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In the Lion’s Den with The Romanian Dramatic Marius Iliescu



In 1995 Marius Iliescu graduated Hyperion University, a private conservatory in Bucharest, Romania majoring in acting. Acting was a form of expression in a distressed society where life was not permitted to be free even after the anti-communist revolution of 1989, in which Iliescu took up arms. Iliescu would discover Stanislavksi’s psychological acting and approaches of physical actions, which would result in his travels throughout the European countryside (Vienna, Amsterdam, Avignon, Paris, Rome, Glasgow, Birmingham and Dublin) with the Greek play The Suppliants. The production was performed in French, a language that Iliescu speaks fluently.

In 1997, Iliescu performed the play at the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City, that moment being conclusive in his choice to continue pursuing his career in the United States. In 2005, Iliescu graduated in Dance Performance and Choreography, becoming the principal dancer with the most captivating contemporary dance company in the middle of the United States, the Detroit Dance Collective, lead by the explosive Artistic Director Barbara Selinger.

Settling in the Chicago, Iliescu would pursue acting opportunities in Hollywood where he helped launch Ave Fenix Pictures, a movie studio founded by Mexican native, Mónica Esmeralda León, that has been hailed the first Latino film studio in the American Midwest. Ave Fenix Pictures is an independent film hub with two functioning branches, León covering Chicago and Iliescu operating Los Angeles. Iliescu debuted an iconic character in the award winning and nominated independent film Adios Vaya Con Dios, an Official Selection at the Bel-Air Film Festival and Runner up for Best Audience Feature Film Award. The movie stars and is written by Zachary Laoutides, about a half Mexican and Irish gang member trying to leave the violent streets of Chicago. The Mexican Irishman soon collides into Iliescu’s character, the sadistic Olmec gang leader, Tiger De’Leon, who finds satisfaction in torturing and sexually abusing his young recruits. Although the scene was short-lived, Iliescu directed the scene with real gang members and neighborhood locals. The scene was impacting and gained exceptionally good reviews from most critics. Critics and fans soon asked the questions – who is Marius Iliescu and where can we see more of him?

We caught up with the Romanian Dramatic and asked him how, where and when…

Ave Fenix Pictures is interesting because it came out of nowhere very suddenly. It has secured itself on the independent stage with the unique film of Adios Vaya Con Dios, where everyone seemed to contribute an artistic vision. How did a film from the streets get to Hollywood?

(MI): Streets dictate cinema. You can’t fool the streets, they dictate the successes of your film and they can feel the pulse of when a movie is real, that’s when a movie is able to transcend. This is what happened on the streets of Chicago; our successes was dictated by the voice of the streets.

You gave us a memorable performance in Adios Vaya Con Dios. I heard that Zachary Laoutides was actually injured on set and you were working with real street gang members. How did you direct the scene with injury and take real people off the streets coaching them into a noteworthy piece of cinema?

(MI): Somebody’s pain can by a catalyst through which all others unite. We all have pains of all kind: physical, emotional — When an actor is in this situation you help him go through it by raising the stakes in the scene. My connection to Zach’s pain created such a depth in between our characters — the effect felt and acclaimed by public and critics alike. In Chicago’s gang worlds ‘respect’ is more valuable than gold. If on set these people feel the ‘respect’ they will give the director all their life experience without restrictions. I needed exactly that to create the authenticity of the scene and implicit, the film asked for it.

Being a guy of average stature you made Tiger De’Leon into an intimidating goliath who felt larger then life. Where did you go mentally to mold yourself into that temperament?

(MI): To me acting is a slice of life larger than life itself. Even in the most banal moments, on screen must exist an element of surprise, an unseen depth, a rhythm change… Tiger De’Leon is a bomb with delayed effect. All I had to do is to find and fire my own wicks — Tiger De’Leon belongs to a powerful cartel family, which the sky is the limit. In his cognizance, no law applies to him and the fact that he’s not holding real supremacy in Chicago makes him violent. His own malice feeds his own misery, creating a venomous circle — ancient coming to manhood traditions and physical abuse. His name says it all; what’s the use of being a Tiger and a Lion if caged with limitation in Chicago?

What is your goal of expanding Ave Fenix Pictures in California?

(MI): Filmmaking with a message; recreating a positive image of the Latino community through film. California is the perfect place to work on those goals.

Rumor has it there’s an Adios Vaya Con Dios sequel in the works. Everyone wants to see Tiger comeback, but how and when is that going to happen?

(MI): I don’t know yet (laughs)…. Paraphrasing Zachary Laoutides, it’s a personal story to him that was never fully told. There’s more story to his character Rory King and more narrative surrounding all the characters in the film. I truly believe he wants to go back and show what wasn’t used in the screenplay. The movie became art house and that’s rewarding, but there’s too much culture and depth to be satisfied. I think Tiger’s brother is not too happy about what went down, and I hear the brother looks a lot like Tiger (laughs)!


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No Question Mark Box Here; Super Mario Delivers a 1-Up in Theaters



If you were born in the ’80s, ’90s, or literally ANY decade after those, you know about Super Mario. A cultural phenomenon was brought to life on the big screen this last weekend. One that has not only stood the test of time but reinvented itself time and time again. This wasn’t even the first time it’s been made into a movie but, well, let’s be honest.. some of us choose not to acknowledge the LIVE action adaptation of the beloved game from 30 years ago. 

It was pretty bad… But this was animation. ILLUMINATION animation at that. The Universal company that brought us Gru and his Minions, showed us the Secret Life of Pets, and gave us a reason to SING! Still, I had my reservations and even some concerns, especially when the casting was announced. 

 Eyebrows were raised. As big of stars as they were on paper, could they really deliver on voicing characters from a staple of our childhood? They did.

Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not be Italian, and Jack Black may not be a King or Turtle creature from the Mushroom Kingdom, but they make the characters their own all while paying homage to the lore of a video game. 

From the jump, the story reintroduces us to the brothers that just want to save Brooklyn one clogged sink at a time. We feel an instant connection and relate to these “underdogs of the plumbing world”. The movie is riddled with easter eggs, each of which tugs on the heartstrings of every generation of Mario fandom. And the soundtrack was beautifully put together to not only make us feel like we’re taking a walkthrough of the game but like an experience all its own with some familiar favorites thrown in.

Every word in the movie is pure eye candy for both those that are casual fans, and those analyzing every frame to see what they’ll catch next. Bowser’s ship, the Mushroom Kingdom, Kong’s arena, and the Rainbow Road.. They’re all meant to give us just enough of a “new” look at these amazing worlds, but stay true to how we remember them.

The movie itself moves along at the perfect pace. Although, if you don’t really know ANYTHING about the Super Mario Bros, you may have gotten a little lost and felt left behind in the green tunnel. But that’s ok! It’s an adventure of the imagination and a classic story of a boy that meets a girl and tries to save the world from a monster that wants to destroy it.

What’s funny is that you could easily say this is a story about two characters who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, battling to win the heart of a princess. Who would’ve thought that the King of the Koopas was just trying to impress his crush?

And that song? Ohhh THAT song! It’s my new ringtone and deserves the Oscar for Best Original Song.

Back to the movie. 

Universal and Illumination clearly understood the assignment. Is it missing some things or could things have been done differently or even better? Absolutely! We’re the worst critics of the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts. But if you’re up for going on a 90-minute adventure through amazing worlds, with awesome music, and characters that’ll make you smile and laugh, then this is the perfect movie to spring you into that warm summer feeling.

Plus there’s the whole part with karts and shells, and banana peels and oh my goodness how amazing was that?? It’s enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, then go home and destroy your friends and family on your favorite track haha.

The bottom line, it pays homage in all the right ways to the little guy with the mustache, while giving us something new and exciting. Take the kids and go see Super Mario Bros. You’ll be glad you did!

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Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023



Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Opening Act Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. on North 200A. Talent confirmed so far to participate in the post-screening panel is Natalie Alyn Lind (Big Sky, The Goldbergs, Gotham) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and longtime RWBY cast member Lindsay Jones (Camp Camp) as Ruby, Kara Eberle ( RWBY: Ice Queendom) as Weiss, Arryn Zech (Detective Now Dead) as Blake and Barbara Dunkelman (Blood Fest) as Yang – along with Jeannie Tirado (Soul, Saints Row) as Green Lantern and Tru Valentino (The Rookie, The Cuphead Show!) as a cyborg. Also attending the panel will be producer/director Kerry Shawcross (series RWBY) and writer Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II).

Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023 with the big screen debut from DC Animated Films: highlights this year include the world premieres of the highly anticipated Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham and Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Part One the weekend of March 24-26 in Anaheim, California. Both screenings will be followed by panel discussions with actors and creators. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham premieres at The Arena on Friday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Tati Gabrielle (Kaleidoscope, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Uncharted) as Kai Li Cain, Christopher Gorham (The Lincoln Lawyer, Insatiable) as Oliver Queen, David Dastmalchian (Dune, Suicide Squad, Ant-Man) as Grendon, producer/co-director Sam Liu (The Death and the Return of Superman), co-director Christopher Berkeley (Young Justice) and screenwriter Jase Ricci (Teen Titans Go! and DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem Across the Multiverse).

Both films will have encore screenings in the Arena on Sunday, March 26. Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One will screen at 12:15pm, followed by Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham at 2:00pm

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Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3



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