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.

My Coverage of "The Dark Knight Rises"

Director Chris Nolan on the Batman success: The phenomenon just happened
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated July 16, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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Christian reprises the Bruce Wayne role and Anne Hathaway is the new Catwoman
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If you are planning to catch the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, you better heed this advice: Make sure that you are sitting comfortably and that you are 100 percent ready the minute the cinema darkens and the opening title cards start to roll because the first 15 minutes of the movie is literally jaw-dropping!

The choreography and the execution of the very complicated stunt are simply extraordinary! This writer will not divulge any more details to avoid potential spoilers but believe me, this movie, the finale of visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking trilogy, is going to be one of the most-talked about movies of the year. I was invited to the IMAX screening of the movie inside the Universal Studios last week and the jubilant applause the movie received even before the end credits could start rolling was an incredible proof at how movies as excellent as this could really move its audience.

The Warner Bros. release will open in the Philippines on July 19 and I just can’t wait for everyone to watch it. The movie lived up to its pre-release buzz — and more! But again, I’m not at a liberty to disclose what’s “more.”

The final installment of the magnificent three-part saga of the caped crusader picks up eight years after Batman was forced to take the blame for the death of beloved Gotham D.A. Harvey Dent. The hero became the villain and Bruce Wayne was forced to retire Batman into seclusion.

Oscar-winner Christian Bale returns for the very last time as Bruce Wayne/Batman. He is joined by fellow Oscar winners Michael Caine, who reprises the role of Alfred, and Morgan Freeman who returns as the gadget genius Lucius Fox. Oscar-nominated actor Gary Oldman is also back as Commissioner Gordon.

New members of the cast include Anne Hathaway, who plays the mysterious cat burglar Selina Kyle; Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, Commissioner Gordon’s new assistant; and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, Bruce Wayne’s on-again, off-again love interest.

This epic final chapter introduces the audience to one of Batman’s formidable villains, the masked and ruthless terrorist Bane who is portrayed to great menacing effect by Tom Hardy, who made a splash opposite Leonardo Di Caprio in Nolan’s own mind-bending masterpiece Inception two years ago.

I wish I could tell you more about the movie but I can’t. Oh, it’s hard!

But this writer met with the cast of the movie last Sunday during the junket held at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills — and what happened during the event and what we talked about, I could freely share.

Most of the cast were present at the junket save for Hardy, who as the fearsome Bane, is perhaps, to this writer’s limited knowledge of the Batman Universe, one of the hero’s worst adversaries ever! Even more scary than the late actor Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the Joker in the previous installment of the movie.

“I was just staggered by what Tom did,” Nolan told us during the group press conference. “The first time I saw him in make-up, he was just remarkable. You know you are seeing something you have never seen before.”
“It was very important to me that we not try and follow and do something that is a pale imitation of what Heath had done,” Nolan added. “I wanted Batman to come up with a primary physical adversary. I wanted to watch Christian as Batman stand toe-to-toe with the villain and not knowing who’s going to win that fight. It’s something I haven’t seen before and it was intentional in the film.”

And out of respect to the memory of Ledger who died tragically just days after filming his last scene in the previous Batman movie, the director took the decision, even before commencing work on this final movie, to not reference the Joker or provide any avenue for fans to unjustly compare Heath’s memorable performance of the character to Hardy’s starkly different but equally impressive turn as Bane.

“I took the decision very early on that it would be inappropriate,” Nolan said. “I felt that someone who’s a friend and a colleague, who suffered a terrible tragedy, to try to reduce that as plot point in the movie just felt wrong to me.”

Many observers claim that the massive success of the last Batman movie — it was the third highest grossing movie of all time after Avatar and Titanic for a couple of years until The Avengers took its spot just recently and was the movie that finally prompted the Oscars to tweak the number of possible Best Picture nominees after a huge outcry erupted when The Dark Knight failed to snag a nomination — were attributable to Heath’s indelible turn and how the filmmaker transformed what was primarily a genre movie into a topnotch, thought-provoking movie on the real tragedy of a superhero’s heartbreaking and lonely existence.

But for the director, the enormous success of The Dark Knight was something he didn’t particularly envision when he was doing it. And even if the buzz right now in Hollywood centers not on whether The Dark Knight Rises would be able to duplicate the success of its predecessor but by how much bigger it will be, Nolan would rather focus on delivering a movie that would satisfy everyone.

“I think it would be crazy to try and chase that kind of success. The film was a phenomenon! No one can really explain that, it just happened. It was great. But my responsibility, I feel, is to try and make a film for the studio and make their money back, that’s really the pressure.”

Among the actors, it was Hathaway who felt some pressure walking into the set. The pressure didn’t stem from the success of the previous Batman but more on the fact that among the main cast of the movie, she was the only one who has not worked with Nolan before.

The lovely actress, who was radiant in a white flowing dress on the day of the junket, shared that she felt nervous in the beginning being the newcomer on the set but that “motivated me to work even harder because I didn’t want to stand out.” Hathaway’s emphasis on “stand out” (or “mess-up” in ordinary language) drew laughter from her co-stars. “Everybody was actually very warm. I was not treated any differently.”

Another challenge to her was the tight body-hugging suit that she would have to wear during some of the more action-packed scenes in the movie. She related how she trained for those scenes featuring her in the suit while wearing some of the most fearsome pair of stilettos to appear on the big screen ever. She recalled the difficulty she had although she ultimately had fun learning how to fight describing it as “one of my happiest experiences I ever had as an actor.”

For Gordon-Levitt, who has previously worked with Nolan in Inception, described his experience on The Dark Knight Rises as the equivalent of a “dream-come-true moment.” He remembered watching The Dark Knighttwice and had no inkling that he would be involved and be part of the final chapter of the saga.
 He considered working on the final Batman movie a “delight” because “I’ve been a fan of Chris’ movies sinceMemento; because I had such a time of my life doing Inception; because I loved the first two movies so much; and also, because I had a Batman costume when I was four years old. I love the character! He’s the cool one. He just always has been.”

But for the rest of the cast who have been part of the production from the very beginning, the idea that the series was drawing to a close distracted them from the other pressures that are normally associated with the commercial side of making movies, i.e., performing better than the previous movie, etc.

“What was very important was that we are finishing our story,” Nolan said. “I have been working on Batmanfor almost 10 years and it’s been incredible. It’s definitely been a journey and I leave that with certain sadness. But I will never say goodbye to all these guys. It’s bittersweet. It’s been a very important year in my life.”

But the incredible, extraordinary, astonishing (you supply your own superlative later after watching the movie) ending never came to him just recently. “That was the first thing that we had. We had it for a long time,” Nolan revealed. “For me, the ending is the most important thing. It’s important to any film. It always comes first.

And for Batman himself, Bale, who sat nearly quiet for the entire 45-minute press conference, getting into the Batman suit for the very last time was also a little bittersweet experience.

Asked what he feels about leaving Batman behind, the notoriously detached actor just plainly declared, “When it’s time to say goodbye, it’s time to say goodbye.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Michelle Rodriguez and Milla Jovovich Story

Milla and Michelle
By Raymond de Asis Lo (The Philippine Star) Updated September 09, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

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In a genre dominated by men, Milla Jovovich (top) and Michelle Rodriguez portray two tough ladies taking on monsters, zombies and men double their sizes in Resident Evil: Retribution.
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MANILA, Philippines - Hollywood actresses Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez could never be more different: Ukrainian-born actress Milla has blue-green eyes, is reserved and has a decidedly low-key image in the business whereas the feisty Michelle, with her sexy Latina brown features, is more candid — and, for a time, had an unsavory industry reputation. Michelle’s brushes with the law are almost legendary it’s a surprise how easily she seemed to have soften up and successfully rejoined mainstream Hollywood — which the star credits to the US economic downturn. “I love the recession!” she gleefully proclaims.

But before her current resurgence, Michelle would be lucky if she gets invited to read for a movie. “I was cocky back then, I had this bravado,” she tells this writer three weeks ago during a junket for Sony Pictures’ Resident Evil: Retribution, the latest and perhaps the penultimate installment in the successful sci-fi series based on the hit video game of the same name, at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.

“You know, you grow up poor in America, conspiracy theories are the biggest thing,” she says as she explains the very public phase of her meltdown. “You think, there’s somebody holding you down. Finally, you grow up into an adult and you realize that you are the one with the power to be whoever you want to be and you have to take yourself out of wherever you are to be who that person is.”

“But it takes a while for you not to stop blaming all the motherf---rs because sometimes you are like, ‘How come I don’t see any signs to go into the military in Beverly Hills? Why is it only in Jersey City where I come from? How come there’s not a liquor store in every corner over here? What’s going on? Then you start thinking, ‘Man, they’re after me!’”

“But then you’re like supply and demand. You start learning consumer stuff and then you’re like, ‘Oh it’s because all these people want to get drunk, that’s why. They want to smoke cigarettes and they actually enjoy shooting people, so they join the military.’”

Michelle had a spectacular debut in Hollywood when she was cast in the critically-acclaimed independent movie Girlfi ght more than a decade ago. But the acclaim did not bring her immediate stardom. She had a rough career, no thanks to her erratic temperament. Today, she considers herself all changed and grown-up.

“I learned a lot! I grew this fi lter between my brain and my mouth. I am a lot more careful before I say stuff, of course, I still say things but not as bad when I was in my 20s so I am very proud of that. When you are dumb and you’ve got nothing really smart to say, it’s like, you know (she halts and laughs)… So I am, kind of, glad that, after years of having a big mouth, I have friends who are like, ‘You know what, you should read a couple of books before you talk so much shit!’”

She acknowledges that she’s “very, very happy and satisfi ed” with her career now but she aims for more.
“If I had nothing more for, I’d just do drugs and kill myself. What’s the point of living? Just have sex and die!” She declares in typical unfi ltered fashion. What Michelle aims for does not include winning an Oscar but to have more money. “I’ve gone through stages where I’ve been so broke. It’s really sad! I’ve been doing this s--t for 13 years and the fact that I am not making money, that’s sad. It really is pathetic! And I got a fan base — I can’t go to any country anywhere in the world without being recognized and it’s sad that I don’t make any money doing this because I don’t rip my clothes off or play somebody’s girlfriend. It’s F-ked up, you know, but that’s changing now.” It may be sometime before we see Michelle in a cosmetic or lingerie campaign, and she would certainly benefi t if she consults with her co-star, Milla, who, with her classic Hollywood beauty, is one of the recognizable faces gracing the global cosmetic giant L’Oreal’s ad campaign.

Their differences aside, Michelle and Milla bring a different sort of female power to Hollywood these days. In a genre dominated by men, they portray two tough ladies taking on monsters, zombies and men double their sizes in Resident Evil: Retribution.

The stars, however, play character on opposing ends of the conflict: Milla, who plays the lead, is on the good side while Michelle is the villain who was killed off in the first movie but is surprisingly back in action in this bloody and ultra-violent sequel and her character could be more powerful this time.

The toughness that their characters required suited Michelle’s persona best. “I didn’t have to do much acting!” she says. Milla considers herself not as tough as Alice, her character in the movie, though but only “in some ways, definitely.”

“I relate to Alice the most in the sense that she keeps her promises. I am a very loyal person,” Milla says. “Alice is the kind of person that would swear an oath and she could die before she would break it and I admire that because I feel like oaths means nothing today and they should because it’s our honor that’s at stake.”

There is a reason why Milla is a little particular with people who don’t keep their words: She’s been stung by a few people who she thought were her friends only to turn their backs on her later. She now surrounds herself with a few trusted and loyal friends.

“The few friends I have make fun of me every time I am gonna do a get-together, it’s like, ‘Oh, who are you going to invite, your mom and your dad and your three friends?’”

The star admits that she’s “never been a kind of person that had too many acquaintances.” She meets people at parties, says hi and that’s it. Over the last two years, there are only two people she’s met who she imagines being friends with: Actresses Chelsea Handler and Elizabeth Banks.

“For the most part, I keep my distance. I am very private.”

But Milla insists that she’s not shy. “I am just a bit hesitant with who I allow to know me because I feel like I started so young in this industry and the friends that I made when I was a kid knew me before I had success and after being in this industry and meeting people who are like, ‘Oh yeah, call me’ and they never call or whatever it is, I, kind of, (realized) at an early age that, ‘Oh, this is fake’ and the people that I knew before are real because my movie could bomb and I could lose all my money but I could still sleep on my friend’s couch and they would still support me whether I am famous or not.”

She also shares a surprising revelation: “Movie stars don’t have many friends at all. They have acquaintances and publicists who make it look like they have friends.”

“Who wants to be friends with actors?” Milla muses.

Her fans would most certainly exclaim in unison: We do! (Resident Evil: Retribution opens Sept. 12.)

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