Johnson+ earthquakes, + tidal waves=Box Office Success

screen-shot-2015-02-24-at-10-44-38-am-124683Put Dwayne Johnson in a tight life-or death situation along with a monumental collapse of a big chuck of California and you’ve got some eye-popping action that is winning at the box office.

Watching this kind Billy-Corbenof terror seems to thrill audiences, as long as the threat isn’t real, but knowing that the San Andreas fault has the real potential to completely wreck shop adds fuels to the flames of fear but seems to entice audiences as well. LA is simply devoured as buildings tumble and crash to the ground, and waves the size of mountains roll into the coastline with beautiful yet horrific detail as CGI stuffs the wreckage in your face. San-Andreas-Movie-Review-Image-5All you can hope for is that Johnson and his daughter get through it alive. not mush of a great scrip tis needed here, just let nature crush everything and allow Johnson to do his thing.

Who DOESN’T love THE ROCK. He’s bankable and fun to watch, so Hoorah for THE ROCK…uh, make that Dwayne Johnson, who this past weekend topped the North American box office with a BANG as his latest action flick San Andreas opened to an estimated $53.2M. WOW!maxresdefault That marks a new career high for a solo star of a movie. San Andreas is the high-octane, cataclysmic Warner Bros. disaster film that averaged an impressive $14,089 from 3,777 locations and truly exceeded film industry expectations.san-andreas-movie-1
hoover_dam_falls_in_san_andreasAlthough reviews were lackluster, movie-goers boosted the film for the spectacle (and special effects) of West Coast destruction and for Johnson’s mega-star wattage, especially female audiences that made up 51% which is rare for action movies.

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Kingsmen: The Secret Service is a funny, bloody thrill ride

Stars of Kingsmen

Stars of Kingsmen

Say what you want about academy nominee Samuel L. Jackson, but I say he makes a great and comical villain as a Russell Simmons-like genius gone over the edge in the hilarious, yet ultra-violent Kingsman: The Secret Service. Jackson and Gazelle, his blade laden, yet exotic sidekick are as fun to watch as anybody else in this film, except academy winner Colin Firth, Firth takes control of the story with style, wit, and bucket loads of kick ass, take no prisoner hand to hand combat sequences that rival The Matrix.
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Tragon Egerton takes on the lead role as Egsy, a rough and tumble young man from the rugged streets of London who has enormous physical and mental skills, but no real direction. He succeeds in the most important way; being likeable and relatable to audiences. In the film, Egsy is recruited by secret society super agents called the Kingsmen. But to make it in, he has to compete for a spot on their world-saving super team. This happens just as a maniacal billionaire entrepreneur comes up with a new technology to wipe out half the planet.

Egerton plays a new super agent

Egerton plays a new super agent

What’s fun about Kingsman: The Secret Service is that is pays genuine homage to the super-agent genre while still being funny, not corny, and at the same time, not taking itself too seriously. But seriously folks, the violence are extreme, and unapologetic, so hang on to your seats when the fighting begins.

Mark Strong makes a point inKingsmen

Mark Strong makes a point inKingsmen

There is no love interest, and the plot and action move at a steady clip, with some eye-popping sequences that you see in the biggest, baddest spy films ever made. Instead, actor Mark Strong as Merlin helped bring depth to the story as the man responsible for training Kingsmen, and also is a super hacker for the organization. Strong’s character was a critical element of the success of the film, especially in the third act. Michael Caine is as reliable and as entertaining as ever as the stiff, arrogant head honcho for the Kingsmen.

Samuel L. Jackson is the brilliant super-villain

Samuel L. Jackson is the brilliant super-villain

The comic book-inspired earned an estimated $35.6M from 3,204 locations for a muscular $11,111 average on its opening weekend. Those polled by CinemaScore gave a decent B+ average grade while reviews were generally positive. The opening weekend performance was at the same level as Denzel Washington’s last film The Equalizer (also R) which debuted to $34.1M and not far from the $39.2M of Liam Neeson’s Taken 3. That’s great company to have and Kingsman: The Secret Service is one film I’d advise you checking out if you love spy genere flicks.

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50 SHADES OF GREY proves that LOVE HURTS

Fifty-Shades-Grey-Movie-Pictures-From-Set (1)“Going in, I was keeping my expectations low because so much hype has been built around this film that the only way it could go is downhill, unless there would be some academy-worthy acting, or a screenplay that just killed.  ‘Fifty Shades’ turns out to have more sex that SEX AND THE CITY and more intensity than TWILIGHT (but for the grown girls). I guess that tells you who the target audience is right?

To my surprise, the first act had wit and humor and intensity than Sex and the City and more intelligent and far more sexual than Twilight. Fifty Shades even at times managed to cross into the realm of a romantic comedy.  And for the record, the soundtrack was bangin’ from start to finish. From a sexy, slower Beyonce rendition of “Crazy in Love” that provided a dynamic and quite erotic effect, to the swinging guitars and screams from the Rolling Stones, the tracks gave the film a throbbing tempo and ambiance.

rs_1024x759-140117151237-1024.jamie-dornan-dakota-johnson-50-shades.ls.11714_copySo here’s the real deal; this movie is quite erotic and hyper-sexual so if you’re queasy about seeing naked bodies doing the wild thang, over and over again then definitely avoid this film. In the story, we meet Anastasia, who is about to graduate from college. Before that, she agrees to stand in for her sick roommate for a scheduled interview with the young handsome Seattle billionaire Christian Grey. As the interview progresses, Christian realizes that he is attracted to Anastasia and she is fascinated with him as well.heres-the-first-trailer-for-fifty-shades-of-grey-that-was-too-racy-to-show-on-tv

The billionaire hunk is so drawn to the awkwardly sweet, easy-going college girl from a middle class family that he goes after her with all he’s got. Her dazzles her, and seduces her, but then it gets very interesting as the love story gets more sexual, and much more edgy. This is where the controversy emerges because as soon as he learns that Anastasia is a virgin Christian takes his pursuits to a new and fascinating level because we learn that he is a “dominant” and wants her to be his “submissive.”1D274906429135-x_tdy_fifty_shades_trailer_140724.blocks_desktop_large

fifty-shades-greyNo spoilers here, but I will say that Johnson, is a solid actor who’s fun to watch, and her body is captured as the erotic landscape that Christian explores at length.  The second act could possibly be described as a high-budget soft-core porn film that wrestled with love, desire, sex, dominance, choice and psychological instability. dakota-johnson-in-50-shades-trailerYou watch both characters evolve in ways that were surprising and refreshing because the young couple impacted one another so much that they both had to make hard choices, and difficult compromises to preserve their unique relationship.

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Again, this is not a film to see if you’re looking for a high-concept brain challenging thriller. It’s a twisted, erotic, relationship-driven fantasy romance film that takes you inside an intriguing relationship. The moral of the story; LOVE HURTS!

Tony C. Lesesne is co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Lesesne media Group Entertainment and movie aficionado for the HOLLYWOOD SPOTLLIGHT. Check out his shows each week at  http://www.lesesnemediagroup.com

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Chris Rock’s Top Five surprises

Tony C. Lesesne

Tony C. Lesesne

Chris Rock’s Top Five was a surprise in many ways. Rock turns in an intelligent, raucous, fast paced comedy with an ensemble of supporting comedians on the cast that make it his best work yet.

top-five-posterRock, who also wrote and directed the film, plays as Andre Allen, a former stand-up comedian who’s been in some stupid but high-grossing films and now wants a serious change.
Andre is back in his home town of New York City to promote his first “serious” film, Uprize, about the Haitian slave revolt of 1791. His fans want no part of it but rather want more of the same silliness they have come to know and love, which is Hammy, the crime-fighting bear. It’s clear that Uprize is a horrible movie.
top fiveAdding fuel to Andre’s frustration is planned wedding to reality-TV star Erica (Gabrielle Union), just as he agrees to an interview with New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown, played by Rosario Dawson.

What follows is an adventure between the two and an exploration of both of their lives and decisions.  Rock is seriously funny, intelligent, and witty. He also should be commended for including a star-studded cats with such proven talent as J.B. Smoove as his manager/handler/bodyguard; Kevin Hart as his agent, apparently trying to outdo Quentin Tarantino for use of a certain racial pejorative; and Tracy Morgan as just one of Andre’s funny friends from the hood.

The scenarios are often sexual, over the top, and from time to time, even cute as we see both Rock and Dawson expose the pain and struggle they both have with addition and relationships. Union gets credit for making her character, Erica, and model of fame for fame sake and what she is willing to do to stay in the limelight.
Cedric-the-Entertainer-in-Top-Five-Movie-Film-2014The surprise scene stealer was Cedric the Entertainer, who turned in one of his most dynamic performances of his career as a bigger than life street hustler turned hilarious Houston comedy promoter.

I definitely suggest all film aficionados and comedy lovers to check out Top Five, as it may be a comedy classic when we look back at the work of Chris Rock.

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Miami Urban Music & Film Festival (MUMFF) to stress The need for a stronger entertainment economy

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Realizing the economic benefits that an indigenous creative community can deliver, organizers of the upcoming Miami Urban Music & Film Festival (MUMFF) will place a strong emphasis on strategies needed to cultivate a stronger, more successful local entertainment economy. Scheduled for September 25-27, the MUMFF will bring together local business and economic leaders from various industries and organizations. The MUMFF will also invite diverse suppliers and vendors that provide resources to the entertainment industries.

“We will provide insight from business leaders, economists, elected officials who can do something about making South Florida more economically viable for creative producers who live and work in the area” said Tony C. Lesesne, co-producer of the event.  He added that the MUMFF also aims to support an effort to position Miami as an entertainment hub thus the MUMFF will be held at Miami Dade College Wolfson campus which is strategically located in downtown Miami.

Urban is a lucrative genre in film and music that consistently turns a profit. Globally, urban includes major cities and metropolis where urban music may include Pop, Hip Hop, Latin and Jazz. Urban films include comedies, crime, thrillers, dramas, Sci-Fi and horror.   

The Lesesne Media Group is currently accepting music videos, short films and director and actor clips for MUMFF award consideration. Members of the community can get involved by calling 954-243-3518 & 954-394-7474. The Miami Urban Music and Film Festival is sponsored by the Ford Motor Company, LMG FILMS, and Miami Dade College, Wolfson.

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Erik Estrada returns with role in Disney film – Planes: Fire and Rescue

In one of the early sequences in the new Disney film Plans; Fire & Rescue, the animated characters watch their favorite tv show starring NICK “LOOPIN’” LOPEZ (voice of Erik

Erik Estrada in Miami

Estrada in Miami promoting the new  “Planes” film

Estrada)  as America’s favorite helicopter cop featured on TV’s CHoPs, a show about two California Helicopter Patrol choppers. Sound familiar? It should. It was a direct homage to the popular 70’s hit TV shows CHiPS staring Estrada himself as Ponch. In Planes: Fire & Rescue, Estrada’s Nick is the troublemaking macho young officer, got the nickname “Loopin’” from his signature inside loop, which no other helicopter could perform. It is this early scene that we are reminded how popular actor Estrada was during his tenure with CHIPS.  In town to share his excitement about the new film, Estrada was colorful, electric and honest as we discussed his career, life and his experience Disney’s “Planes: Fire & Rescue.”

planes loopin lopez

Estrada as Nick “Loop’n” Lopez in the new Planes: Fire and Rescue Film

“I love doing animation, and this was not my first, having done numerous other animated projects in the past. “It was a blast doing it, and I enjoyed the fact that they put that sequence in there.  Estrada mentioned that the response during the screening was stunning because there were so many people in the audience that recognized the sequence and his voice. “I loved the movie. It’s an animated action film that reached me. I was able to co0nnect with it and get pulled in. It was fun” said Estrada.

“Disney’s “Planes: Fire & Rescue” features a dynamic crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting historic Piston Peak National Park from raging wildfire. When world famous air racer Dusty (voice of Dane Cook) learns that his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he must shift gears and is launched into the world of aerial firefighting. Dusty joins a fearless team that battles a massive wildfire and in the process, Dusty learns what it takes to become a true hero. Directed by Bobs Gannaway (“Secret of the Wings”), “Planes: Fire & Rescue” hits theaters in 3D on July 18, 2014.

The star of the film, Dusty takes to the skys

The star of the film, Dusty takes to the skys

Planes: Fire & Rescue is notable because of its dynamic, larger than life cast of characters and a script that is sharp, smart, funny and fast-moving. The kids and adults alike will certainly enjoy the action sequences, including the flying stunts, training scenes and rescues were loads of fun to watch, especially in 3D. Don’t be surprised if the kids start picking out their favorite characters, who happen to be planes, trucks, and helicopters that make up the fire and rescue team members.

Estrada said the experience with Disney animation project was unforgettable. “Disney knows how to do these kinds of stories and they are the best at it. As voice actors, all we had to do was come in and have fun doing it.” Besides sharing his excitement for the movie, Estrada talked about his road to success in the TV and film industry. It is a career that spans from American television, to films to telenovelas and of course, animation.

To get more information about Plane: Fire & Rescue, visit www.Disney.com/Planes, or check out the facebook page at facebook.com/DisneyPlanes or follow Disney on Twitter: twitter.com/DisneyPictures

 

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SAM RILEY HELPS CARRY MALEFICENT

Sam and AngelinaThe Disney film MALEFICENT is an eye-popping spectacle that features mega-star Angelina Jolie as Maleficent, and rising British star Sam Riley playing the character of Maleficent’s shape shifting right-hand man Diaval.

Sam Riley wIMG_1659as a scene-stealing warm-hearted character that brought hope to the films dark tone. Recently we joined in on a chat with Sam on his visit to Miami to talk about the film and his experience making it.

HOLLYWOOD SPOTLIGHT: Tell us about your take on the character of Diaval.

RILEY: Before filming, we talked about his character and his fear of Maleficent. Yet Divial spent every day with her, for 16 years so he became the only soul companion she had. They even began bickering as he continues to voice his opinions and deepening his arc. I like the fact that he sees through her mask of coldness.

PosterHOLLYWOOD SPOTLIGHT: When he’s not in his human form, Diaval is a Raven, not a crow as I first thought. So, what’s it like playing a Raven, and how do you prepare for such a character?

RILEY: We were looking for elements of the raven’s personality, so we got to spend time with a real one. They are pretty big; very big, and they have a certain strut and confidence. He (the raven) seemed to love himself, and had this swagger.

HOLLYWOOD SPOTLIGHT: Ravens are intimidating. What are the qualities that your character displayed that you admire?

RILEY:This character has good qualities. He’s loyal, and fun on one hand, and can be fierce if Maleficent is in danger. He is able to see things that Maleficent can’t see, but the audience does see. He talks about that to her. I’m glad they made the raven a human being. I really loved the part.IMG_1661

HOLLYWOOD SPOTLIGHT: The film has some serious fight scenes, battles, and a dark plot to some degree. Do you think kids will like the film?

RILEY: Disney is able to weave in horror and tragedy. Heck Bambi saw his mother shot to death by a hunter right?                             Riley with the Miami media – with horns

HOLLYWOOD SPOTLIGHT: What was it like working with a global superstar like Angelina Joile?

RILEY: She has a very disarming charm and yet she has that real star presence and charisma. She is able to make you feel the center of attention so that is really impressive and I see how she is such an amazing figure.

HOLLYWOOD SPOTLIGHT: This role is vastly different from the independent films you’ve done in the past, which in some cases were pretty tragic.

RILEY: Yes, those previous roles were brutal, and not for young audiences. So I’m glad I was able to do a film that my son could watch before he was 18

 

So who is Sam Riley and how did he emerge to become a co-star in a Disney mega-budget film? The English actor and singer of the Leeds band 10,000 Things, with whom he achieved moderate success. After their first release on indie label Voltage Records in 2002, they signed to major label Polydor for one self-titled album. They disbanded in 2005. His has his breakthrough performance playing the role of Ian Curtis in the film Control, a biopic about the lead singer of the 1970s post-punk band Joy Division. The film received high critical acclaim largely due to Riley’s performance, which won him a selection of awards including the British Independent Film Award for “Most Promising Newcomer” a BAFTA “Rising Star” nomination; and a Mark Kermode nod for Best Actor 2007. He currently lives in Berlin with his wife and Control co-star Alexandra Maria Lara. They married in August 2009 and have a son, born in January 2014.

Maleficent is the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty. Audiences should enjoy the twists within the story and the character arcs that make it interesting.

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