did you catch on?

FROST: From the very start, I was accepted by the Cuban salsa community. Its like family. We wanted to tell a funny story, a love story and something with lots of action. We worked around the clock. When it came to preparing for those dance sequences, it was all business. We had to make sure that we paid homage to Salsa.

HS: The laughs come frequently and from unexpected places.

FRONT: It’s a fun story with colorful characters played by brilliant actors. Sometimes it was hard to keep a straight face with some of them.

 

THE HOLLYWOOD SPOTLIGHT MOVIE METER: Go see CUBAN FURY

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Sci Fi in the spotlight

Avatar was one the highest grossing films in history

Avatar was one the highest grossing films in history

Today, we shine the HOLLYWOOD SPOTLIGHT on Science fiction film. It may not be everybody’s favorite genre, but it’s certainly one of mine. After all, some of the all-time greatest movies have been science fiction, from STAR WARS and BACK TO THE FUTURE, and their many episodes, to AVATAR, and DISTRICT 9 as well as dozens of classics over the past decade alone.

According to Wikipedia, Science fiction film is a film genre that uses science fiction: speculative, science-based depictions of phenomena that are not necessarily accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial life forms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception and time travel, often along with futuristic elements such as spacecraft, robots, cyborgs, interstellar space travel or other technologies. Science fiction films have often been used to focus on political or social issues, and to explore philosophical issues like the human condition.

Early science fiction can be traced back to Georges Melies’ A Trip to the Moon in 1902, which dazzled audiences with photographic tricks that laid the foundation for special effects. In 1927, the film Metropolis became the first feature length science fiction film. Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 landmark 2001: A Space Odyssey, placed the science fiction genre on a new platform, earning new fans. In the late 1970s, big-budget science fiction films filled with special effects became popular with audiences after the success of Star Wars and paved the way for the blockbuster hits of subsequent decades.

Because if its cost factors and creative challenges, science fiction has not been an easy genre for independent filmmakers to create. One of the best places to catch loads of good films in the science fiction genre is at science fiction films festivals. There are festivals held around the world throughout the year, including the Sci-Fi London, the Boston Science Fiction Film festival, the Phillip K. Dick Science fiction film festival; Lille France, the Science fiction and Fantasy Film Fest in Seattle, and most recently, the Miami International Science Fiction Festival in Miami.
Sci-Fi lands in Miami
When I heard about a press screening for the Miami International Science Fiction Festival, I re-arranged my calendar to get there to get an advanced peek at a few films they planned to screen. After all, these are films that may not get major distribution, but deserve to be seen. Dust of War was one such film. The post-apocalyptic setting where the bad guys run amok was pretty entertaining. Big props to Troy Millard and his partners, and festival team for bringing the event to sunny Miami in the dead of winter.
For more about the Miami International Science Fiction Festival in Miami, keep checking in at http://www.lesesnemediagroup.com or the Hollywood Spotlight on Facebook. For free passes, be sure to e-mail me so I can enter your name for the daily drawing.

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Best Man Holiday hits the mark by Rashondra Jackson

Director Malcolm D. Lee strikes gold again with the sequel to his box office hit “The Best Man.” “The Best Man Holiday” is a dramedy about college friends reuniting over the Christmas holiday. Even though time has passed, careers have developed, and families have began, they quickly discover that not all scars have healed and not all flames have dwindled.

After developing characters and filling in the blanks from “The Best Man,” Lee reunites the gang, Harper (Taye Diggs), Jordan (Nia Long), Julian (Harold Perrineau), Quentin (Terrence Howard) and Shelby (Melissa De Sousa) and their significant others, Robyn (Sanaa Lathan), Brian (Eddie Cibrian) and Candace (Regina Hall) when the beloved Nia (Monica Calhoun) invites them into her and Lance’s (Morris Chestnut) home for the holidays. Mind you, it was Lance and Nia’s wedding that brought the gang together again in the first feature film. That’s when we discovered that the best man, Harper, had slept with the bride. All of which was revealed through characters in his first novel “Unfinished Business.” Since the wedding of course, Lance and Harper’s friendship hasn’t been the same.

Come to find out, Harper is not doing so well financially. He and his pregnant wife Robyn are in debt from fertility treatments, his newest book isn’t selling and he just got fired from his college teaching position. Jordan is now a big time exec at MSNBC, her best friend Nia is the loving wife to star New York Giants running back Lance Sullivan and the mother to their children. Husband and wife Julian and Candace run their own school and Shelby is now a reality star in a popular “housewives” franchise. I didn’t really catch what Quentin does but I did learn that white folks pay him a lot of money to tell them what n****s think.

In the midst of the festivities Lee foreshadows that something is wrong with Nia, the glue that holds them all together. I couldn’t help but shed some tears when the news broke, but as always, we can count on Quentin for some comedic relief when things get a little too intense. However, the twist does relieve the tension between Harper and Lance and even aids in repairing their friendship.

Overall, I think Lee did a fantastic job of developing characters, tying up loose ends, writing a compelling storyline and evoking strong comedic and emotional responses from the audience. “The Best Man Holiday” is an instant black Christmas classic, joining the ranks of “The Preacher’s Wife,” and “This Christmas.” Too bad we don’t have many, but in my opinion, this one definitely made the list.

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Cruise vs Downey Jr.

 

Two Hollywood heavyweights are about to go head to head. Tom Cruise has Ghost Protocol on tap in a few days and so does Robert Downey Jr. In both cases, people are going to get beat up, shot, tricked and things are going to blow up…a lot.  You gotta love it.

These guys are going to make the holiday movie season all the more exciting. Of course, we’re talking about one of them, Cruise portrays super-agent Ethan Hunt, while the other portrays super detective Sherlock Holmes.  Let’s see how they turn out. I invite you to tell us how you enjoyed the films and if you have time, check then out with us.

In the case of Sherlock Holmes, You have a film that takes place way back in the early days of Scotland Yard, at the turn of the century in London. The film takes off like a rocket and doesn’t stop. The fighting scenes rival anything you’ll see in a Tom Cruise action flick, creating a revised view of what could have been a stale brand. Thanks to guy Ritchie for bringing his brand of action to the Sherlock Holmes legacy.

 

Gui Agustini as C.T. is a ruthless young crime boss

We are seeing the making of a leading man. 23 year-old actor Gui Agustini seems to have a few things in common with Cruise and Downey Jr. “He has talent, desire, focus and on screen appeal” says Woodie Lesesne who is co-producing MIDTOWN CREW, an independent film which stars Agustini. He recently won an award for his work in the 48-Hour Film Festival Challenge in Miami and currently plays a lead role in the film MIDTOWN CREW.  In the film, Agustini portrays Claudio Thiago or “C.T.”, a deadly serious chief strategy officer jockeying for control of the powerful Mesa-Cruz crime family in Miami. “C.T is a very complex character” says Agustini. “His personality and behaviors are opposite from mine. C.T doesn’t smile much and he is a killer. Nobody messes up with him. I love to smile and prefer to be kind to people.

 As a teen, the versatile Agustini excelled in competitive tennis while developing as an actor and model.  “He has developed his timing and on-screen power  that positions him to be an excellent leading man” says Independent film director Curtis Ballard. Ballard is working with producer, director Tony C. Lesesne on MIDTOWN CREW, after having completed production of his own independent film called BAGHDAD. Lesesne notes. “In the past year, Gui has reached levels that I thought would take five years to reach.

SUNDANCE BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT

The 2012 Sundance Film Festival takes place January 19 through 29 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah. A program of the non-profit Sundance Institute, the Festival has introduced global audiences to some of the most ground-breaking films of the past two decades.Sundance Institute’s year-round programs for independent film and theatre artists. www.sundance.org/festival

Sundance Institute is a global nonprofit organization founded by Robert Redford in 1981. Through its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, composers and playwrights, the Institute seeks to discover and support independent film and theatre artists from the United States and around the world, and to introduce audiences to their new work. The Institute promotes independent storytelling to inform, inspire, and unite diverse populations around the globe. Internationally recognized for its annual Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Born into Brothels, Trouble the Water, Son of Babylon, and Amreeka.

 

 

 

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A Robust Film Community: Can it exist here?

Tony C. Lesesne

Is it possible to carve out a successful film community outside of Hollywood? Of course it is. It won’t be easy but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.

Like most communities, we also have the infrastructure, and the talent. The immediate challenge is to get it organized (working on that one). Besides getting it organized, the other major obstacle is successfully attracting the support and patronage of the greater community that can make a film community not only real, but eventually profitable.

We can look to the art communities that have thrived in some cities and learn from those that have failed. What makes the New York Art community such a success? The answer lies in the various elements that come together to make it work. There are plenty of good artists, plenty of places for them to showcase their works, and lots of buyers who purchase the art, keeping the artists employed and eating. Specifically, you’ve got the many art galleries showcasing local artists, street fairs featuring local artists, magazines featuring local artists and dozens of Art Festivals featuring; well you guessed it…local artists. All those elements feed back to the buyers who enjoy, invest, and ultimately support their local artists.

Let’s translate that into building a local film community. To build a strong local film community, we need good writers who feed content to good directors, who can turn to solid actors to get local productions completed. Then we need a network of local venues (theaters, storefronts, art galleries, art houses, community centers and public facilities like libraries, churches and colleges). We also need more community-supported local film festivals that feature local films. We need to attract the support of the local media and social media networks in our communities to inform the public that indeed there are local productions being completed that will be available to local audiences. 

Here’s the most important part: If we are capable of attracting hoards of local people who BUY tickets to movies made by local filmmakers (with local actors, producers etc.) then you’ve got yourself a real-live film community. When that happens, you also attract investors, and the cycle grows from local to regional and from regional to national, and in some rare cases, global. Remember, I said it won’t be easy, but it’s possible.

We all need fans! Ticket-buying, t-shirt wearing, movie-going fans. It starts with your family, friends, associates and others who tell others until you have a collective fan base. If each of us did that, the collective would grow, and a community would then have relevance. Think about it; Local theaters and community centers showing films by local film makers, featuring local acting talent in stories that you can enjoy. What if some of them sold out? What if we had our own local awards show, featuring “best-actor” and “best director” and so forth? I believe it would absolutely attract the attention of Hollywood.

Filming a scene from THE HIT MAKER on location with all local cast


The community begins and ends with us. Especially if we understand what makes a community. We ask for recommendations as to businesses/locations for hosting a reception and film viewing. We sorely need those venues. What do you think? Let’s get started!

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Making a scene “SCENE”

Making a scene is something we directors try to do with every take. I try to study classics to see a scene that stands out. AMC shows some pretty cool movies, but in my mind, nothing beats THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY. Sure, I hate the fact that there is no female lead or supporting character in the film which

Lex Kelly (left) with Kassandra Roach in THE HIT MAKER

really sicks;  but aside from that, it’s a true classic and great film to study when it comes to studying a scene.  Just about every scene was “a scene” even though most of the story revolved around just two guys (Blondie and Tuco).

I learned that an actor can take a little scene and make it into a great scene if they maximize the situation. Lex Kelly taught me that when he played the role of the moronic Miami rap star Vinny of the Ruthless Crew in THE HIT MAKER, a fictioanal documentary story that follows the activities and exploits of a group of young, up and coming recording artists from Miami from 2008-2010. Every time we filmed his scenes, which were few and far between, Lex killed it. He created a character that was pure  and idiotic and made my simple little script from a no-budget film idea a moment that you either love or hate. Somehow, he made this character a “person” who thought he was smart and aheadof the curve, but when he did his interviews, everything came off wrong. In the photo above, Vinny is being interviewed during Super Bowl Weekend (2009). We were on location outside the stadium where the game was only days away and Lex was is true form. Not only did he nail his lines on the first take, but he was ready to improvise when I needed him to and after we filmed that scene, I asked him to do more improvisation. That’s when the magic happened because he allowed himself to “let go” and literally “made a scene.

Lex Kelly (L) with Dominique Ward (as Shaye) and David Lovelace in THE HIT MAKER

In another scene Lex stole a scene which featured a fictional photo shoot with his on screen label-mate Shaye LaVille and his numb skull rap partner. Lex again brought the scene to life, even though had only had a few lines. When we improvised, the scene took on a completely new effect, one that made ot look all the more like a documentary capturing a foolish, rich, musclebound rap star looking to get into trouble.

I find myself watching his scenes over and over again because he had such a small role in the film. As I write new scripts, I want to make this guy a lead in a future comedy I’d love to produce. I’m sure you understand my reasoning behind this idea.Check out THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY, and watch Tuco and Blondie make their scenes come alive as they deepen their characters with every scene. Enjoy.

 

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What is COOL in Hollyood? Meet John Luessenhop

Luessenhop one of the coolest in the business

by Tony C. Lesesne

As I sat over breakfast with John Luessenhop in a quaint Santa Monica restaurant, I began to realize that this guy has to be one of the coolest movie directors I have ever met, and I’ve been plenty of them. Luessenhop is smooth, easy-going, down to earth and incredibly funny without effort.

A little over six-months ago, Luessenhop scored a #1 film with TAKERS which featured two mega stars from R&B and hip hop (TI and Chris Brown) as well as notable Paul Walker (Fast and Furious) and Hollywood leading man Matt Dillon. So what is it like to direct numerous A-list stars in an action-packed crime drama and keep everyone focused? “It was pretty easy” Luessenhop said. “They were all very professional and ready to make the film the best that it could be.


Turning back the clock, we learned where Luessenhop came from. I Came out to LA after college and wrote kids comedy, then had a tough six months. My agent passed away. My roommate died in a jeep accident. Believe it or not, I got stabbed in the back in a gang fight. I’ve been through law school, and was a Wall Street attorney for six years. I still wanted to make films so I left before becoming a partner.

What makes Luessenhop cool is not just his clear gift for filmmaking, but the fact that he enjoys his family and lives his passion for working with kids through basketball as much as he does making movies. At 6’5, he is an imposing man, yet his calm demeanor and laid back style puts you at ease. in a town where people work hard at being cool, it is refreshing to meet a talent such as this who isn’t working at it, he just is.

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