Thursday, February 28, 2013

‘Suits’ man ‘not really’ into courtroom drama

(Published March 1, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

“Suits” star Patrick J. Adams joked about “not being excited” to try out balut, among other things, eliciting giggles from a select group of female fans present during a press conference held at the Marriott Hotel last Wednesday.

The youthful-looking Adams, 31, currently plays genius Michael “Mike” Ross, a college dropout who lied about going to law school, and is now being mentored by a brilliant lawyer at a reputable law firm. Adams previously had roles in “Lost,” “Friday Night Lights,” and “Luck.”

“We shoot [‘Suits’] in this warehouse in Toronto and it feels remarkably unsexy when we’re doing it,” he said. “It’s shocking. Imagine what you do every day, and then suddenly, there’s somebody at the other side of the planet saying ‘thank you’ for it!”

The fans gave Adams a cake and a scrapbook. Immediately after the event, the actor met with more fan groups, and spent the rest of the afternoon granting interviews to members of the press.

Here are excerpts from the forum and the Inquirer interview.

How would you describe Mike’s evolution in the span of two seasons, and how is he changing the firm?
   He’s getting older, getting more mature, a little more confident. In terms of changing the firm, he’s really put everybody in a big, sticky position. It’s creating a lot of conflict, and sort of a rift. But in the process of doing that, he’s forcing people to become really clear with who they are and what they want… the same way you meet someone really honest in your own life. That really affects your reality. His presence in the office is having that effect on people.

Do you like wearing suits or are you a T-shirt and jeans guy?
   I am a T-shirt and jeans guy but I started to love my suits. I feel like I started to learn to wear them… over the course of the second season, I feel like I got to learn, mostly by watching Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), who just walks around in a suit like he was born in them.

Who do you think deserves to ultimately end up with Mike—his old friend Jenny or his coworker Rachel?
   I like Jenny a lot but [Vanessa Ray] is a very busy actress. She’s been all over the place. I hope we get her back. I think that the show is aiming towards Mike’s growing into a relationship with Rachel [Meghan Markle]. But these things change. People change and they have to work together. For now he’s heading for some Rachel “action.”

How is the show enhancing your acting talent?
   I would say the biggest takeaway from it is learning how to be a professional actor, in terms of timing.

How long do you shoot an entire season in Toronto?
   Six or seven months out of the year. It’s a long time. I grew up in Toronto, so I have a lot of friends there… [as well as my] my whole family. I’m very lucky we’re shooting there.

How is the bond between the “Suits” castmates?
   Amazing. We’re all great friends. It’s like a big family out there. A lot of people say that and they don’t really mean it. We really do get along. We’re supportive of each other… We’re on different schedules; I would say we don’t spend a lot of time together outside of work. We do for special occasions like holidays. We spent an Easter together, or get together for someone’s birthday.

Do you have favorite courtroom drama shows that inspire you?
   Not really. There are books and stories of lawyers—“To Kill a Mockingbird,” that sort of thing. I don’t watch a lot of TV, period. I’ve never really been interested in the legal world. Those shows never interested me at all!
You mentioned before that you want to direct an episode?
   Yes, I really do. I don’t think we’re going to do it this season. It all has to be figured out, contracts and stuff like that. But all the people [involved] know that I want to do it.

“Suits” season 2 airs Mondays, 8 p.m. on Diva Universal, and Wednesdays, 9 p.m. on Jack TV.
(Photo by Oliver Pulumbarit)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Science of ‘CSI’ fascinates Ted Danson

(Published Feb. 28, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit
“I love going to work,” seasoned actor Ted Danson told the Philippine Daily Inquirer during a recent phone interview. The Emmy and Golden Globe winner is reprising a role for the 13th season of the crime-drama series “CSI (Crime Scene Investigation).”

“I love the camaraderie the results from being part of a group that’s trying to do something creative… I think acting can be a noble profession. I really do enjoy it,” he said again.

Danson, 65, has been acting for over three decades. He has also been involved in ocean conservation for over 25 years. He co-authored “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them,” released in 2011.

He admitted that his previous sitcoms “Cheers,” “Becker” and, more recently, the comedy-drama series “Bored to Death” have given viewers the preconception that his current TV role is a similarly “lighter” presence.

He continued: “I felt good about taking a chance. I had never done a 22-episode, one-hour network show before. I knew that was going to be really hard. A police procedural is very stylized. It’s a different kind of acting; it’s not as naturalistic and real because what you’re doing is very plot-driven instead of character-driven.”

Still, it was a challenge, Danson conceded: “As an actor, you end up using parts of yourself… the part that I get to use in this show is trying to be as intelligent as I can, because it’s very difficult material!”

He considers himself “lucky” to be part of the long-running show, and finds working with a dedicated cast and crew “a real joy.” To get ready for the role, he witnessed a real autopsy, which had a “huge emotional and spiritual impact” on him. His second season as DB Russell will show a radical shift, according to Danson.

“This year is kind of the beginning of a change,” Danson said. “In the first year, they wanted to establish my character as a family man, a literary major who came from Seattle. He has a Zen approach to life. And then, in the last episode of last year, his granddaughter was kidnapped by a very bad man. In this season, [DB] will do anything; he’ll be as violent as he needs to be to get his granddaughter back! A lot of the characters will be dealing with family issues. It’s going to be an interesting season.”

As for the scientific and medical facts mentioned on “CSI,” he finds them “very educational.”

“I am constantly fascinated,” he enthused. “Our [scientific] adviser stands next to me; he’s seen all of this in real life. If you’re interested and you ask all these questions, you can learn these amazing things. The science is very compelling. There are some things that aren’t real—we take some liberties. A CSI investigator can’t interrogate a prisoner; a policeman does that. But the science, we try to keep it as real and true as possible!”

(“CSI” season 13 airs Wednesdays, 10 p.m. on AXN.) 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lincoln perked

Daniel Day-Lewis’ award-winning portrayal of US President Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg’s historical-political drama is smooth and mesmerizing, conjuring up the charismatic leader’s wide range of demeanors during his many moments of truth.

Lincoln” focuses on the last few months of the president, who worked unceasingly to have the 13th Amendment passed during the period. It aims to abolish slavery, a move that was thunderously debated on by the Republican and Democratic parties of the time.

The film does a splendid job of characterizing Lincoln as a wise, mostly unperturbed—but still flawed—person and president. His family life after countless busy hours has its share of tumult and conflicts; a heated shouting match with his wife Mary (Sally Field) and a serious argument with his son (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) show him dealing with festering troubles on another front.

Complementing the great cast of actors and performances (there are also surprisingly impassioned parts by Lee Pace, Tommy Lee Jones and Gloria Reuben), “Lincoln’s” deft focus on the maneuvers and persuasions of the president and his allies gives a clearer picture of the era’s political atmosphere and the attitudes concerning race and rights.

Lincoln’s layered depiction as a suave statesman and a consummate storyteller not only provides us with precious insight into the man’s revolutionary aspirations; it gives us an inspiring champion who, while faced with unfathomable adversity, stood his ground and worked for real change to happen. 


Batmen of four worlds (Flashpoint, New Earth, New 52, Batman Beyond): Thomas Wayne, Dick Grayson, Jean-Paul Valley, Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake, Jason Todd, Damian Wayne, Terry McGinnis.

Love Machinery, Ten

World's first sketch cover, kinda sorta. You can't really draw on it.

Got this a couple of weeks back. Miss the regular title. I just fear for some of the characters now that they're in Avengers Arena.

"Doc, please, PLEASE don't hit on Aunt May while you're still controlling my body!"
"Simpleton! I cannot promise that!

Recent acquisition. Interesting costume evolution... she had a freaky cat's head mask when she debuted.

"You're very beautiful, but it's the beauty of a snake." -- Pris to Zealot, WildCATs # 25 (Dec. 1995)
Ooh, snap. From the fun Moore-Charest run. Shiny chromium cover.

Savage gardening

Oliver Stones’ “Savages” isn’t as visually trippy as many of his previous films, but this crime drama is nonetheless tangy and twisted. Starring a couple of acting luminaries and a newer generation of it-things, “Savages” is a messy and messed-up voyage into the dark corners of the illegal drug trade, shocking with its gruesome illustrations of human savagery.
Two young drug-dealing entrepreneurs, Ben and Chon (Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch), are pitted against a Mexican drug cartel that has taken their perpetually drugged-up lover Ophelia (Blake Lively) hostage. Led by the unforgiving widow Elena (Salma Hayek), the cartel has taken control of Ben and Chon’s business. But the best buddies are far from beaten, and are plotting to rescue their captive girlfriend.

“Savages” manages to create a likeable rapport between the main trio of Johnson, Kitsch and Lively; their unusual arrangement comes off as tender and real, and not sordid or scandalous, so it gets especially tense early on when their weed-growing characters go through an assortment of challenges. Embodying their terrors is the hateful henchman Lado, coruscatingly portrayed by Benicio Del Toro.

Discomfiting mainly because of violent imagery, “Savages” doesn’t scrimp on disturbing quandaries. The characters experience momentous turning points; most of them don’t go through the “war” unscathed or undamaged. It’s infuriating there’s no comeuppance for a certain character that obviously deserves it.

But the film isn’t conventional to begin with, and it leaves its viewers with a surfeit of mixed emotions. Its dreamy and breezy parts are pyrrhic, easily overwhelmed by a lingering, nightmarish haze. Talk about being Stoned.

“Savages” is an Ayala Cinemas exclusive. 

Cosmic Wagon Train

Status updates, yo.

Feb. 11. Chris Pratt as Guardians of the Galaxy leader Star-Lord. That's interesting. He's a funny guy. He needs to be "Zero Dark Thirty"-fit again, but he can do it.
Feb. 13. Wow, just noticed Carrie Diaries' Asian girl... Knives Chau!
Feb. 16. There have been unwatchable Glee season 4 episodes, but the sexed-up Valentine's one... oh my god. I love it. Quinn!!!
Feb. 17. We're more than the sum of our traumas and tragedies.
Feb. 17. Rereading old Joe Kelly JLA issues. Still really good.
Feb. 18. Good workout today. Haircut a few hours later. I try not to think about the germy scissors and combs when I'm at the barber shop.
Feb. 19. Sometimes, you just have to slow down, step back, and enjoy the moment.
Feb. 22. Rainy Friday morning. But it's February. Weather's seriously messed up.
Feb. 22. Batwoman proposes. Say yes, Maggie Sawyer.
Feb. 23. Watched eight episodes so far of Suits season one. Brilliant.
Feb. 23. This Is What I Need To Do versus This Is What I Want To Be Remembered For... always a tough dilemma.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

‘Barter Kings’ chase the best deals

(Published Feb. 18, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Best friends Steve McHugh and Antonio Palazzola are cohosts of the Bio show “Barter Kings,” where they demonstrate their skills at trading unneeded or forgotten items for other objects they desire.

In an exclusive phone interview, the titular barterers expounded on the philosophy of swapping, and why there’s an ongoing resurgence.

“I love the thrill because I don’t believe there’s a loser when you barter,” McHugh said. “Most people barter because they have a need and don’t want to spend cash on that need. So they find something they don’t need and they are willing to trade it regardless of what they paid for it…And to me, making people happy while we do our business is rewarding.”

Palazzola added: “People have been trading things for hundreds of years. We and the person we’re trading with get what we want.”

Palazzola has been trading for about 25 years. Eventually, he and McHugh—his friend of 17 years—started doing it as a business. The Californian business partners are currently running a trading post.

“It worked really well for us so we decided this is what we wanted to do for a living,” Palazzola said.

On measuring an object’s worth, McHugh stated that the original store price ultimately doesn’t matter. “At the end of the day, an item’s worth [is] what it’s worth to somebody that needs or wants it. So it’s subjective, which is to the advantage of somebody looking at trade for a living.”

The seasoned trading partners recounted a few recent deals as some of their most challenging yet.

“The biggest challenge was getting my son a muscle car for his birthday,” Palazzola said. “I traded a [valuable] geo rock for it. So it was one of the hardest trades I have ever done!”

McHugh likewise had to sacrifice things that he’d rather reveal on the show: “For me, it was the first trade I ever did on camera, which was for a speed boat. And two of the items I traded for it along the way, I wanted to keep so bad!”

McHugh hopes to acquire a 40-foot formula boat through trading one day, while Palazzola has a yacht and a helicopter on his wish list. The duo agreed that they’ve been encountering many skilled traders, but since they’ve been doing this for a living, their skills are honed on a daily basis.

As for the wider resurgence of the practice, McHugh said that it’s already happening. “There’s absolutely a large movement. I wouldn’t call it a revolution, but I would say that it’s moving in that direction. The number of people who express interest in what they see us do on TV is incredible. People are coming out of the woodwork; wives are thanking us for showing their husbands how to get things out of the garage that they don’t need and want, and it’s becoming a family thing!”

“Barter Kings” premieres tomorrow, 10 p.m., on Bio.

‘The Following’
In “The Following,” ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) faces the threat of a serial killer (James Purefoy) he caught years ago. The show airs Saturdays, 9 p.m., on Jack City.

Toonami teen superheroes
Catch the adventures of alien-powered Ben Tennyson on “Ben 10: Alien Force” and mechanical protector Rex Salazar on “Generator Rex,” airing weekdays, 5 p.m., on the new cartoon channel Toonami.

Discovery ‘Gold’
New episodes of “Gold Rush” and “Bering Sea Gold” air Mondays, 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., respectively, on Discovery.

Chemical Reaction

From the second issue of Chemical, late 2002. Peach Abubakar interviewed me about my favorite comic books. Photo by Ed Ramos. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Bonding by dodging and shooting bullets

Yet another installment in the undying “Die Hard” franchise, “A Good Day to Die Hard” is the fifth in the series of action movies starring Bruce Willis. Aging along with the actor, the franchise is popular for its gung-ho cop protagonist who finds himself improvising amid big, explosive sequences; this part marks two and a half decades since the first blockbuster, and repeats much of the previous scenarios to little emotional impact.

‘A Good Day to Die Hard” started screening locally across 200 cinemas last week. While very little has changed—the gunfights and bloody skirmishes are positioned at expected intervals—a boosted dynamic is introduced. A new character joins Willis’ John McClane in the form of CIA agent Jack McClane (Jai Courtney), his estranged and embittered son.

Crossing paths in Moscow, father and son uncomfortably work together to protect a Russian political prisoner (Sebastian Koch), targeted by a faction of relentless, well-connected killers. Jack reluctantly accepts John’s help; his old man reverts to action hero mode, teaching his son a thing or two about resourcefulness and bad guy-whacking.

If not for this added element, the movie would've been a complete and hopeless retread. The new blood helps, sure, but it’s hard to feel anything for the new duo. Even when they’re beaten up and bloodied, you just know they’ll find an opening and get out of their predicaments sans lasting damage. Courtney gets a sizeable portion of the action, making up for Willis’ noticeably and understandably slower gunslinger.

South African strife, recovery recalled in epic ‘Miracle’ docu

(Published Feb. 15, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Decades of racial discrimination in South Africa and the aftermath of apartheid are vividly recalled by key figures and observers in the History documentary “Miracle Rising: South Africa,” filmed and completed within the span of a year.

“It’s more ambitious than anything we’ve done before,” said Adam MacDonald, vice president of A+E UK, a broadcaster representing History and other related channels.

In an exclusive phone interview with the Inquirer, MacDonald discussed the ambition behind the project, which required the participation of numerous political figures and celebrities.

 “There were a few challenges along the way, which were merely logistics more than anything else,” MacDonald clarified. “The extraordinary thing we found was that all our participants went out of their way to find time to speak about it. They all bought into the ambition of the documentary and wanted to pay testament to the extraordinary story themselves!”

It took time to locate all the participants and to film the set pieces, but the wrangling of various disparate elements went smoothly and mostly according to plan, revealed MacDonald.

“We didn’t want a narrator, a single voice telling the story,” he said. “We wanted to construct the narrative from all the interviewees, which is not often done in documentaries and it’s incredibly time-consuming… it was a massive kind of three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle that we organically put together over the course of the production.”

Old images illustrating the terror and conflicts resulting from apartheid, a South African government policy separating whites and nonwhites, are shown between interview clips. Interviewees include rights activist Desmond Tutu, former United States President Bill Clinton, and entertainment personalities Oprah Winfrey, Bono, and Whoopi Goldberg, among others.

“We had to be focused on choosing the right people to speak to,” MacDonald said. “What we focused on was that period between the release of (political prisoner) Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the elections in 1994. We used that to explore the bigger themes of leadership, forgiveness and the power of negotiations. That allowed us to focus on people who knew Mandela very closely, or were involved in that moment in time.”

“Miracle Rising’s” timing is ideal as well, according to MacDonald: “The original idea came because there’s awareness that the South African democracy has just come of age; 18 years ago, the first elections happened. There are South Africans reaching adulthood now who weren’t there during these struggles… While we didn’t ever presume that what happened was a blueprint to achieve peace around the world, we thought that it was very prescient and meaningful to just re-analyze what happened and to share that story with the world.”

The two-hour “Miracle Rising,” he added, is enhanced by carefully chosen and powerful images and music from the era. “Blending those things together took a huge amount of craft and skill; that’s what produced this really beautiful, epic piece of storytelling.”

History’s “Miracle Rising: South Africa” debuted last Tuesday and will air again tomorrow (8 p.m.), Feb. 24 (8 p.m.) and Feb. 25 (1 a.m.). 

Mother monster

Chameleon-like Jessica Chastain plays a rock musician faced with impromptu motherhood and the unusual terrors that come with it in the creepy “Mama,” directed by Andres Muschietti and co-produced by Guillermo Del Toro. The supernatural aspect of the film is obviously Asian-inspired; like in some iconic horror flicks from the region, the titular mother is horrendously deformed, a slithery and agile bogey-being. The CGI creation, however, sometimes looks under-rendered, sticking out in some pivotal scenes and lessening the scares a bit. Ultimately, it’s predictable, but it’s still quite disturbing, and strangely enough, even bittersweet. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Morpheus and Nada

Ancient power couple, just before the relationship turned terribly sour. After the Queen of the Glass City broke up with the Lord of Dreams, he banished her to hell. He rescued her 10,000 years later, and offered her the chance to be his queen. Nada understandably refused, so he removed her memories, and arranged for her reincarnation as an Asian male. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love Machinery, Nine

Valentine’s Day edition!

MJ Watson and Doc Spidey.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, tiger!”
“What? Move on, you infernal woman!”

“I don’t care about Charles Xavier, or Magneto, or even Hope. I am looking at the savior of mutantkind, right here, right now. You are the only one keeping us alive. You are the one that will lead us into the future… Never once have I doubted you. Never once has my trust in you been less than absolute.” -- Emma Frost to Scott Summers, Dark X-Men: Confessions (2009)
Love this couple. Too bad they’re breaking up soon.

Wanda: I’d die for you, Simon. You know that. I do love you.
Simon: And I love you too. It’s just—what it turned out to be—it wasn’t the kind of love either of us thought. More like—
Wanda: More like what we really are is old, old friends.
(In this self-contained issue, they finally addressed the relationship and broke up. Probably the last time I saw the characters really focused on, and so wonderfully written.)
"Her shampoo makes her hair smell like apples and wildflowers. And he has never met her. But almost every night—when he falls asleep—she’s there." --from "The Nearness of You" (Astro City 1/2, 1998)

Michael Tenicek keeps remembering a woman he’s never met. But they did meet in a previous life. She was erased out of existence when the time-damaged universe restructured. Love this story a lot.

New couple alert. Storm and Wolverine.
"I want you to cut my hair into a mohawk, Logan, so I'll feel relevant again, like my glory days aren't long gone! Then make love to me, you wild animal!"
"You got it, babe. One faux-hawk and a serving of my 'best there is at what I do,' comin' up!"

Choose Your Own Conjecture

Status updates, compiled.

Feb. 7. Effed-up sleep cycle. I think I had over 10 hours of sleep today, but there were breaks between strange dreams.
Feb. 7. Digging the new Hawkeye series. Fraction's funny and clever.
Feb. 7. I'm glad that many cable channels are catching up with new shows from other countries. I remember the few Philippine channels pre-cable and the very limited choices we had. And I remember being 11, eagerly awaiting the next episode of Dungeons and Dragons one Saturday evening. It just suddenly vanished from its slot, replaced by FPJ sa GMA. That was depressing.
Feb. 8. I miss family dinners.
Feb. 11. The all-female X-Men lineup is expected to be successful; I guess it's only a matter of time before an Avengers book does the same. My roster: Wasp, She-Hulk, Photon, Capt. Marvel, Mockingbird, Firestar. And maybe Big Bertha or Songbird. No Scarlet Witch.

New 52 Joker

I like the current Joker's new look; he stapled and strung his face onto his flesh after having it removed by another villain months ago. Loving the current Bat-crossover too. He's in five or so titles, messing everyone up.

‘Profugos’ star says he likes ‘physically demanding’ role

(Published Feb. 8, PDI-Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Chilean actor Nestor Cantillana knew he wanted a career in entertainment at age 8, when his actor-father brought him backstage during a play.

“People got naked together, smoked and drank coffee a lot,” he recalled through a translator in a recent phone interview. “They read the script and exercised together, laughed a lot. I thought, ‘That’s the job for me!’”

Now in his late 30s, the actor is starring in the Cinemax series “Profugos (The Fugitives),” about a group of would-be drug traffickers fleeing the law and a rival organization. Cantillana plays Vicente, a hesitant member of the gang.

“He’s a veterinarian—but he has strong ties with his mother and was forced to participate in the family business,” he said. Vicente’s mother, the actor added, is the head of a drug cartel. “His mother loves him but he wants her respect!”

Dubbed in English for the Southeast Asian region, “Profugos,” shot across Chile, is an original series produced by HBO Latin America.

“We’re very proud of this project,” Cantillana said. “[Executive producer] Pablo Larrain insisted that the show take place in Chile. The scenery is an extra character.”

The 13-episode first season created new challenges for the actor. “It’s my first action series,” he said. “Physically, it’s very demanding. I had to use weapons, which I’m not into at all.”
The company of “very talented actors” has been rewarding as well. “Though very different from each other, we managed to create this chemistry among us,” Cantillana noted. “We’re thinking of developing a project after this.”

A fan of Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert Downey Jr. and Al Pacino, Cantillana expressed enthusiasm for a grittier, second season.

“It’s always more entertaining to be the bad guy instead of the cop,” he said. “Next season, there will be twice as much action… [The show] has been very well-received wherever it’s shown!”

(The last two episodes will be aired at 10 tonight on Cinemax.) 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Joan Chen: ‘I’m a great drama queen’

(Published Feb. 6, PDI-Entertainment)
Text and photos by Oliver M. Pulumbarit

Many viewers may best remember Joan Chen as the ill-fated femme fatale Josie Packard from the supernatural mystery series “Twin Peaks,” which aired in the early 1990s. But the Chinese-American actress was in many notable films and made guest appearances on some programs prior to and after the fan-favorite show.

Chen, 51, previously starred in such acclaimed films as “The Last Emperor” and the more recent “Mao’s Last Dancer.” She had appearances on “MacGyver,” “Miami Vice,” and “Fringe,” among many others.
Chen started an acting career while in her teens back in China, and moved to the United States when she was 20. Currently, she is playing the role of Patricia on HBO and ABC TV’s first original series “Serangoon Road,” a 10-part mystery-drama scheduled to air by the third quarter of 2013.

“I’m a mix of the East and West,” Chen told members of the media at the press conference for the series, in Mandarin Oriental Singapore. “I read the script and found it very engaging. The East and West are very real and equal. That’s what Singapore is.”

Set in the 1960s, “Serangoon Road” depicts a chaotic, less familiar Singapore. It will be the backdrop for Chen’s struggling character Patricia. A widow looking for her husband’s killer, Patricia inherits a detective agency, which she will be operating with some hesitation.

“The concept of a detective story is another layer for me,” Chen said. “My all-time favorite [novelist] is Raymond Chandler. I love the old-school detective stories.”
According to Erika North, HBO Asia’s VP for programming, Chen was their first pick for the role: “When (ABC executive producer) Sue Masters and I were developing the script, we’d joke to each other, ‘Patricia is such a great character; wouldn’t it be wonderful if we got Joan Chen?’”

Chen was attracted to the “very human” story, as well. “The political background is interesting,” she said. “We have the riots, the communists, the police, all in the background. In the foreground is just a human story and a lot of exciting action.”
Patricia lives in Chinatown, a comfortable setting for the actress: “Actually, I like these old buildings much more than the skyscrapers today. There is a set that we built in Batam (Indonesia) that just looks so wonderful, [like] the old Singapore coming back to life—that was a big attraction for me!”

A day before the press conference, a handful of Asian reporters visited the sets in Batam. Replicas of old Singaporean structures and facades form part of a busy plaza, while interior sets such as the detective agency, a bar and an office are housed in one big building. A few kilometers from the indoor sets is the civilian POW camp set, which will be shown prominently in a flashback scene.

Being an Asian-American, Chen considers working in the region a unique opportunity. “It feels very special,” she enthused. “I’ve always loved Southeast Asia. I love the tropical colors… I love the tropical skin color and the sweat on the color. I just love everything about the tropics. And so this time, I get to play a character in the region. It’s very special; it’s a combination of the East and West… this mix of different Pan-Asian cultures in our show, it’s very gratifying to be a part of.”

Developing Patricia required input from Chen, who was encouraged to add to the character’s history. “I think I brought a great deal of my feelings into her,” Chen revealed. “Today, she is flesh and blood.”

She elaborated: “What I have, she doesn’t have, and that’s how I relate to her. Her husband died. And the most precious things in my life are my children. She is unable to conceive, which gives her an underlying sense of unworthiness. If a character has that kind of longing embossed, then she’s more relatable to the audience.”

Shooting scenes for “Serangoon Road” started in August last year. After the actress recently finished the tenth episode, she was “proud” of the “generally wonderful” experience. Chen has been very picky with roles, moving to directing films on occasion. She veers away from caricature-esque Asian roles such as the demanding “tiger mom” and the intimidating “dragon lady.”

“I think people long to understand Asia,” she said. “It’s always much better when people actually want to know and understand you, instead of just putting you in a situation because they needed some spice for the dish. Now you’re the main dish, the meat itself!”

A fan of “real life, ordinary heroes” on the big screen, Chen praised films such as “Argo,” “Les Misérables,” “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”

As someone who has recently played a “real” character herself, has she learned new things about the craft with her new project?

“That’s a very good question,” she said before pausing. “Ah, I know what it is! I usually am a great drama queen, you know? To be a series regular, you do a lot of things that are procedural, that try to explain other people’s stories.”

“And that’s something I have done very rarely,” Chen added. “In the beginning, it’s always a bit difficult. ‘Gee, you know, I’m not expressing my inner feelings!’ But that’s not your role. Your role is to be the procedural person because you’re a regular. The center of drama is on the guest stars. It sometimes can be challenging because you’re unsure. That’s something new!” 

Stabbing pain, beating hearts

Parts reverential biopic and probing art analysis, “Hitchcock” is an endearing look at inimitable filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock’s marital blues and temperaments while making the 1960 shocker “Psycho.”

The “Master of Suspense” is played by Anthony Hopkins, made more rotund but not really unrecognizable. The impersonation amazes; his gait and speech patterns mostly resemble the director’s. His simple but heartwarming story is enhanced by the focus on his unsung heroine and wife Alma, impressively portrayed by Helen Mirren.

Itching to make new art, Hitchcock (or “Hitch” to his wife and close friends) is inexplicably drawn to the book “Psycho.” Funding the movie adaptation himself, he finds the process liberating, despite facing constraints such as strict censors and skeptical members of the press.

Through it all, Alma is the unwavering partner seeking to carve her own path by collaborating with her close friend Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston), who wishes her husband would translate his script for the big screen.

“Hitchcock” breezes through its intended points of focus with nary a hitch. From the director’s obsession with the gruesome tale to his unrequited attraction to his blonde bombshell leads, the mingling of self-doubt and purpose in dream sequences is artfully and humorously done. His conflicted real-life bonds with his actresses (played by Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Biel) are likewise interesting, further enhancing the central relationship angle with his long-overshadowed spouse.

“Hitchcock” will be screened exclusively at Ayala Cinemas starting Feb.6.


The Grey-Summerses: Jean Grey and her “sisters,” the Phoenix and Madelyne Pryor, her alternate future “daughter” Rachel Summers, and “granddaughter” Hope Summers. 

Separable, Indivisible

Status updates.

Jan. 31. Saya na sana ng panonood ko ng Gangster Squad, kaya lang may mga nagtatawirang malalaking daga sa harap.
Feb. 1. In a lot of ways, life is still like school. I still find myself the perennial outsider, but that’s how it’s always been. I’ve grown to like its advantages. Some things never change, though. I still admire and look up to tireless mentors and creative types, hoping that their drive would rub off on me somehow. But I also scoff at the suck-ups and the bullies, those now-desperate ones rummaging for meaning. As much as I’d like to think that we’re all Breakfast Club-y and the same, we’re really not, and that’s how real life isn’t like school anymore.
Feb. 1. February. That was quick.
Feb. 3. Wish they'd give Rogue her better costume back--the one with the scarf--because the old one just looks bland now. I wonder why they changed it in the first place. Maybe all those X's might not look good in an Avengers book.
Feb. 3. Craving cake.
Feb. 4. Mix flash drive. Contains songs I ripped from old albums and mix CDs. Strange how technology's evolved to adapt to listening needs. Played songs by Sinead O' Connor, Skid Row, REO Speedwagon, and Edie Brickell, among others.
Feb. 4. Ah, social networking sites. Funny how people can mock contacts one day, and ask them favors the next. Not referring to anyone in particular. Just a pattern I observed.

Monster ‘Gangster,’ odd ‘Squad’

“Gangster Squad” refers to the secret gang of cops assigned to bust crimelord Mickey Cohen’s operations across Los Angeles in 1949. The star-studded film shocks with its use of violent imagery early on, but surprisingly, it still has comic touches; it doesn’t exactly balance the mood, but the heavy tone is offset by much-needed and occasional hilarity.

Ruben Fleischer of “Zombieland” whips up a gritty, if ultimately predictable crime-actioner. Sickened by the indifference of corrupt and incompetent cops, Sgt. O’Mara (Josh Brolin) leads a gang of dependable do-gooders (Giovanni Ribisi, Ryan Gosling, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie, and Michael Pena), whose missions intend to drive Cohen (Sean Penn) out of the city.

There are some fun fisticuffs to be had, which is different from the brutal and repulsive depictions of various crimes committed by Cohen and his thugs. Those are just plain numbing and detestable, shocking moments meant to reiterate the kingpin of crime’s complete and utter vileness.

While Cohen’s character is focused on, the rest of the characters, however, aren’t nearly as developed. With the exception of Gosling and Brolin’s characters, the gangster-busters are perfunctory and lacking in dimension and distinct personalities.

The same goes for Emma Stone’s two-timing girlfriend character Grace, whose motivations for staying with the irredeemable mobster boss aren’t very clear. Surprisingly, though, “The Killing’s” Mireille Enos does more than scowl here; as John’s wife and the brains behind the selection of his crimefighting recruits, she adds an unusual but complementing element.

The secret squad’s focus on brute force can be frustrating; it’s only when their resident genius becomes more involved with their strategies that their missions become intriguing. That said, however, “Gangster Squad” could’ve been more involving, and a lot more complex. It looks good, and it’s often amusing, but it has unrealized potential.