Monday, May 30, 2011

My Glee Live Tour Story

A night Gleeks will long remember
By Raymond de Asis Lo, LA Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated May 31, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0)View comments

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Pinoy Gleeks, start memorizing those songs now!| Zoom
Manila, Philippines - No Filipino fan of Glee, the hit musical show on TV that has spawned more than a dozen chart-topping albums and launched the TV careers of the likes of Lea Michele (Rachel), Chris Colfer (Kurt) and our very own Charice (who joined as recurring character Sunshine Corazon during the show’s most recent season), would surely forgive me if I complain anything at all about the Glee concert held at the Staples Center just this Saturday, May 28: If ever, it would be the tremendous amount of noise inside the cavernous stadium coming from the shrieking, screaming fans of the sold-out show which nearly drowned some of the memorable numbers during the 80-minute show that ran non-stop save for a brief break after the first hour.

L.A.-based Gleeks, the collective term for all Glee fans, started lining up even before the gates opened at 7 p.m. The tickets that Sony Music sent me were for a reserved upper wing on the left side of the stage and I, along with several other friends, had unobstructed view of the entire Staples Arena. We could see many fans wearing various Glee-inspired shirts trickling into the arena. There were also some fans holding giant foam hands spelling the “L“ sign which has become the prominent symbol of the trail-blazing TV musical after it debuted to wide acclaim and enthusiastic responses from fans in the US and elsewhere in the world during summer of 2009.

On both sides of the stage were two huge reminders for fans not to record any portion of the show - a planned 3D movie based on footage taken from this tour is expected to be shown in theaters starting August - but still pictures could still be taken to everyone’s contentment.

Brief conversations with several fans on the line centered on how they expected the live show would turn out. No particular Glee character dominated the chitchat and, I hope, Rachel Berry, the show’s resident diva, would not mind me saying that.

At 8 p.m., the lights dimmed and the YouTube sensation League of Extraordinary Dancers opened the show. The talented group wowed the crowd with their acrobatic moves and impressive stunts that one would think they had harnesses with them.

After the opening act, the lights went up again as the crew started transforming the stage to make it look like the Nationals stage as seen during the show’s second season finale where Charice’s Sunshine character pushed the New Direction, (the name of the main glee club in Glee), out of the top ten sending the group home empty-handed with their final year in high school looming in the horizon.

At 9 p.m., the lights dimmed again and this time the golden curtain lifted revealing the six original members of the glee club singing the rousing show anthem Don’t Stop Believing. Soon the rest of the glee club started joining them on stage. Members of the audience in the floor section of the stadium were already on their feet and singing along, drowning the voices of the cast. It was the first indication that since this was the live tour of the Glee show, this was also about the fans, the gleeks, who made the show so popular, celebrating themselves along with the characters whom they have come to identify with.

And in a rather inspired decision, the show kept itself rooted to its TV source and presented the performers not as their star personas but as the characters themselves. So when Heather Morris took to the stage to do her version of Britney Spears’ Slave 4 U, it wasn’t her who was performing but Britney’s namesake, Brittany, Heather’s character on the show.

This creative and ingenious devise allowed even those who are occasional Glee viewers to be able to follow the show without getting confused whether Cris Colfer is really Darren Criss’ boyfriend in real life or was it just Cris’ character Kurt who was in love with Darren’s Blaine.

However, stronger voice talents in the cast still managed to come through as their own individual stars even if they were still in the guise of their characters.

When Amber Riley’s Mercedes took to the alternate stage at the other end of the arena (there were two sets constructed to effectively transition the more demanding production numbers fluidly), and sang Aretha Franklin’s classic Ain’t No Way, she was joined by a choir and by the time her soaring rendition reached its high point, her joyful wail filled the entire stadium and it was so easy to determine that when the audience gave her a rapturous applause after, it wasn’t Mercedes, who they were really cheering for; it was her.

The show’s main stars, Lea Michele and Cris Colfer, had their own moments on the show, too. Lea’s Rachel and Cris’ Kurt did the Barbra Streisand/Judy Garland counterpoint duet Happy Days/Get Happy and it was just as easy to understand why they are considered the glee club’s main singers. Both have that certain quality to their voices that may lack the specific appeal of a power belter like Amber but still command that immediate hint that through sheer theatricality of their voices, they can  and do  drown out even the highest notes hit by other singers.

The show featured as many solo spots for Rachel as there were for Kurt.

Both had the spotlight all to themselves twice. Rachel did Katy Perry’s Fireworks (complete with fireworks effects on stage) and Streisand’s Don’t Rain On My Parade while Kurt did The Beatles’ I Want To Hold Your Hand and Beyonce’s Single Ladies (the number he did during an episode of the first season where he finally revealed to his embracing dad that he was gay).

Kurt’s love interest in the show, Blaine, was introduced midway through along with the competing all-male glee club Warblers. During the short banter with Kurt after Blaine’s spot with the Warblers, Blaine hinted that he might join New Direction next season  this surprise revelation did not escape the fans’ attention and everyone nearly doubled up with excitement. This may also be indicative of the recent persistent rumor that the third season may finally be the show’s final TV season yet. The glee club may finally win the Nationals and finally bid high school goodbye and start tracking their adult lives separately.

But whether that would be true or not, fans in the US and some countries in Europe will still have a couple more months to enjoy this season’s live tour.

And perhaps the show’s fans in Manila might just be able to catch them live later this year as well if talks bear fruitful conclusion - keep your fingers crossed, fellow Gleeks!

If that happens, Manila-based Gleeks will have the special treat to catch Mark Salling’s Puck rock it out with Fat Bottomed Girls while being accompanied by his fellow glee cast members on various band instruments.

Or, perhaps, fans may be able to listen live to Cory Monteith’s Finn’s plaintive singing of Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl or witness in person Chord Overstreet’s Sam and Dianna Agron’s Quinn as they do a romantic duet of the Colbie Caillat and Jason Mraz hit love song Lucky.

And because Filipinos love to sing along during concerts, they can wow the entire Glee cast by singing along with them when they sing the signature song that brought the glee club their first win at the regionals, Queen’s Somebody to Love.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Hilary Swank interview...

A new challenge for Hilary (This time, she's active behind and not before the cameras)
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated May 15, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

In Something Borrowed, the new romantic-comedy that opened this week, the audiences are presented with the story of two best friends — the shy and plain-looking Rachel and the hot and gregarious Darcy. The women are fighting over the affection of one man. Readers of the similarly titled best-selling novel written by Emily Giffin, which Something Borrowed was based on, should already know who gets the man in the end but for those who have no clue whatsoever, be rest assured that this writer will not spoil the movie for you.

And neither will Hilary Swank.

The two-time Oscar-winning actress, who was stunning in Versace shorts the morning she chatted with this writer, will never reveal the ending nor would she even take sides or categorically state who between Rachel and Darcy accurately represents the women of America today.

“I think both of them,” she thoughtfully offered. “I think that Darcy is ultimately just protecting her vulnerabilities and how we protect ourselves is different for everybody yet we all have our own insecurities and, I think, if you ask women in general, most people would probably say, ‘I’m a Rachel,’ but I think that there’s a mix of both and that’s what’s great about the world.”

And she’s neither a Rachel nor a Darcy herself, she would later add.

Hilary was present during the junket for the movie at the chic Hotel Casa Del Mar located just a few steps from the beautiful sands of the famous Santa Monica Beach, not as a star of the movie, but as one of the producers of Something Borrowed and the excitement in her voice when she talks about her current project was not only tangible but nearly infectious — it was as if she was talking about her very first movie!

“I was happy to be entering into my next decade. I felt like my 20s were successful and I achieved a lot and I was ready to break in to the next part, the next chapter of my life,” she happily shared before quipping, “but every woman that I know says mid-40s are the best; I have another decade until that — we’ll see!”

“I didn’t enter this business to win an Academy award. I wanted to be an actor,” she said. “I wanted to tell stories that moved me and helped me grow not just an artist but as a human being. The best part of what we get to do is to collaborate and create with other talented people and how their talent helps you grow, become richer and vice versa. I just want to continue to challenge myself and it’s a beautiful by-product of creating something with people.”

The lovely actress, who spent the past decade and a half wowing critics and fans alike with her indelible performances in movies such as Boys Don’t CryMillion Dollar Baby and last year’s Conviction, has ventured into the more challenging aspect of the business: Developing and producing films for other actors, a task her fellow Hollywood superstars like Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt and Leonardo Di Caprio have already found great success.

Hilary Swank (standing beside mannequin) on the set of Something Borrowed which she isco-producing

But unlike Brad, who formed his production company Plan B as his, yes, “plan B” should his acting career falters, Hilary formed her production company, 2S Films, more as a response to the dearth of really good romantic comedies in the marketplace.

“I can’t find any good romantic comedies to be in so I have to create them as a producer,” she ruefully disclosed. “I’ve been looking to do a romantic comedy as an actor for a really long time and I get sent a lot of them that were just, like, ‘No way!’ There’s a place for that if you just want to be entertained but I’d rather be entertained and have something stick with me and think about it.”

The 36-year-old star has previously been credited as executive producer for a few of her movies, but Something Borrowed is the first project that she personally developed. She was there from the early stages of developing the story to the casting process, during post-production and eventually in the marketing of the movie.

“You know that old adage? You don’t really know how challenging it is for someone else unless you step into his or her shoes!” she said, adding that her experience working as a producer made her discover a new perspective on the movie-making process that she didn’t understand but was totally curious about before.

When told that it would be interesting to know how she handled the part of rejecting those actors who failed their auditions now that she’s behind the camera, she replied: “With the same kindness that people did with me. It’s tough because I do know what it’s like to be at the receiving end of not getting a role.”

As a producer, she could have cast herself as one of the lead characters but she opted for Kate Hudson and Ginnifer Goodwin instead. “I didn’t read it and say, ‘I see this for me,’” she humbly remarked. “I didn’t want to hurt the integrity of the story by forcing myself into something. I saw other people in it. And it happens, you know, I get offered a script and I see somebody else.”

That revelation, the unmistakable modesty, was not really something that would surprise anybody who is familiar with Hilary’s storied start in Hollywood which included sleeping in her mother’s car because they couldn’t afford rent. She struggled in the beginning but everything changed for her in 1999.

“I never saw it coming,” she brightened while candidly recalling the movie that changed the course of her career — and her life. “With Boy’s Don’t Cry, I was in this little movie that could. I made three thousand dollars and I never thought that that would have happened!”

Hilary is one of the very few actresses to have won two Best Actress Oscars. After winning the Oscar in 1999 for her gritty turn in Boys Don’t Cry, she won another five years later in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby and Oscar talk swirls about whenever she has a new movie coming out.

With her success came a few setbacks. Her marriage to actor Chad Lowe collapsed and nothing has been heard about her love life again; she never made it public anymore. With her love life in the backseat, she focused on her career and kept acting. She kept working.

“Nothing ever is for sure,” she remarked. “Having an Academy award doesn’t solidify anything. As an actor, I still fight for things that I want to be a part of. I am just a fighter by nature. I fought for everything.”

“The last thing I want to do is rest on my laurels. I want to work hard. I like to scare myself and I like to challenge myself.”


Something Borrowed is released locally by Pioneer Films.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

My Ginnifer Goodwin story...

Ginnifer plays her total opposite
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated May 09, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments
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Ginnifer Goodwin as single lawyer Rachel inSomething Borrowed in a scene with (from left) John Krasinski, Kate Hudson and Colin Egglesfield. The Warner Bros. Pictures release is showing nationwide starting on Wednesday, May 11, distributed locally by Pioneer Films.| Zoom
“What happened to your hair? You look so different!”

Thus exclaimed one journalist at our roundtable when she caught sight of star Ginnifer Goodwin as she sauntered in to our interview suite on the fourth floor of the luxurious Hotel Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica three Sundays ago. Ginnifer was paired with her co-star, TV’s funnyman John Krasinski, during our 20-minute interview with her.

“Everyone’s just used to see me in wigs. This is me in real life,” she replied, smiling. Fans of the actress, who shot to fame in the hit 2009 ensemble romantic-comedy He’s Just Not That Into You would be surprised to know that the pretty actress has been wearing wigs in all her movies after doing the said movie. In person, Ginnifer sports a boyish, pixie haircut similar to the one popularized by Audrey Hepburn.

When the chitchat about her hair and her wig was over, the topic on the table finally veered into Something Borrowed, the new romantic movie that also features Oscar-nominated actress Kate Hudson and handsome newcomer Colin Egglesfield.

Something Borrowed tells the story of Rachel, a single lawyer, who in a drunken state revealed on her 30th birthday that she was in love with her best friend’s fiancĂ©. That revelation would open up all sorts of complications and would force Rachel to examine how she has lived her life so far. Based on the bestselling novel by Emily Giffin, the movie has a very charming plot that would surely appeal to audiences who enjoy those highly entertaining Star Cinema romantic comedies.

Ginnifer plays Rachel in the movie while Kate portrays her best friend Darcy. John portrays their third best friend, Ethan. Colin portrays Dex, the lucky (or unlucky guy, take your pick) caught between Rachel and Darcy.

“I was actually inspired to take the part because I judged Rachel very harshly,” Ginnifer offered when asked what attracted her to Rachel’s character. “I think she makes poor decisions at every turn and I would never open myself up even to the possibility of having feelings for a friend’s boyfriend or fiancĂ© — or even their exes.”

“I am a girl’s girl and I am loyal to the end and it just would not happen,” she declared.

What eventually made her start caring about her character was when she finally realized that Rachel was actually the victim. “I think she has no self-worth,” she said. “Rachel has always been comfortable being the victim and relinquishing control because she doesn’t have to take responsibility for any of her actions and any of her feelings.”

“I do believe that, to a certain extent, all is fair in love and war but I have no sympathy for her. I still can’t say that I empathize. I mean, I do sympathize but I don’t empathize with her.”

John, however, had a different take on Rachel’s romantic dilemma: “When you actually set out to look for someone and you find someone, it is actually much better than stumbling into someone and having it happen to you.”

“To be an active participant in your own life is the best,” John wisely remarked.

But when asked what was one decision she regretted most in real life, Ginnifer had a quick but more drawn out answer: “I do not regret anything I’ve ever done. I only regret the things I didn’t do because I‘ve learned from every experience and they’ve all contributed to who I’ve become. I certainly blame the mistakes in my 20s on my youth and part of becoming an adult is recognizing that everything is a choice and we have to take responsibility for all our actions and the consequences.”

“I regret having in the past not asking for what I wanted and that’s the biggest difference for me,” she added. “I enjoy my 30s more than I did my 20s!”

Ginnifer may not be that famous elsewhere in the world yet, but she is one of the most well loved actors in Hollywood. She has this unassuming personality that easily wins her many admirers, including Oscar-winner Hilary Swank, who, as one of the producers of Something Borrowed made the decision in casting Ginnifer.

Hilary disclosed that when she read the script she didn’t have a perfect vision for the Rachel character until someone mentioned Ginnifer’s name and, according to Hilary, “I can only see her face in the role.”

“Ginnifer has that quality that women feel they can really connect to. Yeah, she’s gorgeous and she’s lovely. She’s eloquent and graceful and all those things but I just think that she’s the epitome of a girl’s girl,” Hilary observed.

The roles of Rachel and Darcy were the first to be cast. When Ginnifer was offered the part, Kate was already on board to play the part of Darcy. They have never been in a movie together before and Ginnifer made no reservation of how much she puts Kate in high regard.

“She really is an artist in this genre and I turn to her a lot for performance advice — advice on how to depict the journey in a way that was appropriate for this genre,” she said. “It was difficult because sometimes we all felt like we were in different movies because the storylines were so disparate and she was an incredible helping hand, full of support and she made the process fun.”

Kate, indeed, has such a refreshing presence about her. If Ginnifer’s entrance was greeted with unbelieving stares to her short hair Kate’s entrance was met by a chorus of oohs and aahs because she was carrying a huge baby bump that some of us were afraid she would give birth at any moment during the interview. We only calmed down when she told us she is not set to deliver until June or July.

The pretty blonde actress was radiant the morning of our interview and she still wasn’t wearing the engagement ring that she famously revealed before Matt Lauer a week later.

She was with Colin during our interview that was characterized more by lots of laughter and light banter. She chewed on a gum and munched on a plateful of tropical fruits, which she ate by hand, for the entire duration of our interview. Kate was great company.

One topic we managed to talk about and spend a lengthy time on was the several myths on what it really takes for attraction to hold between two individuals. She disagreed that only good-looking (the term used was “hot”) people can date good-looking people. “You have to be sexually attracted”, she remarked. “It’s half of the equation. You have to have that pull. That sexual sort of thing.”

And, like Ginnifer, the dissimilarity between her and her character, Darcy, was what drew her to the story and the part as well. “She has a completely effed-up version of who she thinks she was!” she exclaimed.

But the actress cannot deny that, like her character, she does get what she wants sometimes: “I am blonde. In the book she’s actually brunette.”

And how did that happen? “I just didn’t want to dye my hair,” she casually replied before breaking into another laughter again.

So Kate wears her real hair in the movie while Ginnifer dons her favorite wig. Everybody was happy.

Released by Pioneer Films, Something Borrowed opens in theaters on May 11.

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