Tuesday, December 06, 2011

My interview with Robin Williams (2011)

Revel in the genius of Robin Williams
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated November 25, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (1) View comments

Photo is loading...
The very energetic Robin returns as Ramon and Lovelace in Warner Bros.’ Happy Feet 2
| Zoom
MANILA, Philippines - How can you tell you are at the Happy Feet 2 junket? Simple, you have funnyman Robin Williams providing an impromptu comic performance for the press  and it’s free of charge.

It’s been ages since the comedian has performed a stand-up routine. This writer and the other international journalists during the movie’s press conference at theBeverly Hilton a couple of weeks ago were among the few lucky ones who experienced the actor’s funny antics and off-the-cuff humor for nearly 40 minutes.

If only this writer can transfer to paper all of the actor’s jokes, fans of the comedian would surely be thanking me until Christmas. But I couldn’t. I could let in a few, perhaps, but not entirely. I don’t have copyright clearance, if you must know. I was trying to make a joke there and, I know, I wasn’t funny. Let’s leave the jokes to Robin then, shall we?

Here’s a sample of how funny the actor can get.

Setup — He saw an iPhone (which also doubles as a voice recorder) placed in front of him and he immediately picked it up and had the following imaginary exchange with Siri, the latest software featured in the current iPhone release.

Robin: Siri, where’s a good restaurant in Paris?

Siri: I’m sorry, Robin. I am not able to get the full locations in France.

Robin: Siri, why?

Siri: I can’t answer that question, Robin, legally.

The very energetic Robin returns as Ramon and Lovelace in Warner Bros.’ Happy Feet 2, the highly-anticipated sequel to the 2006 Oscar-winning and box-office hit animated movie. The sequel also features the voice of Lord of the Rings star Elijah Wood, who is back as Mumble. Hank Azaria, who provides the voice for The Mighty Sven, the penguin who can fly, and Grammy-winner Common, who provides the voice for Seymour, the leader of a new penguin colony, are the new additions to the stellar voice cast along with Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Sofia Vergara and pop music superstar Pink (billed in the movie as Alecia Beth Moore.)

Elijah, Common and Hank were also at the junket along with director George Miller and they were just as captivated by Robin’s funny antics as we were.

The Oscar-winning actor is so witty he could turn any simple, innocent questions into something crazy, irreverent and just damn madly hilarious.

Asked what he thinks of the latest 3D technology craze, which was used to great success in Happy Feet 2 (the underwater scenes featuring the krill swarm are mighty impressive!), Robin quipped: “One thing I don’t want to see in 3D is porn!”

“I think that would like, ‘Whoa! Put it away!’” he exclaimed. “I mean the technology is extraordinary but I’ve seen a good 3D and an okay 3D. When I saw Avatar in 3D, it was so vivid because of the whole world, that’s why it was so expensive because of the details.”
Elijah Wood is also making a comeback as Mumble

Happy Feet 2 reportedly cost $120M to make because of the state-of-art 3D technology employed during production.

“The shots in this movie, under water, having dived off the coast of Australia — it’s created an immersive experience,” he added. “I’ve talked to a lot of people and children who have been to the screenings of this movie and they were all like this, (Robin paused and formed a delighted expression on his face), in awe, which is a wonderful thing. The technology is increasing on a daily basis. Once you write the program, someone builds up the next program.”

Robin recalled that when he did the effects-laden Jumanji some 15 years ago, “one of the hardest programs to write was the monkey because of the hair and I am going, ‘Wow, I’ll be working for a while!’” he joked.

But he was wrong. Peter Jackson would revolutionize the motion-capture technique in only five short years and in 2001, Lord of the Rings changed the whole ballgame.

The actor referred to a conversation he had with a fellow actor recently about Andy Serkis’ (the actor who played Gollum in the LOTR trilogy) performance in this year’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, “It’s one of the most vivid characters I’ve seen in film in recent history,” he said, “and that’s done with CG but with a person behind it, driving it, which is a wonderful combination of technology and humanity. Even though it’s an ape, he gives it such depth and it’s just powerful.”

“That thing that Copolla said years ago at the Academy Awards, ‘the technology will always need great storytelling to work together’ — that’s happening and it is driven by directors who know the technology… and I am just in awe. I just become a child sometimes watching these movies,” the actor further added.                

One journalist asked Robin what among the movies he’s done so far would he like to see on 3D and he quickly replied, “None so far,” before getting into another series of bellyaching jokes.

“I don’t know. I think Birdcage in 3D will just be gayer,” he said before standing up and doing a routine from the movie. Later he would joke: “Michelle Bachman’s husband, come out! Come out, Mr. Bachman, come out! Join us!”

The room was filled with laughter when he was doing this and his co-stars, especially Hank filled Robin in with materials by suggesting movie titles.

“Awakenings in 3D would be good,” Hank suggested, referring to Robin’s 1991 Oscar-nominated movie with Robert de Niro about a man who woke up from years of catatonia.

“Oh my god,” Robin reacted by acting all stiff and said, “that is like the attack of the giant snails!”

“There’s one French guy going, ‘You could make a movie like that, it will be called The Fabulous Killer Snails and it will be eight hours long… and they come and they put salt on you while you sleep.’”

It was one of the most enjoyable interviews this writer ever had and if only I could share my recording of the entire interview, all you readers can also revel in the genius of the man.

(Happy Feet 2 is now showing in theaters.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Coverage of Entourage

Adrian & Jeremy: Is there life after Entourage?
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) 

Photo is loading...
Two scenes from the hit comedy series: (Top) Adrian Grenier, center, with Kevin Dillon, left, and Scott Caan. (Above) Jeremy Piven, right, with Rex Lee.
| Zoom
MANILA, Philippines - In 2004, a young sexy newcomer arrived in Hollywood and set the town on fire. His good looks landed him many parts and, at the height of his career, he even did a superhero movie! His is the most quintessential career — one that’s riddled with gossips, failed relationships, sensational paparazzi scandals, porn star girlfriends, etc. The actor also had a group of hangers-on called enablers in extreme cases but otherwise an actor’s entourage when described affectionately.

The actor could be any person working in Hollywood. Name anyone and in some measure he could perfectly fit the bill but, nope, the actor in our story is no real actor. We are talking about Vince Chase, the alter ego of green-eyed and equally good-looking actor Adrian Grenier in the hit showbiz satire Entourage, whose eighth and final season started airing last Nov. 9 on the HBO Signature channel.

In the series, Vince Chase started as an up-and-coming actor who, over seven seasons of the show, saw his career go up in Hollywood. The whole series evolved around Vince’s misadventures with fame along with his three buddies and his odd love-hate relationship with his foul-mouthed agent, Ari Gold, brilliantly portrayed in the series by veteran actor Jeremy Piven, who already received three Emmy awards for his role.

When Entourage premiered more than seven years ago, the comedy series instantly became a hit and the cast became enormously popular that some writers were calling them the male version of the Sex and the City girls. Thankfully, the actors’ real-life fame did not go into their heads and they did not mirror their characters’ shenanigans in the series.

In late July this year, the two lead stars of the series, Adrian and Jeremy, did separate interviews with The Philippine STAR during the Los Angeles junket of Entourageto talk about the final season of the series and to share their thoughts on their characters, their post-Entourage plans, and whether a movie version of the series is ever going to get made.

Adrian sat at the roundtable first and below are excerpts of the interview with the 35-year-old star who described his character as “maybe more lazy than he is dumb” and who is “actually quite savvy.”

This is going to be one of your last interviews for Entourage, how do you feel about it?
“Whoa! Don’t be so sure.”

Do people mistake you for Vince when you are out?
“At times. And they are often disappointed that I am not. I am only partly as cool as Vince but not quite.”

How is your relationship with your own agent compared to Vince and Ari’s?
“It’s different. It’s very different. I sometimes feel like maybe I need to be a little more aggressive like Vince and then I find myself saying some of the same lines that Vince does and then I think, ‘Are they gonna take me seriously?...’ It’s hard because on one hand, Vince empowers me but on the other hand, he doesn’t allow me because he has already taken all the good lines.”

The Hollywood life that you portray on the show, how close is that to reality?
“It’s definitely sort of “reality-heightened” but some things are downplayed. A lot of times we have to underplay a situation because people wouldn’t believe it even though it actually happened in real life.”

Can you cite an example?
“You take Vince dating a porn star and doing one of his drug benders, who does that remind you of?”

Does Vince’s story reflect your own reality?
“My reality? I have six porn star girlfriends!” (He joked.) “Sometimes I go to a club and people are a little bit disappointed that I am not a big superstar and I am right there hanging with my friends who are a little nerdier. My friends would say that I am more of, sort of, down-to-earth.”

Are you going to continue making documentary movies as a director after the series is over? (Adrian did a popular documentary called Shot in the Dark, which chronicled his search for his estranged biological father in 2002.)
“Actually, Teenage Paparazzo (his current film that premiered earlier this year) is still alive and well. We just launched what we call the Teenage Paparazzo Experienceand it’s a college tour, a non-traditional venue tour for the film coupled with an educational curriculum, an art exhibit and guest speakers. We are going from town-to-town partly to recoup some of our investments but more importantly as an educational tool to share the ideas with young people, students…”

How do you feel about doing a movie version of Entourage?
“Oh yeah, don’t you guys wanna see it? I mean, we must do our duty and make a movie. Yes, sir! We all have the task to make the film as explosive and as epic as possible.”

After the interview with Adrian, Jeremy joined the roundtable and the forty-something actor talked lengthily about his character and his immediate plans now that the series is over. Below are excerpts from that interview.

Do you miss Ari?
“I don’t. I am incredibly fulfilled. I got to play this wildly abrasive, aggressive character and then, this year, the wife leaves him and he is completely emotionally gutted so I get to reveal his humanity, show this transformation from the shark into being human. As an actor, you can’t ask for anything more and if you want anything more, you are too greedy. I am wildly fulfilled so I don’t want to ask for too much.”

How is your blood pressure now after playing him with all that anger? Did it affect you in any way?
“I guess it did. It did affect me. I had some health problems at one point. I don’t know any other way but to give everything I have in every single take. I have never ‘phoned in,’ as they say, a moment as an actor. When you are playing rage or fear, or now, sadness, for 14 hours a day, it takes its toll but that’s the game you’re in and I think that my quest now is to find balance in my life. Actors want to act and I’ve gotten a chance for eight years to do that and I am very grateful.”

While shooting, are you able to disconnect yourself from your character at all?
“I am able very much to disconnect because it is such a release. It is so cathartic to be able to do these things: to yell and fire people, to hurl insults and to what-not — I am a stage actor from Chicago and I have been doing yoga for 20 years and to inhabit a character — whom I do not necessarily want to be in the same room with — to be honest with you, is pretty fun.”

Is that why you don’t miss him?
“I don’t miss him because I don’t have any regrets. There’s a great cliché about sports: You want to leave it all on the field. I’ve left it all on the field. There’s nothing left.”

Are there anything left for the movie?
“Yes! The movie could be great. It could be wonderful. We’ll just take a moment and see how all these settles in and how we end up and maybe people will miss us a little bit and we come back.”

Are you going back to the theater? (Jeremy famously left a Broadway play three months into the engagement in 2008.)
“Sure, I am going back to the theater as soon as I find a great play.”
Entourage airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on the HBO Signature channel. Now, go fix your schedule and track the last days of Vince and his gang.  — (With reports from Anselmo Manosca)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

My coverage of True Blood S4

True Blood: Drama at its sexiest
By Raymond de Asis Lo L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated November 01, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

Photo is loading...
Joe Manganiello, star of the HBO series.
| Zoom
MANILA, Philippines - Are you ready for more sex — wild and uninhibited sex on primetime television? You better clear your calendar on Nov. 3 and make sure that by the time the hour hits 10 p.m. on Thursday night, you are already lounging on your favorite loveseat or your comfy couch or, better yet, on your bed cuddled with your partner because HBO Asia is set to debut the fourth season premiere of the blockbuster supernatural series True Blood, the sexiest drama to ever grace the cable network.

Forget about the pubertal vampires on The Vampire Diaries or the lovesick Edward Cullen of Twilight, the vampires in True Blood are adults — and they act like one. They are violent but they love to make love. No limits, well, sort of.

“I think that part of the joy of the show is pushing those limits,“ series creator Alan Ball told the set of foreign journalists present during the show’s Los Angeles junket in early August. “In terms of body parts, actors have limits on what they are willing to show but in terms of violence, I think it’s probably what is possible, what we can do with prosthetics and how much it will cost.

“I don’t think you can get pornographic and I think there is a point where violence just becomes gratuitous and I don’t think we’ll ever do torture porn. I don’t like movies like Hostel where it’s all just about sadism.”

Based on the bestselling Sookie Stackhouse series of novels by author Charlaine Harris, the series is set in a fictional Louisiana small-town and tells the story of Sookie, portrayed by Oscar-winning actress Anna Paquin, the girl who had the gift of reading the thoughts of other people and who would later fall in love with a vampire.
The first and second season of the series told the story of how Sookie fell in love with the vampire named Bill Compton, played by Anna’s real-life husband Stephen Moyer, and how she became the object of desire by another vampire, the elder Eric, played by Alexander Skarsgard.

The third season revealed that Sookie’s telepathic gift was no accident. She is a fairy. And, not only that, she also discovered that her best friends are witches. There was also a new character, a werewolf, played by the hunky Joe Manganiello, thrown in the mix. But everything that took place during season three was just a prelude to the explosive fourth season.

“Nothing ever works out for anybody on the show,” cautioned Alan, however. So fans of the hit series, even if they are familiar with the fourth book in the series calledDead to the World, are still in for a lot of surprises.

There are many challenges in adapting and spreading a 400-page book into 15 or more one-hour episodes and Alan said he is primarily concerned about telling a good story that services all the characters in the book that fans have grown to love. But as much as he was pressed for details on the much-awaited shower scene between Eric and Sookie this season, Alan just wouldn’t budge. “We decided to do something a little different with it,” he said. “If you just try to pull off the scene as in the book, I don’t think you’ll ever be able to do it the way people imagined it — without descending into pornography — so what we did is we definitely have a shower scene but it goes to an unexpected place that is new and, yet, at the same time, very satisfying. I am pretty sure people will be very happy with our version of the shower scene.”

But for the show’s main star, Anna, the main challenge is to not disappoint the fans of the books.

During the junket, Anna also expressed her excitement about the show’s forthcoming season and how her character finally gets to be her own person. “I think that she’s taking a step back from being a damsel-in-distress and from being at the whims of other people.”

Anna Paquin and Joe Manganiello 
The gap-toothed Australian actress was pleasantly chatty and friendly in person. She burst into Hollywood in 1994 as a young acting prodigy from New Zealand who wowed the fierce critics at Cannes and won the hearts of the Academy. True Blood was her first foray into television and she caused another sensation with the steamy love scenes that she agreed to do. The little girl from The Piano was finally an adult and people embraced her transformation.

“It was impossible to imagine how big the show was gonna be,” she said reflecting on how the show made her become a cult-like figure among the show’s devotees. She recalled how fans mobbed her during a trip she made to the annual Comic Convention (a gathering of self-proclaimed nerds) and was astonished when she saw how many girls came dressed up as Sookie. She also had encounters with fans that are angry with her for breaking up with Bill.

But ultimately, Anna is just thankful to be a part of a show that’s groundbreaking in every level. The show encouraged diversity and championed the female identity — but the series really made its mark with its tasteful and provocative sex scenes, which are essential in a show that celebrates the individual through marked sensuality and sexuality.

“Even though my character didn’t have any sex scenes in the first few episodes, I always got a pretty good idea that it was gonna get pretty raunchy pretty quickly,” she disclosed. “But that’s the least of things I worry about. I mean, any girl would want to look good in front of the camera, like ‘Does my ass look fat?’ but not like, ‘Oh, my God! Someone’s gonna see my naked body!’ It’s not among the issue!”

And she sees no reason to worry because she has her full trust on her producer. “Alan is a good person and a smart man. He’s not exploitative. He can push the boundaries really far without anyone feeling like they are being specifically being taken advantaged of.”

How about the much-awaited shower scene between Sookie and Eric?

The actress just kept mum. Smiled knowingly before teasing that her character and Eric has already shared a kiss before — but it was in a dream. “Why?” she asked, “We still do it when we shoot even if it’s only a dream!”

Now, that shower scene could be close to real. Be sure to watch. — With reports from Anselmo Manosca

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My coverage of SayAwit

Lea Salonga tribute highlights SayAwit
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated September 19, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

Photo is loading...
Primitive chanting in SayAwit’s first act| Zoom
MANILA, Philippines - They opened the show with a chant and everyone inside the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood hills was held in complete awe; the audience was enthralled by the unique sound emanating from the stage. The primitive ritual performed by the critically-acclaimed Los Angeles-based choir Philippine Chamber Singers evoked the creation of man based on the Filipino folklore of Si Malakas at si Maganda. It was a fitting start to a show that promised to showcase the best of Filipino songs and dances.

The lush scenery of the outdoor venue — with the late summer breeze providing a soft hum in the background — was the perfect stage for the opening tribute to Mother Nature. Music is not a modern-day discovery. Music, like every other form of art, traces its roots to our natural environment. Those primitive chanting are our ancestors’ way of imitating the sounds they hear from the rushing rivers, flapping leaves and howling winds; it was their way to commune with the gods. The shrieking, the high-pitched sound, was impeccably captured by the choir and for a few minutes the audience was transported back in time.

It was a difficult first act. It was more of a performance act than a musical act, but it was a welcome respite from the flashy and catchy pop tunes churned out every week for today’s teens noted for their short attention span. The experience was totally new for the audience that didn’t seem to know how to respond in the beginning. It was the ethnic portion of the show billed as SayAwit, a play on the Tagalog words for Dance (Sayaw) and Song (Awit). It was a great start — challenging and different but definitely interesting. Too bad, the production wasn’t able to sustain it.

After the promising start, the show became a mishmash of various musical forms and dances and a seemingly misplaced stand-upcomedy act in-between musical sets by noted thespian Bernardo Bernardo, who also served as the show’s writer and director.

Lea Salonga is honored as the ‘greatest Filipino musical talent ever’ – Photos by Dondi Quema
For a show that promised to showcase classic and contemporary Philippine choral music infused with excerpts from Filipino stage musicals, last weekend’s presentation did all that and so much more — so much more that, to my disappointment, it ended up becoming too overwhelming, a little bit jarring and just less memorable.

The outstanding first act included regional songs sung in various Filipino dialects and was capped by a prayer to the Virgin Mary. The Philippine Chamber Singers displayed the full array of talent that has already won them applause from all over Southern California. They were so great that I nearly forgot that the choir is composed of remarkable individuals who have their respective day jobs to attend to and it is only their passion for singing and incredible time management skills that keep the choir alive.

The second part of the show had more movement on stage but it was a rather standard, if not routine, musical show. “Kung hindi dumating ang mga Kastila sa Pilipinas malamang kamukha tayo lahat ni Nora Aunor,” was how Bernardo introduced the second act — and it set the tone for the rest of the show. He was undeniably funny but those jokes would have worked better in another show.

If I didn’t make any notes during the second act, I wouldn’t have remembered the beautiful tribute to the Filipino Sarsuwela by guest soloist Djoanna Garcia, who has retained her incredible voice, or LA’s top stand-up comic Joseph Gelito’s knockout performance in the naughty act that played on his manliness, or lack thereof.
Joseph Gelito with the Philippine Chamber Singers

And, if not for my notes, I would have still been thinking that the entire show was a tribute to Lea Salonga, who is, according to the show, the greatest Filipino musical talent ever. The Tony-winning singer made a surprise appearance after the confusing Broadway portion of the second act. It was baffling how songs from Miss Saigon and The King & I ended up in a show that was supposed to showcase the best in Filipino music.

My complaints aside, I must say it was still a solid show. Maybe less memorable but still an entertaining show. The first act, though it felt weird initially, was, interestingly enough, the best part of the show. The show had so many guest soloists during the second act that I nearly missed the Philippine Chamber Singers. Perhaps, next time, they will be on a show all their own. They deserve it.

visit my sponsors


philstar.com - entertainment