Monday, November 22, 2010


I have a partial bias for the opening scene of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.” It feature one of my favorite actors Bill Nighy in extreme close up as Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour addressing his staff. Here you can see the same commanding presence he puts on when he’s Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean, Billy Mack the rock star in Love Actually or Viktor the vampire lord in Underworld.

While there’s always some sort of criticism or complaint made for every film (except maybe for Prisoner of Azkaban) one can’t deny the superiority of craft put into each one especially in the arena of design, special effects and acting. With the likes of Dame Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Michael Gambon, Ralph Fiennes, Gary Oldman, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Isaacs, David Thewlis, John Hurt, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Brendan Gleeson and Imelda Staunton—even when there’s a misgiving by a fan or critic about the story, you still can’t take your eyes off such talent and presence.

The first Harry Potter novel was published in 1997 and the world began its love affair with J. K. Rowling’s epic tale of the boy wizard. A look today at the website puts the average worldwide gross for each film so far at $903 million dollars.

personally quite liked “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1.” The film on the whole got a very adult, serious and intelligent treatment. It has grown up along with its audience. There are a few elements reminiscent of Lord of the Rings—an amulet that defies destruction (just like the Ring of Power) and Arthurian Legend—finding a powerful sword that has to be dislodged from it’s hiding place. But all this is very well done.

There’s likewise beautiful animation as Xenophilius Lovegood (Rhys Ifans) narrates the tale of “The Three Brothers” which explains the symbol of the Deathly Hallows.

The word “horcrux” however keeps popping up throughout the film to refer to the amulet. For those who have not read the book or are certified fanboys and fangirls, things like that still have to be explained more thoroughly. I had to go online to find out more about them and was treated to a very fascinating set of little stories.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1” directed by David Yates is a fine build up to the final film in the franchise. As a moviegoer, I’ve grown attached to seeing the characters return on screen over the last decade. Now begins the seven month wait for the bittersweet finale which hits the screen in July 2011.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Breathing Life Into Lafayette: The Nelsan Ellis Interview

He was supposed to be dead and gone by the end of Season One but True Blood’s Lafayette Reynolds was too colorful, fearless and loved to just disappear into television oblivion. Last week, Fangirl got to join in on a chat with the man who brings Merlotte’s flamboyant cook to life, the one and only, Nelsan Ellis.

Nelsan Ellis was born in Chicago and grew up in a tough suburb in Alabama, he returned to Chicago for high school and discovered theater. Eventually, he found himself in Julliard where not only honed his acting skills but wrote an award winning play called Ugly.

Ellis considers himself a “boring person” compared to his beloved True Blood character. He says, “Lafyatte is bold, I’m a little bit shy. Lafayette is gay, I’m not.” He continues to explain the appeal of Lafayette who likewise deals V and engages in some rather questionable internet activities: “I love his boldness, I love that he is who he is, he’s unapologetic, I love that he walks, talks and acts absolutely the way he wants to, regardless of who judges him.”

Having read and watched several other interviews with Mr. Ellis, I truly wanted to find out something I didn’t know about him. My cousin Hank, who’s a bartender, came up with this simple question: If V (vampire blood) were an actual, real life drug, would you do it? I got a quick answer to that—“Absolutely, I would be a crackhead V-addict.”

Then again, who wouldn’t love heightened senses and extra strength?

While Lafayette can be a knockout in his large tank tops, elegantly tied bandanas, his L necklace and false eyelashes—you don’t want to be messing with him because he can he can throw a mean punch. I wanted to know where Nelsan, the actor, learned to throw down, punch and curse.

He reveals, “I have a tomboy momma. I kind of learned how to punch and fight from my momma. I learned how to curse from my momma.”

Aside from visiting gay bars, “I built (Lafayette) from behaviors my mother and sisters have—watching my mother and sisters, how sort of colorful and crazy they are, and I incorporate that into Lafayette.”

That said, his mother has never heard him swear. “My mother has never seen the show” he likewise adds, “in the South, you’re taught not to swear in front of your parents.”

Early this year, Ellis appeared in film called “The Soloist” about an LA Times’ writer’s relationship with an extraordinarily talented, homeless street musician. The film starred Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx and was directed by Joe Wright. Of his working experience with Downey, he says, “I particularly like Robert because he treated me like I was his son, he sort of took me under the wing and taught me all about acting during the shoot…Robert Downey Jr. is a beast when it comes to preparation. The man knows the whole script on the first day of the shoot including your lines and everybody’s lines.”

Next up, he plays a character named Eddie Sweat opposite Diane Lane and John Malkovich in a Disney film called “Secretariat” based on the name of a race horse who won the Triple Crown in 1973.

“I’d like to be all over the board in terms of what kind of character I’d like to play. And the furthest away from me the better because as I said, I’m a boring person.”

Ellis may say that about himself but surely, he can’t say that about his career.

The remaining episodes of True Blood Season 3 air every Monday night at 9pm on HBO and HBO HD with encore episodes Thursdays at 10:30 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Californication: From the X-Files to the XXX Files?

The Showtime network seems rather proud of their anti-hero leads in Dexter, Nurse Jackie and Californication. Californication has been around since 2007 and has earned an Emmy Award for it’s lead actor.

I jumped right into the thick of Season Three with episodes 7, 8 and 9—seeing main character, novelist and writing teacher Hank Moody, played by David Duchovny trying to put out one fire after another (literally and figuratively) in his crazy life.

At this point, Hank is looking at cleaning up his act and reuniting with Karen (Natascha McElhone) who he refers to as his soul mate. She also is the mother of his daughter Becca. He feels this the time for all three to move back to New York and be a family there.

But when your show is called “Californication” and it’s doing well and a fourth season is set for January 2011, you know things are going to get in the way of that fine goal.

First of all, Hank has currently accumulated three lovers he should be “breaking up” with: there’s Jackie, his student who also happens to be a stripper, Jill, his teaching assistant who he ended up having to “console” after a party and Felicia—the wife of the school’s dean.

Throw into the mix Jackie’s stripper friends, Evan Handler (Hank’s best friend who happens to be in the entertainment business), Rick Springfield playing a hilarious, out of control, god-awful version of himself, Dean Stacy Koons (Peter Gallagher), Becca’s BFF Chelsea (who happens to be Felicia and Stacy’s daughter) and Sue Collini (Kathleen Turner), Charlie’s sexually ravenous and ballsy boss—and you can be certain of things going out of control all over the place.

Hank Moody is a rake and a cad and someone you wouldn’t want your best friend, sister or daughter to date because despite his apparent skill in the bedroom, he’s got a lot of baggage to deal with and is a dead end when it comes to commitment no matter how hard anyone tries to cling to him. At one point, Koons says, “You’re the girl-whisperer”—alluding to the way women just gravitate toward him.

Yet he has a bit of charm, and part of him is quite earnest and rather honest. So you know with that type of person, trouble and personal pandemonium follow him like shadows.

It’s a wonder Hank’s daughter Becca has turned out to be intelligent, loving and honest—often providing her dad with the reality check he so often needs. On a personal note, I like the way she has this goth girl look to her with the black hair, straight cut bangs and black eyeliner.

Is there a happy ending out there for Hank Moody and his family? The writers, David Duchovny and the rest of the cast actually gets its audience to care.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chris Nolan's Inception: Utterly Mind Blowing

Where do I even begin to write my through-the-roof raving review of Inception without sounding downright obscene?

Christopher Nolan is currently responsible for my multiple mental orgasms. I’ve officially considered this one night at the movies the equivalent of one night of beyond overwhelming sex. And Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy are the perfect people to have at the orgy.

It was raining wildly in Metro Manila while I watched this, the wind was howling and rattling the windows, the man on the radio said not to go out unless you really have to. Nevertheless, I was foolhardy enough to brave it all to make it to the IMAX for the press screening of Inception, which I put on the top of my list of movies I was most excited to see in 2010. I can now say it is the most innovative piece of filmmaking I’ve seen in over ten years.

In a big time film industry up to its neck in franchises, sequels, remakes, formula products—it is makes me so incredibly happy to see a big movie break the mold, take a risk and be original, brave and brilliant. The action in the film takes place in the mind, in the world of dreams, where ideas are planted and the subconscious has the potential to become a volatile playground.

Leonardo Di Caprio is Dom Cobb—a most unusual kind of thief—he enters your dreams and takes your ideas. Now he is faced with the challenge posed by his client Saito (Ken Watanabe): the implanting of an idea in someone’s mind. In this case, it’s heir to an empire Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy.)

Moving through the mindscape requires a team: In addition to Cobb, there’s The Pointman aka the control center played by (Gordon-Levitt), The Architect who designs the “maze” of the dream (Page), and The Forger who takes on various personas in the dreamworld (Hardy).

I already thought Leonardo DiCaprio was thoroughly impressive in Shutter Island but his performance in Inception is downright perfect. It’s as if he made his incredible work with Scorsese in that film look like practice. Yes, he is that good here. I am ready to call him the best actor of his generation. If he were anything shy of perfect then we in the audience wouldn’t take to this magnificent construct of Nolan’s like the proverbial fish to water.

Each role in the ensemble is just absolutely nailed in a rare instance of outstanding cinematic alchemy and thespic clockwork.

Inception is exhilarating, imaginative, thought provoking and utterly mind blowing. I now wonder how long I’ll have to wait before another film and another filmmaker astonishes and thrills me this way. Six stars out of five.

Inception opens today in Metro Manila. Inception: The IMAX Experience screens at MoA.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Predators" One Ups the Original

Robert Rodriguez rocks my world once again. Granted it was Nimrod Antal (he did a few independent films and two previous Hollywood films—Armored and Vacancy) who directed “Predators,” it is producer Robert Rodriguez whose name appears above the title on the poster.

I’ve been a fan of Robert Rodriguez ever since I watched his classic “El Mariachi” in 1992. The production and selling of this film became the subject of the book “Rebel Without A Crew: Or How A 23 Year Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became A Hollywood Player.”

Since then, he went on to make Desperado, Once Upon A Time in Mexico, From Dusk Til Dawn, Sin City and Planet Terror (among others).

I have never been impressed by the Predator franchise—from the original with Arnold Schwarzenneger to the even worse sequels “Predator 2” and the Alien vs. Predator series (remember that horrendous tagline? Whoever wins, we lose.)

Not having taken to the Schwarzenneger-Stallone alpha male action movies of the 80’s I found the first one rather unexciting, and the rest ridiculous.

Obviously, having Troublemaker Studios get their nasty fingerprints on this one was reason enough for me to want to see it. Not only did I enjoy it much more than the first one, I actually enjoyed it more than I did James Cameron’s “Avatar.”

Six people ruthless and skilled in the art of dealing death and one physician (Topher Grace) find themselves mysteriously parachuted down to hostile, alien terrain. It’s hunting season again, and guess who’s come to dinner and guess who’s got to scamper?

The de facto leader of the group of seven is a mercenary named Royce (Adrien Brody)—don’t expect him to be the hero with even a sliver of a bleeding heart. His survival and killing instincts are there: one only walks with him only if one is useful---bear no illusions.

And is it really a Robert Rodriguez film without dear cousin and friend Danny Trejo? Trejo appears as Cuchillo (notice how Rodriguez often likes to give him names Razor Eddie, Razor Charlie, Machete and Navajas—for bladed instruments) a drug cartel enforcer. He’s always a welcome sight—a familiar fingerprint in the world of Troublemaker.

As with many of the films bearing the stamp of Troublemaker, this film’s ambition is to deliver the action packed goods with the requisite grotesque looking lethal aliens with the extended fanged mandibles, neon green blood, human bad-asses, cool looking guns, and other manner of vicious and foul looking carnivorous creatures.

While the characters would certainly not make the 100 Most Lovable People on the planet list, you do end up caring about their fate and root for them as they try to outwit, outlast and outplay the bigger, stronger, uglier and stealthier foes.

All this, without taking itself too seriously.

And yes Nimrod pulled through but I cannot help but offer another high five to Robert and Troublemaker for another piece of rock and roll filmmaking.

Predators opens today in Metro Manila