Tag Archives: Ryan Reynolds

Interview: Morena Baccarin talks ‘Deadpool’

Morena Baccarin in 'Deadpool' (20th Century Fox)

By Tim Lammers

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that after starring in such TV favorites as “Firefly,” “V” and “Gotham,” and voicing Talia al Ghul in animated “Batman” projects, Morena Baccarin considers herself a comic book/sci-fi geek like the rest of us.

After all, geekdom is something the stunning, 34-year-old Brazilian-born actress has known her whole life. In fact, that’s why she was thrilled to play the pivotal role of Vanessa Carlysle — the tough-as-nails girlfriend of Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) — in the hotly anticipated, R-rated movie adaptation of Marvel Comics’ “Deadpool.”

“Growing up, I became a comic book fan through my brother by osmosis,” Baccarin said in a phone conversation Tuesday from New York City. “But personally, I was a fan of ‘Labyrinth,’ ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ and ‘Star Wars’ – all of that stuff. I’ve enjoyed my fair share, and while I wouldn’t say I’m a hardcore fan, I’m humbled by the passion of the people who are.”

Opening in theaters nationwide on Friday, “Deadpool” tracks the origins of the iconic comic book anti-hero superhero through the colorful musings of Wade Wilson, a former Special Forces operative-turned-mercenary who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Left with virtually no options, Wade enters into a shady deal where he is promised a cure for his cancer, but in return, he is injected with a serum and forced to undergoes days of torture that will cause a mutation to kick in.

The last stage of his transformation, however, comes with an even bigger price. While his mutation gives him the ability to heal from any malady or traumatic injury — he can even grow back severed limbs — his treatment in an airtight oxygen tank has caused his body to be severely disfigured. Hiding his scars under a blood red costume and dubbing himself “Deadpool,” Wade goes on the hunt for the sadistic doctor, Frances Freeman, aka, Ajax (Ed Skrein), in the hope that his physical appearance can be reversed.

Unable to show himself to his longtime love, Wade is forced to confront his fears when Ajax kidnaps Vanessa as a way to lure his mercenary alter-ego into battle.

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Baccarin loves the fact that Vanessa was scripted not as a damsel in distress, but a woman who can not only hold her own against Wade, but the bad guys as well.

“I feel like character is strong, funny and no-hold-barred, and that’s what’s so great about her,” Baccarin said. “It’s really nice to see a character that is equally matched to her counterpart.”

Of course, the stars of “Deadpool” have been subject to the monstrous expectations from the fans who have wanted to see the likes of Wade and Vanessa properly represented on the big screen for years. Thankfully, Baccarin said, the focus of the fans was squarely on the character affectionately known as the “Merc with a Mouth.”

“The fans of this particular project were more interested in Wade,” Baccarin said, laughing. “They wanted to know whether Deadpool was going to be written the way he is written in the comics, or whether it was going to be toned down, because Marvel movies have this history of making stories more mainstream. I think that was an major concern. Getting an R-rated film made was a really big accomplishment, and something Ryan, the writers and (director) Tim Miller really wanted to do for the fans.”

Baccarin said she certainly responds to comic book-inspired movies like “Deadpool” being grittier, just because it seems to open a whole new avenue of creativity. The actress said there’s no reason any project should feel limiting — even if it’s on TV like “Gotham” — especially given the Batman-inspired tale’s source material.

“I think things feel more real that way, and people are ready for that,” said Baccarin, who plays Dr. Leslie Thompkins in the series. “I love that Batman has some darkness to him, because it’s very real. It’s reflected in the comics. It didn’t come out of nowhere. What’s interesting about Batman or the world of ‘Gotham’ is that it’s gritty and it’s not clear cut. It’s not black-and-white. There are moral struggles, and that’s something that’s very human.”

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Interview: Alfre Woodard says ‘Mississippi Grind’ was sure bet

'Mississippi Grind' stars Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds and Alfre Woodard

By Tim Lammers

Alfre Woodard’s presence has dominated films and television for more than three and a half decades now — all the way from her Oscar-nominated role in the 1984 biographical drama “Cross Creek” to 1992’s acclaimed drama “Passion Fish” to the 1996 crime thriller “Primal Fear” — and more recently on TV with starring turns in such hit series as “Desperate Housewives,” “True Blood” and “State of Affairs.”

Woodard has also proven, though, that a little of her can go a long way, including small but memorable  roles in the Oscar-winning biographical drama “12 Years a Slave” and in the new gambling addiction drama “Mississippi Grind.”

“I tell people that I’m in the film, but once you see me, don’t look for me — if you keep looking for me you’ll miss the whole movie,” Woodard said, laughing, in a recent phone conversation from New York.

In “Mississippi Grind,” which is expanding to more theaters nationwide Friday, Ben Mendelsohn plays Gerry, an addicted gambler who experiences a reversal of fortune when he hits the road on a poker run with Curtis, a successful, charismatic card player who appears to be his good luck charm. Woodard plays Sam, a bookmaker who ominously tells Gerry that the load of money he owes her is due in a matter of days with no hopes of extending the deadline.

While Woodard is only featured in one scene in the film, the 62-year-old Tulsa, Oklahoma, native said her attraction to the project wasn’t so much about the size of  her role as it was who she was acting with.

“The reason to go to work for one scene depends on who that scene is with, and this time it was Ben,” Woodard explained. “It was just the two of us and the scene was well-written. Ben was really the draw. It’s also why I did the one s

cene in ’12 Years a Slave.’ I wanted to have the chance to work with Steve McQueen, even if it was only for half a day. That’s how I choose the work. It’s really about who I get to create with. If we deserve a chance to be in the same space, I don’t want to pass it up.”

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Woodward couldn’t say enough great things about Mendelsohn — a veteran Australian-born actor who in has been featured in such films as the 2012 Christopher Nolan blockbuster “The Dark Knight Rises” and the riveting 2010 Aussie crime thriller “Animal Kingdom” — and who was nominated this year for a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for his role in the Netflix dramatic thriller “Bloodline.”

“I don’t think he gets the attention he deserves at all. You can’t get a better actor than Ben Mendelsohn. I put him in the same category as Michael Fassbender,” Woodard said of the “12 Years a Slave” Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee. “Fassbender gets the attention, but it’s almost as if the people who comment about him, still don’t get the complexity he brings to a role. He’s so believable at what he is that the average eye, or even the critical eye, don’t contemplate until afterwards that it was an actor doing the role. I also feel that way about Ben in everything he does. In ‘Mississippi Grind,’ he creates and fleshes out a character that is so flawed, but the humanity that he gives this person is beautiful at the same time.”

Woodard said she was thrilled with the way Mendelsohn made you care for Gerry — a gambling addict who just can’t get out of his own way.

“He really makes you realize that no matter who it is and what kind of dire straits they’re in, or what kind of bad deeds they may be up to, there’s a human being there,” Woodard said. “It had to be Ben playing the role or we wouldn’t have gotten anything like that at all.”

Like Mendelsohn, Woodard will soon be joining the Netflix ranks in the role of Harlem politician Mariah Dillard in the Marvel series “Luke Cage.” The 13-episode series is set to start streaming next year.

Movie reviews: ‘Minons,’ ‘Self/less’

'Minions' (photo: Universal Pictures)

By Tim Lammers

“Minions” (PG) 3 1/2 stars (out of four)

Those yellow, pill-shaped henchmen are back with another healthy dose of laughter in  “Minions,” a clever, hilarious prequel to the “Despicable Me” movies. An origins story that traces the lovable characters’ long and winding road throughout time to finding their evil boss, Gru, “Minions” may not have the emotional bite that the first “Despicable Me” movie had, but like that original and its sequel, it’s still highly entertaining.

“Minions” starts at the very beginning, where oodles of yellow, cell organisms form into the Minions we know and love, only to emerge from the ocean during pre-historic times. Their sole purpose is to find and follow an evil boss, and they instantly find one with a T-Rex. Of course, being the bumbling Minions they are, things don’t fare well for the new leader, so the jibber-jabbering creatures wander through time and various, nefarious leaders, until they settle into some polar confines where they try to lead themselves.

Quickly becoming bored, three of the henchmen – Stuart, Kevin and Bob – head out to find new evil leadership, ending up in Orlando in 1968 at a convention of bad guys. It’s there that they stumble into serving the world’s first female supervillian, Scarlett Overkill (voice of Sandra Bullock), who makes a living making big heists with her high-tech gadgetry. Jetting over to England, Scarlett commands her new  trio to steal the crown of Queen Elizabeth, or meet a nasty fate.

Starting out as supporting players in “Despicable Me” in 2010, it became quickly apparent that the Minions would eventually merit their own movie, and as the marquee players, they don’t disappoint. Even though it’s hard to interpret nine-tenths of what they’re saying, you still get the gist of what they’re getting at, and even if you don’t, they’re a laugh-riot nonetheless. True, the film doesn’t have near the substance of its “Despicable” predecessors (what do you expect with characters obsessed with bananas?), but it really doesn’t matter. The operative

word with this movie is fun, and there’s lots of it.

Coming in all different shapes and sizes (yet with the same effervescent personalities), the Minions may very well be the best original characters the big screen has seen in the last decade. They have rare dual appeal that have the ability to make adults and kids crack up in equal measure. Amazingly co-director Pierre Coffin (who also co-directed the “Despicable Me” films) voices all the Minions, and despite the fact that their language is mostly unintelligible, he’s a head-and-shoulders above his fellow voice cast members, including Bullock, John Hamm, Allison Janney and Michael Keaton.

While “Minions” is a great movie for all audiences, it will especially will play well with baby boomers, as the film, set mostly in the late 1960s, has a smattering of classic tunes and pop culture references from the era. It’s a real blast from the past that will leave you wanting more. Make sure to stay to the very end of movie’s credits for a great scene that once again makes the best use of the film’s 3-D format.

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“Self/less” (PG-13) 3 stars (out of four)

Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley had their minds in the right place when signing on to do “Self/less,” a solid, thought-provoking sci-fi thriller about the consequences of transferring one’s consciousness into another person’s body. It’s not a completely original idea, yet thanks to the level of talent involved in front of and behind the camera, “Self/less” manages to rise above similarly-themed films.

Kingsley stars as Damian Hale, a building tycoon with terminal cancer who has six months to live at best. Rich beyond his wildest dreams yet a man filled with regret over the estranged relationship with his adult daughter (Michelle Dockery), Damian decides to undergo a radical procedure that would end his life, yet transfer his consciousness into a lab-grown adult body (Reynolds).

Given “anti-rejection” medication by the scientist (Matthew Goode) who performed the procedure, the now 35-year-old Damian has an episode of strange visions and flashbacks when he doesn’t take a pill on time, leading him to the shocking discovery of his new body’s origin – and a secret organization that will stop at nothing to keep their secrets from getting out.

Directed by Tarsem Singh (“Mirror Mirror,” “Immortals”), “Self/less” is visually stunning, and has a foreboding tone and great pacing until it’s third act, when the story begins to get a bit confusing and starts to feel too long.

The acting, however, is terrific throughout, especially by Kingsley (who is, unfortunately in the film 15 minutes at best) and Goode, who brings the perfect air of mystery to the scientist who heads the mind-bending procedure. Reynolds, who doesn’t get enough credit as a dramatic actor, aptly fits the bill in the lead, and throws in some fancy fight moves, to boot. “Self/less” is not a perfect film, but there are enough twists, turns and exciting action sequences to keep your brain occupied for the film’s nearly-two hour run time.

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