Pictures: #TomCar Mania in LA

I am fairly new to Instagram and have never had so many "likes" and "instareposts" since i joined a couple months ago than i had last night. And it was all because i was instagramming from the show headlined by the popular Filipino love team of Tom Rodriguez and Carla Abellana (the "TomCar" in the headline). Filipino singer (with such a beautiful, beautiful voice) Julie Anne San Jose anchored the singing part of the show (along with Tom, who i just learned started out his career as a member of a boyband). Comedian Betong was the crowd favorite all night with his funny and "clean" jokes while teener Miguel Tanfelix elicited lots of shrieks for himself from starstruck (pun intended) fans himself.

Here are the pictures i took from the show that kept my phone buzzing all night with notification from instagram.

Thank you, hashtag TomCar fans!

The GMA stars taking a selfie at the start of their show
Julie Anne San Jose

Tom and Carla

Tom and Carla, again

More Tom and Carla

My selfie with Tom's shy and proud folks

The sold-out crowd before the doors were opened

Julie Anne, Tom, Carla, Miguel, Betong (aka Antonietta)

HIFF 2014: Movies to watch!

Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) presented by Halekulani will return for its 34th edition from Oct. 30 through Nov. 9 featuring films from 45 countries spanning diverse genres. 

HIFF 2014 will open with the U.S. premiere of "The Vancouver Asahi" on Oct. 30. The film is an inspirational and dramatic true story of the “Vancouver no Asahi” baseball team who played in Canada prior to World War II. The team was the focal point of the Japanese Canadian community in British Columbia until the fateful day of December 7, 1941 when the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Tsumabuki Satoshi stars as a second-generation Japanese immigrant named Reggie Kasahara, the shortstop for the team. 

Anderson Le, Director of Programming, said “HIFF is honored to open our 34th festival with an advance screening of "The Vancouver Asahi", which is slated as the big Christmas release in Japan. It is rare to see the World War II internment camp experience through the lens of Japanese nationals in a major motion picture. With a large ensemble cast consisting of Japan’s biggest stars, we’re honored to premiere this film from award- winning director Yuya Ishii.”

Check out the trailer below of "The Vancouver Asahi".

There are 180 films in the festival program this year and I have selected several films that i consider must-see! 7 are films entered by their respective countries to this year's foreign language film category of the Oscars. 4 are Filipino films (because I am!) and 1 film from Iran called "A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night" that I have been waiting for so many months now to see!







South Korea, "SEA FOG (Haemoo)"



"3RD IS MY FIRST" (dir. Real Florido)

"M (MOTHER'S MAIDEN NAME" (dir. Zig Dulay)


"WHERE I AM KING" (dir. Carlitos Siguion-Reyna)


About Hawaii International Film Festival

Established in 1981, the Hawaii International Film Festival is a non-profit organization dedicated
to the advancement of cultural exchange and media awareness in the Pacific Rim. HIFF is a
premier international film event that has won the praise of governments, filmmakers, scholars,
educators, programmers and film industry leaders across the globe. HIFF's programming has
two particular mandates: to be a festival of record for emerging films from Asia, the Pacific, and
North America and to present the top festival films from around the world, annually screening
films from over 45 countries. HIFF also presents educational content and panels in the fields of
film and music, and mobile entertainment and gaming. These transmedia programs reflect
HIFF's commitment to exhibiting innovative creative content coming from the Asia Pacific Rim.
Visit for more information.

Festivalgoers are encouraged to embrace this year’s theme of #MyHIFFMoment by sharing their unique experiences, emotions and interpretations from experiencing HIFF films.

See you at the movies!

Raymond Lo

AFIFest 2014: "A Most Violent Year"

Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain
"A Most Violent Year"
Here's some great news from my favorite film festival in Los Angeles!

The opening night film has been announced! And it is a World Premiere!!!

J.C. Chandor's "A Most Violent Year" will have its world premiere on Thursday, November 6, 2014 as the Opening Night Gala of AFI FEST 2014 presented by Audi. Set in 1981, during one of the most crime-ridden winters in New York City’s history, the film follows the lives of Abel and Anna Morales (Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain) as they attempt to capitalize on the American Dream, while the rampant violence, decay, and corruption of the day drag them in and threaten to destroy all they have built.

AFIFest Director Jacqueline Lyanga raves, ”J.C. Chandor has put together a remarkable crime drama, which is also an immersive period piece and morality tale that resonates on an emotional level. Chandor is a talented director who takes risks with every film that he makes and "A Most Violent Year is no exception.  It is a great film with which to open the festival and begin the audience’s eight-day journey through a landscape of extraordinary contemporary cinema.”

The film is written and directed by Academy Award® nominee J.C. Chandor and stars Oscar Isaac, Academy Award® nominees Jessica Chastain and Albert Brooks as well as David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola, Elyes Gabel and Catalina Sandino Moreno.

To attend the World Premiere and Opening Night Gala of A MOST VIOLENT YEAR with reserved seats, guests must purchase a festival package at the Star Patron or Marquee Patron level.

Visit the AFI website for more details on this year’s festival:

I am so excited that I have watched the trailer below a couple of times in the last half hour!!!

Raymond Lo

It is still Matthew McConaughey's year!

Matthew McConaughey
True, 2014 is indeed Matthew's year. After scooping majority of the acting awards last winter for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" - which included a coronation at the Oscars in March - and a nomination at the Emmys for his acclaimed turn in the HBO series "True Detective" AND a forthcoming movie with Christopher Nolan in this fall's much-anticipated "Interstellar",  Matthew is still getting more recognition from the industry left and right.

Next month, Matthew is set to receive one of the most important recognition any actor will ever receive in his career. The American Cinematheque Award has selected the actor as its 28th recipient of the award that has previously been bestowed to the likes of Eddie Murphy (1986); Bette Midler (1987); Robin Williams (1988); Steven Spielberg (1989); Ron Howard (1990); Martin Scorsese (1991); Sean Connery (1992); Michael Douglas (1993); Rob Reiner (1994); Mel Gibson (1995); Tom Cruise (1996); John Travolta (1997); Arnold Schwarzenegger (1998); Jodie Foster (1999); Bruce Willis (2000); Nicolas Cage (2001); Denzel Washington (2002); Nicole Kidman (2003); Steve Martin (2004); Al Pacino (2005) George Clooney (2006), Julia Roberts (2007);Samuel L. Jackson (2008); Matt Damon (2010); Robert Downey Jr. (2011), Ben Stiller (2012) and Jerry Bruckheimer (2013).

Matthew will be toasted by friends and colleagues at the Cinematheque's annual benefit gala. The presentation will take place Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. The award presentation in the International Ballroom, concludes an evening of in-person tributes from Jennifer Garner, Cole Hauser, Reese Witherspoon, Lili Fini Zanuck and Jessica Chastain, with Jimmy Kimmel hosting. Additional presenters will be announced as they are confirmed. Proceeds from this annual fundraiser, benefit the programs of the American Cinematheque at the Aero and Egyptian Theatres.

Event co-chairs include: Jessica Chastain, Toby Emmerich, Jim Gianopulos, Adam Goodman, Brad Grey, Woody Harrelson, Anne Hathaway, Alan Horn, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ryan Kavanaugh, Sue Kroll, Donna Langley, Blaine Lourd, Ron Meyer, Kevin Morris, Rick Nicita, Christopher Nolan, Lynda Obst, Amy Pascal, Nic Pizzolatto, James G. Robinson, Ted Sarandos, Jeff Shell, Greg Silverman, Emma Thomas, Jim Toth, Kevin Tsujihara, Thomas Tull, Paula Wagner.

Event sponsors are:  Dolce & Gabbana Fragrances, Encore Event Technologies, The Lincoln Motor Company, Morgan Creek Productions (Platinum Sponsors); Comcast | NBCUniversal, Creative Artists Agency, The Hollywood Reporter, Legendary Pictures, Los Angeles Times, Paramount Pictures, Variety,The Walt Disney Studios (Gold Sponsors); HBO, LourdMurray, Netflix, Champagne Piper-Heidsieck, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros. Entertainment (Silver Sponsors); and The Aero Theatre Building, Bill Block, The Glenlivet, Jonathan D. Kaufelt, Kempinsky Law Ltd., Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo LLP, Darren J. Moll, Rick Nicita, Nu Image, Relativity Media, LLC, Susan M. Tolson, Paula Wagner, Tina Perry-Whitney & Ric Whitney (Patrons)

The American Cinematheque will tweet from the event using their @SidGrauman account and the hashtag #amcinaward2014.

Here's the official pronouncement of the recognition to Matthew:

"The American Cinematheque is extremely pleased to honor Matthew McConaughey as the 28th recipient of the American Cinematheque award at our celebration this year," said Rick Nicita, American Cinematheque Chairman. "Matthew McConaughey is the epitome of what a Hollywood star should be -- an adventurous, joyous and ever-growing talent combined with matinee-idol looks and an unshakeable sense of who he is and what he stands for.  We all took notice of his star presence starting with his memorable debut in DAZED AND CONFUSED through thrillers like A TIME TO KILL to period pieces like AMISTAD to hit romantic comedies like HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS. His turn towards dramas such as THE LINCOLN LAWYER and MUD showed that we only had seen a hint of what Matthew could do.  His Academy Award for DALLAS BUYERS CLUB and the rave reviews for his television debut in "True Detective," is just the beginning of his next chapter and the American Cinematheque is proud to recognize his accomplishments."

Matthew was the unanimous choice of the Cinematheque Board of Directors, which since 1986, has annually honored an extraordinary filmmaker in the entertainment industry, who is fully engaged in his or her work and is committed to making a significant contribution to the art of the motion picture. Funds raised benefit the year-round programming of the non-profit cultural organization, the American Cinematheque.

The executive producers of the show are Paul Flattery and Barbara Smith. Irene Crinita is the producer and Kelly Brock co-producer. Corrinne Mann is the event producer.

Hundreds of entertainment industry notables are expected to attend the Tribute. This annual event is the American Cinematheque's most important benefit, providing funds for the non-profit film exhibition organization's programs throughout the year and operation of the historic landmark Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard as well as the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica on Montana Avenue.

Tickets to the Cinematheque Tribute, an elegant black-tie dinner followed by a multi-media award presentation start at $575. Call Mann Productions for tickets and further information: 323.314.7000. Please note that this event was formerly known as the Moving Picture Ball.

Established in 1981, the American Cinematheque is a non-profit viewer-supported film exhibition and cultural organization dedicated to the celebration of the Moving Picture in all of its forms. At the Egyptian Theatre, the Cinematheque presents daily film and video programming which ranges from the classics of American and international cinema to new independent films and digital work. Exhibition of rare works, special and rare prints, etc., combined with fascinating post-screening discussions with the filmmakers who created the work, are a Cinematheque tradition that keep audiences coming back for once-in-a-lifetime cinema experiences. The American Cinematheque renovated and reopened (on December 4, 1998) the historic 1922 Hollywood Egyptian Theatre This includes a state-of-the-art 616-seat theatre housed within Sid Grauman's first grand movie palace on Hollywood Boulevard. The exotic courtyard is fully restored to its 1922 grandeur. The Egyptian was the home of the very first Hollywood movie premiere in 1922.

In early 2005 the American Cinematheque expanded its programming to the Westside with the January 5th opening of the 1940 Aero Theatre on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.

Both theatres play host to an array of industry guests who share their filmmaking experiences with our audiences.

About Matthew
(Let's assume there's one person in the world who still needs an introduction to the superstar.)

Texas native Matthew McConaughey is one of Hollywood's most sought-after leading men. A chance meeting in Austin with casting director and producer Don Phillips led him to director Richard Linklater, who launched the actor's career in the cult classic "Dazed and Confused." Since then, he has appeared in over 40 feature films that have grossed over $1 billion; and has become a producer, director, and philanthropist - all the while sticking to his Texas roots and "jk livin" philosophy.

2014 has been a game changing year for McConaughey.  He made the move to TV starring alongside Woody Harrelson in the HBO dramatic series "True Detective." The show has been met by rave reviews from critics and fans alike. He has also received numerous awards and accolades for the critically acclaimed Dallas Buyers Club. McConaughey dropped 47 pounds to play to role of AIDS stricken Ron Woodruff. The film was directed by Jean Marc Valle and also stars Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto. For his riveting portrayal McConaughey received an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and Gotham Award for Best Actor, the Best Actor Award at the Rome Film Festival as well as the Desert Palm Achievement Actor Award at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

He also stars in "Interstellar," directed by Christopher Nolan, for release in November 2014.

In 2012 McConaughey was spotlighted in four diverse career changing performances. He won a Spirit Award for his portrayal of Dallas Rising in Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike," and was named the year's Best Supporting Actor by both the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics for his work in "Magic Mike" and Richard Linklater's "Bernie." Mr. McConaughey also received acclaim for his performance in Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy," and was a Spirit Award nominee for playing the title role in William Friedkin's "Killer Joe."

He followed this up in 2013 with the release of Jeff Nichols' "Mud," which received rave reviews and was a sleeper hit in the national box office top 10 for five weeks and Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street," which opened in December 2013.

His other films include Brad Furman's "The Lincoln Lawyer," Ben Stiller's "Tropic Thunder," McG's "We Are Marshall," Jill and Karen Sprecher's "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing," Bill Paxton's "Frailty," Jonathan Mostow's "U-571," Ron Howard's "EDtv," Richard Linklater's "The Newton Boys," Steven Spielberg's "Amistad," Robert Zemeckis' "Contact," Joel Schumacher's "A Time to Kill," and John Sayles' "Lone Star."

In 2008, Mr. McConaughey started the just keep livin Foundation (, which is dedicated to helping boys and girls transform into men and women through programs that teach the importance of decision-making, health, education, and active living. The Foundation has partnered with Communities in Schools (CIS) - the nation's largest, non-profit, dropout-prevention organization -in West Los Angeles to implement fitness and wellness programs in two large urban high schools. Through an afterschool program, they are able to give kids a healthy start in life and the promise of a healthy future.

Raymond Lo

Movies: August 2014 List

Hello friends, it’s fall! And it means our annual pilgrimage to the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood is already on its slow, steady stride. In the next couple of weeks, the Academy will close the submission window for the Best Foreign Language Film category. October 1 is the deadline set for the countries to select their entry. As I write this, 60 countries have announced their selections except for a few countries that are considered as traditional Oscar contenders. Russia, China and Spain have yet to decide on what films to submit.

Of the announced submissions, this writer has seen only about 2 of them – I know, I pity myself, too! I have only seen the entries from Lithuania (“The Gambler”) and Venezuela (“The Liberator”) so far. I could have seen the entry from Brazil, Switzerland, Greece and Poland already if I only had time. Of course, if I flew to Cannes or Venice or Berlin or Toronto, I would have seen almost half of all the submissions.

But am not thoroughly disappointed. Really! Why? Because in just a month, the American Film Institute will hold the annual AFIFest and, taking into consideration the programs in the past, a good number of these Oscar contenders will likely wind up in the main program this year! And I have resolved to dedicate a good week of my time this November just for that.

Why am talking about something in the future when I should be writing about the movies I saw in August this year. (I know, I know, this post is again late.)

Well, if you have keen observational skills, surely you would know why I am talking more about the movies that I have yet to see than those that I have already seen.

August was again a pretty busy month for me. I am even surprised I managed to watch all these movies below despite the very bad schedule I had during the month. But the movies I saw aren’t the kind that would make me go and write lengthy reviews about. I saw a couple of good ones, yes. I loved “The Hundred-Foot Journey” which I reviewed – here’s the link: I thought it was a charming little film that celebrates the innate goodness in all of us.

I also loved “Belle”, the film based on a 1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle beside her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray at Kenwood House. The movie is an interpretation of what it must have been like for the dark-skinned Belle to live at a period in England when slavery is still a form of commerce and blacks are considered inferior people. It’s a moving film that depicts a girl’s journey from being a sheltered but hidden family member to becoming one of the first advocates for the abolition of slavery in England. The performances of Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Sam Reid are particularly noteworthy.

Below are the movies I saw in August and their respective ratings. Yes, I did not like HBO’s “The Normal Heart” – it has a powerful theme, true, but the storytelling just did not come across as compelling to me as it should have. But the performances are marvelous, however!

The Normal Heart (US) – 2 Stars
The Hundred-Foot Journey (US) – 4 ½ Stars
Don't Move (Spain) DVD – 4 Stars
Tom at the Farm (Canada) DVD – 3 ½ Stars
Into The Storm (US) – 2 ½ Stars
Lucy (US) – 3 Stars
What If (US) – No Rating (Did not finish)
Under The Skin (Scotland) - 3 ½ Stars
Belle (UK) – 4 ½ Stars
The Railway Man (Australia/UK) – 3 Stars

See you at the movies!

Raymond Lo

My coverage of "The Blacklist"

Season 2 of the hit NBC series "The Blacklist" premieres tonight in the US and in Asia via AXN. This writer visited the cast on the set recently and my story of that visit is out today in "The Philippine Star". The online link can be found here: 

Here's the full text of my story:

James Spader
MANILA, Philippines - When this writer flew to New York last week, it was to rendezvous with the notorious criminal Raymond Reddington, known the world over as Red, because he was supposed to be in town chasing after his nemesis Berlin, who almost had him and FBI agent Elizabeth Keen killed several months ago. And, while in town, I also got to meet with a “transformed” Elizabeth, her fellow FBI agent Donald Ressler and their boss Harry Cooper.

I received the invitation via e-mail a couple of months ago and everything was vague until about a week ago when I finally got the confirmation including my flight details.

The flight was uneventful, thankfully. I flew on the same week New York was to commemorate the 13th year of the 9/11 terrorist attack and this writer was a little bit hesitant to fly — not to add the curious timing of having a terrorist in the big apple on the eve of the anniversary of one of the worst attacks in US soil! But I marched on! It’s not every day you get to be on someone’s exclusive invite list, right?

And it is one list you normally wouldn’t one to be on!

Okay, before we all get carried away, it’s time I start telling you the truth: This writer did not meet with a terrorist — a real-life terrorist, that is. Raymond Reddington is the character played by Emmy-winning actor James Spader in the worldwide television hit The Blacklist and this writer was among a select few who received the exclusive invitation to meet with Mr. Spader and the rest of the cast of The Blacklist. We were also given a tour of the show’s impressive set inside a huge converted storage at the old Chelsea Piers in Lower Manhattan. During the same visit, we also got a glimpse of the iconic props and the distinctive costumes used on the show — including the fedoras used by Red in the series.

The cast was filming the fourth episode during our visit and the actors had to be whisked away to have a quick chat with us whenever there’s a lull in production. Mr. Spader was the first actor to see us. He was the complete opposite of Red in person. He was charismatic in person like Red but without the mysterious and terrifying demeanor that fans of the series has come to expect every week from him.

It’s funny but most of the journalists, including this writer, was addressing him Mr. Spader when we would normally call any actor by their first names. We were either in awe of his greatness or we were scared of Red. I think it was the latter. James is one of the few actors to have won multiple Emmys — and he is the only actor in history to have won Emmys for the same role in two different series. He won Best Actor at Cannes and he is the title character in the sequel to the record-breaking Marvel movie The Avengers — but we are not talking about it today.

During our interview, I asked James for his thoughts on what made The Blacklist so popular all over the world. The series features a really bad character on the mend but appears to be somewhat above the law. Why is a character that’s done really bad things connected with audiences worldwide?

“I am not entirely sure what it is that people respond to,” he replied. “Over the years, I’ve never been able to figure out what people might like and not like but I think people respond to the dichotomy in any antihero. I think they really respond to that and if you pay real service to both aspects of that word, if he’s at times the antagonist and other times the protagonist, if you really pay service to that balance, I think everybody will be enormously disappointed if all of a sudden you discover that Reddington is really a righteous guy. That he is really doing the right thing; that it’s all about redemption. I think that would be so disappointing.”

(The interview with James lasted about half an hour and will be featured in another story.)

As Red in The Blacklist, James portrays an ex-government agent who, for decades, has been one of the FBI’s Most Wanted fugitives. Brokering shadowy deals for criminals across the globe, Red was known by many as “The Concierge of Crime.” In the series’ first season, Red mysteriously surfaced and surrendered to the FBI but, instead of being put to prison, he was able to strike a deal with the FBI by proposing to release a “blacklist” of politicians, mobsters, spies and international terrorists. He promised to catch them all with only one condition: Elizabeth “Liz” Keen, a rookie agent, would become his partner in tracking all the criminals in his list.

The Blacklist is part police procedural and part serialized drama with the main narrative hook being the unanswered question on whether there’s something that connects Red to Liz — could Liz be Red’s daughter? That is one of the lingering questions from Season 1 that no one among the cast would dare to answer.

“No, you will not find out about that,” was James’ quick reply when asked if Season 2 of the series would finally give fans a definitive answer.

And when we asked Megan Boone, the actress who portrays Elizabeth Keen, about it, she played coy as well. Although she did tell us that only her and James, among the cast, knew the answer to the mystery.

 “Oh, I know!” she exclaimed. “I am probably the only in the world who isn’t frustrated by the mystery — me and James are the only two that are not frustrated.”

 “Towards mid-season, you will start to really know the root of her behavior and her actions,” she teased.

At the end of Season 1, Liz’s husband, Tom, was shot and is assumed to have died although majority of fans are hoping he is still alive. “Everything about Tom is a mystery,” was all Megan would allow herself to share. (Note: The actor who portrays Tom was not on the set during our visit. Is it a hint?)

Harry Lennix
But one actor who is happy that his character is still alive is Harry Lennix, who plays FBI head Harry Cooper, who was in mortal danger, too, during the first season. “You are going to see me from the first episode,” he declared to our amusement.

Harry, who is also an accomplished film and stage actor, offered some theory on why people all over the world are connecting with a bad guy like Red.

“There’s something about James Spader, the fact that he’s playing the character makes him, kind of, delicious,” he said. “It fits into the mold of a classic American antihero. It’s the 21st century and I think we’ve come to realize that good and bad is a lot more nuanced and there’s a million shades of gray and we all fit somewhere along the shades of gray. How much bad are we willing to put up with in order to get something good, something valuable? I think Red, more than anything, presents us with that question.”

During the course of our set visit, this writer also got to meet with several other cast members including the latest cast addition Mozhan Marno, who will portray a Mossad agent who may or may not have a shared personal history with Red.

Diego Klattenhoff
The last actor we interviewed was Diego Klattenhoff who portrays FBI agent Donald Ressler in the series. It was about four in the afternoon when Diego sat with us for a quick chat.

He was in a good mood. The handsome actor, who has German ancestry, even obliged to speak his version of the German language after a German journalist asked if he could say something in German. “Hmm… Tune in next week?” he uttered. Apparently he can’t speak German, after all.

And much later on, Diego would crack another funny joke about his character’s fate this season after the bloodbath in Season 1 that killed off many characters.

“I’ve been shot enough and beat up enough, I made my donation to the blood bank, so I think I might be safe for a while,” he said before adding the all-important word, “hopefully.”

(Season 2 of The Blacklist will premiere tonight at 10 on AXN.)

Raymond Lo

Trailers: Mockingjay, Part 1

The official trailer for one of the fall's most-awaited movies was released today. Watch it here:

Raymond Lo

TIFF 2014: Winners!

TIFF concluded yesterday with the announcement of the winners! Most of the titles are new to this writer except for Benedict Cumberbatch's buzzy new film "The Imitation Game", which won the coveted People's Choice Award. The win bodes well for the movie because the winner in this category usually goes on to score a nomination or win at the Oscars!

Here are the winners!


The Imitation Game


Beats of the Antonov

People's Choice Midnight Madness Award: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS

What We Do in the Shadows

Best International Short Film: A SINGLE BODY

A Single Body

Best Canadian First Feature Film: BANG BANG BABY

Bang Bang Baby

Best Canadian Feature Film: FELIX AND MEIRA

Felix and Meira


Margarita, with a Straw

International Critics' Prize (FIPRESCI Prize) – Discovery: MAY ALLAH BLESS FRANCE!

May Allah Bless France!


The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer
 International Critics' Prize (FIPRESCI Prize) – Special Presentations: TIME OUT OF MIND

Time Out of Mind

Raymond De Asis Lo

My interview with Dylan O'Brien

My interview with Dylan O'Brien from "The Maze Runner" came out in today's edition of The Philippine Star. The online link can be found here:

MANILA, Philippines -  During the recent junket for The Maze Runner (opening tomorrow, Sept. 17), the film’s director Wes Ball recounted an amusing incident about the way the movie’s lead actor, Dylan O’Brien was cast, or rather, was almost not cast.

Wes related that when he was approached to direct the adaptation of the best-selling series written by James Dashner after Katherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Red Riding Hood) dropped out of the project, he went about the usual process of casting for the parts.

“We weren’t looking at faces, we weren’t looking at good looks, all that stuff — fortunately, we are okay in that department, too — but we found good actors that can be truthful,” he stated. “I wanted spectacle with an emotional core to it. I can’t just have shiny pictures.”

First one to be cast was for the role of Teresa, which went to British stunner Kaya Scodelario who was just coming off a critically-acclaimed performance as Kathy in acclaimed director Andrea Arnold’s reimagining of Wuthering Heights. Kaya first gained worldwide acclaim through her role as Effy in the provocative TV series, Skins.

The other part that was also immediately cast was that of Gally, which went to another Brit actor and pre-We’re the Millers Will Poulter (he was the naïve and geeky fourth-wheel in that hit movie whose private part was bit a spider!). Will landed the part because of his distinctive eyebrows according to Wes.

Kaya Scodelario and Dylan O'Brien
(Photo by Greg Williams)
The one part that took a long time to cast was that of Thomas, the lead character in this gritty story of a group of boys trapped inside a mechanical maze set in a not-so-distant America. The director wanted to cast the late River Phoenix — yes, he was serious — but knowing that River has long been gone, he went looking for an actor who can remind him of the late actor’s intensity as displayed in the film The Mosquito Coast and Dylan, unfortunately, was among many actors he refused to cast.

Dylan, for those who are not aware, is the lead in the hit TV series Teen Wolf and it surprised this writer that he almost did not get the part because his performance as Thomas is one of the best things in The Maze Runner. That he failed to make an impression during his initial audition and was not called back to read again until after about four months was something any actor, or any first-time director, had to learn from. The reason? The way he wore his hair to the audition!

On the day Dylan auditioned for the role, he was just coming off the set of Teen Wolf and was still wearing the hair and make-up he used for the show. “I was coming off work, I had hair and make-up and I was, like, ‘Oh, this is going to be great,’ yet it turned off the director. Things are funny like that.”

Dylan initially read for the casting director and it took a couple of months before he got any feedback — and it was through sheer coincidence that he got the callback. “There was another project that I was auditioning for and when I went in, they were like, ‘You should come in for Maze Runner,’ and I was, like, ‘I have! You guys never called me back!” he recalled.

The casting director resent Dylan’s tape to Wes and he was called to do another series of casting tests before the producers and other executives before he was finally cast.

The actor would have easily been cast had he just tried to style his hair differently before doing his audition tape. “You don’t think about that. You kind of feel that directors understand that your hair could change and, you know, funny enough, I always roll out of bed and go to auditions and I’ll get flagged for, like, being dirty-looking,” Dylan recalled laughing. “They are, like, ‘You should be more handsome like a leading man!’”

Wes admitted that as a first-time director he was terrible at casting actors. He disregarded Dylan’s initial audition, continued auditioning for other actors with no luck. When someone brought up Dylan again, Wes googled the actor and found a better picture of Dylan and that was  when he realized he already had the actor for Thomas all along. “His audition came to mind all of a sudden. Whatever he did, it hooked! Something was right there. This time I looked back at the tape again and, I said, ‘Okay, I can change his hair, obviously’ and we had lunch, we talked and he was the nicest guy ever.”

In The Maze Runner, Dylan’s character Thomas wakes up in a lift, moving slowly upward. As the box grinds to a halt and the doors open, he finds himself among a colony of boys inside an imposing expanse of land surrounded by enormous concrete walls called the Glade and the only way out is through a series of maze that encloses the Glade and changes configuration every day. The maze opens up in the morning and closes at sunset. Anyone trapped inside the maze does not survive the night. Thomas and the boys are trapped inside the Glade until the arrival of Teresa, the only girl ever sent to the Glade, with an ominous note wrapped in her hand.

The movie is a suspenseful and thrilling experience from beginning to end. If you have not read the book that the movie is based on, you will be as hooked as this writer was on the mystery behind the maze and you will most likely be on the edge of your seat during the climax when everything is finally explained and the audience gets a glimpse of what the world looks like outside the maze. It’s a beautiful metaphor on life itself — every step is a choice, every decision an unknown excursion into a dangerous maze.

This is what Dylan also took from the story. Sure, it deals with a dystopian future where everything is dark and bleak and people are constantly struggling and suffering but it offers a way out, a solution — a certain hope that everything will be good again.

“These movies have an undercurrent of metaphorical things and very much involve with growing up and being a teenager and what’s it like to be a teenager,” Dylan remarked. “The maze is a metaphor for growing up, for being a teenager.”

For sometime, publishers lamented the lack of interest among kids in reading books. Today, most of the successful books are about kids in a dystopian future fighting for their survival. Why is it so popular with kids? It’s definitely not the metaphors that attract them. Kaya, who was with Dylan during the interview, offered some insightful observation.

“Because it’s the unknown,” she started. “We are just so aware of where we are in the world right now. We are sharing pictures of handbags on Instagram and things like that. We know this world. It’s not that great. Nothing is really happening. When you look for generations in history of young people, they have a movement — something happens in that generation. We haven’t done really anything. Nothing’s really happened apart from selfies. As a movement, as a group of teens, we haven’t had a thing. We are kind of fascinated with knowing what we could do, if we could be great, if we could actually accomplish something again, you know, the common man becoming the hero thing.”

Dylan nodded in agreement. Although he can start by always be being aware of how he is styling his hair.

Raymond De Asis Lo

TIFF 2014: "Where I Am King"

WHERE I AM KING (Hari ng Tondo)
"Where I am King" (Hari ng Tondo), the first film in more than a decade by acclaimed Filipino filmmaker Carlos Siguion-Reyna, made its international bow to a sold-out screening at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival today as reported by my tita Baby K. Jimenez.

The film premiered in late July at the Cinemalaya Film Festival in the Philippines where it won several awards. The audience at the 3PM screening held today at the Scotiabank Theater applauded the film.

"What an outstanding project of Direk Carlos Siguion-Reyna," exclaimed tita Baby in one of her Facebook posts today. "It was a mixed crowd of Pinoys and Canadians. Bravo to the entire team. Present were Robert Arevalo, Rafa Siguion Reyna, Cris Villonco and producer/writer Bibeth Orteza."

"Where I am King" tells the story of Ricardo (Robert Arevalo), an arrogant self-made tycoon who has forgotten his humble beginnings. But years of high living and a series of poor financial decisions have caused his fortune to dwindle to practically nothing. One of the few properties he still owns is a tenement in Tondo where he grew up in. So, with his two grandchildren in tow (over the objections of his greedy children), he moves back into the crumbling apartment block he left behind. Greeted with anger from the residents over his never-fulfilled promises to improve the building, Ricardo comes face to face with what decades of neglect have done to a once-proud neighbourhood. Even as the impoverished slumlord gradually comes to understand slum life from the other side, he is forced to combat the meddling of his children, who are bribing the corrupt building manager, Ricardo's lifelong friend Boyong (Rez Cortez), to make sure that Ricardo and his grandkids have an extremely difficult time adjusting to their new lives.

I can't wait for this movie to screen in Los Angeles soon...

Here are some pics from TIFF.

Rafa Siguion-Reyna, Bibeth Orteza (writer), Robert Arevalo
(Photo credit: Baby K. Jimenez)

Actor Epy Quizon (2nd from Right) and Baby K. Jimenez (Leftmost)
(Photo credit: Baby K. Jimenez)

Bibeth Orteza, Baby K. Jimenez, Rafa Siguion-Reyna, Carlos Siguion-Reyna
(Photo credit: Baby K. Jimenez)

Rafa Siguion-Reyna (Rightmost and Cris Villonco (Leftmost)
Photo credit: Baby K. Jimenez

Raymond Lo

Venice 2014: Winners!


The 71st Venice Film Festival concluded on Saturday with the top prize going to the Swedish film with the most enchanting title of the year. Roy Andersson won the Golden Lion for "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" and i am assuming most of the votes going his way was for the poetry in his film's title. I am just kidding.

The winners below!

The Venezia 71 Jury, chaired by Alexandre Desplat and comprised ofJoan Chen, Philip Gröning, Jessica Hausner, Jhumpa Lahiri, Sandy Powell, Tim Roth, Elia Suleiman and Carlo Verdone having viewed all 20 films in competition, has decided as follows:



GRAND JURY PRIZE: "THE LOOK OF SILENCE" by Joshua Oppenheimer (Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Norway, United Kingdom)

COPPA VOLP (Best Actor): Adam Driver "HUNGRY HEARTS" by Saverio Costanzo (Italy)

COPPA VOLPI (Best Actress):Alba Rohrwacher "HUNGRY HEARTS" by Saverio Costanzo (Italy)

MARCELLO MASTROIANNI AWARD for Best Young Actor or Actress to: Romain Paul
in the film "LE DERNIER COUP DE MARTEAU" by Alix Delaporte (France)

BEST SCREENPLAY: Rakhshan Banietemad and Farid Mostafavi "GHESSEHA" (TALES) by Rakhshan Banietemad (Iran)

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE: "SIVAS" by Kaan Müjdeci (Turkey, Germany)
Lion of the Future – “Luigi De Laurentiis” Venice Award for a Debut Film Jury at the 71st Venice Film Festival, chaired by Alice Rohrwacher and comprised of Lisandro Alonso, Ron Mann, Vivian Qu and Razvan Radulescu,  has decided to award:

COURT by Chaitanya Tamhane (India)

The Orizzonti Jury of the 71st Venice Film Festival, chaired by Ann Hui and composed of Moran Atias, Pernilla August, David Chase, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Roberto Minervini and Alin Tasçiyan after screening the 29 films in competition has decided to award:

BEST FILM: "COURT" by Chaitanya Tamhane (India)

BEST DIRECTOR: Naji Abu Nowar, "THEEB" (Jordan, U.A.E., Qatar, United Kingdom)


BEST ACTOR OR ACTRESS: Emir Hadžihafizbegovic, "TAKVA SU PRAVILA (THESE ARE THE RULES)" by Ognjen Svilicic (Croatia, France, Serbia, Macedonia)

BEST SHORT FILM: "MARYAM" by Sidi Saleh (Indonesia)

"PAT – LEHEM" (DAILY BREAD) by Idan Hubel (Israel)

The Venezia Classici Jury, chaired by Giuliano Montaldo composed of 28 students of Cinema History, chosen in particular from the teachers of 13 Italian Dams university programmes and from the Venice University of Ca’ Foscari, has decided to award:

BEST DOCUMENTARY ON CINEMA: "ANIMATA RESISTENZA" by Francesco Montagner and Alberto Girotto (Italy)

BEST RESTORED FILM: "UNA GIORNATA PARTICOLARE" by Ettore Scola (1977, Italy, Canada)

GOLDEN LION FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Thelma Schoonmaker, Frederick Wiseman




Raymond Lo

2014 AFI Fest: Passes on sale now!

Passes to the 2014 AFI Fest are now on sale. My favorite LA-based film festival will be held on November 6 - 13 this year. Click this link for more details: 

The line-up has not been revealed yet but I am already excited on the movies that will make the selection this year! I can't wait for November already!

See you at the movies!

Raymond Lo