Tuesday, December 04, 2012

2012 national board of review predix

national board of review (NBR) announces their ten best films selection and winning performances tomorrow.

the NBR, NY and LA film critics selections are traditionally the more anticipated lists by Oscarwatchers outside of the real thing because their choices tend to shape the race more than the others. the globes are populist while the guilds just validate the general consensus and they announce much later in the season...

my nbr prediction...

10 best films:

1) argo - winner!
2) les miserables
3) lincoln
4) silver linings playbook
5) zero dark thirty
6) life of pi
7) the exotic marigold hotel
8) the master
9) moonrise kingdom
10) the dark knight rises

best director: ben affleck (argo)

best actor: daniel day-lewis (lincoln) 

best actress: jennifer lawrence (silver linings playbook)

best supporting actor: matthew mcconaughey (magic mike)

best supporting actress: maggie smith (the best exotic marigold hotel)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My J. Lo Exclusive Interview


J.Lo up closer

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MANILA, Philippines - To attempt to make a brief introduction of Jennifer Lopez is just an exercise in futility. The Latin superstar is so accomplished in many ways that no amount of words could measure her success or her influence in Hollywood. From humble beginnings to the top of the industry, her story is an inspiration to everyone. And now after more than two decades in the industry, the old Jenny from the block finally pays Manila a visit and The Philippine STAR was the first to see her.
This writer met with Jennifer a couple of months ago during the height of summer when the temperature was reaching nearly a hundred degrees and the humidity was nearly zero. The busy star had about 20 minutes break in her schedule that particular day and that was enough to do a quick but intimate interview. The location was in a secret and secured compound in the San Fernando Valley part of Los Angeles where she was doing scenes for a TV commercial. Jennifer’s current boyfriend, the hunky Casper Smart, accompanied her that day.
When we got to the location, Jennifer was in the middle of a take. We were brought to a corner in the house where we can set up for the interview. She did a quick pictorial and one more scene before she finally got her 20-minute break — which she so graciously gave to The STAR — thank you, Jennifer!
I prepared several questions (which have been previously screened) and when she finally joined us, I was in so much hurry that, as soon as she sat down and we exchanged hellos, I immediately started asking questions without realizing that the camera was not ready yet.
“Are we rolling?” she stopped me and called the attention of the camera-man. She let out a giggly laugh and it allowed me to rearticulate my first question. The interview lasted for about 10 minutes with no more pauses. Casper sat next to her on the couch but wasn’t visible on camera. He was quiet and visibly proud of his Jenny.
Here is my full interview.
After two decades of immense success in the business, what still keeps you going? What keeps Jennifer Lopez going?
“I just love what I do. I really do. I love all the opportunities I get and all the things that I get to do over and over whether it’s making music, making records, being in movies, creating things... I am just a creative person and I really love it.”
You were recently named the most influential celebrity in Hollywood. How do you feel about the title?
(Laughs before answering.) “You know I try not to think about those things too much. It’s really flattering when it happens but I don’t try to take it too seriously. I just try to keep my nose in my work and try to do the best that I can do.”
But did you have some self-awareness of this “influence”?
“I don’t know. I really don’t think about it too much. I work with great people and we work well together and so I don’t think about that. I just try to live my life the right way and, I think, with that, it kind of all works together.”
Perhaps the “influence” thing comes up because you were in American Idol for two years. It was so successful but then many fans are saddened because you are not going back. What will you take with you from your Idol experience?
“That was an amazing experience for me and I loved every single second of it. I am sad, too, but it’s one of those things when you know it’s time to move on. Being part of that show was a beauti- ful thing but sitting and judging is not what I do. I am a performer and I am an actress and I am an enter- tainer and at the end of the day, that’s what I need to get back to. I don’t know, maybe, I’ll go back and do another year at another time. You never know.”
Did you always know that you were going to do just two years of Idol?
“I was only gonna do one year and then I loved it so much I stayed for two years! And then everybody was like, ‘Oh, she’ll just be back for, I don’t know, three, four, five years...’ and when they offered me the third year, I just said, ‘You know what, I think it’s time for me to get back to work.”
Speaking of Idol, we have our girl there, Jes- sica Sanchez. What did you think of her?
“She was amazing. I saved her — me and the other judges, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson — (when) they voted her off... it was so crazy. I was just a fan of hers from the very beginning.”
I think she’s a fan of yours, too.
“She’s fantastic! I remember her from the early auditions — coming out with all her attitude and every- thing, she was a very, very special talent.”
So you’re going to Manila. What will fans expect from your show?
“The show? It has a lot of energy. You’re gonna get all the songs that you know me for and a couple of new ones, too. It’s very theatrical in a sense. It kind of tells a story and, I think, people have really enjoyed it throughout the States and it’s been going really well and I think, the fans in the Philippines — who tweet me all the time! I have a lot of Twitter-Filipino fans — it’s amazing!”
If they can elect you Filipino, you’re going to become one.
(Laughs at my attempt at humor before speaking.) “Yeah! They are so supportive and loving. They are like, ‘Come to Manila!’ And I am like, ‘I am coming!’ And, now, I can say I am coming.”
Speaking of your songs, how would you describe your music now?
“Right now, it’s very dance-oriented. I always have collaborated with rappers — it has been a part of my musical career. I don’t know! I just try to stay cur- rent with sound. I love current music. I am always, kind of, abreast of what’s happening on radio. I love all kinds — I love hip-hop and I love pop music and I love, you know, dance music. So, mine is always, kind of, a hybrid of all those things.”
At this point in your career, how would you measure it versus your goals when you were just starting? “Wow! I have to say, even though I had really big dreams, everything that’s happened is so far beyond anything that I could ever think. But, at the same time, I feel like I am not even halfway there. It’s kind of a weird thing — thinking about it from the beginning and thinking about it now and thinking about the future.”
Do you still worry about your career?
“Hmm... Worry? I think it’s just natural when you love something to worry about, you know. But I feel confident now; I am in a good place. I feel like I’ve done a lot and I feel like people know that I’m here to stay.”
To what do you attribute your success?
“Hard work.”
Does success come to hardworking people or do you need talent, too, or luck?
“Talent, hard work, luck. Lots of loving people around you; lots of support, you know. But, I think, from my par- ents, I got all of that stuff. I got all those blessings.” But looking back on your career, what are you most proud of?
“Career-wise?”
Or anything.
“I am most proud that I am a good mom, you know. For me, that’s the biggest job that I have.”
Is it more challenging than creating music?
“It is the hardest thing ever because you are always wor- rying that you are not doing enough; that you are not there enough — especially when you’re a working mom, which most moms are these days. You just always feel that guilt of having to work and not being there for them at every single moment but I try to remind myself that I work for them.”
If there’s one thing that you can “redo,” what would it be? “Redo? I don’t know. I don’t think that I would go back and redo anything because if it went bad why would I want to revisit?”
What’s the best thing and worst thing about being Jennifer Lopez, the superstar?
“The superstar? The best thing is I am doing what I love. The worst thing is that it comes with a lot of pressure; a lot of things, you know — fame and scrutiny and judgment, but that comes with the territory.”
How would you compare the old Jenny from the block to J.Lo today?
“Honestly, I still feel the same like I did when I was 16, which sounds crazy. I still get excited; I still get nervous. I still can’t believe it’s happening but I still feel like I belong there — right, that’s where I belong. You know what I mean? All these mixed feelings but it’s been a good ride.”
We ended the conversation with her taped invitation to her Manila fans to watch her concert. She had a little difficulty pronouncing “Manila” in the beginning but she was able to deliver “Mabuhay” and “Mahal ko kayo” in a single take!
Catch Jennifer on her Mall of Asia Arena concert on Nov. 26.
(J.Lo Dance Again World Tour at the Mall of Asia Arena is presented by Vista Land, Zenea and PLDT Fibr; in cooperation with Visa and made possible by McDon- ald’s; with GMA Channel 7, GMA News TV and DWLS-FM 97.1. Special thanks to FOX, StarWorld, Makati Shangri-La, Ivory Music & Video; Radio High 105.9 and MMI; media partners The Philippine STAR, Philstar.com, Manila Bulletin, Juice. ph, Inquirer.net, Pep.ph, 24/7, Metro Maga- zine, Star Studio. Official venue is Mall of Asia Arena, for the benefit of UN Women National Committee Philippines [United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women].
Ticket prices are: VIP P25,840; Patron P18,610; Patron Standing P15,510; Lower Box A P18,610; Lower Box B P15,510; Lower Box C P10,340; Upper Box P7,760; General Admission P2,590. Tickets are available in all SM Tickets outlets. For inquiries, call 470-2222 or visit www. SMTickets.com.)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

My Jane Lynch Story

Jane Lynch makes her big Disney debut
By Raymond de Asis Lo (The Philippine Star) Updated November 01, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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In Wreck-It Ralph, Jane (inset) provides the voice for Sergeant Calhoun, a tough combat leader whose encounter with the titular Ralph sends her to an adventure far beyond her imagination.| Zoom
MANILA, Philippines - Three years ago, it would probably be difficult to introduce an actress to readers who was so talented yet was not being given the recognition and projects she truly deserved. But it all changed when a quirky and revolutionary TV series about a talented group of outcasts singing their way out of their miseries in life captured the heart of America and made famous stars out of its relatively unknown cast.

The show was called Glee. Today, no writer would have to labor introducing one of the biggest breakout stars of that show. Just mention the name Sue Sylvester and nearly everyone would know whom you are talking about.

This writer is referring, of course, to Jane Lynch, and no, she’s not mean in person. She is very pleasant and cordial — a complete opposite of her TV alter-ego.

The actress met with The STAR recently during the junket for Wreck-It Ralph, the newest animated feature from Walt Disney Pictures. Jane provides the voice for one of the leading characters in the movie and during our interview, she couldn’t hide her excitement at being cast in a Disney production. To her, being in a Disney movie is proof that she’s finally made it in the business.

“To be in a Disney movie is a pretty amazing thing!” she exclaimed. “We all grew up with them and I’ll be, maybe, in a shelf next to Jungle Book, Snow White, Cinderella… It’s a pretty amazing thing.”

It is amazing, indeed, for someone whose long road to success would test the resolve of wannabe actors dreaming of Hollywood stardom but are only willing to sacrifice a couple of months for their dreams. Jane was different. She took her time and waited for the perfect opportunity — and her recent rise in Hollywood is a result of years of hard work, patience and determination.

“I was a ‘jobber’ actor, which is quite a noble thing to be,” she recalled. “I took whatever anybody gave me. I was like, for a while there, a scavenger.

“I think of the time when I was in my mid-30s. I had a pretty nice career. I did a lot of voiceovers — that was what I did for a long time — and a guest spot on TV here and there and when I couldn’t get a guest spot on TV, I would create my own stuff so I kind of contented myself with that.”

But she always wondered if she could still have a bigger career. “I always thought, ‘I wish I could make it big. But this is good, I am making a nice living.’ But to get the (success) that I feel I’ve been handed is a preposterous fantasy come true.”

That fantasy has also produced an Emmy trophy for Best Supporting Actress, among many other industry accolades.

And now, at age 52, comes her big Disney debut.

In Wreck-It Ralph, Jane provides the voice for Sergeant Calhoun, a tough combat leader whose encounter with the titular Ralph sends her to an adventure far beyond her imagination.

Wreck-it Ralph is an inventive and fun movie set in the world of arcade games. It tells the story of a bad guy named Ralph whose role in one of the games was to destroy things until the good guy named Fix-It Felix Jr. comes along to undo all that Ralph has done. After three decades of doing the same stuff, Ralph grows tired of being the bad guy and decides to become the good guy this time. Thus, he goes to an exciting adventure across the arcade universe in search of the proof that he, too, can become a hero.

Jane described working on the movie as the “cruisiest (American slang for leisurely) job in the world.”

“The genius, of course, takes place with everything that happens around you — the animation, the designing and everything,” she added. “Not to belittle what we add to the character, which is really important, but the job itself is just a joy. You don’t have to show up with make-up. You don’t have to put on nice clothes.”

But what surprised her most was when the director told her that her character would essentially look and sound a lot like her. “During the first session, I was a little nervous, I thought, ‘Does he want me to do a different voice? Does he want me to do my voice? Does he want to me to do my thing? It turns out the reason I was there was he wanted me to do my thing! It was a big relief. It was a lot of fun!”

Now that she’s successful and famous, how is she coping with the perks and drawbacks of being a celebrity?
“It’s fun,” she replied after a brief laughter. “For me, it’s not a bad gig. If they (referring to the paparazzi) want one more picture of me coming out of the coffee shop and that means something to somebody, that’s fine with me.”

Did she actually wish to be famous?

“I always wanted, specially when I was younger, to have the spotlight and have people want me and want a piece of me,” she admitted. “That was definitely a dream but as you mature, it does become more about the work than about what people think about me. It’s nice but sometimes it’s a little pain in the ass. But for the most part, it’s fine.”

The movie also features the stellar voices of Oscar-nominated actor John C. Reilly (as the titular Ralph), comedian Jack McBrayer (as the good guy Fix-It Felix Jr.) and Emmy-winning comic Sarah Silverman, who voices Ralph’s foil in the movie, the bratty game glitch, Vanellope von Schweetz.

Wreck-It Ralph opens in theaters today. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Coverage of ARGO

Goodies... and more!... from Ben Affleck
By Raymond de Asis Lo (The Philippine Star) Updated October 18, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

MANILA, Philippines - It is not uncommon for journalists to receive goodies and movie souvenirs during movie junkets but for an Oscar-winning actor to personally hand out bars of chocolates at the end of every roundtable is a surprisingly welcome gesture.

That is what Ben Affleck did last week at the junket for the film Argo, a much admired dramatization of a declassified CIA mission to rescue staff members of the US embassy in Iran who are in danger of being executed during the student-led uprising in the early ’80s. Argo marks the actor’s third directorial feature — and if critics can have their way, this is the movie that will finally net him an Oscar directing nomination that many believe he should have already received with either Gone Baby Gone or The Town.

The sweets that Ben presented to the journalists were produced by the people of Congo with the assistance of the advocacy organization he founded called Eastern Congo Initiative or ECI. The samples are the results of the organization’s goal in building and creating a sustainable and successful society in eastern Congo.

According to the organization’s website, the actor started the group in 2009 as a US-based advocacy and grant-making initiative wholly focused on working with and for the people of eastern Congo. The group envisions a vibrant eastern Congo that’s teeming with abundant opportunities for economic and social development and where a robust civil society can flourish.

“Eastern Congo is one of the worst places to live in the world. In some parts of the country, two out of three women are raped; one in five children dies before the age of five. The country is virtually not functioning so there’s a lot of predators,” Ben explained.


The actor added that the chocolates were produced by cocoa farmers with the help of a Congolese group that receives funding from ECI.

“You can eat chocolate and make the world a better place,” he pitched before thanking the journalists in advance for including his organizations work in the stories we publish about Argo.

You’re welcome, Ben.

Now on to Argo.

Mr. Affleck will be happy to know that this writer found his movie simply amazing. This early, this writer is predicting that this Warner Bros. movie release is going to be the movie to beat at next year’s Oscars. The filmmaking is topnotch. The ensemble cast delivers excellent performances. And the plot is so relevant to today’s tensions in the Middle East that one could accuse the actor of orchestrating the attack on the US embassy in Libya a couple of weeks ago just to generate publicity for his movie.

Ben skillfully tackled the sensitive and explosive subject without going overtly political and without falling into the tempting trap of telling a history lesson to the audience. What he did was one spectacular movie that bears the hallmark of a classic Hollywood masterpiece. Argo is funny and tense, thrilling and wild, wacky and tender. If this writer can count how many times I applauded at the screening, I will gladly do but I did not attempt it because I was totally absorbed by the movie.

At the junket, Ben wore a plaid shirt and blue jeans. He was proudly wearing his wedding band on his finger. The 40-year-old actor is married to actress Jennifer Garner and the couple has been blessed with three children. If you are the type who sits through the entire end credits of a movie, you will notice that Ben has dedicated Argo to his wife and children.

He was particularly happy during the junket and was smiling a lot but avoided questions about his personal life.

But he talked enthusiastically about Argo.

He said he approached the movie “with a very strict discipline about realism: Not allowing anything to be present (in the movie) from the performances to set decorations to anything else that you cannot justify.”

As an actor-slash-director, Ben revealed a particular quirk that annoys most of his actors: He recites the lines along with the actors during every take. “I have a very bad habit of doing that,” he said. “It’s my weakness. I do sometimes get so intent on watching the other performances — seeing that they do what I want them to do — that while they are acting, I move my mouth along with what they are saying. I do it mostly when I am off-camera when I am reading with them and I am also trying to pay attention to them and, so, yeah, I move my mouth with their lines.”

This particular habit mirrors a scene in Argo where one character was instructing another how to properly pronounce “Toronto” without revealing that one is not a true Canadian. One is not supposed to pronounce the second “O,” thus you say: “Tron-to” instead of “To-ron-to.”

If there’s one thing that Ben would like to get very clear about is that politics as portrayed in the movie is just one aspect in the movie.

“One of the reasons why this story is an amazing story is because a guy chooses his integrity over what he’s been told he’s supposed to do and that’s a trait that naturally people really value,” he said.

“It’s a movie that I hate to see politicized. I don’t want it to be exploited and held up to suit up anyone else’s political agenda whether that’s the election here in the United States or internationally where there are a lot of people with a lot of strong feelings about what should happen with Iran.”

“It is about politics. It is about international relations… If I was making a political movie, I would say it.”

“I have never been shy about being political all my life but I came across this movie and what’s interesting about it isn’t the politics in the sense that politics advocates a certain position, it directs you. That’s not what I want.”

Another pet peeve for the actor is when journalists ask him if he thinks he is a better director than an actor. One journalist did ask the question and Ben’s reply was quick and memorable: “No. I don’t think I am a better director than an actor or a better actor than a director or a better writer than an actor or a better writer than a director.”

“I just try to make movies and, to me, these things are all, kind of, co-mingled… They are like the Olympic circles, they all, sort of, overlap although you don’t have to sprint.”

And those wondering if he shouts “Action!” when he is the one on-camera, the answer is no, he does not.

Argo is now showing in theaters now.

(With reports from Anna Pavlova)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Coverage of Hotel Transylvania

'No hidden message in my movie'
By Raymond de Asis Lo (The Philippine Star) Updated September 27, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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‘Part of the idea was that the monsters think of humans the way they did a hundred years ago – they’re persecuted. They hate them! But then if you think about the way the modern society looks at monsters now, they love them!’| Zoom
MANILA, Philippines - There is an early Halloween treat that awaits movie fans when they troop to theaters tomorrow, Sept. 28, because Sony Pictures will roll out the delightful and entertaining family movie Hotel Transylvania, the animated movie that took six years to make and five directorial changes from the time the idea was hatched.

Hotel Transylvania is one of the biggest surprises of the year. It’s one of the very few animated movies that this writer has seen and thoroughly enjoyed. The seemingly simple story of Count Dracula raising a teenage daughter in the modern times is presented through an intelligent union of splendid animation and traditional storytelling combined with a social subtext that will bring such welcome delight to every discerning movie buff.

This writer will not dwell on that particular subtext but those who will read into it will undoubtedly be moved and may just find the movie one of the best this year. Yes, I am that taken!

The fun and energy that the movie generates was something that surprises even its director, Genndy Tartakovsky, the Russian-born director who makes his full-length feature directorial debut after two decades of working on TV and several short films. The multi-awarded director was also the final director who successfully spearheaded the production and delivered a finished movie.


Genndy met with The STAR last Sunday after the screening of the movie. We had a 20-minute one-on-one interview that had an awkward start when this writer greeted the director with an overenthusiastic praise for the movie. He blushed and shyly laughed to my unusual greeting.

“I had no idea,” he responded when I finally shut up and asked him if he expected to make such a delightful movie. “You’re so close when you are doing it. We had a couple of screenings that went very well but at the end of the day you (still) don’t know.” He added that he was only aiming for the energy of the animation and the visuals to overpower any shortcoming in the narrative. “The whole idea of this movie is to do this broad comedy that you really just get a few laughs, enjoy yourself — there’s a good emotion at the core and it’s not heavy-handed.”

Hotel Transylvania had a tortuous run from the time the initial story was developed in 2006 to the time Genndy was handed reins of the movie two years ago which was also the same time comedy superstar Adam Sandler took an interest in the project and eventually became the voice of Dracula and one of the three executive producers of the movie.

Hotel Transylvania begins with Dracula running deep into the forest to hide from humans who want to kill him and his kind. He builds a theme park in the middle of the enchanted forest where he can raise his daughter safely away from humans. The park also serves as sanctuary for his fellow monsters as they run away from human persecution. The tranquility and peace of the park is threatened when a young adventurer discovers the secret passageway and enters the hotel by accident.

It’s fun to watch how monsters scamper away from a human being. The role reversal is one of the many tangible gems in the movie including that curious subtext that may not be readily noticed by the general public.

“Part of the idea was that the monsters think of humans the way they did a hundred years ago — they’re persecuted. They hate them! But then if you think about the way the modern society looks at monsters now, they love them!”

“We are so understanding for the most part and we are a lot more understanding now as a modern culture than we ever have been because we’ve had so many bad periods as humans that, now, for the most part, people are a lot more understanding, to a degree.”

But the director dismisses the idea that the movie has a message hidden within the story. “It’s at the most general sense,” he replied when asked to address this writer’s curiosity.

Hotel Transylvania boasts an array of monsters the world has ever known. From the legendary and infamous to the obscure and unseen, one may never be able to see so many monsters assemble in one movie. Even the Invisible Man makes an appearance! Did you get the irony there? I even teased the director if it was difficult to animate the Invisible Man and he laughed.

“It’s funny because we had to make sure that his glasses were clear,” he said. “It was actually very difficult because the movie is very busy and there’s a lot of characters and so sometimes we go, ‘Wait, wait, where’s the Invisible Man?’”

Among all the monsters in the movie, the director spent the most amount of time on his star, Count Dracula.

“The most challenging was Dracula,” he shared. “I had very high goals for him. I wanted him to become the star. I wanted him to stand out from everybody else in the movie. So the way he moved, the way his cape worked, the very specific type of posing that we gave him was difficult. It was difficult to control and it was difficult to make sure that he stood out from everybody else.”

The movie’s version of Dracula is an original idea by the director. He did not reference any versions of Dracula from old literature or old movies but he revealed that he modeled the look from old classic movie actors most notably Rudolph Valentino — and Adam gave it life with a wonderful voice performance!

In addition to Adam, the movie also features Disney teen sensation Selena Gomez, who provides the voice of Mavis, the teenaged daughter of Dracula who struggles with her life as an outcast and her growing feelings for a human being.

Other stars providing voices include Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Andy Samberg, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon and Cee Lo Green.

When this writer watched the movie, I brought along a friend and her six-year-old daughter who was as loud as me while watching the movie. If a six-year-old and a 36-year-old can enjoy a movie together, I do not see how anyone can’t.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My story from my visit to The Voice

An interesting visit on The Voice
By Raymond de Asis Lo (The Philippine Star) Updated September 23, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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Judges (from left) Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green.| Zoom
MANILA, Philippines - Ever wonder what’s it like on the set of The Voice, the hit singing competition that started airing its third season on AXN this month? Well, this writer visited the set recently and I have the exclusive story for you.

A month ago, this writer received an e-mail invitation to visit the set of the popular show as it cuts the contestant field to the final set of 20 competitors before it starts airing live and allow the viewers to vote and select the eventual winner.

On this particular taping day — it was a Sunday, of all days! — I was instructed to be inside the Universal Studios back lot before 8 a.m. Yes, that early! This writer is not really a model for punctuality but, yes, there I was, a good quarter before 8, patiently waiting for the guide to show me where to park.

By the time, I was able to park, a long line of fans was already being screened for cell phones and cameras. I learned that some fans queued as early as 6 that morning and if they had any idea what awaited them that day, I would guess, they’d have had a hearty breakfast before showing up in line.

While the fans were loudly chattering, I made my way to the front, checked in, and signed the requisite embargo agreement. An embargo agreement basically prohibits anyone to disclose or discuss the results of that day’s taping. The show being taped that day won’t air until early November and it will show the semi-finalists for Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green’s respective teams. And, of course, I will not honor that embargo, and in the next paragraph, I will list the Top 5 finalists from both coaches who advanced to the Live Rounds.

I am only kidding, of course.

So, I was there at 8 but we didn’t get to go inside the massive set inside Stage 12 for another 30 minutes. While waiting, rock superstar Adam Levine of Maroon 5, and one of the four superstar coaches on the show, drove by us and only a bored few recognized him. The superstar looked his usual just-woke-up look and was wearing that torn white tee shirt which is either really worn-out or was artfully designed to look that way. A quick Google check did not provide me any answer.

By 8:30 a.m., this writer was showed to a reserved seat in the audience section just behind the show’s famous revolving chair occupied by fourth celebrity coach and country superstar Blake Shelton.

The atmosphere inside the studio was surprisingly a little subdued. I was expecting a loud and rowdy bunch but perhaps the early morning hour had many in the audience still half-asleep. The upbeat club music playing loudly did not help either as stagehands tried to finish clearing the ring-like stage.

As soon as the stage was ready, the director welcomed everyone to the show and reiterated again the importance of the Non Disclosure Agreement that everyone signed earlier and he also enumerated the severity of the punishment for those found breaking the embargo.

The threat worked! If you ask me now who survived at the end of the day, I will just be shaking my head because I have completely wiped the result off my mind. But, thanks to my notes, I know that those who advanced were very, very good! Their voices are indeed incredible when you hear them sing live.

By 9, Carson Daly, the show’s host started doing the taped introduction. He was greeting everyone “Good evening” as the show will air in primetime. He did several versions of his greeting and disappeared for a few minutes as one audience handler coached us when and how to applaud during a contestant’s performance or whether we should give a standing ovation or not. Insider tip: Those rousing audience receptions you see on TV are partially staged but there are quite a number of contestants who really do earn their ovations. Some would receive extended applause from the crowd, which, of course, will be shortened on TV.

The audience was particularly generous with their applause this particular day because half of the contestants will be eliminated by the end of the day.

This season, the show will introduce the Knockout Round. Each team will have 10 members who have previously survived the Battle Round. Each contestant will choose his or her own song to perform and will face off with another contestant from the same team. The team coach will select the winner of each round. When the episode ends, only five team members survive and they will now compete for viewer votes during the next round of competition, the Live Round.

Sometime after 9, the coaches were finally introduced. Adam was carrying a coffee cup with him and he was still wearing the white tee shirt I saw him wearing earlier. Cee Lo wore a hospital-white get-up and was the brunt of off-the-air jokes from Adam.

Christina was wearing a tight-fitting shiny dress and was carrying the foldable fan that fans of the show must now recognize as her trademark. Blake wore his usual shirt and jeans and boots get-up.

All four superstars have their own share of adoring fans in the audience but it was the Maroon 5 frontman who elicited the wildest response. One guy even screamed Adam’s name to everyone’s amusement. “It’s usually the girls who shout ‘Adam,’” Adam responded.

The contestants from Cee Lo’s team took to the stage first followed by Christina’s team. Watching the contestants perform live, I couldn’t help but wonder how difficult it must be for the coaches to let go half of their talents after selecting them in the Blind Audition Round and the Battle Round. On that day, I witnessed how the coaches really offer condolences to the losing contestants off-camera. Hugs, plenty of hugs are exchanged and pieces of advice are offered.

During the breaks, the coaches will have their make-up retouched. Adam would be seen munching on pizza and some sushi while Christina had her son join her at some point. During one particular break, the four coaches had their attention focused on a picture in Christina’s phone. It was a delight watching them interact without any cares in the world. They were like normal people on a break at work — celebrities or not, their off-camera interaction is no different from what this writer normally witnesses on any given day.

Another interesting discovery: The coaches do offer lengthy critiques and somehow only the best parts are chosen for TV. These superstars are serious at what they do and it is apparent that they really do care about the contestants.

When the day’s taping ended past 2 p.m., this writer was already famished. I only had two bottles of water the entire morning. And, as I stated earlier, those who had the foresight to eat breakfast before getting to the set must have been very thankful.

Sure, the set visit was interesting and offered a new perspective on how a show this big gets produced but, if you will ask me, I would rather watch it on TV where I only have to spend an hour to watch it and I will see only the best parts. But somehow, watching it live, I was able to witness how truly the voices on this competition outshine those in other shows. Not all singers here are what one would call attractive, but boy, everyone sure can sing!

The Voice airs Sunday nights at 8 on AXN.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My Story on Willie Revillame

Everybody loves Willie... even in the US
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated June 10, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments


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Willie Revillame has embedded himself in the entertainment and cultural landscape of the international Filipino community. Photos byBradford Adkins
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MANILA, Philippines - Willie Revillame will never be able to silence his most passionate critics but to the people who really matter to him, it is apparent that no amount of controversy and negative press would put a wedge between them and the Philippines’ undisputed king of game shows!

They just love Willie!

The large crowd that gathered inside the 7,800-seater Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco was a testament to how much Willie has embedded himself in the entertainment and cultural landscape of the international Filipino community.

Consider the group of nurses who traveled more than a hundred miles, bought $100-plus tickets each and all wore matching bright green Hollister shirts — this writer was no longer surprised when they told me that they all drove from Hollister (yes, there’s a seaside town named Hollister!) — just so they could welcome Willie back. (The TV5 group arranged for them to meet Willie backstage after the show and the smiles on their faces were priceless!)

Or you can also consider how my Aunt Zoe Baile decided to postpone her planned 55th birthday party when I informed her that Willie was in San Francisco. I spoke to her Friday evening and she cancelled her party 30 minutes after. On June 2, she drove more than two hours with my Tito Henry and Tita Letlet Armas and decided she’d celebrate her birthday with Willie.

The deafening and thunderous applause that greeted Willie’s appearance on stage showed just how much the people have missed him. A lady garbed in a tacky (but cute!) leopard-printed blouse and pants danced to Willie’s opening number for as long as it took Willie to complete his extended opening number. I did not set my timer but the engaging opening number might have lasted more than 30 minutes — everyone had a good workout, I thought to myself.

If Derek Ramsay and Nora Aunor shed tears during the press conference the previous day, it was this writer’s turn to be emotional. The sight of the entire auditorium on their feet, dancing almost exactly to the choreography on stage drove this writer to an unexpected cry. It was very apparent how much the Filipinos in the US miss their home country and their enthusiasm for Willie was an undeniable fact that the presence of the TV host and the show that’s enjoyed by their loved ones in the Philippines somehow took them back home and let them experience even for just a few hours the unique fun that only their home country can offer.


The smiles on the faces of everyone as they continued dancing would bring anyone such immense joy. If they were present, critics of the game show would most likely be silenced by how the audience everywhere warmly embraced Willie.

There were even non-Filipinos in the audience. A husband here, a boyfriend there, or just someone’s good friend tagging along, were part of the mix in the crowd and they, too, were eagerly dancing along, singing along, and taking pictures of what was happening on stage — very Filipino, very American.

Admittedly, the show was kitschy but who cares! The people who bought tickets knew what they were going into and, judging by their rapturous welcome, the show was just possibly the best television show there is today. Art appreciation is, after all, very subjective.

After the lengthy opening number, Willie started selecting contestants from the audience. When it was over, Mariel Rodriguez, Ruffa Gutierrez and Camille Villar took over hosting duties while Willie was presumably catching his breath backstage. Rufa Mae Quinto was supposed to have been a part of the show but she failed to catch her flight.

The first game played was called Baligtaran and the lucky contestant was awarded $500 even if she just kept losing the bet. After she won, she thanked Willie and Wowowee. The audience laughed at the old lady’s mistake.
When Derek came out on stage, the Philippines’ ultimate leading man took off his jacket and gave it to one screaming, lucky lady. The ladies close to the stage just went gaga! The hunky actor wasn’t able to completely perform his set as the ladies stormed the stage and one-by-one they started giving Derek kisses after kisses. The entire time the actor was on stage, more than 50 ladies must have successfully planted their lips on his face.

The next game played after the ladies calmed down was a fun game called Family Apir. Four members of each team popped the balloon on every member’s lap until all eight balloons were popped. The team that spent the shortest time doing this was the winner. This was the funniest segment of the show when one team was just so lost and didn’t know what to do. Everyone had a good laugh as each member committed one mistake after another. They naturally lost the game but their game was the most memorable. The winning team won $1,000 cash prize and each member got a cellular phone and a TV5 jacket.


When the boyish Aga Muhlach performed, he attracted the same amount of shrieks and screams from the ladies in the audience although only a few dared to go up the stage and plant a wet one on Aga’s face the way Derek attracted a few minutes earlier. The actor performed two songs for the crowd. When he was done “singing,” he announced that he would be hosting a new show on TV5 called Artista Academy which will start casting this month.

Aga introduced Nora Aunor. The Superstar wore a purple terno and greeted the audience. She did not perform and was not seen again after.

In a humble display of thanksgiving for all the success he has achieved, Willie returned to the stage to sing What a Wonderful World and introduced a series of clips showing some of the most memorable episodes of Wil Time Bigtime.

The montage showed the people that Willie and the show have helped all these years. It was a touching reminder that there is always room for someone who wants to help another just as there’s always room for a new international Filipino channel that could bring joy and bring the Philippines to the home of every Filipino anywhere in the world.

“TV5 is here to give more happiness — in my heart, in my spirit, in my mind,” Willie promised the audience.
Willie acknowledged the presence of TV5 execs in the audience — they came in full force! — but reserved his most precious expression of gratitude to TV5 big boss Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP). He recalled how he lost his job at ABS-CBN and how TV5 took him in, “binuksan po ang bintana, pintuan at bubungan ng TV5!”

MVP delivered a brief speech to thank the audience for gracing the show and invited them to subscribe to Kapatid TV5.

The night’s biggest moment was when one lucky contestant won a house and lot sponsored by Sen. Manny Villar who was in the audience together with his wife, former Las PiƱas Rep. Cynthia Villar.

The lucky winner was 65-year-old Maria Luna Tolentino, who said that she would select a house somewhere in Angeles, Pampanga.

The show ended on a high note, capping a two-week successful launch of Kapatid TV5 in the US. At the after-party, everyone was grinning from ear-to-ear.

My Ana Kendrick Story

Anna Kendrick's biggest fear? Being typecast!
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated September 10, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments


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Currently, the perky actress who complained that she once had frizzy hair and crooked teeth when she was in her teens, is providing the voice for Courtney Babcock, an animated character in the 3D stop-motion animated movie ParaNorman.
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“Oh my God, I am shockingly boring and awkward!” exclaimed Oscar-nominated actress Anna Kendrick when the French journalist in our roundtable asked her to describe herself for his readers. Everyone in our table immediately protested because the star who famously ranted against George Clooney in Up in the Air two years ago is by no means boring or awkward. She was lovely and quite adorable, at least.

“From a weird drama student to a 26-year-old boring and awkward, not a huge leap,” she continued her self-deprecating description of herself even if we were all incredulous of her. Anna sensed our disbelief and she offered a new description that we all found rather more apt.

“I guess, I would say, I mean,” she haltingly began again, “I wouldn’t consider myself a boring person per se but I think that people imagine that I am more exciting than I am, probably. I really just, kind of, sit around and watch movies and stuff.”

She is absolutely right to think that people think she has a very exciting life considering how she managed to become the first star from the cast of Twilight to ever receive the ultimate industry recognition when she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her superb turn as an ambitious and motormouthed fresh graduate in Up in the Air.

Since her breakthrough role in the said movie, Anna has appeared in a diverse slate of movies that has highlighted her versatility and commitment as an actor. She sings in the upcoming Pitch Perfect and she appears along with Robert Redford and Susan Sarandon in the drama The Company You Keep, which is currently making its festival debut in Venice alongside the Philippine entry Thy Womb.

“Being in a Robert Redford movie was not ever something I would have ever imagined I could do,” she humbly stated. “I was so thrilled when that opportunity came up. I have a very small part in it but it was just magical and surreal to be on the set with him for a couple of days.”

Currently, the perky actress who complained that she once had frizzy hair and crooked teeth when she was in her teens, is providing the voice for Courtney Babcock, an animated character in the 3D stop-motion animated movie from the creators of Oscar-nominated movie Coraline called ParaNorman, which is distributed locally by Solar Entertainment. It was a conscious decision for her to take on this role because she always wanted to experience working as a voice actor ever since she saw Pixar’sFinding Nemo and found herself being moved by the brilliant turn of comedian Ellen DeGeneres. She also wanted to try as many character types as possible to further enhance her craft specially after all the attention she got during her Oscar run.

“After that time in my life, I was given a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise (received) but in a lot of cases, because Up in the Air was so fresh in everyone’s minds, it was a lot of opportunities to play basically the same character, which I didn’t want to do, and it weirdly took a little while for people to start just thinking of me as just an actress in a movie that they liked instead of as that character.”

For a brief time, Anna rejected a handful of roles because she wanted to avoid the pitfalls of being typecast. “It just felt like I just get offered this kind of thing and if I do that all the time, people will think that I am only capable of doing that thing so it was kind of a tricky moment to navigate.”

So when the offer to play the character in ParaNorman landed on her lap, she immediately liked the idea and agreed to do the movie.

“They want me to play the dumb cheerleading sister and I just love it when people want you to do something you haven’t done before!”

ParaNorman is a horror-comedy movie that tells the story of a young boy named Norman, whose gift of clairvoyance has turned him into an outcast within his family and his small-town community. It’s an entertaining tale featuring some of the funniest ghost zombies ever conceived on screen.

Anna provides the voice of the older sister of Norman and her character would like nothing to do with her weird younger brother and instead pursues every muscled jock that comes her way.

“I saw her on the page and I completely understood what they were trying to do specially when I saw a picture of what she was gonna look like, that really helped, because basically she was so strange-looking, really,” she said of her character. “She’s really lanky and long on top and wide on bottom. She looks like she had just this growth spurt and doesn’t really know where her body is and I liked the idea that her emotions were, like, volatile and dangerous in what looked like a new body.”

Her versatility has allowed her to transition between diverse roles with relative ease.

“I guess I get bored very quickly so I would hate to do the same thing over and over again. Like I think about if I ever did a TV show or something like that — I would have to be really passionate about it because it’s hard, I think, to live in the same world for so long because that’s part of the joy of this job — you get to do all these different things!”

And so after years of living in uncertainty and “not being sure if I was gonna make the rent or, like, I almost had my electricity turned off so many times,” Anna considers herself happy and satisfied with how her career has shaped into.

Yes, Hollywood has been good to her. She may consider herself boring at times but she finds her job nothing but boring. “I find it more fun than challenging,” she beams.

ParaNorman opens Sept. 12 in theaters nationwide.

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