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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.
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Jul 16, 2018

LOCALLY PRODUCED movies have lately been flopping at the box office one after another. As one producer laments: “Walang mga taong nanonood sa sinehan.” Viva has had the most number of flops, from “Fangirl/ Fanboy”, “Mr. & Mrs. Cruz”, “Amnesia Love”, “Pambansang Third Wheel, “Squad Goals”, “Cry No Fear” to “The Maid in London”. Some of them were first day/last day when shown in mall theaters.

For Regal, their flops include “Mama’s Girl”, “My Fairy Tail Love Story”, “So Connected” and the recent “Walwal”. It’s good Viva has “Never Not Love You”, “Meet Me in St. Gallen” and “Sid and Aya” for blockbusters and Regal, “My 2 Mommies”.

For Star Cinema, their biggest flops are “Single/Single”, “Misyon: Marawi” and “Sa Panahon ng Halimaw” which lasted for only a couple of days and quickly went out of the theaters. Their other so-so releases are “Sin Island” and “DOTGA: Da One that Got Away”. But they have three releases that did pretty well: “Dalawang Mrs. Reyes”, “My Perfect You” and “Kasal”. All three reportedly earned P100 million plus each.

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COMEDIAN KAKAI BAUTISTA gets the biggest break in her career playing a lead title role in the romantic-comedy, “Harry and Patty”, where he shares topbillling with the hunky Ahron Villena. Tagged as the Dental Diva, this is really proving to be a good year for her as she just staged her 15th anniversary concert, “The Dental Diva”, at Music Museum a couple of months ago, and she has finished another movie where she also plays the lead role of a superhero, “Wonder Bra”.

She and Ahron were previously linked romantically but Ahron denied it vehemently and they had a sad exhange of words. Luckily, they are able to resolve their feud just before the shooting of their film started. The film is directed by Julius Alfonso of “Deadma Walking” and he said he talked first to his two stars before the cameras began to grind.

“I talked to them individually to see kung okay na ba talaga sila,” says Direk Julius. “Kasi mahirap nang mag-shoot kami kung may conflict pa sila. And they assured me na wala na silang tampuhan. At kita naman sa scenes nila together na they have a good working relationship, maganda ang rapport nila. May natural chemistry sila and they offer a different kind of romantic comedy. Kakai is perfect as Patty while Ahron has this mysterious charisma na bagay sa role niya as Harry. They’re supported by Mark Neumann, Carmi Martin, Heaven Peralejo, Bodgie Pascua, Soliman Cruz, Donna of ‘Showtime’ at merong special role si Arci Munoz.”

How will Kakai describe her relationship now with Ahron? “We remain good friends,” she says. “Talagang inalagaan niya ako sa set the whole time na nagsu-shooting kami. Ganoon naman talaga ang magkaibigan. Kung minsan, parang aso’t pusa, nagkakaroon ng pikunan. But as of now, we’re okay. We consider this as a bagong chapter sa pagiging magkaibigan namin and we’re happy na nakagawa kami ng isang masayang movie together. We guarantee the viewers that we will give them a good time in the movies.”

What’s the story all about? “Simple lang. Tungkol sa magkaibigan, best friends, na nagkahiwalay and then nagkatagpo uli, then na-in love. Parang “two old friends meet again, wearing older faces, talk about the places they’ve been”. Naku, kumanta pa raw ako ng ‘Maybe This Time’. Ha ha ha!”
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ZANJOE MARUDO does drama on TV with teleseryes like “Tubig at Langis”, “Dear Heart”, “Anna Luna”. But on the big screen, he does comedies like “Bromance”, “The Third Party”, “Kimmy Dora”, “My Illegal Wife” and now, the latest is “Kusina Kings”. “Bihira lang ang nakakagawa niyan na may magkaibang career sa TV at sa movies,” one writer tells him.

“Nagpapasalamat nga ako sa ABS-CBN na may nakikita silang ganun sa akin,” he says. “Salamat din for giving me these assignments kasi I really enjoy doing both drama and comedy.”

How is it working with Empoy and new director Victor Villanueva in “Kusina Kings”? “Masarap katrabaho si Empoy kasi kailangan ko ng magaling na kabatuhan sa pagpapatawa. Si Direk Victor naman, he has his own style sa atake niya sa comedy. He’s open to suggestion and most of the time, pinababayaan niya kami kung paano namin gagawin ang isang eksena.”

We notice there’s a lot of risque humor in the movie. In one scene, Empoy asks him: “Nagbabate (the local word for masturbation) ka ba?” Then the camera reveals that Zanjoe is beating an egg, which is also known as “nagbabati ng itlog.” Other green jokes include the use of words with double meaning like matigas, kainan and ismael (for maelya or horny).

“Hindi naman kami gagawa ng jokes na di aaprubahan ng MTRCB,” says Zanjoe. We made sure na lahat, in compliance sa gusto nila. Nasa interpretation na ng tao yun. For fun lang naman ito, para ma-enjoy rin ng mga bata. The movie is really about love, friendship and family. We don’t mean na bastusin ang viewers. Maganda ring bonding moment ito for parents and their children, kasi halimbawa, tumawa ang mga tao sa loob ng sinehan, then they can explain to their kids kung ano ang dahilan kung bakit tumatawa ang viewers.”

After being linked to Bea Alonzo and Bela Padilla, he’s now said to be enamoured with a 19-year old non-showbiz Fil-Aussie blogger and surfer from Siargao named Josie Prendergast. He’s turning 36 on July 23, so his age is almost double that of Josie. Are they really on?

“Naku, we just met each other. Nakakahiya ngang her name is being dragged sa showbiz, e masyado siyang private person. Wala pa akong maikukuwento about her at all kasi bago pa nga lang kami nagkakilala.”
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‘SKYSCRAPER’ is the type of movie that movie critics would love to tear to pieces. But it really has no pretensions of being an art film and is clearly made as unabashed popcorn flick for the U.S. summer. The ubiquitous Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock is back after “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and “Rampage” (and an HBO TV series, “Ballers”) as Will Sawyer, a former FBI agent who is seen in the movie’s opening scene trying to help a hostaged family but ends being injured by an unexpected bomb that causes the amputation of his left leg.

In the next sequence, we see him sporting a prosthetic leg and already married to Neve Campbell as Sarah, a feisty military doctor who have served in combat. Together with their twin son and daughter, they’re all in Hongkong where Will is hired as a security expert for a private company. His client is the tallest building in the world, the skyscraper called The Pearl, with 225 stories with different environments. Actually, from the outside, this huge monstrosity looks more like a big snake with a ball on its open mouth.

It’s a mile-high Fort Knox that is supposedly impregnable, until terrorists led by Danish actor Roland Moller, who wants to get its owner, a Chinese billionaire, Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), uses Will himself to overcome its tough high tech security measures. Will later finds himself being framed up for the attack of the bad guys on the building.

The movie is a combination of past popcorn hits like “Towering Inferno” and the first “Die Hard”. The action-thriller is written and directed with much flair by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who has directed The Rock before in “Central Intelligence”, an action-comedy. In “Skyscraper”, he really amps the action spectacle with over-the-top sequences and convincing CGI in this delightful piece of escapist entertainment.

The Rock is once again the invincible, almost superhuman hero who we’ve seen before in his past films, like “San Andreas” and “Rampage”. He is shown kicking and jumping from one tough action sequence to another, barely pausing for breath. It is imbued with a funhouse quality while The Rock dashes from one seemingly impossible challenge to another, whether he’s inside the building or while dangling precariously outside of it.

But there are also intense scenes that are meant to tug at your heartstrings, involving the family he has to save from extreme danger after they get perilously trapped inside the burning building’s 96th floor. To complicate things further, his son has asthma and has to struggle through all the smoke of their blazing surroundings.

But of course, the most thrilling scene is the one that we see on the trailer, with The Rock shown climbing a crane then defying gravity as he jumps into the burning building and later climbing and going around the tower’s glass exterior with duct tape wrapped around his hands and saying to himself: “This is stupid.”

And you might want to agree with him but then, that will spoil the fun and the best thing is for you to just suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride. After all, The Rock’s bigger-than-life persona and bigger-is-better charisma make the cartoonish outlandishness of the fantastic stunts quite easier to take.

The Rock performs his role admirably with all the derring-do and athleticism it requires and his fierce commitment to his role as Will Sawyer. And Neve Campbell also acquits herself believably as his wife-in-distress. Her character is given some heft and dimension, with her fighting some thugs up to very end and figuring out how to put out the raging fire in the building. It’s good that she and The Rock are given enough sweet scenes together to establish some credible chemistry between them in their interracial romance just before the Pearl goes up in flames, so we’re adequately invested in what happens to them as a couple.
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DIRECTOR VICTOR VILLANUEVA gained acclaim for his comedy “Patay na si Hesus”, a hit in the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino last year. His follow up movie, “Kusina Kings”, will now be shown on July 25. A true blue Bisaya, he was born in Davao but finished fine arts and advertising in Cebu.
His first experience in filmmaking was when he co-produced Jerrold Tarog’s first movie, the award-wnning “Confessional”, which was filmed in Cebu in 2010. Then he directed “My Paranormal Romance”, an entry in the Cinema One Originals in 2011 with Visayan actors. He then moved to Manila and trained with Directors Joyce Bernal and Jade Castro.

“Patay na si Hesus” is an indie film where he had complete artistic freedom. How did he make his transition to mainstream filmmaking in “Kusina Kings” which is produced by a big company like Star Cinema? “‘Hesus’ is a personal project so I can do what I want,” he says. “It’s a drama na hindi comedians ang stars, pero nakakatawa ang ridiculous situations. Dito, naiba yung playing field. Iba rin ang process so I have to keep an open mind. I listen to Star Cinema kasi 25 years na sila in making movies, so I want to learn from them. Dito, puro comedians talaga ang kasama ko and I just want to thank the whole cast for their cooperation and I really just played on their strengths.”

“Kusina Kings” is a comedy starring Zanjoe Marudo as Ronnie and Empoy Marquez as Benjie
who’ve been good friends since high school. They are associates in a restaurant called La Luna Sa Hungry, which is losing its customers, so they join a contest, the Kusina King Challenge, to help save it. They have to cook up a special winning recipe to win the contest.

Also in the cast are Natalie Hart as Empoy’s sister and love interest of Zanjoe, beauty queen Maxine Mendoza as Empoy’s leading lady, and comedians, Hyubs Azarcon, Jun Sabayton, Tiny Corpus, Nonong Balinan and Ryan Bang as the villain who wants to get Empoy and Zanjoe’s restaurant.
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SUNSHINE CRUZ might be 41 years old, but she certainly looks so much younger than her age. No wonder Bea Binene, who plays her daughter in “Kapag Nahati ang Puso” that starts airing this Monday morning, has feelings of insecurity since Sunshine’s waistline seems to be even smaller than hers. To think that Bea’s age at 21 is just one half of that of Sunshine and Shine has already give birth to three daughters that are now all grown ups.

Sunshine is very happy and grateful for the warm welcome her co-stars and the production staff of “Kapag Nahati ang Puso” gave her when she moved to GMA-7. “Most of them, ngayon ko lang nakatrabaho but they’re all very nice and accommodating,” she says. “Sina Zoren Legaspi at Benjamin Alves na leading men ko, first time namin together pero nagkahulihan kami agad lahat ng loob so everything sa taping, naging madali para sa amin, including our director, Gil Tejada.”

She has really moved on after her marriage to Cesar Montano crumbled and she doesn’t want to talk about him anymore. “May kanya-kanya na kaming buhay kaya wala na akong masasabi about him. Stay positive na lang tayo. I’m just hoping for the best tungkol sa annulment ng aming marriage. Maging positive sana ang outcome.”

Wasn’t she affected when bashers implicated her and daughters when Cesar was involved in the corruption case of the tourism board? “Gaya nga nga sabi ko sa mga anak, they should not be affected kasi lahat ng gamit nila, from the clothes they wear to the car they used, lahat is galing from their mom. I work very hard to be able to provide for them. I tell them to just pray for their father kasi ayokong magtanim sila ng sama ng loob sa kanya. I’m just thankful na mababait ang mga anak ko at nauunawaan nila ang mga nangyayari.”
She faced another battle when the Brunei businesswoman who she sued for swindling her of P3 million put her phone number on social media to harass her and she’d now get messages and calls from people she doesn’t know bothering her even in the wee hours of the morning. This is what she wrote in her social media account about it:

“Changing my cel no. is not an option. I’ve been using this for more or less 10 years and we all know na hassle ang magbago ng cel no. Anyways, been getting calls and messages from unknown people. Some would text me at 3am asking if I’m still up, some would text and call me early in the morning. Just because my cel no. was spread online by a person na hindi mo maintindihan ang pinaglalaban. I hope na yung mga natitira pang tunay na nagmamalasakit sa taong ito ay maturuan sya ng tamang hakbang kung papaano i-deal ang kasalukuyan nyang issues para hindi na din madagdagan ang kinakaharap nya.”
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JAKE ZYRUS once had a duet with Celine Dion ten years ago at the sprawling Madison Square Garden in New York City no less. That was when she was still known as Charice Pempengco. Now, there’s a great clamor for the two great singers to do a duet once again when Celine performs in her forthcoming concert at the Mall of Asia Arena on July 19 and 20, Thursday and Friday.

It will be recalled that it was acclaimed TV host Oprah Winfrey who recommended Charice to sing with Celine onstage in the latter’s concert, “Taking Chances World Tour,” staged in 2008. Charice became the country’s pride at that time after Celine introduced her as an “incredible young singer.”

“Let me tell you, she has a voice that can literally blow the roof off Madison Sqaure Garden,” Celine even excitedly told her fans then.

They rendered “Because You Loved Me” and got a standing ovation from the exhilarated crowd. In an interview early this year, the international diva said she remembered her duet with Charice and the latter’s “amazing voice.”

Celine even expressed her happiness for the new life of Charice now have as Jake Zyrus. When Celine performs in Manila for the very first time on July 19 and 20, will Jake Zyrus get another chance to sing with Celine again? Many are anticipating that they will do another duet and render the classic song, “The Prayer.” This time, Jake can sing the part of Andrea Bocelli with Celine.

If that happens, thousands of Filipinos who will watch the Celine Dion concert will undoubtedly be thrilled for this special treat of seeing a Filipino performer who will once again get to perform with an internationally renowned pop artist of Celine’s stature.

Meanwhile, Jake just finished a successful concert tour in Europe and performed in London, Newcastle and Birmingham in the United Kingdom and Dublin in Ireland. In the last quarter of 2018, he is all set to embark on another US concert tour.

Jake also has recorded the theme song of an indie movie, “She’s a Killer,” where he is also one of the stars. The movie will be released in Japan and other Asian countries this October. And this August and September, Jake is scheduled to do another indie film, to be released in summer next year. Meanwhile, he is also set to launch a book about his life and personal journey next year.
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MEG IMPERIAL stars with Donnalyn Bartolome in “Jacqueline Comes Home, The Chiong Story”, a true-to-life crime drama based on the tragic story of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong who were abducted and killed in Cebu City more than two decades ago. They are supported by Alma Moreno and Joel Torre as their aggrieved parents, Dionisio and Thelma. Playing the leader of their ruthless abductors is Ryan Eigenmann.

The movie is the directorial debut of Ysabelle Peach Caparas, daughter of writer-director Carlo J. Caparas and the late actress-producer, Donna Villa. Two days after they went missing, the body of Marijoy was found thrown off a cliff in the town of Carcar in Cebu. Jacqueline is missing up to now.

Meg plays Jacqueline while Donnalyn plays Marijoy. Meg says she’s only 4 years when the crime happened on July 17, 1997 while Donnalyn was 3. It will now be released on July 16 in time for the heinous crime’s 21st anniversary. Meg says she immediately did some research on the case after she accepted her role.

“I’m interested to know what happened to the family after the incident,” she says. “Sayang nga we didn’t get to meet them. Si Direk Carlo Caparas lang ang kinakausap ni Mrs. Chiong who gave her official permission for the movie to be done.”

A movie based on the case was also made in 2004 by Toto Natividad, titled “Animal” and starring Via Veloso and Pyar Mirasol as the hapless victims, with John Regala as the brutal kidnapper-rapist, but all the names were changed as it didn’t have the official nod of the Chiongs.

“Kami, may cooperation ng Chiong Family. Our names are really the names of the victims, Jacqueline and Marijoy,” adds Meg.
What's her experience in shooting the rape scene? "Ilang beses na kong na-rape sa movies so sanay na ako," she laughs. "The scene was one long take kaya mahirap siya. But napansin ko, the rapists led by Ryan Eigenmann, parang hirap o nahihiya silang hawakan ako, so ako pang nagsabi sa kanila, sige lang, do what you need to do para maging convincing ang eksena."

Is she aware that, in real life, those who were convicted for the crime come from well known families in Cebu, like Paco Larranaga who’s now serving his sentence in Spain since he has dual citizenship. Some years ago, a documentary, “Give Up Tomorrow”, was shown saying that Paco is not guilty as he was in Manila when the crime happened.

“Yes, I’m aware,” says Meg. “But we didn’t mention the names of those convicted at all. Their names were changed since the film’s focus is on the Chiong family, lalo na sa parents after the crime happened.”

How was it working with Alma Moreno and Joel Torre as their mom and dad? “Malaking tulong sila sa amin kasi they’re both veteran actors. The first time I worked with Tito Joel was in a TV show when I was still a child star at nakakatuwa nga kasi natatandaan pa niya. Pareho sila ni Tita Alma na very cooperative and really helped us in our roles.”

How about new director Peach Caparas? “Nagkasama na kami sa movie na ‘Kamandag ng Droga’ where she was assistant director to her dad at co-actress ko rin siya roon, so magkakilala na kami. She’s very professional and really took her job seriously kasi hindi na siya kumakain dahil sobrang pursigido siyang mapaganda ang pelikula.”

Aside from “Jacqueline Comes Home”, Meg has finished another film with Viva, “Abay Girls”, where she plays a lesbian. How come it’s reported that she had a tiff with one of her co-stars in that film, Roxanne Barcelo? “Nagsimula lang yun sa text messages na pinalaki ng ibang tao,” says Meg. “As of now, we’re okay. Nag-shoot kami on location sa Misibis Bay in Bicol at okay naman kami, nagkukuwentuhan kami. We all had fun shooting it with Cristine Reyes, Kylie Versoza and Natalie Hart. Bale one week kaming nag-stay roon and we got to know each other better, so wala ng ganyang mga intriga.”
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Jul 13, 2018

ZOREN LEGASPI plays the rich Manila boy who becomes the father of Sunshine Cruz in “Kapag Nahati ang Puso” but marries Bing Loyzaga instead. “Nahati rin ang puso ko rito sa kanilang dalawa,” he says. “Pareho silang first time kong nakatrabaho at may bedscene din ako with them.”

It’s not only Benjamin Alves who gets to appear in shirtless scenes in the show but also Zoren. “Nagulat nga ako kasi first taping day pa lang, pinaghubad na ako at ang eksena, nakikipag-mud wrestling ako. E, wala akong dalang extra underwear so shorts lang ang suot ko. Masyadong maikli yung shorts na nakuha nila kaya natakot akong baka may lumabas. Ito yung scene na magkakakilala kami ni Sunshine at malalagyan siya ng putik.”

In fairness to him, even if he turned 46 last January 30, he has maintained his trim figure. “May K pa naman siyang maghubad at magpakita ng katawan niya sa bedscene,” says one writer.

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DIRECTOR JOEL LAMANGAN is back with GMA-7 directing a new soap, “Ang Pamilyang Roces”. Joel’s last soap with the Kapuso network was “Pahiram ng Isang Ina” with Bea Binene and Jake Vargas in 2011. In 2012, he moved to TV5 and did “Valiente”, then “Enchanted Garden”, “Bakit Manipis ang Ulap” and “Madam Chairman” with Sharon Cuneta. After TV5, he concentrated on making full length films, like the award-winning “Felix Manalo”. He also did acclaimed stage musicals like “Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag” and “Binondo, The Tsinoy Musical”.

“Pamilyang Roces” has a largely female cast headed by seasoned actresses Gloria Diaz, Elizabeth Oropesa and Snooky Serna, who have all worked with Joel before. Oropesa even scored a grand slam as best actress for Joel’s “Bulaklak ng Maynila”.

Also in the cast of “Pamilyang Roces” is Jasmine Curtis Smith in her very first assignment as a Kapuso star, disproving earlier speculations that she’d be one of Alden Richards’ leading ladies in his new show. Completing the cast are Carla Abellana, Reina HIspanoAmericana Winwyn Marquez, Gabbi Garcia, Mika de la Cruz and former TV5 Artista Academy star Shaira Mae who has been rechristened and is now known as Shaira Diaz.

The male members of the cast include Rocco Nacino, Christian Bautista (who also appears in ‘Viktor Magtanggol’) and Roi Vinzon. The story is about a family of half sisters who come from different mothers and the subsequent conflicts in their complicated lives.

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