Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson returns as buddies in ‘Zoolander 2’

The fashionably unbreakable tandem of male models Derek (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) returns in Paramount Pictures’ hilarious comedy, “Zoolander 2,” the sequel to the 2001 cult classic “Zoolander.”

The road to Derek and Hansel’s return to the big screen was long and winding, spanning 15 years and several incarnations. With each incarnation throughout the development process, the return of the duo of Derek and Hansel, was unwavering, constant, and always central to the story.

When operating in a world as outrageous as that of male models in the fashion industry, the strength of the characters is what essentially grounds the movie, and director and screenwriter Ben Stiller knew the return of the core tandem was paramount. “At the end of the day people connect with characters. When someone tells me that they love Zoolander, to me that means that they love the characters and Derek and Hansel, because they are what make it what it is,” remarks Stiller.

For Stiller, stepping back into Derek’s (well-heeled) shoes was a little challenging after such an extensive break. “Derek is such a unique persona. He’s very genuine and incredibly self-involved, all of which comes out from a very naïve and innocent place. I watched the first movie again to make sure I was doing it right, and after a couple of weeks it started to feel more natural and then it became fun.”

In the prestigious ranks of one-name icons in pop culture, Owen Wilson’s Hansel is a character that perfectly captures the bohemian rock-star mystique that fascinates the masses. “I’ve been lucky to play some good characters over the years and the fact that Hansel is known by one name like Madonna and Sting reflects just what kind of memorable character he is,” remarks Wilson.

“Owen is such a unique comedic presence and I am such a big fan of his,” says longtime collaborator Stiller. “He has such a specific sensibility and when improvising in an area he feels comfortable in will give you stuff you couldn’t even imagine. Also, like his character he is incredibly good looking… it was fun for me to watch him remember how to play Hansel. The first week he was doing a scene where he was looking off into the desert and he found the Hansel pursed lip squint, and there was no looking back.”

When we last saw male models Derek and Hansel, they were enjoying the wonders of the “Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too,” and Mugatu (Will Ferrell) was behind bars. An unforeseen catastrophe strikes the Center and forces the duo into seclusion, living off the grid. Fifteen age-defying years later we find a still shamed Derek and Hansel leading isolated, separate lives, shut-out from the rest of the world.

When each receives a special invitation to star in a major world fashion event in the ancient and mysterious city of Rome, they are unable to deny the allure of returning to their former glory and make their way back to civilization. Upon arrival, Derek and Hansel meet the bizarre and eccentric designers that are behind the new fashion empire. The two rapidly realize the fashion world they once knew has drastically changed, thrusting them awkwardly and literally back into the spotlight.

While they struggle to find relevance in this strange new world of blogging, vlogging, and anti-fashion fashion, they are recruited to help stop a calculated and deadly plot that if not stopped, would destroy forever the hopes for fashion to return to its revered and glorious status. Only Derek and Hansel have the power to “save fashion.”

Opening across the Philippines on February 24, 2016, “Zoolander 2” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

‘The Other Side of the Door’ breaks balance between life and death

The balance between life and death was disturbed in the horror film “The Other Side of the Door” when an inconsolable mother, Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies) disobeyed a sacred ritual when she opened the door that separates the living and the dead in a desperate move to talk to her son who died in an accident.

After Maria and Michael’s (Jeremy Sisto) eight-year-old son Oliver dies tragically in a car accident, the boy returns to the world of the living, but in an altered form. His reappearance affects everyone in the family, including his sister, Lucy (Sofia Rosinsky). “Lucy is put at risk by Oliver’s return,” says scribe Ernest Riera. “She’s the first person to get in touch with Oliver once he’s back, because she’s a child and believes in the supernatural more readily.”

“The Other Side of the Door” is a story about a family and about a woman who crosses the line from grief to madness,” says Callies. “I have never played a character that revolved so completely around loss and the inability to heal. Until that tragedy, Maria had always walked between raindrops. She’d been so fortunate, and then in the space of an hour it all changes.”

As the story unfolds, the American expat family starts to uncover a side of India many Westerners have never experienced. “India is a unique and extraordinary place, and until you’ve been there, you really don’t know what it’s like,” says producer Rory Aitken.

Director Johannes Roberts and Riera were fascinated by the Aghori, Indian natives who have a connection to the evil spirit that has returned with Oliver. To ensure authenticity in the portrayal of the Aghori, the filmmakers conducted extensive research into various Hindu rituals and mythologies.

Another spiritual figure in the film is the Myrtu, a creature that comes to take Oliver back to the underworld. “She too communes with the dead, like the Aghori, but is an amalgamation of ideas and a made-up entity,” Roberts explains. He and Riera were careful not to depict or mimic any real Hindu gods and goddesses, so they created Myrtu from several inspirations, including Greek mythology and mixed Indian myth.

Javier Botet who portrays Myrtu, a four-armed figure, sees Myrtu as “a hunter and victim, at the same time. Myrtu must control and punish humans who, like Maria, disobey the rule to never open the door. Myrtu is like a mother lioness keeping limits, with ferocity. It’s a powerful, violent, but ultimately sad character.”

The story’s Indian setting is a critical element and required many different locations and builds and the city of Mumbai was determined to best fit the filmmakers’ creative and technical needs. As the epicenter of the Bollywood industry, which produces far more movies than Hollywood, the city of Mumbai has a distinct filmmaking culture and audience. Mumbai, or Bombay, as some call it, is a modern metropolis with a multi-layered nature: architectural vestiges of its colonial past provide sharp contrasts with a congested and connected metropolis. It was important to the film’s creative team to find a balance between the real and imagined India of yesterday and today, and to represent the concentrated intensity of colors, tastes, smells and sounds through a variety of locations, both familiar and never before captured on film.

Aitken found the Indian setting to be a strong draw. “The fact that it’s set in India and has an Indian mythology and Hindu symbolism is a new kind of twist,” he remarks. “I hadn’t seen that before.”

“The Other Side of the Door” opens February 24, 2016 in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox and to be distributed by Warner Bros.

‘The Divergent Series: Allegiant’ heightens pulse-pounding escape, survival

Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Maggie Q and Ansel Elgort return in the most awaited book-to-film franchise in “Allegiant” where Chicago is on the verge of an all-out civil war. The young warriors and heroes with Tris (Woodley) leading the troop -Four (James), Christina (Kravitz), Peter (Teller), Tori (Q) and Caleb (Elgort) sees them on a harrowing escape from the walled city, chased by armed guards loyal to self-appointed leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts).

Outside Chicago for the first time in their lives, the five find themselves being pursued by Edgar (Jonny Weston) through a toxic wasteland known as the Fringe before being rescued and escorted to the ultra-high-tech compound of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare. Once there, Bureau mastermind David (Jeff Daniels) singles out Tris for being genetically “pure” and enlists her to champion his mysterious cause. While Tris receives special treatment, including access to “memory tabs” that enable her to relive her own family history, Four joins Bureau soldiers on a supposedly humanitarian mission to remove children from a ragtag Fringe encampment.

Discovering that David plans to use the Bureau’s astonishing technologies for inhumane ends, Tris hijacks his private aircraft and returns with her team to Chicago. Faced with a shocking betrayal, they must try to stop Evelyn before she unleashes a memory-erasing gas on the city’s entire population, including the Allegiant rebel force led by Johanna (Octavia Spencer).

“The Divergent Series: Allegiant” is directed by Robert Schwentke (“The Divergent Series: Insurgent,” “The Time Traveler’s Wife”) and based on the bestselling young adult novel “Allegiant” by Veronica Roth.

The filmmakers set out to bring Victoria Roth’s original vision to life once again even as they add fresh surprises to her dystopian saga. Brimming with new characters, landscapes and mysteries, “Allegiant” extends a Divergent universe that has already captivated millions of moviegoers. “One reason these stories resonate for young people particularly is that they wonder what their futures hold for them,” James muses. “Whether it’s conscious or not, young people think about, ‘What kind of world will I live in?’ I think that’s why so many people gravitate toward the Divergent stories.”

Although Allegiant remains consistent to the core values of the Divergent series, its heroes encounter new worlds and shocking revelations and the film raises the level of excitement to new heights. “Allegiant gives you a scale and a scope that you don’t get in previous films,” says producer Lucy Fisher. “There are so many things about this movie that excite us, including the action and the visuals. But my favorite part about this entire series is the characters and their relationship to each other. With Allegiant, I love that you’re on the edge of your seat, because there’s something going on every second.”

“The Divergent Series: Allegiant” opens March 9, 2016 in theatres nationwide from Pioneer Films.

MOVIE REVIEW: Always Be My Maybe (2016)

ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE never veers away from the cinematic universe of familiar hugot where Arci Muñoz is that exploding star that lives.

“Always Be My Maybe” Review
Starring Gerald Anderson and Arci Muñoz
Directed by Dan Villegas

As Star Cinema’s latest offering, released just four weeks after Everything About Her (which stars Vilma Santos, Angel Locsin and Xian Lim), Always Be My Maybe might feel like a rushed project on the surface but there is a tempting flavor within it that makes the end product still lovable and ultimately charming.

Here’s the conventional boy-meets-girl story with two characters getting to know each other, leading to the blossoming of romantic feelings, up to a happy ending in spite of all the troubles caused by confrontations and third parties.

Gerald Anderson’s Jake Del Mundo is your typical handsome playboy—well-poised to propose to his longtime girlfriend Tracy, only to get rejected. On the other hand is Arci Muñoz’s hopeful Tintin Paraiso who is under the false hope that she would finally get herself a fiancé, only to discover that her guy has just got into a relationship.

Heartbroken, they respectively try to mend their feelings until they meet in the resort he owns. He quickly recognizes her as the dejected tutorial girl whose tutorial videos have gone viral over social media platforms because of her injection of witty comparisons to love’s aches and shortcomings (sound familiar, right?).

After spending one night over bottles of beer and an endless conversation about their personal lives, a dreamy Jake becomes interested with a candid Tin. The fruition of their good friendship paves the way for intimacy.

They agree to be the wingman of each other in the attempt to find a better person than their exes. What they discover are the wonders of their being together: the irreplaceable closeness, the ease of lending an ear to hear the other’s share of burdens, and the idea that someone cares.

On that note, most of the film’s interesting points can be attributed to the surprise pairing of Anderson and Muñoz. Having a dozen of entries already added to his filmography, Anderson has made a name for himself as that bankable lead star (where most of the time he is paired to Kim Chiu) and any new girl would have the spotlight on her.

When Muñoz came into the picture, curiosity sparked as to how she could pull off her first starring role in a movie after her commendable stint as the third party in the John Lloyd Cruz-Bea Alonzo starrer A Second Chance. 

With them being surrounded by a lot of supporting characters that only drive the story for comic relief or to serve as conscience to Jake and Tin, it is good to point out how their teamup singularly works and how the chemistry is more than fascinating to root for. Enticing are their love scenes and the playful and friendly exchanges of teasing remarks.

Music also plays a big role in the overall mood of the film. Reminiscent of the musical scoring done in the two previous Dan Villegas films (English Only, Please; Walang Forever), the music here gives room to immerse one’s self into both the pains and joys of remembering. Marion’s “Free Fall into Love” gives that energetic tone that reverberates as it quickly sticks to memory with her enchanting voice and the song’s catchy lyrics.

Always Be My Maybe never veers away from the cinematic universe of familiar hugot–something that has long since been a fad as it is not difficult to relate to. Not that it is has to be its shortcoming or even serve as a complaint. For as long as there is a demand for such, the supply could not be helped but to overflow.

Recently, we had movies after movies that delve into the sentimentalities of Filipinos thanks to the likes of the works of Antoinette Jadaone, who happens to be the real-life partner of Villegas. Together, in the league of others who have climbed on the bandwagon, they are able to explore this universe that is all familiar and easy to grasp.

And in this particular universe, Arci Muñoz is that exploding star that lives. She exudes with indispensable charm and beauty. This is something to note for future references (other than to figure out the relation of the movie title to the story itself—which is undoubtedly a standard in any given Star Cinema movie).

Also starring Jane Oineza, Jairus Aquino, Kakai Bautista, Ricci Chan, Ahron Villena, Pepe Herrera, Nikki Valdez, TJ Trinidad, and Tirso Cruz III, Always Be My Maybe opened today, February 24, via Star Cinema, an ABS-CBN company.