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11858_1171807778919_1339760523_30438111_6270962_n.jpgIt was a great pleasure to speak with actor Cory Hardrict about his new film, “Battle: Los Angeles.” It is inspired in part by the real-life Battle for Los Angeles of 1942, just after the United States entered WWII. Hardrict, who has appeared in “Grand Torino” and “He’s Just Not That Into You,” is married to Tia Mowry of “Sister, Sister” and “The Game,” and they are expecting their first child this summer. We talked about going through “boot camp” to play a Marine and agreed that there isn’t much more fun than pretending to fighting aliens for a movie.
I want to begin by congratulating you on becoming a father!
Thank you so much. I look forward to being the best dad I can be.
How did you meet your wife? I am a huge fan.
We met about ten years ago on an independent film and we became best friends. She’s like a piece of me and she always supports me, very loving, very kind, a genuinely great person.
Was making this movie as much fun as it seems?
It was like a dream come true, being able to work on a movie of this magnitude. It was like a childhood dream! If you become an actor, you want to fight aliens, you want to do a war movie, you want to save the world! This is all of that combined in one. And it’s real — not just green screen, it’s like “Saving Private Ryan” meets “War of the Worlds,” “Independence Day,” and “District 9,” and “Black Hawk Town,” all in one big pot.
How do you make it work, fighting with something that isn’t really there?
We had targets to interact with. Jonathan Liebesman is an amazing director. Without giving too much away, it wasn’t like “That’s where you’re firing” — it was real. I’ve never been to war, but I can tell you that it felt like I was at a war.
That’s a big pretend — shooting at aliens — how do you get your head into that space?
Basically, it’s like fighting the unknown enemy, and you’re trying to protect the American soil by any means. No matter who you’re fighting with, there’s a sense of urgency, and a frightening experience as well. I put myself in that mode — that this could really happen. Putting all those variables into what we were shooting made the stakes higher. Just thinking about it — it really was frightening. A crazy cool experience.
You’re in the Marines in the movie — you can always tell a Marine by the way he moves. How did you learn to do that?
We had to go to boot came as soon as we got to Louisiana. The people who trained us were military advisers with drill sergeant experience. They were hands-on. We had three weeks of boot camp. It wasn’t like we staying in a hotel and went out there every day. All thirteen of us had to live in a tent we put up ourselves. We began each day at 5 am with a three-mile run. We got a crew cut. We fought as Marines, we slept as Marines, we lived as Marines. We were all one unit. They put us through the same treatment as Marine basic training going overseas. We were out there in the woods and it was very intense. That’s why I keep going back to saying how real it was. We slept outside in little tent-nets zipped up all around to stay away from mosquitoes, rats, raccoons, everything out there in the woods. There was water drippage every night. When people say, “How was that movie?” I say, “That was real.” I will never forget it. It was the hardest movie I’ve ever done but it was the most satisfying. It was blood, sweat, and tears out there. I wish all actors could have this experience.
I’m sure that helped you bond with the other actors.
They say you’re only as good as the last Marine in the unit. We all became close, we all became good friends, we all bonded for one common goal — to defend America to the best of our ability.
There was one scene where I had some interaction with Aaron Eckhart, assisting one another and saving each other’s lives. He’s all about the greatness of the project. He’s very method and puts his all into it. You just have to follow suit and that’s what we all did.
What movie inspired you to become an actor?
When I saw “Independence Day,” I said, “I want to be like Will Smith.” I want to do something like that. If he can do it, maybe one day I can come close to a set like that. To do a movie of this magnitude — and like “Independence Day” this is intense but emotionally driven by its characters — is a dream come true. If I wasn’t in this film, I would be there at midnight to see the first show! I love doing movies that touch people’s lives.

We love those disheveled but indomitable women of the television world, from Holly Hunter in “Broadcast News” to Mary Tyler Moore in her iconic 1970’s television series, Tina Fey in “30 Rock,” and Michelle Pfeiffer in the under-appreciated “I Could Never Be Your Woman.” Part Hermione Granger, part Cinderella, these are the girls whose hands were always raised in class turned women who inspire us with their determination, smarts, and skill. As Joan Cusack’s character says to Hunter’s, “Except for socially, you’re my role model.” On the outside, they may appear frazzled in a just-take-off-the-glasses-and-comb-the-hair-and-she’s-a-knockout mode. On the inside, they are super-capable, super-talented, and super-lonely. Hunter’s character scheduled crying time for herself each morning before spending the rest of the day keeping everyone on track and ahead of the competition.

And now there’s Becky (Rachel McAdams), dedicated, ambitious, addicted to her Blackberry — and about to be let go. When she’s called into a meeting with the boss, her colleagues are so sure it’s about a big promotion they have congratulatory t-shirts made. On the contrary. They love her, but in these days of tight budgets, they have other priorities. Becky’s mom (Patti D’Arbanville) is not encouraging. But Becky does not give up and soon she finds herself producing a network morning show (the good news) that is so awful half its viewers are “people who’ve lost their remotes” (the bad news). They cover stories like “Eight things you didn’t know you could do with potatoes” and chirpy interviews with celebrities.

Becky doesn’t get a very warm welcome. Co-host Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) greets her with “Enjoy the pain, Gidget.” The security guard tells her not to unpack. She has no budget. But she has an idea — the station has a contract with a legendary newsman named Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford playing a character somewhere between Walter Cronkite and Wolf Blitzer) who is currently being paid but not doing anything. She coerces him into sharing hosting duties with Colleen, and starts to shake things up.

Director Roger Michell shows the same gift for endearing light romance that he did in “Notting Hill.” Once again he has some sly, understated pokes at the media and some surprising cameos and clever lines. Ford and Keaton are pros who make their characters real and interesting and very funny. Patrick Wilson makes a sympathetic Prince Charming. But in every way the heart of the story is McAdams, who is a wonder, lit from within and utterly captivating.

The discovery of a Third Testament leads to a mystery — a whole series of them — in this ambitious, intricately constructed film from first-time writer-director Matt Dallman.

Carolyn Matthews (Amy Weins) is determined to find her husband, Jacob, who disappeared after he interviewed an archeologist named Phineas Black (Eric Michael Gillett), the man who found the controversial Third Testament. Black is arrested for Jacob’s murder and Carolyn visits him in jail. He is hostile, even abusive. It turns out they have something important in common. Both have experienced tragic losses. But Carolyn responded by becoming a Christian while Phineas responded by rejecting God.

Despite his hostility, Carolyn keeps talking to Phineas, certain that he has something to tell her about where Jacob is. He begins to give her some hints about a murky, centuries-long conspiracy called The King’s Eight. And she will learn that they share another important connection.

If it suffers from first-time mistakes, especially over-complication (its imitation “Da Vinci Code” plot twists are a distraction). But it benefits from far above-average acting from a cast with strong theater experience and a willingness to take on big issues in a generous-hearted and open-minded way. Its mosaic, documentary-style story-telling gives it an immediacy that makes its more amateur elements feel like further proof of its authenticity.

Paul Haggis loses his way in “The Next Three Days,” a labored prison escape drama that never recovers from a serious miscalculation midway through and then goes completely off the rails in the end.

Russell Crowe plays a sometimes deliberate and over-thinking professor named John Brennan who is completely devoted to his sometimes hot-tempered and impetuous wife Lara (Elizabeth Banks). After a public quarrel, Lara’s boss is murdered and Lara is arrested. She protests her innocence, but the circumstantial evidence is too persuasive, and she is found guilty. Three years later, all of her appeals exhausted, she cannot bear the thought of a life in prison, and attempts suicide. John, who teaches “Don Quixote” and knows something about righteous quests, decides he will find a way for her to escape. “I promise you, this will not be your life.” He consults an expert (a brief movie-brightening moment with Liam Neeson), watches a video on YouTube about skeleton keys, and comes up with a plan.

Every movie creates a world for us, and each of them can be plotted along the continuum between real world (a verite documentary) and movie world (flying dragons, superheroes, planets with long blue people). It does not matter at which point a movie locates itself, but once it does, it has to stay there. If you tell us horses can fly in one scene, then don’t tell us they can’t in the next. This movie tells us that justice matters, killing people is wrong, and that John is an English professor. It establishes itself as being on the drama-about-people-like-us point on the continuum. It then veers into a whole other over-the-top heist-style scenario with one of those plans where a lot of things have to go exactly right and then somehow they all do and killing people might not be such a bad thing after all. And then it insults the intelligence and goodwill of the audience with an ending that is jarringly out of place. One of the worst mistakes a movie can make is to assume greater fondness for its characters than we are willing to feel. This movie never lets us like its characters and then tries to make that seem like our fault.