Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Revisiting my interview with Charice...

In the fall of 2008, i was invited to cover a show headlined by several ABS-CBN talents at Ontario Convention Center. Filipino superstars like Martin Nievera, Edu Manzano and heaththrob John Lloyd Cruz were the main attractions but it was a (relative) newcomer, petite and only a few months older than 16, who grabbed the crowd's attention that day. Her name was Charice. At the time, she was barely known outside of the Fil-Am market but she was already on her way to the top.

Next month, on May 11, Charice is set to conquer mainstream America when her long-awaited debut album hits record stores. Her carrier single, "Pyramid", is currently dominating radio charts and is expected to go to the top soon! Way to go Charice!

Here is an interview i had with her in September 2008, mere days after her triumphant debut on Celine Dion's sold-out Madison Square Gardens concert.


Charice: I feel like I'm dreaming
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated September 23, 2008 12:00 AM

How do you know when a star is born?

When you appear on Oprah, the biggest and highest rated US syndicated talk show, twice within six months — that should make you one. But when you become the unplanned special guest on Celine Dion’s spectacular Madison Square Garden show and perform in front of more than 40,000 people are not made up of your regular audience — and make them stand up on their feet in adoring ovation, you are a star!

Charice, the 16-year-old YouTube sensation less than a year ago is now the Philippines’ biggest singing sensation.

“Thank God she came out in all the right shows,” Martin Nievera says when asked how he feels about Charice’s success in the US. “Filipinos are so proud of her because she came out on Oprah. It’s a great day for a Filipino every time she does something with David Foster, Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion. It really means a lot to every Filipino — rich, poor, balikbayan, in the province — they all see themselves in Charice.”

“She’s like my daughter, and, I think I speak for all the singers who are one year older than her — anyone, all of us — are so proud of what she’s done. We all dreamt of having that same break. It’s a good thing she’s brimming with talent and she’s so humble about it.”

The concert king was part of the One Kapamilya Go event organized by the The Filipino Channel this weekend at the Ontario Convention Center in Southern California. The event drew a larger than expected crowd that a new ballroom had to be opened (while several fire marshals had to be called on to bring order) to accommodate the overflowing crowd of mostly Filipinos who came to watch.

So, when do you really know when a star is born?

When you become the biggest attraction to an event that is supposed to showcase stars more senior and definitely bigger than you are, you are a star!

Though not her fault, Charice owned the stage this weekend. Sheryn Regis, Carol Banawa and Martin Nievera were all gracious and very supportive of this young Filipino singer’s unprecedented success in the US.

Charice’s presence at the weekend event marked her first appearance since her unscheduled duet with Celine the previous Sunday.

This writer had an exclusive interview with the star after her set and it was quite an experience. I had to scramble for position as Charice was whisked away by an entourage worthy of a Hollywood star while her muscular security men were trying to dodge her from fans who were literally screaming their lungs out for autograph and those precious handshakes. Thanks to Tita Millie Gurfinkel, I managed to take the singer to a quiet corner and got her talking for about 10 minutes.

Charice was with her unassuming mom who was unquestionably very proud of what her daughter has accomplished so far. Racquel, who is also a singer, found herself on the spotlight during Celine’s concert when the singer asked her to join Celine and her daughter on stage.

Excerpts from the interview:

Tell us about your Celine Dion experience.

It was super. It was great. I still couldn’t make myself believe it. She is my idol and it’s a dream come true for me to perform with her.

How does it feel performing with Celine in front of thousands of people in Madison Square Garden?

Seriously, I was really shaking. I know I can perform in front of a lot of people, but I was so nervous because I couldn’t believe I was her special guest and I would be performing a duet with her. It was unbelievable. She asked me if I was nervous and I said, “Yes.” She talked to me and it made me feel better. And also we were singing for my mom and it made me extra nervous.

You were singing for your mom, how was it like?

When we were on Oprah, Celine appeared on the show and she invited me to come to New York and sing with her for my mom. My mom cried at that time. It was really for my mom. It was Celine who suggested that I sing Because You Loved Me for my mom.

Did you ever see yourself performing before large number of crowds all over the world?

Actually, as much as possible, I don’t want to expect for things. I like to be surprised. I would like to believe that I can dream as much as possible but I still allow myself to be surprised at whatever blessings God would bestow on me.

Do you think you can measure all the blessings you have received from God?

I don’t know. I really don’t know. I feel like I am still dreaming. Not that I don’t want to. I only want to consider and appreciate each blessing as it comes. Like this duet with Celine, I don’t want to count and compare it to other blessings I had. All I want to do is just say thank you to God.

Have you adjusted to the commotion your mere presence generates ?

A little bit, yes.

How do you deal with it?

I don’t know. All I know is that I try to enjoy it.

Can you recall that exact moment when you felt the world has finally started to notice you and your talent?

I don’t really think about it. Like what Ms. Celine Dion suggested, all I should focus on is to perform and consider the audience as part of my family. I don’t want to think that they are starting to recognize me. All I want to think of is that I am just performing for them.

Do you expect a large crowd every time you perform now?

(Laughs) No. I don’t mind how big or small the crowd is. I have performed before small crowds so I don’t mind.

Do you plan on staying here in the US?

If there is an opportunity, I’d say why not. But I don’t ever want to forget where I came from.

How does being a Kapamilya mean to you?

I’m proud of being a Kapamilya. It’s what I represent in every performance that I make anywhere.

Will you start recording an album here in the US?

(Smiles) I have no idea. But I am hoping.

What can we expect in the next six months?

I have no idea. I have no expectations.

Any plans?


Why not?

I can’t tell. I can’t, sorry. (And she smiles heartily)

There are talks of a groundbreaking development that will put Charice further into mainstream Hollywood very soon. Until then, all the Philippines can do is speculate and revel in the achievements of Charice and the pride she brings to every Filipino everywhere.

Sandra divorcing Jesse James!

Sandra Bullock's divorce cites discord as grounds
By April Castro, Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN, Texas – Sandra Bullock has filed for divorce from her husband, Jesse James, citing discord and conflict of personalities without "any reasonable expectations of reconciliation."

The divorce petition, which was filed Friday, said the couple has no child under 18 years of age who is entitled to support. The Oscar-winning actress revealed Wednesday on People magazine's website that she is adopting a 3 1/2-month-old boy, Louis Bardo Bullock, who was born in New Orleans.

James and Bullock separated in March after five years of marriage, following reports that the celebrity motorcycle builder and reality-TV star had been unfaithful.

Bullock's divorce papers were filed in a Travis County court in Austin, Texas, where Bullock owns two downtown restaurants and is believed to have a home. The 3-page filing was first reported by celebrity website A call to Bullock's attorney was not immediately returned.

The divorce filing said Bullock and James no longer lived together and she believed they could enter into an agreement to divide their estates.

"The marriage between Petitioner and Respondent has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities that destroys the legitimate ends of the marriage relationship and prevents any reasonable expectations of reconciliation," the divorce filing said.

Bullock, 45, won the Oscar for best actress for her role in the blockbuster hit "The Blind Side," on March 7. Within days of her win, the cheating allegations became public and Bullock went into seclusion.

Bullock and James, 41, began the adoption process four years ago, the People article said, and brought Louis Bardo Bullock home in January but decided to keep the news to themselves until after the Academy Awards.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Reuters' interview with Korean superstar Jeon Do-yeon

After China amd Taiwan dominated Cannes and other film festivals in the 1990s, Asian cinema is again drawing raves all over the world courtesy of the vibrant cinema of South Korea. Yay!

Korea's Queen of Cannes Jeon returns as housemaid

By Jon Herskovitz and Christine Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean star Jeon Do-yeon will be obscure no more when she returns to the Cannes International Film Festival for the first time since she won the best actress award there in 2007.

Jeon was an unknown entity when she bowled over critics in her role as a widowed mother who tries to start a new life in the South Korean countryside in the movie called "Secret Sunshine."

Now she is the main attraction of the movie called "The Housemaid," which will be in competition at Cannes next month and is a remake of a Korean classic.

"Cannes in 2007 was my first film festival and I was taken aback by how no one noticed the actress Jeon Do-yeon," she said in an interview with Reuters.

Jeon was dubbed the "Queen of Cannes" when she returned to South Korea, landing endorsement deals, TV appearances and photo spreads in fashion magazines. She was named by trade publication Variety as one of the 50 most influential women in entertainment in the world.

She then starred in one small movie, married and took a break from film to give birth to her first child, a daughter.

In her new movie that makes its international premiere at Cannes, she plays an innocent and educated woman who finds a job as a maid in the home of an exceptionally affluent family who is soon ensnared in a love triangle with the wealthy husband and his wife, who is pregnant with twins.

Intrigue, passion and betrayal follow as well as a scene where Jeon's character named Eun-yi hangs from a chandelier.

"It was painful, scary and frightening," Jeon said of the shooting where she was attached to a harness and dangled several meters in the air.

The movie also has steamy scenes that have created a stir in local media and anxiety for the new mother.

"All movies that have bed scenes are shocking and a lot of talk goes around the bed scenes whenever a movie comes out. What is different about this one is that the shock does not come from visual scenes but the emotional shock," she said.

Jeon, considered one of the best actresses in South Korea, sees her limited ability in foreign languages as holding her back from taking a role in a major overseas production. But she still would not mind giving it a try.

"When director Ang Lee came to Korea, I had the opportunity to meet him and I was swept away. For Ang Lee, I am a bit willing to leap the language barrier," she said.

Jeon, 37, started her career in television, appearing in dramas in the early 1990s. Her breakthrough role came in the 1997 Korean movie "The Contact," which was one of the first major films in the country centered around an Internet romance.

She then starred in a series of movies about women who fall on hard times or are in strained romances, winning accolades at home and in Asia. She has had to readjust her life as an actor to take on her new role as a mother.

"I think I will object if my daughter decides to become an actress. Whatever she does, she will have to struggle to overcome the perception that anything she achieved came because she was the daughter of Jeon Do-yeon."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Charice to release US debut album!!!

Filipina songbird Charice set to release U.S. debut

By Kerri Mason
Sat Apr 24, 11:26 am ET

NEW YORK (Billboard) – With influential fans like Celine Dion, David Foster and Oprah Winfrey, teenage singer Charice is already making her presence felt in the U.S. market.

The Philippines-born 17-year-old's anthemic love song, "Pyramid," featuring Iyaz -- the first single from her self-titled debut album -- is currently at No. 7 on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs chart. Charice (last name: Pempengco) is preparing for the May 11 release of her U.S. album debut on Foster's 143 Records imprint at Reprise Records.

America first heard Charice's powerful pipes in 2008 on a very big stage: "The Oprah Winfrey Show." The program's producers sought her out after watching the then-16-year-old belt out anthems by Dion and Beyonce on YouTube. (Those performances have now racked up more than 13 million views.)

Charice returned to the "Oprah" stage in 2009 to perform the Diane Warren song "Note to God." In the week that followed, the Foster-produced track sold 61,000 of its 110,000 total downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and enabled its No. 44 peak on the Billboard Hot 100. International performances alongside stars like Dion, Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban followed.

The Charice team is hoping for an even bigger sales spike following her next "Oprah" appearance: May 11, her album's street date. Also supporting the release are additional TV appearances, including "Good Morning America," and retail campaigns, including one with Target.

Charice says her 12-song collection will be a surprise to international fans, who are accustomed to her singing more traditional fare. "This is my first time finally recording a pop album and to have a pop single with a featured artist," she says. "This is so much more different than what I was singing before."

In the meantime, Charice is looking forward to another important milestone on the day before her "Oprah" gig and album drop: her 18th birthday. Fittingly, she'll spend it riding the roller coaster at New Jersey's Great Adventure theme park.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

100 Movies to See Before You Die: The Modern Classics

100 Movies to See Before You Die: The Modern Classics
by The Yahoo! Movies Editorial Staff

It's easy for classic movie lovers to be nostalgic for Hollywood's "Golden Age" of the 1930s and '40s. And many cineastes will tell you that film as an art reached its peak in the late '60s and early '70s. But the truth is there have been remarkable movies made in the 1990s and 2000s. From big budget blockbusters, to breakout independent films, to discoveries from around the world, we have seen exciting and groundbreaking cinematic work created in the last two decades.

For our second installment of our "100 Movies to See Before You Die," we decided to highlight these "Modern Classics" made between 1990 and 2009. Like our first list, we chose movies based on their artistry, originality, and pure cinematic entertainment. And even we were surprised by the results.

While big stars like George Clooney, Tom Hanks, and Morgan Freeman are well-represented on the list with three films each, it's acclaimed actress Catherine Keener who appears in the most movies. By working in both independent films like "Being John Malkovich" and studio productions like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," she personifies the best of the era.

Look through the list below to see our choices for the top movies made in the last twenty years. Click on a title to add your comments about that particular choice. And take a look at the original "100 Movies to See Before You Die" to see the seventeen films that appear on both lists.

Goodfellas (Directed by: Martin Scorsese, Starring: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci)
Misery (Directed by: Rob Reiner, Starring: James Caan, Kathy Bates )

Beauty and the Beast (Directed by: Kirk Wise, Gary Trousdale, Starring: Paige O'Hara, Robbie Benson)
The Silence of the Lambs (Directed by: Jonathan Demme, Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Directed by: James Cameron, Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick)
Thelma & Louise (Directed by: Ridley Scott, Starring: Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis)

Hard Boiled (Directed by: John Woo, Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai)
Malcolm X (Directed by: Spike Lee, Starring: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett)
The Player (Directed by: Robert Altman, Starring: Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi)
Raise the Red Lantern (Directed by: Zhang Yimou, Starring: Gong Li, Ma Jingwu)
Supercop (Directed by: Stanley Tong, Starring: Jackie Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung)
Unforgiven (Directed by: Clint Eastwood, Starring: Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman)

Dazed and Confused (Directed by: Richard Linklater, Starring: Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Matthew McConaughey)
Groundhog Day (Directed by: Harold Ramis, Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Stephen Tobolowsky)
Schindler's List (Directed by: Steven Spielberg, Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes)

Chungking Express (Directed by: Wong Kar-Wai, Starring: Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung Chiu-wai, Faye Wong)
Ed Wood (Directed by: Tim Burton, Starring: Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker)
Forrest Gump (Directed by: Robert Zemeckis, Starring: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise)
Four Weddings and a Funeral (Directed by: Mike Newell, Starring: Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, Simon Callow)
Pulp Fiction (Directed by: Quentin Tarantino, Starring: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis)
The Shawshank Redemption (Directed by: Frank Darabont, Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman)
Red (Directed by: Krzysztof Kieslowski, Starring: Irene Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant)

Babe (Directed by: Chris Noonan, Starring: James Cromwell, Magda Szubanski)
Before Sunrise (Directed by: Richard Linklater, Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy)
Clueless (Directed by: Amy Heckerling, Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy)
Heat (Directed by: Michael Mann, Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer)
Living in Oblivion (Directed by: Tom DeCillo, Starring: Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener)
Sense and Sensibility (Directed by: Ang Lee, Starring: Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant)
Toy Story (Directed by: John Lasseter, Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen)
The Usual Suspects (Directed by: Bryan Singer, Starring: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri)

Big Night (Directed by: Campbell Scott, Stanley Tucci, Starring: Tony Shaloub, Stanley Tucci, Ian Holm)
Dead Man (Directed by: Jim Jarmusch, Starring: Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Lance Henriksen)
Fargo (Directed by: Joel Coen, Starring: Frances McDormand, William H. Macy)
Ghost in the Shell (Directed by: Mamoru Oshii, Starring: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka)
Lone Star (Directed by: John Sayles, Starring: Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Pena, Kris Kristofferson, Matthew McConaughey)
Scream (Directed by: Wes Craven, Starring: Neve Campbell, Drew Barrymore)
Secrets & Lies (Directed by: Mike Leigh, Starring: Brenda Blethyn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Timothy Spall)
Sling Blade (Directed by: Billy Bob Thornton, Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, Lucas Black)
Swingers (Directed by: Doug Liman, Starring: Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Heather Graham)
Trainspotting (Directed by: Danny Boyle, Starring: Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle)

Boogie Nights (Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson, Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore)
Eve's Bayou (Directed by: Kasi Lemmons, Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Lynn Whitfield, Debbi Morgan)
L.A. Confidential (Directed by: Curtis Hanson, Starring: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey)
The Sweet Hearafter (Directed by: Atom Egoyan, Starring: Ian Holm, Bruce Greenwood, Sarah Polley)
Titanic (Directed by: James Cameron, Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet)

The Big Lebowski (Directed by: Joel Coen, Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore)
Fireworks (Directed by: Takeshi Kitano, Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto)
Out of Sight (Directed by: Steven Soderbergh, Starring: George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Catherine Keener)
Saving Private Ryan (Directed by: Steven Spielberg, Starring: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore)
There's Something About Mary (Directed by: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly, Starring: Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Ben Stiller)

All About My Mother (Directed by: Pedro Almodovar, Starring: Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Penelope Cruz)
American Beauty (Directed by: Sam Mendes, Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch)
Being John Malkovich (Directed by: Spike Jonze, Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich)
Election (Directed by: Alexander Payne, Starring: Matthew Broderick, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Klein)
Fight Club (Directed by: David Fincher, Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton)
The Matrix (Directed by: Larry Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne)
Princess Mononoke (Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki, Starring: Yoji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida)
Run Lola Run (Directed by: Tom Tykwer, Starring: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu)
The Sixth Sense (Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan, Starring: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette)
Three Kings (Directed by: David O. Russell, Starring: George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube)

Almost Famous (Directed by: Cameron Crowe, Starring: Patrick Fugit, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson)
Best in Show (Directed by: Christopher Guest, Starring: Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Directed by: Ang Lee, Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang)
Yi Yi (Directed by: Edward Yang, Starring: Wu Nien-jen, Issey Ogata, Elaine Jin)

Amelie (Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz)
Donnie Darko (Directed by: Richard Kelly, Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze)
In the Mood For Love (Directed by: Wong Kar-Wai, Starring: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai)
The Lord of the Rings (Directed by: Peter Jackson, Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen)
Memento (Directed by: Christopher Nolan, Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano)
Mulholland Drive (Directed by: David Lynch, Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring)
The Royal Tenenbaums (Directed by: Wes Anderson, Starring: Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow)

The Pianist (Directed by: Roman Polanski, Starring: Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Emilia Fox)
Y Tu Mama Tambien (Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron, Starring: Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna)

City of God (Directed by: Fernando Meirelles, Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino De Hora Phellipe, Seu Jorge)
Elephant (Directed by: Gus Van Sant, Starring: Alex Frost, Eric Deulen, John Robinson)
Finding Nemo (Directed by: Andrew Stanton, Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres)

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (Directed by: Adam McKay, Starring: Will Ferrell, Christina Applegate)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Directed by: Michel Gondry, Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet)
Shaun of the Dead (Directed by: Edgar Wright, Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield)
Sideways (Directed by: Alexander Payne, Starring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen)

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Directed by: Judd Apatow, Starring: Steve Carell, Catherine Keener, Seth Rogen)
Brokeback Mountain (Directed by: Ang Lee, Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal)
A History of Violence (Directed by: David Cronenberg, Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris)
Oldboy (Directed by: Park Chan-wook, Starring: Choi Min-shik, Kang Hye-jeong)

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (Directed by: Larry Charles, Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Kenneth Davitian)
Children of Men (Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron, Starring: Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore)
The Lives of Others (Directed by: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Starring: Martina Gedeck, Ulrich Muehe, Sebastian Koch)
Pan's Labyrinth (Directed by: Guillermo del Toro, Starring: Maribel Verdu, Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones)

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (Directed by: Cristian Mungiu, Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov)
The Bourne Ultimatum (Directed by: Paul Greengrass, Starring: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, David Strathairn)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Directed by: Julian Schnabel, Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze)
Michael Clayton (Directed by: Tony Gilroy, Starring: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton)
No Country for Old Men (Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin)
There Will Be Blood (Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson, Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Paul Dano)

The Dark Knight (Directed by: Christopher Nolan, Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart)
Slumdog Millionaire (Directed by: Danny Boyle, Starring: Dev Patel, Anil Kapoor, Freida Pinto)
WALL-E (Directed by: Andrew Stanton, Starring: Fred Willard, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Garlin)

Avatar (Directed by: James Cameron, Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver)
The Hurt Locker (Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow, Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty)
Inglourious Basterds (Directed by: Quentin Tarantino, Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent)

Cannes 2010 line-up announced!

Steven Zeitchik reports below Cannes news...

Cannes 2010: Lineup reveals a heavy dose of auteurs, with a dollop of celebrity

April 15, 2010
3:56 am

After a 2009 that saw few American filmmakers or stars on its program, the Cannes Film Festival announced a lineup that includes a number of U.S. and celebrity-heavy films while also keeping its traditional focus on international auteurs.

The lineup unveiled in Paris on Thursday in the early morning hours in the U.S. includes "Fair Game," the thriller about the Joe Wilson-Valerie Plame incident from "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" director Doug Liman and starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts; "Biutiful," the Javier Bardem vehicle about a policeman and a drug dealer from "Babel" director Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu; "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps," Oliver Stone's sequel to his 1980s-defining film, this one starring Shia LaBeouf, Josh Brolin and Carey Mulligan along with original star Michael Douglas; and Woody Allen's comedy "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," also starring Watts, as well as Brolin and Freida Pinto. ("Fair Game" and "Biutiful," which will also be seeking U.S. distribution at the festival, will play in competition; the other two will play out of competition.)

The lineup also includes more prestige -- and, to some American filmgoers, less immediately recognizable -- work from the likes of Japanese auteur Takeshi Kitano ("Outrage"), Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami ("The Certified Copy"), British director Mike Leigh ("Another Year"), French notables Bertrand Tavernier and Jean Luc Godard (“La Princesse de Monptpensier" and "Film Socialisme," respectively), and Romanian up-and-comer Cristi Puiu (“Aurora”), who helped usher in the Romanian film renaissance five years ago. Eclectic British director Stephen Frears will also unveil his graphic-novel adaptation "Tamara Drewe," which stars Bond girl Gemma Arterton.

The Un Certain Regard section will be studded with a Sundance hit, "Blue Valentine," the Ryan Gosling-Michele Williams romantic drama that went over big in Park City, Utah, this year. Derek Cianfrance's film occupies a spiritually similar slot to that held by "Precious" at last year's Cannes. That film was also a Sundance phenomenon that played in Un Certain Regard, before going on to awards acclaim in the fall.

Several internationally known actors will also unveil their directorial efforts at the festival, including France's Mathieu Almaric ("Tournee") and Mexico's Diego Luna ("Abel"), with the latter's film also playing this last year's Sundance. The U.S. independent-film festival rarely shows much crossover with Cannes, though this year will also see the 1990s Sundance darling Gregg Araki premiere his new film, the sex-infused science-fiction tale "Kaboom" at Cannes, where it will play out of competition.

All films join the internationally inflected big-budget Universal release "Robin Hood," a reunion between "Gladiator" collaborators Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe that was previously announced as the festival's opening night selection.

Julian Schnabel's "Miral," a story about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that follows up his 2007 Cannes hit "The Diving Bell & The Butterfly," was not on the announcement list, as some had predicted it would be, although it's likely several more festival selections will be named in the coming weeks.

Terrence Malick's much-ballyhooed and long-gestating "Tree of Life" was also not included in the lineup, negating the rumors, for now, that the Brad Pitt film would make a Cannes debut. It could still be added later -- "we're crossing our fingers," festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux said at the announcement -- but if it isn't, look for yet another round of rumors about Malick's exacting process. The movie is starting to feel a little like Philip Seymour Hoffman's creations in "Synecdoche, New York."

Last year at Cannes saw several high-profile American films -- including "Up" and "Inglourious Basterds" -- mixed in with a heavy dose of international work, a reflection of the changing dynamics of both U.S. and global film making. This year continues that trend, although "Robin Hood" and "Wall Street 2" give the festival a big-release flair as well.

Tim Burton heads the jury for this year's Cannes, which gets under way on May 12.

The lineup announcement on Thursday by Fremaux was marred by a boycott from several news agencies, including Reuters and the Associated Press, who were protesting the festival's new red-carpet video policy. The protesting outlets say the policy favors French broadcaster Canal+ and pay-TV service Orange, with which Cannes has deals. Now that's an international drama.

The full list:
In Competition:
LEE Chang-dong POETRY

Un Certain Regard:
Vikramaditya MOTWANE UDAAN

Out of Competition:
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Saturday, April 03, 2010

My Chris O'Donnell interview

Batman's Robin is back, minus the cape
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated April 04, 2010 12:00 AM
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Chris O’Donnell (left) plays ‘G’ Callen, a highly-trained special agent on AXN’s NCIS: LA
MANILA, Philippines - Mention the movie Batman & Robin and you will instantly notice a sparkle in Chris O’Donnell’s eyes. It’s not the type that ignites enthusiasm and invites a pleasant response; it’s something similar to someone finally resigning to some unavoidable fact and it can only be described as that “I-could-never-really-get-away-from-it” moment.
This writer saw that slight glint materialize out of the actor’s blue eyes a couple of weeks back at our on-set two-part roundtable interview during breaks from filming the 20th episode of his very first TV series called NCIS: LA at the Paramount lot in Hollywood.

No, the actor didn’t throw a tantrum or anything like that. He was actually the one who good-naturedly brought it up after a journalist from Singapore creatively asked him if he can name one memorable movie role that he has done.

“Well when it’s something like Scent of a Woman I’m glad they don’t forget me,” he said referring to his breakthrough role as Al Pacino’s companion in the Oscar-winning 1992 movie. “But if it’s something like the second Batman & Robin I wish they would forget me,” he said before breaking into laughter.

It’s no secret in Hollywood that in 1997, when he was at the height of his career and was competing with the likes of Leonardo Di Caprio for plum roles in high-profile movies (during the interview he denied the persistent rumor that he was offered the role of Jack before Leo took it), Chris, the Hollywood golden boy at the time, opted to do what was touted as the biggest movie of 1997, Joel Schumacher’s version of Batman & Robin. It was a disaster. Not only did the movie flop but it almost caused the demise of the lucrative Batman franchise. It had to take nearly a decade before Warner Bros. could resurrect the superhero back to screen.
Batman & Robin was so bad that even the actor’s burgeoning career lagged afterwards. A couple of movies he did after this debacle received lukewarm response from the public and he decided to take a brief hiatus from the movies.

But if there’s any regret at all on his past career choices, he didn’t show it. “I think that there are just different chapters in your life and part of it is when you do films, you make a character in your head and what comes out of the screen — the way people interpret it — may be different and so for me it was what was in my head… so it’s more about the process of making it than waiting for the final results and sit back analyzing.”

“There is no point in mulling over a list of things you could have done,” he added. “I’m always fighting for roles but I think that you kick yourself over for things that you were offered and you didn’t do. Hindsight is really easy and if that was that easy to pick films then life will be easy.”

These days, the good-looking actor is enjoying a much welcome resurgence with a lead role in the biggest American TV breakout hit of the year, the NCIS spin-off called NCIS: LA.

In the series, Chris plays “G” Callen, a highly-trained special agent whose biggest weapon is his ability to transform himself to whoever he needs to be in order to infiltrate the criminal underworld. In the series, the NCIS crew are tasked to apprehend dangerous and elusive criminals that pose a threat to the security of the United States.

NCIS: LA is a crime procedural drama that utilizes state-of-the-art investigative tools and gadgets and features action-packed sequences. The actors, including Chris and his co-star actor-rapper LL Cool J, had to undergo weeks of rigorous weapons training before the TV pilot was shot.

“I’ve done this on plenty of shows,” he recalled, “but it’s always good to get a refresher and we have a technical advisor here who’s always around when a scene involves a gun and that’s always helpful because you want to try to make things as accurate as possible.” In 1999, before he took a four-year movie hiatus, he did an action film called Vertical Limit.

Although he did all those trainings, do not expect the actor to start jumping out of exploding cars anytime soon. “No, I’m not doing any stunts. I’m not crazy and I don’t do things that are unreasonable.” He stressed that “there are certain times in which you let the stuntmen do their work and there are certain times when you can do it and stunts are a big part of the show.”

Television is not something new to the actor. “It wasn’t a huge transition because I’ve done it before but not in a full season. This is episode 20 at this point. It’s a different adjustment. The longest I’ve been on a film is about eight months. This is uncharted territory and it’s interesting to play the same character this long.”

When he was away from the movies, the actor made appearances on several episodes of the hit David E. Kelley legal drama The Practice in 2003. The following year, he showed his wacky side when he portrayed the role of Charlie Sheen’s ex-girlfriend who had undergone a sex change operation to become a man in the hugely popular episode called An Old Flame with a New Wick of the hit comedy series Two and a Half Men.

It was also in 2004 when he started making movies again and appeared alongside Liam Neeson and Laura Linney in the critically-acclaimed biopic Kinsey. He has appeared in a couple of movies since 2004 but has concentrated most of his work on TV, most notably in the 2007 historical mini-series, The Company.

The decision to focus more on TV was largely in consideration of his family and his five children.

“I miss going on location and filming all over the world because the part of living the gypsy kind of lifestyle is something I’m into,” he emphasized, “but at the same time I’m married now and I’ve got kids so it doesn’t work quite well for my lifestyle. Just because I enjoy moving around I don’t think I should force my kids to do that kind of lifestyle.”

“I do miss that a little bit but it is great to be working in LA with a great crew and a great cast.” Work for the actor means four days of location and four days of studio shoot. “Location is a lot of times fun because it involves shooting the guns, chasing people and doing car chases.”

And this time, luck is working on the handsome actor’s side. US television is a harsh medium. Some TV series gets cancelled after only a couple of episodes if they don’t perform well. Every actor working on a freshman TV series dreams of being picked up for a full season and this was no different in the case of NCIS: LA.

Notwithstanding the fact that the series is a spin-off of another successful series and it stars two of the biggest names on television, the series still had to prove its worth through the viewer ratings results before it can be considered a success.

“Doing a television show at the beginning is kind of like doing a film,” he confided. “You are waiting to see the first numbers come back and you know I’ve never been really that concerned when it involves waiting for how the ratings were and you are waiting for the e-mail and see what the ratings say and you’re kind of on pins and needles for the first few episodes.”

To his relief, the first week’s ratings trumped all the competition and NCIS: LA was picked up for not just a full season but was renewed for another season — the very first show from the 2009 freshman crop to be renewed. Currently, the series is consistently topping its timeslot and is among the Top 5 most-watched shows on TV in the US.

“Doing a character I enjoy playing or actually watching, I couldn’t be happier or fulfilled especially during these economic times — and the business kind of shrunk a little bit you know — everyone of us is just fortunate to be working on a hit show.”

With Batman & Robin now completely behind him and with a hit TV series to boot, Chris indeed can now just laugh off whatever memories he had of that much-lamented movie because right now he is back in the game.

Yes, Robin is back but without the cape, the crotch and the mask.

NCIS: LA premieres on AXN on April 6, 10 p.m. - entertainment