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Exclusive Interview: Motion Capture Actress Mackenzie Mason (Cortana) Talks Halo 4

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Exclusive Interview: Motion Capture Actress Mackenzie Mason (Cortana) Talks Halo 4Halo 4 releases on November 6, 2012, and in anticipation of the adventure to come, we sat down with motion capture actress Mackenzie Mason, who portrays Cortana in Halo 4, to learn a bit more about the title and the challenges of her role.

Cortana is an artificial intelligence assistant who has played a critical role in the Human-Covenant war. This blue siren captures the heart of the iconic Master Chief in Halo 4. Read on to check out our interview with the beautiful Cortana, Mackenzie Mason, and learn more!

AMANDA DYAR: For the upcoming release of Halo 4, you were brought in to perform all of the motion capture for the character of Cortana. What was it like to come on to such a huge project as Halo 4, and how much pressure did you feel for playing such an established and beloved character as Cortana?

MACKENZIE MASON: It was so exciting! I think because this game is the first in a new trilogy, I was really given the freedom to give her a fresh spin and bring a lot of myself to the role. She is such a different person than in previous games so I really didn’t feel any pressure to play her a certain way. I was nervous of course and very excited to be able to be a part of something so huge.

AMANDA: Cortana has been voiced throughout the Halo series by actress Jen Taylor, but Halo 4 will be the first to feature two actresses for the single character. How does the team at 343 Industries go about matching your acting with Jen’s, and how difficult was it for you to act in this manner?

MACKENZIE: All of our work was separate–so I really just performed the scenes and did all the work on my own with the other performance capture actors. The matching of voice to performance was something that happened after my work had been completed.

AMANDA: Motion capture is one of the strangest bodies of work to watch as an outsider that doesn’t fully grasp how it all works, but how does it compare to actually performing in such a bizarre environment, and does it ever become natural to act out scenes in the motion capture industry?

Exclusive Interview: Motion Capture Actress Mackenzie Mason (Cortana) Talks Halo 4

MACKENZIE: Well, the process of getting ready to shoot every day was so different than that of movies or TV. Each day we would have to put on Velcro suits with sensors attached to it to pick up all of our movements. Then there was the process of putting on my face dots, which took about 30 minutes each time. The dots had to line up perfectly each day so it was a tedious step at times. Once everything was in place, it was time to perform the scenes! My fellow actors and myself would go on the set and perform the cinematic from start to finish to complete one full take. There is no editing from different takes so the finished scenes you see were all performed from start to finish. The process is truly amazing. It is such a free form of acting where you really just get to concentrate on the scene and not worry about all the artificial elements that come into play doing regular camera work. (lighting, makeup, wardrobe, camera angles, etc.)

Related Story: Exclusive Interview: Daniel Cudmore Talks Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Live-Action Series

AMANDA: Gamers already know that Cortana is one of the greatest video game characters of all time, and she is definitely something more than her blue, artificial intelligence makeup would suggest. Could you tell us in your own words what you enjoy so much about this character and why it was such a thrill to play her in Halo 4?

MACKENZIE: Well, starting with her path in this game, going through rampancy (which is basically death), she begins this game with the knowledge that she is going to die and has a really hard time dealing with her deterioration and accepting her own mortality. There is so much depth and pain to her journey that I really got to explore a lot of different emotions. She is a badass, takes no shit from anyone kind of girl. But then has an amazing soft and loving side to her, as well as jokes and sarcasm.

AMANDA: Cortana is one of the best characters in a Halo universe full of other great characters whom she will interact with throughout the Halo 4 campaign. How was your experience working with the other actors in the game, and what was the best moment you’ll take away from the entire experience?

MACKENZIE: I was so lucky to work with such amazing actors for this project! There was so much life breathed into every one of these roles, and it is really going to show through to the fans as their experience hopefully becomes more interactive and involved. Working on the stage and being with the cast and crew that all worked so hard on this game was really my favorite part. I really loved going to work every day.

Exclusive Interview: Motion Capture Actress Mackenzie Mason (Cortana) Talks Halo 4

AMANDA: Cortana and Master Chief have quite possibly the best relationship of any two characters in the history of video games. In your own words, can you describe their relationship, and can you tell us where the duo would rank on your own personal list of two lifelong companions?

MACKENZIE: They are by far one of my favorite couples, especially in the video game world. They have such a love and respect for each other, with full trust and devotion. It’s really moving to see how deeply they connect, and I think in Halo 4 this part of their relationships takes a much more pivotal role.

AMANDA: Halo 4 will be the biggest release of 2012 in the gaming industry, and the series is one of the best ever. What are some of your own personal favorite games, and what other games will you be playing this year in addition to Halo 4?

MACKENZIE: I am a huge Super Mario fan, and Zelda was another favorite growing up. For 2012 I’m really into Assassin’s Creed and Red Dead Redemption.

You can visit the official Halo 4 website to learn more about the game.

Exclusive Interview: Motion Capture Actress Mackenzie Mason (Cortana) Talks Halo 4

Exclusive Interview: Motion Capture Actress Mackenzie Mason (Cortana) Talks Halo 4

Exclusive Interview: Motion Capture Actress Mackenzie Mason (Cortana) Talks Halo 4

Halo 4 Game Features:

  • The Master Chief returns to battle an ancient evil bent on vengeance and annihilation. Humanity and the universe will never be the same again.
  • The Reclaimer Saga Begins: Experience the dawn of an epic new Halo adventure, solo or split screen with up to three friends
  • Go Beyond the Story: Halo 4’s Infinity Multiplayer features a vastly expanded suite of multiplayer modes, weapons, vehicles, armor abilities, a new loadout and Spartan-IV player progression system.
  • Edge-of-your-seat Entertainment: Immerse yourself in Halo 4’s graphics, sound and epic game play including a mysterious and deadly new class of enemies*

    *Online multiplayer and Spartan Ops missions require Xbox LIVE Gold membership (sold separately).

    Exclusive Interview: Motion Capture Actress Mackenzie Mason (Cortana) Talks Halo 4

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    Creep 2 Starring Mark Duplass Hits Netflix This December

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    Just the other day we shared with you guys an exclusive interview with Partick Brice, the director of the Mark Duplass-starring found footage flicks Creep and Creep 2.

    Today we have the awesome news that the killer sequel Creep 2 will be hitting Netflix streaming on December 23rd.

    The original creeptastic motion picture is already streaming on Netflix so if you need to catch up – or just watch the original again – you can do so tonight and get ready for the sequel which, personally, I found to be superior (if even just slightly) to the original.

    What did you think of the original film? Are you excited to check out the sequel? Or have you already seen it? Make sure to let us know in the comments below or on social media!

    Creep 2 starring Mark Duplass and Desiree Akhavan hits Netflix December 23rd!

    Synopsis:

    Desiree Akhavan (“Girls”, APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR) stars as Sara, a video artist whose primary focus is creating intimacy with lonely men. After finding an ad online for “video work,” she thinks she may have found the subject of her dreams. She drives to a remote house in the forest and meets a man claiming to be a serial killer (Mark Duplass, reprising his role from the previous film). Unable to resist the chance to create a truly shocking piece of art, she agrees to spend the day with him. However, as the day goes on she discovers she may have dug herself into a hole she can’t escape.

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    Waxwork Records Unveils Phenomenal 2018 Subscription Package

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    Our pals over at Waxwork Records have unveiled their 2018 subscription bundle and it’s packed to the brim with some absolutely fantastic titles! Horror fans who enjoy spinning their music on turntables can look forward to two Romero titles, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, Joe Dante’s The ‘Burbs, Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell, and lastly they’ll have Jordan Peele’s smash success title Get Out. On top of getting those five records, those who join the subscription program will also receive a t-shirt, coffee mug, poster, notebook, magnet, enamel pin, calendar, and more.

    For Night of the Living Dead, Waxwork Records worked closely with the film’s original creators, including Romero himself prior to his passing, the Museum of Modern Art, and The Criterion Collection so that they could source audio from the 4K restoration. It will be released as a 2xLP package.

    Dawn of the Dead will also get a 2xLP release that will include brand new artwork, re-mastered audio, and more. The same kind of treatment is being given to The ‘Burbs. Christopher Young’s Drag Me to Hell soundtrack will be a single LP but will get the same level of attention and quality as the other titles.

    As for Peele’s Get Out. Michael Abels; score will be released on a 2xLP vinyl set and will pay tribute to one of the most culturally significant movies of the past several years.

    The Waxwork Records subscription package will be $250 ($285 in Canada) and will open up for sale this Friday, the 24th. More information can be found on Waxwork’s website.

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    Editorials

    Thanksgiving Flesh Feast: A Cannibal Holocaust Retrospective

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    “Why ban films? If you don’t want to go watch something, don’t go. Don’t spend your money to watch it. To me it’s against your civil liberties. Censorship is against your human rights. It just takes a critic to exaggerate and say the film is over the top, it’s gruesome and full of terrible violence.” Words from legendary cinematographer Roberto Forges Davanzati on the special edition Blu-Ray of Cannibal Holocaust.

    As you celebrate this holiday of stuffing your face full of delicious gooey goodies and cooked meats, let us look back at a feast for the ages that was buried in lawsuits, censorship, exploitation and even jail time for its creator. Cannibal Holocaust, one of the most infamous video nasties of all time, is not only one of the most gruesome and horrifying collection of images put to celluloid but also, in its own way, one of the most beautiful. Often times it’s notoriety as a horrid exploitation film overshadows the artistry that crafted it and the true message behind it.

    First off, let’s look at the fact that this is truly the first found footage film. Its narrative is about four young documentarians who set out into the Amazon into an area dubbed “The Green Inferno” to find and document several primitive tribes of cannibals. While this narrative is the backbone of the movie opening up the film, this footage is not shown until the latter half. Professor Harold Munroe is assigned by the television studio that employed the documentarians to go into the Green Inferno himself to see if he can unravel the mystery of the youth’s disappearance or obtain the footage they filmed. Today we have found footage movies left and right but it’s rare we get a movie within a movie in this style.

    Davanzati has talked about his different shooting styles for the time on the Blu-Ray for the film. Munroe’s section of the film was shot on 35MM film while the “found footage” shot by the documentarians is shot on 16MM film, giving a much grainier and dirty look to their footage. Not only that, but since the four youths within the film at all times had two 16MM cameras operating, Davanzati would often film the two camera men within the film and then switch around showing the point of view of each camera man within the found footage, which he states helped edit the movie as they shot it. The artistic decision to have two narratives wrap around each other like this are perfect antithesis to each other as Munroe’s footage shows a completely opposite depiction of the cannibals compared to the documentarian’s footage. This style informed a generation and still does, but has never been stylistically approached the same way.

    Some may argue that regardless of the artistic vision and groundbreaking filmmaking style of both Davanzati and director Ruggero Deodato that it doesn’t matter, because what good is beautiful footage of despicable trash? How dare they film something so atrocious? Actor Robert Kerman can maybe answer that in a quote from an interview on the Cannibal Holocaust Blu-Ray. “What’s the difference between Cannibal Holocaust and Schindler’s List? Or the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan?” The world is full of horrible atrocious things and sometimes we don’t like to acknowledge them. To simply not acknowledge them would seem an injustice to the victims. In this case, what may offend might be the same reason audiences were offended about the Universal Monsters: the fact that perhaps we are the villains. Perhaps those victimized within Cannibal Holocaust are the titular cannibals.

    Deodato opens the film with a reporter speaking about how far the world has come and how advanced we are as a civilization, that it is strange that indigenous tribes still exist in the jungles of the Green Inferno. All the while, during this news report on the savagery of those tribes, Deodato cleverly shows us the jungles of the modern world as the imagery put to this news cast foreshadows the film’s true intentions. It would be easy to assume the “Holocaust” in Cannibal Holocaust refers to the humans devoured by cannibals, when in reality, the holocaust is the devastation inflicted upon the cannibal tribes by the so-called “normal” humans. Deodato cleverly misleads the viewer showing off all-American kids as the documentarians. He quickly follows the opening with a scene of the Yacumo tribe devouring a human body as the Colombian soldiers gun them down and capture one of their tribe. It’s a brutal scene that depicts the Yacumo as monsters.

    As Professor Munroe ventures into the Green Inferno with his Yacumo captive and guide, Chaco, it is discovered that the Yacumo tribe itself has had some hardship and pain. They are the more peaceful of the tribes who simply thrive and survive. Their Yacumo captive who was found devouring a human was doing so as part of a ceremonial practice to ward off evil spirits. Befriending the tribe, they venture deeper to find the two warring tribes that scare even the Yacumo: the Yanomamo (Tree People) and the Shamatari (Swamp People). While the Shamatari are depicted throughout as vile and dangerous, the Yamamomo befriend the professor and Chaco due to the pair aiding them against the former tribe.

    Munroe and the Yanomamo friendship gives way to a very beautiful scene in the movie. Munroe disrobes himself completely and swims in the river naked with a group of Yanomamo women. There is nothing sexual about the scene, only curiosity and playful ignorant bliss. This sense of peace is elated by the score of Riz Ortolani, which permeates the entire film with melancholy melodies and themes of religious experiences. This scene in particular is boosted amazingly by his score.

    Munroe’s journey is the audience’s point of view where we watch in horror and wonder at what these “cannibals” are capable of but, upon venturing further for ourselves with respect towards the tribes, we find perhaps there is more to these people than monstrosities. There are definitely horrible things the Yacumo and the Yamamomo commit, but our eyes are slightly opened as to why.

    Enter the found footage aspect of the film, which is the core of Deodato’s message. The young documentarians headed by Alan are the true villains of the piece. While the indigenous peoples within idolize their gods and ways, this crew of documentarians only idolize the gods of entertainment and visceral mind rape. What’s worse is the discovery of the studio behind them condoning their efforts in order to get people to watch. The found footage approach descends into madness as Alan and his crew are responsible for the Yacumo’s problems that Munroe discovered when he arrived. We see them burning down the village and even having sex on the ashes of their homes in a horrifying shot that pans out to show the Yacumo watching in sorrow as they are huddled by the river for warmth. As the television executives watch this footage unfold it is stated, “The more you rape their senses, the happier they are.” It’s disgusting.

    The footage goes on and gets progressively worse as Alan and his crew commit horrible acts of rape and violence that parallels the natives actions. But while the natives at least have a misguided sense of purpose, there is none for the documentarians. They set up a girl on a spike after they rape her just to have something visceral to film. “Watch it Alan, I’m shooting.” Alan has a smile on his face from the atrocity he’s committed, their excitement paralleled by Ortolani’s score. This scene plays on the typical thought of things we don’t understand being weird. As the filmmakers have no concept of what makes the Yanomamo tick or of their religious rites, they just create something ghastly. Because their audience will not understand it, they lump it in with their actual spiritual and cultural beliefs, making it all seem bereft of rhyme or reason, confusing audiences just to entertain.

    “Keep rolling, we’re gonna get an Oscar for this!” The final act of found footage is more intense and more satisfying than any you can see. As one of the cameramen dies, they keep filming, that prize in their eyes with the camera lens as a separation from what’s before them. Their friend is no longer a person but a spectacle to be shot as he’s torn limb from limb and prepared to be eaten by the cannibals for their transgression. Who is worse, those that created the situation or those simply reacting to it? The Yanomamo stand triumphant over the interloper and, as stated in the beginning of the film, they eat him ceremonially in order to keep out the evil spirits of the white man. Each is taken down and each filmed. Debts paid in blood to the cannibals and
    the white man’s gods of entertainment. The found footage has all been viewed as Munroe and the rest of the executives walk off, “I wonder who the real cannibals are?” 

    True, there are very vile things depicted in this film. Rape, animal cruelty, extreme violence. It is definitely not for the squeamish. I, myself, cannot stand the animal violence as it shouldn’t be in the film and is lingered on for far too long. However, each scene of extremism beyond those shots serves a purpose in the film, juxtaposing the actions of the protagonists and antagonists, often times blurring the lines of those roles.

    Watch this film with an open mind and a filmmaker’s thought process. You’ll see the amazing direction accompanied by brilliant and, at the time, never-before-seen cinematography. The score elevates the film with its beauty against the ugliness of the visuals. While the actions of many of the characters are disgusting, you have to admit the level of excellence each actor gives in their portrayal of these characters, especially the tribes.

    We must not forget in these dark times not to judge the cultures of others before we truly understand them as people.

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